Belly of the Road
As your left arm glides out the window at 40 miles an hour, you decelerate down the exit ramp of who knows what highway in God knows what corn-laden state. Your friend in the passenger seat turns down the volume as Boys 2 Men’s greatest hits can only be blasted so many times in a row. After holding your bladder for the past three hours, the time of sweet release has arrived. Pulling up to the Phillips 66, you quickly bolt out the sedan, legs stiff as a corpse, and race to the bathroom. A few minutes later, all that matters in life is getting gas into the car and choosing the next cavity-inducing, calorie-loaded prize from the shelf. Will it be Mountain Dew or Red Bull? Ranch Combos or Mustard Pretzels? Sour Gummy Worms or Laffy Taffy? There is only one absolute: it will not be a bottle of Aquafina and a handful of carrot sticks.
A Time for Relaxation
Any hardworking college student will tell you the only thing more gratifying than an A on a Chemistry final is the ensuing week of decompression. Whether it’s letting the warm, white sand of Destin, Florida sink between your toes, or laying lathered in sunscreen and freedom on Lake Nickajack in middle Tennessee, the reward is in the air. As a faithful road tripper, I believe I’ve perfected the art of the trip itself. Every gang of friends has the hyper-organized, planning-every-stop-‘til-you-drop leader, the doubting-every-route-taken skeptic, and the drink-beer-at-9 a.m. wildcard. But most fail to fold a crease on their itineraries for junk-food-cuisine guide. I’m not talking about what restaurants you go to when you arrive, or if you should pack apples and peanut butter, but if there’s enough squirt cheese to squeeze on a Pringle. And that’s sort of become my shtick.
Road Trip Essentials
Before you can roll your Pathfinder through the foggy Appalachians or the soggy Everglades, you need a properly equipped vehicle. Jumper cables? Fine. Atlas? Sure. Teriyaki beef jerky and Cherry Coke slurpees? Definitely. Road trip protocol calls for a reassessment of the junk food hierarchy. It is in these instances where Health & Fitness 185 and the dormitory buffet is mere exhaust from the muffler. The paradigm has changed. No more power bars and apple juice. Color me black with sunflower seeds and IBC root beer.
Think about it, if you’re stuck on four wheels for hours with some of your closest friends in the world, you don’t want them munching on Triscuits and talking politics. You want them pounding energy drinks and mooning other cars. There’s a time for the existence of God and Wheat Thins. It’s called academia, and you left it five hours ago. It’s time to buckle your seatbelts and unbuckle your waist belts. You’ll hit the gym when you get back. No worries. Relax a little and let road trip euphoria clog your arteries.
Food On The Road
This isn’t mere comedy or conjecture. This is as serious as the moonlit walk by the ocean and the egg-yolk sun baking your flesh like turkey legs. This is the crackle of bacon sizzling over the fire at 6 am in the mountains, grabbing you by the nose and carrying you to a happy stomach. There is no trip without the road, and there is no road without Twizzlers. Remember this. Before you start booking the condo in Miami or making reservations at the beach front diner, start packing your suitcases with Gardetto’s trail mix and Milk Duds. You may journal about mini-golf and go-karts, but you’ll feel the gluttonous glory of junk-food heaven when you return. Road trips aren’t permanent and neither is the extra 5 pounds in your belly. So snag your swimsuit, put on your shades, and head down to a pool of chocolate milk, Snickers, and the most relaxing week of your life.
By Phillip Shaefer