The stars must have been aligned the first weekend of our "Women Traveling Alone" Safety Tour as every tree that lined the freeways was in full bloom with rich and radiant hues of green abundant against a pure blue sky. Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted a much more scenic backdrop himself.
Making it from Rhode Island via Canada to Detroit in my 17' U-Haul Truck (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany) over the weekend, which was loaded to the gills, took 2 days allowing only 300 miles on day one and 400 miles on day two. For some reason, the truck didn't like either Canada or Sonoco gas as it gave a few hiccups and burps throughout the country. Fortunately, it got over its little cold the next day. Not sure what that was all about but delighted it ended. Lessons learned, the earlier you start your road trip, the better all around. And here are a few reasons why.
1. If you are going through Canada or Mexico, make sure you have an up-to-date valid license and passport. Nowadays, you can get just a passport card instead of a full passport for crossing these borders however you cannot fly with a card. You must have a full passport to fly. The passport card looks just like a license only with different info on it. Allow at least 8 weeks before your trip to apply, which you can do online. If you're driving a moving truck, RV, big van or anything of the like, be prepared to be pulled over for an inspection if the border agents feel there's anything suspicious going on with you or your vehicle. I thought for sure driving a big moving van they'd pull me over, especially after 911, but they didn't entering Canada or the USA but I did see them pull over a few ahead of me. So, make sure your dirty laundry is not the first thing they see should they open the back of your truck.
2. As a woman driving alone, you want to drive during daylight hours, allowing for unexpected stops or delays. While traffic was unusally clear over the weekend, it took some time to get used to handling the loaded U-Haul and how even the slightest breeze affected the steering of such a high profile vehicle. The difference between driving an empty truck home from the U-Haul lot to driving a truck fully loaded with thousands of pounds of furniture is considerably different. It definitely required 2 hands on the wheel at all times.
3. There a hundreds of 18-wheelers on the freeway and while most are professionally trained drivers, and you are not, it can be daunting to have so many pass at high speeds causing wind gusts in their wake, which can make your moving truck a little swirly, so plenty to get used to which takes a little time but after awhile you get your groove on and get in the zone and learn the ways of the road.
4. When you leave early, you also leave plenty of time for gas stops or traffic delays, without getting your knickers in a knot about arriving late or after dark. At the end of each day, assuming it's still light out, I like to fill up with gas to quicken the morning start. I use the evenings and mornings in my room to reorganize notes, call ahead to the next hotel to confirm ETA, and prepare my food for the next day's drive so there's no fiddling around inside the cabin of the truck trying to find something to eat. All that I need is within eye and arm reach, allowing for a safe drive and less stop time. Less stop time means less time outside the cabin of the truck and more miles on the road.
So far, so good, however I do have to say how surprising I find it to see so many young women at some of these roadside travel service areas barely dressed, taking photos of each other, posing and giggling, just having harmless fun, yet from where I sit in the high profile U-Haul as I pull in, I also see men sitting in their cars, backed into a remote shaded spot, watching, staring, glaring... and the young women haven't a clue. One guy in an old Pontiac Firebird saw me pull up as he watched two girls taking photos of each other and for whatever reason, drove away in a hurry when I pointed at him. That's all it took. Whether he felt busted or was just on his way out we'll never know but his departure was unusual and behavior suspicious.
The goal of this journey is to help educate women of all ages, pay attention to your surroundings! There's always someone watching!
Our sincere thanks to Bridgestone Tire and U-Haul for sponsoring (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany) this 'Women Driving Solo" safety tour. Through their support, we're able to help educate more women about personal safety on the road.
To read our opening story on this journey, 'Women Traveling Alone' please visit us at Road & Travel Magazine, and read about the journey of Sacajawea, the young Indian woman (teen) who helped lead the 1804 Lewis & Clark Expedition to a safe conclusion.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for more tips of how to stay safe and sane on the road. I'll also share gas saving tips and how to better your MPG... leaving a lighter footprint.