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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Alright, I've notice many of you seem to have an issue with driving long distances (or maybe I'm just insane, and love driving cross country?). So I put together a little planner for how to run a good cross country trip.

1. Where are you going? Google map it. Seriously. Look at where you are going on a map. Be it Bing maps, or Google maps, or a good ol' fashion atlas, but look at a map. Why? Because if you look at a map now, you won't be as lost when something happens. Note the places that could be confusing (for example, the loop around Moline/Davenport on I-80. If you're not paying attention, it's easy to end up going north or south instead of east or west.)

2. Go buy a map. You think I'm kidding here too. I'm not. A map will get you out of places that your GPS doesn't know exist. This way, if there is say, flooding on I-70 in Colorado, you can either a) plan ahead and skip that portion, or b) take a scenic route through Colorado when you get to the flooded portion. Your GPS is a backup, for when you can't find yourself on a map. There is no reason to rely on a computer all the way across the country. None.

3. Pick a departure time. This is more important than you may think. You have to take a fair amount into consideration than you think. For a start, when do you want to arrive at where you are going? Are you going to be travelling through any major cities? Traffic along the way is something that most folks forget about. For example, driving from Pittsburgh, PA to Golden, CO, you pass through the southern end of the Chicago nightmare. Chi town is 6 hours from Pittsburgh. Since Chicago traffic sucks during the morning and afternoon rush hour(s), you'll want to avoid those times, say 7-9 am and 4-6 pm. So now we know that we don't want to leave Pittsburgh between 11 am and 1 pm, or between 2 am and 4 am (remember time zones too!). Also, we know that it is about 24 hours to Denver, and their rush hour sucks too, we'll want to avoid that too. Say, 7 am to 9 am, and 4pm to 6 pm again. That means that we do not want to leave Pittsburgh between 9 and 11 am, or 4 and 6 pm. My personal favorite time for leaving on that trip is about 2:30 pm. You end up in Denver for lunch the next day.

4. Watch you "Circadian Rhythms." What does this mean? It means don't leave when you are tired. And when you are tired, sleep. Don't screw around with driving when you are exhausted, it's just not worth it. Knowing how you work is the most important thing here. For example, I know that I can do 4-5 hour stretches in the car before I need to get out and stretch. Beyond that, I'm good for about 18 hours of driving before I need a nap. That gets me to my next point:

5. Take a nap when you need it! After 18 hours, I need a nap. That gets me to about Mid Nebraska. That's where I find me a rest stop, and take me a 5 hour nap.

6. Quit Caffeine. Sure, it keeps you awake for a little while. More important is to stay awake and attentive for a long period of time. Drink water. They will keep you awake longer than drinking too much coffee. You also won't have to stop to pee as often.

7. Snacks: Eat healthy snacks, like grapes, carrots, apples, etc. As Aireeca suggested as well, challenging snacks WILL keep you awake. Sunflower seeds, cherries, etc. they also give you longer "bursts" of energy, without the crash that sugar or caffeine does. Eating healthy goes a LONG way on a long trip

8. Music/Sound. Bring as much music as you can, if you're into that. Some are, some aren't. My personal choice for long trips is books on tape. Yeah, it sounds nerdy as hell. But, if you get a good book going, one that you're really into, when you stop at rest stops, you'll sit in the car until a good break point (i've done that many times). So go to the library, find your favorite author, and borrow a book on tape (ok, most are on CD's these days, so rip it to your iPod and jam out). If you don't have AC, and you're doing a trip in the summer, earplugs can be a wise choice as well. Not headphones, or earbuds; those are illegal. Get a set or two (you'll lose a few) of foam earplugs. The buffetting of the wind can do real damage to your ears if you allow it for long periods of time. Ever get that ringing in your ears after a concert? You've just lost the ability to hear a certain frequency of sound. The same thing happens from the wind. So put in your earplugs, and blast that book on tape.

9. Vehicle Preparation, you all know about that, but please, feel free to add more!

That'll work for now, maybe i'll add some as i think of it.
 

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I made this a sticky - these are good pointers. I know I am guilty of not doing things the "right" way anymore due to sheer laziness - but they are key for getting from point A to B safely and efficiently. Good post!
 

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As a veteran of no small plans myself (as well as a 12-14 hour roadtrip next week), these are all good points. Especially the sugar/caffeine ones. I'm addicted to both but they only give you small pops of energy.

