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10 Tips for a Fearless Solo Road Trip

If you begin “My son and I began our first solo road trip…”,  you’ve yet to take one.  Solo=alone.  No one. Not even a dog.  People stretch the meaning because they really can’t go it alone so anything less than another adult in the vehicle, qualifies.  Never sign a contract with someone given to such leaps.

There is much to fear alone on the open road – mostly the person you see in the mirror, but that’s a topic to broach with your psychoanalyst.  If you’re like me you’ll skip the outrageous bill, take the SRT plunge, and wonder why everyone doesn’t fire his or her shrink.

In Rear View

For fears of which you can’t be blamed, there are things you can do to control them.  Understand they can’t be eliminated. Cars break down and tires go flat.  If you’re okay with that, the adventure of a lifetime awaits you.  If not, take someone with you. Just don’t call it a solo road trip.

The first eight of these are about limiting risk.  There’s more you can do than this list, like a AAA membership. But that’s only good as long as you have cell service.  The more you rely on outside factors, the less control you maintain, which diminishes your ability to reduce fear factors.  Less, diminish, reduce – all used within one sentence to send a message – learn how to change your own tire. I’m an experienced SRT’er so I occasionally put the truck places I shouldn’t, hike into places I shouldn’t.  I’d prefer not to die a painful death, but I want to enjoy life a bit as it flashes past.  And so we all make choices.  Make good decisions based on your own knowledge/experience base.

No, I don’t carry a gun.

  1. Know how to drive.  It’s more than keeping the car between the ditches.  Do you know when to shift into a lower gear? If you’ve got 4-wheel drive, can you shift into it at any point or does the vehicle need to be at a certain speed?  How about shifting out of it? In North Dakota last November I drove into a snow bank that was much deeper than I expected (in an attempt to turn around).  The only way out was reverse in 4-wheel low.  Once free of the snowbank, I couldn’t get out of 4-wheel low.  Confusion.  Resorted to manual.  Some of knowing how to drive is experience; some is simply knowing what all the buttons mean on your dash.
  2. How to change a tire.
  3. Maintain a full tank of gas and bottled water in the front of the vehicle.
  4. Don’t drink an alcoholic beverage unless it’s for dinner in the hotel you’re staying or you’re having a night cap in the room.  Obviously drinking and driving is a no-no, but a loose tongue in the wrong place has equal potential for disaster.  See #8.
  5. Find lodging before dark.  Doesn’t mean you have to call it a day. Just secure a place to stay; then you’re free to explore the local area as long as you want.  See #4 and #8.
  6. Wear a seat belt at all times.  It won’t save your ass if you drive off a mountain but it will provide protection in most other cases.
  7. Keep your cell phone charged. Check in with someone daily (preferably the same person).
  8. Don’t talk to strangers.  A tricky one. The people I meet are a big part of open road adventures.  Use good judgment.  My daily routine while traveling is to awaken early and go to bed with the chickens.  This translates to striking up conversation with people over breakfast or lunch and becoming more insular as the day progresses.  To no one do I give much information about where I’m headed.  When around others, pump gas and order dinner with confidence; at all times send the signal you’re in control.  I will not go to a bar. I avoid other strays even early in the day.
  9. Get off road. Yes you can do that without 4-wheel drive.  See #1.
  10. Before you leave home practice saying “holy shit”, varying the emphasis and inflection. You’ll use it in a lot of varied applications.

** This article is mine.  Feel free to link to it, but any republishing without my consent will find me on your doorstep.  Fear that. **

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Other how-to SRT related posts:

Road Trip Coffee Can Survival Kit

3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

Take a Solo Road Trip!

Solo Road Trip Safety

Just for fun:

Road Trip Badges of Honor

One of Those Suckers

June 30, 2015 - Behind The Wheel

On a Tuesday in June without announcement my back went out, the sort of going out that ends with the news of a ruptured disk, sends your spouse to the guest bed for a week, and garners an enlightened understanding of drugs that fall in the respective categories of the good shit and the not so good shit.  Minor care emergency doctors dispense the kind that shoo you out the door with a naively hopeful belief you’ve side-stepped a visit to the real doctor. Avoid them. Head straight to the real doctor, the one that knows you and isn’t afraid to prescribe the knock you on your ass drugs, with a refill for good measure. At times like this, know your true friends.

