Thursday, October 27, 2011

Woman on the road alone 2

Several readers responded to yesterday's request for statements about how a woman can take a road trip alone.  This statement is the longest and most detailed.  I will post again on this topic tomorrow with the others.

I travel across the country on my own several times a year, and have been doing this since I was in my 20s. (I am now in my mid-60s).
A few rules I follow are:

This includes rest stops. There are cool, disposable, biodegradable devices now for women to relieve themselves that are sanitary and turn liquids into gels. I carry these and use them overnight and at other times if necessary.

I don't wear makeup or do my hair, and I wear really baggy old clothing that is not flattering in the least. So I look very unattractive.
But...I ALWAYS wear pink. I have done this for years. Research shows that when you are wearing pink, people think you are a sweet person (if not too bright) and are kinder to you. I learned this through much experimentation over decades. So if I have to ask for directions or help, people are inevitably nice.
When I was younger and traveling at night, I would tuck my hair up under a baseball cap so my silhouette looked more like a guy. I don't do that so much now that I am older.

I strew things around my car, including several big plastic bags holding stuff. One says GOODWILL on it. I make sure the car looks really messy. While my car is always a little like that, on long trips, it is purposefully messy, like leaving a travel bag half open with clothes hanging out of it, although in truth everything is highly organized and I know where everything is. A perfect car with perfect luggage is a lure for thieves. My car is not a lure. Potential thieves don't know that I am often carrying not only thousands of dollars of equipment in computers, recorders, cameras, etc., but sometimes literally thousands of dollars in cash (when I have been paid in cash).

I do like to sleep on my futon in the back of my car, which is a station wagon. It is more comfortable than a motel bed! I just bought an exquisite memory foam topper to make it even more comfy, and can't wait! I have rules, however, that I got from a female truck driver. 

First, never overnight at a rest stop (except in Nebraska, where it is customary for a number of people & the rest stops are right off the highway). Go to a big truck stop where there is always 24/7 foot traffic. I always check to make sure it doesn't look like drug dealers are around; having traveled the same routes for years, I pretty much know which truck stops to avoid and which are brighter & better. 

Park near the big rigs; more foot traffic, and the truckers make me feel safer. I never get out of the car at night in a place where I intend to overnight, as I don't want people to see a woman alone is in that car. I cover all the windows with black plastic garbage bags (for the rear window, I have to pin them up and use big pins, like the kind you used to get for corsages). When I sleep, I keep the key in the ignition, and a knife, flashlight and cell phone within reach. Just before turning in, I always call my son to let him know where I am. 

I actually feel safer in my locked car in a trafficked & well-lit truck stop than I do hauling suitcases out of the car in a dark motel parking lot. Also, for daytime, truck stops have clean showers. 
I keep lots of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, etc., in my car on these long trips, too, as I am a borderline germ phobic. 

I bring my own food, just got a cooler that keeps ice frozen for five days in summer heat(!), and have a wonderful organized system for my meals. You & Lynn probably have your little systems for travel down-pat, too. I do love my own organic, free-trade, shade-grown gourmet coffee! Turns out in truck stops that boiling water is free. Out of courtesy, I always ask, though: "Do you charge for hot water?" They always say no. So in the morning, I fill my insulated mug with super-hot water, come back to my car and use my own little one-cup Melita filter system to make fresh coffee that tastes wonderful. Yum! 

I rely completely on the little man in my Garmin GPS! Wow, has he saved me! I also have an up-to-date road atlas and lots of maps for backup, and Triple A with 100-mile towing. My cell phone is a very old, very inexpensive Tracfone where I prepay. The calls themselves are expensive, but this phone is only for emergencies and to check on messages from home. Don't you also have Tracfones? I have been all over the USA, often in the boonies, and with one exception in ten years, have NEVER failed to get a signal, since Tracfone pays other companies for their signals!

I should write a book for older women traveling alone! The wonderful thing about these trips is that everybody always agrees on whether or not we want to listen to the radio & what we want to hear, and everyone in the car is always in a good mood!

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