We sat down for a chat with our Road-Trip Connoisseur and Crisman St Branch Manager, Gary T, for some road trip tips, fun stories of road trips past, and even a few poignant life lessons.
CTFCU: Let’s jump in—what lead you to start making road trips?
Gary: It’s just an adventure. Sometimes I’ll fly, but usually, I’ll drive, especially if it’s on the east coast. I mean, I went all the way to Canada—and part of it too is just the familiarity of having my vehicle. I don’t have any limitations in getting a rental car and all that since I already have my vehicle wherever I’m going.
CTFCU: Very cool, so what are the essential must-haves for road trips?
Gary: “The biggest thing is making sure you have your music because you’ve got to jam out when you’re traveling. And kind of having an idea of what your plan is. Sometimes I’ll have hotels booked, sometimes I’ll have an idea of what I’ll do when I get there. I’ll just use Hotwire or Hotel Tonight just to see what the deals are. If you’ve never used it before, Hotwire is a booking website; sometimes they don’t tell you the name of the hotel when you’re booking it, so sometimes, it’s kind of a [surprise]. They give customer reviews and star ratings, so you can have an idea of what you’re getting for the deal. You can generally get a good deal; sometimes it’s like, ‘what did they give me?’ But I like to use that just because it adds another fun element too—you never know where you’re going to end up. Sometimes I’ve stayed in excellent hotels. Since they don’t list it specifically, it’s kind of a hidden deal.”
CTFCU: Is not having a set plan difficult? How do you handle that?
Gary: “I can do stuff on the spur of the moment. I’m not much of a planner. There are some times where I’ll schedule some [more significant] bigger things where I’m traveling—but a lot of times—I’m winging it.
CTFCU: What’s a road trip story that sticks out?
Gary: I went to Canada a few years ago and did not even have a hotel room booked. This was an issue at the border because they asked me what I was doing there. I was like, ‘I’m visiting; this is my first time in Canada,’ and I was in my car because I had just driven from here. [The Canadian Border Patrol] were like, ‘hmm… no hotel, and you’re not really firm on your plans, this is suspicious.’ Oh! Then they asked me what I did for work, and I didn’t have my business card on me…so my car definitely got searched. It wasn’t terrible; they just looked at everything, and then I went on my way.
After that, I figured out what I was going to do and booked my hotel room and all that. The sad thing is it was my first-time seeing Niagara Falls, and I found it kind of underwhelming. At first, I was thinking, ‘Okay, so it’s a waterfall, and?’ Then, when I was over in Toronto, it settled in a bit more, and I thought this is something people wait their whole lives to see. I felt terrible that I had been a little jaded at first. It is fantastic to see, but I loved Toronto more. I spent a few days there, did the harbor tour, and made my way back through Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
That was a fun trip. Getting searched at the border was a little [nerve wracking] because I’m sure they thought I was up to something, but nope, I just don’t plan stuff very well, haha!”
CTFCU: Haha noted. So, for the planners out there, what would be your recommendations for a weekend trip?
Gary: “For a weekend trip radius, I think the first recommendation that comes to mind is [Washington] D.C. I would encourage everyone to go there especially if they haven’t been. I think having D.C. somewhat close to us is really cool. Having lived there most of my life, I know how easy it can be to take for granted and forget that it’s the nation’s capital. It’s pretty cool that it’s so close, and we have access to seeing the monuments and all that’s there. D.C. is about 6-7 hours of a drive, so it’s tough to do in a day, but it’s great for a weekend.
Savannah is another one of my favorites. It’s got great seafood, and going on a walk along the river is really nice. It’s just got a nice vibe to it too. You can go shopping off the river walk, and there’s lots of cool landscape to see. It’s very picturesque; I always get a lot of cool pictures when I go to Savannah.
For a pick in the Carolinas, I’d have to say Asheville. I don’t go to Asheville often, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot when I’ve been there. I normally pass through it on my way to the casinos in Cherokee. As a destination on its own, there’s a lot to see and explore—Biltmore is a big thing there, and there is a huge restaurant scene.
CTFCU: Very cool! So why road trips as a hobby?
Gary: It’s fun to just explore and take different paths to where you’re going and try and see different things and slow down your travel a little bit. So, you can actually enjoy the travel part a little bit, it’s not just a journey to get to the destination, you know. There are benefits, I guess, to just getting to your destination and just doing what you want to be doing, but you’re missing all the cool stuff you might see along the way.”
CTFCU: That’s beautifully poetic!
Gary: Well, I was thinking about it, and the reason for road trips, unlike other travel, is that there are two parts; the journey and the destination. It’s very much an analogy for life; there is the destination that everyone wants to get to and there are many ways to get there, but it all depends on you. The destination is always the ultimate goal, but there are many paths, and you can always choose to make stops along the way.
We couldn’t agree more, Gary. We hope that all our members reading this take some time to make some stops along the way in their adventures this summer. Keep a look out for part II in the next E-Connections!