While I’m sure some of you regularly top this (my hat’s off to you!), I set a ‘personal best’ of over 32,000 miles on the road in 2014. Besides my normal commute, much of the mileage was accrued repeatedly making the 16-hour (all times listed are one-way) trek to my Dad’s home in Central Georgia – he has dementia and is getting to the point where he needs higher levels of care. Two additional 12+ hour trips were made for funerals, and the last 12-hour trip of the year was for a New Year’s Eve wedding in Jackson, MO.
To stay awake on long trips, I used to gorge on Coke and sugary snacks, only stopping for gas and ‘defueling.’ I’ve since gradually shifted my technique to making more stops, eating healthier snacks and only having a mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee. A long-haul OTR trucking friend told me he snacks on sunflower seeds (still in the hulls), as it keeps his mind engaged (picking out his teeth!) while he drives. I’ve settled on plain popcorn, which seems to work well when I start getting that sleepy feeling. I’ve also gotten to the point where I will sometimes make the whole trip without ever turning on the radio, where I used to have it cranked up with lively tunes to keep me energized.
So what’s your favorite technique for staying awake on a long road trip?
First, travel early. I tend to be a morning person, and with a couple of cups of coffee in me, can get started at 4 am and be fine all day. DO NOT, however, ask me to drive long distances late at night.
I too try to avoid sugary drinks or snacks – that temporary high turns into a crashing low for me. Beef Jerky, water and coffee are my snacks of choice.
Like you, I can go long stretches in silence. I enjoy searching out the dwindling number of clear channel AM stations before sunrise, just to see where they are coming from. Then there is the ipod or a good playlist on Spotify. There is not much music on the regular radio that interests me. It is also a time to call old friends.
Hourly coffee/energy drink and pee stops. And turning the XM Radio to the BPM dance station.
There is a semi-annual auction I go to every year. 3 hour drive up, starts at 5pm, usually goes past midnight (and the best deals are usually at the end). By the time I get home at 3am, I’m usually so hyper off coffee and Monster that I can’t fall asleep for a few hours after I get home.
Oh God. BPM gives me headaches 🙂
Just pull over when starting to feel tired. At least pull over every 2 hrs for at least 15 minutes. Get out of the car, walk around and if needed get a bite or drink at the same time. Max travel time should be about 12 hrs. a day.
One factor that I feel is important is deciding what time to leave and being fully rested before starting out. I also budget for motel stays and will not hesitate to call it a day and find a place for the night when I get to that can’t stay awake stage.
This comes after leaving out one June in 1995 at 2:00 am to attend a family reunion in Georgia. I thought I was smart – thinking we’ll be there at about 10:00 am and it would just be a better use of my limited time. Coming from North Carolina, I was pretty much wide awake on the back roads but once I hit Interstate 20, the highway hypnosis took over and I was really fighting to stay awake. I was to the point where I was saying “let me close my eyes for 2-3 seconds.”
I knew that would never do and asked my mother who was along to drive some for me. Once behind the wheel, she promptly runs my 1994 Regal Gran Sport off the side of I-20 and hits a pothole. I thought she tore the front end out from beneath my car. So much for that, I took back over the driving and managed to make it to a truck stop right off I-20 near Thompson, GA. Ok, I’ll get something to eat at their all-night diner and I’ll be good to go.
Once inside and shown to a table, it was evident there were some “working” ladies in the place. My Godmother, who was along for the ride, refused to sit down in a chair, preferring to stand as she wasn’t sure who had occupied that chair before her. I ordered a full breakfast while she and my mom just got coffee. After I noticed her really holding on to her coffee mug and taking big sips from it, I announced to her “you know, I’d really be more concerned over whose lips had been on that cup before you and where those lips had been before that rather than that chair you refuse to sit in”. That was enough for her, but I finished breakfast.
So for me, leave at a decent hour (I’ll do 4 or 5 am), plan for frequent stops, and budget for a motel if you have to.
* Pick up a bottle of water and a large Mocha at McDonalds.
* Run a CB on channel 19.
* Run a little fast !
Between the 3 it will keep you alert.
When you get caught in traffic that limits speed, kill the CB and fire up “Deep Tracks” on your Sirius-XM radio.
I used to pick up a hitch hiker if I got sleepy. Nowdays I just pull over and sleep for 15 minutes and then I’m good to go.
Picking up hitchhikes still works fine – just have to be careful about which state lines to cross with them – to or from CO or WA tends to be a bad idea.
The last time I took a long road trip – a move from KS to mid-TX by way of northern CO- this method worked out great: “Paps” – whose life story played out like a de-motivational version of Forrest Gump – with shrimping, the DMZ and Vietnam and more shrimping before a blown back took its toll – and his dog got a free ride across several state lines to a friend’s DFW house, and I got many hours of entertaining stories to stay awake with.
