Chauffeur Driven Limos

limousine-601462_1920

What could be more stylish than a chauffeur-driven limousine greeting you from the airport? The business is all about creating a positive experience which needs to operate 365 days a year, even Christmas Day. But what is the life of a chauffeur all about?

Becoming a Chauffeur:

I addition to passing a background check many chauffeurs have to take a comprehensive test as well. Then they need to gain the knowledge of the streets they will work on and usually have to know them backward. In fact, training is ongoing as construction and driving patterns change with time, and different customers require different services en route.

Types of Gigs:

In some cities, a Limo is nearly as affordable as a taxi and many Limos serve the airport commuter, but we also think of the party limo which is rented by teens going to prom or bachelors/bachelorettes for their last big bacchanal before they settle down for good (or 7 years whichever comes first).

stretch-limousine-2714963_1920These days Limo companies typically diversify into specialty party limos for these gigs. You might see a stretch hummer with a built-in hot tub on the streets of Los Vegas, but smaller towns will still push their basic black stretch into double duty from Friday nights black tie to Saturday nights stag party.

The key to a party/airport driver might simply be patience. If you can drive and you are longsuffering this could be your calling, and the tips aren’t bad either.

The upscale driver will also do Corporate Services, and some chauffeurs work in the diplomatic services. These Limos are now outfitted with access to TV news and radio while you are driving along – well access to radio isn’t that new, but you get the gist. Onboard wifi for internet access isn’t unheard of.

These drivers still need to know where the best places to relax in the city are, but will also know how to find the opera hall and the bank tower buildings. So again training is vital.

Communications:

In the old days communications were down by CB radio, which we probably think of more with taxis, but no, they were also a mainstay in Limos as the company needed to know the whereabouts of their car at all times and provide updates about traffic and road conditions. If this seems counter-intuitive, just think about how often a business person has a change of schedule or a gang of drunks decides to switch clubs. The company needs to receive updates. Also, they need to give them, because speed bumps and potholes that are an inconvenience in a taxis, present a bad limo ride experience and cause costly damage. Of course, now the mobile phone fills in for the CB radio.

auto-2628338_1920

History of Limos and Chauffeurs:

The limousine has a longer history than you might think of being named after the town of Limousin, found in Central France. The most noticeable feature is the partition between the driver and the chauffeur. In Germany, a limousine is referred to a Sedan, though in other countries, sedans refer to a more generalized type of car.

The stretch limo has surprisingly workaday origins, created as it was by a  coach company in Fort Smith, Arkansas and was used by Big Band Leaders. It seems to show that it always had been about style rather than substance, a fun way to travel rather than something more presidential.

Early types of the limousine were the berline and the brougham. The berline takes its name from a type of horseless carriage and began with the driver in the open air and the passenger in the roofed area.  The Brougham was similar but had the driver in the center of the vehicle using a steering wheel which was on a pivot which seems a hell of a job to maneuver. The evolution was to improve life not only for the passenger but also for the chauffeur.

Personality Types for a Chauffeur:

Unlike taxi drivers, chauffeurs know where they are going before the day and can plan for it. So you don’t require quite as much desire for an unscripted workplace. Limo drivers’ personality tends to be available but not too sociable as they need to know when to keep quiet. The other three primary character needs are knowledgeable, professional and prompt.

prom-264219_1920We have this mental picture of chauffeurs as crisply professionals though that is not always the complete picture. Whole books have been written talking about unreliable drivers who are not given adequate rest breaks, so accidents are waiting to happen, such as a 1908 book called Motor Age. As with anything, you get what you pay for.

Another interesting character trait often found in chauffeurs is natural networkers, One reason is that chauffeurs be the last profession to rely on word of mouth to get new clients? Lately, though, everything seems to need to surrender to social media, and limo drivers remain avid networkers. So it’s likely that the profession draws people who like to be near people of influence.

Wherever you want to go, be it a concert, the airport or just round in a circle it is reassuring to know that there is someone to drive you.

Winter Roads and Ice Roads

hqdefault

Most of the time when we’re talking about winter weather and roads we’re talking about getting rid of it’s effects on the road to improve safety. However, there is a type of road which is built over snow or a similar substance called a winter road due to their reliance on seasonal climate. A special type of winter road is called ice road and this is what the majority of this article is in reference to.

If you live in a temperate region you may live your whole life without seeing an ice road. It is a road built over a frozen lake or even a bay of the ocean, though the word “road” may be pushing it somewhat.

Ice roads can be permanent or temporary–some only exist between late Fall and early Spring. Even when they are melted the lack of vegetation in a specific part of the water shows where the road used to be.

But why use an ice road when you can wait until the thaw occurs? As with many other things it comes down to expense. It’s cheaper to transport things by truck than by air freight. The other concern is that for some items, carrying by air is impractical. But the basic reason is the old adage, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” If you can drive straight across a lake instead of taking a twisty road around it and a mountain you save a lot of time and fuel.

Making an Ice Road

In order to keep the road as traversable as it can be this routes are often snow plowed. Most people consider ice to be level, but not all types of water being frozen provide a level surface–snowplowing helps make it level.

To create a road takes more than plowing a couple lanes. Often you need to thicken the ice by drilling holes at intervals. The water from these holes floods out and in turn thickens the ice.

