AI: The homecoming edition

Friends, earlier this week Maria pinch-hit for me while I was away on business. Today I’m repaying the favor by posting for her.

I was away for a looooooong time. On the road with Scott Sigler, helping promote his new book THE ROOKIE, which I helped publish.

I got to visit Elyse, and met a lot of Skepchick fans along the way! I even signed a few books along the way when folks realized I was “A the Skepchick.”  Most, most awesome.  I totally blew it in Houston and missed a chance to see Sam because I simply didn’t have time to think “hey, Sam lives nearby, I should call.” Dammit, dammit, dammit.

I love a road trip. Reminds me of when I was in college and TheRealBoy took me all over the Midwest to see the sites. Crappy food, bad jokes, good music.  Even so, I could have used an assist to stay entertained on the longer drives when Sigler was napping.

What’s your favorite thing to do to pass the time on a long road trip? Any “Rules of the Road” you can share with me?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. Podcasts. I love driving to Astronomy Cast, and Marc Maron’s WTF podcast (though he’s not for everyone), and sometimes I listen to In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, which is astonishingly informative, though the topics can be a bit obscure.

  2. I totally second the podcasts. They kept me alive on my 8hr drive to and from Dragon*Con. George Hrab’s Geologic Podcast is teh funny!

  3. Hi there!

    When I’m alone, and driving a very long distance by myself, I usually rehearse what I’d say to my younger self if I ever went back in time. Since this usually includes long-winded descriptions of: 1) The Grandfather Paradox, 2) The Butterfly Effect, 3) The probably of a coin coming up “heads-up” 51 times in a row, 4) The Kennedy Assassination, 5) The double-slit Experiment, and 6) Multiple universes theory; I usually get to my destination before I get to the part where I try to convince my younger parents to sell everything and buy shares in Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, and eBay.

    Or sometimes just to change it up, I rehearse the same scenario, but with me explaining those timey-wimey principles to: Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Galileo Gallilei, or the Countess of Pompadour.

    I drive over an hour to and from work every morning, I’ve had lots of time travel discussions. [nods]

  4. I travel mostly by train which gives me massive amounts of time while riding as well as long layovers in cultural hot spots like Mount Pleasant, Iowa. I save podcasts and the Nintendo DS as a cherry when I’m too tired to do anything else. Mostly I read and write. It’s interesting to compare the stuff I write on a moving train in the middle of the night to what was written in an empty 1900’s train station in the midwest. I also notice that I tend to get potty fingers after reading a Christopher Moore novel.

  5. Please post more – driving from San Francisco to Austin next weekend with two not-very-talkative dogs. Listening to all of Beethoven’s symphonies in order only kills a small amount of that.

  6. If I’m alone, I spend a lot of time playing with the music. No matter what, I tend to do algebra, comparing my speed to the distance to a landmark on roadsigns, to determine how long it will take me to get there.

  7. I go on roadtrips quite often. I live in the east and often travel west-alone. So, there’s no “ARE WE THERE YET?” and no “Honey, will you take over?”

    I hook up my ipod to my radio and just listen. Since I’m often going west or south, I watch the mile markers. Then, I calculate when I’m going to reach 0. (yes, I know that’s lame, but, hey, it helps me).

    I have a trip coming up next week-high school reunion-back in AR. Its going to be a 17 hr drive. Not a problem.

  8. an audio book is always part of my road-trips, like say i dunno….Infected, or Contagious, or even The Rookie.

    if i didn’t have those to listen to and keep me occupied on the long drives, i am sure carr2d2 would have murdered me in the face right there in the passenger seat a long time ago. So thank you Scott Sigler, Neil Gaiman, and Douglas Adams for allowing carr2d2 to spare my life ;)

  9. BTW-I’ve learned to put a cooler in my front seat with sandwiches and Mt. Dews. I get hungry, I don’t stop, I just roll and eat. I will also have caffine pills also. I can suck down coffee, and if I stop now, I’ll stop again in 30 mins, and again in 30 mins. Then, 30 mins later, I’ll stop for coffee…its a viscious cycle.