We did have a tough go of it in north TX though. After missing and exit and straying off the interstate, we were pulled off the road and received a thorough car and trunk search for doing 1 MPH over the limit courtesy of a suspicious sheriff who – tipped off by the CO plates – became wrongly convinced the car was engaged in hemp-related unregulated interstate commerce. Other than that, it was a mostly smooth trip.
If I can’t find a hitchhiker – it seems like it gets harder and harder nowadays – I play “radio roulette” – peg the radio on the first station it picks up and keep it there until it loses reception, then scan again. I managed to go through almost 50 stations on a six-state trip through the mid west and prairie states last spring. CB chatter’s also fun.
I’ve had friend’s bothered by cops in Idaho and Utah due to my friend’s Oregon plates and the fact it was a Subaru with snowboard stickers. These friends actually have a do not ask do not tell policy when it comes to giving people lifts out of Portland since a number of these people have had Weed on them.
Life did get a lot easier once I switched to TX plates. A snowboard-stickered subaru does sound like a cop magnet for that kind of thing though.
In my case, driving a big white police auction special crown vic didn’t help much either. In rural KS where I had been living it mainly meant I was frugal, but in urban TX it evidently has a bit of a reputation as a stoner or gang-banger mobile – I got pulled over several more times for innocuous behavior before the TX plates arrived.
Opening the Windows and then picking up some beef jerky and a frappuccino at a refuel spot. Plus some leg, torso and neck stretching before getting back into the car.
I fully understand what you are going through with the dementia. Fortunately my mother’s dementia did not appear until after about age 96. I find that I need to stop and walk about for a few minutes every couple of hours. My car does have a lane departure warning (will buzz the seat or ring a bell) which I think might not wake me up but does keep me from drifting too far off my lane. Getting an early start in the day helps but I don’t drive over 12 hours usually. A 16 hour drive beginning at 6AM can be done by 10PM which is not too late. I usually like to stop for lunch (a salad at McD’s) which is a short but nice rest.
Stay off the interstate.
I did about 3k miles over Christmas, and I stay off interstates, especially when it’s dark, or gray, or there’s even a 1% chance of being drowsy. A 2 lane road will keep you awake better than all the caffeine on earth, plus it’s a much more enjoyable way to see the country.
I’ve found that to be the case, too.
I agree with you.
Changing drivers every couple of hours helps. If your the only driver get out of your car and walk around for about 10 to 15 minutes every couple of hours.
I’m from GA where does your dad live? I grew up in Byron just North of Warner Robins.
He’s in Milledgeville, so not too far from where you grew up. I’m from Atlanta and lived in GA until my senior year of HS when we moved to SC. I moved right back for college, tho (Ga. Tech).
Sorry to hear about your dad, although I am starting to have the same issues w/ my dad. Fortuitously, I live in GA. For long trips, I have found that chewing Wrigley’s “Big Red” cinnamon gum, along w/ a collection of various musical playlists helps me. The only down side is that my tongue is sometimes numbed out (depending on the length of the trip!) LOL!! 🙂
I do drives from Wyoming to Arizona (14 hours) and Wyoming to Wisconsin (16 hours). Also shorter drives to south central Montana (8 hours) or New Mexico (8 hours).
Routine is generally the same: leave apx 1hour prior to sunrise. AM radio (good for weather, road conditions, traffic situations and three hours of Rush) or Sirius for Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
Fuel stops carefully planned by ease of exit/entrance onto highway. Generally go about 300 miles before refueling but based on ease/speed/safety of fuel stop. There are places that I like to stop (north side Albuquerque, Billings, north side Colorado Springs, Council Bluffs) for those reasons and I plan around those places, There are also places I prefer to avoid and I plan those accordingly (North Platte, Holbrook, Casper)
Food is only bottled water, a couple of ham/cheese sandwiches and some cookies in the car. No Mickey D en route – just get there!
Also I keep track of fuel mileage, average speed en route – just for entertainment but also to predict and to figure alternate fuel stops. No phone calls at all – except for emergency.
Speed is generally four or five mph over posted limits – depending on roads. Use cruise control for all but traffic through cities. Have headlights on day or night and don’t hesitate to add fog lights as needed – I want to be seen by other traffic. Stay in right lane on interstate for all but passing; don’t hesitate to pass using the right lane around left lane loafers and generally get away from / keep distance from all other vehicles, especially semis.
Finally: plan trip to avoid bad weather. Rain is not a worry but snow is and I will delay a drive, leave a day early or take a different route in order to avoid snow issues.
Three hours of Rush??? Anyone who listens to that racist, lying, deranged drug addict on the radio should not be driving a car at all. They should be committed to a psychiatric hospital.
You forgot to mention he likes to bugger little boys when he’s ‘ Vacationing ‘ in The Dominican Republic…..
Music. Long music. Wagner operas. Mahler symphonies. Something to keep my analytical mind occupied. I don’t do real well with most pop, rock, country, etc.
Coffee is important. Coffee also requires rest stops to return borrowed coffee to the ecosystem.
