Over a year ago, I wrote an article on the do’s and don’ts of the outdoor world; now that we’re in the peak of road tripping season, I figured a follow-up article would help you avoid some of the pitfalls. While I’ve haven’t taken a cross-country road trip (yet), my trips to Alabama, Florida, and the far end of Tennessee qualify for me to give out some advice. Plus, for my job, I average almost 600 miles a week on the road, totaling 45,000 miles last year alone.
DO: Music is a time-honored tradition of easing the long boring highway miles en route to your destination. The only problem in a road trip of more than 1 person, is that it’s hard to make everybody happy. Probably the best option is to have everyone bring some music and just trade-off selections song by song unless you have a friend who has a music collection the size of a radio station’s stored on his 120Gb iPod. Personally, I have nearly 7000 songs with everything from Enya to Metallica, so usually people can find something they like. Without fail though, once I get close to mountains, John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and “Country Roads” will blare from the speakers either to the delight or chagrin of the other passengers.
DON’T make the mistake made on a certain trip to Florida several years ago where, somehow, no MP3 players were packed and only 1 CD was in the truck; it made the mutiny on the Bounty look like a tea party by comparison. Smartphones have made this error almost impossible to make, but after a while, you’ll hopefully going out of cell range and then you’re stuck in a car listening to your car-mates hum “Bad Romance” for the hundredth time before you decide death is a better option and aim the car for the nearest oak tree.
DO: Pack snacks and water in easily accessible locations. While this sounds obvious, I’m notorious for making the mistake of leaving the trail mix in the cooler or the pack in the back of the car which does me no good while driving. If no one else has this issue, just keep on reading and forget I mentioned anything.
DON’T: Choose snacks that have any of the following words: hot, spicy, inferno, blazing, deadly, Habanero, or ghost chile. While that 4lb jerky stick made of magma and cow loin sounds delicious, the next day of the trip, you’re away from any established toilet facilities and have forgotten your stash of Charmin, it will strike back with the vengeance of Thor’s hammer on your gut. Save the spicy food for your celebration meal on the way home.
DON’T: Think you’re safe from sunburn just because you’re in a moving vehicle. A friend of mine drove for 5 hours straight with his left arm resting where the window of his door went down, and by the time he reached his destination his left arm was lobstered rather badly. I’m sure his next few days of kayaking in the sun made him forget all about it though.
DO: Consider the order in which everything is packed into the vehicle so you can get to it quickly if needed or at least can unpack in a way that prevents the tornado in a trailer park effect. If you’re car camping, this would mean having your rain gear easily accessible and with the tent first to be unpacked; this way, if you arrive and it’s raining, you can set up your tent without risking any of the other gear getting soaked in the process. Also, I use Rubber-Maid containers to separate all of my gear and make it easy to organize and weather-proof which helps on those rainy days as well.
DO: Before leaving your house, make sure you have jumper cables, a tire patch kit, and an inflated spare tire. Check your oil (or get it changed if it’s over-due), make sure your tires are fully inflated and that the gas tank is topped off nicely. Make sure that your vehicle isn’t going to die on you half way; while some people remember those stories fondly, at the time they weren’t nearly as carefree.
As I’m finishing writing this article, I’m packing the last bit of gear for a 6 day trip through North Carolina, Virginia, and possibly Tennessee; here’s to hoping you get on the road soon as well.