The vehicles on the ice road tend to be big trucks, though smaller pickups are also used. The speed limit for ice road is about 25 mph to help prevent the truck from falling through the ice.

Because you can’t just drive out onto most lakes you need some bizarre engineering. One way is a ramp made of slush. It doesn’t sound like a good solution, but it seems to work.

History of Ice Roads

Perhaps the most famous ice road in history is the 900-day siege of Leningrad. In June of 1941, the German and Finnish Army attacked and ultimately blockaded the city where many munitions were manufactured for the Red Army. The attempt to starve out the army and inhabitants failed in large part to allies driving supplies across Lake Ladoga at night. The Nazi Army simply didn’t think anyone was crazy enough to do it so they didn’t waste bombs breaking up the ice.

The ice roads in Canada have a long history going back to the 1930s. These weren’t used by trucks though but by caterpillar sleds. A number of them can be traced back to Al Hamilton of Grimshaw Transport, which still exists. Their main business is to transport fish from the topmost parts of Canada to the USA and beyond. These roads have since been improved by other trucking companies.

Stunt Driving

action-asphalt-auto-724494

At one-time stunt driving was only for the chosen few, but now in the age of experience gifts, it is possible to experience stunt car driving for yourself. They are especially popular for bachelor parties and few bachelorette parties. Perhaps in the age of the virtual more of us yearn for a real day out.

Like other forms of enhanced driving, you do need to know how to drive before you attempt stunt driving. The broad category might be called precision driving and includes such things as racing and the obstacle course work used by law enforcement. However, stunt driving is the form of precision driving where the goal is to create the illusion that your vehicle is out of control when in fact you’re driving at the edge of what the vehicle can handle.

automobile-automotive-car-804130.jpgMany courses offer small class sizes and you are taught by professional stunt people (sometimes, people who work in Hollywood) to get the tricks right. Some of the stunts referred to on their website are the J-turn, Drifting and Threshold Braking. It is a bit confusing for someone who is not familiar with stunts to work out what these are. The names combine aspects of precision driving with the visual effects it creates for an audience or camera.

To do a J turn first you need to reverse and then turn 180°. You should continue driving forward in the same direction as if nothing has happened.

To drift or to counter-steer is drive in one direction while the car wheel s are facing in the other direction. It employs using the car’s inertia to perform a controlled skid around a corner instead of breaking into the corner and accelerating out like you learn in regular driver’s education.

Threshold braking is to slow the vehicle at the maximum rate using the brakes. Many states require a form of this during your driving exam, but it’s done from the speed of 10 MPH. Real threshold breaking is done from high rates of speed. If you have to use it in real life, be warned that it’s easy to lose control of your vehicle.

There are additional moves such as the slide 90s but the stunt driving websites seem a bit cagey about what kind of move this is. If you know perhaps you can comment below?

Obviously, you don’t do any smashing out of a ten story building with your car on fire as part of these stunt days, it’s only the basics. But you get to learn more about how to control your vehicle and you also have a fully immersive experience with your friends.

Tanner Foust is one of the more well-known stunt drivers to the public. Despite his degree in biology, he is better known for rally driving, which he started as a way to off steam. Since then he became an ice driving coach, which led to his destiny as a Hollywood stunt driver on films, including Need For Speed and Iron Man 2. Foust keeps his skills sharp at the race track.

Should you take up further stunt experiences be warned, the prices racks up considerably for the more advanced seminars. You can also take a refresher course at some schools. The best places to learn tend to be the coastal states though it is not clear why.

The Truth about Renting a Car

carsharing-1436203_1920

If you need to rent a car you’ve probably either taken a trip or had an accident. When you take a trip, and you’re footing the bill, you probably have some control over the type of car you get but when the insurance company is supplying a replacement vehicle you may discover how little input you get.

Driving a car you are not used to can be tricky, especially if it’s manual when you’re accustomed to automatic. Another curveball can come when the rental is five or eight years newer than you’ve ever driven. Many of the new bells and whistles, like autonomous driving or keyless entry, have an adjustment period.

So do what most folks never do when negotiating your insurance rate and research what the rental clause actually covers. One of our writers recently activated the loaner vehicle clause in his insurance during repairs and discovered that a “mid-sized” car is actually tiny and has only three doors.

Most Overlooked Thing

It’s important also to make note that you will need to give the car back not only when the car is fixed but alternatively when the car is considered non-repairable by the mechanic in question. It is therefore vital that you make any contingency plans (looking for cars, etc.,) while you still have access to a vehicle. While most people are optimistic that something might be done by the garage. It’s just that not having a car makes it much more difficult to shop for another car one.

Some of the more strange but somehow frequent issues while using a rental include that you’re more likely to lose your keys, you won’t recall your license plate number if you need to fill out paperwork, and not being able to fit your child’s car seat into it. Granted, these are not world-ending issues, but they stress your day if you don’t think ahead a little.

When traveling, most people default to big brands such as Hertz or Enterprise. In reality, you might be better off doing some digging on the internet to find a local company. Why choose a name you are unfamiliar with in a foreign town? Well, you might find a better deal for one thing. You might also get some good local advice, like “there is no parking for large cars in our town so we recommend our small cars” or “gas here is cheap, so why not use the largest option you can.”

If you must use an international company trying to reach a local branch directly When you reserve through the national switchboard or website you get the official rate. The local office may be slow at the time and ready to talk deals. They may also advise you on the best places in the area to visit. (PS going local is always good advice, flowers, for example, are always cheaper local than national.)