Sugary snacks are out. They put me to sleep. However, we do have the sacred Cheetos ritual. That is, stop at a rest stop, fish around in the change drawer for enough change, and buy crunchy Cheetos from a vending machine. This may or may not be accompanied by buying Diet Coke, Coke Zero, or Diet Pepsi. Side benefit of caffeinated diet colas: They too require rest stops to return liquid to the ecosystem.
Conversation. Lots of conversation.
Most soporific stretches of interstate that we regularly drive: long stretches of I-8 from Casa Grande to Yuma, and a single very long stretch in California in Imperial Valley. The latter has a big chunk that is a completely straight line.
Polarized sunglasses. These are absolutely essential to make long stretches of concrete highway bearable.
Polarized shade are a must, I agree. Especially when riding on two wheels!
A friend who used to drive Greyhound buses in the late 50’s and early 60’s said that this happened to him often in the early days before he had a regular run. More than once he got called out to drive again after he’d had just a couple of hours of sleep. His tips:
~ open the side window all the way.
~ Hunch the seat as far forward as it will go with you in it.
~ Start pulling hairs out of your leg.
I nodded off once driving the old man’s Packard. Scared the crap out of me when I woke up drifting toward that rock face that’s on the northbound side of I-5 between Vancouver and Kelso. I was AWAKE for the rest of the trip home.
I usually dont have stay awake issues until the 3rd or 4th 12 hour stint in a row, its just a basic days work so long distance car trips are a breeze 12 hours in a car here becomes a return trip you cant go that far in a straight line the islands arent long enough.
Driving while tired scares the living crap out of me. If I’m really feeling dozey it’s hotel time. The loudest music and all the coffee in the world won’t help.
The one time I really had to push through I bought a big box of Nerds candy and a Slurpee for the last two hours. Nerds are hard to eat while driving and a Slurpee’s brain freeze would wake the dead. This happened on a drive from New Orleans to Nashville, where I was the only person not hung over or still drunk.
Well, my preferred method is to drive fast, but that’s not really so suitable for most interstate trips. But it really does keep me very alert. And the miles go by quicker too.
That used to be my primary tactic, too, but I finally lost my license (in ’85) to points accumulation (last one was a six-pointer). That’s when I started driving air-cooled Volkswagens – you have to work pretty hard to get a speeding ticket in a Type I/II!
My solution, too. On my three day trip from Pennsylvania to California, once west of the Mississippi, I didn’t drop below 90 but for a few times.
The Challenger made a remarkable road trip car. Cruising in the triple digits didn’t make it break a sweat, and it managed well over 20 mpg over the course of the trip. It may look like a pony car, but it’s the Imperial Coupe Chrysler refuses to build.
Satellite radio tuned to either XMU for indie rock, NPR for talk, or Chill to keep me calm when traffic begins to annoy. Heated seats so I can keep the ambient air somewhat cool. If driving at night, I keep the panel lights dim to reduce eye strain. I try to keep my fluid intake moderate so my bladder can last the same 425 miles as my gas tank. I’m not afraid to pull over and nap at a rest stop, but over the 2,700 mile trip, it wasn’t necessary. Meals were eaten while pumping gas; snacks were high in protein to avoid carb coma.
The scenery on I-40 west of Amarillo on the third day helped a lot. The first two days were 12 hours of “not much,” but the third day had such striking scenery, the day flew by, until sundown anyway (it was December).
My method as well, trick is to take the road(s) less traveled, interstates are speed traps.
The best method I’ve heard of comes courtesy of stories I’ve heard about Max Conrad – an old friend of my family and an accomplished aviator who set quite a few endurance records and delivered over 100 single-engined Pipers to Europe after the war by flying solo with a removable extra tank. He flew with the window open when possible and took very little if no food or drink. Keeps you awake and thinking of other things than when to pull over for the next rest stop.
I’ve done a few Iron Butt rides on my motorcycle, two over 1000 miles in 24 hours, and one that was 1500 in 36. The key actually is cutting down on caffeine before the day of the ride, so you don’t need it to stay awake while you are riding. I discovered that I did fine from around 5 AM, when we started, until about 10:30 or 11 at night. Then I’d stop for a coke and that was enough to keep me alert until about 4 the next morning. After that, I needed to be finished with the ride!
Interesting about laying off caffeine before the trip. Might have to try that if I can balance the “time to headache” factor right.
I’ve done one thousand-miles-in-a-day trip out to Sinclair, Wyoming on a missions trip with my 14 y/o son (too young to drive). Took about 18 hours out, and 22 back due to heavy fog followed by heavy rain most of the trip, plus a stop at Pioneer Village in Nebraska. I was literally delirious by the time we pulled in the driveway.
I don’t have any problem staying awake on the road as long as it doesn’t get too late into the evening; start early and then quit early is my motto. I can no longer spend more than a couple of hours at a time behind the wheel without needing to get out and walk around, to help keep the old joints loose. At one time I could drive from Fort Hood, Texas to southern Indiana with only gas & restroom breaks but those days are in the past. I like to listen to music when I’m driving; any kind of music will do but the best might be some good jazz. There is nothing like some acoustic Miles Davis to make the miles roll by. I don’t like to eat in the car; once in a while I might eat a peanut butter cup or something but not very often. I had to replace the steering wheel in a car years ago because it got too greasy to get clean, and since then I have made a concerted effort to keep my cars clean. Looking forward to my next road trip, whenever and wherever it might be.
