Meet the Man who Drove Across the U.S. in Little Over a Day

Flickr/Noémie Assir

A 27-year-old man from Atlanta has become the fastest person to drive across the United States, obliterating the previous world record set in 2006. Ed Bolian whizzed his way from New York to Los Angeles in a mind-boggling 28 hours 50 minutes, breaking the prior record by more than two hours.

Bolian, who had wanted to make the record-breaking attempt since he was 18, says preparations for the journey took several years. First, he had to choose a car that would be suitable for such an intensive voyage. He settled on a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG, although the standard model wouldn’t exactly do-Bolian outfitted the car with additional fuel tanks, bringing the car’s fuel capacity to 67 gallons. More gas meant fewer pit stops to fill up the tanks, with Bolian’s car able to travel 800 miles before it needed to be topped up.If that sounds like a really long way to drive before getting a break, or you know, taking a leak, don’t worry because Bolian was prepared for that too. He traveled with a team of two others who could take turns driving, and as for the bathroom part, well, the car was stocked with extra bottles and bedpans in case of emergencies.

Bolian also installed police scanners, radar detectors, GPS units with traffic capabilities, and a whole host of other gizmos into his vehicle. His car also boasts a CB radio and giant antenna that allowed him to call out to slow trucks on the road in an effort to get past them faster.

Calculate your fuel cost – Road trip tip

An essential ingredient for any road trip is fuel. While you know the cost of your accommodations, you may not always know how much gas will cost for the length of your road trip.

There are websites to help you determine that cost, however. For example, AAA‘s Fuel Cost Calculator allows you to calculate the fuel cost of your trip. Using drop-down menus, you select your starting city, destination and vehicle. The calculator determines mileage, gallons of fuel used and total fuel cost. Not all cities and destinations are listed, but you can get a general idea.

At GasBuddy.com, you can search for the best gas prices in each city or region you’re traveling through. Site visitors report what they paid for fuel at individual gas stations. You’ll learn the lowest and highest prices reported in the past 36 hours. Armed with this information, you can budget your fantastic road trip.

[Photo: Flickr | Borderfilms (Doug)]

Blog it or Facebook it or Tweet it or … – Road trip tip

Let friends and family share in your road trip adventure by posting details along the way via your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media site. People at home are curious about your adventures, and seeing your update may trigger a memory or suggestion they have to improve your trip.

With a smartphone such as the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid or Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, it’s a snap to post a status update of your trip or take and upload a photo or video of a roadside attraction. Smartphone Facebook apps and apps such as Bloglive make it easy to upload your content.

Of course, don’t do any of this while driving. Wait until you’re stopped, or have a passenger do the posting.

Eight rules for renting a car in a foreign country

Renting a car can be a great way to see a foreign country. Having your own wheels allows you the freedom to take your time, to stop for long lunches in the countryside, to turn down that little lane that looks interesting, and to go where public transportation won’t take you. But, renting a car comes with its own set of challenges and dangers. Here are eight road rules to remember when renting a car on your travels.

If you can’t drive a manual, now is not the time to learn.

Outside of the US, many, if not most, cars have manual transmissions. Finding an automatic rental can be difficult, and the cost will be significantly higher. You may be tempted to save money by taking the manual and if you’re fairly comfortable driving one, that’s fine. But if you’ve never driven one before, took a crash course just before your trip, or haven’t had to step on a clutch in over a decade, get the automatic. You’ll be concentrating hard enough on trying to figure out where to go, decipher all the crazy foreign road sides, and possibly drive on the “wrong” side of the road, that you really don’t want to add learning how to shift into the mix. And if you screw up the car’s transmission while you try to learn how to drive a manual, you could be held liable for the damage.



Always spring for the insurance.
$10-$20 a day for insurance can add up, and it’s easy to figure that, hey, nothing will go wrong, so why not skimp a little on the full coverage. Don’t do it (unless your credit card offers some coverage). On the off chance that something does happen, even if it isn’t your fault, you’ll be kicking yourself when you are stuck with a hefty bill. In some countries it is common to be offered an additional coverage on your tires and windshield. If you’ll be driving on gravel roads, definitely take this option. It’s usually just a few bucks more over the course of your rental and well worth the cost.

Let your hosts know when to expect you.
When you head out for the day with your car, always let your hosts know where you expect to go and when you’ll most likely be back. If you are going from place to place, let the proprietors of your next accommodation know when you’ll be arriving and what route you will be taking. If you do get horribly lost or get stranded along the road, at least you’ll know that one person has noticed that you’ve gone missing and they will have somewhat of an idea of where to start looking for you.

