The sad state of a car sick reader


Nine hours to. Nine hours from.

I thought I’d prepared myself for the journey. Spencer and I were up and back to Western New York over Labor Day weekend — two and a half days of fun before back to the grind on Tuesday. Since I depleted all of my vacation time going to England and whatnot, we couldn’t get on the road until after work on Friday . . . and that had us parking at Spencer’s parents’ home around 1 a.m. Saturday.

We had a wonderful time with Spence’s family. It’s always so relaxing in New York — far from the hustle and bustle of the D.C. area and the myriad of obligations that plague me at home. Though the trip back is really going “home” to Spencer, it just feels like an extended vacation to me. No worries. Nothing to fuss about or fret over. Just time to hang out and be.

And that? That’s awesome. And fun.

But what’s not so fun?

Getting there.

We looked into flights to Buffalo weeks ago and found the fares to be . . . well, a bit cost prohibitive. Since it was a holiday weekend, Southwest milked the end of summer for all it was worth — and poor, weary travelers like us couldn’t pony up that kind of dough for a three-day stay. So we threw our stuff in the backseat and sailed away in Spencer’s car, though D.C.-area traffic doesn’t really let anyone “sail” anywhere.

It was a mess.

Being a seasoned traveler, I knew enough to bring a “stuff bag” to sit in the front seat with me. You know how your parents would pack a bag full of crayons, coloring books, games and puzzles for those long road trips? Or, you know, if you’re of a more recent generation, maybe an electronic device with movies or video games and such?

I still do that. Except now it’s full of books, candy and magazines.

But here’s the thing I can never remember — and the thing that aggravates me more than anything else: I cannot read in the car. It makes me queasy and anxious and sick. Sometimes I can peruse a few pages before I feel that dull headache building at the base of my skull, and by that point I’m kicking myself for bringing on a dreaded case of car sickness. And I usually feel bad for the rest of the journey.

It makes me insane. Here I am with hours upon hours stretching before me, all crisp and fresh and new. Spencer’s iPod created the soundtrack to our trip; we crawled along I-270 to the tunes of The Beatles, Rammstein, Ben Folds and whoever else popped up on shuffle mode. It was ample time to chat about life, get reconnected and think.

It was also ample time to read. But that’s never to be.

The drive back last night was killer. Poor Spence was responsible for getting us home unscathed in driving rain from New York to Maryland. The ground is so saturated from recent storms that tree limbs dangle precariously close to the road. As we finally hit the Beltway after a long, slow drive through Pennsylvania, the roads in Virginia had no reflective markers to let you know where the lanes actually were. It was dark and stormy and scary. And after already cruising for eight hours in similar conditions, all we wanted was to be out on solid ground.

Reading wouldn’t have helped that. But maybe it would have made me calm down.

Can you read in moving vehicles, or are you also doomed to a life of car sickness? I’m good on airplanes, boats and things of that nature. But cars? Forget it. (Though I can’t — and keep trying.)

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29 thoughts on “The sad state of a car sick reader

  1. Me! Me! Yes, totally carsick while reading! (And in planes, which I also found out this summer.) I can get away with reading a quick email or tweet, but anything more than a couple minutes makes me SO nauseous. We do a 10-hour drive from DC to Michigan once or twice a year. We bring lots of music, or I’ll take pictures out the window, and oh, there’s the kid to keep me busy getting him snacks or drinks or crayons that he dropped, lol! (Luckily I still enjoy talking to my husband after all these years, and that’s my favorite way to pass the time.)

    But right, it doesn’t really make sense to fly. Especially not when you count getting in and out of the airport time, and that you’d probably end up needing to rent a car at your destination for however long.

    Ha, my least favorite thing about VA roads is that they have no very visible street signs to let you know what street you’re about to turn onto. That was one thing I missed about MI. In VA, it’s like a crapshoot – “Is this the right road? Maybe? Maybe not? Gotta turn onto it anyway before you find out!” lol!

  2. I so feel you! I can’t read in cars either and it *kills* me to waste that precious reading time! We’ve been Bolt Bus-ing it to NYC and if I’m able to glance up at the road now and then, I find I can read on it — but not in a car! 😦

  3. I can’t read in a car, either. This past December, my husband and I went to Universal Orlando and Disney World, and decided it would be more cost-effective to drive there from Ohio. I’ve never been more bored in my life than on that 15 hour trip (each way!), but I couldn’t do anything about it. If I don’t look straight ahead at all times, I’ll get sick. I can read on planes and trains, but cars are my downfall. Too close to the ground combined with too much constant shaking, I guess!

  4. OMG I get this too. It’s SO aggravating to have so many hours or sitting down doing nothing and not be able to read. Grrrrrr. I am SO envious of people who can read in cars.

    PS Thanks for the book suggestion. I’m going to sample it today from Amazon.

  5. I used to be able to read in cars — actually, that was the only thing that KEPT me from getting carsick (weird, I know). But several years ago, that all changed, and now I cannot read in the car – aside from checking directions/maps – without getting really woozy. I can text, however, so long as I’m not in the mountains. But then, all bets are off when it comes to mountain riding anyway 😉 haha…

  6. Aww, I feel for you Meg, I really do! I also get car sick, though it’s not every time. Some days reading will help me forget about the sickness; other days, reading will only make it worse. And I have no idea how that works.

    On another note, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Ten Cents a Dance! It’s been on my TBR pile forever.

  7. I used to be that carsick kid who would have to pull over once or twice a trip to be sick in the bushes. But then I did a cross-country trip (moved from Boston to Sacramento) and somehow I was able to read for nearly that whole drive. Must have been the hours upon hours of straight roads. Amazing! I’ve been okay in the car (and on planes) for the most part since then.

