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Driving Here and There for the Holidays

driving during holidays, roads and snowMany people each year take to their cars and head off for a Holiday destination. It’s a rite of passage in America. Who doesn’t recall at least one long holiday family road trip as a kid, or college return-home trip? Below are a few holiday traveling suggestions for a safe and easy road trip.

Vehicle Maintenance

Prior to your road trip, schedule a car maintenance appointment to ensure the car is in good working condition. Having a certified mechanic check car vitals helps avoid unforeseen issues that may potentially cause a break down. Have the brakes, fluids, lights, battery, and tires checked. Tires must have adequate tire tread and safe pressure. The TireZoo can help you determine if your tires are safe for winter road travel!

Winter Weather Possibilities

It’s best to be prepared for any winter weather driving conditions, so toss the snow shovel, tire chains, and emergency gear in the car. A car safety kit is indispensable in a time of need. Your car safety kit should include, a tow rope, jumper cables, ice scraper, flashlight, blankets, water, and traction supplements like sand or kitty litter.

Before You Leave Home

Getting out of town early gives you jump start on holiday traffic. Gas up the car and go over the house shut down list the night before. Set and convey the travel schedule “to the travelers,” and print a hard copy of the directions and a map. If your children are young and use a safety seat, check the safety seat for proper fitting.

Entertaining the Kids

Today’s vehicles are loaded with built in digital or electronic systems that help pass the time. Keeping the family entertained on long road trips is effortless with built in DVD’s for movies, iPods for hosting music, an other amenities. If not, there are many affordable portable options you may consider investing in, if not already own. Ipads are great for wireless streaming of films and gaming. Cell phones keep you in touch and pass time- remember the cell phone charger!

In case electronic gizmo’s and gadgets fail, you’ll be prepped with a special backpack created the night before. Include backpack basics, favorite books, cards, non-electronic games, paper and pens, and snacks. Snacks save time and money on the road, so have pantry treats and water available. When entertainment ideas or creature comforts conclude, try the old fashion art of communication. Take this time to connect and communicate with your family, or fellow travelers. Telling a story, or striking up a conversation easily passes the miles.

If you need help checking your tires before you head out, stop at either our Bloomington or Anoka, MN locations.

Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows: Part 1

Part 1: The Trip South

Last summer I took time off from work because my job was not covering the costs of my daycare bill. Since I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be working in the coming summers I decided to take my two girls, ages 4 and 2 at the time, to visit my mother in western North Carolina while my husband stayed behind to work. The car ride from northern Virginia (where we live) to North Carolina is about 11 hours. The final two hours of the drive takes place in the mountains. Without the mountains, the drive west from Asheville would probably only take about 30 minutes to an hour at most. The closer we get to my mom’s house the more switch backs we encounter, which invariably means everyone in the car gets nauseous. Those in the back suffer the most. This, of course, means my children, seeing as how they are too young to ride in the front and are required to remain strapped into their car seats.

When I was a girl I did not ride in a car seat. I don’t think car seats even existed for babies back then. My mother held me in her lap when my father drove her home from the hospital. Whenever we drove to visit my grandparents in western North Carolina, I could stand in the middle of the back seat so that I could see the lines on the twisting road. Or, I was allowed to sit in the front seat. This prevented the nausea, though not always.

I began the journey down to North Carolina early, knowing that we’d have to stop halfway through at a hotel. I wanted to make the trip in two days. Before I even got out of our suburban neighborhood, however, I discovered that our DVD player was not working. I thought it was because it was broken. I stopped at Target and purchased a new DVD player, desperate to have some form of entertainment for the troops for the long journey ahead. Little did I know at the time that the fuse to my lighter had blown, as the new DVD player had about an hour of battery that enabled us to play a movie while I scooted down the road. We hadn’t even made it to the next interstate when the DVD player shut off suddenly.

I called my husband in a panic. Should I turn around and head back home? How would I drive 11 hours without a DVD player? How did my mom make the trip back in the day without one? My husband couldn’t explain why the DVD player wouldn’t play, but he agreed to look into it and get back to me. I kept driving. Surely I could manage to keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours until we fixed the problem. If my mother could manage, so could I.

About this time I suggested we channel Wonder Woman. After all, the girls had been watching her on the DVD player when it quit. Wonder Woman didn’t need a television to survive. We were brave souls and we would cope. The girls agreed. So, on we went.

