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May 06, 2013

Summer Safety Travel Tips

 Summer is near which means travel by air, road trips too. Check out Road & Travel Magazine's new summer travel safety issue for tips on how to keep yourself and family safe and sane during summer travel. [Click here for new issue]

May 29, 2012

Traveling the Great Route 66 Will Cost Plenty of Gas

Cal_hp_adAs my solo tour across country made its way into the heartland of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and into New Mexico, I quickly learned something about the route I had chosen for the trip. While it was quite nostalgic and interesting to ride this famous Route 66 (now called Interstate 40), what I didn't know was how windy the high plains could be. Nor did I realize that starting in Texas, there begins a slow but steady climb in elevation all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona, up to 7300 feet. I would have to say that this was probably the only error in judgement I made in the months of pre-planning and here's why... so you know not to make the same mistake.

First, the good news. It would have been far worse had I taken Interstate 70 across country into the Rockies as they are huge mountains with steep inclines, which would have been unbearable to drive with a loaded truck of furniture. Sure, cars passed by as if it were nothing but trucks do not respond as well to steep inclines as do cars. And it's not just my truck, it's all trucks. But let's get back to Interstate 40. The incline heading west on the 40 is miles and miles long, steady and slow, which seemed never ending. For a fully loaded truck, inclines use much more gas meaning you have to make more gas stops and spend more money. And, it exposes you more often outside the cabin of the truck adding the element of risk to your personal safety when traveling alone. It also leaves fewer choices in finding the best prices on gas as stations are far and few between along the 40 so filling up is absolutely necessary each time even if it means filling up at a high-cost station. In the small town of Needles, CA, near empty (both the truck and the town), the only gas station in town offered regular for $5.00 per gallon. There were no other choices so these are some of the traps you fall into that are to be expected.

Gas prices do fluctuate throughout the country so for the first half of the trip the truck did remarkably well on gas 'for a V10 engine' with thousands of pounds of furniture. I had budgeted about $1200 for fuel but did so unaware of the inclines and high crosswinds for the next thousand miles. Gas began to sift through then engine like water... sucking it down to make it up the inclines and fight the wind. And it got progressively worse the further west I headed. I asked a few natives along the way about the high winds thinking it was an anomaly but was quickly told that high winds are an everyday occurrence at this time of year in all the states I passed through. In my last hotel, the Hilton Gardens, a young woman in a baseball cap was delivering a pizza to a guest room. I asked her about the winds and how a woman keeps her hair in place if going somewhere special. Her reply, "you don't!"

What I found amusing when the headwinds began in Oklahoma was that there were no warning signs on the freeway to expect them. So I forged on but then when I hit New Mexico, there were signs everywhere that said severe crosswinds, which seemed too little too late. By then, I was in the thick of it with no turning back. It took two hands on the wheel to hold the truck steady against the buffeting winds, avoiding the swerve of passing 18-wheelers that were clearly fighting the wind as well. Cars seemed to fare a little better but those on motorcycles were in the fight for their life.

Signs began to show up that said if you see someone driving drunk, call this number... how funny I thought, how could you tell? The winds were so severe that everyone on the freeway looked as if they were driving under the influence with all swerving in unison as if to the rhythm of a slow dance. How much worse could it get, I wondered? It has to end sometime. It did not. It got worse in each state I passed through. In Oklahoma, the winds were head on at 30MPH, then by Arizona they hit 40MPH slapping the front of the truck with such force that the truck was pushed to the shoulder at times. It wasn't until I crossed into California that the winds and gusts were 50MPH... like driving in a bad storm with the sun raining down. From my hotel room, the howling wind sounded like a hurricane, but this is how it is here everyday.

The gas stops became more frequent and the gas prices higher as I approached the western states. My $1200 fuel budget quickly escalated to $1600. This is one of those lessons learned, to expect the unexpected. Be prepared for anything and everything.

One of the things that helped give me peace of mind was U-Haul's Green Gas Gauge that shows bars (like your cell phone) on when you're getting the best mileage. Unfortunately, driving uphill and in head on high winds showed the low bars, sometimes no bars, but when the inclines finally turned to declines, all 5 green bars showed up and often.

My goal was to provide you with an idea of the MPG the U-Haul Truck received overall but it wouldn't be a fair assessment due to the different weather and road challenges each day causing a significant variation in miles per gallon. So instead, next week, I'll provide a day by day MPG chart to demonstrate what a difference a day makes... due to weather and road conditions, inclines and declines, and all sorts of other unexpected surprises that can change your gas consumption from day to day.

