The responses range from, "What" to "WHAT?!" to "That's nuts," or "NO WAY!"
Not too many Vikings teammates love cross-country drives the way Troy Dye does. Several balk in disbelief, but Kirk Cousins and Andrew DePaola concur that they'd rather drive than fly home.
Whether a family affair like it was for Dye with his mother and young son this past January, or a simple solitude for Cousins, after spending months processing the requisite information to play quarterback, or DePaola and his dog mushing through the night into the next day, the highway is the best way for the three "Vi-Kings of the Road."
In addition to the convenience factor of being able to load a vehicle with the things they'll want for offseason training, there's an appreciation for the country that widens while seeing it through a windshield.
Dye loaded up his Durango, making sure to leave space for his son's toys. Ty is a good traveler, happy in his car seat with some "snacks, an iPad and some coloring stuff." There's also the trust that Dad will find a couple of playgrounds along the way.
One of the most impactful parts of this past offseason's trek from Minnesota to Southern California, however, was when it was hard to see much of anything. The group hit a "crazy blizzard" in Wyoming.
"I was going 15 miles an hour in a 75. Snowdrifts blowing back and forth. It was the most nerve-racking time of my life," Dye said. "I was going on hour 13 or 14 and then it happened and woke me up. I was like an adrenaline junky, like was just here and locked in. My mom woke up in the middle of it and was super confused, 'What … is going on?'
" 'Yeah, it's a blizzard. It's not a snowstorm. It's a blizzard,' " he recalled. "You know the little dldldl, dldldl, dldldl (rumble strip)? I was driving on that just to know that I was still going straight because I couldn't see the lines on the road. It was super scary."
Although the snowstorm prolonged the trip that is more than 1,800 miles, the family made it home and stayed for a bit before loading up again to drive from Southern California to Naples, Florida, where Dye trains in the offseason.
There's California, Arizona and New Mexico before I-10 scoots across Texas for another 880 or so miles.
"I always forget how big it is until I start driving through it," Dye said.
The length of Louisiana's boot is followed by the heels of Mississippi and Alabama. Panhandle Florida leads into a wide turn south.
A self-described "In-N-Out guy through and through," Dye gave Texas-based Whataburger one chance but wasn't a fan.
"The thing I like to do on the road is find cool gas stations, like a Buc-ee's," Dye said. "It's just cool to see how they work and operate. The smalltown ones are always super cool, but the other ones are the big truck stops where they have showers and laundry rooms and everything you need. It's like a mini grocery store because all those truck drivers are on the road for so long.
"I kind of stick to a basic food on the road unless we go find a good barbecue spot, like a hole-in-the-wall place where it's like, 'This is a local thing,' " Dye said. "For the most part, I stay with a McDonald's, Wendy's or Chick-fil-A. Quick grab-and-go things, but if I have Ty or my mom, I find a nice barbecue spot or a local cuisine that they really like."
Pro tip from Dye: "Some of the cleanest bathrooms are in the smallest towns."
"What I've noticed is those people take pride in what they do," he added. "If you're going through a small town, stop at those bathrooms and those gas stations because they're always empty, they always have super nice people working them."
Dye's love for road trips began during his youth. His family would climb into an RV and head from California to Canada or Florida for youth hockey tournaments. Everyone in the family knew they'd get a quick bite and to make sure to take care of a restroom stop before hitting the freeway to ensure a few hours of uninterrupted travel.
His experience on the road continued when he'd drive back and forth from home in Corona to college at Oregon, a 13-hour drive despite only traversing two states.
There are "spots of people" for much of Northern California until the heavily populated Bay Area.
"And then you get to Sacramento and Central California, but Modesto and all that kind of stuff is nothing — just farmlands for as far as the eye can see, and then you start rolling down, and get to the L.A. area, 'OK, here's where everybody is at again,' " Dye said. "You get to where I'm from, the Inland Empire, and it's super crowded, but it's crazy to see how big cities work and how small cities work.