For my siblings and me as kids, June meant a road trip with surrogate parents (and their two children) – a couple, of no relation who positively contributed to the arduous and long suffering job of converting cretins to socially responsible individuals.  My first travel related memories are due them; the love of road trips surely rooted in those early journeys in the back of a camper-hull-domed-pick-up-truck headed to the likes of unimaginably distant, exquisitely exotic specters of Knott’s Berry Farm and Silver Dollar City via America’s original Holiday Inn, the KOA campground circuit.

The world beyond the ranch to young country bumpkins was an impressive stretch of man-made sensory overload and vibrant, uber pigment-saturated kitsch. The love of road trips stuck. Check on the camping as well. The awe of man made currency denominated achievement however, reversed itself with whiplash gusto, becoming an uber repulsion by the time I took control of my own road trip machine. For the next 18 years, a laughing, saucer eyed boy ensured June’s reign as the year’s first opportunity for a non-family related, purely for pleasure, road trip.

All American Summer Break Road Trip, classic style

In my drug induced deliriously pain free fog, the nostalgic memory of June’s past began its march. Oh how I’d love one of those color swirled round suckers the size of a tractor tire, or a town pennant like the one I brought home with Intercourse, Pennsylvania on it. Surrogate Dad thought it a riot. Real Dad not so much. Despite the glorious passing of several years since June’s death-clutch on the road trip ended with my son’s exit for college, there’s apparently such a thing as mental muscle memory when stoked by good drugs.

Tears stream as I sorrowfully pounce on the fact there can’t be a road trip this June because woe is me I’m not able. And oh God, let’s throw more fuel on this roaring pity party, maybe not even in July or way more tears, August.

Please don’t attempt comfort by reminding me I strive to never travel in June, July or August in order to avoid the drones of people forced to the roads in these particular months. Just because I can’t stand the bumbling crowds, the sniveling kids, the oppressive heat;  just because I sneer at station wagons, flip off grandparents slowing down to not miss the theme park exit, glare at pick up trucks with unsecured passengers in the back, and honk at anyone I see pointing at stupid things…doesn’t mean I no longer believe in the wholesome goodness of the American summer break road trip.

It simply means I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid them.  Unless of course I’m flat on my back, down and out, not physically able, couldn’t drive into the sweating surge of humanity if my solo road trip arrogant self depended on it.  Then I just want some sympathy.  And one of those suckers.

Dogwood City, Arkansas. Wow.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Late, For Nowhere in Particular

Rolling down some back-road cloaked in the bliss of anonymity, one arm in contact with the wheel at the point that encourages my wrist to flop carefree at the end of it, head bobbling to a slow rhythmic beat that doesn’t match my rousing vocal accompaniment to Life is a Highway that’s cranked up so loud it’s oozing from the Yukon like displaced mortar, I come across this.

Signifying a certain arm flex to the grinding pressure of today’s world, a ballsy show of throwing caution to the wind, a take-this-job-and-shove-it head toss, THIS is temptation.  If you look at it with just the right tilt of your head, you’ll get the same glint in your eyes.  Selling everything I own would enable the purchase of a few acres in any number of states, on which I could move or build a small house, delivering my bobbling head into town once a week for provisions in this.

Run Away From Home!

I don’t succumb. Others in my life would highly disapprove and I highly value these others.  I photograph the Ford and pull back onto the road with a slow-mo melodrama moving frame by frame through my brain. It conveniently loops from the part that shows me walking up to the house, knocking on the door, engaging the owner in negotiations, taking the keys from them and driving away into the sunset in that truck.  My melodramas never include the pragmatic part about what I’d do with all my crap in the Yukon, the Yukon, the exchange of titles, discussing what oil the Ford uses, insurance, etc.

Not many of us ever throw this degree of caution to the wind. But who among us hasn’t entertained the thought of running away from home, even if it’s for a mere few harmless days?  It’s a bit risque and for the first time in my long history of SRTs I see it for that. You’re out there by the droves sending me emails  about the longing to get out there. I fully understand the longing. Few things in our lives are as liberating, empowering, and rejuvenating as a solo road trip.

So I ask all of you with latent and repressed open road wanderlust sitting at home fantasizing about the cloak of anonymity, arm draped over the wheel, or resting lightly on handle bars, aren’t you late, for nowhere in particular?