U-Haul Fuel economy.Fuel economy gauge

U-Haul rental trucks have a low profile, rounded corners and advanced chassis skirts to reduce wind drag and raise fuel economy 20%.

All U-Haul rental trucks use cheaper, cleaner and more convenient unleaded fuel.

Use the fuel-economy gauge to save money on fuel and reduce air pollution.

Our sponosrs U-Haul and Bridgestone Tires are committed to going green. U-Haul trucks offer a much lower center of gravity and sleeker design that its competitors, which makes their trucks more aerodynamic in the wind. After crossing the country, it was clear that most moving consumers knew this as there were more U-Hauls on the road than any other brand. The others, Budget and Penske, are built much taller with flat box-like trailers that likely fared much worse in the wind than we did so inspite of the high winds, I was thrilled to be in my U-Haul and not in a competitor truck.

Bridgestone has also made an environmental commitment with the development of their tires as well as their One Team One Planet program. It is an honor to work with companies that are not only female-friendly but care about our planet and are taking action to make a difference. 

To read more about our story across country and one of the greatest young women in history, Sacajawea, who we honor with this trip, please click here.  

 

 

May 25, 2012

Solo Travel Tour - Expect the Unexpected

TrucksOur cross-country tour for women traveling alone has gone remarkably well so far sans a few bumps and bruises, which are to be expected. First of all, the weather has been perfect every mile of the way with clear blue sky's every day in every state. That in itself has been a surprise although I've always found May to be a good month to do road trips. Traffic, especially considering we're running into Memorial Day Weekend, has been very light, very few delays, which has been a welcomed surprise.

Our U-Haul Truck has been performing flawlessly and very easy to handle. It's funny to see the looks on people's faces when I jump out at gas stations... at 5'1" tall, it's clear they don't expect someone of my size and stature to be driving such a large vehicle but I believe I'm living proof that size doesn't matter. I don't have to carry the truck... I just have to drive it.

My journey from Indiania to Missouri this week had some pretty rough roads. I would have to day that both Missouri and Oklahoma (so far) had the worst roads as far as poor construction in need of a lot of work. Sure, there was plenty of road work going on but it sure did seem like they were far behind, perhaps budgetary issues. It made for driving the U-Haul a little rough around the edges forcing me to drive very slowly as not to break every last thing in the back of the truck.

These are some of the unexpected things you'll run into on the road for which you just cannot plan. Yes, you can allow extra time each day for unexpected things such as delays or road work, perhaps an extra hour or two just in case, but there's no telling just how bad each freeway in each state will be until you get there. While the truck handled each bump and bruise quite well the bad roads did cause a slow down, which cost time, so it's important to allow extra time for the unexpected. And there will be many... this is just one of them.

Another issue bad roads cost is gas which reduces your miles per gallon. With bad roads and having to stop and go frequently, it puts more demand on your fuel, which ultimately uses more gas forcing you to fill up more often than expected and costing more money. Gas prices do fluctuate throughout the country starting north of $4.30 in eastern states then slowly lowering as you enter midwestern states. Some places were as low as $3.30 per gallon, a whole dollar difference. When you consider your truck takes 30 gallons of gas to fill up, that's a big difference in savings. My point is, choose your gas stations wisely... most service area stops along the Interstates are fairly reasonable but when you get into the southern midwest part of the US there are tiny drive-through towns that offer gas stations at one end at $4.60 per gallon, as they try to hook you as you enter their tiny town, but if you drive a little further into town, you'll find other stations mid-town at $3.60 per gallon. Funny, as I left this little town of Holbrook, the last station out was also expensive. Don't wait until your tank is near empty or 1/4 full because it leaves you with a sense of urgency which may cause you to jump at the first gas station you find, which could be the most expensive. Leave plenty of wiggle room in your tank to find a reasonably priced station as there are many across our great land. 

I leave you today with this caution however... choose your stops wisely. Do not stop at truck stops. There are many service areas along the Interstates that look like huge country homes, easy on and easy off the freeway, populated with many families and plenty of stores and restaurants. These are the stops you want to make, one stop for everything. They're clean, safe, and keep you on the move by making fewer stops down the road.

People tell me all the time how courageous it is to make such a long journey alone and while those are kind words, it's not about courage, it's about knowledge. And knowledge is power. When you do your research and homework on your road trip, you arm yourself with all the necessary tools to keep yourself safe on the road. Tomorrow we'll talk about how to achieve the best MPG for your vehicle.

