Ride Review: Summer Getaways

Photo by Randy Stern.

Photo by Randy Stern.

You are planning a getaway. Let me be the first to congratulate you for doing so.

No, seriously, we love to travel. It is our way to participate in what the world offers us. When we travel, we certainly do it in style. That includes travel by automobile.

It is not just us that love automobile travel. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the United States Department of Transportation, 35.5 Million American traveled by car during the Independence Day holiday in 2012. That figure represents 84% of all travel during the same period. We certainly have our summer cut out for us, do we not?

Travel by automobile has its advantages. You get to see things on ground level. If you have passengers, they will most likely see more than you. You have to do the driving, but you would also know where to stop if your passengers decided it was time to see the sights closeup and personal. You also have control of the audio, the climate control, and the actual direction of the vehicle toward your particular destination. Plus, you can go and stop anytime you want.

No waiting in lines for security, either, unless you travel into California where they ask if you brought in fruit or other plant life deemed unworthy of consumption inside the state. Or, you need to cross a border into another country, such as Canada.

Let us not forget that you take anything you want with you in your automobile, within legal reason. The 3-3-1 rule goes out the window as you pack all the creams, gels, and liquids in your bags that you normally would not travel with in the air. You can pack anything that would beep through a metal detector or an x-ray scanner. Plus, there are tents, sleeping bags, hand drums, dogs of any size, and every bit of clothing you might think you could wear during your adventure.

Photo by Randy Stern.

Photo by Randy Stern.

The only time you could get into trouble is if you over-packed a very small car. Do you need to bring two massive suitcases into a sports car? You are staying at a bed and breakfast…

There is definitely something about the freedom of traveling by automobile. The idea of you and your loved one taking the road to parts unknown and discovering things you might not encounter at home. Such as down home hospitality, better prepared food, and a lower food bill. You may have found a treasure at some shop that you would think no one would have.

Traveling for two is quite easy by car, also. If you have hours to go on the road, your loved one would take turns driving with you. There is no exact formula as to how many hours behind the wheel one should take. If one could pull a few hours behind the wheel, the other could easily take over for any length of time. One would hope this would not become a point of contention and argument, but rather a loving collaboration to get to your destination safely.

Safety is indeed a consideration. If you drive to, say, the Badlands or Chicago, you are faced with a lot of hours of Interstate driving. The only tip to expound here is to simply know your limits. Can you drive long distance without fatigue? What about your loved one’s limits? Between the two of you is a safe drive to your destination, considering “shifts” behind the wheel and making stops along the way to eat, hydrate, and relax.

Or, you could be like me, a solo traveler. There are no statistics available distinguishing the percentage of solo travelers in comparison to couples, families, and groups. But, we do exist.

The challenge for solo travelers exposes our own strengths and weaknesses. We have to make our own plans understanding our own limits in getting behind the wheel for any length of time. We have to find ways to entertain ourselves. Yet, we are on our own—freedom multiplied.

If there is an advantage to automobile travel, it is the level of technology available within reach of our fingertips. The preferable form of technology would be on board your automobile. Consider the wonders of using Bluetooth to call ahead for reservations or to play your favorite tracks on your audio system. If you get lost, you have a navigation screen available to see your way to wherever you need to go. If your vehicle is not equipped with any of these technological marvels, you could always set up or smartphone to do these functions or go to an electronics shop to have these ready at your whim.

There is a catch to all of this technology. There has been a lot said about curtailing distracted driving. As much as we want to text our friends, use certain apps to, well, do almost the same thing, or put our phones up to our ears instead of using the Bluetooth connection, some people are watching you. If last month’s dragnet by Minnesota law enforcement agencies were any indicator of the crackdown on distracted driving, you may want to rethink using your mobile device on the road.

Here is my suggestion: Get a Bluetooth connection going, even if it means an wearing an earpiece on the road, if legal in the state you are driving in. Otherwise, leave the texting and the app play for when you actually stop the car. No text is worth averting your eyes off the road—seriously.

And, please, no selfies when driving. Thank you.

Yes, this is all tongue-in-cheek, but there is a message behind all of this. There are considerations for safety, some trip planning and other pieces of wonderful advice to make your summer automobile getaway enjoyable, yet you simply just need to have fun. Don’t stress over the little things. If you forgot to book a hotel, there are ways to get them cheaper than what they advertise. Have a flat tire and need roadside assistance, there are plenty of resources to help right at your fingertips.

Just get out there and take to the road! Oh, and you’re welcome.

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