As we make our way South in our 71’ VW Van from Minnesota to conquer 2,700 miles of the Great River Road along the Mississippi to Louisiana, one thing remains very evident. We are very alone. Perhaps we won some sort of road trip lottery where we get to be ushered through as VIP road trippers, but we’re starting to become accustomed to it and felt the need to share the wealth.
1. The weather is actually on your side.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. It’s not that ‘top down’ convertible epic road trip type of season. We’ve been lucky to have a few days where we’ve rolled our windows down a few inches just to air out the van.
However, the weather is the absolute magical time for making bonfires after you have reached your destination, sitting back and remembering what it was like to have a conversation. A real one. No interruptions. Just gazing into the flames of the fire and talking about the day, life…. Heck, I have been married to my road trip partner for 14 years and still find out things I have never known about him when we just sit around the ‘bonfire.’
2. Camping perks.
Not only is it discounted in Spring/Fall season, but you have your pick of pretty much any spot. Take all the time you need on that dump toilet. You’re welcome.
In fact, this has been almost a luxurious commodity as we have been camping down the Great River Road in our VW Van. We only plan out our itinerary day by day, so to be able to turn up into a primitive camp space or campground that night and know that we will have our pick of the acreage is not only a bonus, it’s given us more time to concentrate on our journey. They say that’s what it’s really all about, anyway — right?
3. The people you’ll meet.
Did you know that a ‘Tom’ means a Turkey? Well, we do now.
All the way down the Great River Road there is someone hunting something. We are waking up to goose calls on the river and going to bed with gun shots in the forest. It’s become almost like a lullaby to us. We must admit, we’ve come to find a friendship with these ‘huntsmen’ that we camp alongside each night. They even gave us wild duck for our dinner the other day. We may not be camo people, but they still accept us and our red lipstick VW Van.
4. Uninterrupted photography moments.
Just think about it. No photo bombers, no selfies, no school group trips. Go ahead, have that special date with your lens. Be your ‘creative self.’ Now — not that it ever stopped us before — I just suppose we don’t feel like we are offending anyone with our shenanigans every time we set our self-timer with all this space to play. National Parks, Museums, Scenic Stops.. OH MY.
5. Celebrity treatment.
The open hours of attractions may shrink back in the off-season, but that means far fewer tourists will be there. And these businesses need you. If you can be savvy and time your trips right, you will be welcomed with open arms.
We stopped at a local vineyard and did a wine tasting one afternoon. There were no other customers around and we ended up being able to taste some of the more high-end wine selections and they offered it all to us for free. Basically, no crowds will equal some of the most incredible experiences and fabulous 1:1 treatment.
6. Open roads
So pretend to cleverly look at your map, then hit that button that says ‘avoid all major highways,’ roll down your window an inch and crank up your heat… Then hit that gas and go. What are you waiting for?