Don’t let bumps in the road ruin your sum­mer trip

How you can avoid ir­ri­ta­tions like pot­holes or cel­lu­lar dead zones

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Christopher El­liott

It’s the lit­tle things that in­flict big headaches when you’re driv­ing dur­ing the sum­mer, like poor road con­di­tions, cel­lu­lar dead spots and pretty much any­thing to do with bath­rooms.

Road trip ir­ri­ta­tions are so preva­lent that some­one even went to the trou­ble of con­duct­ing a sur­vey on the topic. Wyn­d­ham Va­ca­tion Rentals polled trav­el­ers re­cently and, to ab­so­lutely no one’s sur­prise, con­cluded that driv­ers are per­pet­u­ally an­noyed.

Their top gripe? Other driv­ers, of course. But that’s not all. The sur­vey showed just how tor­mented Amer­i­can mo­torists are. For ex­am­ple, did you know 43% of women get an­noyed about dis­agree­ments about the car tem­per­a­ture? Or that 28% of men are ir­ri­tated by stop­ping too much?

Here’s what an­noys me: On long- haul drives, I re­quire caf­feine in high doses. Will some­one please tell me why Star­bucks won’t make an Amer­i­cano in the 31- ounce trenta size? I asked when I was driv­ing through San An­to­nio last week and my barista laughed out loud. It’s not funny. I want my cof­fee! Like I said, it’s the lit­tle things. But there’s some good news for those of you who are hot un­der the col­lar. For ev­ery lit­tle an­noy- ance there’s also a lit­tle fix.

Like pot­holes. Syd­ney Ziverts, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for a con­sumer safety web­site, says she’s vexed by poor road con­di­tions. Her least fa­vorite stretch of high­way is In­ter­state 81 near her home in Syra­cuse, N. Y.

“I’m not talk­ing a cou­ple bumps in the road, ei­ther,” she says. “The pot­holes on 81 South are prob­a­bly about a foot deep and could eas­ily ruin your car or cause an ac­ci­dent.”

There are work­arounds. For ex­am­ple, 81 par­al­lels U. S. Route 11 for part of the trip, and there are nu­mer­ous al­ter­nate routes that al­low you to avoid this, or al­most any, bumpy road. Most map­ping sites and pro­grams now in­clude con­struc­tion alerts, and users of the Waze app re­port bad con­di­tions to driv­ers on the same route.

An­other cat­e­gory of road- trip pet peeve: in­ad­e­quate cel­lu­lar re­cep­tion. Like the dead zone I ex­pe­ri­enced on In­ter­state 10 a few miles from the Cal­i­for­nia- Ari­zona state line. I should have known bet­ter than to call Un­cle Pete with di­rec­tions to my brother’s col­lege grad­u­a­tion at that mo- ment. A few sec­onds into our con­ver­sa­tion, the line went dead.

An even big­ger, re­lated prob­lem is find­ing any­thing to lis­ten to out in the mid­dle of nowhere.

“When my mother and I drove cross- coun­try to­gether, we had the darnedest time find­ing de­cent mu­sic on the ra­dio, es­pe­cially as we tra­versed the desert and parts of Texas,” says Bil­lie Tekel Elias, au­thor of the book Pearl’s Party. There are fixes, of course. Cel­lu­lar com­pa­nies pub­lish cov­er­age maps, which can high­light prob­lem ar­eas and al­low you to an­tic­i­pate those irk­some blind spots. Also, check out the in­de­pen­dent dead zone data­base at dead­zones. com.

For your en­ter­tain­ment is­sues, preload mu­sic and au­dio­books onto your smart­phone, or con­sider a subscription to Sir­iusXM, which works al­most ev­ery­where in the United States ex­cept Ha- waii and parts of Alaska. Or you could do what I like to do when I drive through the desert — en­joy the beau­ti­ful si­lence and the in­spir­ing soli­tude.

But per­haps the big­gest of all com­plaints are the bath­rooms. And you know that’s true be­cause ev­ery now and then, you’ll pass a bill­board for fa­mous bar­be­cue or the luck­i­est casino that also promi­nently ad­ver­tises “CLEAN BATH­ROOMS!” It’s a sell­ing point.

Bath­rooms are a point of con­tention on road trips for Sage Sin­gle­ton, a fi­nan­cial writer from Hol­la­day, Utah. “How of­ten will we stop for bath­room breaks?” she asks. “Grow­ing up, my mom wanted to stop at ev­ery rest stop, while my dad wanted to push through and get to our des­ti­na­tion.”

Yet even when you can agree that a stop is nec­es­sary, you’re faced with nu­mer­ous road­blocks. They in­clude: Re­strooms are closed, re­strooms are for cus­tomers only, re­strooms are too dirty to use, and my per­sonal fa­vorite, re­strooms do not ex­ist. Se­ri­ously, where do the em­ploy­ees go when they have to go?

A re­cent GasBuddy sur­vey puts our col­lec­tive bath­room anx­i­eties into per­spec­tive: 64% of those sur­veyed say their big­gest road trip fear is not know­ing when the next re­stroom will be.

The ob­vi­ous an­ti­dote is up­load­ing an app like GasBuddy or USA Rest Stops which shows you the lo­ca­tion of the next clean rest stop.

Make no mis­take, there’s still plenty to worry about this sum­mer. But bath­rooms, bad roads and missed con­nec­tions shouldn’t be among them.

GETTY IMAGES/ ISTOCKPHOTO

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