Sustainable Road Trip: On the Road to Austin Texas

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This Green Diva is a consummate road warrior.  I usually travel alone, but this time, I got to travel with my daughter-in-law from New Jersey to Austin, TX. Some would see the trip as being stuck in a car for a few days.  I see it as having a chance to have my daughter-in-law all to myself for a few days. And if I am traveling on my own, I get excited about catching up on some books-on-tape or working on some language skills, etc. Here are some of the ways I take care of myself while on the road so that I am not burned out when I arrive.

  • Reading on the road – I save money on my books-on-tape by going to my local library and checking them out for free. If I don’t have time, I sometimes rent them at Cracker Barrel restaurants.  The way it works is that you purchase one as a deposit and they give you your money back when you return it to another Cracker Barrel down the road. Not a bad place to eat as road food goes either. This trip we listened to The Last Standby Nathaniel Philbrick,  about the last stands of Custer and Sitting Bull and the battle of the Little Big Horn.  We didn’t actually finish it because we were have so much fun talking.

  • Other entertainment on the road – Variety being the spice of life, we were armed with other things to entertain us.  We rigged up an adapter from the cassette player in the car which hooked up our smart phones so that they would play thngs over the car stereo. My car is of an age that I have a cassette player and a CD player.  This is one of the many ways you can adapt your car stereo to your smart phone. I ordered mine on for $3.  I always learn something new when I listen to Bill Moyers‘ conversation with Joseph Campbell about The Power of Myth. It a staple or my long road trips and I’ve listened to it many times.  We also listened to:
    • TED TALKS  – If you’ve never listened to TED Talks, don’t wait for a trip to tune in. The talks are brilliant and stir your curiosity in under 20 minutes.  This trip we listen to Noel Barrey Merz, The Single Biggest Health Threat that Women Face; Paul Gilding, The Earth is Full; Peter Diamandis, Abundance is Our Future; Brene Brown, Listening to Shame.
    • Pandora – It took me forever to try Pandora. I thought it was one of the technical things designed for kids, but no, oh how I was wrong. It’s easy and I am in love with Pandora. You sign up, and create your own listening stations based on artists you like.  The way it works is that you pick an artist, let’s say Gillian Welch, (I wanted to listen to her and music like hers while driving through the Shenandoah Valley) It will play you a song of hers, then play songs that you might like based on your affinity for her style of music. It gives you an opportunity to like or not like every song so that it can get to know your taste and build an algorithm that serves your listening pleasure.  I get to hear music I would never have heard and it throws in old favorites as well.
  • GAS – The timing was tough with gas prices rising. I was very happy to have the GasBuddy app on my phone.  This app lets you know where the nearest gas stations are and how much they are charging. With ranges up 30 cents a gallon apart, we saved a lot of money by knowing where to go for the best price. And for a cleaner car and a fatter wallet I recommend visiting our friends at for great driving tips.
  • Lodging – We traveled with my beloved grand-doggie, Kaiser, so it was important to find a hotel/motel that was pet friendly. We used the app PetFriendly which was free and the first one we found that would provide hotel/motels and their numbers so we could check the prices. We all had a good night’s sleep.
  • Food – Eating healthy on the road can be one of the most challenging on America’s roadways.  Being gluten and dairy free (I can eat butter, thank god or I’d slit my wrists) make it even more difficult. Here are some of the tricks of my travel trade.
  • Meals – In a perfect world I would pack all my own food so that I would eat perfectly healthy. But alas, it’s not a perfect world and I don’t always have time or energy to do that.  And sometimes you just need to get out of the car. I generally don’t eat a lot of full meals on the road, but I like to stop for breakfast. It hard to screw up eggs, bacon and fruit.  I don’t eat bacon often, but I indulge on the road. This trip we went to the Waffle House once (remind me not to do that again) and Cracker Barrel once.  I had forgotten how the Waffle House pours that bright yellow margarine/butter liquid on everything so generously. Yuck! Cracker Barrel was ever so much better. I had eggs, grits and ham and controlled the butter myself. And it was less expensive than Waffle House. Two of the other places that I will consider stopping are Chipotle’s , who serve food with integrity supporting local farmers and serving grass fed meats and more. Sometimes when I am desperate and can only find fast food places, I look for Popeye’s and get their coleslaw and beans and rice.
