Posted by: Trisha Leigh | September 3, 2010

Why I’d Rather Drive Than Fly

Let me start by saying I don’t mind flying. I even sort of like it, except for the havoc it wreaks on my peanut allergy. I fly Southwest, mostly because of their commitment to customer service, but they happen to be the only airline still serving peanuts. By the end of a flight I am typically streaming tears and snot, sneezing and attempting to convince the poor sap next to me that I’m not passing him deadly germs of some sort. The last time I flew the lady across the aisle breathed through her sweater the entire time while shooting me dirty looks.

Still, flying is sort of fun.

Why then, do I so often choose to drive instead?

Between April 25 and September 11, I will have driven through ten states. I drove to New Orleans, which took me through Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I went to Iowa, then drove through Kansas and Oklahoma to get to Texas. Next weekend I’m headed for Colorado. I could have flown most of these places and gotten there quicker.

I would have missed a lot of places and experiences 30,000 feet in the air, though. Beale Street in Memphis, including a half rack of ribs. They don’t measure up to KC bbq, in my humble opinion, but they were great. Mississippi’s beautiful trees, a glimpse into the recent tornado damage, and five of the biggest turkey buzzards I’ve ever seen picking at lunch on the side of the road. I would have witnessed post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans either way, since it was my destination. Along the drive from Kansas City to Muscatine, IA there’s Jesse James’ birthplace, the Pony Express Museum, John Wayne’s birthplace, the covered bridges of Madison County, and the University of Iowa. It’s harder to find things of interest on the way to Dallas, but I’m not sure if it’s because the frustration of nearly constant roadwork in Oklahoma makes me want to drive off a cliff (but there aren’t any), if I’ve made the drive so many times, or if it’s just boring. The flint hills in southern Kansas are pretty. I’ve never driven to Denver, but I’ve been in CO several times and there’s no arguing it’s gorgeous.

I like to drive when possible – alone, more than with someone – so I can stop along the way to my destination if a sign strikes my fancy. Also I can stop to pee as often as I want without angering a passenger who’s in a hurry. Which means I can drink as much coffee as I want.

The thing is, when you’re wandering off the beaten path you never know what you’re going to find. It’s the same reason I don’t follow a rigid outline when I write. When I begin a new story I always know how it starts and how it ends. When I ponder the middle I usually push it out of my mind and think, okay, some other crap happens in here but I’ll figure it out when I get there. It may not be the most efficient way to write a book, but as with traveling I like keeping my options open. If I don’t write it down I’m free to go a different direction or follow my characters and plotlines wherever they lead.

I guess I’m afraid of missing out on something great, something surprising, something that wasn’t directly in front of me when I started out. That’s my own complex, bought and paid for, but that’s a story for another day.

How about you? Do you plot every detail before you start writing or wander a winding path as you go? Have you ever discovered a really cool place by taken the road less traveled?



  1. One of the great benefits of spending a lifetime and most of my future retirement funds on the rodeo trail was going to places I never would have ventured otherwise. I mean, seriously. Weippe, Idaho? You can’t pass through. The highway actually ends just north of town.

    • Kari, sometimes I’m so jealous of your life – like now. I have to get up into that part of the country one day. Preferably in the five minutes it’s warm.

  2. I’m with you. I’d much rather drive, or even take the train! than fly. But part of my anti-flying is that it just takes so darn long for something that’s supposed to save time– what with all the security and getting there early, and then it isn’t even a comfortable experience because you’re packed together like sardines. Put me in a car with no carry-on limits so I can have my 15 books in my backpack, and don’t have to worry about what to do with it while I pee (DO NOT LEAVE LUGGAGE UNATTENDED!) and I am a much happier camper. My husband and I drove from North Dakota to New York twice, and those were my most enjoyable trips back and forth by far. There is a lot more freedom in it. And I also try to limit my outlining and just explore 🙂 it’s why I rewrite from scratch after I have a first draft.

    Great post.

    • I’ve been surprised by how many people prefer to drive. Everyone in my family always acts like I’m insane when I say things like, “I think I’ll drive down to New Orleans this weekend…”

      I’m not anti-flying, either. Benefits to both.

  3. Here’s another vote for driving over flying. For me, though, it immediately becomes a race: no blue highways, just 85mph from Point A to Point B (so much for pee stops). A few years ago I drove from Garfield Heights, OH, to Framingham, MA, – 650 miles – in 8.5 hours. This demands discipline: I allowed myself only one gas/pee stop, which meant I was hungry and dehydrated the whole time. Of course, I would’ve been hungry and dehydrated on an airplane, too …

    • Steve, remind me never to drive with you. I mean, I’ve always known I might possibly kill myself one day with my horrid driving but I’d rather not take my chances with you 🙂

  4. I am with you Trish! My husband and I drive to Tennessee every three weeks. Before our son was born we flew. I hate the hurry up and wait feel of the airports. It seems to me that when you fly, by the time you park your car, get through security, and wait- it takes almost the same time as driving and you always end up in a bad mood by the time your to your final destination! Driving gives you a sense of accomplishment, and it’s peaceful. I love all the little places we stop in the small towns….and I love stopping at the same place where after three weeks time, they still remember your face. I guess mostly, maybe I am just a control freak, and driving lets me have that tiny bit of control on a long trip. 🙂

    • Jocelyn! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. I’ve been so shocked about how many people would rather drive. I thought I was a random weirdo…I mean, wait… 🙂

  5. Well, the weekend is over, how did you like Colorado? I was born and raised (a “native”, if I dare to be pretentious). There’s something heartwarming and equally exhausting about a good road trip. As beautiful as Colorado is, it takes on a whole new meaning if you are going home. There is an inner peace about looking west and seeing mountains that is almost impossible to describe.

    • Colorado is this weekend! Last weekend I was in Dallas. Looking forward to the mountains, though, as always. Nothing like them.

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