The Touring Musicians' Guide To Road Tripping On The Cheap

Jul 1, 2016

A tasty burrito cooks on the engine of Sharon Martinson’s Honda Civic.
Credit Sharon Martinson

CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, musician Jalan Crossland suggests making a cake by using an Altoids tin and wiring it to a car battery. Crossland now says he was joking. To be clear: This should not be attempted. Short-circuiting a car battery can cause the battery to overheat and potentially explode.

For many Americans, summer means road trips. So Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer checked in with a couple of touring musicians for some pro-tips you can use the next time you hit the open road.

“This is what the living room looks like when you get back from a weekend on the road.” Sharon Martinson points to a pile of banjos stacked in her living room. “I have six now…” Martinson performs as The Littlest Birds.

When she’s touring, she logs around 6000 miles a month. In fact, most years she spends as much time on the road as she does at her house. Even so, she says in six years of touring, she’s hardly ever stayed in hotels, and she’s never stopped for fast food.  “If you’re sitting and you’re driving a lot, you don’t really need to eat. Mostly you’re eating because you’re bored.”

Of course, eventually, you do need to eat, so Martinson packs plenty of water, a cooler with ice, fresh fruit, and healthy snacks. “I do have a whole section of a bag that’s just things that require only hot water, because you can stop at a gas station, and there’s always hot water for free.

To make oatmeal, for instance, she recommends containers with snapping lids and keeping some silverware handy. Lunch or dinner can also be cooked on the road, “So my freezer is full of engine block burritos.”

Yes, engine block burritos. Basically, you make burritos, wrap them in foil, freeze them, and then, “You’ve been driving,” explains Martinson, “so you pop open the hood, and find a place on the engine block, preferably touching metal. I’d probably give it about 20 minutes to go from frozen to thawed to cheese nice and melty and delicious.”

Jalan Crossland is another Wyoming musician who logs a lot of time on the road. He also has an engine block recipe. Wrap potatoes, carrots, onions, and seasonings in foil, “And you just put it on the motor. And after a while, you’ll have a perfectly cooked little stew.”

Then, when it’s time to restock on supplies, Sharon Martinson recommends farmer’s markets. “It’s a nice way to see a slice of the community, to eat what’s local and fresh and in season. And if you’re a tourist, it’s a great place to run into artisans who have something that you’re not going to find at the Yellowstone gift shop.”

Stopping periodically is healthy, too. You can even stay limber in the car. “I have, if I’m not driving, what I call front seat yoga.” She demonstrates: “Basically, just crossing your leg and putting one ankle across the other knee.”

And when it’s time to turn in for the night, Sharon Martinson and Jalan Crossland recommend camping on public land, like a national forest. But if a there isn’t a grassy spot nearby, Crossland suggests heading for the asphalt. “The truck stops and the Walmarts. Everyone knows that those are the places to go. And the lull of the semis idling puts you to sleep real nice, and the fumes keep you that way.”

Assuming you wake up the next morning, take the scenic route, stop at the historical markers, and embrace the open road. Happy trails!