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Car Farts and Bad Music: How to Survive Your Road Trip to the Crag

“Road-Trip-Itus” is a well-known condition caused by spending too much time in close proximity to the same person. Here's how to prevent it.


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It’s 2 a.m. and the GPS reads 420 miles to Denver. Your buddy cues up his favorite Sean Paul song, again. You throw him a loaded glance, but he’s conveniently fidgeting with his phone. Just then that trademark bouquet permeates your truck. Your partner giggles and you crack the window in disgust.

“Road-Trip-Itus” is a well-known condition caused by spending too much time in close proximity to the same person. The same stories regurgitate, and those mannerisms you found so amusing at the gym are becoming grounds for manslaughter. Even though you’re only halfway through your much-anticipated road trip, the 9-to-5 grind back at the glue factory is sounding like paradise.

Luckily, there’s a solution. Expedition Behavior (EB) is a term endemic to experiential-education programs. Simply put, good EB derives from a mental outlook that places trip objectives above one’s own personal agendas. For an expedition to succeed, members must have a common goal, and agree on a leadership hierarchy. The following suggestions will set the tone for a successful trip before you even pull away from your mom’s driveway.

Have a plan. Unless you’re headed off for an endless road trip, having an agreed-upon destination and timeframe are critical. Hash out these details before you depart.

Drive your miles. Nothing’s worse than embarking on a long trip with one and a half drivers. Pull your weight behind the wheel. Keep it clean. A messy car breeds contempt. Keep your belongings in their designated spot, and respect your buddy’s space.

Rise ’n’ shine. Some people love early mornings; others cringe at the thought. Don’t act too bright-eyed until you learn your partner’s routine.

Penny pinching. Make sure you have adequate funding before you set off. Dirt bagging is fun, but the hassle of doing everything on the cheap can cut into your climbing time — a commodity far more valuable than money.

Flexibility. Be open-minded about new possibilities. Provided they don’t deviate too far from your goal, the unexpected often yields adventure. Know each other’s abilities. It sucks discovering your trusted gym spotter is a Gumby belayer. Go on a few day trips together before embarking on a longer and more committing journey.

Small favors. Niceties go a long way. Don’t be afraid to occasionally treat your partner to his favorite candy bar or iced latté.

Laugh, goddammit. Laughter is the lubrication that keeps all social mechanisms running smoothly. Like good Karma, spread it wide and far.

Dish patrol. Do more than your fair share of the dishes — it’s free, easy, and shows you’re a team player.

Third parties. Try to meet new people along the way. Fresh perspectives and new stories raise spirits, especially if you’ve been traveling with the same person for a prolonged period.

Personal space. Alone time is essential, even if it’s just an hour to read. If you see your partner ensconced in his journal, it’s probably not the best time to beg for a belay.

Leggo my ego. Be a supportive belayer, and avoid getting overly competitive about the same route — this can ruin a road trip faster than a busted timing belt!

Open dialogue. Establish good communication with your partner, and make sure you both speak your mind. If your partner wants to spend an extra week at a crag that holds little appeal to you, talk it out and compromise. It’s much easier to handle the little things before they magnify.

Don’t eat the last PowerBar. If you’re sharing food, never polish off a resource without offering it up first. Think of your team first and realize that you’re part of something greater than yourself. When you debark for a road trip, you’re forsaking your comfort zone and daily routines for adventure. Take this reality one step further by actively fostering a positive group mindset. Whether it’s kicking your partner a couple hamburgers or relinquishing a redpoint, small sacrifices go a long way in demonstrating that you’re a team player. Abandon your comfort zone, try new ways of doing things, and you might just learn something about yourself along the way.

This article was originally published in print in the early 2000s.