The road trip is a beloved American phenomenon and something Europeans simply don’t understand. They muse, “Why, for the love of God, would you want to drive yourself around when you can hop on a high-speed train?” And they’re right. I’d never wedge my family, the dog and suitcases into a Citroën and then negotiate a stick shift. But here in America we don’t have bullet trains; we do have spacious minivans and a colorful collection of inspiring road tripping all-stars: Hope and Crosby, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Thelma and Louise. Want to avoid a boring weekend? Pack a cooler, plot a route on a map, throw some clothes in a bag and hit the open road. Adventure awaits!
Wait a minute. It’s winter. Don’t we risk death and dismemberment by taking to the highway during the season of snow squalls and black ice? Weigh the risk/benefit – the chance of a slippery skid versus going slowly insane over the next 6 weeks? Thanks for nothing, groundhog. Take a risk. Get out of town.
Have your battery, brakes, exhaust system, lights, wiper blades and tire treads checked. No tread = no traction = no bueno. Good treads channel the slushy stuff away and increase the amount of tire surface in contact with the road. This is very important to avoid highway slaloms.
Clear all windows, wipers and the roof of your vehicle of snow and ice before you start driving. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. But it’s really a hazard to drive with a roof-full of snow that resembles the fat cap on a prime rib. It’s terrifying when a 4″ high plate of ice and snow hurtles towards you. Take the extra 5 minutes to completely clear the snow off your roof, mirrors and lights.
The safest place to drive is at least eight car lengths behind a snow plow. Don’t pass them either. Their visibility is restricted and the driver’s attention is primarily on objects in front of them. Give yourself a big cushion from all other vehicles too. It’ll give you an opportunity to correct safely should one of your fellow travelers (you know, the guy in the battered Civic with 4 bald tires, one headlight, who’s clearing the ice from his windshield with his hand while doing 90) slip and skid.
And here’s the DOT’s emergency supply list. I’m not a prepper, yet, but I have outfitted my station wagon with several of these items. Don’t call me crazy but you can call me Sheriff Rick (Sorry. I feel a need to float a “Walking Dead” reference every post or two.).
Vehicle survival kit:
flashlight with extra batteries
snow brush/ice scraper
abrasive material for traction (kitty litter, sand)
bright fabric for your antenna
warning device (flares or reflectors)
non-perishable snacks/high-energy bars
empty coffee can to melt snow
I understand if you shiver thinking about a winter road trip or you live in Boston and still can’t push open your front door. In that case, here’s a list of classic road trip films from AMC. Happy trails!