Road Rules

By Kathryn Hopper

There’s nothing like a road trip to put some spring in your step.

Every month or so, I try to gas up my SUV, throw a suitcase in the back and hit the road. It takes about an hour to make my way out of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Eventually, pastures replace parking lots. I begin to feel the pressures of daily to-do lists fade away the farther I get from home.

Road trips are more popular than ever, according to the annual Portrait of American Travelers survey by marketing firm MMGY Global, which found that two out of three travelers plan to take a road trip in the next 12 months. Survey results also suggest that the appeal of the open road is driven by two factors — the flexibility of stopping along the way and the ability to carry more stuff.

I feel more connected to the landscape when I move through it rather than above it. I like watching the Pineywoods of East Texas gradually peter out into the grassy Blackland Prairie. And I can better appreciate the rolling bluffs of the Texas Hill Country after driving west from the flat bayous of Houston.

Any good road trip needs some musical accompaniment. Playlists can help set the tone of the journey, inspiring camaraderie or quiet reflection. There are classics like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and lesser-known gems like “Get Out the Map” by the Indigo Girls and “Shotgun” by George Ezra.

Sometimes music can inspire your road trip itinerary. If you are new to Texas, do yourself a favor and cue up “My Texas” by the Josh Abbott Band. The lyrics are pretty much a primer for planning a drive through the Lone Star State:

“If you haven’t climbed up to Enchanted Rock,
Drank a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach,
Taken your baby to the River Walk,
Then you ain’t met my Texas yet.”

Once you have appropriate music, it’s time to plan your next stop. On familiar routes, some places become almost mandatory pit stops.

Who can travel through the town of West without pulling over for some kolaches? Any time my family is within a 30-mile radius of Lockhart, we start planning a mealtime pilgrimage to the mecca of Lone Star barbecue. Gassing up is an excuse to indulge in favorite roadside refreshments. Stopping for Slurpees at 7-Eleven, Blizzards at Dairy Queen and Beaver Nuggets at Buc-ee’s is a given when I’m at the wheel.

Ironically, it can take a road trip to help us slow down. Last year, I went on a spur-of-the-moment trip three hours north to Checotah, Oklahoma, when my son Henry’s car broke down there on his way home from college.

I didn’t know much about Checotah except that it was the hometown of country superstar Carrie Underwood. I fired up Spotify and started singing along to her homage to her hometown, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore.”

Listening to her sing the praises of “a single stoplight town,” I remembered my small-town roots. My son grew up a city boy in DFW, so perhaps it was good for him to chill a bit in Checotah.

By the end of the weekend, we got his transmission fixed, cruised around Lake Eufaula and enjoyed a laid-back Saturday night at the local pizza parlor.

I’m not sure where the open road will take me this month, but wherever I go, I look forward to a change of scenery, some good music, a slower pace and a few Beaver Nuggets.

Let the good times roll.

Kathryn Hopper is a Southlake writer who enjoys taking the scenic route.