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10 tips to trump driving boredom

The very word automobile grew from an invention that enabled us to miraculously move ourselves about. Back in the days of handlebar moustaches and steam engines, the automobile was looked upon as an oddity of the wealthy.

While we take automobiles almost for granted today, working folks of yesteryear could only dream of speeding down the road behind the wheel of a Stanley Steamer. In modern times, the automobile has become part of our lives, and driving can become drudgery if we let it happen. Taking some simple steps can get you and your ride out of automotive dullsville.

1. The road less traveled
If driving to work every day is wearing on your patience and sanity along with your tires and brakes, then try an alternate route. If the main road is clogged with frustrated fellow commuters, then drop off the highway and onto the side streets. Even if a road takes a little more time or goes out of the way, the payoff of enjoying what was once a daily grind can be enormous. Besides, you might find a new spot for coffee or breakfast.

2. Get to know your machine
The modern automobile is one of the most complicated and amazing machines a consumer can purchase. While manufacturers strive to make motoring a trouble-free experience, the owner is not without responsibility for maintenance. Take some time to thumb through the owner's manual. Find the section that shows how to check the oil, and locate where things are under the hood. Even something as simple as checking the tire pressure can make for a safer and better ride, along with saving fuel.

3. Happy campers
Even though you may not be ready to pack it all in and hit the road in an RV quite yet, camping-by-car can be a fun way to get out of town with a minimum of equipment. If a minivan or SUV is in the driveway, then a tent may not even be required. The rear seating folded flat and a cheap inflatable camping mattress can make for a fun weekend getaway. A great number of campgrounds have facilities as part of the price of admission. Bring flip-flops for the shower and trunks for the swimming hole.

4. Try motorsports
With even average cars packing 200 or more horsepower, it might be time to consider amateur motorsports. Both drag racing and autocross have classes for completely stock cars. Most local drag strips host run-what-you-brung-style bracket racing. Each driver enters a time, and the clocks adjust for handicap. If cornering is more your speed, look into autocross events. Driving around a parking lot will never be more fun thanks to a course set off by orange safety cones. Check the rules before you go.

5. Road trip!
This time-honored tradition harkens back to the American pioneers heading west in Conestoga wagons to find a new frontier. While planning ahead is all fine and good, sometimes it pays just to get in and drive – discovering where you're going only once you get there. Bringing along the kids and sticking to the classics can also be rewarding. Plastic dinosaurs in the desert or a trip to the beach will never be more fun.

6. Caravan
People in the United Kingdom refer to a trailer used for camping out of doors as a caravan. Dodge saved itself from near oblivion in the 1980s with a minivan of the same name. But the caravan we're talking about is a cavalcade of cars. Find a destination everyone wants to go to and set out. For fun, try turning the trip into a rally race of sorts by setting up predetermined checkpoints. But remember to obey the speed limit.

7. Don't drive
While this may sound a bit counterintuitive, think of it like this. The simple act of turning the faucet and having water run out of the spout never seemed so amazing until you carried water around for a week while camping in the bone-dry desert. Taking some time out from driving to ride a bicycle, go for a walk or even hike up a hill can make getting back behind the wheel that much better.

8. Leave it all behind
The list of things people do while driving grows all the time with the increasing number of gadgets and gizmos we all depend on for modern life. Try leaving all the gadgets at home for a day. If you must take a cell phone, turn it off and put it in the glove box for emergency use only. Choose a road that's fun to drive for a relaxing gadget-free drive.

9. Be your biggest fan
Thanks to the Internet, there is now something for everybody when it comes to the cult of cars. Find and converse with fellow car owners. If you thought you were the only person in the world truly in love with that lemon-yellow AMC Gremlin – think again. Somewhere out there is a forum of like-minded folks who drive or want to drive the same car or truck that you do. Finding and talking with them can be fun and engaging.

10. Back to school
A lot of us remember driver's education as a dreadful experience of embarrassing missteps punctuated by the sound of a scratching pencil on a clipboard of an instructor. While getting a driver's license may have been the goal of driver's education, learning from a professional driver can be a great deal more fun. Even one day of professional instruction on a closed racecourse can vastly improve the daily driving experience. Check your local racetrack for school schedules.