How to Survive a Road Trip with a Janeite

How to Survive a Road Trip with a Janeite

As every Janeite knows, in Austen novels, plans to travel are always a clue that interesting things are about to happen. Excursions to London, Brighton, Bath, Lyme, the Lakes, and Derbyshire evoke feelings of expectation and excitement. Whether it is to partake in diversions and entertainments, do a little sea-bathing or simply to see the sights of distant places, the anticipation is certainly part of every Austen novel. When an opportunity for a road trip arose, I put on my Austen-colored glasses; hoping for good roads and good weather, we made our plans.

The purpose of the trip was certainly out-of-time with reasons the Austen characters wandered from home – we bought a used car and needed to bring it home. The challenging aspect of our purchase was that the vehicle was inconveniently located in Florida and we live in the Intermountain West. My husband’s initial proposal involved him driving the entire distance solo. I was exceedingly put out over this and insisted on going along. He had the good sense to humor me.

An absolute requirement to survive a road trip with a Janeite (at least this one) is a sense of humor.  Fortunately, my husband pretty much rolls with all of my droll comments. He smiled as we headed out the door and I commented that, like Austen would have, we were going to be traveling coach. Likewise, when we were standing in the security line, I mentioned that although Lady Catherine would never know how I packed my bag, I could not hope for the same when it comes to the TSA. You get the idea.

The flying portion of our trip, including the layover, took us just under eight hours – about the same amount of time it took to cover the 58 miles from London to Brighton back in the day in a carriage.  Considering that Brighton and Florida have beaches in common, and beaches have water, and water has fish and we were packed into the Boeing 737 like sardines in a can, this leg of the trip I dubbed Mr. Collins, because he thanked Lady Catherine for winning at fish and apologized if he thought he won too many.  With every seat taken on both flights, there were absolutely too many fish!

Mercedes-Benz of Pompano Beach

The departure from Mr. Collins signaled our arrival in Florida, where it was a balmy 78 degrees. So far, the weather report is looking good! Limo service from a driver named Valentine, and a dealership full of fancy cars we could never afford earned this short blip of our 2-day adventure the name of Rosings.

It wasn’t long before we were on our way with a gently-used Toyota Avalon. Heading north on the Florida Turnpike however, the weather quickly betrayed us. That is one thing that hasn’t actually changed much in 200 years. The weather remains a significant factor on the degree of pleasure one derives from a road trip. Thank goodness nobody has to sit outside the vehicle to drive as a coachman did! We quickly discovered that the car needed new windshield wipers, calling for exploration off the main road. When we found “Bennett Auto Parts” across the street from an “Auto Zone”, it seemed like a no-brainer as to which establishment we would patronize.

Downpour in Florida
New Windshield Wipers from Bennett Auto Parts







Road Construction in Georgia

We also experienced paying tolls to use the Florida Turnpike. We had a bit of an oops there, since it works a bit differently than the ones my husband was familiar with, but once we got that straightened out, I had to do a little research. Research counts as entertainment any day of the week, but on a road-trip using tiny devices with my fat fingers, it feels a bit awkward, much as having high-tea in a barn would. Austen doesn’t talk about paying tolls on the roads in her novels, but I learned that in 1800, there were upwards of 8,000 toll booths on roads in England. The “good roads” referenced by Mr. Darcy at Hunsford were the turnpike roads. So the Florida Turnpike was hereafter named Fifty Miles of Good Road in recognition of all the money we had to pay to use it!

Not long after that particular good road ended, we found ourselves in one-lane, battling heavy traffic and construction barrels. This photo was taken at 2:30 in the morning and the traffic was backed up in both directions. I named this stretch Mrs. Bennet. Anyone want to guess why?

We’ve talked about the state of the roads a bit, but now going to return to the weather. The weekend of our road trip, the entire eastern half of the country, down into the south, suffered yet another severe cold snap.We had to add no-freeze windshield wiper fluid to the reservoir because they apparently don’t need such things in Florida. Freezing slush on the windshield is not a recipe for excellent visibility. Tennessee and Kentucky became Derbyshire in honor of the cold – and the Kentucky Derby.  It was in these states that I noticed the rows of trees along stretches of the highway – not quite like the hedgerows of England, but similar.

American Hedgerows – Don’t Trust the Blue Sky, it was 27 degrees!