Another Tip

If you happen to be traveling you may note that airport rental companies are more expensive. This includes services that come pick you up at the airport. So one technique is to hire a rideshare to a close by the hotel. Then stand in the lobby and order your rental car delivered there. The price per day is generally worth the effort. Do a little research though because occasionally you’ll find an airport where they competition is intense and drives prices even lower than elsewhere.

Renting Trucks?

It might surprise you to know that trucks are rented a great deal more than cars, especially by huge companies. Penske and U-Haul, for example, can be found everywhere helping people move.

For those not looking to move house, but simply trying to haul a piece of equipment or load of bark dust, for example, you can often rent a pick-up truck, the most common rented vehicle of all.

A group of antique scavengers, known as “pickers,” often rent trucks instead of buying their own. This allows them to drive a more economical car while on the hunt around the country and only bring in a truck to move something big. Money is always tight when you are running a business, it seems.

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to rental car treatment. The more famous kind, abuse the daylights out of it, but surprisingly most people use kid gloves. Partially because we want to avoid any fees for nicks and scratches, and partially because most people treat things they don’t own with respect. If you do create a particular mess it could be worth a vacuum to avoid spending money. If you scratched the paint somehow, consider getting a little wax and buffing it out. Many tiny cosmetic issues disappear when they don’t catch the light.

Whatever your reason for renting a car it can feel good to get back behind the wheel of something you own. Life seems much more normal.

 

Converting Ambulances?!

doctor-on-call-548023_1920

There are many vehicles which can be converted to ambulances. Though modern readers probably envision a large van, believe it or not only a few decades ago they used station wagons. Most ambulances these days start off life as an ambulance though they’re built on a van frame. The only real reason to alter a vehicle to an ambulance would be if you were transporting it to a foreign nation that didn’t have a local manufacturer, and then it is relatively simple to just get an old ambulance and save all the effort of converting.

ambulance-168279_1920So if converting a van seems a fruitless task what about ambulance cars? They are more widely known as a non-transporting EMS vehicle, or perhaps “rapid response vehicle.” In other words, they are a way to get the doctor to the scene of an accident. In Germany, they are also known as “Physician Cars” though clearly when you translate that into English it conjures images of a luxury vehicle a well-paid doctor might use might drive for day to day use.

They convert vehicles like the Renault Scenic, maybe due to the ease of size. The problem again that they are generally bought from the supplier as ambulances, though it goes without saying that the supplier needs to work out how best the vehicle will work as an ambulance car.

As for motorcycles you might need to change the traction control to deal with the new use. You also need foot shields, hand guards and fairing protectors. To clarify “fairings” are extra structures used to aid streamlining of the vehicle. The biggest noticeable change is the color, as ambulance motorcycles are never black; they are by and large a luminous yellow shade.

What about the other way around? How do you convert an ambulance into a regular type of vehicle?

First things first, licensing requirements vary state to state. Some states go off the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and once something was born an ambulance it will always be one. Therefore you can turn it into anything you want for all anyone cares, but you still have to acquire the proper license to drive it. You need to make sure that you are licensed to drive such a vehicle.

What to turn an ambulance into? Good question. There aren’t that many other uses really, it’s too small for freight for instance. Possible other ideas would be a furniture truck or a catering van.

ambulance-2214593_1920However, one of the most common uses for an old ambulance is a camper van. The big draw here is that it’s a high-end van, with upgraded load capacity, and best of all, it’s already wired for the additional electric needs of a camper. You’ll need to do some additional outlets and such but it’s a lot less work than starting from a basic van. No doubt you also have to add some kind of oven, some beds, and the odd table.

Another good point about an ambulance is that it already has a backup battery which is a lifesaver if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. You may also be able to repurpose built-in overhead lighting and heating, as well as cupboards.

You may have to change the insurance if you want to alter the purpose of a vehicle, as a camper van is classed as HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle), whereas an ambulance is not. The distinction here is that an ambulance would have a commercial vehicle policy in addition to regular coverage. A camper van is hauling a lot of expensive equipment that you own like microwave, toaster ovens, etc.

It will be quite interesting to drive. An ambulance has a number of buttons on the dashboard that you don’t find in regular camper vans. Removing the sirens might also be something the law requires when privately owned.

This is probably a gold mine; after all, there are many ambulances for sale. But like with any gold mine it involves a certain amount of spade work. Still, you might be able to get brilliant vacations and even money from selling such vehicles on sites such as eBay. In a crowded market, it helps to have new ideas.

The Desert Drive

morocco-123978_1920

Because only 30% of America is desert, it is unsurprising that most Americans do not have to drive through these types of conditions. If you find yourself in need of a trek through the wilderness, here are a few survival tips for the desert.

When Crossing the Dessert Via Highway:

It is vital that you bring both your cell phones and a charger. They now sell solar-powered chargers, like the 8000mAh, BESWILL 3 USB Ports and 21 LED light Portable Solar External Battery Power Bank Phone Charger for iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Android and other Smart Devices.

The most important thing you need is water, tons and tons of it, as it is your number one method of survival.

It is vital you check your cooling system and your battery before you start off.

You should never touch hot parts of the car. You should NEVER leave children or pets stuck in the car, they could die.

