Rote Trips (Part II)

This semester an opportunity presented itself that simply could not be passed up: finish my bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering at MT Tech (while living, working, teaching and conducting my doctoral research at SD Mines). Among other stipulations, South Dakota requires a bachelor’s of engineering in order to be a licensed Professional Engineer – my bachelor’s degree is in international business.

My advisor from MT Tech looked at my course history and, given my thoroughness the last time through, I needed one more semester to finish… no end runs, no short cuts, just a few remaining classes, and a solid finish. And an 8 hour commute each way every other week.

Two years ago, I did something similar: worked full time in ND while starting my Ph.D. full time in SD. Using my vacation days, I commuted Sunday through Tuesday from Dickinson to Rapid City every other week to attend class, finish labs, participate in field trips, get questions answered, and submit assignments. That drive was only 4 hours each way.

I know a handful of people who habituated the rote life: my Confectioner Cousin commuted from Salt Lake City to Philipsburg every other week (also 8 hours each way) for 10 years. A dear friend in the oil patch lives in Rapid City but commutes to Dickinson every week Sunday evening through Friday afternoon. Several other oil field types have “hitches” working 4 weeks on 4 weeks off or some variant.

Their home stays put and work moves. We all have habits and practices making a disrupted lifestyle just a little more civilized.

My assumptions are as follows:

  • The rote tripper is not going on vacation or moving residences but presumably conducting business in distant locations.
  • This is not old home week, the time to make social calls, or go out to the bars every evening.
  • Rote tripping is about getting where you need to be safely, efficiently, and with minimal impact on one’s mental and physical well-being to get the work done.

Practices for the rote tripper:

  1. Only leave town with a full tank of gas, water bottle, coffee (if you drink it), your phone charger, and driver friendly snacks.
  2. Double up on toiletries. Leave one set at home permanently and one set permanently in your toiletry bag: your favorite shampoo/conditioner, face wash, moisturizing cream (with SPF), razor, deodorant, toothpaste, comb, etc. Yes, I even have a travel retainer that stays in my toiletry bag, while my main one stays at home. If you think you are going to continually move toiletries back and forth without forgetting some indispensable item, you are kidding yourself.
  3. Take your own food and in glass containers. You can reheat your meal in either an oven or a microwave. Most modern gas stations have microwaves now and I use those while on the road.
  4. Pre-download your audiobooks, music, and necessary travel information. Out west it is entirely possible that you will not have cell service on the road. Trying to manage downloads while driving 80 mph is never a good idea.
  5. Always travel carrying an actual paper road map or atlas. Rapid City to Butte has several remote areas with no cell service. If I need to find an alternate route (in a blizzard), I cannot always count on Siri or Google Maps.
  6.  Wear loose fitting shoes while driving. Sitting for long hours is not good for the body and constricting shoes or clothes even less so.
  7. Plan your workouts, even if they are abbreviated, and stick to your workout plan.
  8. Be diligent in vehicle maintenance: oil changes, fluids top-off, wiper replacement, and tire tread checks.
  9. Stop every couple hours and/or do jumping jacks when refueling your vehicle.
  10. Unpack your suitcase and put the suitcase away either the evening you arrive home or immediately the next morning. If you don’t, you will be living out of your suitcase both away and at home.

This round of rote-tripping will finish when I graduate in May. Rather than tedious, each trip is its own experiential collation. I enjoy the subtle botanical changes along my route. I caught glimpses of foxes, deer, and antelope… and one moose. Sometimes I listen to books, sometimes to music, and sometimes I drive in silence. I admire the view, perpend the past, and prepend my future.

Whatever your rote-tripping preference, drive safely and enjoy the ride.

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