Over the past month we have seen reports of weather-related traffic gridlock all across the nation. I mentioned in a recent column about a young friend, and her nine-year old daughter, who were stranded for several hours in her car in the Portland, Oregon, area due to icy road conditions. I’m sure her story is repeated dozens of times every year all across the nation.
Some don’t fare as well as my friend. Some are prepared, many are not. I have had occasion to discuss being “travel prepared” with a few folks. Invariably they ask me for a list of items to carry.
Here are ten items I recommend:
A blanket. Try to find one that has its own carry bag. That will help keep it clean and in some cases, dry.
Warm clothes. Sweatshirt, some heavy socks, maybe a pair of long johns.
Snack food. Protein/granola bars, a jar of peanut butter, a few bottles of water.
First aid kit. Band-aids are always in style, some vaseline, anti-biotic ointment.
Cell phone charging cable. Get the kind that plugs into your cigarette lighter. Then LEAVE it in your car.
Flashlight/headlamp. Spare batteries are always a good idea. I find if you leave batteries in a flashlight for several months corrosion happens.
Tow strap. If you simply slide off the pavement and need a little assistance, a tow strap will come in very handy. Now all you need is a good Samaritan with a four wheel drive pickup.
A deck of cards or an activity book to keep the kids occupied. even a book of crossword puzzles to keep yourself occupied.
Jumper cables. Everyone should have a set anyway. Maybe you can be someone’s hero.
Small, folding shovel. Maybe you need to toss a few shovelfuls of sand under your tires or move a bit of snow.
I’m sure you can think of more, or for your particular situation maybe your needs may differ. There are always the fire-starting items, candles, matches, cookpot to heat water for those Mountain House meals and the list can go on until your trunk is full.
One very good rule is to keep your gas tank above the “half” mark. It costs no more to run on the top half of your tank than the bottom half. And when you’re sitting in sub-freezing weather along the road awaiting rescue, it’s nice to know you’re not going to run out of gas.
Remember it is usually best to stay with your car. FEMA’s website (www.ready.gov) recommends staying with your car unless you can see shelter or a safe location nearby. If you MUST travel, remember to let someone know your destination and your planned route. Then when you arrive, be sure to notify your friends of safe arrival. That’s what pilots call a flight plan.
One footnote; my young friend has since traded in her very nice Ford Fusion for a more sure-footed all-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee. A good choice.