Camp-Out Cooking

May 21, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
netting one
netting one

As the final camping/glamping post (for awhile), listed below are a few items recommended to be on your camp-out cooking grocery list along with some tips and a select few ‘recipes’ that are practically fail-safe. Here’s a quick reference to all the posts in the Camping series:

See the hard work below? It’s not always possible to 1) do this safely – this guy’s a pro, or 2) have an open fire due to drought/burn bans.  If you can’t have a fire, memorize this word: resourceful.

During the winter I roast hot dogs at home over my gas cooktop. So the trip’s not bust just because of a burn ban.

hard work

Wyoming Campsite

Wyoming Campsite

I made a comment in the post A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt that is not really accurate.  To be diplomatic, instead of stating that camping and cooking don’t mix (which is my opinion), the correct statement would be that I camp to get away from every-day activities, cooking being one of them.

If you spend a lot of time cooking in camp, you can’t do these activities:

Fishing but not really

Fishing but not really

DSC00173

Preparing to arm wrestle – psyching out the opponent

serious napping

serious napping

not so serious napping

not so serious napping

posing

posing

sending a campmate to timeout

sending a campmate to timeout

gazing

gazing

pretending you're a circus performer on stilts

pretending you’re a circus performer on stilts

So if you don’t want to be staked (pun intended HA!) to the kitchen machine, take heed:

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A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

May 9, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
No I didn't

-20 F. Film shatters. Digital rebels.

By the time the fire got its lick of the sugary ooze it was too late to save it.  The entire glob let go, the creamy interior flashing briefly as it separated from the blackened gossamer crust crashing one then the other into a gooey splat. Cum-candy gone wrong. Not the happy ending I’d anticipated. Humpty Dumpty’s poem always breaks in at this, the first marshmallow to hit the skids.  Since it looks like a bird took a crap, the Humpty Dumpty trigger is obviously a mis-wire somewhere in the psyche.  It screws up the camping vibe until a waft of molten sugar belch reaches my nose freeing my brain from the HD song long enough to refocus on the sloppy technique that caused the mishap.

Backyard Fire Pit

Campfire Cooking

All that passionate effort, the perfectly timed tiny puffs aimed to put the fire out but not dislodge the softening bolster pillow mass;

salty beads of sweat banding together into a trickle down my forehead as my hand and the stick turn,

dip and contort in order to keep the object intact, the anticipation of the ritual touch to the lips

ooh too hot twirl a few times then back for the final plunge, and now, the indistinguishable charred remains could just as well be calf nuts on the crackling coals.

Camp Cookery

Camp Cooking Essentials

All for what you ask?  Another go of course.  Losing one or three or ten is part of the ritual.

The whippet of green branch is even better prepared now that the tip’s coated with a sticky clump.  It’s like giving someone your hand as they slip from a 10 story window ledge – it’s hopeless but it makes you both feel better in the moment.

The next marshmallow victim has something to cling to as you begin another intricate dance. That’s how it goes roasting marshmallows – casualties are high but the payoff memorably delicious.

A lot of dancing takes place in camp cooking.  Unlike Fred and Ginger, the results are cluggy, less than perfectly orchestrated processes that aren’t much to look at, generally requiring resourcefulness and a willingness to be happy with something under or over-cooked, sometimes even unrecognizable.

Camp Kitchen

camp kitchen

One needs to be willing to oohh and ahhh over anything cooked over an open fire regardless how shitty it turns out.

That may be what camping is all about,,,,

being happy and grateful for your own mediocrity and learning to deal with it.

Which is why camping and cooking in my opinion don’t go together.  Those of us that cook at home need on-staff camp therapists because it’s hard to handle the fact you can poach a perfect egg in your home kitchen but even your scrambled eggs out here would bounce from the nearest pavement [20 miles away].  High tech with one of those heat seeking digital read out guns?  It’ll be accurate. But a smidgen either side of that spot might be 100 degrees different.  Good luck with that.

Uigher Woman Carrying Water

Uigher Woman Carrying Water – Lots of dishes = you doing this

You can buy a camp-cook recipe book but you’ll find a lot of things skewered (the veges will wind up in the fire next to the marshmallows and it’s damn messy handling the food without running water), delicate food items packaged into neat little bundles of aluminum foil to be thrown onto a fire you have no idea the temperature of, to be timed at 15.5 minutes but oh wait you left your wrist watch at home (the proper thing to do by the way), and things like muffins and eggs cooked in an orange shell.  Don’t know about you but when I cook in a less than stable environment I prefer to see the food as its cooking/smoldering/burning.

And I don’t cook in camp things I wouldn’t make at home like anything in a friggin’ orange shell.

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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