It seems like there's a lot of folks lately wanting to travel great distances in a flash. While I prefer to meander and explore, I rarely have time for this myself so I have done a few blitz drives in my life myself. I don't know which forum this would fit in better so I'm just putting it here.
Anyway, a blitz drive should be well-planned to be successful. I'm just going to put some thoughts down on how to make a blitz drive fun and safe. I hope others will add any advice I've missed.
Caution: Don't let a blitz drive make you a dangerous driver. Bob's excellent series of safe-driving tips is a must-read for any roadtripper. Please read through these first and then consider my suggestions.
It's far safer to plan a longer driving day with plenty of stops than it is to drive straight through with minimal stops. Some reasons for this are:
(a) Eye Fatigue: When you drive for long periods, especially if there's sun and glare, the parts of your eye that focus on distance can get fatigued. This can lead to headaches, at the very least, to focusing problems, at the worst. Whenever you are taking a break from driving, be sure to rest your distance eyesight even if only for a few minutes. Read something or check out up-close sights like flowers or simply close your eyes for a few minutes. Even 5 minutes can make a world of difference.
(b) Auto-Pilot: When you have been on the road for too long, it's not uncommon to go into auto-pilot mode. Avoid this! While you might be staying on the road, your senses are not aware and ready to react. If you notice you're getting into this mode, it's time for a break.
(c) Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT): This involves a clot forming in the larger veins which may impede circulation and may break off and cause an embolism, even death. Sitting for long periods can bring these on. While it's more frequent in older people, even young, healthy people can be effected. I had a friend die from this when she was in her early 30's. She was energetic, fit and healthy. It's not something to sneeze at. You might read up more about this at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/e...cle/000156.htm
So, anyway, here's some tips:
1. Drive with the Sun: You might want to somewhat time your driving to the direction of the sun. If you're traveling west, get up early while the sun is at your back so you can plan to stop, either for the night or for a rest, while the sun is setting and is blinding you. Conversely, if you're driving east, you might want to delay leaving until a bit later in the morning to avoid driving into the sunrise, and plan for driving later while the sun is on your back. There's nothing worse than being blinded by the sun when you're on an unfamiliar road. And this greatly contributes to eye fatigue as well. If you find yourself driving in these conditions, since they usually don't last too long, it's far better to stop, explore, and use this time for a break than it is to push yourself in unsafe driving conditions. Note: A GPS is good for knowing sunrise/sunset times as they usually have this info on a main page.
2. Experts say you should stop every 2 hours while driving. OK, I don't time myself and follow this religiously, but I do stop quite a bit at awesome photo opportunities, at historical markers, at places with interesting architecture, etc. So allow time to stop at these serendipitous opportunities. When you do, even if it's only for 5 minutes, WALK! Heck, even hop, skip, and jump a bit. Get the blood flowing! This will help you avoid DVT and fatigue. And try to take a few minutes during these quick stops to rest your eyes. You might read (check your map!), you might check out the flowers and other closer-up items of interest, or you might simply close your eyes for a short time. It's good for your eyes to focus on closer-up items for a while to rest the portions of your eyes that have been focusing on the distance.
When I'm on a blitz drive, I might never stop for more than 5 minutes at a time over a 12-18 hour driving day. However, I might stop 2-3 times an hour. All these add up.
3. MOVE!! When you're traveling, nobody knows you. So don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself a bit if it helps you maintain that important circulation. So, when you stop for gas, do some hopping a bit while the gas is pumping. Clean your windows and headlights so you bend a bit. Stretch. Jog to pay if you're not paying at the pump. Jog to and from the restroom. Stretch again. Even a quick gas stop can be a great way to get that blood flowing, fend-off fatigue, and impede the development of body aches caused by sitting too long. Who cares if somebody chuckles at you? You'll likely never see them again anyway.
4. Lodging: Most of the time, I've had little problems finding a place to stay for the night. However, the worst thing on a blitz drive is coming into town exhausted from your day (especially if you have another long day ahead of you) and having a hard time finding a room. So, on a blitz drive, making reservations at a campground or motel isn't a bad idea at all. It also gives you a goal. If you're tired and want to stop but realize stopping now would really throw off your whole trip, you can take a break and then hit the road again knowing you have a bed down the road. (Note: If you're seriously fatigued and a quick rest stop won't help you get the juice to continue on, then stop NOW.) If you make those advance reservations, I suggest making sure you have the hotel's phone number and cancellation policy. Some hotels have liberally cancellation policies and let you cancel that day without penalty. Some don't. Try to make your reservation at the types of places that are more liberal with this and don't charge you. This allows you more flexibility.