Make sure you have a spare.
In the US, it’s easier to get help if you get a flat tire. Chances are you’ve got your cell phone on you and you may even be a AAA member, making it easy to arrange a tow. At the very least, you can call the rental company and ask for assistance. If you are traveling in another country without a cell, getting help is a bit more difficult. Always check to make sure your rental car has a spare tire, and before you set out on your trip, make sure you know how to change it.

Don’t forget a map.
If you’ve got the cash and the option is available, get the GPS, but also bring a hard copy map with you as well. As we’ve seen, sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual old-fashioned paper map. If GPS isn’t an option, don’t rely on vague directions, be sure to pick up a comprehensive map in case you decide to wander a bit or in the event that the directions you were given turn out to be less than accurate.

Know the rules of the road.
Stop at stop signs, don’t speed, watch out for children and livestock. These are rules we know and which tend to be consistent across continents. Other rules of the road are more localized and often unwritten. Not following them may not get you a ticket, but they may not earn you any friends along the way either. Always research the road culture in a place you will be driving and learn customs that are followed there. For instance, when I was driving in South Africa, I was glad my friends had told me that on two-lane roads I should move over to the far left so that faster drivers could pass me. Had I not known, I probably would have made some other drivers very angry as they tried to pass me while I drove in the middle of my lane.

Don’t make yourself a target.
If you are driving from place to place, you’ll be traveling with your luggage and you may have a GPS unit mounted on your window or a map spread across the backseat. All of this screams “I’m a tourist, come pillage the car!” Always put your luggage in the trunk and stow the GPS and maps in the glovebox. Lock your doors when you aren’t in the car and don’t give anyone a reason to break in.

Read the fine print.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your rental company’s rules. Some don’t allow rentals with debit cards, and a few countries require than the driver have not just a driver’s license from their home country, but an international driving permit as well. If you’re told something different in person than what you’ve read, be sure to ask for clarification. A couple I talked to in South Africa thought they needed to sign a special form to take their rental out of the country, but the rental agent said it wasn’t necessary. When they hit a cow and totaled the car in Botswana, they were told that because they didn’t sign the form before crossing the border, they could be liable for the cost of the car – about $7000US! Always read the fine print and know the rental rules.

Worst travel mistakes of the 2000’s: Diplomatic Dipsticks


As we take time to count our travel sins of the past decade, I get all teary-eyed and indecisive. Where to begin? Couldn’t we just say “Iraq” and be done with it? And are we including food mistakes? ‘Cuz I got some real doozies: how about shrimp ceviche from a quaint Mexican beach cafe or fresh cut watermelon in India? Uh, those would be travel mistakes, no? But like, since we’re trying to refrain from the scatological (are we?), I choose to relate the following story of which I may or may not have played a small cameo role:

Once upon a time, there were two young men working in Brussels, preparing to embark on a business trip to poor, struggling, deprived Eastern Europe. Filled with kindness and goodwill, the two decided they would add a charitable purpose to their journey by driving across Europe in their vehicle–a beige, 1975 Mercedes with a good 250,000 km under her belt–and filling it with used office computers to give away to the lesser half of the digital divide.

in order to ease their way through the red tape of certain notorious Eastern European countries, the boss of the young men lent them a pair of expired diplomatic license plates, which (in Euro-capital Brussels) tends to grant you permission to do whatever you want: park on the sidewalk, speed a little bit, drive like a maniac, etc. So, the young men screwed on the two red license plates and set off on their grand cross-European adventure.

Feeling confident with their special diplomatic status, the young men parked in the city center of lovely Budapest for a break. They wandered about for hours sightseeing and upon returning, discovered not one, but TWO parking tickets fluttering from the car’s windshield wiper. As they wrung their hands with worry for this small misfortune, a Hungarian policeman approached them, pointing out the fresh car ticket and asking for additional information. Immediately after that, a second Hungarian policeman approached from the rear, pointing to the second parking ticket.The young men stood back and watched with awe as the two Hungarian policemen began to argue with each other. Both policeman had issued parking tickets, both wanted glory for punishing the foreign offenders and yet, upon closer look, they had in fact issued tickets to two different cars. The pair of diplomatic license plates were actually different number plates gleaned from different cars, and each cop had recorded only one of the numbers on the ticket. It was also soon revealed that both were expired plates. The young men could not respond to the policemen’s inquiry as to the actual registration number for their car. This led to the car getting towed to the outskirts of Budapest and a thorough search being conducted during which time, a dozen computers were found stashed in the backseat and trunk of the car.

To make a long story short, it was something of an international incident that required some top-level EU intervention to resolve. Anyone who traveled in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 2000s will remember the huge stolen car rackets that pervaded and made it nigh impossible to rent a car. After this little glitch, it was a miracle that the car was eventually released back to the young men and they were able to drive back to Brussels.

And so the moral of the story is: When in Budapest, make sure your back matches your front. Always.