Forager, author of The Mushroom Hunters and Fat of the Land, and Cook’s Adventures columnist for Seattle magazine
How frequently are you on the road?
Lately, it seems like all the time.
Usually it’s just me and my strange thoughts.
Your vehicle of choice:
When it’s running, my ’68 Mustang ragtop. Ford calls the color “Sunlit Gold,” a fair description. This car has been in my family for at least 40 years. I dusted it off and drove it west in 1990. It’s been refurbished twice and still doesn’t have windshield wipers. If there’s a single snowflake in the air, the ’stang will find it and go into the sort of tailspin only a rear-wheel-drive V8 is capable of. Since getting it back on the road last year, it’s become my summer salmon fishing car; I keep all my tackle in the trunk and drive it to local beaches, comforted by the thought that AAA is never far away.
I’m a squinter. Sunglasses.
Favorite road trip:
I’ve made several spontaneous cross-country road trips, one involving a quick detour to New Orleans from Chicago, and another, 48 hours of captaining a rented Ford Fiesta in a jester suit. We’ll leave it at that.
Favorite snacks or guilty pleasure while traveling:
If I’m on I-5 in southern Oregon, a stop at Rice Hill’s K&R Drive Inn for a butter brickle waffle cone is a must.
Favorite road-trip beverage:
My road sodas have mellowed over the years to a standard Nalgene of tap water at the ready.
With the top down on a balmy night? The stars, of course.
Favorite road-trip season soundtrack:
Kids these days! Do they have any sense of rock ’n’ roll history? I have a soundtrack queued up for the next big family road trip: The entire Beatles oeuvre in chronological order, first to last, from teenybopper pop to psychedelia to final breakup laments. What are the chances we get through it all without full insurrection in the backseat?
Seattle-based, award-winning animator and performance artist (shown below in Omaha)
What’s your summer road trip?
I take an epic road trip every summer to share all the animations and performances I made that year with as many types of people as I can get to. I bring a sheet and a projector. Venues range from grassy backyards to modern art museums. We will be doing a San Juan Island tour this summer. Our wanderings wind up at stefangruber.tumblr.com.
How do you pick your route?
A trip will start with one tack on the map, like the Drawn & Quarterly shop in Montreal, which was the first East Coast venue to be interested in my show. I then try to find hosts in between me [at home in the Central District] and Montreal, and start building a map, which takes on less jagged shapes as more and more people get interested. Lastly, I become obsessed with the odd places that lie in between 10-plus-hour rides. Moose Jaw, Canada, hosted us at their Western Development Museum, and a ton of people came out for it. We have a section where I blast animation color all over the room with a disco ball and the audience is invited to a two-minute dance party. In Moose Jaw, the seniors who came immediately ballroom danced and just lost themselves in it.
Vehicle of choice:
It’s gotta be fuel efficient to make the ride worthwhile, so my Prius, whose nickname is the Silver Surfer, is our chariot.
The beautiful Vida Rose, my sweetheart. She takes over driving sometimes, or makes amazing cartoony, needle-felted creatures, and keeps me entertained with road-trip games.
Rookie road-trip error:
Not stretching. I suffered some really unnecessary butt cramps until Vida, who is a movement teacher (as well as a painter, cartoonist and programming teacher) showed me how to do her signature spinal rotations.
Favorite highway in Washington:
WA-243 [along the Columbia River between Hanford and Wanapum Lake] is stunningly beautiful, really tall rock formations are turning all around you. It might be my favorite road in all of the U.S., actually.
Favorite traveling snacks:
Baby food, the mango kind.
Terry Riley’s Shri Camel for long stretches. Twisted Sister for keeping awake. Songs of the whales to cure road rage; what that does is makes me think of the car as part of a pod of cars that are all trying to get somewhere together. And Laurie Anderson telling us Stories from the Nerve Bible during an Arizona sunset is kind of the best kind of bliss.
Academy Award–nominated screenwriter of Nebraska and former cast member on Seattle sketch comedy show Almost Live!
