To some, the words Road Trip bring back fond memories of childhood vacations to the beach and grandmaís house. Mom and Pop cheerfully guiding the family in comfort to another memorable vacation of comfort and ease. Still yet to others, it conjures up images of the absolute horror of the entire family crammed into the station wagon under the tyrannical iron fist of Pop with his will enforced by Ma who could fly all the way without a plane. Iíve had both of these experiences, or something like them, so I hope I can pass along the lessons Iíve learned and hope you can avoid the same mistakes Iíve made.
Planning for the trip isnít as easy as throwing everything in the car and hoping to find your way there. You have to know where youíre going, and when. When planning your route, spend the three dollars for a map and highlighter. It makes life much easier. Draw out the route you plan on taking so there is no confusion on the road. Plan your route using easy to navigate major highways. Thereís nothing worse than getting lost in the middle of nowhere without even road signs. By sticking to the major arteries, you are never far from fuel, a garage, or a hotel for the night. Organizations like CAA or AAA can help you find a safe and efficient route from your home to the event. CAA and AAA can also point out areas of construction where delays can be expected. Something else to consider is holiday traffic. On long weekends and holidays, people flock to the highways doing the same thing you are. Expect delays and try to re-route around major metropolitan centers. By going a few miles out of the way you can save time and stress.
How much is the trip going to cost? That depends on the vehicle you are planning to take. When choosing whose car to take, there are a few things you have to consider. First of all, how many passengers can it take? If youíre going to be on a long road trip, it may not be a bright idea to fill a car to its maximum number of passengers. If youíre going to be in a car sitting for a long time itís good to have a little room to spread out. Being cramped for hours on end is not cool. Taking a big vehicle means a big gas bill. A driver should know roughly how far they can get on a tank of gas and how much it costs to fill the tank. Add on an extra 10% for higher gas prices en-route. The next thing to think about is cargo room. Can you carry everyoneís stuff there and back? You may have to sacrifice passengers for gear.
Another cost consideration is food and drinks on the way. Stopping for food and something to drink is usually overlooked, but by packing a cooler with sandwiches and drinks cuts the cost down. Remember, what goes in, has to come out some time. A rest stop every couple of hours wonít hurt. Most cities have service stations or rest areas on highways coming into and leaving them. Plan a stop every so often to stretch and relax. If you are planning on taking more than one car, this is a good place to meet up and wait for someone who got left behind in traffic. Draw them in on the map, and make sure everyone knows about them.
So weíve got a route planned with stops, marked out with a highlighter so itís easy to read, and cash for food, drinks and gas there and back. Planís good to go.
The big day arrives. Try to pack as much as you can the day before to cut down on time before you leave. Pack up as much as you feel comfortable leaving out in the car overnight. Put the stuff you wonít need to drive on the bottom. Bury it. Bury it like that 6-pack of Cranberry Nut Crunch Ale your brother-in-law got you for Christmas last year. You wonít need it until you unpack anyway. Keep the stuff you need to travel on top where you can get at it. I know it sounds obvious, but I canít remember how many times weíve had to stop the car because we had to tear apart the car looking for something. Ever see a family on the side of the road with bags and boxes all over the shoulder? Wave next time. It might just be me. Donít expect everything to go into the same space it did leaving as it will coming back. Nothing gets packed up perfectly when youíre tired. Leave extra room for ďexpansionĒ and for stuff bought at the event. Maps, charts, and directions to the field must all be within reach of the driver or navigator. Theyíre going to be the ones using them so theyíd better be able to get them at a momentís notice. Plan to leave early in the morning and if possible try to arrive while there is still enough light to set up camp.
Drivers - If possible, have more than one driver. You can travel further and the drivers will be less fatigued. A huge chunk of accidents on the highways are attributed to fatigue. Itís as dangerous ad drunk driving. Rest regularly or switch off drivers. Make sure your insurance covers additional drivers by checking with the company. They can tell you if itís ok or if you have to be in the car with them. There may be additional restrictions, so be safe and check.
Passengers - Your job is to navigate as requested and to take care of the driver. If the driver asks for a Coke, youíd better make sure one makes it to them immediately so they donít have to dig around for themselves. Donít touch the radio. Youíre sitting there; the driverís got the hard job. The radioís theirs as long as theyíre behind the wheel. This isnít set in stone, but itís the way I run my vehicle. Finally, chip in for gas money. Divide the cost among you and pay for your share. The easiest thing to do is get a rough guess on the cost for the trip (see above) and hand the cash off to the driver before you leave. Whateverís left over gets split up evenly when the tripís done.
Finally, youíre there. When youíre all out on the field running and shooting, make sure the vehicle is secure. Lock it up and make sure there is more than one key. One option would be to give one to another player you came with, or take a piece of snare wire and tie a spare key to the frame somewhere in conspicuous. That way should you loose yours on the field, there will be a safe spare back at camp.
After a full day of play, youíre bound to be tired. Plan to spend the night and leave the next day. Youíll be fresh for the drive and you wonít have to worry about fatigue. You will still be tired, but not exhausted. Plan your rest stops accordingly. If at all possible, take a shower before cramming your sweaty smelly disgusting carcass in to the car. Itís common courtesy. I had to ride back from a survival course once for 7 hours in a van with a guy who didnít shower after 7 days in the bush. He lost a lot of respect and some friends that day. Take it easy coming back and get home safe.
The key to a good trip is in the planning. Take care of the little details, and the big things take care of them selves. Planning out the trip and sticking to the plan works in the long run and saves you time and stress.
Aaron ďGhostĒ Grubin