Tar can bleed in the heat. How does tar bleed? It’s due to the upward movement of asphalt in sunny conditions. The more hours of hot weather a surface has to deal with the worse the bleeding will occur. Roads become so slippery it cannot be traveled.

When Crossing the Desert Off-Road:

When it comes to traversing the desert you need a powerful car including…

4 wheel drive (4×4), which increases overall traction by applying power in more than one place

Carrying Capacity-Ability to support additional fuel tanks and spare tires, anything that commonly goes wrong.

Torque-It might be hard to understand what torque is all about. Its rotational force around a specific object (rotation around a specific axis). A car traveling through the desert needs a certain amount of torque in the wheels to negotiate obstacles.

Clearance-You also need to look into the size of the tires. If a car has large tires it is capable of clearing the bigger sized rocks.

As with any off-road vehicles they need to be large but easy to operate. Basically, if it’s built for speed it’s probably not built for crawling the desert. To be more precise any vehicle built for street use is impractical as a desert vehicle.

Wheelbase-It can help you negotiate an obstacle to have your tires spread further apart. So when one tire loses traction while others do not. However, sometimes people choose to forgo wheelbase, so let’s examine some of those exceptions below.

pickup-truck-3566304_1920

Typical Off-Road Vehicles:

Many designs of off-road vehicles start on the idea of the pickup and extra features because it has a long wheelbase and carrying capacity. There are also exceptions…

One of the weirder types of vehicles built for the desert is the Baja Bug, Herbie Goes Trekking you might say. Unlike the usual type of VW Beetle the Baja Bug has a tubular cage fitted so when should it flip over you will be perfectly safe. There are also longer shock absorbers. (Most bugs can be divided into narrow eyes or wide eye varieties.) The narrow eyes have the headlamps on the front apron, much closer than on the usual bug. The first Baja was created in 1968, originating in California.

jeep-3266350_1920The car most people might associate with the desert is the Jeep. Many jeeps are still used on desert safaris. Jeep is a trademark vehicle but it’s also a style of vehicle made by many makers. It started by an American company called “Willys MB.” First used in 1941 it is still used for negotiating hot conditions. However, when WWII ended, a Willies Jeep was abandoned on an island in the Pacific which was reversed engineered by Toyota to create a line of jeeps. There are a number of different desert jeeps on the market, such as the Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk and Desert Jeep Wrangler.

The desert can be cruel to the unwary, but if you are prepared to take precautions, your exploration and activities may be exciting.

color-2379005_1920.jpg

 

 

 

Family Road Trips by Age

hotel-1111199_1920.jpg

In this first installment of our 2018 road trip series, let’s tackle the all-important question–destination.

Baby

Oyster.com recommends taking infants to Norway! Sounds crazy? Well, their point is that babies don’t really remember. This is one of the last chances you have to go somewhere you want to go. After this, your child will start factoring in more. If this is your first child it may not seem like it, but in many ways, your life is less impacted by your infant now then it’s going to be when he/she has the ability to go find trouble whenever they aren’t entertained.

rv-2788677_1920So how are you going to road trip to Norway? Well, you won’t, but the point still stands. As does Oysters next recommendation. Take the train. Lot’s of places you explore with lots of sitting and resting while you get to the next location. That’s not quite how the train works in the US, but the point is a good one. This could be a good time to try out an RV. Cruze America offers the chance to take a small RV anywhere and the added flexibility of being able to just stop when you need to could make it a good option.

GoRVing has a ton of resources and destination recommendations.

Toddler

Toddlers need to experience smells, textures and tastes to be entertained, making the beach the perfect option. There’s something about the coast. It slows you down. The rhythmic melody of the waves. The squawking of seagulls overhead. The smell of salt and fish in the air. Everywhere you turn there is something completely new for your toddler to experience.sand-166897_1920

It doesn’t have to be an ocean to have a beach. If you live farther from the coast than you want to be couped up with a two-year-old. Pick a lake or river with a sandy shoreline. Just the feel of sand between their toes is great and sand castles are a chance to create, or better, DESTROY!

Don’t forget your floaties. If the water is too cold or the waves too strong, the hotel will probably have a swimming pool and this is a great chance to learn to swim.

Elementary

Disneyland/World! It’s time for your child to make a life memory and to believe in magic. Life’s realities are going to settle in all too soon and this is your chance to take a stand for the things that can’t be proven, (but that we’re better off believing in any way.)

disneyland-105271_1920.jpgIt’s not only aimed at entertaining kids, it’s safer than many forms of vacation. For all the hype about kids being stolen at these theme parks, the reality is that they are hyper on guard for it. Your kids will also have the stamina to stand in the hot sun now.

Reputable Hotel accommodations are close by. Transportation isn’t too big a hassle with shuttles. And they can rent you things like strollers if you don’t want to lug it back and forth.

If this is a short section its because I don’t really have to really have to sell you on Disneyland. If your daughter is a princess, or your sun is Tarzan all you need to know is the best age to take them.

Middle School

This is the age when adventure really takes point. Opportunities to engage with active learning could make the difference between your child enduring school and your child falling in love with learning.

Camping can make it more affordable to pull off a series of smaller vacations, which could look like a long summer tour or one extended trip each year for four years. Either way it’s worth spending some money on proper equipment to make your experience more enjoyable. mt-rushmore-2437860_1920.jpg

The two factors that make camping a great adventure are 1) the experience of camping itself and 2) the destination you go to.

