Friday, May 05, 2006

How to stay alert while taking a road trip by yourself

The teaching assistant presents a user-friendly guide on the subject of staying awake and staying focused on the road when you don't have anyone in the car to help. Trust us, precious, Sméagol has got considerable experience with road tripping alone.

*Keep the temperature in the car a couple of degrees south of comfortable. When I'm driving on long trips in warm weather, I usually have the air conditioner on the entire time and with as many of the air vents as possible aimed at my arms and face. Sometimes I will even turn on the a.c. during the winter (if I'm really desperate), although generally just turning off the heat for a few minutes will deliver the desired effect.

*Get a few consecutive decent nights of sleep before your trip if at all possible. (Finding time for decent amounts of sleep can be hard for me... occupational hazard of being a graduate student... but it's definitely worth it). Driving while seriously deprived of sleep is a recipe for disaster.

*Keep caffeinated beverages in easy reach (if you don't have cupholders or yours aren't reliable, I recommend nestling any of them that are bottled in the front passenger seat in such a way that they cannot slide on turns or curves).

*Stretch your legs during stops for gas and/or food.

*Aside from sleep, this is the best advice I can give: your public library system is your friend (or, at least, it should be!). Visit the audiobook section and appropriate a few titles that promise a gripping narrative. Choose something new that's exciting and intriguing or go with a favorite title (or two) that you know is not going to have soporific effects on you. (Side note: I managed to acquire Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for a road trip that's beginning momentarily, and I'm really excited about it!) Do the math to make sure that you have several more hours worth of books on CD (or tape) than you need — that way, if it turns out you don't like one of the books so much, you don't have to choose between that, silence, or being distracted from the road as you fiddle with the Seek button on the radio and desperately search for NPR (or something along those lines). Also, if you get stuck in traffic, it's really not fun to run out of entertainment before you reach your destination.

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