Women & Safe Travel

05/25/2012

Driving Solo Across the U.S. - Expect the Unexpected

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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. 

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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.

05/23/2012

Women Traveling Solo - Safety Tips for Trip

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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 plus it's less expensive than a full passport. 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 (@Uhaul on Twitter and @UHaulCompany) for sponsoring 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.

05/17/2012

U-Haul & Bridgestone Sponsor Women Traveling Alone Safety Tour

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Women Traveling Alone - Focusing on Your Personal Safety

Traveling Alone – What Women Need to Know Before They Go!

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.

Reduce environmental footprint - Save gas: When driving long distances or larger vehicles it's important to remember that the faster you go the more gas you'll use. So keep in mind as you plan your route and how many miles you'll drive each day, also plan to stay within the speed limit and stay to the right on 2-or more lane roads to allow cars to pass on your left. By reducing your speed, starting and stopping slower, you'll not only achieve better gas mileage and save money, you'll also be reducing your environmental footprint. This issue is important to all of us but our sponsors, Bridgestone and U-Haul, are international companies contributing significantly to help this cause. 

For more information to keep yourself safe on the road, click here.