One Mouthful at a Time….
(attributed to Creighton W. Abrams, Jr., US Military, 1914-1974)

I am a 9 Quick Start (Kolbe A Index 5492). I decided to transport a whack of framed prints about 2.5 x 3 ft. from Toronto to Florida, with glass intact, and I received quotes from $2500 to $7000, with some stringent conditions, It took about a month for the funnel to whittle down to two alternatives, (1) forget it, or (2) drive it myself.

If you are familiar with www.kolbe.com you know that I chose (2). So, you probably also know that as a “5492” I am not going to the CAA to get a TRIPTIK. But, I did arm myself with both GPS and a Garmin that provided traffic and accident information. If I was going to wing it, I was going to be armed. This was quite an event because even though the prints were mine and they were being transported for personal use, border security could question my unusual cargo. We prepared for the event. My friend drove in to Toronto from Cape Cod, MA. with her son and over two days (time out for fun) we loaded about 10 pieces of art into my SUV, along with assorted other “stuff”. Even the passenger seat was allocated to an overnight case and a cooler.

This article is about my adventures. Mostly it is about the DO’s and DON’Ts of solo driving between Toronto and Florida. If you have driven the route, you know my challenges, and probably avoided most of them.

Before You Set Out

  1. Make sure the car will make it there and back. I put on new tires (due) and replaced my brakes and rotors (really due), and gave it a thorough check up (9 years old), including battery.
  2. Get a decent sized cooler for the passenger seat, yet small enough that I could bring it into my hotel room at night for a refrigeration top-up. Fill plastic bags with ice cubs and get reusable ice packs. Load it up with water bottles, energy bars, fruit, finger food, and some meals.
  3. Small change is essential for toll booths. And small bills. And cash. Credit cards are handled differently in the States and you do NOT want to hand your card to someone who takes it out of sight to process.
  4. You need physical paper maps, no matter. Paper maps are the only way to get the “big picture” of where you are, to give you perspective. Unless you are a “5492” or similar, on your Kolbe A Index, you will want a TRIPTIK. And MapQuest. GPS can give you a bigger picture but little detail, and a GARMIN can warn you of traffic and accidents (there is some time delay). But if the GARMIN tells you to detour off the highway I would pull out the paper map to check up on the route before I follow direction.
  5. Pack an overnight case with only the clothes and toiletries you are likely to need for the trip. Everything else can stay in the car undisturbed until your destination.
  6. Use a black sheet to cover the floor of the back seat and put the most theft enticing cargo under it.

Off I Go!

There are three routes to Florida and I picked the picturesque route down I-77. Only take this route in summer. Just my advice. Fewer assists, more hills, some unusual roads.

And I am away! Seeking adventure. What I remember most about the trip down was being hungry and having to “pee”. What happened to my adventure? Hungry because food stops must be where the food is served.   Gas and restaurants are off the highway. I could not eat from the cooler for three days. So, follow the food signs. If KFC and Burger King, and Subway are highlighted, keep moving. The area may not be built up so it may not be safe.

Eventually I would find a town where food signs indicate Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s and familiar gas stations like Shell or Exxon. More people, more families, and…garbage bins. Garbage bins are very important. Keep the car clean, after all, it is your work environment.

To stay awake comfortably, you have to be well hydrated. Well hydrated results in the need for “facilities”. As I said, what I remember most about the trip down was being hungry and having to “pee”. McDonald’s tends to have cleaner bathrooms, AND usually a side door right beside the facilities where you can slink in and out with minimum fuss and guilt. There is another bonus. McDonald’s has super good iced coffee, super cheap. I drank mediums, black no sugar, all the way down, and every restaurant was under $2.00 for a medium. If you are hungry, in a pinch, McDonald’s knows what lettuce and a tomatoe look like.

Sins to Avoid

  1. Do not drink, especially mixed drinks like margaritas. The mixes are loaded with chemicals. If you are tired you will be affected. Major hangover from one drink….
  2. Do not overeat at a sitting no matter how hungry you are. You could fall asleep at the wheel.
  3. Sleepy? Pull off the road at a busy rest area and nap or meditate for 10-20 minutes. Not convenient? Try my solution. SING! Bellow anything. Off key is good. Rowdy, raucous, and loud. If you can find a station showcasing this music, great, otherwise turn anything into your new favourite singing style.
    Put out the energy, get the circulation going.
  4. Do not speed, watch the rules of the road. No matter. You are the one with the out of State and out of Country licence plate.

Good Things

  1. If you drive 7-8 hours a day, have at least one meal in a restaurant to recharge and get some good nourishment. Take a few short breaks to get gas, stretch your legs and breathe outdoor air. That increases your day by about two hours. Plan for the time.
  2. Work backwards. Figure out when you want to stop for the night, subtract 10 hours and you have your start time. For me, I took mornings slow, and woke up two hours before I set out on the road.
  3. Use this “travel pattern” to make your trip more enjoyable. Work with it. Trying to do what your brain and body will resist causes unneeded stress.
  4. Get enough sleep. The world will be a more friendly place.
  5. Have a list of hotels in various towns near your best destination point each night. About 3 or 4 pm you should know where you will stop for the night. Call to make your reservations, with a late arrival guarantee. Hotels charge “walk ins” top rate because they can. At 8 or 9 pm do you look like you are going to search for a cheaper room?
  6. If your selected hotels have no room, do not hesitate to ask them to find you a room. Good reservation staff will do that. Their own chain first, then competitors. Be polite of course.
  7. Most hotel rooms on the road have a small fridge and freezer. Refreeze your ice packs and replenish your ice for the cooler. I was driving down south in very hot weather with a cooler on the front seat and the ice and ice packs lasted the day. Cold drinking water, and travelling food are welcome treats.
  8. If your hotel was good on the way down, and if the timing is right, stay at the same hotel on the way back. You may get better treatment.

AVOID

Over three days I encountered situations where I had to be vigilant. Of these the most difficult was the need to drive after dark on unfamiliar roads. No Garmin or GPS can take away the stress of driving “blind” in the dark on roads virtually without any lighting or reflection points.

  1. Do not drive after dark. It is not safe.
  2. Do not drive into the evening without a full tank of gas. It is not safe either. Especially if you get lost.
  3. Do not drive after dark without a guaranteed hotel reservation at a hotel easily accessible from the highway.

AND always respect the “working equipment”. Tune into your car and listen and look for unexpected sounds as if you were watching over a child. And join CAA or AAA!

So, Let Me tell You a Story!
(Well, that is for the next Blog)

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