The temperature is rising. The leaves are on the trees. The chance of another snowstorm is unlikely, though not impossible. Spring, or at least what passes for it in Canada, has sprung and summer is around the corner. That means mosquitoes, construction and road trips.
You need look no further than the car advertisements. Auto makers have their convertibles on offer. BMW has the 6 Series 650i xDrive Cabriolet, Audi has the 2017 A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik S tronic Cabriolet and Jaguar has the F-Type S. Even if you're not a car nut, it's hard not to be intrigued by the notion of a long trip with the roof down.
The road trip is a North American trope. It's been immortalized in literature by the likes of Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and John Steinbeck. It's often a voyage of miles and moral discovery. You find yourself by getting lost on endless stretches of highway; that's the idea anyway. The reality is often far less enlightening. Many a road trip is nothing more than cramped back seats and wonky air conditioning, and that's because most people lack good road-trip etiquette.
In an effort to prevent a summer filled with disappointed road warriors, here are the top 10 keys to a successful road trip.
1. Don't smoke, unless your fellow passengers also smoke. Many of the road trips of my youth were a rolling nicotine hotbox. There was nothing better than a July road trip down through Virginia and North Carolina with the window down and a carton of Marlboros. Nowadays, that's a non-starter.
2. Don't wear headphones in the passenger seat. If you're in the back seat, then it's okay, but if you're riding shotgun, it's a little antisocial. Road trips are, by their very nature, long excursions and the driver may want some conversation to keep him or her on form. If you must tune out, at least ask before popping in the ear buds.
3. Bring a map (yes, an actual map). Sure you've got a Global Positioning System but a map – or better yet, road atlas – doesn't need batteries. And unlike a GPS, it won't tell you to drive your car into a canal, a swamp, a river, the wrong way down a highway, under a too-low bridge or into a tree.
4. Let the driver call the tune. If the system is not voice-activated, the passenger operates the device. Do not change or mess with the music without getting permission. The driver should not be a despot. If he or she is too controlling, the people in the back seat may hold a coup.
5. Agree on a bathing minimum. If you're driving from Montreal to Los Angeles with minimum stops, you should agree on a body-odour threshold. At least stop by a lake and go for a swim.
6. Set toilet breaks. It's best to use the trust system. Trust that each member of the road trip will try to pee pre-emptively when possible. Trust also that when someone asks, "Does anybody need to stop?" what they really mean is, "If I don't relieve myself very shortly, I may explode." Pull over.
7. Agree on food intake. Are all foods acceptable? Or do you draw the line at pork rinds? Best to reach a consensus before your passenger opens a second bag.
8. Air conditioning versus nature's air conditioner (the open window). Some summer road-trippers like the feel of warm air off the highway. Others prefer the canned cool. Strike a balance.
9. Is there such a thing as too much coffee? No one knows the answer to this question.
10. Split the gas. Everyone has his or her turn at the pump. No exceptions. And if you're struggling with the other variety (see "pork rinds"), take responsibility and, for heaven's sake, roll down the window.