Traveling seems to be part of life in America, and these days taking a cross-country road trip is common. But there’s more to it than just hopping in the car and driving off. Regardless of the distance, remembering five tips for a safe journey will help reach your destination safely.
Years ago after I graduated college in Rhode Island, I got the notion in my head to drive more than 1,000 miles to Atlanta in July to look for work. The car I had was old — a 1982 Ford Escort four-speed — and I had bought it well-used. This was a major two-day road trip, and the mistake I made was not having a mechanic check the car out thoroughly. I made it to Atlanta, but not without having the car’s transmission act up on the interstate and the air conditioner stop working.
A Driving Buddy
During that same road trip, to my credit I took a friend along with me instead of going alone. Driving long-distance requires frequent breaks to avoid fatigue, and it’s a good idea to take turns at the wheel. One person drives a few hundred miles or for an hour or two, then pulls into a rest stop and lets the other person take over. Frequent breaks to stretch your legs make sitting in the car for long periods of time easier to take.
Ironically enough, when my older brother was in college he decided to take the same kind of road trip as I did, only it was from Atlanta to Rhode Island, it was in April and he drove a motorcycle. It was springtime in Atlanta but still winter in Rhode Island, with snow and ice everywhere. As the story was recounted to me years later, halfway on the journey his bike started leaking oil and he hit icy bridges on the way up. He made it successfully, but the trip would’ve been less stressful if he had scheduled it for a later date or packed his bags according to the weather.
Planning your Route
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably never get there. Back before GPS devices and MapQuest, using spiral-bound triptiks prepared in advance by the American Automobile Association was a handy way to stay on course. It was the size of a reporter’s notebook, it had your route marked in red ink and it alerted you when toll booths and construction sites were coming up. Nowadays GPS devices interactively direct you back on course when you take a wrong turn or get hopelessly lost.
Staying Entertained on the Road
Traveling is more fun when you can stop and visit cool places you see advertised, although the attractions depend on the season and where you’re going. With kids in the car, the stops will be different than if it were all adults. With very young ones it’s best to allow extra time to get where you’re going, take frequent bathroom breaks and have plenty of snacks and games on hand. That used to mean mom would need to pack crossword puzzles or books, but now there’s onboard electronic entertainment from a variety of sources.
Whether you’re driving down the east coast, touring the Midwest or headed up the west coast and crossing the border into Canada, a cross-country road trip can be fun, as long as you stay safe. In the 1992 Joe Pesci film “My Cousin Vinny,” the two hapless teens needed rescuing after their road trip went horribly wrong. With a little research and advance planning, you needn’t find yourself in the same predicament.