Six Tips to Stay Awake on Road Trips

Driving when tired is no fun at all. In fact, some studies have shown that a drowsy driver can be as dangerous as a drunk driver. Here are six tips to keep you awake and feeling fresh on your next road trip. Remember, though — if you’re feeling tired, there’s no shame in pulling over and napping. This is the single most important thing you can do when driving for long periods of time. Stay safe out there!

Ingesting highly-caffeinated substances is the obvious, most well-worn method used to keep millions of dreary drivers awake. My personal favorite is dark, black coffee of the been-on-the-burner-for-12-hours, gas station variety. It tastes like roasted trash, but it’s strong like an ox and does the job. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll reach for a Starbucks DoubleShot (it even has its own Web site!). They’re extremely expensive for what little you get, but the caffeine content is high, and they’re mighty tasty. There’s also the caffeine pill option: No-Doze, Vivarin, and a billion other brightly-labeled brands found on the checkout counters at gas stations. If you go this route, use them sparingly and drink a lot of water.

If you’re traveling with someone, make them talk to you. This might seem obvious, but it’s the easiest and cheapest way to keep awake when driving. If you’re on the road for long periods of time, and switching off between drivers, this can be a problem — especially if there are only two people in the car. One person drives, the other sleeps, rotate every few hours; you can see how this could be problematic. How can someone sleep and talk to you at the same time? Good question. When I’m on a road trip, I typically stay awake anytime the car is moving — whether I’m driving or not. This is good for two reasons: 1) Both people are awake at all times, and 2) there are two people gauging tiredness. If the passenger is feeling ultra-tired, chances are the driver is too. Time to pull over and rest!

Use an electronic device to alert you of your tiredness. In recent years, many companies have come out with these little battery-operated devices that attach to your ear — similar to one of those ultra-dorky Bluetooth headsets — and let out a screech when you nod off. These are great in theory, but if you’re at the point of nodding off while driving, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Even so, the extra precaution wouldn’t hurt. Here’s an idea: those Bluetooth headsets everyone is wearing nowadays should have this built into them.

Make frequent, short stops to rest and/or stretch. Make it a ritual — every 100 miles or so, find a gas station, truck stop, or rest area and pull over. Stretch your legs, take a quick nap, get some fresh air, shoot a deer; do whatever it takes to revive you for the next 100 miles. Most Wal-Marts will allow you to park in their lot for a quick nap (they sell rifles too!), so take advantage of this when applicable. For reference, here’s an updated-daily list of Wal-Marts that DO NOT allow over-night parking. It’s amazing what even a 15-minute nap can do for your stamina, so don’t hesitate to take a regularly scheduled break.

Stock up on audio media to keep you entertained, interested, and alive. The only time I’ve ever listened to an audiobook was on a solo road trip. Bill Bryson taught me a little bit of everything I need to know about our universe in the audio version of A Short History of Nearly Everything, and it kept me alert the entire time. Make sure you switch it up, though. Too much of one thing can hypnotize you into a dreary sleep, so I always switch between music and “talking” media every few hours. Podcasts are a good, free (most times) alternative to audiobooks, and you don’t necessarily have to have an iPod or other MP3 player. Most podcasts give you the option of downloading the raw .MP3 file (instead of streaming it) which can easily be converted to .WAV and burned to a CD using any major burning utility.

Bring along road-friendly snacks to munch on. My favorite is sunflower seeds. Not only are they tasty, but they give me something to do while breaking the monotony of the open road. I have a routine when it comes to prying those little suckers out of their shells, and it goes a little something like this (to the tune of that one Daft Punk song): suck it, bite it, split it, remove it, separate it, chew it, spit it, repeat! Or you can kill two birds with one stone by munching on SumSeeds: Caffeinated Sunflower Seeds! Other snacks that have worked for me are sour, hard confectioneries that take some time to finish. Remember Warheads, those super-sour candies that contort your face into a perpetual, invisible-straw-sucking mask? Those things are S-O-U-R! There’s absolutely no way you’d fall asleep with one in your mouth. If you’re a health nut, apples also work well.

sources (1, 2, 3)


City Surf’s Audio Walking Tours for the “Un-Tourist”

According to City Surf, “Guidebooks show you which neighborhoods are cool to visit, we show what’s cool IN those neighborhoods.” Indeed, City Surf has created audible walking tours of some hip Toronto hang-outs, including Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, Yorkville, and The Annex.

To use the tours, you download one of the 30-40 minute tours, load it into your iPod, and hit the streets. Rather than having your nose buried in a guidebook, you slip on your earbuds and listen to what makes the area unique. Spaced out, listening to your iPod, you’ll look just like a local.

The only downside is that the tours run $9.99 CAD (about $9 US) per download. A little steep? Maybe. But the music-filled sample tracks City Surf has posted sound like they’re brimming with great insider tips that’ll let you experience the city the way the locals do. I’ve never gone on an audible walking tour of a neighborhood. I imagine I’d have to do it twice: once to learn the tips; and a second time to feel like I’ve really immersed myself in the place.

Not heading to Toronto? Montreal and Vancouver tours are in the works.

[Thanks, Ali!]

Gadling Podcast: Joshua Berman

The whole guidebook writing thing has long intrigued me with its double-sided nature. On the one hand, being in a foreign locale, and having your job consist of reporting on the food, lodging and fun in that place seems like a dream job. On the other hand, spending an entire day peeking under mattresses and checking the cleanliness of bathrooms, well, I don’t care WHERE you are, that can kind of get old.

Well in today’s podcast, we talk about the job of writing guidebooks and a whole lot more. Out guest for today’s podcast is guidebook writer Joshua Berman, the author of several guidebooks in Central America as well as a brand-new book called Living Abroad in Nicaragua, released by Avalon Publishing this month. I’ve blogged about the Living Abroad series before, and I have to say it is a very handy guide for those who are considering making a move to any of the various countries for which there are books. But Joshua is also the writer, or co-writer, as the case may be, in two other guidebooks from Moon Guides (also under Avalon Publishing) Moon Guides Nicaragua and Moon Guides Belize. he also runs the wonderful Web site which chronicles his recent travels with his wife as a volunteer worker in places like India and Pakistan.

So turn up the speakers or put this thing on your ipod and take a listen.

Listen to Gadling podcast

Podcast 4U2 Hear: JungleCast

We’ve been talking a bit about evolution lately,
and there is a phenomenon in evolution whereby a new species might come into being through natural selection, that is,
a beneficial mutation and subsequent adaptation to the environment that causes the species to explode, for its
population to bow out my geometric proportions. In culture and technology and society, the same thing happens with
memes, and one of the more recent memes that has seen this kind of explosion is the podcast. Seriously, have you seen
how many podcasts there are out there these days? I am going to start doing more posts about them, taking a look at
which ones are worth listening to. I subscribe to a few god ones on itunes and poke around the net for others.

So the first podcast that I think you should here is this one called JungleCast at Echoradio. Now, it’s somewhat unconventional,, in that
what you are hearing is a SoundScape, a walk and talk interview with a scientist named Dr. Ed Barnhardt, who in this
case happens to be studying the history of the ancient Maya at one of my favorite Maya sites: Palenque. I was in
Palenque years ago, and was thrilled to walk around the ruins and explore the jungles. Even to skinny-dip in one of the
nearby streams. But the podcast here is not about skinny-dipping. It is a rather sober and serious look at a scientists
work trying to figure out what happened to the Maya and how they lived.

The audio quality of these podcast
is superb. Which I really appreciate since I have grown quite tired of hearing podcasts done by someone into their
laptop using the built in speakers. So give this one a listen. I think you’ll really enjoy it.