Thelma and Louise Show You the Way to Road Trip Success

Thelma And Louise
Thelma and Louise ride again. Photo by Some Guy who Helped Us Out

The right car, the right road and the right friend make the perfect road trip.

Road trips rule. Didn’t you learn that from Thelma and Louise? OK, so their road trip wasn’t perfect – they shot a guy, robbed a liquor store, and ultimately jumped off a cliff. But, along the way they cruised in a convertible, sang along to their favorite tunes and picked up Brad Pitt – so it wasn’t all bad.

A road trip with a friend can be an unforgettable experience – good or bad. But,  if you choose the right car, the right road and the right friend – it can be the perfect adventure. Here’s how my BFF and I ( a/k/a Thelma and Louise) make it work.

Road Trip

Top down and hair blowing in the wind! Photo: Terri Marshall (selfie) for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Best friends, but opposites: embracing our differences

My BFF, Nancy, and I have been friends since we were 25, but we are total opposites.

She’s cautious, reasonable and prefers to be in control – as in driving. I’m an eternal optimist, unreasonable at times and constantly pushing the limits…which is probably why she prefers to drive. Lucky for her, I’m passive and perfectly happy to let her take the wheel while I navigate.

And that’s an important point:  when you plan a road trip with a friend, be aware of your differences. If you’ve had a long standing friendship, you can draw from that history to create a memorable trip…in the best possible way.

Nancy and I have history – lots of it. We’ve seen each other through raising families, divorces, new beginnings and things I cannot even begin to explain. Our road trips have united us. That’s the kind of girlfriend you want to take on a road trip.

I know she’s going to want to drive most of the time. She knows I’m going to chat non-stop while she drives. We both know we’re going to sing along to our favorite songs at top volume. And we know there will be laughs…lots and lots of laughs. It works.

Road Trip

Road trip shenanigans. Photo: Nancy Cohen for AGirlsGuidetoCars

When the rental car fails to materialize

Our summertime Thelma and Louise road trip began with flights to Las Vegas where we spent the night and set out the next morning to tackle the epic beauty of Utah.

Our personality differences were visible immediately upon arrival at the rental car counter when we were informed there were no cars available.

Nancy showed the unfeeling man who delivered this disturbing news a copy of her reservation which had been booked weeks ahead.(She’s a planner.) Unmoved, he repeated the no wheels deal. On the verge of panic, she walked away from the counter and attempted to reach AAA on the phone.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t moving from that counter. We reserved a car and we were going to get one.

I calmly explained that we were embarking on a road trip which, by definition, requires a car. I further explained that we hadn’t reserved just any car, we had reserved a convertible because that is how we travel.

Apparently I had found the magic words!

Turns out Mr. Bad News did have cars available…all convertibles. It seems no one wants to rent a convertible in the blazing July heat in the desert – no one but us. We went from having no car to having a smorgasbord of Ford Mustang convertibles in every imaginable color at our disposal.

Crisis averted, we headed north out of Las Vegas toward Utah where we planned to see all five National Parks, cruise along Scenic Byway 12 and check out that big Salt Lake.

Road Trip

Scenic Byway 12. Photo: Terri Marshall for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Want to truly refresh your spirit?  Just visit a National Park (or 5!)

There are road trips and then there are road trips through Utah. Geographically blessed with not one but five national parks and numerous scenic byways, Utah makes an ideal backdrop for a Thelma and Louise adventure.

As we entered Zion National Park in the southwestern part of Utah we were immediately moved by the grandeur of the towering monoliths and deep canyons. The road led us through tunnels carved into the mountains and around the rim of the dramatic plunging canyons. Each turn brought yet another jaw dropping sight. It was hard to imagine anything more beautiful existed – yet we had four more parks to see!

Our next park, Bryce Canyon, with its trademark towers called “hoodoos” beckoned us for a hike. As we made our way down the steep descent to the floor of the canyon we marveled at the massive boulders teetering at the top of spikes looking as if they could break loose at any moment.

Standing at the bottom of the canyon looking up at the surrounding wonder is one of those moments when you realize just how small we are compared to the magnificence of nature. It’s also one of those moments when you realize the hike down was the easy part. And you know without a doubt the hike up will produce copious amounts of sweat.

Road Trip

It’s hot! Use the heat as nature’s sauna. Photo: Terri Marshall for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Let the desert be your spa:  soak up the heat of nature’s sauna

Three hundred million years of patient erosion has resulted in Arches National Park’s unbelievably dramatic landscape. More than 2,000 arches give the park its name, but the park also contains fields of spires, pinnacles, domes and ridiculously balanced formations that defy the laws of physics.

We hiked among the sandstone spans to the world-famous Delicate Arch in the scorching 112 degree midday temperature where we were rewarded with a view through a window into time. Granted we would have been rewarded the same view later in the day when the temperatures were a chilly 90 degrees, but that approach is for wimps. And besides, saunas are good for you, right?

Our drive between the parks took us along Scenic Byway 12…one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. We felt the wind in our hair, stopped for impossibly bad selfies and baked our skin in the brilliant sunshine as the temperatures soared above 100 degrees. And we couldn’t have been happier.

Thelma And Louise

The road beckons. Photo: Terri Marshall for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Every Thelma and Louise road trip needs sunshine, music and a cliff

Entering Canyonlands National Park at the eastern edge of the state we were greeted with impossibly epic views and a cliff. Our cliff. The stage for our Thelma and Louise cliff scene (with the parking brake on, of course!)

Along the way we sang along with the Dixie Chicks – a soundtrack that carried us through our mutual divorces. Anyone remember the song, Goodbye Earl?

Some things just work – and a soundtrack that brings your history into the present is one of those things.

We stopped for the night along the road at the edge of Capital Reef National Park. As the sun was setting, we settled into the hotel’s hot tub to take in the illuminated colors of the surrounding red rocks.

It seemed as if we had been dropped into a movie set – Thelma and Louise of course. But actually, we had just been dropped into an amazing life with the right car, the right road and the right friend – the perfect road trip.

Terri Marshall grew up road-tripping around the country. Her love for the open road remains strong today. A travel... More about Terri Marshall