My strategy, especially for solo trips, is to have a mind-challenging snack - in-shell sunflower seeds you have to crack, fruits you have to peel, etc. It's better for you and gets your mind out of the road zone.

Also, the departure time is key. I'm a big fan of going to bed around 9 p.m. and then leaving around 3 a.m. the next morning. Why? Well, there's not much traffic on the roads then and I know how my mind works. Driving with the expectation of dawn's arrival is much better for me than driving hours and hours and hours past sunset when there's no big "event" to look forward to.

Oh, another thing - if you don't plan to sleep in your car, at least scope out some of the towns along your route and have a ballpark idea of what they charge for lodgings. Otherwise, you might find yourself hunting for a cheap hotel in the land of very, very expensive places to stay.

And, finally, I'll say this - geography isn't for everyone. If the idea of such a journey stresses you out too much, stay home, take the train or fly. If the roads were only filled with people who like driving, the world would be a much happier place.
 

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My strategy, especially for solo trips, is to have a mind-challenging snack - in-shell sunflower seeds you have to crack, fruits you have to peel, etc. It's better for you and gets your mind out of the road zone.
While I have not so recently done very long trips 11-15hr trips happened a few times a year while going to CT to MI.

I agree with everything said above. Especially with the snacks. I hardly ever chew gum but do a lot on long trips, takes the mind of the mundane.

Also agree with b dash. My car is full of gatorade and stuff like that. Now I don't drink coffee anyway, but I even try to stay away from sodas. Having a half drifted out state of mind is deadly. If you are tired, pull over. 1hr nap is worth more than your life, and worse, someone elses. It's happened. Even people on this board have fallen asleep at the wheel.

I have also noticed that I personally have to have a lot of music, and music that I know. I can rock out and choose the music, radio doesn't cut it.

Another thing that I do while driving is work to get the best MPG out of the car, based on the SID. Try to get 500 miles safely out of the tank. Since this keeps a consistent effort, it helps pass the time.
 

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An important thing for me is to have a good mix of songs. I make it a wild mix of tunes, everything goes in there: rock, metal, techno, ambient, country, EBM, classic, hip hop, salsa, Korean heavy metal, Finnish punk rock, some polka, Brazilian pop, etc. If you listen to the same beat over and over you get tired. Having an eclectic mix helps you stay awake, as the beat is always changing.

Also, have as many songs as you can that you know the lyrics and can sing out loud in the car when the road gets boring. Sure, you may look like an idiot belching out "Rockaway Beach" by the Ramones at 70 mph, but you are an awake idiot.

Vary your speed from time to time. Go at 65 for a few miles, accelerate to 70-80 for longer periods, when you are brave and the road is clear do a few 100+ mph stints (especially out West). Your awareness levels change with your speed and that helps you stay awake and aware for the overall journey.

Change your windows too: open them all, them close them, open the sunroof, then close it, drive with one window open, the rest closed, etc. The change in cabin wind pattern and noise level helps out.

As you can see above I find that variation helps me stay awake in a long road trip.
 

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We do alot of cross country trips too. Just in the last 2 weeks my daughter flew to Houston TX and drove back to Iowa City, my wife flew to Orlando FL anddrove back to IC then turned around and flew to NJ and drove back. For us the necesities are: Cell phone with national coverage, good cell phone car charger, up to date atlas, GPS, and a credit card. The cars we drive back are aution cars and when we get there it is the first time we've actually seen them. We take a soft sided cooler and hit up a Walgreens/Wall Mart and buy water to drink also. We also watch what we eat too. We try and do a GOOD breakfast and better snaks (sunflower seeds, fruit, ect) I have found that any heavy eating will bring on the drowies alot quicker.

Another thing for us that we do is check a bag with a few very basic tools, air guage, torx drivers, pliers, assorted screws, wire ties, wire, at least 1 razor blade. This has pulled our ass's out of the fire more times than we would like to remember.
 

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And JB Weld Kwik. Can't forget that. ;)

As for in-car entertainment, nothing beats Turbo Dog, especially if a tanker truck is nearby. Boy, she loves to bark at those. :roll:

But since she is spending time in Chicago with my parents, I try to have a good variety - known playlists, podcasts (if you're a fan of the Kevin Smith universe, Tell 'em Steve-Dave is my new fav), a Cb radio, if available, and the true pinnacle of geekdom - AM radio at night. The signal carries really far. And it's neat (and mind-engaging) to figure out where a particular station is coming from.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I like the idea of "challenging snacks" as well. I ate cherries from chicago to denver one year. Spitting seeds out keeps your mind working.