Once I called to cancel a hotel reservation at a chain motel because I was too exhausted to go on. They wanted to charge me a cancellation fee but, when I told them where I was, they directed me to a close-by hotel i the same chain and waived the cancellation fee because I was still staying in the chain. They might not do this all the time but it's worth a try!
If you really don't want to hassle with reservations, but also want to be somewhat assured that a room might be available, it doesn't hurt to identify a few different towns along your route that you anticipate you might get to and contact their Chambers of Commerce or Visitor Centers to see if there are any conventions or other local events going on at that time that might make room availability scarce. If not, your changes of finding lodging is far better. If you find out there is something going on, you can then decide if you want a reservation or if you'll just go to another town. Then check out events in that town as well to make sure they don't have something going on as well.
I actually rarely do all this. I'm more inclined to take my AAA guidebooks with hotel listings, and maybe my Motel 6, Super 8 and other cheap hotel guidebooks with me and the when it gets around dinner time or so and I have a feel for how much longer I think I can drive, at that point I might call ahead and check out availability. Since I'm also a tightwad, if I find they have a room and I'm pretty sure I want to stay there, I'll often call home and have someone book me the room via the internet where they usually have better prices.
5. Benefits of Camping: I rarely stay in hotels unless I'm traveling in bad weather. I'd rather camp. Here's one reason why I prefer camping besides the cost-savings. Camping gets me moving at night. Remember, our goal is to move to alleviate stiffness, aches, pains, and DVTs. My tent is easy to put up and only takes about 5-7 minutes to do. But those minutes requiring bending and other movements that really help me get things moving again. And, if you're in a campground, you're more likely to walk around. I really enjoy walking around a campground right before going to bed to see the different rigs there and check out their license plates. Sometimes you run into folks to stop and chat with. If you're on a solo blitz trip, chatting can be great fun. Walking a hotel parking lot just isn't the same. And, personally, I sleep better outside with the fresh air and wake up more refreshed. I realize not everybody is a camper but, if you are, consider these benefits when deciding whether to camp or hotel it. Of course, if you're going to be stopping in urban areas, camping spots can be a tad harder to find. You'll want a good guidebook to help you determine where to stop. AAA, Trailer Life, and Woodalls all have good guidebooks for campgrounds.
6. Eating: I firmly believe that you can't do a good blitz drive if you plan on eating in restaurants every meal. Sit-down restaurants are too time-consuming and they don't allow you to move like you should. It can also be harder to get a light meal and you really don't need a heavy meal when you're sitting most of the day, do you? Some people like to have one restaurant meal per day while eating light the rest of the day. If you find this appeals to you, you might plan this a bit around either (1) the driving with the sun issue (see #1 above) or (2) rush hour issues.
If you're driving east into the sunrise, you might want to plan for a breakfast stop at a restaurant if you hit a time when you're blinded by the sun in the morning. Or, if you're driving west into the sunrise, you might want to plan a dinner to coincide with this irritating phenomenon.
Also, while nothing can usually beat the speed of fastfood. You will want to limit this a bit just because it's not healthy. Once in awhile on a trip isn't all bad. But you're really taxing your body by doing this, more than you probably realize, so you really need to watch your nutrients a bit.
I pack a cooler with fruit, cheese, crackers, granola bars, peanut butter, and other more healthy, lighter fare and eat most of my meals out of that. It's quick and allows me time for quick picnics combined with walks. But I will often supplement that with occasional restaurant or fastfood meals as well for variety.
Wherever you eat, make sure to walk a bit, especially after eating.
7. Have good directions/maps with you. When you're on a blitz drive, nothing is more irritating than getting lost. Usually, I kinda like getting lost. I've found some of the most serendipitious places when I've gotten lost. But, if your time is short, it's hard to find the joy in these discoveries. Use the various software and/or online mapping programs to help you determine routes. There's a good list of suggested ones to use on this website. Since I use MS Streets & Trips. I just print out good maps with my route high-lighted and go. The online sights offer you some limited capabilities to do that as well. In the past, before trip-routing via computer was available, I would often take my road map to a photo-copier and print out copies of sections, blowing them up a bit in the process for better visibility while driving. Then use a highlighter to highlight my route.
