I've only been on the road for a few days, but between my trip so far and other smaller trips I've made, I would like to officially begin to share some advice with my fellow adventurers who are considering a road trip of their own. So, here, I have started compiling my most critical tips to making the best of your road trip. I'm here for you!
6 Tips for the Smartest Road Travel
1. Always say yes to gas.
If you are traveling in an area you've never been before, chances are really good that you have no idea where there are or will be gas stations ahead of you. No one likes running out of gas, especially if it happens where you have no cell signal, or where it's remote enough that it would take hours for you to flag someone down for help. So do your best to make sure you are always at least half full. Sure, it might require a few extra stops here and there, but as most of these tips will reassure - you are better safe than sorry.
Also, you never know how many roads you will spontaneously decide to explore along the way!! (Viewpoint, 13 miles this way? Yes please!)
2. Lock the doors.
My drivers training trained me hard on this one, and my parents reinforce it every time we discuss road safety. This is even important inside of the city. When you get in your car, make sure the first thing you do is lock the doors. Keep them locked if you're in there, as much as possible. Lock them before you go to bed (if you're sleeping in your car), and if you get up to pee in the middle of the night, remember to lock them again! Lock them when you stop and jump out to take a picture of the sunrise too, just in case. Don't leave yourself vulnerable to being robbed in a parking lot, or worse - in the middle of the night. (Just be careful not to lock yourself out.)
3. Listen to your body.
First of all, and most importantly, you need to be alert enough to watch for wildlife (or other highway dangers) always. This is something I am hyper aware of, especially at night. Just as easily as a deer can dart off of the highway and into the trees away from you, it can jump out into the highway in front of you. If your eyelids are heavy - wake up! If a quick cuppa java doesn't do the trick, try a 15 minute catnap on a highway turn-out. Set an alarm, close your eyes, and take a break. These work wonders for me, and can usually refresh me for another 1-2 hours if I'm really desperate to get somewhere. If these aren't working for you either, maybe it's time to call it a day.
If you're really stubborn about continuing, don't keep chugging caffeinated beverages! Most are diuretics, which will require you to use a restroom more frequently. Stay hydrated, but don't drink so much that you have to make dangerous pit stops to relieve yourself. Naps are your friend.
Oddly enough, I find that chewing gum on the highway keeps me alert when I'm starting to get a little too relaxed. For some people, music helps. For others, it's audiobooks. Choose your own adventure, here.
4. Share your itinerary.
This is good to do whenever you're going into the wilderness, especially when you are hiking or traveling back roads. You may experience pockets with no cellphone reception, where anything could happen. Tell someone where you are expecting to travel, how you hope to get there, and when you expect to get there. Of course things can change along the way, but it's best to tell someone and check in with them when you've gotten to your destination.
Make sure you have multiple ways of contacting that person, too. I've already run into a situation where I've been completely without cell service on the other side of something, so I couldn't call or text. Luckily, I managed to find wifi at a visitor centre, so I could at least e-mail.
5. Basic road safety, duh.
I know this might seem obvious, but let me state a few things anyway:
Make sure your windows, mirrors and headlights are clean and clear. Don't pile things up against your windows, or leave your head or tail lights covered in mud after a back road excursion.
Always make sure that you are checking your (clean and clear!) mirrors, and watching well in front of you. My dad taught me not to watch only the car in front of me, but the cars three or four ahead. They will be the first ones to break if there's an issue ahead, and knowing they're breaking will allow you much more response time to either let off the accelerator, or change lanes.
One of the best things you can do for yourself while driving, is maintaining a safe travel distance from other vehicles on the road. This is SO IMPORTANT. Watch the car in front of you. As they pass a marker (let's say, a road sign), start counting "one-mississippi, two-mississippi, three-mississippi, four-mississipi", and when you get to four, that's when you should be passing the same road sign. Practicing this will help you to maintain a safe traveling distance, regardless of what speed you're traveling. Traveling too close to other vehicles makes it difficult and dangerous for other drivers to change lanes or merge, it decreases your allowable response time, and it can make other drivers really nervous (they might spend more time watching you in their rear-view mirror than watching the road ahead of them). If a deer does jump out onto the highway in front of a vehicle ahead of you, at least you will have enough time to break or pull off into a shoulder, and avoid a major accident.
6. Plan two or three steps ahead.
Another obvious one, I know. But think beyond where you're going. Check the weather where you are, where you're heading, and in between. Watch for storms or major weather changes. Check road conditions. Most provinces and states have websites where you can check in - there may be mudslides, flooding or construction that result in road closures. If applicable to the area you're in, make sure you always check local advisories for active forest fires that may mean road closures or reduced speeds. Plan where you will be able to top-off your gas tank, and consider where you may need to break for lunch or snacks. If you are traveling back roads, make sure you do your research - some forest service roads or back roads into national forests are dangerously rutted and/or can flood easily. You may need four-wheel drive to travel them. On some forest service roads, you may be required to use a radio to avoid on-coming lumber trucks (seriously scary to run into when you're not expecting them).
On a smaller scale, plan two or three steps ahead of where you are on the highway. If you know that your exit is coming up soon, get into the right lane in advance of your exit. Last minute decisions on the highway and at highway speeds are dangerous.
If you are planning a trip of your own and you have safety concerns or questions, don't be afraid to ask them - get in touch with me if you're not sure where to look for the answers.
Be safe, fellow adventurers!! Some things just can't be avoided, but sooooo many things can, with a little forward thinking.
Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.