    Mt. Dew has sodium in it, which helps you retain your water. It also keeps you from peeing like a racehorse.

  10. I’ve got MP3s of all 13 hours of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy loaded on my phone. That’s good for a few hundred miles. Doesn’t hurt to save up some podcasts ahead of time too.

  11. Long road trips typically involve family trips to national parks or relatives so my wife is along, and she’s a professional storyteller, university communication professor with an authentic English accent. She reads books out loud while we drive and it’s one of the best parts of long trips.

    During a trip to Yellowstone she read “One Hundred Ways to Die in Yellowstone” which was wonderfully gruesome family fun.

  12. My road trip plan usually involves a pit stop at O’Hare to catch a plane to my next car.

    And just to make davew angry, I totally burn shit while I’m traveling… and I’m constantly spraying at least 2 aerosol cans at a time between destinations… if I have a lighter, it’s even better.

    Also, to entertain myself at the airport, I swap the labels on the recycle and garbage cans… after I flush my stockpile of birth control pills down the toilet.

  13. @davew: Not to be offensive, but, I don’t think this is that serious. I understand 17 hrs, co2 global warming, etc. However, I work 20 mins from my house-can’t telecommute, I move stuff, so I can’t move it if I’m not there. The last time I did this was July of 2007. Its going to be about 2000 miles round trip. Over 15 moths, that’s about 133 miles a month, or 5 miles a day.

    I understand environmentalism, I care, but I also have a life to lead, and a way I want to lead it. I abhoar flying, and the bus is just annoying. Once we get a solid high-speed train system going, like Europe, then I’ll serious consider using that option.

  14. I generally ride alone, and when I do so I either listen to Teaching Company lectures, audiobooks, or a lot of heavy metal. The last time I drove a long distance with some company (to Quebec City, 26hrs), it involved listening to a lot of classic rock… and some heavy metal. So, yeah, I’m not very imaginative. But still, seeing Dragonforce live was totally worth it.

  15. As a general rule, I don’t do “Road Trips”.
    Why? Because long distance driving bores me to tears. When I get bored I start thinking of really depraved fantasies. Those get me all hornilicious. That leads to my car intersecting with guard rails, power poles, and other cars. So I’ve found it is best for me to stick to realtively short car trips or if I have to go further, I fly. Then all I have to worry about is offending Flight Attendants…which can be problematic as well.

    Maybe it’s best for me to stay home…

  16. @infinitemonkey: Once we get a solid high-speed train system going, like Europe, then I’ll serious consider using that option.

    This does turn into a chicken and the egg problem. One of the reasons Europe has such an excellent train system is high ridership. One of the reasons ours if pathetic is low ridership. I view riding trains and buses as a vote for better mass transit.

    To get back on topic, however. One thing mass transit, especially trains, has going for it is your mind and hands are free the entire way. My last road trip would have been 14 hours by car during which time I could have half-listened to an abridged book tape or two very abridged ones. By train/bus it took 17 hours during which time I read a book and finished a short story and two poems. I could also eat, pee, sleep, or walk around whenever I wanted. Oh, and I never had to shut off your electronic devices and I had my very own electric outlet. That’s my kind of road trip! I’d be seriously tempted to use trains over airplanes and cars even if they weren’t the environmentally conscious choice.

  17. Here’s a suggestion:
    Next time you have to drive long distance, get youself a pair of those funny big-nose glasses that make you look like Groucho, right? Then get a pair of ruffled pink panties.
    When you get on the road, take one hour out of every four to don the glasses and wear the panties on your head. Then, drive about 45mph. Everyone will want to pass you and as they do, they will want to look and see what kind of lame ass drives 45 on the Interstate. As each car passes you, look at them with a BIG smile and wave.
    They will speed up. FAST!

    It’s a real hoot, give it a try. :)

  18. @davew: My dream is to have a bullet train-LA to NY. I think it would save our economy a whole lot, by not having planes idling for one, and be better for the environment. I think if done right, it could make domestic air travel obsolete.