Why did you build a screenplay around a road trip, especially one that took the protagonist through such a bleak and frozen landscape—often on foot?
I’d heard about people traveling to sweepstakes offices to collect their prizes, convinced they’d won and afraid to put their notices in the mail. I wondered what it would be like to have a parent who insisted on taking that trip, and what might happen during the journey. The Midwest setting was chosen because my family comes from Nebraska and I used to go back there on vacation as I was growing up. It’s an area we don’t see much in films, so I thought it might make for an unusual story.
Do you take road trips?
Driver or passenger:
Last road trip:
We recently drove down the Pacific coast to LA and back for the screenings, Q&A’s, screenwriter panels, interviews, awards shows, and all the usual Hollywood debauchery surrounding the promotional campaign for a film.
What do you like about traveling by car?
Freedom and privacy.
Favorite road trip:
A few years ago my wife and I drove around New England to see the preserved homes of writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edith Wharton, and the site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond [photo, above].
Favorite road-trip beverage:
Favorite travel soundtrack:
Edmonds-based guidebook author and travel TV (Rick Steves’ Europe) and radio (Travel with Rick Steves) host. Pictured here during a European road trip in the 1970s
How many days per year do you travel?
What was your first road trip?
I grew up taking road trips with my family, going up to Vancouver Island, Lake Chelan. My first Europe road trip was driving for my grandparents in Norway, visiting relatives all over the country. They would stay in hotels, and I’d stay in youth hostels so I could hang out with young people; I loved it.
What was your most enduring discovery?
I took a road trip with buddies from Paris to Madrid and I was spinning my wheels wanting to get there, and they taught me not to rush. It’s important when you’re on vacation to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Believe it or not, I just use a map. Google Maps is nice, but I don’t do GPS or anything like that.
Critical piece of travel gear:
Curiosity and an ability to meet people and ask questions— that’s the best resource when you’re in a town. Other than a good guidebook.
Do you snack in the car?
I see how long I can make a bag of peanut butter M&M’s last. It’s impossible to make them last very long, but you can try.
Most recent U.S. road trip:
I recently traveled from Seattle to Florida on a road trip. I gave a different lecture in a different town every night and drove about five hours a day. Each morning I had breakfast in a funky little back-door town—and took the tour.
What do you like about car travel versus buses, trains and planes?
With a car you have perfect mobility; if you feel like stopping and taking a little walk, you can do it. If you feel like driving before breakfast, you can do it. You can also pack heavy. Using public transport, you can’t pack heavy or you’re paying for it. But driving is not as safe as flying and it isolates you from local people.
Vehicle of choice:
I don’t really have a preference. I like a little car if it’s a little road trip, but if I’m working and I want a safe ride, I like a bigger car. I drive an Acura and I love that. A Tesla would be a car of my dreams.
lead singer, Hey Marseilles
(Shown below with some of his handy road-trip gear: the Ostrich Pillow, for power naps, and the Body Back Buddy, for working out knots)
Advice for staying sane while touring:
We travel for weeks at a time with all seven of us in a van and sharing two motel rooms when we stop, so my best advice is to make sure you’re with people you like. Everyone needs to be allowed their space. Be quick to forgive when someone goes crazy. Because crazy will happen to each of you eventually.
I try to buy only the healthy-ish things at gas stations or road stops: popcorn, nuts, plenty of water. But I usually fail. My biggest temptation is the F’real milkshake machines that have made their way into most American gas stations in the last year. I gained 10 pounds on one six-week tour because I felt it was my obligation to try each flavor.
Know your schedule. When you’re behind, trying to drive 2,000 miles in 36 hours is the worst. Set expectations. Allowing one person to sleep stretched out on the backseat all day every day while another person drives the whole time is not cool.
What do you listen to on the road?
Whatever the driver wants. When that’s me, it’s usually NPR, Snap Judgment, or a Roderick on the Line podcast.
Vehicle of choice:
A 15-passenger navy blue Ford van towing a trailer.
