There may be no better expression of American freedom than the great American road trip. The act of driving across this great land for days, weeks or even months on end, free to explore what you want, stop when you want, meet others, learn new customs, encounter new foods and ways of life all set within the breathtaking and expansive backdrop that is the United States of America is something uniquely American. Yet it is also something familiar to everyone. This human need to explore, to see, to experience our world.
The great American road trip also embodies the Flip Flop Life. A life that sets its own goals, values experience over envy, and community over selfishness. Which is probably why we decided to drive from Seattle to Chicago for a Flip Flop Daily business event rather than fly. In doing this, we turned a 5-hour flight into a 33-hour drive.
For reasons that I still don’t quite understand, yet wholeheartedly embrace, we decided that for the entirety of the drive we could only listen to country music. And, if that wasn’t enough, a friend and business partner agreed to cover our entire food bill so long as we ate at Arby’s.
There were two of us on this trip and only half of us thought the Arby’s idea was worth doing and the other half was irrationally excited about it. It’s good to set parameters for a road trip, it helps with the monotony of hours on end in the car.
This, of course, would be a Flip Flop Daily road trip. I packed a half dozen pair that I needed to review along with two that I saw as my everyday pair. The first and most obvious choice for me was the Hari Mari x Peter Millar’s.
I’d recently fallen hard for these beautifully styled and well-crafted flip flops and expected to wear them for the bulk of our 2,200-mile drive.
But, I thought I may need a knock around pair just in case because I didn’t want to wreck the Hari Mari’s so I opted for the Freewaters Supremes. As you may recall that these were a real surprise to me because they are a “social good” brand that also makes kick-ass flip flops which is something I’d yet to find.
I figured that their solid black, super comfortable soles and black nylon straps were up for anything we may encounter. My colleague opted for just one pair, his Reef’s, a very solid choice for sure.
I took on the task of building our playlist. 32 hours of country music is no small feat. Thankfully, our local and independent radio station in Seattle, KEXP 90.3, has a weekly country music show on Thursday nights called “Swigin’ Doors” hosted by D.J. Don Slack. His Thursday night playlists are amazing and served as the backbone of our 32 hours of country music playlist for the trip.
The list included obvious stalwarts such as Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash but, thanks to Don Slack, also had gems such as Hayes Carll, Kitty Wells, the Stanley Brothers, Lefty Frizzell, and many others. It’s a list that I still enjoy listening to and fits surprisingly well with the flip flop life.
We left on a Tuesday morning and had to be in Chicago by the following Monday. Our journey included a few days in the tiny Eastern Nebraska village of Cedar Creek to visit my family. This would be my colleague’s first trip to the true Midwest, which I define as East of Denver and West of Chicago, so I wanted to be sure that we hit a couple of highlights on the way.
The only place we needed to stop at between Seattle and Cedar Creek was Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge in Paxton Nebraska. Ole’s holds a special place in the hearts of my family as it was the only place to eat at when in that part of the country and it is packed full with Ole’s hunting trophies from a different era. It includes a polar bear, elephant, and baboon for goodness sake. A place like none other and a must-see for sure.
So our trip began. After just five hours of driving, we found ourselves in Spokane, Washington and ready for lunch. My colleague was dead set on Arby’s and I reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t bad but I was still dreading our next meal as we climbed back into the car and back onto the road. The car was chosen for this trip, the rental was a fully loaded and full-sized Chevrolet Suburban.
It proved to be a perfect cross-country ride with plenty of room for all of our stuff plus room for passengers (even though we had none).
It was surprisingly comfortable and the closest I’ve experienced to traveling down the highway at 90 miles per hour in a living room much nicer than my own. It was just what we needed for this trip.
After crossing Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming we finally arrived at Ole’s in eastern Nebraska. It was just the break we needed from the hours on the road.
Our game of placing the word “anal” before the names of the hundreds of RV’s we passed on the road had provided a surprising number of good laughs and included such gems as the anal “Avenger,” anal “South Wind,” and perhaps the best of all anal “Leprechaun.” However, we were ready for a break and a non-Arby’s meal.
As we pulled up to Ole’s, I felt that my Hari Mari x Peter Millar’s were a bit too…posh for this part of our great nation so I slipped into my Freewaters. It was the right call. My colleague’s Reef’s, the quintessential flip flop, fit in wherever we went. As it turned out, we’d arrived a bit too late for lunch and a bit too early for dinner, so the place was empty.
Empty, apart from the massive array of hunting “trophies” (animal heads) hung from every wall. Somehow it felt “ok” here and not creepy to be eating under two mounted bison heads among the hundreds of other “trophies” – most of them obtained before the 1960’s. My colleague’s attention was drawn to the pictures of dogs and asked which side of the equation they were on. They were obviously hunting dogs, but I did a quick scan to see if any of them had been stuffed and hung on the walls. Thankfully, no. In fact, other than people, dogs may have been the only species missing.
Here we were introduced to a Midwest staple, Busch Light beer. On tap. It, along with a nice steak, was the perfect meal for this place and this trip. It was a foreshadowing to the rest of our time spent in the Midwest. Also, in full honesty, I was thankful to not be at Arby’s. We’d already made two stops so far, one in Spokane, WA and another in Casper, WY on our trek. Ole’s was an Oasis.
As we drove deeper into the heart of America, the Heartland they call it, the more I felt that the Freewaters were the right flip flop. The Hari Mari’s felt a bit too polished and certainly stood out much more than I was comfortable with as an outsider here, even though it is where my roots are. Perhaps because of that, I knew that they’d draw all the wrong attention. Freewaters, on the other hand, looked to be just another pair for flip flops. I was incredibly impressed at how well the Reef’s worked no matter where we were.
We arrived in Cedar Creek and were greeted by my family. This is where my colleague’s love affair with Busch Light really took hold, on the riding mower, Busch Light in hand, helping the family maintain the property. While in Nebraska we even caught a AAA Storm Chasers baseball game. I was shocked when he came back from the beer stand with two huge Busch Lights, one for me and one for him. Had Busch Light supplanted his Arby’s fixation? Was this the lesser of two evils? I’m not sure.
After a few days of relaxing with my family, we headed back onto the road and finally arrived in Chicago. Here my Hari Mari’s felt more at home and I wore them to a Cubs game and all over the city. One thing that many don’t really understand is exactly how much middle there is between the coasts here.
We’d driven for 33 hours and only made it to Chicago. New York City was another thousand miles east. This is a huge country and I was glad to board my flight home from Chicago. Driving was fine but flying cut the distance in a way that I needed more now than before our road trip began.
Onboard, in my Hari Mari’s, I opted to watch a movie rather than delve back into the Country music playlist. Reflecting on the trip I was surprised at how well the Freewaters fit in, no matter the place. Spokane, Billings, Casper, Cedar Creek, Chicago. I felt at home in them. Perhaps if I were from Los Angeles or Dallas, I’d be able to pull them off in the Midwest. But I’m from the Midwest and the Freewaters just felt right in that place.
As is often the case on long road trips such as this, one has time to reflect on things and to learn more about oneself. I began this trip certain that the Hari Mari x Peter Millar was the flip flop for me, no matter the place and I ended it somewhat changed yet still the same but a bit wiser and a bit better at living the flip flop life.
Do Life Right – Flip Flop Daily