The Grand Tour

What Do Gearheads Get Wrong About a Road Trip?

The age-old belief about a road trip is that it is the symbol of freedom, adventure, and the open road. This is part of the reason it has endured for so long. But the essence of a road trip can be misunderstood, especially by gearheads, sometimes referred to as petrol heads. We’ve all felt that need for speed, and we’ll stop at nothing to get the car that completely symbolizes our attitudes to the road. But sometimes we can overlook the more profound aspects of a road trip. So bear with us while we highlight why a road trip is not just about the opportunity to put the pedal to the floor, but show you some of the broader experiences and lessons that come with this type of travel.

Not Taking the Scenic Route

Sometimes, we can become distracted by how fast we are going and not taking in the sights along the way. Every gearhead tends to favour the quickest route, which usually means focusing on efficiency rather than the things that pass us by. Most of us need to get to our destination quickly, but we certainly neglect the opportunity to take the scenic routes. As a result, we miss out on breathtaking landscapes and hidden gems. 

You might think that long open roads provide no interest, especially for miles and miles without any form of roadside assistance, but those meandering roads along California’s coast or Route 66 are two of the more famous examples that can help foster a deeper connection with “the road.” If only we were to slow down and take it in. Sometimes we can be distracted by the bigger things, especially as we’re all in a rush to get somewhere. 

When gearheads opt for the quickest path to the destination, they neglect the opportunity to explore what a place has to offer. The whole point of a road trip is to slow down and savour the scenery of each region, one mile at a time.

Always Being in a Rush

Everybody feels that the ability to go fast is somewhat representative of the relationship we have with our cars. If we can get it beyond the speed limit or push the engine to its fullest capabilities, we feel like we’ve done something right. Of course, there are issues in doing this, especially if you get caught by the police! But even on the most basic level, if you are constantly driven by the thrill of speed and performance, you might not even think of a road trip as being worthwhile. 

This is especially true for those people who have families and screaming kids in the back. Those people want to get to their destination as quickly as possible. And yes, while modern cars make it so easy to get to our destination as quickly as possible, this approach can overshadow what a road trip is all about. The joy is about the discoveries and adventures you make along the way. While there’s an opportunity to put your foot down, you’ve got to savour those moments along the way. 

Road trips are not just about the miles covered, but about the times that you stop along the way. From pit stops to detours, there’s a lot that we can all learn through a road trip. While a road trip may conjure images of high-speed driving on open highways, where the destination is the goal, putting the accelerator to the limit, the fact is that adrenaline can only take us so far. We can certainly be in the zone while covering hundreds of miles at breakneck pace, and in fact, yes, it can give us the opportunity to contemplate certain parts of our lives, especially if you’ve seen Rocky IV a million times and wanted to have your own version of that flashback montage. But what makes the road trip truly memorable is the ability to slow down.

Neglecting Pit Stops

Pit stops are one of the most neglected parts of road trips. It’s essential to embrace those spontaneous moments and pit stops that contribute to an unforgettable journey. Gearheads can look at pit stops as unnecessary delays, but you’ve got to think long-term here. Road trips can take a toll on the mind and body. Pit stops are the ideal opportunity for you to stretch your legs, but also take in something else. 

Those unexpected encounters or adventures that stem from quaint roadside cafes add an additional narrative to your journey. We all can view pit stops as a waste of time, but it’s because we’re always in a rush. We need to have a break from the norm, and these can actually be the most memorable parts of the trip. There are plenty of opportunities for pit stops, from picnics to a strange roadside attraction or just engaging with the locals at a gas station. These can colour our attitudes toward a road trip. The lesson here is to stop rushing around so much and actually take those breaks. 

There are so many benefits to taking breaks when you are driving long distances, especially in terms of reducing fatigue:

  • Fatigue can have an adverse effect on your reaction times, and any lapse in concentration when driving someone else’s rear end could cause a major accident if you don’t slow down in time. 
  • Sitting in the same seat for hours on end can, over time, put a lot of stress on your lower back and fatigue your arms. 
  • Those opportunities to stretch your arms and your legs, as well as reduce pain in your lower back, will inevitably make for a far better road trip because you will feel more physically able. 

When it comes to taking breaks, there’s no hard and fast rule, but if you feel that you are lapsing in concentration or you are hitting that “highway hypnosis” stage from staring at the lines, it’s important to take a break, especially at night. Your body is more likely to crave sleep when the sun goes down, and this will mean you feel a lot more tired. Even taking a nap during one of your breaks can make a big difference.

A Deep Neglect of Local Culture

Yet again, this is another part of a road trip that can detract from the overall experience. We may use pit stops as the opportunity to look at any issues with our cars, but when we’re not indulging in regional delicacies or speaking with locals, we are missing out on what makes a road trip memorable. When we avoid these opportunities, we’re missing a chance to immerse ourselves in those diverse cultures that exist along the road. 

If there’s one aspect of being a gearhead that doesn’t serve us in the long run, it’s that we are too focused on ourselves because our car is our baby. Of course, this is a wide-ranging stereotype, but we can certainly be guilty of not seeing the wood for the trees. A good example is when we are travelling in other countries. We can be preoccupied with the rules of the road to the point that we are neglecting local cuisine. 

While navigating around the centre of Rome is famously a nightmare, we still need to indulge in those cornerstones that make Italy what it is. The things we encounter along the way are just as important as the destinations themselves.

The Environmental Considerations

It is something that Clarkson and Co. completely neglect, and road trips can have a significant carbon footprint, especially when we do it in our high-performance vehicles that guzzle fuel. If we are to go on a road trip, we’ve got to start thinking about our impact on the planet and consider a lot more ways to do it safely, securely, and sustainably. 

Finding fuel-efficient vehicles or carpooling might not be music to our ears, especially when we are using a road trip as an excuse to put our pedal to the floor. But the gearhead is someone who may very well be left behind in a few years’ time. We all love our cars, but we could certainly find ourselves becoming a relic in time to an extent, especially if we neglect those environmental concerns.

Missing the Bonding Experience

Being engrossed in our cars can mean that we overlook so many different components. This is especially true if we are travelling with friends or family members. There can be that competitive element of a road trip, especially if you are doing what Clarkson, Hammond, and May do so well by racing to get to one destination. 

Road trips are the opportunity to share something deeper and create lasting memories among the people you travel with. The camaraderie that develops during a road trip is one of those things that makes it so special. A road trip is ultimately a shared adventure, and when we look at how road trips can give us far more of an opportunity to learn about ourselves rather than what our car is capable of, we will all benefit.

It’s certainly something that may ruffle a few feathers. Road trips are those things that require us to slow down to an extent, which might not be in most gearheads’ lexicons. However, it might be worth taking the foot off the accelerator in this instance and making the most of what’s going on outside the car.

Alex Harrington

Alex started racing at a young age so certainly knows his way around a car and a track. He can just about put a sentence together too, which helps. He has a great interest in the latest models, but would throw all of his money at a rusty old French classic and a 300ZX. Contact: [email protected]

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