5 Tips for Preparing for Winter Wonderland Driving

winter driving
Winter Driving

Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous.  Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too.  You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:

#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!

It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you’re ever stranded, you’ll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It’s also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.

#2 Winterize Your Car

It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car’s fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition.  If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it’s a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance.  Slippery winter conditions mean you’ll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters.  Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.

#3 Slow Ridem

There’s never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn’t be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they’re inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you’re familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car’s rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.

#4 The Man with a Plan

If you’re planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you’re going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you’ve got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don’t allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.

#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go

When you’re stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver’s seat; you don’t want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it’s clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you’re hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you’ll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.

Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.

Preparing Yourself and Your Car for Hurricane

Tropical Storm Katia (NASA, International Space Station, 08/31/11)
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter / CC BY-NC

Preparing Yourself and Your Car for Hurricane

With Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, bearing down upon the entire Eastern seaboard and many states getting slammed by heavy rain and wind, I am sure lots of people are wondering what they could have done to prepare for a hurricane better.  An important consideration is that your vehicle can be damaged easily during hurricanes, it’s important to try to do all you can to protect this valuable asset.

I recommend parking your car as close to your house as possible and in the driveway.  The reason is if a lot of home insurance policies will cover damage to a vehicle from trees or debris if it close to a house.  This varies on what type of policy you have though.  If you have a garage, carport, or some other structure you can park your can that would be the most ideal place to park it.  That is certainly not guarantee but is a safe bet.

Obviously though your car is not the only consideration for preparing for a hurricane during hurricane season.  Here are some tips to get hurricane ready;

  1. Food: Make sure to have enough food for your whole family. This includes any pets you might have in your family.  We have dry dog food and canned dog food that will last our dogs, Cody and Sierra, awhile.
  2. Water: You also need to have clean drinking water too.  It is recommend to have 1 gallon of clean water per day.  If you are not sure if you have enough, at least have a teapot and heat source so that you can boil and sanitize drinking water if necessary.
  3. First Aid:  It’s always good to have a First Aid Kit in case of an emergency.  You never know when you might need it.  I recommend having hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting wounds), bandages and gauze, cloth tape, needles, gloves, ointment, and a blanket.  It is also a good idea to have a first aid booklet handy as well.
  4. Medications: Make sure to get any medications for your family filled before you need to hunker down at your house or go to a shelter.
  5. Emergency Contacts: Keep an emergency contact list.  This includes, relatives, doctors, veterinarians,(if you have pets), or friends.  Make sure to know about the nearest nearest shelter if you need to evacute your area due to flooding.  If you have pets, be sure to find a pet-friendly shelter.
  6. Rain Gear, Towels, & Clothes: Try not to go outside if you can help it, but it’s always good to have a poncho and rain gear in case you do.  It’s a good idea to have as much clean clothes as you can too.
  7. Cash: Cash, and I mean the real green stuff, is good to have in case power is going to be out for awhile.
  8. Flashlights, Batteries, and Candles:  It’s good to have flashlights and batteries if you are going to be without power for a long time.   I would also recommend having short stubby candles since they are less likely to tip over and cause a fire.  Matches are a good idea to have too!
  9. Full Tank of Gas:  If gas stations don’t have power, they can’t sell gas.  It’s a good idea to fill up your car’s gas tank if you need to go somewhere with your family.

You should also consider having a spare flashlight with batteries, blanket, and first aid kit in your car if you need to venture out.  It’s best to not drive during a hurricane, and you have been told not to, you shouldn’t.

I hope these tips will help you prepare for Hurricane Sandy, Frankenstorm, or any other hurricane in the future.  If you have any recommendations, tips, or advice about hurricane preparedness you would like to add, please leave a comment below.

Day 3 Through the Rockies

Colorado

Yesterday I got started off better due to a proper night’s sleep in a Comfort Inn in Green River, Utah.  The room though was a little overpriced I thought.  Usually they are better than what I experienced.  A quick look on TripAdvisor confirmed my feelings even more.

I drove along I-70 East through the Rocky Mountains into Colorado.  Forget Utah… this was incredible.  All the mountains were really beautiful.  Driving was a little nerve racking.  Most people don’t know how to downshift, since I saw most cars excessively using their brakes.   All you need to do is put your car into a lower gear if it’s manual or “L” if it’s an automatic.  I could feel the cars power diminishing in Utah when elevation was at 5000 feet but at 9000 feet going alone I-70 the 4-cylinder was truly being tested.  I was pushing down the accelerator pedal, “What is something broken?  Oh yeah my car has lost power from the elevation!”  Cars will lose about 3% of power for every 1000 feet.  For a little Accord, that makes a difference.   I did not mind going slow since I got to see the scenery more.

For music and to keep myself alert I hooked up my iPod and listened to CarTalk, The Rolling Stones, and the comedian Dane Cook.  Rolling Stones is great for a road trip and so is CarTalk.  Yeah I know I said NPR was bad and will make you fall asleep, but CarTalk is great for road trips.  It’s so funnty and entertaining to listen to people’s relationships with their cars.  CarTalk is the only NPR program I listen to.  What other shows are on NPR?  Who knows?

Driving by yourself is nice because you stop and get on the road quickly again.  I tend to stop for a few minutes giving myself and the car a break.  Cars are working hard too!  I seem to be able to make good time and distance on my own.  Having the cooler helps with nice cold Gatorades too.

When I got into Denver I walked around the 16th Street Pavilion.  It’s basically an open mall with all sorts of shops.  Shuttles run up and down the street so you can get to shops easily.  I stopped in at Pinkberry for the first time and got a chocolate Yogurt with a waffle piece.  The Yogurt was really good comparable to YogurtLand.  They had some interesting things in the Pavillion like decorated upright pianos for anyone to play.  You heard music all up and down the street.   I thought, “If they had pianos on the streets in Baltimore they would all have graffitti on them.”  To my surprise I did not see any pianos that had been vandalized in the Pavilion.  Most seemed to be out-of-tune though.

After that I made my way up to Greeley to stay with a relative.   Colorado is a great state.

West to East in the Beast: Day 2 St. George to Green River, Utah

 

Amazing!

Today I got started late… really late.  I did not get on the road until around 2pm.  I stayed up late the night before writing and talking.  Probably should have gone to sleep earlier.  Will get an early start tomorrow driving into Denver.

You would think driving through Utah would be boring… it’s not.  I saw some of the most amazing scenery driving on I-70 today.  I hope some of my pictures can capture the essence of how great some of the mountains and scenes are in Utah.  It’s truly amazing.  It makes we want to come back and explore.

Some parts of I-70 you will drive and see no other cars, from either direction.  It’s nice because it made it easy for me to stop and take pictures and videos.   If you want to fumble around in your car for things, you don’t need to worry about hitting another car.  Of course you still might have an accident.  There were some passes today going along where you had to slow down.  If the sign said “45 mph” you better be close to that.  I am sure you probably know why I am suggesting that.

Today I only drove a little over 300 miles from St. George to Green River, Utah.  Tomorrow I will make it into Denver which is about another 300 miles.  I hear driving into Denver is beautiful but harrowing going through the Mountain passes.  I will be excited to explore Denver and see what it has to offer and see what tomorrow brings.