No matter where you go, camping provides a chance to learn skills like fire building, hiking/orientation, plant identification, animal observation, fishing, and so on. Middle school kids thrive when given challenges so don’t be afraid to include an element of danger or an obstacle to overcome. Of course, at the end of the day temper your efforts with the reality that this is still meant to be a vacation. Don’t exhaust your kids or turn it into a chore.

Destination ideas include…

Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, etc. etc. The list is endless.

High School

It may actually be time to buy that timeshare resort. We’ve all known people who felt burnt by there timeshare, and people who thought it was the best investment they ever did. It is true that vacations, in general, are something you’re either into or you just never quite fit them in.

pool-2128578_1920So now that the kids are only a few years from college why would you plunk down that kind of money? Well, because your vacation needs and your teen’s vacation needs are now a world apart and you want to rack up wins wherever you can. Pick the right location and your kids won’t mind hanging out with mom and dad through their first few years of college even.

Most resort packages include the ability to take friends along, giving your teen the option of a friend. (Try to steer them toward the ones that are a good influence.) This allows you to get your message while your kids are at a kids-only pool. The ability to vacation at a different pace than your teen while still combining for an excursion or meals will ease tensions for both parties.

Well, we hope this has given you some things to think about. It’s never a bad idea to have a game plan for your time off in the next dozen years. Even if you ultimately opt for something different, the goal is to be intentional about your opportunities to connect with your kids. They aren’t young for very long and it goes quickly. Up to 80% of your time with them happens before they turn 18.

If you are wondering where all this vacation money is coming from, consider how much money you can waste overpaying for vehicles, or repairing a lemon. Have your cars inspected before you buy them by a reputable inspection service that works for you like our sponsor Tire Kickers.

 

Living in your car: Short or Long Term

Wimsett_Living 1

Legality:

The first question is, can you live in your car in your specific state? Whether you are permanently living in your car or just doing it temporarily for an economical grand adventure across the US it is always best to check.

There’s not a lot of agreement among experts, it seems. Perhaps one reason is that it’s hard to make a law against something like that. As much as many cities would like to prevent you from living in your car, what can they specifically ban to prevent it? Sleeping? Many drivers’ education programs told us to pull over if you’re getting tired and take a nap. Truck drivers are required to rest a certain number of hours after driving for 10 hours. Should a patrol car come around every hour and make sure they didn’t fall asleep? Sounds like a good use of tax dollars.

Wimsett_Living 2There are a number of cities in which it is illegal to sleep in your car. One example is Palo Alto, California. Those who get caught receive a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail. Even without these vagrancy laws, you could still get charged with indecency for changing in your car. Or you may become victim to the anti-loitering laws.

There’s a movement among cities to ban car living, and cities like Los Angelis banned decades ago, however, it’s a little difficult to tell someone they can’t use their property for a certain purpose. LA’s law was struck down as discriminatory against the income disadvantaged.

This article in compare.com contains a list of cities that have banned sleeping in your car and they point out that if you are intoxicated you can still be given a DUI even if you never started the vehicle up.

It seems many states are against you living in your car…States like Texas ban it unless at a state rest area. Some states ban it entirely but generally, you can get away with it, with a few caveats. According to AskDeb.com it’s considered suspicious behavior to be asleep in a car as you aren’t necessarily the owner of the vehicle. Police can awaken you and verify your identity; they can search your car and since many people choose to commit suicide in vehicles they can spend as long as they desire to determine your mental state. This can be so interruptive that you aren’t really getting sleep.

Where to Park if you’re not Sure:

For those who simply wish to live in their car while crossing the country, truck stops and rest areas are some of the best places to sleep. Perhaps the most commonly recommended places are Walmart’s or other big box stores, which are notoriously tolerant of overnight guests since they tend to wake up and buy groceries. If you do pick a parking lot the park under a street light. Here’s a list of Walmarts that allow it from allstay.com.

Natural/Federal land allows you to park 14 days out of any single month, as long as following guidelines. City parks are an option if they haven’t posted signs against it. Industrial parks, yachting marinas and so on might be good places to park.

The experts are split on the topic of camping along seldom traveled (blue) roads. Might depend on your personal aura—some of us project a natural sense shield that tells bad guys to stay away yet invites the police to come check us out. If you fall into that category then a rural road might work better than a neighborhood street. One caution about roadside campsites is that they’re often privately owned.

Wimsett_Living 4

Learn to spot good neighbourhoods—too upscale and you’ll stick out, too run-down and you’ll get swept up with someone else doing what you’re doing and making a mess of it. Look for a street that looks like you’re just parked there overnight while you’re visiting Uncle Fred.

 

 

Safety:

There’s no real way to guarantee safety. However here are some precautions to help you.

Window tinting is a must for three reasons:

  1. Police don’t notice you sleeping inside you won’t get hassled.
  2. If thugs don’t see you or piles of your belongings you’re less of a target.
  3. Neighbors are less likely to identify you as a vagrant if you don’t have mountains of trash and possessions in your car, which is easy to see without tinting.

