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Road Trip Safety Tips
Best Laid Plans
Growing up in Chicago, I had an aunt who was always fun. She had what we thought were weird habits. It turned out, she was as smart as a fox. No matter how short a car trip we were taking with my aunt, we knew that if we ever broke down on the road, we would have blankets and plenty of food that she always kept in the trunk. Charles Dudley Warner has been credited with the famous quip “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” More than one hundred years later, people are still talking about the weather. The difference between then and now is that we have information and critical data at our fingertips. This information comes at us via media, the Internet and social media. We can be better prepared to deal with weather and its implications. Being stuck on the highway in a vulnerable and dangerous situation is no fun to say the least. With a few precautions, if you find yourself in that position, it will be more tolerable and less dangerous. Here are a few hints to keep you safe when traveling.
Mound Bayou Mississippi
Pack Your Patience for Your Trip
It’s important to keep everything in perspective when traveling. Let cool heads prevail. Focusing on the idea that “We have to make good time!!!!” could lead to making bad decisions. A prime example is the weather. When traveling on vacation, consider the safest route rather than the shortest. Blowing snow, white outs, brown outs, tornadoes, floods and more should always be avoided if possible. Give your car a thorough checkup: Before you hit the road, take your car to your favorite, most trusted mechanic to make sure your car is 100% road worthy. If something’s wrong, fix it before you go.
Don’t forget your charger. Carry an extra one. Keep your phone charged at all times. Be aware that you may drive through areas with no cell coverage and plan accordingly. Remember not to leave your phone behind in the hotel you check out of. Even though your cell phone is important, it isn’t as valuable as your life. There is a disturbing phenomenon that takes place at National Parks. At the Grand Canyon for example, people have actually fallen over the rim of the canyon to their death because they have either taken a selfie with their back to the canyon and slipped or they dropped their cellphone into the canyon, tried to reach it and fell into the canyon. Safety should never take a back seat to an electronic device.
Jekyll Island Georgia
Credit's Ok. Cash is King
When Katrina hit New Orleans, a considerable number of people who evacuated found that their credit cards were temporarily no good because the network for the credit card transactions was down due to the Hurricane. This may seem like an extreme or unlikely example, however I would argue that before Katrina hit, if you were to tell someone about the magnitude of the storm, few people would believe you.
Bryce Canyon Utah
Fuel, Food and Preventing Freezing
Plan for fuel and lack thereof. A recent trip through the great state of Texas taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. I had less than a quarter of a tank of gas and pulled into a crowded gas station in West Texas. This was a desolate spot on a West Texas plain. It soon dawned on me something was indeed wrong with everyone just waiting around and nobody actually pumping gas. The gas station ran out of gas and they weren’t sure when the truck would arrive with more gas. As you can see, this wouldn’t be much of an issue if I had been in a more populated area. I decided to take a chance and go to the next town, not knowing if they had gas. They did, but I had to pay a premium to get it. Lesson learned: Keep an eye on your gas gauge and be very familiar with the size and distance between towns that you will pass. Try not to let the gas gauge go much below half a tank when going through desolate stretches of highway. For winter travel, try to keep the gas tank as full as possible in the event you are stuck due to weather and snow. Carry plenty of warm coats, blankets, flashlights, snow chains and non perishable food. This may seem like overkill until you actually need it. On the same trip, we have actually used the air conditioning, heat, ice scraper and parkas. Recently, in Chicago, people had to be rescued from their cars on Lake Shore Drive, one of the busiest streets in the city. I can tell you that in over thirty years living in Chicago, that has never happened before. People had to run their engines intermittently to survive and as you can imagine, most people did not have blankets in their car. In Virginia, a state not necessarily known for bitterly cold winters, there was a complete white out on Interstate 95. Motorists were reported running from their cars into the woods on either side of the highway to escape getting hit by cars behind them because no one could see.
A Tale of Two Cards
Discounts, no matter how small add up quite fast. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much money it is possible to save. The two cards I’m referring to are the AAA™ card and an America the Beautiful pass. First, we will consider the AAA™ card. All it takes is a basic membership with AAA™ and you receive room discounts at certain hotel chains across the country. AAA™ also offers towing as well. For details, check with AAA™. Discounts vary, however on a two week vacation, I can tell you from personal experience that you can save approximately the same amount as a one night stay in the hotels that offer discounts. AAA™ is quite well known and popular for the discounts offered through them. The second card is less popular but no less valuable. I am referring to the America the Beautiful pass offered by the National Parks of the United States. There are 59 National Parks in the United States. A substantial number of those parks are within a short drive of major US Interstates. The Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Arches, just to name a few, fit into that category. By purchasing an America the Beautiful pass, according to the US National Park website: “Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.” Spend an hour to stretch, take in the sites, have lunch, or spend a day or longer hiking or taking the convenient shuttle, which most larger national parks have. The pass more than pays for itself as you use it more frequently.
Road trips can be unforgettable experiences that the entire family can enjoy. Often times, they represent our fondest childhood memories. Whether traveling across town or across the country, simply taking a few precautions can mean the difference between lifetime memories that will be cherished and memories that everyone who went on the trip would rather forget. The bottom line is that being prepared makes all the difference.