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IT HAPPENED just after
I was quietly admiring eastern New Mexico's sandstone rock formations, their improbably flat tops towering above us, when I felt a sudden jolt, followed by a vibration from the right front wheel. It sounded like a rattlesnake had been sucked into our engine.
I pulled our 7-year-old Honda Accord off the road. Our three kids began to stir in the back. I glanced at my phone: no signal. I hadn't seen another car for maybe half an hour. We were miles from nowhere.
I imagined every worst-case scenario, and I have
What I didn't think about is that getting stuck in the New Mexican desert is as much a part of the travel experience as any flight delay, cruise mishap or hotel horror story--and it's a part that journalists like me ignore far too frequently.
Odds are you don't fly to your summer vacation destination. You drive. How many of us get there by car vs. plane? It's difficult to draw a precise comparison because of the way the government measures travel.
Americans drove more than 1.1 trillion miles on the nation's roads last summer, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The same period, they flew 157 billion miles, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In other words, for every mile we flew, we drove about seven.
Independent studies suggest the gap may be even greater among leisure travelers. During the Memorial Day holiday, 30.7 million Americans drove to destinations, while only 2.5 million flew, according to a DK Shifflet and Associates survey for AAA. For Christmas and New Year's, 83.5 million drove; 5.4 million flew.
Ignoring road travel is
Mark Sedenquist, who runs a website called RoadTrip America, says road-trippers are not only difficult to define as a demographic, they're a challenge for marketers.
"The only common element regarding marketing-and-merchandising targeting is that most road-trippers will purchase fuel.