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Logistics of a good road trip
Travels with Joe
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Just about any vehicle will work for a good road trip, but Joe Gillam is partial to his full-size van. Its taken Joe and his wife Chong all over the place. - photo by Photo provided.

Let’s not travel this month, but discuss some of the logistics that contribute to a good road trip. Just about any vehicle will do. On our first trip to Alaska a few years ago Chong and I were driving up the very deserted AlCan Highway and saw two bicycles approaching in the distance.

When we were close I stopped to say hello, and see if they were OK. I noted that each bike was pulling one of those little child carriers.

One child was about 3 and the other was something around a toddler. The young couple had been in Alaska for the summer and were headed home to Minnesota.  They were fine and said they made about 30 to 40 miles a day, depending on their stops. We gave them some icy water from our fridge and some goodies for their dinner meal. After their thank yous, they rode off headed south.

Road trips on bikes are not unheard of. We were in the Canadian Yukon Territory far up the Dempster Highway near the Arctic Circle way north of the AlCan highway and we met a young man on his bicycle from Detroit. He looked rough and seemed to be a little far between showers but said he was having the time of his life.

On that same trip on up the AlCan Highway we came upon another traveler. A huge 42-foot motorhome with a flat tire. As is the custom in that neck of the woods, five or so travelers had stopped to help him. They appeared to have all in hand so after stopping to check we charged on. A few days later we met four 30-something guys from the Netherlands on their rather expensive BMW motorcycles.

They had traveled across Europe, Asia and then a boat over to Alaska. Their road trip was to end in South America where they would fly home. Now that’s a road trip!

The thought is that just about any vehicle is OK for your road trip. One that is somewhat tailored for travel might be more comfortable, but I guess the kids on the bikes were having just as much fun as Chong and me with our basic comforts.

I’m convinced we have just a great vehicle for our travels. A full-sized van with no middle seats and a back seat that folds out into a double bed. We have two auxiliary batteries and a 12 volt to 110 power inverter. Appliances are a small 12-volt/110-volt refrigerator, microwave and TV. There is a small sink with a hand water pump supplied by a 10-gallon tank. No bathroom, but we have a small camping toilet for extreme situations. So you see about any vehicle will work for the road trip, I guess it’s all individual preference. One of the best traveling inventions are the assorted sizes of Reese-Hitch baskets that mount via a trailer hitch.

You can generally load them with 200 to 300 pounds of camping equipment and supplies. Also, a wonderful place for your cooler. Check out the 12 volt coolers. You can carry it in your Reese Basket with a cigarette lighter plug wired up the trunk. Just run the plug into the trunk, plug it in and find just the right spot to fit the wire when you close the trunk. These baskets free up trunk and interior space. But watch out for weight distribution on smaller cars.

One of the biggest expenses of a road trip is motels. A nice motel can be more than the day’s budget of gasoline and meals.

Almost all RV parks have tent sites. A tent site with access to all the facilities of the RV park runs from $10 to $25 a night. All RV parks have a bath house for nice hot showers and many have hot tubs and swimming pools. The tent sites also generally have a grill or fire pit and a 110-volt power outlet. Almost all RV parks will usually have a very nice convenience store. These are great for budget travelers and a fantastic way to meet folks from around the country and around the world. We have met many European, Australian and other country travelers. They come to the US, rent a car or motorhome and hit the road. It they can do it, you can, too.

Before Chong and I start out on a road trip we do our homework. Back in the day this kind of research started by driving town to the filling station and picking up eight or 10 free maps while the attendant filled your car and washed the windshield. We all know those days are gone, but the free maps are not! In fact, you don’t even have to drive to the filling station, they will be delivered right to your home. Yep, Joe is not crazy, that’s a fact. Google things like free maps, travel literature or Chamber of Commerce for your destinations and up pops hundreds of free goodies for your trip from states, counties and individual cities. Allow a couple of weeks and your mailbox will start to fill up.

And, don’t forget the welcome centers as your cross the state lines or arrive in cities. Wonderful places for discount hotel and restaurant coupons. And make sure you load Gas Buddy or MapQuest Gas Prices on your smart phone. These apps will search out the gas prices along your route, allowing you some nice savings.

Get started on your homework and next month we will talk about one of our favorite road trips. Meantime, be safe, and maybe we will see you in a rest area along the back road.

Gillam is a retired HPD officer.

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