One thing I do even now if I'm driving in unfamiliar roads on a tight timeframe, is to take the major directional information and type it up on a several sheet of paper in large, clear type. All the routing software/websites tend to give you every little twist and turn. For example, if you're driving in my town, it tells you to turn left on this street, right on this street, etc. You don't really need all that info. It's all Hwy. 101 even though it's going through town on city streets with their own names. Don't clutter your mind up. So, I'll simply write something like:
"North on 101 through Aberdeen/Hoquam" leaving off all that extra info you don't need.
Typing this up in large print and putting it on a clip board, with my maps open to where I need them on the clipboard as well, is a real help when I'm on the road. OK, I've still missed an exit or two but, at least this way, I usually know I missed it right away and can correct immediately rather than several miles down the road.
Some people use their GPS devices a lot for roadtrips. Mine isn't sophisticated enough for that as it doesn't download roadmaps into it. While these can be quite handy, they also don't usually give you the best route. Even if you have a good one that you trust, paper maps are still worth having at hand. And who knows if it will break just when you need it most. Be prepared and have back-ups maps, just in case.
8. Emergency/Info Numbers: I also often type up a list of phone numbers I might need in large, clear print and put it on that clipboard as well. These might include people I now along the way that I might want to look up, visitor information phone numbers at points along the way, DOT numbers for road conditions that I found on the web or in travel books, etc. I seldom need them but, when I have, it's been real handy to have it quick and easy to find. I also include on this a list of 800# for chain motels that I might need, for KOAs, just in case. I have a master in my computer with the ones that I might use on each trip and just add/subtract from it to make the one I need for this particular trip.
9. Your Car: In the Gear-Up Section of this forum, is a thread where some of us have listed things to bring in your car for emergencies. It's called "Packing with No Wrinkles?" Obviously, the discussion veered off a bit from the title. Check it out. But one of the most important things to do is to make sure you car is road-ready before you leave. Don't forget to check your spare tire. And make sure you know how to check the air in your tires, your oil level, etc. so you can do minor maintenance for these issues on the road, if need be. When I'm traveling to the hot SW, I usually get a different oil than I use up here on the temperate WA coast. Check with your mechanic to see what he suggests for the area you're driving to. Many of us here are big believers in AAA in case you have a breakdown/flat.
10. Before you leave: Since a blitz drive is tiring, try to get some real good rest before you leave. I try to have my car as fully packed as possible 2 days before leaving. This takes some pressure off on that last day or two when you're tying up loose ends before leaving. If you don't choose to put that much stuff in your car before leaving, at least have it all hauled out, checked out, and organized in your frontroom or some other handy place prior to leaving. I usually start this process about a week before leaving, adding things as I think of them. And I also have checklists so I don't have to wrack my brain for each trip and chance forgetting something important. The more last minute stress you can alleviate before leaving, the more rested you'll be before you hit the road, and the better your body is ready to withstand the blitz.
11. Nutrition: I'm not a health nut. Really. I wish I followed my own advice better on this type of stuff. I'm not the best at remembering to take vitamins. But I do try to pack vitamins and have them in my car to take with my water when I'm traveling. I just think we all tend to eat less well when traveling. And we are often taxing ourselves, especially when on a blitz. So a 1-A-Day might be a good bit of insurance to help you maintain your health when doing these types of trips. Might not help, but couldn't hurt.
12. Hydration: Not only is hydration important to help head of heat stroke, but it also helps the body function better. When you're traveling, your body is experiencing added stress that might effect digestion and elimination. The lack of movement may contribute to retaining water. Believe it or not, drinking more water actually helps keep you from retaining water. Also, it helps keep your digestion/elimination processes working better. And, quite often, headaches are caused by dehydration. Nothing worse than a headache when you've got miles to drive so help eliminate them naturally by drinking lots of water. And, if you need to stop and use a restroom more often because you're drinking a lot, so what? These are ways to get those quick stops that you need in order to keep your cirulation flowing better anyway.
I'm sure there's more things that others will add to this list. Or, if I remember something, I'll come back and add more myself.
In closing, the most important thing is arriving at your destination safely. There are times I'm doing a blitz drive when the adrenaline is flowing, I feel great, and I've been known to drive from 5am-11pm (with the many, little stops along the way to move/rest/stretch). And there have been other days when I've driven from 8am-5pm and I'm beat. Listen to your body. If a brief rest break doesn't give you the zip and zing to go another 50 miles safely, don't do it.
Take care, have fun, be safe, and see you on the road!