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!

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






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?

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Sheila L. M.
Sheila L. M.
April 21, 2015 6:03 PM

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.

April 16, 2015 3:24 PM

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.

Rose Fairbanks
April 14, 2015 2:50 PM

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.

Jenni James
April 14, 2015 3:32 AM

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.

Kathy Berlin
Kathy Berlin
April 13, 2015 8:46 PM

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. ????

Brenda Webb
April 13, 2015 3:56 PM

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. 🙂

April 13, 2015 12:00 PM

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.

April 13, 2015 11:34 AM

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. 🙂

Linda A.
Linda A.
April 13, 2015 10:58 AM

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!

Stephanie L
April 13, 2015 9:23 AM

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

Wendy Roberts
April 13, 2015 9:10 AM

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!

April 13, 2015 8:35 AM

Great post Diana! I travel alone on road trips. I enjoy listening to music. 🙂

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
April 13, 2015 8:23 AM

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

Deborah Fortin
April 13, 2015 8:28 PM
Reply to  Diana Oaks

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.

Deborah Fortin
April 13, 2015 6:37 AM

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.

April 13, 2015 6:21 AM

Wonderful post Diana. Very diverting, just made my day! Wish I did this for the many road trips I’ve taken over the years.

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