According to a Reddit post on the topic which distilled several hours of Youtube video advice down to these points:

  • don’t park in the same spot twice in two weeks
  • Come at dark, (sleep, and nothing else) and leave at dawn
  • Never poop/shower/sleep etc where you sleep–take care of that before and after

Wimsett_Living 3

Under the Radar is the Best Policy:

Vans can be more spacious and worth the risk, but the rule of thumb is to avoid looking like you’re living in your car so you may want to choose a vehicle that doesn’t look like you could live in it. Still, adequate space is a must.

By that same token, a new car is less targeted by police and neighbors and less likely to break down on your trip. Breakdowns are more than simply annoying in your situation for bathroom reasons listed as you read on.

Use a sun guard in your front window instead of a tarp or blanket. Again the idea is to blend in but to prevent people from easily seeing in.

The ultimate under the radar is, again, not to do your toiletries where you’re going to sleep. Defecating in your car leads to needing to dispose of said waste and having that on hand is not something you can explain away when they police wrap on your window. Don’t get caught with your pants down.

What to Pack:

You will need a great amount of water, especially when crossing the desert. For practical purposes, you will need an emergency gas can with a couple of gallons of gas inside. Note that gas fumes can be more dangerous than your thinking if you’re asleep, so if you can smell gas put the can outside for the night. Better stolen than dead.

You will also need a fully working camera to record your journey. It is also well worth keeping a journal of your experiences.

Preparing for your Journey:

You may need to rent a private mailbox in order to receive your mail, or you might choose to use the residence of a friend or a relative as a postal address. You may need to put valuables in a safe deposit box in a bank—but never, EVER, put your will in safe deposit box (your executors can’t access it until its officially read. Catch 22 anyone?)

It is always a good idea to have personal ID close at hand, such as your driver’s license and personal insurance forms when the police want to see your details.

It’s a good idea to buy a steering lock and make sure your car’s steering wheel is locked as much as possible. If your car is really your home you don’t want it stolen from you any time soon.

In order to sleep you need a mattress and a blanket. Place your foodstuff in plastic containers when they won’t get smashed.

If you chose to sleep in your car it is my hope that you stay as safe as you can be. Hopefully, your life will pick up soon.

Mobile Living (Part 2)

airstream-2656977_1920

In part one of our tour of the mobile living movement and its close cousin, the tiny home, we introduced the concept and the controversies around it. We discussed the types of homes typically included when discussing the topic of mobile living based on the purpose they were designed for. For a recap of that information please follow this link.

In upcoming installments, we’ll explore the lifestyle and potential ways these “newmads” are supporting themselves. For now, let’s delve a little deeper into the types of homes. For our purposes, let’s divide the list into stationery tiny homes and vehicle-based living quarters.

Stationery Tiny Homes (STH’s) Definition:

I’ll define STH’s as dwellings under 500sf, either built in place or manufactured elsewhere and then placed on a permanent or semi-permanent location. Major types of STH’s include Park Models, Shipping Container Homes and most custom-built Tiny Homes (even if they’re on wheels).

Vehicle-based Living Quarters (VLQ’s) Definition:

I’ll define VLQ’s as vehicles designed with living quarters or dwellings that were made to be pulled by a vehicle regularly. Major types of VLQ’s include RV’s (Class A, B, C, or 5th Wheel), and certain Ultra-mobile Tiny Homes.

Notice a couple things about these definitions? I didn’t mention whether or not these homes have traditional residential hookups for utilities, RV style hookups, or are built to work off-grid. This is because you’ll find all of the above in either category.

You’ll also notice that I listed the major types as examples but there are quite a variety of uncommon types of home in either category. An example of an uncommon STH would be a yurt or an earthbag home, but we’ve encountered homes made out of everything from concrete pipes to fuel containers. Examples of uncommon VLQ’s actually aren’t uncommon at all, just not thought of frequently. Economically disadvantaged nomads often choose an urban off-grid lifestyle and find it easier to do with a vehicle that they already own such as a car, which has the added bonus of not looking so obvious that someone is living in it.

What’s not on either list is manufactured homes, which are just non-traditionally built homes with slightly more potential to be transported a second time. It’s not mobile enough to bother with in a blog devoted to commuting and transportation.

So why bother with stationary tiny homes? Well two reasons. 1st because we’ve got some awesome pictures of some unique ones, and 2nd because the minimalist lifestyle enables one to relocate more easily—which is many peoples’ definition of mobile living.

 

Stationery Tiny Homes (STH’s)

I don’t want to spend too much time on these since most people are familiar with the concept.

 

Park Models Features:

As discussed in part one, Park Models are made by Manufactured Homebuilders for the purpose of being more portable and less expensive. If you need to live onsite at a campground or construction site this could be your answer. The downside, and it’s a big one, is that you can’t get a certificate of occupancy or a vehicle license so you have a really tough time with Johnny Law if you leave it someplace for more than a year. On the bright side, it’s larger and more comfortable than most custom-built tiny homes.

 

Shipping Container Homes:

As geo-arbitrage became a way to do business overseas manufacturing created a glut of used cargo containers in the US where goods are imported more than exported. Some ingenious home builders have managed to create very modern homes out of them.

Their advantages are that they can be transported easily to the build site and be customized relatively easily with grinders and welders. They have big double doors and wooden floors (which must be removed because they’re treated with chemicals to repel exotic bugs). One need only see some pictures of what people are doing to appreciate why you someone might want one.

Many shipping containers homes have a square footage that really doesn’t qualify as an STH as we’ve defined it, but the idea of creating villages of them to replace garish apartment complexes gets bantered about continuously as a possible solution to the housing crisis in America. We’ve yet to find anyone who’s doing it, but we’re always looking.

