The Making And Life Of A World Traveler: Well Almost–Chapter Thirteen–Car Travel

While it is true that you can use a car for a cross country trip, I find it a little restrictive in size for that type of traveling. My preference would be to restrict its use to a trip a little closer to home. There is also the option of renting a car or vehicle for these trips to reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle. This might be a good idea if it is getting a little long in the tooth and is just not as reliable as you would like. The last thing you want is have your car break down in the middle of nowhere. If your road trip means visiting a rarely seen relative, why not show off a little with a somewhat fancier vehicle than you normally drive. Take that Uncle Herb.

Just a little side note, no matter what vehicle you drive always have two sets of keys with you. Each of the primary drivers should always have the keys on them not just laying in the vehicle. Another thing I started carrying in all my vehicles and I even have a spare one when I rent cars is a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter. I guess I have seen too many movies. But you know what, you never know. Besides I frankly don’t want to be trapped in a burning car or a car going under water. Just a little side note when I was coming home from the University of South Florida back in the day. A car coming toward me in the opposite lane for no reason swerved to his right and went off the road and rolled into a ditch filled with water. By the time I was able to find a safe place to stop there were already several cars stopped to help the driver, so I kept on driving home. I am sure that cutter would have helped him. To this day I don’t know what the hell happened maybe he nodded off and when he woke up he over corrected. But things do happen.

I mention this because of what happened on a recent road trip to California. This trip will certainly not go down as one of my best trips. First of all, there were fires all along the coast of California which ended up forcing the park owner to close down the campsite we were staying at and also prevented us from seeing one of the sights that we had planned the trip around. So yes, I already had sour grapes. Remember by mantra…always be prepared for the unknown and have backup plans. Unfortunately, not all plans work out as they were intended. We parked at this lovely lake on the route back to Las Vegas. I was all excited to go and take my photos when I just shut the damned door on the van. Well, I could see those damn keys just sitting on the passenger seat just laughing at me. Damn it all to hell. I just had locked my keys in the van and, of course, my spouse’s purse with her set of keys was in the back of the van. What the hell? It was not her fault, what did she need her purse for at this time? The first tow truck service after two hours never showed up. The second one finally showed up another hour or so later. I guess the response time was not bad considering where we were.

So now you know to always have two sets of keys handy. The next thing you should make sure that your vehicle has been checked over. All fluid levels are where they should be and your tires are not only in good shape but are full of air. Also make sure your spare tire is full of air as well and that your jack and lug wrench is in your car. This may sound silly but remember I use a non-standard car jack as a lot of other road trippers do. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Unless you are mechanically inclined it would not hurt to have a mechanic do one of those auto checks they recommend every so many miles. This depends on the make and age of your vehicle. It also wouldn’t hurt to clean your car out. This is after all supposed to be a trip that generates memories, so starting out with a clean car is a good way to start.

This is one goofy aside, think about getting your windows tinted before you start using it on road trips. Limo tint on the back windows will make it harder for theives to see what you have in your car.

Since you are going on a road trip and unless you are driving in Iceland, you will be passing grocery stores and yes, even a Wall-Mart here and there along the road. If you forget to pack something like a toothbrush or deodorant you can always pick it up. However, you still need to make sure you have other things not so easily replaced like your eyeglasses and medicine and other essentials. So you should do just like you do for any trip and that is to double check to make sure that you haven’t forgot anything. Even though you are a little limited for packing room, you can still bring a lot of clothes. If you have a special outfit you have been dying to wear, bring it. You might just find an occasion to wear it. When it comes to footwear, I recommend a nice light pair of tennis shoes for driving like a nice pair of Skechers. Sandals or high heel shoes are just not practical for a lot of driving. Since shoes are small bring as many as you want. It is a guarantee that if you decide not to bring it you will most assuredly need or want it.

Don’t forget to bring those maps and books and any other navigational aid that you might need. Hell, bring your sextant if you have one. If you are into photography bring your largest bag full of everything you think you will need or want to use, bring a tripod if you have one. Also remember to bring a small one for your daily camera needs. This may sound silly but bring along a white bath towel just for your camera gear. You would be surprised on how hot the sun can get beaming through your back window of the car. Most camera bags are dark and therefore absorb the sunlight. The white towel not only reduces the heat of the sun , it also covers your camera bag so a thieve will not see it either. You can put it in the trunk when you are stopped but remember that thieves know people put shit in their trunks. So as long as it is not easily visible it won’t be as likely a target.

Since you are going by car you won’t really have a lot of room to bring food, so you most likely are relying on snacks for the drive and stopping at restaurants for your meals. I have one suggestion that at least two weeks before your trip, don’t eat any junk food or eat at any fast food restaurants. Because by the end of your road trip you will be truly sick of eating that crap. If you are lucky you will get one half way decent meal a day. It is just the way things go on these trips, no matter how much you try to eat right. So relax, your diet will be there when you get back home. Besides this is part of the fun about road trips, you get to cheat a little.

If you have pets, this is time to make a decision, do I bring them or don’t I. Unless they are truly used to travel, do yourself a favor and don’t bring them. Have someone care for them or bring them to a kennel. There are nice ones and you will both be the happier for it.

I will include an anecdotal account of a road trip taken by my brother in Chapter 15 to help illustrate not only my reasoning about not taking pets on a road trip but also because it involves a travel trailer.

Car accessories to bring for your convenience:

If you like to drink cans of soda, get those foam can inserts. They really keep your soda cooler or if you prefer water, get one of the spring loaded water containers that are insulated. They will keep your water cooler for a long time. If you like 7-Eleven Big Gulps, get one of those large insulated cups.

Get a nice telescoping phone holder that can position it for easier viewing if you are using it for a GPS. I always have a dedicated phone charger in each of my vehicles. Also, don’t forget to bring that sun visor, especially if you want to pull over to take a nap, it will help to keep your vehicle cooler.

Well, that about wraps up car travel. Remember to always be safe and while you can travel by yourself, it is always safer to travel with someone else and hopefully, it is more fun for you as well.