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Afraid Of Mountain Roads


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#1 Michigan Beth

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 12:55 PM

Hi everyone, I'm Beth and my husband is Terry. We live in Michigan and want to travel somewhere warm for the winters. We have been looking at Casitas for the last few years. I have been following this forum for a long time and I know you are all very helpful, I'm hoping you can help me. We have finally retired and are in a position to buy a Casita to travel in for the winters. We just came back from a trip to Oregon and Washington and I find that I am VERY afraid of the mountain roads. The switchbacks and no guard rails really make me dizzy and sick feeling with fear. I know that may seem silly but I'm hoping you can give me some advice on how to get over this fear. We love the Casitas and have been dreaming for years of spending winters traveling. Any advice is appreciated!

#2 Dutchman

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 02:08 PM

Some folks, there are even professional truck drivers who cannot cross tall bridges and need a driver to do that for them; some people do not fly and some do not like mountains. One easy alternative, since you live in Michigan, is that you can travel due south to warm winter weather in mostly flat country, especially if you plan it beforehand. You may already have thought of that. At some time when you are comfortable you might find a hill rather than a mountain and 'practice' going up a little ways, further when you are comfortable. Perhaps even walk up.

I'm sure others will come up with good ideas.

Wishing you warm travels,

Dutchman

Edited by Dutchman, 09 August 2014 - 02:09 PM.

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Edouard Trautwein, #1372  

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#3 Tawny&Gary

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 06:09 PM

I hear your pain! I used to have little fear of such things until I fell on a glacier, while hiking in the summer in the Rockies, and went off a cliff. Ever since, I have the same problem you do. Toss in the fact that my wife has the same fear without the fall on a cliff, and we are a sight to see when in the mountains. And the funniest part is, we love the Rockies!

 

What we have done over time is to very carefully learn what we can and cannot deal with. Sometimes we get in over our heads and have to turn around. Fortunately, we do this with the truck first, no trailer. This makes bailing out much easier. LOL But we have learned there are some roads we simply cannot handle so we avoid them. There is almost always an alternative road when one has the time. Ask other travelers about roads and be honest with them. If you are very open, most will try their best to be helpful. But they need to know, in some detail, what your problems are. Not all definitions of "scary" are the same.

 

By the way, Arizona is a wonderful place during the winter and there are a number of good roads to fantastic destinations that are reasonable and have guard rails. And few sheer drop offs. You can find them and still enjoy this beautiful country we live in!

 

Good luck and Happy Trails!


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#4 Jerrybob

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 06:21 PM

I would advice staying off the small winding roads and stick to larger highways.  There are still many wonderful places to travel.....even on the bigger roads.  I travel the Wa. and Ore. coastline and mountains frequently.......some of those roads get pretty curvey......I personally enjoy them but could see where some folks would not. Have you tried dramamine or something similar? Also.....make sure you are focused on looking out...not down and no reading.  Hope you figure out a solution.....safe travels! 


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#5 teacher retired

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 06:39 PM

Beth,
You have been given some good advice. Two years ago we signed up for Don's Southern Utah Tour. I grew up and went to college in the mountains of NH but the downgrades in the Rockies and the thought of driving at 9000 ft had me worried. We stopped in Sedona on our way to UT and I got to talking to the fellow in the next campsite. He was a long haul driver and gave me some advice that eased my fears of losing control. Downshift. It slows your descent without using up your brakes. He admitted that he had downshifted all the way to first on certain roads. Slow down before you start down hill, downshift if need be, and each time (my mantra was "One mile at a time...") you are successful your confidence will go up. Turn around and find a way around if need be as suggested above. OR come camp in Texas in the winter! Sandy
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#6 Michigan Beth

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 07:10 PM

I want to thank all of you for the thoughtful replies. All good tips, I really appreciate the advice. I want very much to spend time traveling so I will try anything to work it out. Thanks again!