"There's some places where there's nobody, and then there's some places where there's way too many people," Dye said. "It's like, 'What's the thing making everybody go to this one spot?' Whether it's work, whether it's weather, whether it's food, whatever has drawn people to that area, it's kind of cool to see how the landscape works."
As the offseason winds down, Dye drives from Naples to Minnesota. His triangular route from Minnesota to California to Florida to Minnesota is about 6,300 miles.
As for entertainment, Dye often likes to play "every song I've downloaded since high school" and put it on shuffle. While that only rewinds back to 2016 or so for Dye, his breadth of musical tastes offers variety for all that mileage.
"I tried to do an audio book two years ago, but it kind of wasn't my speed," he said. "It was a little too monotone in the narrator's voice. All right, I need a little bit more up-tempo. I love podcasts and a music variety, whether it's country, rap, indie rock. Anything but screamo. I can't get along with that kind of stuff, but everything else. I love some reggae. I love some good tunes and vibing."
Cathartic and convenient
Cousins has driven pickup trucks and conversion fans, but in January, he loaded an SUV to drive from Minnesota to Michigan. Enveloped by a serene solitude, he began unpacking the 2022 season. After being so meticulous in planning his week-to-week in-season schedule, Cousins doesn't schedule his stops, but he does look forward to fast-food "with no judgement." That can mean Culver's, Taco John's, Chick-fil-A or KFC.
"I just go by feel. I'm a guy who likes to push a gas tank as low as we can get it before I have to stop, so I've been known to have some close calls," Cousins said. "The stopping for food is important to me, in terms of, if you're only going to stop on an 8-, 9-, 10-hour road trip, maybe only a few times, let's get the right spots."
He can listen to his favorite artists, but he also opts for church sermons quite frequently. Opportunities to call former teammates, coaches and college friends are appreciated.
"I feel like I get to my destination almost refreshed, more than worn out," Cousins said. "It's cathartic, it's refreshing, it's a good way to process the season and decompress and then kind of get started on the next year. It's a combination. Because as you call coaches and talk, and thoughts come up, you find yourself kind of tying up loose ends with this season and then getting started with what the next year will look like."
After spending some time in Michigan, Cousins and his family head to Atlanta for a bit to see his wife Julie's parents before venturing down to Orlando to see his parents.
He considers Kentucky underrated.
"Depending on what time of year you hit it, the rolling hills ... and it's usually warmer and greener than you think … and it's not a part of the country that you tend to know a lot of people from," Cousins said. "But my wife and I have both commented, 'This is pretty nice scenery here off the highway.'
"I like going south as you watch your temperature gauge start going up during the winter ... You start to watch it warm up and you're like, 'OK, we're making progress.' Just on temperature alone."
Cousins has enjoyed hearing road trip stories from Dye and DePaola and former teammates like Jake Browning and Sean Mannion, who drove from Minnesota to Washington and Oregon, respectively, or Mike Remmers (also Minnesota to Oregon). They passed along descriptions of the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Glacier National Park.
As enticing as those attractions — or others along the way — are, Cousins admits to having a ceiling of about 12 hours.
"So when Troy said West Coast, I was like, 'Whoa, that's tough.' And then when he said he went the full triangle, I'm like, 'You're nuts,' " he laughed.
"If I played for Seattle or something, I wouldn't even hassle with it," said Cousins, who will make sure he can go from Minnesota to Michigan in solitude going forward.
"I told my wife, I enjoyed it so much last year that now it's a must. 'I have to do the drive, and you're not allowed to come with,' " Cousins said. "So it'll always be the end of the season, me driving by myself back to Michigan. Non-negotiable. Julie can fly with the boys, she can stay back if she wants, she can drive a separate car, we can ship the cars, I can have my parents fly back to help with the boys, but I'm driving by myself back to Michigan. It's peaceful."
Cousins prefers to do his driving in the daylight, but DePaola opts to start in the evening and rolls through the night from Minnesota to Maryland, about 18 or 19 hours total.