  • Fluids – Staying hydrate can help keep our minds sharp on long trips. Many of you know how The Green Divas feel about bottle water. If not, listen to GD Meg’s short podcast and/or read her blog posting about bottle water.  My favorite alternative to buying bottled water is a BPA free water bottle with a built in filter called the Bobble Bottle. All the guys on my Christmas list got one this year. This filter lasts for 300 bottles full of water and I like the size and shape.  I do like a good strong cup of coffee which can be illusive on road trips. One can usually find a Starbucks.  Most lodging has a coffee pot in the room with one caffeinated and one decaf pouche. I’ve taken to putting both ouches in the receptacle to get a stronger flavor and it works pretty well. I also travel with tea bags and make hot water with the coffee pot.  I generally stay away from soda, but sometimes I’ll bring some all natural sparkling juices, my favorite being grapefruit Izze. And once a day on the road I drink some water with Emergen-C in it for a little antioxidant and  vitamin boost.
  • Snacks – The nice thing about being on the road is that you really aren’t on any eating schedule. You get to eat when you are hungry and eat what you are in the mood for at the time.  So, I keep a variety of healthy choices. I bring along an eco-friendly travel cup and bamboo or stainless cutlery which I just wash and re-use.
    • Nuts – I make up my own mix of raw nuts and dried fruit. In a perfect world, I would soak the nuts overnight and dry them in a dehydrator to make them easier to digest, but alas, I usually just throw them in a reusable container and call it a day.
    • Fresh Fruit & Veggies– Oranges and bananas are my personal favorite. I buy the bananas fairly green, they seem to ripen fast in the car. Fresh grapes and blueberries a refreshing and not too messy a snack as well.  You may be able to find those along the way depending where you travel. This trip I found some fresh peas that were perfect for snacking. I also like to cut up celery and carrots for the road.
    • Crunchy Salty bits – It used to be that road food was and excuse to eat junk food. Well, I still like something crunchy and salty once in a while, so I look for whole grain, non-gluten chips and feel a little less guilty. This year I brought some crackers and goat brie.  I only do that when I have a traveling companion so that one of us can serve while the other drives. Hummus is another good match with rice crackers as well.
    • Sweets – This is another guilty pleasure that one associates with road trips.  I try not to get too crazy with the sweets. Chocolate is my first choice. I find fair trade dark chocolate whenever possible. Once in a while I will bring along some dark chocolate covered cherries or nuts.  I also bring along a few yogurts (non-dairy) for a sweet alternative.
    • Salad – Yes, I said salad. It can be hard to find a healthy dark organic leaf salad in many part of this country. When I am really out in the middle of nowhere I will stop at WalMart, which is the only place in many areas that I can find organic salad greens in a bag.  I usually bring my own dressing, but you can often find a healthy one in the store. When I need a break, I stop at a rest stop, open my bag, throw in some of my nut and dried fruit mix, and some dressing in the bag and shake it up, then eat right out of the bag.  I might add a hard-boiled egg for some tuna. It is a light meal that doesn’t make me drowsy.

Miscellaneous Travel Habits

  • Keeping Clean – I keep an eco-friendly hand sanitizer with me. I am not a big user of hand sanitizers, but sometimes you just need to be careful of other people’s germs.  My favorite is Dr. Bronnor’s Magic All-in-One Hand Sanitizer Spray in Lavendar. GD Meg turned me on to it and I’m hooked.
  • Security – As I mentioned I often travel alone. I keep a can of wasp spray within reach in the car and in the hotel/motel.  I like it better than pepper spray because it has the same effect but it sprays a longer distance, so I wouldn’t have to be close to any potential assailants. I also keep the car keys next to me when I sleep. If anything happens I can press the panic button which would set the car alarm off and deter someone while alerting my neighbors. Another thing to remember if  someone were to get in your room is to break glass. The sound of breaking glass gets peoples attention. Throw something big at the window like a lamp or chair, anything you can get your hands on.

