Road trip!

Discussion in 'Travel' started by CelticWhisper, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    So it's finally happened - CW's planning (well, has planned and is finally getting around to posting about) a road trip.

    CW and his other half (whose father and stepmother both work for Southwest Airlines, so understand that this selling her on this was actually rather significant) will be hitting the road for a >2000mi. round trip from Chicago to Houston, leaving Feb. 2 and getting back the following Sunday. Stops along the way include:

    -Visiting CW's brother at college in Jacksonville, IL
    -St. Louis (quick stop for a bite and a rest)
    -Memphis (overnight on the way there)
    -Little Rock (visiting CW's uncle)
    -Hemphill (visiting other half's aunt & uncle, probably stay overnight)
    -And at least Memphis on the way back, other stops as needed.


    I seek advice from my fellow TUGgers on how to make this as positive an experience as possible. My other half is a big fan of air travel and hasn't had problems with TSA, and so we've had some pretty painful (to me, at least - I try not to speak for others) arguments over it in the past. My worst fear is that something will happen to ruin the trip and incentivize flying in the future. I've managed to stay on the ground since June 2010 and want to continue the trend as long as I can. Stating the obvious, but I really, really, seriously do NOT want to have to fly.

    I know many people here are opting for personal road travel now (as opposed to bus or rail), so...have you any suggestions for making the best of the trip?

    -Car is a 2008 Subaru Legacy. Not tiny, but not super-duper spacious either. Have driven and ridden in it and it's generally comfortable. Already had it checked out by mechanic and the only major problem (bad front struts/shocks) is getting fixed as I type this now.
    -Have already thought about music and intend to burn several MP3CDs full of tunes for my shifts behind the wheel (she prefers to sample local radio stations for variety).
    -Am aiming to have at least $1K set aside for emergency expenses. Also have a $1K-limit CC in addition to this.
    -Treated myself to a new Canon Vixia HF M500 camcorder over the holidays so I can chronicle the trip on video. Also have a cig-lighter-to-AC adapter for charging gadgets (car battery is brand-new so load shouldn't be an issue).
    -Car is unmodified apart from new struts being comfort upgrades, so shouldn't have window-tint law problems or anything.

    Anything else I should be aware of? Attractions to see, scenery to look out for, notorious speed-trap locations (I have Trapster POIs loaded onto my GPS, so I should have at least some advance warning. Will probably update them a day or two before we leave), other stuff a Chicagoan should be aware of when going through MO, TN, AR and TX? Been to Houston a few times before so it's not completely alien to me, but will be doing more driving around the area than usual. Might make a day trip to San Antonio if we're feeling up to it.

    Would be happy to liveblog this as well, like I did for the rail trip to Philly, if you guys think it would be useful.

    Thanks, all!
  2. RB

    RB Founding Member

    Wife and I had planned a big multi-state car trip late this past summer but day before departure she ended up in hospital. Circumstances have really made it tough for us to travel by auto although that would be my first choice. Sadly I have booked two flights over the next few months since the car is pretty much out of the question and we don't know how much time may be left for us to travel at all.

    For your trip bad weather could be your worst problem but you won't know that until a day or two before departure. Just be ready to adjust.

    Try to study your route and find a couple of points of interest you could visit if time allows.

    Take a good supply of snacks and drinks but do stop fairly often to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing again.

    Depending on time allowed consider getting off the main roads and seeing a bit of country side. St Louis, BBQ. Memphis, BBQ. Little Rock, eh don't know. Also depnding on time available running on down to Galveston could be a nice side trip.

    I'm guessing your destination is Hemphill TX. There is a Hemphill county but it is all the way over in the panhandle.
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Memphis: Ribs somewhere on Beale St. The Museum of Rock & Roll is nearby if you have time.

    I've done long haul road trips in both an F-250 and a VW beetle. Ten years ago I think it would have been difficult to do it in the Beetle, but now that we've learned to live out of rollaboards , it works fine. The trunk holds both rollaboards , my laptop, and NOTHING more.

    In 2002 we did a long (6,000 km) road trip in Norway with a small rented Ford and four-full size suitcases + 2 smaller carry-on bags; I'd love to repeat the trip but would pack lighter, perhaps 2 rollaboards plus one full-size suitcase.

    Somewhere in there is a medium. For safety/security, it's best to limit yourself to what you can lock out of sight in the trunk, and try not open the trunk where you park it (i.e. don't remind gawkers that there's stuff in there).

