Thursday, December 5, 2019

Driving Long Hours--Is It Necessary?


When you are on a road trip, how many hours do you clock per day on the road? Do you begin before dawn? Is your time behind the wheel variable from day to day? Do you establish two destinations, one readily attainable and then a farther one to hit if you are feeling strong?

One online conversation discussed this exact question, beginning with the following post on a social group page:
Does anyone have good strategies for long travel segments? When we head out West from NY, we usually drive 15+ hours/day for 2.5-3 days with stops at hotels or even truck stops. As we've gotten older, this approach has lost some of its appeal. We've thought about stretching the three-day journey out to five or six days of driving with planned stops at campgrounds along the way, but that seems like it might almost be worse. What's worked for you for 2,000-mile trips?
I've categorized the responses--had fun doing so--and here are the possibilities. Which category do you fall into?

Enjoy the Journey
These tiny trailer travelers belong to the "Never Over 300 Miles" club. And it's not such a bad club to join. The motto for the under 300 club is “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” You can also include advice about stopping to smell the roses and how slow and steady wins the race. I place myself in this category, especially when driving solo. If I have my wife to also drive, then maybe the mileage could stretch.

The Run and Rest Strategy
This travel strategy is to put in one or two days of driving with long hours, and then to take two days off. This strategy makes sense, but I have not yet used it. I'm kind of thinking, "OK, am I going to be more rested driving sixteen hours in two days and then taking two days off, or would I be more rested just driving four hours a day for four days?" For a thirty-two hour trip, which would be better: 1) to drive sixteen hours, rest for two days, and then drive for sixteen hours for another couple of days before arriving at the destination, having taken six days, or 2) to drive for five hours and twenty minutes for six days straight? I'm not sure. What do you think?

The Run and Roost Strategy
This strategy for a long-distance drive is just a more extreme version of the above strategy. For instance, using the thirty-two hours of driving time from the Run and Rest Strategy, the Run and Roost would be to drive eight hours a day for four days, arrive at a good spot, and then stay there for five days or so. For me, the advantage of this strategy is that I would get to set up and stay in one place for a longer time. The disadvantage is that I might be so tired that my stay would be more recuperation rather than recreation. Both of these strategies, because they include the "Run" component of days with long miles, mean that interaction with the environment is at a minimum.

Love the One You're With
I have come to appreciate the advantages of the strategy that says, "The grass isn't really greener on the other side of the fence. Find the beauty close by--it's there if you look." Within an hour and a half drive of my home, there are four state parks, many county park campgrounds, and a half dozen Army Corps campgrounds. A three-hour round trip is much easier (and more inexpensive) than a sixty-four hour round trip drive, using the above drive times. Another advantage of this strategy is than if the drive-time in days was five each way, a two-week camping time could be extended from fourteen days to twenty-four. Not bad!

However, honestly, traveling with my wife and just spending time chatting with her is great fun. My dad around ten years ago gave my son his 1976 Ford F-150. All my wife and I had to do was to drive it two thousand miles back from California to Iowa. That was quite an adventure for us because we discovered (even after we'd had the pick-up checked out) that there were a few issues we hadn't realized. We finally decided that if it broke down, we'd just have it towed to the nearest gas station, give it away, and take a bus home. Then we loosened up and enjoyed the ride--and we made it home!

Driven by Necessity
Another reality is that sometimes you just have to take a hit for the team. If there's a place you have to be and you start late, then you're going to have to drive long hours to get there. Another wrinkle on this reality is that you're on vacation, have a specific destination, want to spend as much time as possible there, and then you have to get back to work. You might choose to spend four very long days on the road in order to have ten wonderful days camping at park of your dreams. I get that, and now that I'm retired, I'm glad that I have more flexibility.

All the comments about driving time were interesting, yet there was one subject that was never addressed directly--that driving fatigue can be dangerous. Falling asleep at the wheel is a very real danger. I think that it's a good sign that no one in the online discussion directly addressed the danger of driver fatigue. I think it was a reality that was tacitly acknowledged and accepted by the commenters. There was the understanding that no one should or did drive to that level of fatigue among those commenting, so no one got on a soap box to shout.

I found from my recent 2,600-mile trip that I don't like to drive at night on strange freeways, as I discovered with a few pre-dawn starts. I also found that on my solo trip I was most comfortable with drive times between 5-6 hours, which put me down the road 200-300 miles. I also learned to read my maps and chart my routes around large cities if possible. These were personal realizations. Yes, I own a travel trailer, but I've discovered that traveling is really the means to an end, that I pull my trailer so that I can pull into a campground. I've told my wife before that I'm no Daniel Boone; I suppose I'm no Marco Polo, either.

How about you? What's your travel style?

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  1. Last summer I brought a friend with me to a gathering in New England. On the way north we took 4 days to make the 1000 mile trip. We did the tow and go method where we never disconnected the camper from the van. Set up was quick and easy and packing up almost as quick. Loved it. Coming back we did not have the luxury of time. There was the tyrrany of the urgent. I had to be back at a certain time so we pushed and did the trip in two days instead of 4. The four day trip that we started with was much more enjoyable than the return trip.

    1. The voice of experience speaks! For me, one of the things my wife and I are still determining is how long can I be gone before either of us (or both of us) begin to miss being together. It will be more fun when she can travel more.

  2. Well, I do think about fatigue, and I will stop every chance I get to walk around a bit and/or use a restroom. I want to stretch my legs, and the dog always needs a drink and to walk around also. I do not get him out until I've done the very quick restroom run because people are sometimes waiting for a chance to steal dogs. Once he is out and back in, we are leaving. Maybe my seats are not that comfortable, but I need to make stops.

    Sometimes I drive farther because I have a reservation somewhere, but prefer not to go more than about six hours. If I don't have a reservation, I had better find a place to stay by 2 or 3:00 in summer or every place is full.

    I don't bother to unhook the trailer or get out a bunch of stuff, so after eating something, feeding and walking dog, we are ready to go. I don't even do very long trips; I might go one state over, but the dog and I are home bodies and go home to rest, and home is the best place to camp. It's tempting when home to just pull the trailer down to the creek when the tourists are too thick, and there are no neighbors and no people.

    Before I had a teardrop trailer, I did a 12 hour trip to see my brother--from Oregon to Nevada. My husband was alive then to stay home with the dogs. That was horrible. If I go again, the trailer and dog are going with me for at least a one night stay on the way.

    1. Like you, I've found that sometimes sitting makes me sore. My right leg gets a "stitch" in the nerve sometimes. Haven't quite figured out why yet . . .