Karaoke. Seriously, I will put on a playlist of songs I know the lyrics too and just start singing.
I do a 705 mile each way door to door trip from SC to MI twice a year to visit family that cannot travel. With or without wife and child, I drive the whole thing by myself in one shot and it takes from 10 and a half to 12 hours depending on traffic in Cinncinnati / Dayton and how often and long I stop. My technique is constantly evolving, but here are a few of my trade secrets;
Leave early, but not too early or get stuck in Knoxville morning traffic when I get over the mountain. Rolling by 6 is just about right.
Watch very closely for deer. A couple of these looking at you at 80 mph makes you wide awake.
Keep a cooler with 8oz (but not larger) bottles of water in the car. An ice cold bottle of water peps you up without making you have to urinate too freqently like the larger bottles do. Avoid diet sodas as they make me have to urinate urgently which can be a problem in the middle of nowhere, which is most of my SC to MI trip.
Stop every couple of hours to stretch your legs or grab a coffee. Have quick little diversions planned out if you need them. I 75 north of Knoxville, take a walk across the Norris dam just a couple of miles from the interstate. Check out the Roebling bridge in Cincinnati or be really brave and discover that unique dish known as Cincinnati chili. There’s a cool Packard museum in Dayton. Stuff like that.
Keep moving as fast as possible without being unsafe or stressed. Just go with the flow and if there is nothing to flow, haul ass. Hopefuly some nice fellow will come along really fast and run interference for you, just stay back as far as possible.
Don’t turn the GPS on until you get to where you really need it. It just reminds you of how long and far you have to go. You should be able to navigate from your state to just about any other state with a map.
Have fun. A lot of the enjoyment of a trip is the planning and anticipation as well as the drive itself.
I just heard “Cincinnati chili” mentioned on public television. I’d never heard of it before. Looks interesting; I’ll leave it at that!
Skyline Chili is the place to go – tons of them around town. I prefer 4-ways: Spaghetti, chili, cheese & onions – juicy!
Cincinnati chili is like a White Castle slider – either you love ’em or hate ’em…
That crap in Cinci is most certainly NOT chili, it’s just some mass of incompatible ingredients that taste awful together.
Love Cincinnati chili since I went to college there! Can’t get it in Texas 🙁
Now that I am old and retired. I pick my routes carefully, scenic routes with interesting places to stop helped me stay awake. Besides, I try not to do more than 6 hours a day. When I was younger, 10-12 hours were easy, but I don’t see any point in doing that now.
Coffee, conservative talk radio programs, coffee, getting out to stretch my legs, coffee, cigarettres, slapping my face if necessary, coffee, news stations, coffee, cigarettes, maybe a fast food restaurant, coffee, conversations-if anybody is in the car, thinking about the song “Radar Love”, coffee, coffee, etc, etc, etc I can`t listen to contemporary music because it all sounds the same,but if I do listen to music, it must be pre MTV or pre `82 classic rock music. Who, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Allman Bros, Jethro Tull, Grateful Dead, Zappa,stuff like that if I can find it on the radio.
Well the longest trip I have ever done is ~5,000 miles from the Southern Tier through PA, OH, KY, TN, MS, AR, TX, OK, KS, NM, and AZ to Sacramento, CA in a 95 Voyager which will keep you awake better than a new generic sedan.
Music (really) loud. You know, stuff like Gorillaz, Genesis, Backstreet Boys, and some other good stuff along with guilty pleasure stuff. I slept in the back of the Plymouth so I had to be sure I was getting enough shut eye. I ate when I got hungry instead of putting it off and tried to only eat dinners at diners. Ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast and sometimes fastfood for lunch, but I tried to make my own sandwhiches. I mainly stayed off the Interstates and even found dirt roads to bomb around on as well as get lost on.
Also listened to the CB Radio as well as the weather radio since sometimes the weather looked ominous. Did plenty of sight seeing as well. The horn buttons in that Plymouth had a habit of sticking so sometimes I would press the button then drive with the horn blaring for minutes on end and that was surprisingly effective. That trip was an additional learning experience since I ended up running a red light and totaling my vehicle before reaching my destination so now I know what to do differently. I think about 550 miles or12 hours is the max I can do in a day.
When I passed through Indiana back in 2011 there was a truck stop selling some kind of magic brownie, but since it was labeled “Not for human consumption” they could sell it I guess. Have a friend with ADHD so if they supplement their meds with with energy drinks and lots of music they drive from Portland, OR to the Atlanta Metro Area in 2-3 days driving 17 or so hours at a time. This latest time they had a second driver to help out.
Sorry to read about your dad Mr. Stembridge, are you going to have to do a lot of those drives this year as well?
