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Road Ready: A Car Traveler's Handbook
4/1/2020 1:00:00 PM
Road Ready

If social distancing and self-isolation have given you a case of cabin fever, a therapeutic road trip might be the cure you’re looking for. The reality is, we are under state-mandated orders to stay at home as much as possible until (at the time of this writing) at least April 12. We have no idea what social distancing will look like moving forward into the coming months. But hey, we can dream and make tentative plans, right! So, from pre-trip car maintenance and destination suggestions to car seat safety, when we are once again free to move about the country, we’ll have you on the road in no time!



Ready, Set, Roadtrip : But is your car ready?

by Matt Dye


If you have a road trip lined up anywhere in your future, we want you to be ready. There are several things on your car you should double-check before descending down the highway, lest you find yourself broken down in Roswell, New Mexico, avoiding alien abductions while waiting for a mechanic to come to your rescue.


Inspect your tires. 

In preparation for travel, check the tire pressure of all your tires, especially your spare tire. The spare is often overlooked and most don’t have sensors on them, and it’s too late to worry about it when you’re on the road.

When inspecting your tires, besides pressure, you’re mostly looking at the condition of the tires’ tread, for anything that looks like damage to the outer wall, or even something as simple as a missing valve cap. While any of these should be a reason to replace a tire in the first place, the need becomes more dire when you embark upon a 1,000-mile car trip.


Check and top off all the fluid levels. 

Most of these can be taken care of with a pre-car trip oil change, but if you’re only a month out of your previous oil change, you may elect to wait until after your road trip to change it again. Still, fluids such as brake, transmission, radiator, and even wiper fluid should all be set to maximum levels. Depending on the age of your car, you may also want to carry extra fluids in your trunk if your car is known to have slow leaks; and a bottle of water can save an overheating radiator in a pinch.


Check all your lights . . . headlights, taillights, blinkers, and brake lights. 

Full visibility is important when you’re heading into new adventures; and the last thing you want to see is flashing lights in your rearview 30 minutes into your trip because you’ve got a blinker out.

That said, depending on your type of car, you should also plan out rough ideas of where you’ll stop for gas. Whether you’re filling up with pure petrol or taking it on the Tesla rechargeable level, you don’t want to find yourself down to 20 miles left in the tank and no sign of civilization on the horizon. 


Pack all your phone chargers, external batteries, and/or wireless hotspots. 

While most of the nation can boast 4/5G coverage across the board, you don’t want your car to die in the middle of the Texas panhandle with no signal and a dead phone. 

To save money, eat healthier, and simply for the fun of it, pack a cooler with sandwiches, fruit, drinks, and healthy snacks. Most Americans eat too much fast food during road trips for convenience. But you never know when you’ll spy the perfect spot for a picnic!


Up to date inspection sticker.

One more thing. Remember to check your inspection sticker to be sure it won’t expire before the end of your trip.



Road Trippin’ - Where are you Headed?

by Madelaine Brauner Landry


Some wise sage once noted that we travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us. Admittedly, we do not know how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect us all in the months to come. We do not know at what point in time road trips will be advisable. But once they are, pack your bags! Read on for some suggestions.


Road trips can be equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming. Savvy travelers know that planning and spontaneity are not a contradiction-in-terms. Want your next highway getaway to be your best road trip ever? Start with research!


Ask for recommendations, read online travel blogs, contact local Chambers of Commerce and Visitors Bureaus, and watch travel shows. Diverse destinations abound, so prioritize. What do you like, what haven’t you tried, and what is available within reasonable driving distances? 


If festivals are not your thing, there are road trips to entice every personality. Pack a picnic lunch, throw in some automobile-friendly entertainment for the kids, and map out an off-the-beaten-path scenic route. Getting there really can be half the fun. Opt for creative accommodations with themed hotels; mom-and-pop B&Bs; state park RV, cabins, and campgrounds; as well as haunted mansions and hunting lodges—all available from Lake Charles to the Gulf Coast, Cameron to Shreveport, and every point in-between.Curious travelers can review options at www.louisianatravel.com/places-to-stay.


Neighboring states beckon to be explored as well. Drive-friendly Texas destinations range from regions like the Gulf Coast, Piney Woods, Prairies and Lakes, and Hill Country.  Our neighbor to the west can claim some of the best beaches in our region. There’s 350 miles of sand, sea and surf waiting for beach lovers from South Padre Island to Louisiana’s border, as well as botanical gardens, birding, and fishing. Review the possibilities atwww.tourtexas.com/regions.


