Must-haves for a long winter drive

I’ve lived in Canada all my life, and I’m pretty adept at winter driving. I know when to pump my brakes, how to counter-act a fishtail in a flash, how fast to safely go on the highway in white-out conditions and how much space to keep between cars in case of black ice. So I thought driving 700 kms (450 miles) to visit a friend in a neighbouring province would be at best a little stressful. I didn’t prepare myself for 12-hour white-knuckled trip home (For the record, it usually takes 7 hours.)

If you’re driving through the snow this holiday season, here are a few thing you should make sure you have before you leave:

  • An emergency car kit. It’s essential in case you break down.
  • A car cell-phone charger. You’ll be kicking yourself if you break down and don’t have enough juice to call the tow-truck.
  • Blankets and candles. You know, just in case.
  • Tunes. Don’t just bring enough music for the drive — bring enough in case the drive gets stretched out.
  • A repertoire of word games to play with the driver. I was the driver on this trip, and in order to distract myself from the stressful drive, my friend and I played 20 questions and other games the required just enough concentration to distract me from how much the roads sucked.

  • Gas. Don’t fill your car with just enough to get there — have extra in case of a detour.
  • Food. Yeah, you can plan to stop for lunch in a certain place, but in case you don’t make it by lunch time, be prepared for the onset of grump-inducing hunger.
  • A map of the route. During our drive, the main highway was closed because of an accident. I know the area so I knew what the best detour route was but I might not have been so lucky.
  • A shovel. You might have to dig yourself out in case you hit the ditch. Or better yet, bring some strong men if you can.
  • Winter Tires or chains. This isn’t a necessity — I made through a high mountain pass on a road that was like a skating rink with my trusty all-seasons — but they might be worth it to you. They’re highly recommended and even required for some roads here in the Rockies.

Other tips? Make sure to clean off the sludge from your headlights — winter falls quickly this time of year and caked-on mud can really limit your visibility. And check the road conditions online before you go.

Above all else, take it slow if the roads are slippery. No appointment is worth you risking your life for.

Drivers Beware: The Most Dangerous Roads in the World

Living near the Rocky Mountains, I thought I had some experience with dangerous roads. The ones I frequent twist and in turn around, over and under the huge, jagged mountains, through avalanche plains, with only a guardrail protecting your car from plummeting off a cliff’s edge. It wasn’t until I started travelling that I realized that the most dangerous road that I’ve encountered in Canada would be considered a smooth, luxurious ride in other countries.

So if our roads aren’t dangerous, where are the dangerous ones? I did a bit of research and here are the most dangerous roads in the world according to USA Today (click here for the full list):

  1. Bolivia’s The Old Yungus Road, from La Paz to Coroico
  2. Brazil’s Interstate 116
  3. China’s Sichuan-Tibet Highway
  4. Costa Rica’s Pan-American Highway
  5. Croatia’s coastal roads (any of ’em)

Judging by this article on the Old Yungus Road, I think I’ll pass on taking a trip on it anytime soon.