    I need something to keep my attention-something always changing. Maybe a handheld game, but I’d always lose it. I’m on ipod v.4.0…I keep washing them. For future reference, putting your ipod in the washing machine is a bad idea, unless you need a useless paperweight. That’s why I count miles-you have to look out for them.

  19. If you’re traveling with your partner, you should play the license pate game: kiss each other every time you see an out-of-state (as in: out-of-the-state-you’re-currently-in, that is) license plate. Or, if you don’t want to kiss & drive, you save them up for make-out sessions at the rest stops and toll booths.
    When my husband and I drive places, he generally does all of the driving (he hates to ride) so I think of things to make lists of (“things that are over-rated,” “awesome band names,” “things that always sound dirty”).
    I would just read the whole way if I could…

  20. My partner and I do crosswords. While I’m driving, she reads out some the clues and number of blanks/existing characters/etc. and thusly I get to do some of it “blind” (keeping eyes on road) while she fills it out.

  21. 2 words, comedy CDs, George Carlin, Woody Allen, Mitch Hedberg, Eddie Izzard, and many others have all helped me through my road trips, books on tape are also great, and not only do books on tape help you catch up on your reading, many local librarys have them, free is also a nice perk.

  22. One thing I find helps cut the urge to stop is to only stop for gas. I’ll keep a flat of water and a cube of Dr. Pepper in the car, usually with a protien-and-sugar snack, like peanuts. Stop when the car needs gas, take a walk around the building, and use the toilet. If not stopping for gas, stop at a rest stop.

  23. On commutes and road trips, I mostly listen to podcasts. Sometimes listen to CDs. Sometimes listen to the Christian bible on tape. (Yes I do.) The Old Testament is really a scary book if you get into it, and believe what it says.

    I drive a high performance sports car. (I was in Indian Guides as a child and…)
    I’ve adopted a new “indian name” for myself:
    “Dances with Trucks”

    On plane flights, I read books. First class flight attendants tend to annoy me, as they constantly pester one with /service/. >;->

  24. I dislike road trips and prefer to fly, but if I have to take one:

    Sirius/XM radio

    CD’s: music, audiobooks, comedy

    Sorry, don’t do podcasts. Don’t own the technology yet.

    Keeping an eye on the map and estimating ETA’s to various places along the way

    Trying to keep my Honda hybrid from being turned into recycling scrap by overspeeding trucks/cars.

    I usually get out and stretch every couple of hours and look forward to stopping for a meal – I just can’t sit that long at a stretch anymore.

  25. My daughter started us in on a game in which one person thinks of a funny moment from *Star trek* (any version) and the others ask yes-no questions about the situation and characters to guess the moment. As we’ve pretty much used up the funny moments, the game has morphed into a more general *Trek* themed 20 questions.

  26. @davew:

    @PeteSchult: My daughter started us in on a game in which one person thinks of a funny moment from *Star trek* (any version)

    “It’s, it’s… Green.”

    And “It is … It is green.”

  27. magicdude20: “George Carlin, Woody Allen, Mitch Hedberg, Eddie Izzard”

    Replace Woody with Lewis Black and you have my Road Trip lineup.

    I also play a strange game on interstates: If a car (not a semi) passes me, I add one mph to my cruise control. If I pass two cars, I take one mph off the cruise control… Yeah a stupid game, but it keeps me busy when traveling through Nebraska considering there’s nothing else to look at. It also tends to keep me around 5 mph faster than the posted speed limit in most places (+10 mph in California)

  28. Ha! I just got back from a 12 hour road trip to go to a conference with a colleague. We took turns driving. When I wasn’t driving, I was knitting (between that and the conference itself, I got a lot of knitting done–as in multiple pairs of socks–yay!). And we listened to audiobooks.

    I love audiobooks. They are my best friends when I’m driving. My local library has a fantastic selection.

    When I’m very tired while driving, putting on music and singing along very loudly works well for me. Years ago when I did a regular overnight road trip with friends, we would save The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack for around 4am.

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