  8. You’re definitely not alone – I can’t read in the car at all, while my brother can (and he usually made a point of taunting me with that fact, since I’m the big reader in the family).

    I always thought it was the sensation of movement while reading that bothered me, but I’m okay with reading on trains, so who knows?

  9. I can’t read in cars only because I feel too guilty having such a good time while the other person is driving! But we have worked it out by listening to books on tape when we take road trips. We take a couple, in case one of us doesn’t like one. We intersperse it with music from time to time. It works great and we get reading done!

  10. I can not read in cars either 😦 Or planes. Or buses. But I can read on a train, which is a blessing because I ride the subway every day. And side note: Congrats on your nomintation for best-written blog. Two or three years ago (can’t remember) I was part of the judging for best-written blog for BBAW (I believe the judging was very different back then) I gave you the highest marks I could for your blog in that category because I thought you deserved it. Even though I take no responsibility for the nominations this year I still have this feeling of : “I KNEW IT! She’s awesome!” Good luck 🙂

  11. I can read in the car but only in the front seat…and I love it…a drive to Maine usually equals one book…but I love talking to my husband and looking out of the window and I do play games on my Gameboy in the car, too…now I will try that on my iPAD…I have often thought of listening to a book in the car but so far I have resisted…sorry you were sick…my mom used to say sip ginger ale and eat crystalized ginger but it is probably too late for you for that and you are hopefully over it by now…

  12. New reader that just happened to stumble across this page today from the BBAW Short List. (Congrats, by the way!)

    All my life, I’ve gotten car sick if I try to read in a moving automobile. I’d always resigned myself to the fact and found other things to do (listening to music or audiobooks), until I discovered something magical: Bonine. It’s a motion sickness pill like Dramamine (but without the drowsiness) that I took on a cruise once, and it turns out it works like a charm in the car as well. If I know I’m going to go on a long trip and take it an hour ahead of time, I can read all day and never feel nauseous. It’s fantastic! I used it on a road trip from FL to Chicago last year and read the entire way there and back with no trouble. Best thing ever!

  13. I’m one of the lucky ones. I can read anywhere. Front seat, back seat, airplane, train, boat, top of a mountain, no problem. I didn’t realize this many people had motion sickness.

  14. I always read in a car (and plane, and train, you name it), but this summer when we were driving from Costa Brava (North Spain) to Andorra, the mountain roads were so incredibly zig-zagged I actually started to feel poorly trying to read just a little. But luckily we don’t have roads like that here in Finland! 😀

  15. Not being able to read during long trips would drive me crazy. Although, even though I’m able to read without getting car sick, I usually get too distracted by the passing scenery to really concentrate on what I’m reading.

  16. Audio books, Meg, audio books! That is the way to go. Either plugged into the car stereo for everyone’s listening pleasure, or into your own ears if people need their space.

  17. I feel your pain. I used to be able to read anywhere, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more susceptible to motion sickness. Even trains are a bit difficult for me now, though I power through when there’s something I really want to read.

  18. I hear you and sympathise, as I’m the same. And if I get carsick then I often have to take only quick glimpses at road signs because even reading those could make me nauseous. I’ve found I can read for a few pages if on a bus because I can sit away from the window and look straight down (not being able to see things moving helps) but yes, lots of wasted time.

  19. Oh, how I feel your pain! I was never able to read in the car until I got my e-reader, then I randomly decided to try it and couldn’t have been more surprised that, for some unknown reason, it doesn’t bother me the way reading on paper does. My working theory is that while the e-reader only requires me to focus on one page of print, the book always has the page you’re *not* reading sitting next to the one you’re reading, with the words dancing around as the car moves, and it messes with your brain. Who knows if that holds any water, but e-reading in the car works for me.

    What about trying audiobooks for long drives?

  20. I can empathize. I can’t read in the car either, and I can usually squeeze in about 30 minutes on a plane or train before I get that sick headache feeling. Cruise ships I can seem to read for hours on… when I’m not distracted by the view!

    So glad you guys made it home safely.

  21. I haven’t tried to read in the car in years. But when I was in high school and would try to get a head start on homework during long sports road trips, it never worked…maybe that’s because it was homework, but I doubt it! If we are on a curvy road, I have to sit in the front seat or I’ll get sick, so I doubt that homework had any facrtor in it.

  22. i get car sick too :[, although i also tried to read in the car during my labor day trip to austin. we just never learn do we.

    ps. send your rain our way. we’re practically in a drought down here.

  23. I bring a Walkman and listen to my books in the car. My hubby constantly station hops and that makes me nuts. I suggest you try audio, it is great!

  24. Chiming in with a second vote for Bonine! I’ve suffered from motion sickness my whole life, and if I even glance at anything in print in a moving vehicle, I’m instantly nauseated. But if I take Bonine, I can read to my heart’s content in a car, plane, train, boat, etc., for hours. Highly, highly recommend!

  25. So sad 😦 but you know what? AUDIOBOOKS! (They have given my Not-A-Reader Husband and I a way to share books! Joy!)

    Also, please send some rain down here to Texas for us, PLEASE. It sounds like you have been selfishly hoarding more than your fair share. Perhaps it would help put out our wildfires. 😦

  26. Nope definitely can’t read in a car and although I’m a little better in a bus I can’t read for long. So I tried out an audio book (Bosspants – Tina Fey to be exact). Stuck it on my ipod and away I went on the bus. It was a really good compromise.

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