During this part of the drive, I began writing postcards. I had, prior to the trip, purchased a box of Austen-themed postcards and stamps. I then collected names and addresses of people who wanted to receive one. I wrote a few here and there as we drove along, or sometimes when we were waiting for food when we stopped to eat. It was fun, and definitely kept me occupied as we crossed over from the south into the mid-west.  They were all finally mailed at a truck stop in Nebraska, It actually took more than a week for them to be delivered to the recipients I heard back from, so the postal system in Nebraska gets a failing grade.

I had fun watching for things I could relate back to Austen in some way – like the “Elizabethtown” sign, a piece of heavy equipment, a country church and livestock in the fields. As we approached home in morning light, I named the final stretch Rocks and Mountains.

Austen Postcards
Lady Cat







What are Men to Rocks and Mountains?
A Group of Three is Picturesque

I had a camera, some postcards, my Kindle and a WiFi hotspot from my cell phone. Armed with his sense of humor and a willingness to indulge my inner Jane, my husband actually survived enjoyed our road trip! He was an excellent travel companion too. Now it’s your turn. What are your road-trip survival tips?

32 Responses to How to Survive a Road Trip with a Janeite

  1. I am fairly good with maps and directions and will bring up the MapQuest map ahead of time and sometimes print it out to use as a consultant. It allows you to reroute the trip if you care to do so. My husband is really bad, even with GPS, as he will take the wrong turn as a reflex as the speaker said “Take the next right turn” (two turns one after the other confuse him) and then didn’t realize that the GPS didn’t know the road was closed for a flash flood and he kept trying to turn as the GPS was taking him back to the flooded road. We take audio books on long trips.

    • I think it’s a fantastic idea to print out the MapQuest map rather than just trusting that the GPS is all knowing. That was illustrated to me again just today, when the navigation app I was using tried to put me at someone’s house instead of a church for my brother’s funeral. It was off by at least a block. My husband has done audio books when driving solo on long trips, but we haven’t tried them when there are more than one of us. We’ll have to try that! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thanks for sharing your trip and pictures of the scenery. I had an enjoyable time reading your travelogue and how you see Jane Austen along the way. I would say that I’ve not been on a road trip before unless I count those times when I’m travelling back to my hometown.

    • If you travel on a road, then the definition of “road-trip” is pretty flexible. Next time you travel to your hometown, turn it into a road trip! Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I had fun chuckling through this post! I’m glad you (and your husband) were able to take it all in stride and see things the Jane way (perhaps worth confusing with Captain Janeway). On my first drive to Alaska (because smart people do that more than once, lol) I compared it to the Oregon Trail which many people my generation are familiar with the computer game. I dubbed it the 21st Century Covered Wagon trail. We had quite a few issues reminiscent of the trials faced on the game. By the time we got a flat tire 90 miles from our destination I just managed to laugh. Something had happened each day of the trip and we joked about wondering what it would be on the final day. The icing on the cake was the fact that one reason I traveled with my brother was in case I got a flat tire and I just assumed he would know what to do! He didn’t but we figured it out! Your weekend excursion sounds pretty lovely. Hope you’re enjoying the new car and firmly Spring weather.

    • Jane way … Janeway … hehe ,.. I see what you did there. We had that Oregon Trail game many generations of computers ago. It was certainly fraught with peril! Your drive to Alaska likewise sounds like quite the test of fortitude. We’ve certainly had a few of those types of trips where things start to go wrong and just when you’ve conquered one obstacle, another crops up. Having just purchased a used car, with only photos and the word of a car salesman to go on, I was definitely braced for the possibility that this would be that kind of trip. Thankfully, it wasn’t! I love the new car. Thanks for your comment Rose.

  4. LOL! I loved this. And simply brilliant to incorporate so many Austenesque things in your trip. Glad you made it safe! And congrats on the new car.

    • Thank you, Jenni! Next time I go to the Vegas Valley Book Festival (or another drive-able event), I won’t need a rental! I do find myself relating lots of things to Austen. I blame it on my FB news feed, where every other post seems to be Austen oriented. That, and I have a mind that makes rapid tangential leaps. I always laugh in P&P where Darcy says “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” Because it’s so true. And once matrimony has been achieved, our fertile imaginations jump in other ways!

  5. I have the postcard you sent on my whiteboard in my office. Love how you “named” sections of your trip. Next week my daughter and my 21 year- old granddaughter are driving from Reserve LA to Durham, NC for my oldest granddaughter’s wedding. With 3 drivers we should arrive well-rested and ready for all the celebrations. I have JAFF audio books it cell phone for this trip. ????