We know a family that plugs a crock pot into an inverter and they cook while they travel. We tried it once, but the smell of good food cooking for hours on end was excruciating! (c:
As for future drives, I’m sure my cadence will remain higher than it used to be. His current state allows him to stay in his home, but it wouldn’t take much to change that. We’re pretty much taking one day at a time.
The plus side of making the drive so many times is that I know every bump in the road now. It actually makes the trip go by faster, as I have settled on stops at certain places for gas, food, etc. When time permits, I’ll pull off for a sight-seeing diversion, such as the one I made to Henry’s Rabbit Ranch back during the summer.
Well cooking while driving does sound tempting, but I agree the good smells could be a problem.
It is handy when you know the road really well and I agree it can make the drive go by faster, but sometimes I find it makes the drive a bit more boring.
All of my family (except me) live within 15 miles of each other so dealing with Granny’s Dementia is easier, but she is going to have to go into assisted living soon. Too much for her husband to deal with and it is really putting a strain on the family, but it is his decision to make.
I’m assuming Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is nothing like Nevada’s Mustang Ranch…But it’s a good name!
The only road trips I take anymore are Ohio to Missouri for the most part. When I do travel, however, there are a few things I do:
1. Having my wife next to me and talk & laugh – a lot, plus stop every 2 hours.
2. Occasional snacks & coffee (sparingly on the coffee).
3. Plug in my phone and listen to “Martini in the Morning.com” because we both love jazz/standards old & new.
4. Drive only during daytime.
5. Listen to CDs, but nothing newer than a small collection from the 1990s, but primarily 60s – 80s.
Driving while tired is dangerous, like the time at 3 am I was driving back to base from Sacramento and I snapped awake and had no idea of where I was, so I immediately stopped the car, got out, walked around, sat on the fender until I woke up a bit and finished the ride.
Both Wifey and me have never been road warriors, per se, especially nowadays because of my vision impairment, plus driving a very long distance just wastes time. We prefer to fly to our destination THEN drive from there to points of interest.
Once upon a time, I really wanted to take a cross-country trip, but never had the time, because when I was young, I was always working hard as I could to get myself established in a real job.
Goofing off 4 years in the USAF didn’t prepare me for anything, plus with so many guys doing drugs, I hade few buddies, and most of them had no money in the first place. Besides, I wanted to get out clean and free – and I did. Those 4 years would have been the best time for stuff like road trips – my “college years”.
When I was in the Air Force a buddy and I drove from Travis AFB (California) to Kentucky, and back. It was a great experience even if we did waste most of a day in Limon, Colorado trying to find a radiator hose to fit my Nova. As Zackman said above, being in the USAF we did not have much money to spend on this type of thing. Personally I drank a lot less beer for six months prior to the trip in order to save up some money. The “highlight” of the trip might have been on the return leg; we got off of I80 somewhere in Wyoming to get gas and got caught in a sleet storm, on June 1st.
I drive from Detroit to the E Coast at least twice a year, plus long road trips elsewhere. (This March I drove from Dt to San Francisco and back.) Two secrets: caffeine, and a planned rest area stop for a 45-minute power nap. Knowing that you can sleep to recharge at 2 PM or so breaks up the day and eliminates the afternoon sluggishness. A final tip is never to eat a big meal. A full stomach causes drowsiness. Satellite radio is my latest alertness tool. Raw Dog comedy (XM Channel 99) is so raunchy that there’s no way you can get sleepy.
I agree, I eat power bars and high cocoa chocolate steadily.
Leave early after going to bed early. Look for sports radio stations or NPR. Radio Lab keeps me thinking.
Don’t try to save the money by a attempting a long round trip to a sporting event, with beer and hot dogs, that gets you on a return starting at 11pm. Bring your shaving kit and a change of clothing. Stay in a motel part way back, and leave early in the morning, and straight to work.
I also try to use cruise without hitting the brake pedal. If you practice it, you can use timing of the decel/accel/coast functions to go for many miles. Keeps you awake because you are engaged in the game.
I also hit upon a talking game that is odd but works for me. It involves explaining to a famous shotgun guy from history, like DaVinci, how all the systems in the car work, and answering his questions (” Leonardo,They don’t need to flap them. Your air screw… they put that on front instead of on top…to pull the flying machine forward. It flies because the wing shape lowers the pressure underneath….”), ad infinitum/nauseum. Sometimes I do it in Italian, a language I speak badly, which forces me to alertness through word and grammar searches.
Then there’s the fantasy about the woman from your past who tracks you down and looks longingly into your eyes… That one can keep you alert at night.
OK. More than you need to know. But those are actual methods I’ve employed, Whatever works is better than running off the road.
I’m surprised no one mentioned what I do: As much as possible, plan ahead to ensure that you get plenty of sleep the night before.
Of course, that’s not always possible, in which case I use a combination of caffeine and SiriusXM Radio Classics (I love getting wrapped up in a good mystery).