 

Custom-built Tiny Homes (even if they’re on wheels):

Tiny Home manufacturers are springing up around the country. What isn’t keeping up is the number of places you can locate that will let you live in one. Zoning laws can be stricter some cities than others but very few really welcome tiny homes. It is sad because they provide an opportunity for more fiscally responsible living that is less impactful on the people and environment around them.

The big difference between tiny homes and other towable living options like 5th wheels is the building materials and design. RV’s were never meant for year-round inhabitation and it will ultimately become obvious to anyone attempting to do so. Tiny homes have incredible insulation and offer monthly winter utility and heating bills as low as $50. They’re also designed with some unique features that reduce the feeling of being in a small space and they’re built to last decades longer.

 

 

Drivable VLQs

Starting with Drivable VLQs where lots of options abound. Sources include (https://www.expeditionmotorhomes.com/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-class-a-b-c-motorhomes/) and (https://rv-roadtrips.thefuntimesguide.com/rv_class/).

 

vehicle-3307908_1920

Class A

 

Vehicle-based Living Quarters (VLQ’s)

Class A RV’s Features

Typically built on a bus chassis, Heavy Frame and Large Wheels, bad fuel economy (8 to 10 mpg), and measure up to 45 feet in length. Advantages include lots of storage, homelike feel, and ability to tow up to 5,000 lbs. A big reason some owners select Class A’s is that up to 8 passengers can converse while in transit. Disadvantages include fewer places to sleep overnight guests and did we mention the bad gas mileage because it’s worth saying twice.

Class A’s typically market well with couples and serve best as luxury touring coaches and as such tend to be pricey (starting around $75,000). One more thing worth noting about Class A’s is that some have diesel engines (diesel pushers) which are desirable and retain value a little better than gas equivalents.

bus-1959434_1920

Bus Conversions Features

Do it yourself bus conversions are on the rise alongside tiny homes. A surprising number of first timers to both construction and mobile living have decided to wing it. Some of them spend quite a chunk of change.

A few custom bus conversion specialists have thrown their hat in the ring, but not as many as van conversionists. Here’s a link to one a site where you can buy bus conversions at various stages of conversion. Here’s a link to a basic how-to take on a project like that. Notice at both of these sites, the intimate connection between bus converting and tiny houses.

 

Class B RV’s Features

Built on a van frame but modified to allow someone to stand upright inside. They are self-contained, meaning they have bathroom and kitchen facilities although typically very modified and lacking features—for example, they commonly use a wet bath where the toilet and sink are inside the shower. Advantages include good fuel economy, easy to drive/park, less expensive than other models. Disadvantages include low livability for more than one person for more than a few nights in a row.

vw-2723353_1920

Van Conversions Features

People have been doing there own van conversions for decades, the most famous of these being the VW van. Most recently, however, is the kit conversion which allows a cargo van owner to install the Class B features onto a standard Cargo Van. Many dealerships offer to professionally install the conversion on your new van purchase and can sometimes finance the entire purchase on a 15-year loan instead of a typical five or six-year auto loan. Here’s a link to a website with more information.

mobile-home-2872471_1920

Class C RV’s Features

Class C’s are built on a cargo van chassis, with an attached cabin space. They are visually distinct because of the cab-over space much like campers have, which adds a lot of storage or sleeping room. If they look like a cross between the class A and B…it’s because they are. The fuel economy, storage, sleeping and towing ability right between the two other types of motorhome, however with just enough extra room to allow better common areas which vastly increase the ability for more than one person to live in them for a longer term. This could be a better option for the typical family size looking for more extensive travel than just the occasional camping trip.

It’s also worth noting that they tend to be shorter than class A’s (20 to 33 feet long) which means they’re easier to maneuver and can fit into most campgrounds. Also, a big plus is that because they’re made from standard cargo van lines like Econoline, Ford or Chevy Express it’s easier to get parts and mechanical than a big diesel bus.

A final word about the difference between Class B and Class C, because both are built on a cargo van chassis. Plan to spend about as much on a Class B despite getting less room and cramped amenities, but what you’re getting in exchange is ease of maneuvering and fuel economy. With a longer Class C, one with a rear bedroom, for example, your rear-end is overhanging the wheelbase by a lot and that can make cornering tricky. It can also be an issue to store a Class C when not in use, while a Class B fits anywhere a large van does.

Towable VLQ’s

Shifting into towable living spaces lets look at three options. Sources include (https://www.hensleymfg.com/travel-trailer-vs-5th-wheel/) and (https://rv-roadtrips.thefuntimesguide.com/rv_trailers/). There’s a myriad of layouts and features in either design so here are some basic differences that may not be initially obvious.

mexico-3120086_1920

Travel Trailers Features

Have the biggest variety of size and features to fit your needs. They start around 8ft long which can be towed by anything, and go all the way up to 40 feet to rival 5th wheel for space and comforts. The ability to be towed by almost anything with a trailer hitch makes this much more versatile option for most people. However, larger trailers require several things beyond just a bigger engine. The wheelbase of the vehicle (the length between the front and back tires) greatly affects the length of the trailer it can tow. Also, larger trailers are much easier in high winds and corners when your vehicle is equipped with sway bars and other stability options specific to vehicles built to tow.

trailer-1202676_1920

Trailer weight plays a big part also, with both fuel economy and stability on the road. Regardless of the type of trailer, you’ll need to consider what the trailer weighs when loaded with the things you need to live, work and play. Most trailers now come with either a raw weight or a burdened weight so that you know if the number includes typical extra weight or not.

