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  1. Default A Little Scared... Mountain Driving

    Hi all,

    I am glad I found this forum. I'm used to driving, sometimes for the scenery and attractions, and other times just to get from Point A to Point B. This post discusses the latter.

    I will have to do several Point A to Point B (and back) road trips each year, likely in all seasons. My main routes will be:

    1. South from Vancouver, B.C. (Canada) to San Diego, CA
    2. From Vancouver to Nevada, Utah, and AZ
    3. Vancouver to Denver, CO
    4. Vancouver to parts of Texas
    5. Vancouver to probably as far as Miami, FL

    (As you can see, in each case I have to cross the mountains)

    It's just me (26 year-old female), a pick-up truck that isn't too new, a really good dog (hehe), a cell phone with a charger, and a roadside assistance membership.

    My biggest concerns are:

    1. Driving on mountain roads. Never done it before.
    2. Fog and Snow on these mountain roads (since EVERY resource warns about it)
    3. Getting hunted. I should never have watched those horror movies. Not in the mountains necessarily, but crossing the country.

    I am going through this forum for EVERY post I can find that might relate to my situation, but if there's any guidance, warnings, encouragement (discouragement?) anyone can offer, it is much appreciated.

    Oh one last thing... I'll be sleeping in the cab of my truck (when I sleep) and will probably try to do so in the parking lot of 24-hour truck stops, McDonald's, etc.

    Man, am I crazy?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default You're not crazy!

    However, I think you have watched a few too many horror movies. Jason & Leatherface only live on the movie screen.

    Welcome to the Roadtrip America forums.

    I'm one of the women on these forums who has taken some solo roadtrips. And I would do it again anytime I can get away. Of course, you need to use some common sense and use your personal safety "radar". Read these this discussion for general solo travel and safety tips, this one about solo camping, a wonderful discussion with BirdyBird who was planning her first solo trip (and was nervous about it) and her roadtrip report after she got back talking about how wonderful it was (and she is planning more). Hopefully these will convince you not to worry too much about movie spook types on the road. Just don't read Stephen King all alone at a dark campsite like I did and you'll be fine. LOL

    Dogs make great travel companions. I wish I could take mine with me more often. Since I prefer to travel to the heat, and she doesn't do well in heat, she generally stays home unless I'm doing a trip closer to home. My dog is a great guard dog as well and makes me feel very safe on lonely trails in the woods. Even if your dog isn't a guard dog, their great ears and nose should alert you to anything you might need to be aware of. But make sure you travel safely with your fur-baby. These tips should help with that. The biggest issue is usually heat-related pet problems so be aware of this on your trips.

    How have you lived in Vancouver BC without traveling in some mountains once in awhile? I've travelled on passes over the Cascades, Sierra Nevadas, Rockies, and other lesser mountain ranges and have never been on any road that bothers me. Most do not have sheer cliffs near the road. The few that do tend to have very secure guard rails, signage warning you ahead of time, etc. I think people tend to over-dramatize mountain driving. In fact, mountain roads are among my favorite drives.

    In the winter, snow and ice can be an issue but you shouldn't have any problems with this in the warm-weather months. This is an excellent discussion about how to do drive in the mountains, during the winter, safely. If some of your trips will be in the winter months, this post has a lot of useful advice.

    If you find yourself having to drive long miles in a short period of time, you will want to be aware of how to do speed runs safely. And how many miles are recommended when you need to burn miles but still want to play and have fun, too.

    I only sleep in my car when I'm exhausted and need a nap. I have rarely done it overnight and as part of my trip plan. I prefer stretching out in my tent. One of our contributors, Gen, has done a lot of sleeping in her car at places like truck stops. This discussion includes some of her great advice on how to do this safely.

    Are you doing this for a job or for personal the roadtrip bug just bit ya. If it's a job, gosh, let me know where I can apply!!

  3. Default

    Thank you! Such wonderful advice so far. :-)

    I've only lived in Vancouver for a very short while, and moved here with literally nothing but five suitcases and my dog. I have not even driven around here, at all. I existed downtown since day one, using public transit. I SEE the mountains, but that's about it. ;-)

    I am heavily into dog training (obedience and protection) and compete in several dog sports. To accomplish this, I generally need to travel. I had hoped to fly most of the time (speed and relative safety) but it's IMPOSSIBLE to have a dog and rely on public transit when you're traveling as much as I have to, to accomplish what I want. You know, it might even be a realistic thing if Greyhound allowed pets. But they don't, and with the cost of flights quickly adding up (not to mention long spans of dates like, uh, the entire summer that certain airlines won't fly pets) and I decided to just go out and buy a truck.

    I got an older truck, so quite technically it could crap out on me somewhere between here and my destination, but CAA (my roadside assistance membership) allows me to make up to six calls a year even just for gas, a boost, or in a worst case scenario a 100 mile tow free of charge.

    I ASSUME if I am sticking to the most frequently traveled highways (ie. the big, thick, dark yellow lines on Google maps haha) that I won't lose cell phone service, have too far between rest stops, be so far out that CAA won't help, or generally be the only one on the road for hours on end. Is this a pretty safe assumption?