Since I’m usually traveling for work I’ll occasionally listen to voicemails and return calls. I also have a, um, “friend” who has mastered the iPhone and sometimes has Siri read him my – I mean his – emails and then dictates draft replies, but only on the straight, lonely stretches of interstate. But I couldn’t see doing either of these phone-based activities on urban interstates, or those in, say, the upper Midwest and Northeast.
All of you with twelve hour days have got me beat-now. When I was a much younger man I would knock out some long days on my motorcycle trips. Yes, you can fall asleep on a bike especially in hot weather. My longest drives now are mostly from the Bay Area to the LA area. On the way back the drive usually follows a long day. I used to drive back from LA after a day selling car parts at a swap meet. If I had picked up my son on the way down we would have dinner before I dropped him off in Ventura. So I would be leaving at around 7 pm. And driving thru the night. I had read an article that what worked best for a young man was different for an older one. It recommended a short 15 min. nap for one and caffienated drinks for the other. I now prefer the early morning start as I don’t enjoy driving at night as much, can’t see past the headlights like I used to. I like to stop after 4 or 5 hours and stretch and walk around. I’ll talk to my wife at least while she’s still awake. However if I’m really tired I make her stay awake. I keep the windows down for fresh air and a little outside noise. I like to listen to public radio and cds, it helps to segment the time which seems to go by quicker. I will sing along when necessary and even a few face slaps have been used to keep me going until I reach someplace safe to take a break. When its daylight I used to drive really fast, but I always tried to pace myself behind a slightly faster driver. Now I find that I drive at a steady comfortable speed (never under the limit) at night. This cuts down on the stress level which is more relaxing.
If I have travel companions, then plenty of conversation. If I’m alone, then plenty of pump up songs and/or songs I can sing along to (with no audience, of course 🙂 ). I avoid food unless I’m starving to avoid sluggishness, and I try to avoid water to prevent frequent pitstops. Being lead-footed doesn’t hurt either, unless I’m driving through Connecticut. If so, then I make sure I have a rabbit to follow.
On a more sincere note, I’m sorry about your father, Ed. We went through that with my grandmother in her final years. It’s tough, but you have to appreciate the good moments. My grandmother always kept a good sense of humor about it, even in her final week.
Agree with the getting out to stretch every 2 hours or so, and getting sleep before leaving. I also try to back off caffeine a few days before so my tolerance goes down. I use caffeine and chocolate bars if tired, but generally when it’s time to use them it’s also time to find a hotel.
When my schedule permits, I prefer to make long drives at night if it will be a lot of interstate driving. I wait til my (early and light) dinner is digested and hit the road. I’m a nightowl and believe myself to be sharper between 8 pm and 2 am than I would be leaving at 5 am.
I also listen to music…big band, rat pack, and 50s-80s rock; anything I can sing along to. Then sometimes I’ll throw my brain a curveball and put the radio to some house or “party music” station. I don’t really like it but the complete change of beat, decency, etc definitely keeps me awake.
In heavy traffic, I turn off music. Like others, on long trips I run headlights and cruise control where possible. Also agree with taking secondary roads, but I do so more in the daytime than at night.
A one hundred dollar bill, even three 20’s , held out the drivers side window
in your left hand will keep you awake.
Ginseng, loud music, slapping myself, then 15 minute naps. Caffeine doesn’t help after 8 hours. I always like to leave at 3am for 12+ hour drives. Not using cruise helps, despite lost mpg. Driving a LS 430 can be dangerous is this regard.
I drove a box van in Wyoming for a year, and regularly cross the state. Trust me- parts of Wyoming around Rawlins and Casper are endlessly boring.
For me, I turn on the classic rock station, and do the speed limit. I don’t go slowly, nor do I try to speed. I stop for a meal if I need to, and gas if I need to. Other than that, hammer down, and make time!
On my way to Denver, there was a car that passed me doing about 90 between Casper and Shoshoni. I pulled in to a truck stop in Cheyenne for fuel, and he was there. The lesson is to keep the wheels turning.
So, for me, I like classic rock, and I do a bit of “Car Spotting”. It’s cool when you see something unusual (Last trip I was behind a Pontiac Catalina, for example)
Absolutely! The secret is keeping your breaks a short as possible. On a long drive, it is my goal to have the out of car less than one hour in the entire day. Otherwise you’ll just arrive later and even more tired.
I no longer drive if I’m in the least tired , I took out a lamp post in my beautiful ’64 Malibu that way , nearly died that time .
