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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Indulge Your Inner Pack Rat by Taking Road Trips

This story originally ran in The Denver Post on March 26, 2012.

The night before I departed, I stood looking at a large hill in my entryway. It was not quite a fourteener but close — all the things I planned to pack for my road trip. I wondered, “Do I really need all that junk?”

The short answer: Not really, but I was taking it anyway.

I didn’t care if my little four cylinder did a wheelie all the way down Interstate 25. I was going to squeeze every last item I bought for the trip into the back seat or trunk of my car.

There was no doubt in my mind it would fit. The car is bigger than it looks from the outside. At least I thought so.

I had all of the clothes I’d need, extras even, packed away in my suitcases. Yes, that’s suitcases, as in plural, for a quick week getaway.

I openly admit it: I tend to over-pack.

The suitcases stood next to a large cooler full of drinks. The ice would have to wait until my first hotel. Yeah, I’d rather be that guy who empties the hotel’s ice machine than spend a few pennies for a sack of ice.

I don’t recommend doing this, as it can be an ugly incident if the next guest catches you with a full cooler, but I had spent enough already.

Call me a cheapskate, but I have a hard time paying for frozen water, even if it is just 70 cents. At least I admit it.

Extra still-warm drinks and snacks of all kinds — fruit, licorice and granola bars — sat in additional coolers and bags next to all of the other stuff.

And to top it all off, I had a small library stashed away in backpacks that I planned to throw in the car, as well. There was no way I would read all those books, but I wanted a selection. Sometimes I can be moody — all right, most times — and I wanted to make sure I’d have something to fit any particular mood after a long day on the road.

Standing in my pajamas examining my hoard, I knew it was foolish to pack everything. I don’t recommend it any more than hogging all the hotel ice. All you truly need is enough clothes and your camera.

All the other stuff can be bought on the road or as souvenirs.

But that’s the beauty of a road trip, as opposed to what’s become the soul-crushing series of restrictions that is air travel.

I had the freedom to ridiculously overload my car with things I likely wouldn’t use. I didn’t need to worry about baggage fees or weights. On the road I had the option to go wherever and do whatever I wanted, including stopping off at a store to restock anything I might need.

Sure, I could have lessened my load by keeping this in mind. I likely would have saved on gas mileage then, too. And who knows, maybe even saved enough to splurge on a bag of ice.

In the end, though, all that mattered was that I was packing up and going somewhere.


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