    My dog (who's a young but eager up-and-coming protection dog) would easily scare off someone who was just looking to cause trouble, but I feel at this point that if someone was DETERMINED, he might not pose much of an obstacle. I'd like to think that most trouble makers I would meet would rather go for an easier target.

    As for the heat, he rides up front with me, but there IS a dog box in the back of my truck which is safe for parking in any heat (especially if I take five seconds to park sensibly in the shade). I wouldn't abuse the concept of the dog box, but neither have I ever heard of a dog who suffered heat exhaustion in one either. The truck has an automatic theft alert and recovery system (that supposedly will have my truck and likely my dog recovered in under an hour) which was peace of mind. The dog and dog box combined are worth more than the truck, which carries minimal insurance so the theft recovery is in place so I don't lose what REALLY matters, and don't end up stranded. The system manufacturer states that if they do not recover my stolen vehicle, they'd give me a new theft recovery system free of charge. I wonder if they'd also drive me home? :-)

    Again I really appreciate these resources, and I am sure that as the time approaches for my first real big trip (likely to one of the training clubs in OR) I will have more specific questions on the route I am planning, etc.
    Last edited by Jayar; 07-15-2008 at 01:12 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Crazy movies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayar View Post
    Hi all,
    3. Getting hunted. I should never have watched those horror movies. Not in the mountains necessarily, but crossing the country.
    Do recall one thing that appears to be common in most horror movies - the lack of common sense of the victims. That said, not only is it highly unusual to be "hunted" or followed while traveling, it is also highly unlikely.

    As for being the only one on the road for hours on end: in the past I have taken to the road in the wee hours of the morning, in remote locations, and even there I have always wondered why there were so many other travelers. Indeed it is very difficult to be the only car on the road.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Drive to Whistler

    Seriously, if you drive up to Whistler, you will have experienced fairly typical driving over mountain passes. Some might be a tad steeper in parts, some a tad more twisty in other parts, but it's close enough to typical to give you an idea of what to expect.

    You might get your truck checked out by a trustworthy mechanic. Be sure to tell him what type of driving you're planning on doing. And, for the longer trips, especially if you really do drive as far as Florida, you will need to stop someplace for an oil/filter/other fluids check and change along the way, probably both ways.

    I'm unfamiliar with a "dog box". Is this something that has air-conditioning? Hmmmmm....that might be handy. I'm thinking that if people can see the box and dog through windows, that you might want to put up a note saying that the dog is in an air-conditioned box or people might think your dog is in danger of heat stroke and get police, break a window to save him/her, or something else you don't want to deal with. You never know. I've seen wanna-be heroes do a few strange things here and there.

    I'm sure CAA will work just like AAA does here. I've never known them to turn down service on any road. But, then again, even if I have been on roads a bit out of the way, I have never needed to call them from places that are extremely remote.

    But on any major road, you shouldn't have a problem with CAA. Very few major roads are so far from a tow-trucker to be "out of reach". And, like Michael said, even more remote roads are rarely devoid of other traffic. Such is modern life. And while you might find a few spots without cellphone service, they are rare and won't last very long.

    When you're ready to take a trip, come on back here and let us help you plan a great route for you and your dog.

    Oh, by the way, I am convinced that any kind of dog will help keep you safer if you do run into some jerk (more rare than the news makes us think, imho). Just their potential to bark and raise a ruckus is usually enough to dissuade somebody. But if they're a dog that looks like they might have guard instincts and can do some damage (like my shepherd), I think the person who would bother with you is extremely rare.

    So, use good common-sense but don't sweat it.

  6. Default You guys are wonderful...

    Here's a dog box:

    No A/C but as you can see it's completely safe and open. They typically have a wire mesh, are lockable, and are lined with either wood or plastic inside so they are comfortable and easy to clean. They reflect heat amazingly well, and they're also quite insulating in the winter. It's designed for use with hunting dogs. Dogs can travel in them safely, but I plan to use mine only for a safe place for my dog to stay if I have to leave him in the car, not as a travel solution. Every pet owner should have one. Most hold two dogs (mine is a 2-hole) but there are varieties for 3, even 4 dogs. After that you start getting into dog trailers. :-)

    Thanks again, I am going to drive to Whistler this week. If I hate it I can always turn back! It's a great opportunity to see whistler, as well as baby-step my way into mountain driving.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default I doubt it will fit in my New Beetle. :)

    Enjoy the drive to Whistler. You'll be fine!

  8. Default Also echo Whistler..

    If you can do the drive to Whistler and back, you can do mountain driving anywhere on your major routes down the interstates. There are some gorgeous scenery along the road up to Whistler, so make some time to get out of the car and stretch.

    I did what could be about a 2 day loop through Whistler. Basically it would be Seattle/ Vancouver to Cache Creek/ Kamloops. Very good roads on the TransCanadian, and then the toll road up to Kamloops. I stayed in Cache Creek, but there are more hotels in Kamloops. From Cache Creek you head west over the coastal mountains to come into Whistler from the backsite. Very beautiful scenry -- but the roads are 2 lane paved roads which wind through the mountains. Then from Whistler its a fairy fast trip back to Vancouver and points south.

    I would recommend not going the surface streets route through downtown Vancouver, and past the airport back to the US border. Nasty traffic every time I've done it, complicated by one-way streets..

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