Power naps help a lot .
im 55now and never been much of a morning person. when it comes to trips, I prefer to stick to my normal circadian schedule. start later-10 or 11am. Let my wife drive daytime if a real long jaunt. then I will take over and drive in the dark. I like the lower traffic counts, the more zen driving conditions. most drivers are more courteous in the nighttime. I can see well in the headlit conditions and can go to 3am. we used this pattern a decade ago for a cross country trip. 500mi/day avg to cross the US in 6 days with young kids. drove to 11ish our 1st night. had breakfast, let the kids swim in the pool before checkout. lotsa books on tape and some movies on laptop, origami kept the younguns occupied in daylight. i would cover the evening shift and drive to the next hotel we could find 10:30-midnighish. sleep in and breakfast/swim in the morning with more 11am checkouts. Now, there are olympian day ski trips to the best big mountain 3.5+hours away. not night skiing. these are 5am starts.equally lo traffic on the way out interstate and adirondack 2lanes, but after going hard on the slopes, the jelly legs for the return trip make for a 5 hr return drive with stops for coffee, crunchy food and toilets as often as plausible. and with winter sunsets by 5, the trip is concluded in the dark. Now, the GPS with details of the upcoming curves shown on screen -even tho I know the route-is really a nice aid. fortunately, my son enjoys conversation after a day on the slopes and keeps me alert. Night driving preferred? I guess i am an outlier.
I’ve done a couple all-night trips over the years, and find them enjoyable for the same reasons. I have to be very well rested before doing one, tho.
I just drove 3000 km + to SF and back and I used the same technique I have been using for road trips for the past few years. First of all, sugary snacks are the worst, the will kill you, rot your teeth and make you feel worse when you bomb out. We get up at a reasonable hour, have coffee and a light snack, like a piece of fruit, and then drive for a couple of hours, when we will need a toilet break anyway. Then we eat brunch. The second leg is the longest, usually about six hours, with a quick coffee stop in the middle, but only one coffee a day, as it makes you bomb, too. Instead, drink water to keep yourself hydrated. When I stop, I do stretches, and try to walk around at a brisk pace. When we do hit a hotel for the night, we get the best gul’durn room in town, because the difference between a really nice place and a dump is like $50 a night, so splurge! In addition, hotel restaurants are usually pretty good.
In the morning, we then get up, work out, swim, and then hit the road. You’ll feel a whole lot better sitting on your behind all day when you’ve had some exercise. Using the patented Acura Invisibility Cloak (TM), I’ve covered some impressive distances, like Eugene OR to Vancouver BC in less than six hours last week.
That said, there really isn’t a whole lot of reason to drive anymore. It would have been cheaper by far to fly to SF when the hotels, meals and wear and tear on the car are counted into the equation.
Did you go to meet Paul in Eugene for a mini-CC meetup, or was this business related?
It was a vacation trip for him and his wife. And they did stop by for breakfast.
“Using the patented Acura Invisibility Cloak (TM)” I love it. I’d never really considered this, but once I bought my brown Altima, it was amazing how I disappeared off every cop’s radar for good.
And +100 on the nice hotel. I drive from OK to SC twice a year, and the nicest hotel in any little town in MS or AL is usually 80-100, not a bad splurge. Last one I stayed at (a Drury Inn & Suites) actually provided a free hot dinner buffet (with free cocktails and beer!!) along with breakfast. Saved me $20 right there travelling solo, couldn’t imagine how nice it’d be with a family.
Ed, I was in Jackson earlier today. What a small world.
In routine days at work I will cover 300 to 400 miles but I will stop frequently. Last trip over 250 miles one way was to Auburn. I will eat very little and will nurse a 32 oz tea for the duration. Will listen to the radio, primarily talk. Leaving early works best for me.
Leave early, break for about ten minutes and walk around every 11/2 to 2 hours. I try not to drive for any more than about 9 hrs a day, but that is not always possible.
Avoid the sugary snacks too.
My last three long drives were cross-country trips. It takes me two and a half days. The first two days I cover about 1,100 miles in 14 hours, stopping twice for gas, restroom breaks, and convenient food. I drink massive amounts of Diet Coke and carry a couple gallons of water and some granola bars in case things go wrong in the desert. I drive cars with firm, supportive, well-bolstered seats that enforce good posture, and only my eyes are fatigued by the trip as a result. I drive fast enough to make good use of my time, but not fast enough to go to jail in many states. 400 miles is my target fuel range, coinciding with my desires for disposing of used Diet Coke. Fuel economy and range suffer too much at speeds well into triple digits. I’m not averse to eating at a nice restaurant when I make my second stop of the day.
Raspberry iced tea, chips, leave early, trident gum (preferably in fruity flavors), a road trip buddy, caffeine, XM, etc.
I like to play the alphabet game. You know, find the first word you see that starts with the letter “A” then “B”. Etc.
If that doesn’t work it’s always fun to make silly recordings on your iPhone and play them back to yourself.
Audiobooks, especially SF…. Also podcasts…Penn’s Sunday School I can listen to for hours.
I can go for ~300 miles if I’m able to slowly titrate Coke – half regular, half diet – along the way, maybe a good-sized sip every 20-30 miles. But I won’t do more than 600 miles in a single day without a motel stop. When I was younger and single, I’d do a 1200-mile trip straight through, with a brief nap at a rest stop en route.
I’m sorry about your father, Ed. Mine’s 82 and I expect to be doing the same thing, at least my step-mother will do her share.