Consider the Guadalupe River, just a short drive from San Antonio and Austin. Fishing, swimming, tubing, and canoeing are available, as well as campsites, hiking, and birdwatching. The Frio River is another nearby option, winding through the Texas hill country. Its devotees rave about its crystal-clear, spring-fed waters. Road tripping for a few miles with your family, complete with a home-packed picnic, is a gateway to a great adventure. In a few hours, you can arrive at rivers with limestone bluffs and family fun in the water. Sounds like a great cure for spring fever and ward off the summertime blues.

Arkansas is nicknamed the Natural State for its Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, rivers, lakes and picturesque waterfalls. A few hours’ drive will get you to the Buffalo River – the first designated national river in the U.S. Float trips, clear water, and towering bluffs are must-sees. Located in the Ozarks, the Arkansas Grand Canyon offers incredible views close to home. Lake Chicot sits just west of the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of the state. Publicized as the largest natural lake in Arkansas, it is also famed as the largest oxbow lake in North America. Louisiana fishermen, birders and wildlife lovers will feel at home among the cypress stumps that give the lake its name. 


From Clarksdale to Vicksburg, Mississippi is known for the blues, camping, nightlife, literature and great places to stay, play and eat. And don’t overlook Mississippi’s beaches! Explore the barrier islands just miles off the mainland of Coastal Mississippi. Ship Island is one of the most accessible thanks to the ferry service leaving out of Gulfport and Biloxi. Dolphin-watch on gorgeous white-sand beaches; catch the sunset on a magic evening cruise. Snorkel, shell-search, swim, and glimpse local island wildlife with a view unspoiled by high-rise condos or traffic. Suggested itineraries can be found at https://visitmississippi.org/plan-your-trip/suggested-itineraries.


With over 1,630 miles of coastline, the Gulf of Mexico in our southern backyard is a road-tripper’s paradise. Coastal boat ramps, fishing piers, and marinas, as well as beaches and wildlife preserves await your discovery. 


The point of a road trip is to have the freedom to go anywhere and stop on a whim. Done right, you don’t take a trip, it takes you. Along your route, make time to listen to stories, savor the food, tap your toes to the music, and embrace the history at each destination. Pack those you love alongside you, then step on the gas!




Buckle Up - Car Seat Safety for Your Kids

by Keaghan P. Wier


Car seats -- they’re the source of much discussion and research. They’re listed alongside diapers and wipes as a an absolute necessity before bringing baby home. While we can’t tell you what color or brand to choose, we can share some tips on car seat safety and how to make sure your little ones are protected when you hit the road.


Numbers to Know

Almost everything you need to know about car seat safety comes down to numbers. Weights and ages are crucial benchmarks for knowing when your child is ready for the next car seat stage and what will keep them safest. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their recommendations on rear-facing versus front-facing. Now, they advise that children remain rear-facing as long as possible, meaning until they hit the maximum weight or height for their seat.

Just like with rear-facing, current recommendations say that children should stay in their front-facing car seat until they hit the maximum height or weight. When that happens, they should move to a booster seat until the car’s seatbelt fits appropriately — usually when they are about 4 feet 9 inches in height and 8 to 12 years old. 


Current Louisiana laws say that children should be :

Rear-facing until 2 years old

Front-facing with a five-point harness from 2 to 4 years old

Booster seat from 4 to 9 years old

In the backseat until 13 years old


Keep in mind that the laws are the minimum requirements. If your child is small for their age, they may need to stay in a certain type of seat longer than their peers.


Installation

First of all, parents should know that if they have any questions about the installation of their car seat, they should contact a licensed car seat installation expert. Alternatively, visit www.seatcheck.org and check your zip code to find an inspection location near you. Many police departments will conduct car seat inspections, as well.


Before starting your installation, read through your car seat’s manual. If your car has a LATCH system, you may choose to use that instead of a seatbelt to secure the seat. Your vehicle owner’s manual should have instructions on how to use it. If you choose a seatbelt, then you must make sure that the seatbelt locks. A good rule of thumb is that if you can move the car seat at the belt path more than an inch from side to side, it’s too loose. For straps, you should not be able to pinch any slack between your fingers when your child is fastened in.


In addition, never use a car seat that is expired, was in a car crash, or has been recalled.


Following these guidelines will keep your kids safe on the road and free your mind from worrying. More energy for road trip games and singalongs this summer!

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