#7 Dutchman

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 07:25 PM

I want to thank all of you for the thoughtful replies. All good tips, I really appreciate the advice. I want very much to spend time traveling so I will try anything to work it out. Thanks again!

 

Your mission (Mr Phelps  :lol: ) should you decide to accept it, is to find the for you perfect Casita and then tell us about your first retiree maiden voyage.  

 

Dutchman


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#8 ArizonaEileen

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 11:47 PM

If you believe that this is a problem that will hamper your travels, I suggest you work with a hynotist to overcome your fear, which is really a phobia. 

 

You also need to have confidence in your driving skills, and you need to challenge yourself by taking on smaller, hilly roads to build up your courage. 

 

When you're driving, focus on the ROAD ahead, not on what's on either side. You'll find that the Casita will follow along beautifully.

 

What Gary said is true...there are a number of places in Arizona where mountains aren't an issue. Before you travel, check out routes on Google Street Maps.

 

Eileen


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#9 clairemr1

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 06:41 AM



beth, the others have great suggestions for this problem, which many of us share. a couple of other suggestions i would add to all of the above, is to make sure you have a good mechanic check out your tow vehicle prior to the trip. i had a lot of work done on my 1995 ford ranger pick up, "Earl", before i headed out for an extended boondocking trip to colorado this summer, but i'm glad i did. having reliable brakes/shocks/tires/filters/belts/tune up/oil change, etc, can go a long way in ensuring a safe trip anywhere, but especially on mountain roads with severe elevation changes.
i'd also time the trip weather wise. i wouldn't attempt anything risky if there's any chance of bad weather, cold, snow, ice, sleet, but also lots of rain, which will reduce your visibility.
i also like to be off the road by mid afternoon, ready to relax somewhere safe. i don't want road fatigue to reduce reaction time or darkness to reduce visibility. also try to time your drive when locals are not on the roadways, such as on weekends or work rush hours.
take your time, take reasonable precautions and have a great time in retirement, claire and merlin, excellent schnoodle, ps, and, as sandy said, you're always welcome to visit down here in texas, we don't have any of those hills to worry about! LOL
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#10 Meadowlark

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 09:16 AM

Michigan Beth, both my husband and I were born and raised in Michigan. My mother was  a bit like you, in her case, on the few occasions we had to go over the Mackinac or the Blue Water Bridge, she would almost crawl into the middle of the car to avoid LOOKING OVER THE SIDE.

 

That, I think, is the point. When you look over the side of a high mountain road, especially one without guard rails, it IS scary. After leaving Michigan, I learned to drive mountain roads in Korea, where there are not just no guard rails, but suicidal bus drivers who will pass you on the single lane roads on the steep mountain sides. Our roads are far better and engineered to handle steep mountain grades.

 

Arizona Eileen and others are right...focus on the road. If it helps, follow a trucker. Especially on steep grades, they go slowly. They are pretty savvy in handling those big rigs on steep grades, both going up and down.

 

I would stay out of the mountains during the winter, until you're more comfortable driving in them. There are mountains in Oregon (the Blues) that look tiny and insignificant in comparison to the Rockies, but make even truckers think twice. Because it's not the grades/steepness, it's the other drivers that cause problems. We had a VW Beetle stop dead ahead of us, in the right lane of  I-84 in Oregon (while we were in the Blues) and two teenaged girls get out to put chains on...in the middle of a snowstorm. The road was already icy. Only because we had stopped at the base of the mountain to chain up...as advised miles earlier! and managed to swerve around them, did we not hit them. Stupid idjits.

 

 

You know how to use snow chains. You know how to drive in icy/snowy conditions. You have most of the mountain driving already knocked out.

 

Most highways through the mountains have plenty of advisories available. Watch for signs indicating conditions like high winds, chains advised, passes opened or closed.

The Smokies are a good learning chain of mountains. Take your time, take it easy, and you will get the hang of it.