As far as staying awake, I like to get up early at 5am and get a breakfast with only protein, like eggs and bacon. Lunch is the big meal for the day. I avoid caffeine at least until 5 pm and when I start craving it, I know it’s time to start looking for a place to stop within the next hour. At least when I drive west, the time zones are working with me and giving me more daylight time. It’s the driving east that makes you feel like you can keep going later than you should because you’re still on your time zone. The hotels I like to stay at tend to be full by 8 or 9 so that’s another inducement to stop.
Not having a passenger who has to pee every two hours helps a lot, too 🙂
Have driven from TX to OH and OH to TX more than once, only stopping for fuel. I bring only a few snacks and a few drinks. I roll the window down if I start to get drowsy. Or, turn up the radio so the music is loud. My experience is that stopping for a normal, big meal only makes me drowsy later, thus a very limited number of snacks along the way. Also, a limited amount of fluids so I don’t have to stop at rest areas all the time.
The most amazing time, or perhaps the most foolish, I worked my day shift job, packed my belongings into my car, attended a seminar which I’d already paid for, then started the 21 hour drive about 9:30PM. Yeah, I actually made it safely, perhaps amazingly. Do not ever try something that foolish. I was going out of my mind the last few hours in an effort to stay awake. That was 25-30 years ago when I was much younger.
One thing that might help is driving barefoot, though some states may consider it illegal. I like audiobooks on long drives (outside of urban areas). Good day.
I’ve resorted to slapping myself hard in the face. Works – but not for that long. Turning up the radio and singing along works pretty good……
Used to leave about 5:00 am going from Vancouver to LA, about 960 miles. Would go about 10 mph over limit, so 65-75 mph. Brought water and sandwiches, a couple of cups of coffee before leaving. About halfway through would stop at a decent cafe and have a nice meal and more coffee. Other than that, just stop for gas. In the summer arrived in LA around 9 or 10pm, that way only driving in the dark for a couple of hours. I haven’t made that trip since 96, but I still felt fine after a trip that far in one day. I also did the trip in the winter once with frozen roads all the way until traveling over the Sisku’s. Got in around 1:00 am, that was not fun. Today I try to avoid night driving as much as I can, vision isn’t what it once was. Sorry about your dad, I was lucky enough to live close by as my mom was stricken with dementia, I feel your pain. Lost her in 2010, lost dad in 2014 due to multiple strokes. I spent a lot of all nighters in hospitals and often would have to leave work for an emergency, starting in 2007. Eventually it cost me my job. Maybe some arrangement could be made to move your dad closer to your family, although most likely he would not be willing to move.
Weed, whites and wine? (J/k)
On long trips a stop every 2.5-3 hours usually does it. I used to have a 4wd truck that went through a significant amount of fuel in the tank that made this necessary. Lately if I have to pass Toronto I leave before 5am to avoid the parking lot highway situation. That wears me out faster than driving at speed.
If I have to take a short nap I do so in the busy parking lot at a fuel stop. Many years ago after an extended work day I found a fuel stop that had a picnic area down a gravel road a fair distance from the main parking lot. While I slept an extended family from the old country, in several vehicles, set up a pig roast using my car to shield the fire from the wind. I awoke to the smell of melting plastic or hot paint or something and there was a raging fire less than three feet from the side of the car. I actually burned my fingertips touching the window it was so hot. Fastest get away I ever made and anger kept me awake for the duration of the trip. I have long since outgrown my 20 something anger issues and this is now the Gypsy barbecue incident.
Depends on the vehicle for me. My 95 Explorer? 14 hours in the saddle and I’m still fresh as a daisy, my 77 Chevelle? 3 hours is about all I can do in it before I have to stop and take a walk or just get out of the car.
There for a while I was doing yearly trips to Colorado Springs from D/FW area, my buddy and I would take my Explorer since it was roomier than his 1st gen S-Blazer and didn’t suffer from the obnoxious unbalanced 4.3 drone thanks to the Ford’s 60 degree V6, We’d leave Fort Worth at 7am, drive to Amarillo and get gas, swap drivers and eat lunch, we’d drive to Pueblo and get gas, and swap drivers again. We once pulled an allnighter to get there and that was miserable.
I did that same drive by myself a couple times and started taking the less direct ways and more of the two-tracks and gravel county roads, just to break up the monotony, I loved the drive, and it was pretty once you left the Cross-Timbers region of N. Texas.
I drove the Chevelle on the 2013 Power Tour from Arlington to Charlotte, NC, about 3-4 hours or a fuel stop was about all I could tolerate of that car’s saggy seat and lack of cruise control before my shoulder or butt would go to sleep.
Diet Dew. And lots of it. And Sirius sat radio, saves me from playing spin-the-dial looking for music I can tolerate, like Octane, Ozzy’s Boneyard, and Liquid Metal.
I’m curious to here of some personal bests regarding road trips. Mine, done way back in ’83 when I was all but 20, was Lakewood Ohio to Texarkana, Texas, about 1000 miles, stopping only for fuel, munchies, and potty breaks. Not sure I could do that now 🙂 .