I want to continue my series on preparing for a road trip before we move on to other things. Before we do let me remind you of the first 7 tips and then we’ll look at the next three.
- Break the Trip up Into Stages for Planning Purposes.
- Use maps, books and the internet to plan and find all the interesting things along your route.
- Be Realistic With Your Time.
- Figure a budget and stick to it as best you can.
- Balance is critical; Go prepared, but don’t take too much.
- Make your best educated guess on the weather, but go ready for the worst.
- Carry a second form of transportation if you have it.
Tip Number Eight: Be ready for bugs.
Some places where you go will not have a problem with insects, but many will. Alaska is famous for its hordes of huge mosquitoes and having lived there for many years I knew it was a well-deserved reputation. In certain places and at certain times, they can be horrible. But Alaska isn’t the only place with that problem. They were equally bad where we were at in Montana and I’ve had the same experience in Colorado. In the Sierras, one year I was overwhelmed with meat bees. Fortunately they didn’t sting, but boy were they annoying. On the east coast, many states also have many flying insects and Florida in particular has a reputation for horrendous bug problems. So, even if you never go to Alaska, you need to research the area you are going to and find methods of staying safe and sane them. Here is a link to my earlier article about mosquito nets and Permethrin: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/mosquitoes-putting-screens-treating-clothes-permithin-repellant/ Here are my recommendations for mosquitoes:
Mosquito netting on the windows. I did a post describing how Judy made hers and I strongly recommend her system because it is so easy and cheap anyone can do it without any tools except a pair of scissors. Essentially, you cut them to fit around the window, wrap a layer of duct tape around the perimeter so it won’t scratch or come unravel. Then you use magnets to attach it to the outside of the door. These are the magnets that I bought from Amazon that I highly recommend! They’ll hold very strongly right through the doubled layer of duct tape and mosquito netting. Ceramic Magnet 1 7/8 x 7/8 x 3/8″ 50-Counts I don’t recommend the rare-earth magnets. I think these are much better and cheaper.
Permethrin: As I told you in an earlier post I treated my clothes with Permiethrin which is an insecticide that you apply to your clothes and after it dries it keeps insects from landing on your clothes for 6 weeks. If they can’t land on your clothes, they can’t bit you through them. I was very pleased with it and it worked well to protect me from bites through my clothes, especially my socks. Here is a link to Amazon of what i bought: Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray
But of course they will still bight your bare skin so for that you need a topical repellant.
- Topical Repellant: We all know that anything with Deet works extremely well to keep mosquitoes away and the higher the percentage the better it works and the longer it lasts. However, I’m not a fan of Deet because it stinks and leaves a terrible residue, worse, if you get it in your yes it really hurts. However, it works so well I’ll use it in an emergency. Fortunately, there are other choices now. Judy had some Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus and it was not unpleasant to wear and also seemed to work pretty good so I recommend it.
- Candles and area sprays: I’ve never tried these but I do know people who swear by Citronella candles so you may want to give them a try.
- Head-nets and net shirts: I didn’t think where we were at was bad enough to warrant these extreme measures so we didn’t take them, I now wish we had. But I spent 6 weeks in the Arctic when I was a young man and it’s indescribable how we all wore head-nets much of the time. So be aware they are an excellent option in certain circumstances like the Florida Everglades for example. Here is a link to a cheap bug jacket: Coghlan’s Bug Jacket
- Electric fly-swatter: I know these look like silly kid’s toys but I was desperate so I bought one. It works great!! It makes it so easy to kill bugs while they are flying and it never fails to kill them. If one has landed already, hold it close to it so it lifts off and flies into it. ZAP and he’s gone. They give a very nice little spark when they kill and if you leave it turned on, the mosquito will actually start to smoke. Very satisfying!Find it on Amazon here: 2 Pack Electric Bug Fly Mosquito Zapper
Lesson Number Nine: Plan around Bad Traffic at Major Cities and Holidays.
Neither Judy nor I like to fight crowds or terrible traffic so we studied both the map to find major cities and the calender to find the major holidays. Once we knew when we wanted to avoid being on the road, we laid out our plans.
Holidays: Because we were traveling in the summer, we ran into two Holidays, Memorial Day in June and the 4th of July. We knew the traffic can be miserable then so we decided to sit tight before the traditional travel times. For Memorial Day we hunkered down at the RV Park we were staying at with our friend Scott at The Grand Tetons NP. For the 4th of July we sat tight in our camp at Palmer, Alaska. We made sure we had everything we needed and stayed put until the crowds went home.