    • I’m glad you got it! I have a few postcards left and plan to keep sending them out until they are gone. There’s nothing quite like getting something tangible in the mailbox. Postcards from Jane, signed Diana, right?
      That is wonderful that your granddaughter is getting married. I treasure the photos I have of my grandparents who were at my wedding. Such joyous occasions are always worth whatever it takes to get there. A team of 3 drivers sounds perfect for such a drive. I don’t have any JAFF audiobooks yet, but I’ve been thinking about it. I have a few friends who swear by their audiobooks! Have a lovely trip!

  6. I enjoyed going on your travels Diana! Thank you for an excellent commentary on all spots along the way an the pictures too. I prayed that you would have a safe trip and I am pleased that in addition you had fun. I am like you though. If my hubby was going to drive that far, I would be going along to help keep him alert and awake. 🙂

    • I thank you for your prayers. We said a few ourselves – you never know what you’re going to encounter on a road trip, and suddenly every instance you ever heard about good drivers being hit by an intoxicated driver comes to mind when it’s around 2 am and suddenly there are lots of cars on the road. My fertile imagination figures that at least half of them have just left a bar. My husband has actually done a solo cross-country drive home with used cars a few times, but with the ongoing shoulder and leg pain he’s had since last Octobers accident – especially when he’s tired – I wasn’t about to let him go alone.

  7. Entertaining and fabulous post. Road trips are always filled with adventure, which is anticipated and enjoyed or dealt with. Love interesting road trips with a companion who can drive well.

    • Ah, the companion who can drive well. That would be my husband! I was definitely the relief driver, and I gladly relinquished any claim on the wheel when we were going through anywhere that was complicated. I was the entertainment, and kept him awake with my unending stream of witty commentary. You know you’re with a good driver when you can feel confident going to sleep with them at the wheel. He’s actually one of the best drivers I know. His driving skills saved his life last October when the brakes failed on his work truck right after he took an off-ramp, heading for a rock wall at 80MPH. He is very cool-headed and has amazing reflexes and instincts. I can think of no person I would rather take a trip like this with.

  8. Diana, This was such a delightful post. I really enjoyed it. I loved traveling alone with my audio books. I think of a car as a traveling time capsule ~ sealed away from the rest of the world. Sorry you hit some of our Florida storms. During the summer, they kick in and you just might as well pull over and wait. They pass quickly. I would love to see someone create a “clean ladies loo” app for road travel. Being a Frequent Stopper I would consider it a blessing. Glad you had a good time. 🙂

    • Oh Barb, don’t get me started on the restrooms! I have picked up a few nightmare stories about restrooms on this trip. The worst was when we stopped at a truck stop on Saturday morning and I went to the restroom to freshen up and change clothes. The “ladies loo” was deserted when I went in, so I opted for one of two handicap stalls because it was big enough to change clothes quickly. I had just stripped down to next to nothing when all of a sudden there was a THUP on the door to the stall, and the handle rattled as a hand curled around the top of the door and shook it. “Occupied” I called out, and I hear a grunt. Twice more while I was dressing as quickly as I could, she banged on the door, rattled the handle and shook the stall. “Just a minute,” I would reply, shoving my things back in my bag. When I opened the door, there was a huge woman – an Amazon – easily over six feet tall glaring at me. She pushed me and my overnight bag out of her way and slammed the door. Not even one of the other stalls was in use. I was so freaked out that I washed my hands and got out of there before she came back out. Then I realized that I was missing my iPhone, which had been in my pocket. I was SO relieved when I went back in and not only was she gone, but the phone was sitting on the top of the toilet paper dispenser, right where I must have set it when I was undressing.

  9. This is a thought provoking post. Since I am like Mr. Bennet and prefer to stay home with a good book than travel or even see people, I will have to make a point of watching the people in the airport around me on my next trip. Trying to correlate what we see today with what Jane wrote about will keep us alert and part of the joy around us instead of disappearing into our own selfish little worlds. Nice post!

    • Linda, I can relate – I’m more of a homebody than an adventurer myself, and staying home with a good book is my first choice too! I do love to look at the world however, so once I’m out and about, I almost always have a great time. The exception to that is if there is a crowd. I am NOT a crowd person, which makes places like airports less than a thrill for me, but sometimes you have to do the airport thing just to get where you’re going. I wonder how the ladies and gentlemen of past eras would have dealt with airport security! I admit that secretly watching people at the airport is a guilty pleasure – once I’m settled in at the gate.

