At the point that this post goes live, I will be cruising down the road heading towards Fort Wayne, IN to meet with my best friend, and old college room mate. You may be thinking to yourself, “But Cornelius don’t you live in Ohio?” Albeit temporarily, yes. Yes, I do live in Ohio but that my friend is not my road trip experience. I will be traveling from where I will be camping for memorial day weekend in Mohican, that is a mere 3 1/2 hour stroll. It is where we are going from there that requires me to make such an awesome list such as the one you have before you.
The two of us are driving to Weslaco, TX – part of the Rio Grand Valley – the southern tip of Texas. That is around 26 hours non-stop road tripping. And if you are setting off on your own adventure and make sure you get there safe and sane then follow these steps.
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This is the most basic, before you do anything item. You are about to put your vehicle in through an intensive run, and let me tell you – you do not want to be stuck on the side of the highway in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. So pay the extra money up front and check your brakes, tires, oil and fluids, alignment, belts and hoses, exhaust, battery, spark plugs and alternator, and cooling system. I know that is a lot to check but if you let your mechanic know what you are going through then they will have an idea of what to look out for. Hopefully you can trust your mechanic enough not to run up a bill on you just for the sake of making a profit.
Why it’s important – getting towed is not cheap and if your car breaks down you won’t likely know who the mechanic is and you are clearly at their mercy because you do not want to settle down in Podunk town USA. If they don’t have the parts or they are closed for a holiday or weekend you now have to delay your trip and factor in food and hotel costs. Plus most repairs done while on the road could have been prevented by checking out the vehicle beforehand.
Depending on how many people are with you, you may have the opportunity to play games or freely interact with others. However if there is just 1 or 2 of you – it becomes time to get creative.
- Music – make sure you have a whole host of different genres that you enjoy listening to, with as long as you will be traveling you will get sick of the same style of music after a couple hours.
- Audio Books- The benefit of audio books, even if you never tried it before, is that you must focus on the story. Unlike music where you can zone in and out if you want to keep up with the story you need to pay attention.
- Talking – Whether it is on the phone or with your road buddy, sometime just talking helps pass the time. I’ve called friends who I knew were night owls just because everyone else was alseep and I needed someone to talk to if I was going to stay awake.
- Movies – You can live stream Netflix via your phone, or use a portable DVD player and is an easy way to kill a few hours at a time. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to watch the LOTR or Harry Potter Series.
Why it’s important -You want to stay alive. If you doze off while driving, the car isn’t going to keep itself on the road. Yes, it is advisable if you are tired to pull off the road and take a rest break. Which sometimes a 2-3 hour break where you get a room and take a nice shower, will get you back on track. However if you are determined to persevere through make sure you are awake and attentive by keeping your mind entertained. And don’t stick to one thing too long because then it becomes monotonous, thus boring…sleepy.
Which brings me to my next point.
If you are anything like me, I want to get down there fast. We alternate drivers every gas fill up (5-6 hours) and drive through the night. With only two of us we won’t be getting much sleep – even as the passenger because it is the passenger’s job to keep the driver entertained. If you start getting tired don’t think you have to push through till the next rotation, ask to switch out for a while. All energy drinks and pills have an after “crash” point, they are great for short term boosts but are no substitute for a lack of sleep. Plus you aren’t supposed to have them back to back, and I don’t care if you are alternating between the 5-Hour Energy and a Red Bull. I’ve heard sunflower seeds are good at keeping you awake.
I’ll report back after my adventure to confirm or deny. They did the job, I’m not sure if they kept me awake and alive but they kept me focused on something other than the monotony of the road.
Why it’s important – Really?
Pack healthy food because you will likely only hit fast food joints along the way. Too much unhealthy food will make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable during long rides. Plus, you know can sometimes give you bad gas.
Make sure to bring plenty of water and be sure to stretch and move around at every stop.
Why it’s important – Natural foods and water can help boost your energy. Sure that sugary soda will give you a boost but just as quickly as it wakes you up, the effects begin to fade away. Plus a small area and smelly farts are no fun at all.
Know Where You Are Going
Nowadays if you don’t have a GPS, or an Android phone with Google navigation, you are in the minority. Even with all that it doesn’t hurt to have a map handy. Whether you print out one or buy a map it is always good to have a hard copy. Also, if you are a AAA member you can go in and pick up free maps along the way.
Why it’s important -because batteries die and sometimes a GPS acts like a drunken pinata player.
With all the technology that is available nowadays why not take advantage of it. There is an app for that. All of these apps are free or offer free services.
- GasBuddy- find the cheapest gas nearby
- Yelp/UrbanSpoon -find a good place to eat.
- RoadNinja – this seems to be similar to Yelp/Urbanspoon but has a few extra features blended in.
- Pandora/Spotify – unlimited music potential
- Audible – Audio Books
- Trapster – Get out of that speeding ticket
- Priceline/Simultravel- Instead of that cheap motel you may be able to find an upgrade that doesn’t throw in bed bugs for free.
- Weather Channel – Storms are scary
- JiWire - WiFi Locator
- AAA – Multiple Apps including Maps, Discounts and Roadside assistance (with a locator, kind of cool/creepy)
- Best Parking – going to a big city always brings parking mayhem.
- Instagram /Retro Camera or Photosynth (Panorama views)- Take and share photos of your adventure
- Google Maps – X doesn’t always mark the spot
- Goby – Find free events and activities near you
- Netflix (Apple) (Android) – Movies!!!
Why it’s important – These apps can save you time, money and hassle plus they are free so if you don’t like them then you really didn’t waste anything.
Good luck on your adventure, let the wind blow through your hair as your feet dangle out the window. Well, at least that is how the commercials portray it.