Monday, August 22, 2011

The Top Ten Tips for Road Travelers

An early lunch near Salina, Kansas before the temp reached 113.

     There’s nothing like the good ole’ American road trip out west.  The desire to chart unknown territory must be in our genes from the early settlers.  A good vacation trip starts with enthusiasm and a high energy level.  The senses are focused as new worlds appear beyond the humdrum of our everyday lives.
     But soon the long miles become monotonous. Reality sets in.  Problems and dangers lurk beyond the horizon.  For your safety and enjoyment, Gretta and I put together a common sense (but tongue-in-cheek) top ten tips for road travelers.

Top Ten Tips for Road Travelers
by Greg Larson

1.      Plan Ahead
     During the month of August, every town in the western U.S. has special activities to generate civic pride as well as revenue.  Rodeo days, fairs, stampedes and professional bull riding draw the crowds to towns like Calgary, Great Falls, Billings, and Cheyenne.  Thus, hotel reservations should be made well ahead of the planned travel date.  If you forget this small detail, you may have to sleep in your car in the Family Dollar parking lot.  Spending the night at the Tribal Casino is not an option.  You’ll lose both money and sleep.  At that point, the casino breakfast buffet might be too pricey.

2.      Get used to car horns
Honk – honk – honk.  This great nuisance exists in virtually every major parking area, from rest stops to national parks, and from Denny’s to HoJo’s. Instead of getting agitated, celebrate it as a form of entertainment.  When you hear the noise, accept the fact that someone has accidentally hit the button on their electronic key.  There is an extremely remote possibility (no pun intended) that a thief is checking out his new ride.  Live and let live.  Eat dinner at a Texas Roadhouse.  It is so noisy inside that you’ll not hear any of the car horns.

3.      Pack pain meds in large quantities
     Prior to the trip, purchase a mega-size bottle of ibuprofen.  No matter the size of bottle you purchase, you will run out – it’s Larson’s corollary to Murphy’s Law.  When you run out of pills, you’ll have to go to the expensive little pharmacy next to the souvenir shop and shell out eight bucks for twenty-four pills.  You’ll run out again in a couple of days.

4.      Expect adventure during the night
     Road travel is an adventure 24/7.  Be ready for the inherent dangers of walking from your hotel bed to the bathroom in the dark of night.  Plan ahead and review your path before you go to bed.  Place folded towels next to the base of the door jambs.  You don’t want to jam your toe and fall head first, only to wake up the next morning staring at the toilet’s underbelly.

5.      Schedule frequent rest stops
     When the highway sign says “Rest Stop – 2 miles, Next Rest Stop 128 miles,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine the best course of action and take the ramp for the two-miler.  After using the facilities, eat a picnic lunch or a snack under a shade tree.  You might even want to check out the Hoofprint Museum next door, but do so only if all members of your party are passionate about it.  Otherwise, negative energy will manifest itself among those inside the car when you return to the highway.

6.      Pack your favorite music CDs
     Music in the car will enhance your driving experience.  Select your favorite CDs for the enjoyment of all occupants of the car.  But be careful.  If you pop in a Ravi Shankar CD of sitar music, the clouds will begin to look like seahorses, bow ties and crocodiles, and time as a reference will have no meaning.  Five minutes might seem like two hours, or two hours might seem like five minutes.

7.      Sign the Waivers
     When selecting extracurricular activities such as whitewater rafting or the glacier trek, it’s not necessary to read the waivers before you sign them.  It’s all a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo.  Just assume they all say “If you are thinking about a lawsuit against us – Fuhgedaboudit.”

8.      Be Creative
     To make the time pass more quickly in the car, make up stories about the   different towns and geographical features.  Have each person spin a tale about how names like Chugwater, Judith Gap, Shawmut, and Crazy Woman ended up on the map.

9.      Your car might need a tow
     Be sure to have a current AAA membership card, and keep it handy.  It doesn’t matter if your car is new or old.  Our first hand experience was that cars, like people, can have bad gas and get indigestion.  When the car does break down, just hope and pray it is near a city that has AAA towing service and a dealership that is open.  Keep a cooler of cokes on ice in the car.  Otherwise, you might get heat stroke while talking to the fence post or the horse as you wait for the tow truck.

10.  Plan on motorcycle traffic
     When traveling in August on interstate highways that lead to Sturgis, South Dakota, you will encounter heavy motorcycle traffic.  When passing them, give the motorcyclists a wide berth.  Be sure to not make any hand gestures, accidental or otherwise, and be absolutely sure that you don’t make eye contact.  If you do, you might be confronted at the next rest stop by thirty riders clothed in black leather and carrying silver chains.  Things could get ugly.

     If you follow these ten tips, we can guarantee from personal experience that your trip will be an enjoyable and a memorable one.  Take lots of pictures of the tow truck, the Hoofprint Museum and the outlet malls to share with your friends when you return home.  Happy travels!

The AAA card came in handy near Cheyenne, Wyoming