Road Trippin'

This week on Car Talk, Tom and Ray spoke with teacher Mike from PA. He’s preparing for a cross-country trip with nine students in a Chevy van. The guys give him their 2-cents on what he should bring. You know, the obvious… cell phone, AAA card, duct tape! What do you think he should bring? Share your comments right here – and if you want to follow their cross-country saga, you can check out their blog.

First aid kit, flares, GPS, maps, couple gallons of water, granola bars, bungie cords, some decent grade rope…ear plugs and a one way ticket back to PHL.

Does the van have a roof rack or can Mike get one? I have a cargo box I’d be willing to loan for the luggage. I live about 1.5 hrs away just outside of Philly.

Where is the link to his blog? We want to keep up with the craziness!

They’re definitely going to need a great iPod playlist.

Yes, I was wondering the same thing.
How can we follow the trip?

Plenty of tranquilisers. He’s going to need them!

Proof of insurance, vehicle registration.

There are two kinds of AAA coverage…the basic covers you for about 5 miles…the upgrade costs less than $50/yr and can take you 100 miles. Otherwise a 95 mile tow can cost you $6/mile without the coverage…I learned the hard way!!

I don’t feel those vans full of people and cargo have a good safety record. I’d double check my tire pressures and treads. A blowout with a van full of kids is a disaster.

Next, no matter how much they want to go faster, keep the speed down; on 65 mph interstates, between 60 and 65. If the speed limit is 70 or 75, ignore the limit and keep the speed at 60 to 65.

If there is an accident the lawyers will have a tough case blaming the driver if speed is a non issue. Moms and dads happy to see the kids off for the trip will be out for blood if something bad should happen to Johnny or Suzy. When the teacher is behind the wheel he is a “professional driver” and better be alert and on his toes the whole trip.

Last, if a kid is difficult to manage on the trip, get him a Greyhound ticket and send him or her home.

Here’s the blog.
I go to the same school where the teacher works and was amazed to hear him on cartalk this morning!

I agree with UncleTurbo about checking out the tires and keeping the speed down. Add to that a pre-trip inspection of brakes and the rest of the vehicle. Is this school sanctioned or not? That should be clearly spelled out for everyone’s understanding before the trip. Their are some pretty heavy duty liability and insurance coverage issues here. This teacher might want to consider his liability risk. So I guess that’s what you would take with you - peace of mind that the van and the liability issues both got checked out.

the toddfamily is right about getting AAA Plus towing. For more than half the trip, 5 miles of towing will only get you to the next prairie dog mound.

…and here’s their Twitter link:

After barreling through southern Virginia, they wandered through downtown Memphis in the dark of the night, with a happy stop at Hard Rock Cafe, and had a squint at Graceland this morning. Later today Arkansas was reported as “Ewww, 9000 degrees” but tonight they are in Oklahoma already. They listen to carefully chosen and very eclectic music offerings, a different artist or music style each day, and each student is responsible for some read-aloud time in the van (the reading material not necessarily relevant to the trip at all!) and they have committed themselves to “intentional looking” as they pass through the various kinds of scenery and landscapes. There is time made for spontaneous art each day, too – which you can see on the Twitters. Cheers to Mike for being the mastermind, the crazy, creative, scholarly teacher of this amazingly innovative class – and to Susan, the school’s beloved art and art history teacher – for taking this on…

Those dopes, Tom and Ray, were funny but didn’t give Mike much of a list beyond 2 tools and some tape. He should add items 1-9 of VWSucker’s list and bring a flashlight (self charging or w/ charger for the van)and some sunscreen. As a fellow teacher, I know he’ll also bring a lot of patience that will help him get through the zaniness of the students and the journey.

Tool Kit:

– Standard slip-joint pliers
– Channel-Lock “water pump” pliers
– 8" Crescent type wrench
– 6" Crescent type wrench
– Multi-tip screw driver (2 sizes each flat and Philips blade)
– Diagonal wire cutters
– 12 volt tester (looks like an ice pick with a light bulb in it and a wire)
– Roll of duct tape
– Roll of electrical tape (get real 3M brand)
– Pack of quick epoxy glue
– Tube of gap filling super glue
– At least 25 alcohol prep packets (degrease anything you are going to tape or glue – pharmacy item)
– All metal entrenching tool (soldier’s shovel – don’t get straight wooden handle version)
– Locking blade pocket knife
– Tire gauge
– Bright LED flashlight and 2 sets of spare batteries
– 1/2 roll of toilet paper (if you need more than that before the next store, see below)
– Full roll of those heavy blue paper shop towels
– Small bottle of waterless hand cleaner
– 6-12 20-minute road flares inside some kind of case
– 3 roadside reflectors
– Mechanic’s fingers to grab those things you always drop
– Bag to put most of this in (less the big items)

Go to Sears to get most of this. Buy the Craftsman tools with the guarantee. Life is too short for cheap tools.


And an assortment of zip-ties (nylon cable ties)


I laughed when I heard them discussing potty breaks… have they considered the bumper dumper?

At least they don’t have to keep it in the van, since it seems they’ve run out of space before they even started!

Hey everyone–

It’s a little surreal being on this trip and then finding out there are people talking about the trip online. Still, I thought I’d answer a few questions:

  1. We’re en route. We had a pretty incredible couple of days in White Sands and Joshua Tree – so far, the trip is going great;
  2. The kids have been even better;
  3. We did bring a small repair kit (thanks to the brothers). Good news is: the van hasn’t needed any of it yet. We’ll be getting an oil change in San Francisco, and – if all goes well – the duct tape will remain unused. Save for taping Unusual Things We’ve Found In Rest Areas to the dashboard.
  4. The playlist. I actually put together 13 days of playlists before the trip – 80 albums in total. Each day is a different musical era/genre – beginning with turn of the century jazz before working through blue, folk, and rock. Tomorrow is “Grateful Dead day”. We’ll see how it goes.

So, all’s well so far. But tomorrow is another day? Thanks for following us!