DePaola said traveling with his four-legged friend prompted driving instead of flying, "plus, there's a lot of awkward, weird stuff that we like to take back and forth. I make a little spot for the dog, and we just cruise."
Awkward, weird stuff?
"Yeah, like decorations or some valuables or fragile things that we don't want to ship or put in a carry-on bag or checked bag. We just throw it in the car, and I'll drive it home," DePaola said.
He'll have a big meal before leaving and then enjoy a few snacks — "Goldfish. I like Goldfish. Easy to munch on, not a lot of mess." — overnight. A quick breakfast stop starts the next morning before he keeps moving.
"I kind of look forward to those hours of just quiet. You're just there with your thoughts and your feelings, and it's kind of therapeutic, in a way," DePaola said. "It's just kind of that time where you have nothing else going on — all you have is this drive. You have 18-plus hours in front of you of just driving. You can listen to music, you can listen to a podcast, which I'll do both. Sometimes I'll listen to nothing and I'll just drive. But that alone time with just your thoughts and what you want to work out in your head is nice."
Leaving at night usually helps DePaola avoid a logjam in Chicago, but the landscape near Pittsburgh can cause bottlenecks or delays behind big trucks going up hills.
"At least the scenery's pretty in there. Right in here, between Cleveland and South Bend," he says, pointing at a map. "I don't think I've ever seen that area during the day, so I couldn't tell you what it looks like."
By the time he gets to Frederick, Maryland, the hometown of Chuck Foreman and Jordan Addison, he almost shifts to autopilot.
"Kind of when I exhale is when I get on I-70 right here," DePaola said. "That's where I'm kind of, like, 'All right.' ... When I get there, I've made that drive several times, so I'm like, 'OK. I'm good.' "
DePaola also partook in a unique travel experience when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He'd drive to Lorton, Virginia, load his car on a train and take a seat until Sanford, Florida, near Orlando.
"You get off, they take your car off, you get in your car and then I'd drive the rest of the way down to Tampa," DePaola said. "It was a lot of fun. I love trains. And then we drove from Tampa to Chicago and back, and then my dad drove from Oakland to Tampa."
"Yeah, and the dog."
Miles and hours from the starting point or destination is where Dye gains some of his greatest appreciation.
"When you're on a plane, you can look down and see the different plots of land that are kind of squared out and the farmland, but for the most part, people are asleep on planes, so you don't get to see the landscape of America," Dye said. "When you're driving, you're involved and going through the desert or the Rocky Mountains, all these forest areas, and you get to see all the small towns you usually wouldn't see, and see how they live their lives and stuff like that.
"I think it's something that people don't do often anymore," he added. "They don't get to see what's going on in the world and see what's going on in America, so to speak. … Honestly, to just go and clear my mind because you can kind of relax and decompress and there's not much to really think about, except keeping yourself safe."
Ideal travel companions?
Dye hasn't recruited teammates, but he did mention that it would be fun to take a road trip with Cousins, DePaola or a few other teammates.
"I think Hitman would be a fun one to have," Dye said of Harrison Smith. "He would be a cool dude just to have conversations with for a long time. Kirk is another good one because I think we think the same way on certain ideals and stuff like that. I think Ivan Pace would be a really good one. He's kind of quiet around people he doesn't know, but when he gets to opening up, he has a lot to talk about and has a good music selection.
"I think 'DePo' would be fun. I feel like he would be super because he's an experienced dad, so he understands the snacks set up," Dye continued. "He understands when would be a good time to leave. He's probably great on the maps, trying to figure out shortcuts. 'All right, this one's blocked. We've got to go this way.' Super good at that.
"Jordan Hicks would be fun, too, just because we've grown a great relationship over the last year and some change, so we'd have some good conversations," Dye added. "I think that's the biggest thing, find someone you can have conversations with when you're tired of listening to music or through the podcasts, you need one of those guys, just regular life stuff or have some crazy what-if moments and just go create stuff. I feel like those guys would be pretty cool to do that with."