After a fun weekend in Brighton, Monday morning I was clambering into my friend’s car to start our long journey home to Cumbria*. I’d hitched a lift with some friends who were already down south for a music concert so I didn’t have to worry about taking out a loan just to pay the train fare. We were travelling in a convoy of 3 cars and the plan was to take it easy and hit our friend’s house for dinner in Preston. I was in a car with my friend Dave and in the back were John, John and … John. I knew them all fairly well but still, being stuck in a car all day with a group of lads didn’t exactly fill me with joy. I was pretty sure I’d be left out of the crack and would have to amuse myself with a few podcasts and spot the Audi.
Fortunately, I had the front seat which I realised fairly quickly was a ploy by the Johns so they could quite happily sit in the back and snooze while I kept Dave awake – nice one boys. And although there were a few quiet moments when a few fell asleep, the car journey was much more than I thought it would be. The first couple of hours we chatted and caught up on the crack. Then it was time for the infamous car games. I Spy was banned as they played it on the way down for far too long so we played a few word games and Categories (betting on how many things you can name in a category in 30 secs). It was (literally) all fun and games until someone suggested the topic ‘British song birds’ …
After another wee-stop it was music time. Everyone had their iPods out for a bit of Car DJ. I love it when you’re in a group and each person has to choose a song, you can learn a lot about someone by what they have in their music stash. After belting out some Blink 182, someone (yes, me) suggested listening to Tom Hanks’ Desert Island Disks (yes I am middle-aged). Now, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and the radio on my own so it was really really nice to sit in a car and share a moment with the others. There is something really special about sitting with a group of people, where you don’t have to say anything but just listen or watch something. It made me think of times gone by when families would sit around the wireless and listen to programmes together. These days families don’t even sit in the same room as one another but are in all corners of the house watching their own programmes on TVs, phones, tablets etc. It’s really sad. I would definitely encourage people to do more communal viewing / listening.
Another thing about taking a long car trip – apart from having to do car yoga as your bum and feet go numb, is that it is a great place to talk. Not just chat, but properly talk about life, the universe and everything. I don’t know if it is because you’re (hopefully) looking ahead of you and don’t have to face the other person/people directly, or maybe just sitting brings things to mind, but halfway up the M6 I found myself in the middle of a deep conversation with these boys. And it was great. You don’t have the option of walking off, or slam down a phone, so you have to talk things through if there are any diagreements. On a long trip you get past the usual “How are you? How’s work?” questions and start asking “So really, how are you?”.
Car rides are also great because you feel like you are actually travelling, you’re on a journey. I’m pretty used to taking short flights and they don’t really feel like travelling, just a series of waiting rooms, queues, a bit of a sit down and you’ve arrived. Trains are a bit better, you can see the scenery change and people watching is always a bonus but it also seems perfectly acceptable to sit with your headphones in and shut out the world and not really take in the act of travelling. With a car you really feel the journey – mainly because your legs go to jelly as you step/fall out of the car at the service station, but you see the miles clocking down until you reach your destination, doing quick maths to see how fast you’ll arrive, you get to know different cars as you pass them and then they pass you – that black Toyota with the young family watching some Pixar film, or the old couple in the red Audi listening to the same radio station as you.
I know cars have their problems, and a long journey could make or break a friendship but I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute taking a long road trip with my friends.
With these kinds of road trips it is way more about the journey not the destination.
*Those of you whose British geography isn’t that great it’s just under 400miles/643km