a car riding along a long rode

The Long Drive

Last updated: November 2022

Every year my wife and I drive down to the family cabin in Georgia. This trip is significant to me because it is my annual week to recharge before the upcoming start to another school year.

The drive is anywhere from 9 to 13 hours depending on how much traffic we hit in Nashville and Chattanooga. But, if a Spondy like myself is willing to sit in a car for that long, the trip must be worth it!

This year (2022) is special because we made the trip twice this summer. Once in the beginning of July for my father-in-law’s memorial with loved ones, and again in early August for my wife and my anniversary.

In the past, my wife and I would swap places about half way through. But, since 2021, I have managed driving both to and from without leaving the driver’s seat.

How in Sam Hill have I been able to do that?

Here are my tips on how to survive the long drive.

Find your perfect spot

Before going on a long car ride, I spend the night before finding the perfect setting for the driver’s seat. Perfect height, tilt, and back support. If a part of the seat can be adjusted, I do just that.

For me, I need to sit up high and straight. Not only does it take the pressure off my hips and back, but it also helps me feel more focused on the road. And if I am focused on the road, I am not focused on my pain.

Also, if you are lucky enough to have heated seats, that is a great way to stay loose. Granted, driving in the summer, you might not want a heated bum, but for me and my back, it is worth it.

P.S. Have you ever adjusted your steering wheel? I feel like not enough people have tried to see how that affects one’s comfort, but that also helps a lot if your arms get tired.

Get a cushion!

In the spring of 2021 I received what might have been the best gift I never knew I needed, but will never trade for the world.

A liquid filled seat cushion.

O.M.G!

I never thought I needed something like that. It always felt like something old people used for hemorrhoids. And I certainly didn’t think it was all I needed to go from driving in pain to driving in bliss. But, I use that cushion everywhere!

Since people are probably going to ask me about it, the company is Ergo21 based out of Newport Beach, CA.

I really feel it is the biggest factor in being able to drive long distance, and sit at a desk for hours at a time.

Stretch

Eventually, you will need to stop to get gas, and perhaps eat a little. And when you do, make sure to stretch.

I believe there is a reason there is a curb around all gas pumps, and that is for stretching calf muscles! Put your toes up, your heels on the ground and lean into it. And don't forget to stretch your hamstrings as well. Whatever muscles cause you trouble, give them a good stretch.

I guarantee people will look at you and think: “Are they driving or running?” But, you will never see those people again, so let them think whatever they want.

Long distance driving is an athletic experience, make sure you stretch like an athlete.

Take time to have fun!

Driving can be boring! Find a way to make it fun!

There is a big Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois that my wife and I like to stop at. It’s usually around the time we need to get gas, so we made a tradition out of it.

Or if you’re lucky enough to stop by the world’s largest ketchup bottle, or ball of string, or that big dinosaur from the movie The Wizard. Us the time to stop and have some fun.

(Stopping at really big things is not required, I just wanted to make that part clear. Small things work as well.)

Another way to make the time pass is to call up someone you haven’t talked to in a while (preferably if you have Bluetooth). On our last drive I did a 90 minute interview and didn’t realize we were stuck in traffic that whole time.

Distractions really help. Just keep your eyes on the road.

Enjoy the journey

Driving long distances is pretty inevitable if you need to go somewhere nice. That beach-front Airbnb never seems to be in your backyard. So, think about the journey, your vehicle and the people you are traveling with. Then find your way to get there at your most comfort.

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