  10. We (DH and I) love road trips for the most part. The parts that make me feel like Mrs. Bennet (oh my nerves!) generally go by and we are back to enjoying ourselves. We’ve actually decided that our retirement will involve traveling around the country with a 5th wheel to visit our friends and family scattered out over the states. We love music so our roadtrips usually involve lots of random mashed up music montages and the occasional rewriting of a song to serve our purposes. LOL I agree with a couple other PP’s, GPS is a must. I’m very map challenged. =D

    • I’m a bit map challenged myself. I can remember looking at maps and concluding that you simply can’t get there from here! Your retirement plan sounds so fun! I wish we could have taken a bit more time and visited people along the way. Alas, we left for the airport at 4:00 AM on Friday, and had to be back and recovered in time for work on Monday.

  11. The biggest thing that makes road trips with my husband bearable is the invention of the GPS! I am not a map reader. By the time I find where we are on a map, it’s too late!

    • I don’t know how we ever got along without GPS and other technology. Well, I do, actually. We bought those ginormous maps at gas stations and factored in time for some unplanned detours down the wrong roads and through back-roads, at which point we actually stopped and talked to people to get directions.

    • I must admit that traveling alone can have it’s charms – you get to make all the choices about where to stop, where to eat etc. I think I would prefer it to traveling with anyone except my husband. We had tons of fun – I had installed the “I Heart Radio” app on my cell phone, and had an FM transmitter that syncs with bluetooth. It allowed us to play what I had on my phone through the car speakers (the disadvantage of used cars is they don’t have the latest technology.) Anyway, we were teens in the 70’s, so we listened to “The Doobie Brothers Radio” and “Steely Dan Radio” and the “Daryl Hall & John Oates Radio” stations as we drove along. I confess that I sang along with old favorites a bit too loudly and acted younger than my years.

  12. Hi Diana, I loved this post! One of my best survival tips would be to have a Garmin or App on your phone for directions,. DH would rather flounder than stop and ask for directions. I wonder where your next trip will be. Jen

    • He he, Jen, we did use a navigation app, and for the most part it was great. We did have an unfortunate “incident” however, and I think in the future we’ll also have some printed directions for reference purposes. The problem was due to the fact that there are two major routes from Kansas City to Salt Lake. The northern route through Nebraska and Wyoming is all of 3 miles shorter, but a rather dreary drive. The southern route through Denver is far more interesting and scenic. We had decided to go through Denver, but the navigation app kept routing us through Nebraska even after we’d specified multiple times the way we wanted to go. We even tried the alternate navigation apps, and they did the same. (Could the Nebraska/Wyoming tourism councils be passing money under the table?) So, at my suggestion, my husband set it to just go to Denver and not to Salt Lake, figuring that once we were past Kansas City, we could add the Utah part back into the equation.

      We were coming up on a fork in the road, and the GPS both audibly and on the screen said we were going to go right. We were in a lane that could go either way at that point. All of a sudden, the GPS flickered and the voice came back on and said to go left, and stated the highway number that was marked for the left. We literally had a split second to decide which way we were going to go. So we went left, since that was what the Unit currently said. About 45 miles later, I see a sign that included cities in Nebraska, and, zooming out on the map confirmed that we were on the northern route. My husband sheepishly admitted that when we had stopped for gas on the eastern side of Kansas City, he had added Salt Lake back as the destination, thinking we had gone far enough. That darn GPS had re-calculated the route right as we were approaching the fork in the road!

      • When travelling, even though we use GPS we are always using the road atlas to make sure we are on track. I also always map out the trip first and then we compare it to the routing on the GPS. If there are discrepancies we then go to Google maps and compare. That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes.

        We have Aldo had the same problem with the GPS being too stubborn. They need to let us have some say in the routing.

  13. Enjoyed this post. It makes me think of the many road rips I’ve taken with my family. Since we camp we are always quite organized with stops planned, as I am sure must have been done by the Darcys. As a matter of fact, last month we passed drove Port Wentworth.

    • Well, Port Wentworth beats out Bennett Auto Parts hands down! Georgia is on my list of places I must revisit, since my brother lives there and we didn’t stop to visit – largely because it was two in the morning when we drove through Atlanta. A quick glance at the Port Wentworth website has stirred my enthusiasm! It looks like a charming place to visit – or even drive by.

    • Thank you! I was thinking the same – I actually took just over a hundred photos, all with my cell phone, most through the window of the car as we sped past. Now I can say I’ve “been there”, but can’t really say I’ve “done that.” I’m debating on the question of if we drove through a state, but I never actually set foot on the soil, does it count as having been there?

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