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Destination California: Days 3 and 4

by Jules Zane | Dec 15, 2014
After the first two days had brought them as far along as northern New Mexico, days three and four brought new challenges for our trailer team on the way to Chula Vista, Calif., and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.


On the early morning of Thursday, December 11, one of USRowing's two-man trailer teams departed from the Princeton University boathouse with the destination of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where many of our training center athletes will reside for optimal winter training. This is the second of their on-the-road diaries, with plenty of trailer safety advice. Read the first diary entry here.

After the first two days had brought them as far along as northern New Mexico, days three and four brought new challenges for our trailer team on the way to Chula Vista, Calif., and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

A crucial part of ensuring an uneventful road trip is making sure you know where you are heading, sometimes into the smallest details. In this day and age, mobile internet and smart phones have become very helpful travel partners, although there's no reason to not chat with a local trucker or gas station attendant for additional input on your travel plans.

Making sure you don't run out of fuel isn't always as easy as it appears. In more remote areas, stops become scarce and not every gas station is suitable for long trailers. This is why mapping out your next stop early by using a detailed (online) map can prevent long miles staring at a hauntingly low gauge. Most truck stops along interstates offer plenty of space, but peeking at satellite images through Google Maps is a great way to make sure.

Similarly, Google Maps is a good way to see the access to any hotel you might be considering. Being able to safely and easily park your vehicle and trailer should be a top priority, and discovering a narrow lot after booking the room is bad news. Use Google Maps and check for hotels emphasizing, "RV/truck parking" on their website or the apps of different online booking sites to find the right place to stay the night.

Figuring out when to stop for the night, or just for dinner, is sometimes dictated by the weather. Make use of good weather to keep going, or take a break to let the worst pass. We changed our route through New Mexico and Arizona to avoid most of the tail end of the storm that pummeled the West Coast last week. Leaving the interstate for a state highway isn't always optimal, but a local driver said the road was both scenic and easy and it proved as advertised. Re-routing based on hourly weather predictions saved us hours, despite adding extra miles.

Once the moment came that we drove into the rain and heavy winds, we used spots of good phone reception to load weather maps. We used Weather Underground's WunderMap, which offers up-to-date conditions from many local weather stations across the United States. It's a great way to determine whether you can let a storm blow over as you eat dinner, or if it might be smart to simply pull over and wait out the heavy gusts. Driving in particularly windy conditions can be overwhelming for inexperienced drivers and is tiring for anyone.

After an hour of driving at lower speeds to avoid trailer sway, we knew the worst was behind us based on the data from the app. Looking at great weather for the next day as well, we stopped earlier than usual and ate our first good meal in a while. Clear skies and quiet roads then made the home stretch an enjoyable one.

As for any final advice: bring sufficient snacks and beverages, have charged mobile devices within the passenger's reach, and make sure you are well-prepared road buddies, preferably with a decent taste in music. You will need them all at one point of a four-day road trip.
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