As gas prices plummet, taking a road trip becomes an inexpensive opportunity to load your vehicle with gear and family and explore. Road trips are a phenomenon, difficult to replicate in any other form of travel. Please take this small amount of inspiration and our pledge to keep your vehicle safe and dependable and set a date to drive – no planning necessary – capture the magic of Road Trippin’.
When you pack for a road trip (hopefully with just what you need – leaving the profound “baggage” of life behind), crawl from the safety of your front door and start the engine of whatever vehicle suits your fancy…the world begins to share itself. Whether in solitude or company; road trips carry an aura of adventure, romance and serenity – they are magic.
Now…steady there… you may not experience the magic until you get past the local traffic, make at least one stop at Buckee’s and find some fresh territory. Even the great explorers and pioneers drove through deeply traveled ruts in the mud as they left town.
From “Thelma and Louis” to “National Lampoons Family Vacation” the theme of countless movies are evidence of the story we build on the road. The bonds we create while traveling are free from the noise of everyday life, we take time to talk, to laugh and to ignite our spirit of adventure. This quiet time, alone with a friend, family or love is isolated from the noise that fills our days. Whether traveling with your children, taking your parents across town to eat, or romancing your spouse – a road trip offer a unique opportunity to bond.
Romantic you say? All I’m hearing is “Are we there yet?” and “I need to make a stop now…NOW!” Regardless of the source – your children in the back seat or the love of your life sitting next to you, taking the time to play “Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral” with your children, making simple gestures like playing a special song or placing a quiet kiss on the back of your spouse’s hand as you drive (yep, just one hand on the wheel then!) creates a magic that the cacophony of life usually muffles.
Even a short trip through town can provide uninterrupted time to bond. The Phenomenon of the Road Trip first became apparent to me when I would pick up my son from school. The relatively short ride home was an intermission in both of our busy days. School and his reaction to the events there were fresh and the distraction of bicycles and video games had not yet hijacked his mind. That was when we really talked and it was a common practice to detour on our way home and extend the trip.
My favorite road trip of all time was a rather long journey that my son, Blake and I took the summer after he turned 16. We mapped out a series of national parks and hopped in the SUV while pulling a pop up camper over a 5700 mile course. There were amazing sites as we traveled, but my favorite part was the hours of time that Blake and I spent talking. We covered most every topic a mom and son can find and pulled into the driveway three weeks later closer than ever.
Whether you are taking the kids for a day trip to the zoo or loading your SUV to visit a national park, these simple tips will keep you driving happy.
Your vehicle is probably very well maintained, but a quick inspection will help you avoid problems on the road. Beckwith’s Car Care and Freedom Automotive are always ready to help you with a complimentary trip inspection. We want you safe and happy every day on the road.
Start with walking around your car to inspect the tires. Check for cracks or other damage to the sidewalls, be sure the tires are inflated to the pressure indicated on your door panel (not the one stamped into the rubber on the tire), and be sure that you have enough tread to remain safe in all driving conditions, especially wet ones.
Walking around your car is something that we rarely do. In our rush to get little humans in their seats, grocery bags and soccer balls loaded we are too distracted to notice if a tire is low on air. Take a moment to walk all the way around your vehicle without the normal distractions.
An easy trick on checking your tire tread is to use a quarter. Place it upside down in the groove between your tire’s treads. The rubber on each side should be tall enough to cover the top of George’s fluffy powdered wig. That will give you at least 4/32nd of an inch of tread which is considered safe in wet conditions.
Checking the condition of your lights can be a fun thing to do with your older children. Teach them what you mean by the blinker light or turn signal and where the brake lights are. There are three brake lights on most vehicles, one on the left, on the right, and the high one that is frequently in the rear window. Be sure to test all of your lights. A turn signal malfunctioning or a brake light not working can lead to an accident. It can also lead to an un-welcomed interruption in your trip if a policeman notices.
Next, turn off the engine and pop the hood. Give everything a common sense look over. Remember that many components will be hot even after you have turned off your vehicle. Are any of the rubber hoses or belts looking cracked, bulged or worn? Overheating and failure to cooling system components are the number one reason motorists are stranded so pay particular attention to this system including the condition of the coolant. Don’t forget to check your wiper blades while you are near the hood because unfamiliar roads are even more dangerous when you cannot see well.
Change your oil if its time or if it will be soon. Not only is stopping for an oil change on the road inconvenient – you will have much more fun things to do – it is also too tempting to go over the mileage recommendation while you are out having a good time. Fresh oil also runs cooler and protects your engine better, so it’s a great way to start your trip.
Prepare an emergency kit – for your comfort and safety: a first aid kit, drinkable water, high calorie food (like energy bars), blankets, toilet paper, cell phone, towel, hat and boots. Keep some change for a toll roads, emergency cash and a credit card.
Finally, review your paperwork. Keep a copy of your insurance card, Vehicle Identification Number, State License Number, Insurance Policy Number and agent’s contact information in both your glove box and your wallet. Keep a simple index card in your glove box that says ICE (In Case of Emergencies) with your best contact information on it.
Whether driving to the museum district through Houston’s sometimes challenging streets or taking off across the country, having the little things handled will keep you safe for miles.
Wishing you miles and miles of happy driving,
Lynn Beckwith, That Car Lady KPRC 950AM