Good point on the CB radio too, if you don't have one, go spend 50-100 bucks on a basic set up. Truckers like to keep everyone posted on cop locations, and where to buy the best porn (or random discussions of midget porn...). And along the line of trucks, be nice to them, if you see one that wants to move over, give him some space, and flash your lights to signal him over. If he blinks his back at you when he moves over, thats a thank you. Be nice to them, they'll be nice to you, i promise!

also, edited first post with some extras
 

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I just finished my end of summer road trip from NC >NH >NC, and I wanna give a +1 to the OP's pointers.

I used to do the 16hr. drive in one big push, but now that my sister lives in DC, it's nice to be able to break the trip up.
 

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I've driven CC 5x and done SoCal to Boulder, CO (1000 mi) another dozen. I love road trips. Do some of my best thinking out there (which isn't saying much...)
 

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Wow! This is by far the best post in the forums! And the timing couldn't be better as I am preparing for one. Thanks all for the ideas and tips! :)

EDIT: Can I generally sleep in my car? I mean, is it allowed? Where? Not at the edge of the Interstate of course, but what about rest areas at the state border lines?
 

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EDIT: Can I generally sleep in my car? I mean, is it allowed? Where? Not at the edge of the Interstate of course, but what about rest areas at the state border lines?
It varies by state. Some states don't mind, some do. Most rest areas have signs posted stating the time limit. If in doubt, ask the attendant, if there is one on duty.
 

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EDIT: Can I generally sleep in my car? I mean, is it allowed? Where? Not at the edge of the Interstate of course, but what about rest areas at the state border lines?
Wal-Mart allows it in their parking lots.
 

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Another thing that I do while driving is work to get the best MPG out of the car, based on the SID. Try to get 500 miles safely out of the tank. Since this keeps a consistent effort, it helps pass the time.
haha I do this all the time on the way to school and back. Sometimes it gets interrupted by a ricer however...

All good points, longest I have driven in a day was 8 hours I think (to buy the NG). But I do 3 hour trips very often.
 

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I'm a veteran of marathon road trips, mostly work related.

I've gotten up at 6am on a Friday, worked 8+ hours then jump into a truck and drive overnight to Florida, do a delivery, turn around and start heading north. The dark hours overnight are the worst, but when I start to see the sun rise I get my second(or third) wind.

The last one I did was about this time last year. On the way home I made it as far as Cleveland, TN when the lights of the outskirts of Chattanooga faded behind me it was like someone turned off my energy supply. Then it became a test to see if I could stay awake until I reached a decent hotel.

I've done Grand Junction, CO to Cincinnati, OH in less than 20 hours and Raveena, Italy to Esbjerg, Denmark in 17 hours. On that trip I did the last 300 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes.
 

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RI to Montana used to take me 3 days at 15hrs/day. I did that trip 10 times. "Book on CD" Lord of the Rings was excellent on CD. I had the trilogy and the Hobbit. Best thing about the cd was if I was to daydream and miss a part I could just go back a few tracks (3min each). 4 trips done in 1988 900S. 6 done in 1988 SPG. The SPG was much better climbing the passes in MT. Most of the trips I had my dog who was better company then a few people I had with me during some of the trips. After 15hrs I got a cheap motel room. The first few times I slept in the car. It sucked but it was free. Lacross WI to RI in 24hrs no stopping except gas/pee (I was tired after that leg)
 

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Good call on the CB radio, its handy to have. Saved my butt from numerous tickets, and as b-dash said, provides entertainment you can't find anywhere else.
 

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Having an atlas and GPS is great. I always try to get a good google map in my head before I leave as well.

Over Christmas break I drove us all 2500 miles of it or so. I have been good at long drives since I was 12 and had to spend 10+ hours driving heavy farm equipment that screwing up meant big money or injury.

Good tips in this thread, I am a coffee drinker and actually tend to drink a little less coffee in the car than at work. Books on tape are awesome, as are NPR and podcasts.
 

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Awesome tips.

I'm a vet of Boston-to-Fort Lauderdale blasts, just stopping to gas and pee. The tip about apples and other natural snacks is excellent.
 
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