To my surprise, they managed quite well without the DVD player. We had CDs to listen to and books to read and games to play. We stopped for lunch and played for awhile. They napped in the car after lunch.

Despite the late start and several stops we actually made it to the halfway point while there was still daylight. The TV didn’t work in the room we got, but I requested a new room and they switched us. We played in the pool after eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant near the hotel. All in all, we survived and even laughed now and then.

I should’ve been deterred by all the hurdles, but for some reason I just wouldn’t let them prevent me from giving up. Maybe it was Wonder Woman. Maybe it was something else. But, clearly, this vacation was a series of what my mother used to call “adventures.”

The next morning I woke early and left the room to get a cup of tea. My oldest daughter woke up at some point when I was downstairs. She woke up my younger daughter. They opened the door, but they didn’t see me in the hallway. They didn’t think to keep the door open, which meant they locked themselves out. They searched in vain for me, but they didn’t venture beyond the confines of the floor, probably because they were too scared and needed me to guide them. When I came back upstairs I found them lying face down outside our door sobbing. They thought I had left without them.

I nearly died.

“I just went to get some tea!” I cried. “I would never leave you! I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I promise it will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen again.” By this point I was crying, guilt oozing out of my every pour. Clearly, I had failed them. I should’ve just sat quietly in the room while they slept and, I don’t know, pushed through the hunger and need for caffeine. They usually sleep for at least another hour. I thought I had time! I was devastated by my poor parenting skills.

Needless to say, the girls refused to let me out of their sight for the rest of the morning. A stop at the local Wal-Mart enabled me to purchase a pair of needle nose pliers so that I could swap the old lighter fuse for a new one. The stop also involved the purchase of two new dolls for each of the girls, as the auto parts were conveniently located behind the toy section. Given my mishap that morning, I allowed them to pick one doll as long as it was no more than $20. Thanks, Wal-Mart.

We finally arrived at my mother’s later that day, fortunately without much incident. The return trip home, however, is a different story and one that also makes it into the record books as being unbelievably fraught with “adventure.”

Stay tuned for Part 2…Coming soon!

About the Author: Ruth(aka DoodleMommy) is a happily married woman and mother of two young girls (with one on the way) living in the Northern Virginia area. She is a Beta mom wannabe, an NPR junkie, and studies rocks for a living. Her husband is an incredible cook and does laundry. She is a lucky gal. You can connect with Ruth on her blog or on

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at


Family Road Trips Begin with a Trip to the Tire Zoo

With family vacation time quickly approaching, it’s good to be prepared for long distance road trips.

Checking your tires is critical!

Your tires will tell you more than most people realize.

Check the front tires first– Turn your tires sharp to one side and look at the tire wear. Are they worn evenly? If so, check the tread depth. To do this, use a penny and place it in the tread of the tire with Lincoln’s head down. The tread should be at least to his ear for a long trip (this would be about 50-60% life remaining).

If you have irregular tread wear, here are some possible symptoms:

  • If the tires are worn on the inside and outside edges they have been run under inflated.
  • If the tires are worn in the center, but outsides are good, they are over inflated.
  • If the tires are either worn on the inside or outside edge, your vehicle needs to be aligned.
  • If the tires are worn unevenly with bald spots, are cupped, or scalloped, it could be tire balance , alignment, or week shocks. If you are in need of an alignment you should replace the tires before getting the vehicle aligned.

Next, follow these additional reminders for a safe family road trip:

  1. Change your oil and all filters.You should also have your coolant and A/C checked.
  2. Have your battery load tested and terminals cleaned
  3. Check all the drive belts and hoses for any signs of wear and deterioration. Belts that are frayed, glazed, cracked, cut or have chunks missing should be replaced immediately. With the engine off and cold, look at each hose and see if there are leaks, bulges, cracks, or swelling. If they look good, give them a squeeze test. Hoses that are in good condition are firm but flexible. Any hoses that feel brittle or too soft should be replaced.
  4. Brakes: If you hear any grinding noises or feel unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes, or if the vehicle pulls to one side, take the vehicle in for a comprehensive checkup. It would be a good idea just to have your brakes looked. You definitely don’t want to worry about replacing your brakes 1,000 miles into your trip!
  5. Aspirin is always a good idea, right?

Safe travels from the TireZoo! Let’s us know if we can help with new or used tires to get you through your road trip. 1-800-421-2037