This past weekend, my husband, Dan, and I covered roughly 1,900 highway miles between New Orleans and Los Angeles, where we'll soon be presenting our sixth annual Beverly Hills Shorts Festival . Given the modern desire for speediness and the frequent need for instant gratification, you might be wondering why we didn't just save some time and hop an airplane instead, especially considering that gas prices are on the rise.
Well, there are at least three reasons that we chose to spend three days in the car. First, we're usually hauling too much to justify a plane ride. Second, it's easier to travel by car with a kitty in tow. And third, driving gives us a chance to see the country together. The problem, of course, is that Interstate 10, especially in western Texas, doesn't feature the most enticing scenery. On this particular trip, in fact, we were treated to high winds, dusty skies, and tumbleweed obstacles galore.
At such times, I'm exceedingly grateful for modern technology. As Dan drove, for instance, I was able to work on my laptop – thanks to a power inverter and a wireless Internet card – and Dan, meanwhile, was able to stay awake and alert by listening to an enthralling audio book version of a Dave Robicheaux mystery. But, of course, those aren't the only distractions that help to pass the time on lengthy road trips. As I wrote in a post last October, other on-the-road diversions  include conversation, auto bingo, XM radio, truck stops, and unexpected side trips – all of which are especially helpful for families. Keeping an eye out for roadside art  and other oddities can also help to pass the time – as can singing goofy songs, playing trivia games, and taking alternative, non-Interstate routes whenever time allows.
In addition, the mother of a longtime friend suggested that, while driving through the Lone Star State, we should “count dead armadillos by the side of the road.” She advised me to “take one side and Dan the other,” and then “see who wins.” Apparently, that's what her own daughters did on their long-ago journey from Santa Barbara to New Orleans, and while I can't help but lament the poor, hapless armadillos that, in death, have become diversions for bored motorists, I definitely appreciate her advice. After all, a lot of creatures and objects – from ostriches to Volkswagen Beetles (otherwise known as VW Bugs) – lend themselves to on-the-road counting games.
Granted, some travelers prefer private distractions, such as listening to music on their MP3 players, watching movies on hand-held devices, and reading books and magazines (whether print or digital versions). But, if you're traveling with friends or family members, where's the fun in that?
So, what's your favorite way to pass the time on long car trips? Given how many highway miles that Dan and I log every year, I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo © 2011 Daniel Martone / Text © 2011 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Florida Keys , Moon Michigan , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in Winter 2012.