Long drive essentials

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Summer is here and despite the weird weather, it’s time to put on your daisy dukes, sunglasses and head out on for an adventure.  If you cannot be displaced in a remote island for a long time, hop into your car and find a destination that is just 2 to 4 hours away. It can be the beach, the mountains or just a different city to experience uniqueness or just to chill.

Long drives can be the adventure itself specially if you have the right company or you’re traveling with the family. The flexibility of being able to get off the car when you see something interesting or take detours is just so appealing in spite of the long hours.  I usually like to pass the scenic routes, because of the fresh fruits and vegetables or local delicacies being peddled by the roadside for dirt-cheap prices. There are some restaurants in the area that are worthy of the side trip.

Time was when it used to take eight hours to drive to Baguio and the reliability of vehicles are simply nonexistent for a weekend trip that everybody just wouldn’t miss.  My fondest memory of those trips is how we enjoyed eating all the twin popsies we stupidly thought would last the heat, but ended up as a marathon popsie fest until our tongue went numb.  This simple joy made waiting for our tire to get vulcanized bearable.

Long drives also become an opportunity for long talks and getting to know each other. When being confined into a 3×5 sqm space forces the company into each other, your only option for escape is usually to pretend sleeping (girls usually do this) or to drown out the noise (guys are good with this one).  You should take advantage of this time of togetherness but be mindful of the needs and moods of your co-passengers.

Here are some tips to make the trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

Before leaving

• Make sure that your ride is in tip top shape; like a Boy Scout boyfriend or husband (does that even exist?) your car has to be ready for any action on the road, do the following:
• Get your vehicle serviced and checked for wear and tear that might just break while you are driving.
• Check your spare tire. This cuts the hassle when you get a flat tire for about 1 to 4 hours depending on how remote the area is.
• Complete your set of tools plus extras. Make sure that you have all the necessary tools for any occasion.  Forgetting one is like forgetting your eyelash curler or your mascara, when occasion calls for a doe eyed look. Here’s a check list: tire wrench and a multi head screw driver, jumper cables, early warning device (the triangle reflector thing), car jack, and portable mini compressor, duct tape (this by far is the most versatile tool, from quick fixes on falling parts to securing items), bungee cords (just in case you need to get pulled), maglight (this two-in-one tool that would come handy without carrying anything illegal) plus extra batteries, umbrella and disposable rain coat, Swiss Army knife
• A complete car kikay kit.  Your kikay kit is your arsenal for any occasion; this has to be for your trip as well.
• Cash and  papers. Even though a lot of establishments accept credit cards, you would still need a good amount of cash for emergency.
• A copy of Car Insurance papers, OR and Registration, in your luggage
• Personal Items. A pack or cannister of anti-bacterial wipes is any woman’s best friend and I like the menthol ones for a quick fresh up and clean feeling. A bottle of alcohol or antibacterial gel and toilet seat spray may also be needed, bunch of ziplocs and trash bags as well as sun block and hat since you’ll never know when you need to be under the sun.
• Entertainment. Extra mobile phone with important numbers and a loaded prepaid card, phone charger, Ipod or Iphone cable. If traveling with kids, have a bunch of DVDs, if your car is equipped with TV and player.  If not, find or make “in-car games kit.” Use Ipads only for emergency. Activity packs for kids and adults (coloring books, playing cards, etc.)
• For comfort. Bring pillows, neck pillows and blanket. Make sure that you have a small cooler for drinks and some snacks and don’t forget to bring medicines for headaches, diarrhea, allergy, nausea, menthol sticks, insect repellant, anti-itch lotion, first aid kit (wound cleansers, antibiotic ointment, and bandages), fever gel patches, lip balm and moisturizer, nothing is more annoying than a wailing kid or adult while you are driving. Paper towels are quite a must bring.
• Research notes on the terrain. If it’s your first time on this route, check Google maps for directions and travel time.   Get oriented on the possible rest stop and gas stations on the way. Check your GPS if your destination is on the map system.
• Arrange your playlist with titles that would represent the situation it calls for.  “Regular driving music” would mostly be your program, there would be times you would need something more upbeat that you can call “Energizing.”  For emergency, whip up what they call the “singable songs,” singing while driving is a surefire way to keep you awake (and your companions, too!).
• If traveling with children, don’t forget to use age appropriate car seats.

Day of the drive
• Check the weather, news for any storm signals, road blockage or maintenance work that you may encounter.
• Pack you luggage with items that you won’t need to access during the drive at the bottom and items you would need close hand.
• Make the gas station your first stop to do a fluid test. Fill up your tank so it would not be a hassle later on and check for water, coolant, brake fluid, windshield solution etc.
• Bring your spare key and you might want to give it to another person to carry in their purse or bag.  If you lose both, then you probably deserve what’s coming.
• Wear comfortable eyewear, driving shoes and clothes.
• Make food stops, don’t eat while driving, falling food or spilt drink is a sure way to get into an accident.  A 30-minute delay is not a biggie.
• Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate.  Not only will air conditioning dry your skin, it can also make you sluggish. Drink water and spray face mist during breaks.

On emergencies
• First thing you do is to stop in a well-lit area or gas station.
• Notify other people that are part of your group, if you would need their assistance or just to let them know that you will be falling behind.
• Some notable numbers that I suggest you store in your directory:
Motolite Express Hatid: 3706686, delivers fresh batteries within an hour plus they accept credit card
Lifeline Rescue: 16911- Covers Manila and selected surrounding cities
Aeromed: +(632) 9111121 and +(632) 9958294, offers airlift as well
Other things you need to remember is to always follow the speed limit and be a defensive driver. Once you go to the province, there would be more people who are unfamiliar or don’t even grasp the concept of road safety. It also pays to be a defensive pedestrian when you decide to hop out of your car.

Simple joys tend to be more memorable so don’t be overly dramatic about the destination.  It might not be as sophisticated as to places you fly to, but then it’s supposed to be a different experience anyway.

So wherever your gas pedal takes you this summer, remember that it’s the people that make the memory worth remembering or forgetting. So chill, relax, have a fun and fabulous long drive.

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