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What I Learned on My 12000 Mile Cross Country Drive for Charity

Road Trip

What I Learned on My 12000 Mile Cross Country Drive for Charity

Last month, I embarked on a cross country drive trying to raise some money for charity. I raised about $300 from trips and donations, and anther $200 from the GoFundMe page. You can read more about my trip and also about the GoFundMe Page.

I received a few tips from before I left Boston and then learned a bunch more things when driving for about 16 straight days, logging an average of 800 miles a day. Here is what I learned:

Bugs and Car Care

Bathrooms and Showers

Car Performance and Maintenance


During the 16 day road trip, I consumed about 22 12oz bottles of water (I believe I filled up my bottle full twice during my trip), making that about 26 12oz bottles over 12 days. Figure for at least 24-30 oz of water a day and I did not sweat much during the entire trip since I was in my car for most of the time. I bought a pack of 24 and had only 2 bottles left when I got to Seattle. It was often faster/easier to fill up on water from the small bottles when I was filling up on gas.

Other snacks/food to consider: granola bars, clif bars, nutrition shakes like Boost, Ensure or protein shakes. Beef Jerky was a healthy way to get in protein and easily available at any gas station or rest stop stores. Protein shakes were often every expensive and refrigerate only, so they wouldn’t last too long in the car. Beef jerky will last a long time.

Cell Phone

You will lose reception in some areas of the country but now cell coverage has gotten a lot better since even a few years ago. The only time I didn’t have service was in the mountains getting in/out of Mount Rushmore. Otherwise, I didn’t have much trouble with reception. However, plan for not having reception at some point in your road trip if you are driving over the Rocky Mountains.


My parents fear was that I would lose reception and then not have GPS directions. I brought along my old TomTom from like 7 years ago just in case and had it charged up, but I never needed to use it. Google Maps downloads the direction so it never needs a signal, unless you deviate from your original course or want to change your trip. When my phone went in and out of service, Google GPS still worked. Of course it would not get traffic updates, but it still worked fine as a GPS.


I was thinking about getting XM radio (my car has it built in), but I opted not to and to tough it out with only regular radio. On the East coast, it was easy to get a radio station I liked (Top 40) and I would often find NPR in most cities. After spending hours listening to the radio, you can quickly spot which one is NPR and which one is not. The Top 40 stations were a bit harder to find when they had their commercials. Eventually I got tired of changing radio stations, so I turned on the Game of Thrones Audio Book (A Song of Fire and Ice). I got to Book #4 by the time I got to Seattle.

Some of my friends got the deal for 5 months of Sirius/XM radio for about $50. Either threaten to cancel or call for their best offer. If you don’t get this offer, hang up and try again. You will need to do this every 5 months.

Keeping Awake

I am not sure if this works for everyone, but eating a small snack while driving really keeps me awake. Typically, nothing else works. I’ve tried coffee multiple times and only works for a little while. Red Bull would really work but its costly and has a lot of caffeine. At first it was potato chips but eventually I changed to eating Pretzels (maybe healthier?). I would go through a large bag every two days or so and on some days, it was my only food for the day (I had some Boost for breakfast and dinner). I also bought some beef jerky, which is surprisingly a healthy way to get your protein. Protein shakes were often way too expensive at many gas stations and some of the supermarkets and pharmacies I went to didn’t have them.


Depending on which direction you are driving, you will be exposing your skin to the sun. If you drive East to West, your left arm will be sitting in the sun most of the time, bringing about a possibly uneven tan after a week. My friend got sun-burnt driving across the country. If you drive South, the sun will be in your face/body/arms most of the day so wear some sunscreen if you burn easily. The sun even penetrated my shirt near my shoulders and gave a very mild burn after 10 days. Sunburns can happen under clothes, but it just takes a lot longer.

I have seen some people put a dark tint only on the driver window or put up a newspaper on the window (use the window to hold it in place). This is something you may consider when going on a very long road trip.

Photos and Time Lapse

Time Lapse photography is a great way to capture everything during your roadtrip. For a cheap solution, use your smart phone! I set it for every minute. 30s if you really want to capture everything. The video looks smoother at 30 second intervals though but requires a lot more storage on your phone. My 16gb iPhone was full after 16 days, and it would take up about 1GB for every day (16 hours) of driving.

If you want to take pictures of what you see, I recommend getting a DSLR or a camera with a very quick shutter. When you are driving at 60mph, a point and shoot will take only blurry photos, unless your passenger is taking the pictures. Even a budget DSLR will be able to take some good pictures. Some people have set up their DSLR to do time lapse. I may consider this for next time.

Many people use a GoPro and plug the camera via mini USB into a usb charger and do time lapse that way. I have the Hero4 Silver, but haven’t used it to do timelapse yet. My brother sticks his GoPro on the hood of his car with a suction cup and he goes racing with it. If it works for him, a roadtrip would be pretty easy. Make sure to take the camera out when you leave the car.

Sleeping in your car:

Most of the time, it was cool enough to sleep in my car without turning on the car, but there were times that it was too hot. I left the car running all night with the AC on but make sure to fill up on gas. It didn’t use up much gas at all (1 gallon for 8 hours) but it is best to be prepared. Turning on the heat in the winter would be a good idea as well and can prevent the engine from freezing up if it is much colder than -30F.

I recommend using a sleeping bag and having blankets in case it got too cold without the car on. I almost froze when I slept near Chicago. It dropped to about 55F, but it was too cold for me to sleep in with only shorts on. It took me a hot meal and some hot coffee to warm up.

Winter Driving

The road trip was during the summer, so I didn’t have to deal with snow or much rain for that matter. Here are a few observations I had when driving through the mountains:

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