Favorite stretch of highway:
Last summer, we had to drive from San Diego to Rhode Island in three days to make it to Newport Folk Fest. The second day we drove through southern Utah on I-15. The open space and rock formations were awe-inspiring in that way that reminds you of how old the earth is and how unimportant you are. It was awesome. That said, I don’t recommend trying to drive from San Diego to Rhode Island in three days.
cofounder of MakrBox, a CSA-style monthly subscription service that delivers a box of independent products made by locally based craftspeople
Jackie Gow, MakrBox cofounder.
How do you create an itinerary?
We always start with a mission to visit a specific maker or artisan who is doing something unique and innovative. From there, we draw a circle on the map and then consult our network and notebooks for other exciting things going on in the maker world.
What’s the best surprise you ever encountered?
One dark night we arrived late at a campsite on the very remote Lost Coast (on the northern California coast). We were excited to find the park deserted and that the best site was not taken: a perfect green meadow surrounded by a tight circle of massive redwood stumps. We were about to get out when at the last minute decided to turn the truck around. As we did, our headlights slowly unveiled three 800-pound elk lying quietly in the ferns just a few feet away. After a frozen moment of eyes locked, we apologized for assuming the site to be empty and moved on down the road. Turns out the best spot was taken.
Biggest trip failures:
Long days on the road can be stressful, plans change, tires go flat. We find that if you have an open mind, you can always find adventure.
Our adventure mobile is a tried-and-true black ’96 Toyota 4Runner we named Pilchuck, after a very special place in the North Cascades. I built out the back with a platform for sleeping and storage. Being self-sustainable on the road helps us cover more ground.
What is your road-trip soundtrack?
We love a nice, long mix tape or compilation. Among others, Mark Farina’s Mushroom Jazz, RJD2, or Gilles Peterson’s downtempo beats get us in the perfect road groove. When the sun sets and the day’s ride comes to an end, you have to throw in the classics, like Johnny Cash or some Neil Young. Of course being Seattleites, we also can’t help but crank some Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to sing along to.
What is your road-trip beverage of choice?
Always good local coffee for the start, and a local cider for arrival—Tieton is our favorite...when the driving’s done of course.
owner Wide World Books and Maps in Wallingford
How many days per year do you spend traveling?
On average, probably about 30 to 40.
Driver or passenger:
I’m always the driver.
My daughters, ages 17 and 12, have been my copilots for the past several years.
Favorite destination in Washington:
The Hoh Rain Forest; Highway 101 around the Olympic Peninsula is my favorite drive.
What was your most enduring discovery on the road?
Basically how easy it is to travel this way, even in other countries. I was nervous about driving in other countries, for example, those that drive on the other side of the road, until I tried it and found that it was not as intimidating as it sounds.
Allowing my children to bring any type of milk product into the car. One spilled milkshake on the carpet in hot weather can really put a damper on the rest of your trip.
Advice for newbie road-trippers:
Do mileage calculations on the Web ahead of time, so that you don’t over- or under-estimate how long it will take you to get from point to point. The cost of snacks and drinks can really add up on the road, so start out with a well-stocked car.
Paper maps or an atlas for the big picture, supplemented with directions to specific destinations (e.g., reserved hotel rooms or campsites) that I print out ahead of time using MapQuest or something similar. Even with a GPS or smartphone, I find that a paper map is crucial.
Guidebook for ideas on what to see while you’re on the road. A cell phone and a roadside assistance plan, although some more remote areas won’t have cell coverage. Plenty of snacks, games, music, books and miscellaneous activities for my kids.
Vehicle of choice:
I hate to admit it, but since I’m traveling with kids at this point in my life, the minivan is a great way to go—plenty of room for everyone, which cuts down on the backseat arguments.
What we listen to varies by the age of my kids, but we usually try to take something catchy that we can all sing along to, like The Beatles.
Do you prefer to travel spontaneously or do you require a plan first?
I’ve done both, but I prefer a rough plan. I hate to learn later about something fabulous I missed out on, just because I didn’t do any research ahead of time. But again, I like to keep a loose enough schedule to incorporate those spontaneous opportunities that come along. Many of my favorite travel moments were totally serendipitous