[ Beneath the Waves ]

Recommendations For Driving

article by Ben Lincoln


I've been on two long (>4000 mile) and a number of medium-length (>1000, but <4000 mile) drives now. Here are my recommendations based on my experiences so far:

When to Travel

There's a good reason that the summer months are the most popular time for vacationing: the daylight hours are longer. I went on my first drive at the end of October 2006, and even though I was on the road by sunrise, it was a constant challenge to fit everything in before sunset. In addition, many places of interest have reduced services after late September, and some are closed entirely during winter months. Even if one of your destinations is open, the roads to it may not be depending on weather conditions.

There are certainly some amazing sights to be seen in the other three seasons; my recommendation would be to visit them individually as opposed to doing a long drive, unless most of your destinations are indoors.

One potential advantage of ignoring this advice is that during the colder months, most potentially-dangerous wildlife will be hibernating, or at least staying in its den/cave/tunnel. My 2006 drive was through many states with supposedly enormous rattlesnake populations, but I never saw any.

What to Bring

Optional Things to Bring

What Not to Bring

Things to Remember

1. The advice I always give regarding snakes is to think of them like cats, because even though they look very different they have similar interests (eating mice, finding warm places to curl up, knocking things over, getting into places you'd rather they didn't) and similar dislikes (being harassed, getting caught unnoticed under-foot). Obviously one important difference is that there are no cats with deadly venom, but generally if you keep your eyes open and give them a wide berth when you do see them, they won't cause you any trouble. Constrictors don't have venom at all and are fond of wrapping themselves around people for warmth, but it will still hurt considerably if they bite you, and like cats they are quick to assume they should bite something.
2. The exclamation point really is part of the company name.
3. The Synergy 40 was discontinued years ago, which is a shame because they are incredibly lightweight and compact when packed for carrying - about half the size of a typical sleeping bag. The "40" refers to the minimum temperature at which the sleeping bag will keep its occupant comfortably warm. I've used mine successfully in below-freezing weather by wearing additional layers of clothing.
4. The power in watts is calculated by multiplying together the voltage potential (12 for automotive electrical systems) and the current in amperes. So for a circuit whose fuse is 15 amps, (12V x 15A) = 180 watts. Again, this is idealized, so don't try to actually draw 180 watts continuously from such a circuit.
5. Gas stations are also very infrequent in the midwest, which of course is quite different than with Top Gear's London-to-Edinburgh run. Filling up at every major city is a good idea, especially if you're driving after dark.
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