On the other hand, if you'd just rather stick to flatland...Iowa is flat.Or you can drive west through Nebraska, etc and turn left at Colorado, down into Arizona and then head west.


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#11 Mark Watson

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:03 PM

I take it you rode with your husband driving on those switchbacks without guard rails you mentioned. Did you make it through them without hitting the guard rails? Did you survive that trip? You did? Well then what's the problem? You can look back on that experience and say we made it. Next trip through similar driving conditions, focus on the highway in front of you and not the drop offs or lack of guard rails. You also don't need to think about the bad things that could happen. Just focus on the highway. On the switchbacks narrow your focus from the highway ahead... to the lane your traveling in going around the curves. You'll be fine. You have some experience under your belt. Keep on going and soon, you'll be able to sit back and relax and enjoy all the scenery instead of being held captive by an unfounded fear. 

Hope to see you at the top of the mountain around the next curve. 


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#12 Carol Christensen

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 04:06 PM

Hi Beth,

 

I don't think your feelings are at all silly.  Driving in mountains is very different than what you are used to, and you and your husband will need time and experience to become comfortable.  I have the feeling you were the passenger, not the driver on these roads.  I am far more nervous as a passenger than when I'm at the wheel because as the driver I am focused on the road and in control.  So if you follow the advice of others and focus on the road, you will see that the car is staying well within the paved lane.  Concentrating on the drop-off on the side doesn't tell you where the car is going - I think that's why it is more scary.

 

The advice from the trucker to use the gears to control speed when going downhill is absolutely correct.  The rule is to use the same gear going down a steep grade as you would going up that grade.  By taking the car out of overdrive when descending a steep grade, the brakes are used less.  Choosing a lower gear helps even more.  It's a sensible way to control speed and keep the brakes from overheating.

 

Not all roads are created equal and when you're pulling a trailer in an unfamiliar mountainous area, a 4 lane road is far more relaxing to drive.  The lanes will be wider, the curves less sharp, there will be guard rails, plus you can drive a bit slower if you want.  I suggest you try some of the smaller mountain roads when you aren't towing, just take some scenic drives while the trailer is in the campground.  If you find you enjoy the mountains with beautiful lakes and gorgeous views, you just might want to set a goal for yourself for something like the absolutely spectacular Going to the Sun road in Glacier NP, Montana. ;)


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#13 Retired in Reno

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 06:04 PM

Beth,

Lots of good advice so far, I would only add that the feeling of being dizzy or sick is likely your body reacting to the adrenalin that is a normal and healthy response to your fear, the fight or flight hormone that gets produced to help you survive. The trouble with it is that there is no one to fight or run from, so you get all of those symptoms like rapid breathing, cold extremities and other things designed to save your life if you were a prehistoric humanoid on the savannah of Africa with a tiger chasing you.

Once triggered, that very uncomfortable feeling is going to last about 15 minutes, you can help reduce its effect by taking deep, slow breaths to return your system back to normal. Like anything else, it too will pass. Remember that you really are safe, those roads are engineered for the public to use.
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#14 MGD

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 07:43 PM

Just don't start out on Tioga Pass (east side of Yosemite), or Whitebird Hill or Lewiston Hill (both in Idaho). Those can be white-knuckle drives for even experienced drivers.



#15 Wally Z

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 09:17 PM

Just go take skydiving lessons or go bungee jumping a couple of times. :o   Just kidding of course.  When I was a young kid I had zero fear of heights.  We lived in California and made many trips into the mountains. Also made trips from Ca. to Ma. a couple of times.  I loved the Grand Canyon. Now I also have a fear of heights.  Not sure why but I do.  I guess I got smarter with age.  Looking up is worse than looking down for me. I don't plan on doing any mountain climbing in the near future.  I know we use to worry more about the people coming down the mountain when we were going up.


Edited by Wally Z, 10 August 2014 - 09:18 PM.

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