5th Wheels Features

The weight of the 5th wheel lands in front of the rear axle which allows the weight to distribute onto all four tires instead of connecting at one single point at the rear. This radically increases the stability while in transit. It also puts some of the living space over the truck bed minimizing the overall length of truck and trailer combined. That factor makes it possible to back the trailer more easily which is what allows 5th wheels to be longer. It also means there are stairs in a 5th wheel, which bothers some RV owners.

recreational-vehicle-3333103_1920

Ultra-mobile Tiny Homes Features

Ultra-mobile tiny homes are the ones built to be towed around the country. They include all the features of STH tiny homes only the size is typically even smaller and great pains were taken to use the lightest materials available. For example, if you’re building a tiny home in a large barn and then towing it once to a plot of land where it will stay, you might not worry too much if it nudges over 15 high at the peak. Ultra-mobile tiny homes need to stay below 14 feet with the tires inflated so they can go under bridges and overpasses. Ironically, you’re more likely to see RV hook-ups on ultra-mobile style Tinys because it can be harder to locate a good off grid location as you travel around the country. The unique features you can build into one of these makes it interesting to some freedom seekers who just don’t want to live in an RV.

 

Campers Features

While you don’t technically tow a camper, you carry it, this is the closest category for it to fit into. There are several sizes of camper, which must be matched to the bed size and carrying capacity of your truck. Like a trailer, you can store it easily at your single family home when not in use and regain the full use of your truck. Campers come in two main varieties, self-contained and not. This refers to the amount of bathroom in the camper. Given the tight amount of space and availability of bathrooms at campgrounds, rest areas, and truck stops many people like the option of not having to deal with hauling a stinky bathroom with them everywhere they go. This saves a lot on maintenance too, as things can go wrong with plumbing and the minimum you’ll have to do is drain your holding tanks.

If your wife doesn’t mind a little hike in the night to pee, a non-self-contained camper can be an affordable option, that still keeps you warmer, off the ground, and more bear-resistant than a tent.

 

In Summary

Regardless of the type of Towed VLQ there’s an advantage to having a separate living space from the vehicle in that once you arrive at a location you’ll be able to unlink the two and drive around normally. If you need to grab some groceries in town, it’s hard to decide if you’ll try to find a store with a big enough parking spot for your motorhome or if you’ll pay for a rideshare into town.

The Rise of Route 66

Wimsett_Route 66b

By Paul Wimsett

A blog like the Kicker is about transportation and that’s a bigger topic than just vehicles. The greatest roads in the world predate the car by several centuries. And the road which would become Route 66 (at least in part) is (or was) certainly one of the world’s greatest roads. The famous shield logos were put up only a year after the Route 66 became operational.

The origins amazingly go back to hunting trails going back as far as 9,000 BC which in turn were used by later explorers in search of gold. Its next incarnation would be a wagon road as Lieutenant Edward Beale set down markers (the fact that he needed to do this would suggest that the “track” was more or less invisible in parts.Wimsett_route 66a.jpg

Instead of wagons, the preferred method of travel in the 1880s was the train. Even these would follow similar routes as the later Route 66. But it’s not until the Twentieth Century that it was rechristened an “ocean to ocean highway” and became a paved road. The group who had the privilege to build (or rebuild) this great route were the Corps of Topographical Engineers.

But who exactly were the Corps of Topographical Engineers? They were a strange body in many ways, firstly because they consisted entirely of officers. As well as mapping regions they also helped design lighthouses, harbors and navigational routes including lake and creek surveys and boundary and railroad surveys.

Unlike modern highways, which were developed as part of the war effort to act as impromptu runways, a route like route 66 was a deliberate effort to cobble together a path across country by linking up existing roadways. Often routes meandered overtime as needs and opportunities changed. Apart from staying roughly along the 35th Parallel route 66 would change too. During paving, someone decided the road would go through Peoria instead of Bloomington. The old trail was abandoned between Oklahoma City to Amarillo as the Postal Highway had already had already been developed.

Wimsett_Route 66_chain-of-rocks-bridge_1920That’s not to say that elements of original dirt track can’t be found, try looking to the north of Cajon today. It’s a genuine part of the pre-highway history of the USA.

But the road was still not suitable for two lanes of traffic so a number of changes would have to be made. After lobbying the American Association of State Highways the contract was won by Cyrus Avery and John Woodruff. But they decided that the old name; “National Old Trails Road” wasn’t the best name for a legendary road.

The name “Route 66” seems only for alliterative purposes, there being no Route 65 or 67. On November 11, 1926 the new name for the road was confirmed and the acclaimed Route 66 was born. In turn the road would be promoted by the US 66 Highway Association. Its promotions were adverts in magazines and distributed souvenirs.

The main feature as regarding promotions seems to be the International Transcontinental Footrace or, as the journalists named it, the Bunion Derby with a huge $25,000 grand prize. It seemed that, whether walking or in vehicle, everyone wanted to be part of the Route 66’s history.

The story of Route 66’s further rise to fame and eventual decline will be told in a later blog.