Friends on a road trip. (Photo: iStock)
When I was a child we did an annual pilgrimage from Stellenbosch to the Free State to visit my late grandparents on their farm. The snacks were always the most significant players in this (very long) ordeal.
My mom's reasoning was that 'if we're chewing, we won't be talking', or fighting for that matter. Her clever plotting, or manipulation worked, as we became consumed in our comics or games, while munching away on some biltong, chocolate or Pringles. (Treats we were only allowed on special occasions when at home).
READ: The three most common insurance claims during a road trip
Snacks can bring about serenity. Or at least distract one from fixating on things that might bother you about others you're travelling with in an enclosed vehicle. Especially when travelling far.
Here are a few people I've travelled with, and what they taught me about the power of snacks:
The 'I want to get home, like, right now' driver
Travelling from Jeffrey's Bay to Stellenbosch is a trip just shy of 7 and a half hours, if you're lucky. It's far. And embarking on such a drive with a woman scorned, could perhaps even be describes as 'dangerous'. READ: Wine worth travelling for: Tokara in Stellenbosch triumphs
Our impulsive exit from the seaside town known for it's Matric Rage festivities, was brought on by a fight between my friend (our driver) and her boyfriend (who we drove to Jeffrey's Bay for initially).
According to our plan, we'd leave around 7am the next morning. But post fight, we had to leave immediately. It was 6pm, and the sun was setting.
Luckily, her anger didn't translate into being a fast or reckless driver. Safety first. But because we left in a rush, we didn't have car snacks. Which resulted in us having to make stops in dystopian-like towns along our way, in the dark, in search of sustenance. Particularly, caffeine.
We got Ricoffy with 3 sugars at a desolate diner, which sent shivers down my spine.
We got home safely, in the early hours of the morning. But I will never again drive that route during those hours, it was a The Hills Have Eyes type scenario I would happily have avoided if I had the chance.
The 'I have the best route' backseat driver
When the Waze app directs you to take a specific route, you take it, no questions asked. Compared to Google Maps, it has always had my back, and has catapulted me into a world where, when 10 minutes late, I, as if by magic, arrived on time.
But it once failed us.
It was a drive from Cape Town to Lambert's Bay. (We really just wanted to eat bottomless seafood at Muisbosskerm).
SEE: West Coast Way: SA's road trip with the most twists
The drive is about 3 hours long. We brought water and one of the passengers had a medium sized packet of biltong. We polished this off between the four of us just as we took the Malmesbury exit from the N1 as you pass Century City. So really, we hadn't gotten very far.
We drove for about an hour, when the app promised us a short-cut. It turned out to be an empty one, as it became a gravel-road stretch lasting for what felt like infinity. It left us literally shaking with frustration.
The three passengers soon turned against the poor driver who was but a sheep following his trusted and respected herder. The app.
One passenger soon turned backseat navigator, coming up with (albeit frustrated) alternatives for this 'dumb' move on his part. And so, the other two passengers (myself included) jumped in, further criticising the app, the road, GPSs in general, and it turned into a full-on revolt!
If only we had another packet of biltong.
The 'No stops!' driver
Growing up, my dad, as a rule, for safety (and sanity) reasons, stopped every 2 hours when we did any kind of road trip. To get snacks, and pop to the loo, this recipe worked very well for our family.
So when I started road tripping as a young and later as a proper adult, be this on 7 hour long journeys or a mere weekend away to Paternoster, I still crave regular stops. I don't necessarily have 'to go', but a leg stretch is always welcome.
Which is why a driver who doesn't allow stops, troubles me to my very core. Close to the 'I want to get home, like, right now' driver, they are even worse. Denying adults basic need-fulfillment, is a recipe for disaster. Especially when you put three adults holding their breath inside an enclosed vessel like a car.
What kind of fascist Honda Corolla is this, anyways?!
The 'we have a common goal' passenger
A few years ago, there was a wedding in Prince Albert. I was in a couple at the time, and the bride asked me if two of her friends could get a lift with us there and back. I had met these two friends of hers before, but at Cape Town's First Thursdays. This is hardly a reliable character witness.
The trip however, ended up solidifying a friendship. Mainly, because our entire journey centered around food. Or a farm stall, to be more specific.
READ: Get wholesome at one of these 7 farmstalls in the Eastern Cape
Stopping at a random padstal along the way to Prince Albert, which lured us with its promise of 'fresh farm bread', we instantly fell in love with the establishment's club sandwich. It was a decadent sandwich stuffed with bacon, avo and feta, cemented on both sides with farm fresh bread with butter. It was like eating a rainbow.
The wedding took a backseat in our conversation over the next few days, as we continued to lust after this sandwich.
On our way back, we found ourselves craning our necks to the right of the road, living in fear that we'd miss this very same farm stall. We had to stop there again and taste that pure happiness.
Since that trip we've become great friends.
The 'I have to fill every silence' driver
Some drivers think of themselves as hosts. Similar to how one would host guests at a dinner party, the driver sees themselves, and their duty as driver/owner of the car, as being the car host. Putting passengers at ease, filling all silences, this is the responsibility of a good car host.
Luckily, the car host is also a well-catered one. Providing snacks, asking passengers whether they want to stop at any and every Engen or at the mere wiff of a Wimpy burger; these drivers are the ones you want to be road trippin' with.
Sure, I believe silence can be golden. Staring into nothingness while driving is my preferred road trip happy place.
But the car host-with-the-most will always trump all others, because they brought snacks.