    Distance per day: 400 miles or less if you want to stop & see stuff, 500-700 miles just driving. Once you're out of Illinois, you'll find lots of 70+ MPH freeways in this country. :D
  4. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    One website that will help you find lots of weird interesting stuff to see:

    These days I also consider a 'droid with Navigational software an essential for road trips. Plan to exceed your roaming data limit on a long trip.
  5. FetePerfection

    FetePerfection Founding Member Coach

    Did a road trip last month where we usually fly - Minneapolis to St. Louis then onto Kansas City and back. Fortunately we missed a blizzard by one day so the trip was uneventful and actually relaxing. Heading to Dallas in 1 week, then to Houston and back again...this could get addicting, especially since my DL status went from platinum to gold.
  6. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    My definition of "uneventful and actually relaxing" is just about anything that doesn't involve TSA. I'd much rather fly, but as long as TSA's legion of ill-bred Neanderthals continues to infest our airports, forget it. My suitcase is still sitting in our living room, ready to grab & run ... :) ... some day, I hope.
  7. Rugape

    Rugape Original Member

    My parents travel by car the vast majority of the time because they like to see the countryside as they go by. They only have a couple of rules that they follow religiously:

    1. Stop every 2 hours or so to move around, it helps prevent getting over tired and into the "trancelike" state that comes with long drives, it also helps to keep you from getting as stiff.
    2. If you have a smart phone, download the free Pandora radio app, and rate the songs on it for a bit, after a while, the learning software programs music so well that you hardly even notice it is not live radio.
    3. Fill the gas tank up before you get to 1/4 of a tank, this can help prevent any sediment from the tank from entering the fuel lines and engine (this is a good rule at any time, but especially when you are away from home).
    4. Carry a cooler full of your favorite drinks with ice over them, and a bag full of little nabs or other snacks you like - it is cheaper to pay a couple of bucks for a 6 pack, than to pay a couple of bucks for each drink on the road. Also, most motels/hotels have ice machines and you can replace the ice easily along the road.

    Most importantly, have fun!
  8. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    I have heard the BBQ in Memphis borders on legendary. Ms. CW (not married yet but it does kind of roll off the, fingers) will appreciate that. As for me...are they good at BBQing textured vegetable protein? :oops:

    We did do a mini-trip up to Michigan a couple months ago and it served as a nice preview for what we can expect on the road to Houston. I'm figuring there will be rest stops where we can walk around, use the bathroom, switch drivers, etc.

    I have a smartphone but it's the nonconformist Linux nerd's smartphone (Nokia N900) so I'm not sure that Pandora will be available. That said, I do have a LOT of digital music and am active on Encyclopedia Metallum so I'm relatively optimistic about the music situation.

    I do generally try not to let the tank drop below 1/4, especially in the winter. I've never actually had gas freeze on me but I've heard stories of people who have and that's always been enough to convince me to keep an eye on the amount of gas I've got.

    Good call on the cooler. Will make sure to have some ginger ale and/or iced tea at the ready. Of course, that also kinda goes hand-in-hand with needing rest stops with restrooms. :eek:
  9. Monica47

    Monica47 Original Member

    AAA has great free Trip Tiks available online which we use on long car trips. I am an over packer so I usually pack one smaller suitcase with just clothes I need while on the road so I don't have to haul a bigger suitcase for motel stays. My husband and I are older folks so we switch drivers every two hours. We have a 2009 Subaru Legacy and find it most comfortable. One thing we do enjoy is audio books while on the road - you can check them out at your local library. We enjoy mystery books which keep us quite entertained on long trips. Important, at least for us, is we don't get too ambitious about how many miles we "have" to make in a day. Don't get over tired (causes "tension" at least for us) and stay hydrated.
  10. RB

    RB Founding Member

    Having a can of dry gas in the trunk could be a life saver. Years ago traveling through Tennessee during the winter my gas lines froze up and I was lucky to make it to a gas station. Just be prepared for winter weather issues. Extra blanket, good shoes, and such.
  11. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    Also, if you see something interesting or pass by some site of interest, make yourself stop and check it out. I used to drive by the Grand Canyon four times a year, always in a hurry, thinking I'd always have time to see it. Still haven't seen it.
  12. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    It seems like you have everything covered, and everyone has given great advice. Do you have a first aid kit in the car? Glow sticks or other blinky lights if you break down at night? Spare tire?

    Other than the safety stuff, things that I've found useful are carrying more than enough music (of different genres), more than enough iced tea, and snacks. For longer road trips, I make sure I have my favorite comfortable clothes.
  13. RB

    RB Founding Member

    I would add one thing. Take paper maps. A ton of other good info contained in a typical atlas. I know, so 1950's.
  14. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Good call - I should probably invest in an emergency flashlight and first-aid kit. We have a kit at home we might just bring with us, but the light is one thing I hadn't considered. I assume you mean one of those flashlight/strobe/flare combo units?

    I should also think about comfy clothes. I usually wear (nice, black) jeans or cargo pants, so that should probably do, but I'll have to think about shirts. It'll be cold when we leave but get progressively warmer. Hmm..

    I have a spare tire but it's not full-size. My tires are only about a year old, though, and my mechanic rotated them when I had the front struts replaced. Brakes are new too.

    RB - I have a State Farm road atlas in the car. My mother works for the company and the last agent she worked with gave them out like candy.
  15. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    Those are good too. I was actually thinking about glow sticks though. They're really bright and last a long time. Cheap too. It's funny, they use them on Amtrak -- they call them 'snap lights' -- I'd never heard them called that before.

    Even one warm shirt will do. You'll thank yourself. Do you guys have an REI anywhere nearby? They make warm, lightweight & easily packable things.

    You're probably good on that front. :)

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