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.
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.
- 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.
- How to change a tire.
- Maintain a full tank of gas and bottled water in the front of the vehicle.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your cell phone charged. Check in with someone daily (preferably the same person).
- 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.
- Get off road. Yes you can do that without 4-wheel drive. See #1.
- 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. **
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