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Long Distance Driving Tips

I recently took a long road trip - 3,000 miles - and did all the driving. Here are a few tips that occured to me in the Carolinas.

My version of a vacation is picking a couple of destinations, renting a car, and going. I like my vacations to be sort of off the cuff. While it adds a bit to the stress factor during the vacation, I can't be accused of planning my vacation more carefully than my finances. Here are some tips I thought of at around 2,300 miles somewhere in the Carolinas.

That's it. I may think of more, but these are the ones that occured to me while travelling. e-mail me to add a tip or dispute one. I'll credit you if I add it to the list.

Niki9 writes:
One thing that's helped me stay awake if I'm starting to get sleepy when I drive... fresh air. Turn that air conditioner off & open the window if the gum chewing, soda drinking, music-playing isn't doing it for you.

Also, sometimes listening to music I find slightly annoying helps to keep me up. I know it's strange to do something to purposely make your trip less pleasant, but at least it isn't as unpleasant as being woken up by the lamp post you just drove into in your sleep.

Of course, ideally it's better to sleep and just drive when you don't have to resort to such tactics to stay awake, but situations aren't always ideal.


Niki - Normally I'd agree with you about opening your windows, and I did this quite a bit driving between NYC and New Paltz every weekend a few years ago, but the Carolinas are hot and sticky, even in the evenings. I think I was in Virginia - at night - before I felt anything approaching cool, refreshing air.

I have "fond" memories of driving at 4am with the window wide open, listening to Hole's Live Through This and chewing gum.

Tomos Wise from England writes:
Re: "Long Distance Driving Trips" - I am learning to drive at the moment and all that sort of stuff is yet to come, but the one thing that is a definite no-go are things that take your eye/mind off the road (excessively loud music, TV, cell-phones, walkie talkies whilst driving etc.) I can imagine that driving 3,000 miles is not the most exciting thing to do in one go - I'm sure it's all worth it when you get there, but the main objective IS TO ACTUALLY GET THERE, and not wipe-out half way there!
I agree with everything else you say though.

Tomos - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi postulates that there's something he calls "flow" and other people refer to as "the zone" where the brain sort of steps out of the picture and it seems as if you're acting without thinking. I'm sure as a bass player, this is a familiar feeling to you. I think loud music can help faciliate "zone driving" where you're not actively conscious of what you're doing, but you are alert. As long as you're conscious of your speed, and not so far gone that an odd situation won't snap you back, I think loud music is OK.

Being constanly conscious of what you're doing is very tiring, which is what makes nighttime driving so stressful.

Fiddling with the radio dial, on the other hand, especially when tired is a big no-no. You can spend 10 or more seconds looking at that thing before you realize your eyes aren't on the road.

Akilesh writes:

Hi there. Read your article on long-distance driving: nice tips. I'd like to add that when I went cross-country, I found that audiobooks were a godsend. I found that my local library had lots of good, long, mindless-fun type books, so you don't have to pay $50 or whatever high amount the bookstore wants to charge you. I remember picking up some short stories by Stephen King and The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum. Fun stuff.


Akilesh. Yeah, books on tape are great. I'm actually surprised it wasn't already on my list.

This is how I consume ALL of my fiction. The DaVinci Code was good, a "page turner" and you may learn something too. The Sue Grafton ABC Mystery stuff is good. Memoirs of a Geisha was great. Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil also. The abridged Warlord series by Bernard Cornwell. A Girl's Guide to Hunting And Fishing. Vurt was great, if you can find it. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lolita. Avoid The Ya Ya Sisterhood, and The Founding Fathers.. zzzz those will put you to sleep.

Get a selection before you go, you never know which ones will be good.

I got an email from someone which states "I'm about to move from NM to NC...YIKES!!! One more thing about the audio can go to any cracker barrel and get them...and then when your done, find the next cracker barrel and you can just exchange right after another. MINIMAL charge...unless you decide not to return it..."

Cracker Barrel has a cool "On The Road" feature that will tell you where each Cracker Barrel is between your start & end points, or a more traditional Cracker Barrel Location Directory. Here's a page about their Books-On-Audio.

page first created on Tuesday, September 24, 2002

© Mark Wieczorek