Most importantly, enjoy the journey

  • Visit Roadside Oddities – If you have time to stop check out Weird USA where you can find strange stories and places state by state.
  • Find a savvy searcher – My son is the best web searcher I know. His work requires him to sit at a computer all day so it’s a welcome break for him to have a mission to find something. When he knows where I am when I am hungry he will search out the best local food. Or when it’s time to find a place to crash for the night, he will find a good clean place for the best price, with whatever amenities I might need, like being pet friendly. So find someone who loves to search the net and is sitting at a computer while you are on the road.
  • Roadside food – You might look for good roadside food before you hit the road yourself. Check out
Happy Trails!

About the author / 

green diva lisa'

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    Bob Waldrop April 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm -  Reply

    Why not stop at locally owned, independent eateries instead of local-economy-destroying dives like Cracker Barrel and Waffle House? I don’t see how a trip can be sustainable when you help bleed the local economy of significant resources, which is what happens when we patronize national franchise and chain restaurants. Also, a much more better sustainable way to travel is by bus. I recently took the bus roundtrip to Denver to see family and to speak at a conference of local food coops sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. It was relaxing, and I got waaay caught up on my reading. Bus travel, or train if it goes where you are going, is a much more earth friendly way to travel than by car. I don’t think that any cross country trip in an automobile can really be called ‘sustainable”.

      green diva lisa April 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm -  Reply

      You make some great points with which I agree. I usually do stop at local restaurants when possible, often there aren’t any around. And you are right about the virtues of traveling by bus or train. We were moving my daughter-in-law so we had a car full off things, plus a big dog, so a bus was not possible. Unfortunately many of the rural bus routes have been cancelled and the other traveling I do takes me to very remote locations. I should have been clearer about how to tread more lightly when you have to drive by car. I love taking buses and trains and highly recommend them as a great options when possible.

    Frances August 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm -  Reply

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for this article. I love your great tips! I’m imagining how useful they will be on my future road trips.
    My family are planning a road trip from NJ to Austin as well. But unlike you traveling alone (or with your daughter-in-law) we are a family of six with grandma and grandpa. So there are a total of 8 of us aged from 8 to 74! Do you mind giving me some advice? We love road trips. My kids are patient traveling in cars. Grandparents are in good health. How many days will be reasonable (or comfortable) for a round trip to and from? Will 10 days be too hastle? Do you book hotel rooms before you leave home, or you just find one at wherever you travel up to?
    Thank you very much!

    Green Diva Meg August 24, 2015 at 9:12 pm -  Reply

    reply from GD Lisa: I am so glad you enjoyed my article about road tripping. Of course your trip with 8 people will be quite different from my trips by myself or with my daughter-in-law. If I recall correctly, it was about 28 hours of driving from NJ to Austin, so 10 days will be more than enough time depending on how long you stay there. If you are looking to be more leisurely, I would plan a few stops. One time when I traveled with my sister and our 4 kids, we made a deal that everyone got to pick one place that they really wanted to stop and everyone else had to go along gladly. My sister wanted to see Graceland and the youngest of our kids wanted to pan for gold. It made for a really fun trip.

    The one thing that I would do, is to make sure that you go through the Shenandoah Valley in the daylight, it is just beautiful.
    Another thing that might be fun is to let each generation pick a book on tape for the whole family to listen to together. I traveled many times on that route with my 2 young step children and we let them each have a dvd player with ear buds.

    I never book ahead because I never know what I might want to do on the way or how long I am up for driving each day. But with such a large group, you might want to plan a little ahead. Even if you look for something while on the road. You can look at and check something out in the late afternoon. There is always a chance that there is some big event happening in a certain area that you might not know about ahead of time. So calling ahead will help you prepare a plan B. And don’t forget to have the grandparents use their senior citizen discounts for rooms and meals. I get at least 10% off hotel rooms with AAA.

    Oh and check out Barton Springs while you are in Austin.

    Whatever you choose, I hope you have a great trip.
    Happy Trails,

    luz September 6, 2015 at 7:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi there!
    Planning a trip with my boyfriend to texas from nj. I however do not drive. Any pointers? He worries about traveling through the states and being racially profiled, how are the cops on the road? Where do you suggest stopping to sleep? We are planning on only stopping for sleep!

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