Reflections of a Road Warrior...
It’s a great day for a drive.
Overcast, no rain in sight, mid-70s. No worry of driving into blinding sun or pounding rain.
After years of long drives across this beautiful country, I know myself and I know the road. Preparing for yet another long-distance drive, I pack my ritual Road Trip Survivor Kit:
Water – check
Snacks – check
Car phone charger – check
Downloaded podcasts - check
Money – check
Compression socks for driving – check
While keeping hydrated translates to many rest stops, I will not ever skimp on water. Hydrating is an essential health element and contributes to physical and mental alertness.
The bonus is that each stop means taking a walk, stretching the legs, and maybe enjoying a lesson through Boy Scout highway projects and state history plaques. But, if really lucky, a rest stop can yield some of the best people watching there is. The chance to buy baked goods from a local church group. Or a team bus filled with high school wrestlers piling out for a break. Or the elderly couple eating a picnic, complete with wicker hamper and their sweet dog waiting patiently under the table. Many a time, pulling away, I have written stories in my head to match what I have experienced just off the highway.
Because I often drive alone, I never stop for a meal and I never eat carbs. Enjoying a nice, fat sandwich will mean the difference between being alert and wanting a nap 30 minutes later. Crunchy snacks such as carrots, cucumbers, nuts, and trail mix satisfy any hunger pangs without making my body work overtime to digest, and then to expect, a nice, long snooze.
3. Car charger
Obvious. I never want to be on the road without the ability to call for assistance.
4. Podcasts and e-books
The NPR signal can’t always carry beyond the cities. Podcasts of interest or the latest spy thriller can provide entertaining company for those hours of straight driving through amber waves of grain and very flat Midwest farmland. A Way with Words with co-hosts Martha Barnett and Grant Barrette and Revisionist History with host Malcolm Gladwell are two podcasts introduced to me by a learned friend and now two faithful companions across the miles.
Again, obvious. I will never be caught without cash. Whether for a vending machine or an unexpected toll, a debit card often isn’t an option.
Those familiar with the west coast of Florida know well the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Traveling back home to St. Petersburg from Naples many years ago, I opened my wallet at the toll booth only to find my billfold completely empty and the startling realization that I forgot to stop at the ATM.
Glancing above his half-moon glasses, the State of Florida employee’s face broke into an unexpected grin as he assured me it happens to the best of us, at least a “zillion” times a day and that I could send in a payment. As he handed me the receipt with a mailing address, he pointed to a camera mounted on the overhang in front of my windshield. With a sly wink, he told me “they” would know where to find me after 30 days. It takes only one time to be certain the billfold is comfortably padded.
6. And … The BEST for last … Compression socks for driving.
Yes indeed, these are vital in my driving survival kit. Up until 2012 when I was fortunate enough to pull on a prototype, footwear was my only major consideration during long drives. The wrong shoes, and thus uncomfortable feet, can make all the difference between happy and miserable when stuck behind the wheel.
But now, compression socks are THE primary item in my kit. If I will be in the car longer than an hour, I wear compression religiously. Remember when I explained about eating and sleeping? Just because I don’t eat carbs does not mean I don’t get tired. Mile after mile, bad weather, heavy traffic – any and all circumstances would wear me down …. until, I started wearing compression socks. No kidding.
I can still remember my first drive wearing them, close to 400 miles from Maryland to Ohio. I was prepared for that “hour three nap time” feeling. The third hour always seems to be the hardest to muscle through when I’m alone. I don’t have any scientific basis for this statistic, just my own in-the-field training.
Imagine my surprise when I glanced at the clock once and it registered hour four. I was alert, on top of my game, and not having to scream out loud or bite the inside of my cheek to thwart the sleepiness. The only difference from all of the drives in the past? Compression socks!
But I knew the true test would come with subsequent trips, this could be just a fluke. Drive two, and then three, and then four … The very same results. With my heart pumping stronger and the blood flowing better, I found my energy drink without the calories!
Road Miles + Compression Socks for Driving = The perfect pair.
It really is that simple. Compression makes our veins operate more efficiently, and when our veins are doing their job, the blood is flowing through them from heart to feet, feet to heart, heart to feet again … and in a matter of seconds!
Our ankles are the farthest point away from our heart. And think of what they do for us all day long – carry our weight. Compression socks give that extra loving hug just above our ankles, “compressing” those veins to make them feel loved and appreciated. In response, those veins help our blood to flow through as efficiently as possible.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) U.S. National Library of Medicine website advises us to wear compression to improve blood flow in our legs, that compression gently squeezes our legs and helps with achiness and swelling in legs.
Compression socks are my best accessory for my drives. When I get out at that rest stop, I am awake, energized, and alert because my feet and legs are in great shape, ready to take on those next 100 miles.
Adding up the numbers
(I can’t call myself a Road Warrior without some hard numbers; otherwise, I’m just four tires with a lot of hot air!)
Florida to Delaware – 1,000 miles
Florida to Indiana – 1,070 miles
Indiana to Arizona – 1,750 miles
The state of Arizona, Tucson to the Grand Canyon – 340 miles
Indiana to Missouri – 550 miles
Maryland to Indiana – 585 miles
Maryland to Ohio – 385 miles
This list is only a fraction of my drives through the years but they all clock in at 5,680 miles! Not always I alone; many times, I’ve had company. But that’s the equivalent of driving from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, California and back again, with 350 miles more! And, I’ve just realized, not one flat tire nor fender bender. Even better.
Time to sign off as I get ready for a quick jaunt up to West Virginia to visit family. With my legs encased in my sassy polka-dotted socks and my Road Trip Survivor Kit, I’m good to go. Happy trails!
Anne Suydam Haskins, Road Warrior