Major Cities: If you’ve done much cross-country driving you know that some big cities are easy to get through, but that most are very fast-moving and confusing. In some cities getting stuck in a bad traffic jam or getting lost is almost inevitable. The only major city we had to go through was Salt lake City and we both knew from bad experience it’s traffic could be very, very difficult to get through. So we made a plan and kept to it. We wanted to get across the metro area by noon on a Sunday morning. Sunday morning nearly always has the least traffic of any day or time of the week. Because Salt Lake is such a Mormon town, we thought there would be even less traffic than normal. We were right! We zipped right through with light traffic and no problems.
Lesson Number Ten: Plan for mobile cooking.
Like I said earlier, driving to Alaska is a LONG trip, for some people it will be over 10,000 miles, and when you are looking at those distances you simply must put in some long driving days where you are banging out the miles. Part of making time on the road is spending the minimum amount of time cooking. We did several things that made it easier:
Peanut Butter: As long as you like it and aren’t allergic, nothing beats a jar of peanut butter! It’s delicious, cheap, easy to prepare, doesn’t need refrigeration, best of all, it’s healthy (watch it’s calories though). You can make a sandwich, spread it on flour tortillas, eat it with crackers, or just scoop it out of the jar and gobble it down! Since we had the fridge, we carried along a natural jam with minimum sugar added. Yummy!
We brought along my Dometic 12 volt fridge. That way, when we did cook we could cook extras and refrigerate the left-overs. Or we could go to fast food and buy and refrigerate the extras. We both like Little Caesar’s pizza, so we bought one of those for $5 and had 4 meals out of it by putting the leftovers in the cooler. That allowed us to just grab something out of the fridge and eat it while we drove or when we stopped for a rest break. A healthier choice is Subway sandwiches. They are everywhere in America Mand pretty common across Canada. If you buy a foot long for $5 and save half for later, that is two pretty cheap, fast and healthy meals. You could use an ice chest if you don’t have a 12 volt fridge.
Eat sandwiches. They are fast, cheap and easy with little clean-up. If you are careful, they can even be pretty healthy. We made up a big batch of tuna salad before we left and ate tuna sandwiches for the first few days we were on the road. We also brought along some commercial lunch meats for quick sandwiches. For a little more variety, we also made fried-egg sandwiches and grilled cheese. With a fridge you can make BLTs (I buy the pre-cooked bacon so there is no messy cooking) which is healthy and fast.
Breakfast bars, Ensure, crackers and nuts for munchies. Both Judy and I are fans of breakfast bars so we kept an assortment of them that we enjoyed for a quick and somewhat healthy munchies. Judy likes to fortify her diet with Ensure so we carried a case of it along with us. Of course we took chips—you just have to have chips on a road trip!–but we wanted to keep them to a minimum so we took healthy crackers and nuts (trail mix, almonds, pecans, walnuts and mixed nuts) along as the main munchies type food.
Fresh fruits and vegetables or perfect but harder to take on a Road Trip. The van gets hot or they get knocked around and bruised in the tiny space. We had a tiny fridge so it had very little room for fresh fruits and vegetables. We were in a hurry so we didn’t go into stores often and when we did any fresh produce was extremely expensive. In some places and times you can easily find farmers markets and produce stands along the road. When available, they are ideal! They weren’t available to us so we ended up eating canned fruits, applesauce and vegetables quite a bit and sometimes that’s a compromise you have to make on the road. No doubt, it’s a better choice than chips and candy bars!
Take a Roadpro 12 volt oven along. This is the single best cooking tool you can have along for a road trip! Since you are already driving a lot each day you have an unlimited amount of 12 volt power to cook with. When I first saw it I thought the Roadpro was just a toy and wouldn’t cook anything and if it did it would soon break. Not true! After using the same one for 5 years I can’t recommend it enough! If you have the time, you can do real cooking in the oven (make eggs, meat loaf, home-made soup or stew). You can bake in it (cookies, brownies, cornbread, pop-up biscuits); warm up frozen meals (burritos, pizza, lasagna, meals); or warm up canned foods (stew, chili, soup). Two thing we did pretty often on the Alaska trip is frozen burritos (or breakfast burritos) and chili dogs. Throw in your favorite can of chili, two hot dogs, and thirty minutes later you have a real treat for a Road trip lunch. Best of all, there are no dishes! Most of the time we simply lined ours with aluminum foil, but for some messy meals (chili dogs for example) we used a foil loaf pan. Either way, clean-up is as easy as throwing it away. Highly recommended! You can get them at almost all truck stops or here from Amazon: RoadPro 12-Volt Portable Stove,
In my next post we’ll finish up on my Road Trip tips.