With Thanksgiving break behind us and Winter Break only a couple of weeks away, the thoughts of many Gauchos turn toward the long voyage home. Some of you will be flying, but those of greater testicular fortitude will be strapping on their seat belts and unleashing their inner road warriors upon the interstates like the He-Man Woman Haters they really are.

Why all the hyperbole? Because I know a lot of people, you see, who absolutely dread the thought of driving home. It’s all too easy to focus on how much traffic you have to sit through, or how you don’t have enough music, or how you’re bored silly for most of the drive. Especially for those poor folks who have to travel up Highway 99.

A road trip, however, is not unlike an acid trip – your enjoyment of the experience depends on your attitude coming in. Seeing how this is my last column of the quarter, I felt I should leave you with a little bit of advice on how to make the most of your drives back to the motherland.

My first rule of the road is that half the fun comes from the places where you stop to eat along the way. This is always an adventure. Sure, you could stop at a McDonald’s, but why bother? You can get that anywhere. Happiness, to me, is when you’ve been driving for seven hours, you’re pissed off at everyone else in the car, you refuse to listen to that static-y radio station from Fresno for one more second, you’re starving from skipping breakfast and because you just don’t have any more patience, you pull into a shack off the side of the road where the food has just as much of a chance of being refried armadillo as a Whopper. But what do you know? It’s the tastiest meal you’ve eaten all month. Tell me moments like that don’t totally make your life.

That being said, props are in order for Sushi on the Run in Aptos, just outside of Santa Cruz. How random is it that you run into a sushi stand instead of a burger or taco stand? Is that some weird NorCal thing? Whatever it is, I love you for it. Though your restaurant may be a trailer, you and your spicy tuna rolls saved my Thanksgiving break.

As a good starting point for those of you driving up to the Bay, have you ever tried stopping in San Juan Bautista? They have the weirdest food there, I swear. Everything from burgers to Basque. These stories don’t always end happy though, so caveat emptor and so forth. But that’s part of the fun, eh?

My second suggestion is more obvious: Rethink the route you’re taking. Even drives to Los Angeles can be spiffed up a bit. Tired of the same old stretch of the 101? Why not get off in Oxnard and take Highway 1 through Malibu? Better yet, time the trip so you’re there as the sun is setting. Or, unless you’ve done this a million times already, try taking the 126 through Ventura farm country into Santa Clarita. This adds a lot of time to your drive, but it’s worth it, especially if you like oranges.

For those of you taking the 101 up north, you’re probably thinking that the standard alternative route is Highway 1 through Big Sur. Fuck that. Everyone does that. If you wanna really be badass about this, you have to heed the signs for G14 toward Jolon and Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. This is a pretty drive, with lots of mountains, 55-mph speed limits, a mission and almost no other people for miles around. From Jolon you can either meet up with the 101 in King City or if you’re cool slash crazy slash sexy, just keep going west and meet up with Highway 1 in Lucia, just before Big Sur. Now nobody will mess with you.

Above all, however, because I don’t have room to address those of you taking the 5 and 99, just keep your eyes open and a road atlas handy wherever you go. You can always find something new to discover.

Daily Nexus columnist C.K. Hickey is just like Virgil from Dante’s Inferno, except, you know, with road maps and stuff.