Dueler_Ecopia  

 

 

 

 

 

Our deepest thanks to U-Haul  (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany) and Bridgestone for making this journey possible. My goal is to help educate women on the tips and tricks of staying safe and sane on the road especially for those who don't do road trips very often. There's no need to be afraid... especially once you have a plan of action in the works.

 To read more tips on Women Traveling Alone, click here.

 

May 23, 2012

Driving Solo: First Weekend of Road Trip to LA

U-Haul - A better way to moveThe 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!

Bridgestone TiresOur 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.

May 17, 2012

Traveling Alone - What Women Need to Know!

Women Traveling Alone - Focusing on Your Personal Safety

Sponsored by U-Haul & Bridgestone Tires

by Courtney Caldwell

Driving around town is an everyday occurrence for most of us. Errands, going to and from work, picking up kids at school or soccer, grocery shopping, visiting family and friends, a girls’ night out… you know your area like the back of your hand.

But, what about driving into territory beyond your borders? Do you have a fear of driving outside your comfort zone? Do you worry about getting lost or even worse, followed?

The number one reason women stick close to home is fear of the unknown, what to do, what not to do, how to keep yourself safe on the road in unknown territory, never ming where to begin in the planning process of a big road trip. Whether you’re planning an across-country or across-town move, the very first place to begin your journey is with your homework and advanced planning.

I’m about to embark on a 3200-mile cross-country journey, driving a 17' U-Haul truck, and yes, all by myself. When I tell people of the road trip, they look at me dazed and confused, and then after a short pause ask, ‘you’re driving alone?’ That one question in itself speaks volumes to how much education is needed for women, and many men, on how to plan a road trip with fun, not fear.

Doing your homework and pre-planning are essential in making your journey safe and sane… whether across town or across country. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80, as long as you carefully plan out every detail of your trip's route, hotel stays, gas stops, navigation, and every detail of your trip, you'll arrive at your destination safely.

U-Haul Moving TrucksIt is such an honor to have U-Haul as our ‘Women Traveling Alone’ road trip safety sponsor for a variety of reasons one of which is their connection and support to a young Shoshone Indian girl named Sacajawea, who served as an interpreter and guide on the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1804. Her heroism in numerous life-saving contributions helped lead their two-year journey to a safe and successful conclusion.

Sacajawea, just a young teen at the time, not only provided guidance for hundreds of miles through the tough terrain of the northwest Rockies, then known as the Louisiana Purchase territory, she also demonstrated extraordinary courage and strength during numerous life-threatening events, often emerging as the hero who saving lives and supplies from devastating weather, potential enemy threats, and from capsized canoes. Sacajawea became known as the first woman to be included in a democratic vote on the all-male crew, sharing her knowledge and experience as to which route to take for most access to hunting for food and safe shelter in the wild.

In honor of Sacajawea, U-Haul has painted her mural on both sides of our moving truck to celebrate her accomplishments and help shed light on her exceptional contributions to the beginning of what shaped the U.S. today. Her story is one of bravery and the true meaning of persistence.

Her contributions were chronicled by Lewis & Clark in their personal diaries naming Sacajawea as the only person on the expedition who never complained or panicked when confronted with dangerous or devastating circumstances. Level-headed and fierce, she faced each event as it came, contributing significantly to a successful and safe outcome.

Sacajawea was married to a Frenchman twice her age, who had traded her for goods and supplies with a tribe who had kidnapped her at 12 (away from her Shoshone family and friends). While little is known about her husband’s contributions to the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Sacajawea’s accomplishments earned her a place in American history. Add to that, her journey included a pregnancy, childbirth in the wild, and then carrying her infant on her back during the expedition. The baby boy nicknamed Pompey, spent the first two years of his life living right along side his brave mother.

Sacajawea’s story is one of true courage and inspiration. It is with great pride that I have the opportunity to share her story as I traverse the U.S. in my 17’ U-Haul truck with her mural painted on each side, sharing her tale with everyone I meet along the way.

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2011 International Car and Truck of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel MagazineWe'd also like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to long-time partner and sponsor, Bridgestone Tires, for their support of tire safety and helping people understand how to choose the right tires for their vehicle. As one of the leading tire companies in the world, Bridgestone is committed to not only helping women stay safe on the road but also to keeping our environment clean with their One Team One Planet message. Bridgestone Americas is dedicated to achieving a positive environmental impact in all of the communities it calls home. This commitment includes efforts such as developing tires with improved fuel economy, manufacturing products and providing services in an environmentally responsible way, and establishing wildlife habitat and education programs. For full story, click here.