The words “road less traveled” (paraphrased from Robert Frost’s poem) may conjure up a bucolic image of a crooked dirt road leading off into the wooded countryside on a pleasant sunny day. And that would be a nice mind-picture to dwell on.
I could wax philosophical and pull out phrases like “stopping to smell the roses” and tell a tale of how much better off I am for a relaxing sidetrip along the “highway of life”.
Unfortunately, those lazy days are few and far between, in part because I am a mom-of-many and in part because I am a driven prepper by nature. It’s nearly impossible for me to give myself a “day off” when the rope seems to be unraveling more and more quickly.
The Actual Roads
Instead, my post today is literally about choosing your routes carefully.
We all tend to get into our routines of driving from one place to another in exactly the same way. Take interstate X to Highway Y and turn onto road Z. We’ve probably found them to be fastest, so we stick to those standard routes.
This could be a mistake in an emergency.
A Case in Point
Our new puppy must have been stung on the head while playing outside. No one saw it happen, but the next thing I knew, his face was swollen to twice its size, he could barely open his eyes, and he was whining pitifully.
It appeared to me to be a histamine response to something he was allergic to so I called the vet and asked about giving him Benadryl. They said to do it immediately (rough rule of thumb is 1 mg/lb for all you preparedness-minded people). Our 8 week old puppy is almost 20 lbs, so he got a whole tablet stuck in some cheese.
They said I needed to get him over there immediately, so I hopped in the car. On auto-pilot, I drove halfway there before remembering that the bridge was out. This necessitated a 7 minute detour, but remembering then saved me from wasting more time by getting all the way to the missing bridge and then having to go back and go the “long way.”
- Keep tabs on happenings in your community. The local paper had published an article on this bridge replacement in advance and, since it’s the main and direct route from small town to small town, it’s been quite the buzz for its inconvenience.
- Be observant. If I had been unaware of the bridge problem, I still should have been warned by the orange “detour” signs- if I was paying attention.
- Know alternate routes to your destinations. This bridge replacement was a planned event, so there were marked detours. But what about trees across the roadway after a storm or something similar?
Some Further Thoughts
I “knew” the bridge was out, but still in my haste to get to the vet quickly, I almost forgot. Stress and hurry will do that.
It’s really easy to drive on auto-pilot and not notice my surroundings. I have now gotten into the habit of always looking down onto the interstate before heading down the on-ramp- I don’t want to get in a back-up behind a wreck and be stuck with no way forward or back.
If visiting another city I am unfamiliar with, I would make sure to get a good street map and ask around to find out if there are typical trouble-spots or big events somewhere while I’ll be in town.
Another way you could describe what I’m suggesting is situational awareness. When I’m in a parking lot, I frequently scan the areas to know who is where before I turn my back to buckle children in carseats. If I am uncomfortable, I assign one or two older children to keep any eye on Person 1 or Vehicle 2. The children usually sit inside (behind the tinted glass) and tell me if anyone gets out, approaches, acts strangely, etc. I don’t want to risk the safety of myself or my children because I am taken by surprise.
Similarly, if there has been a mood of “unrest,” I need to make sure the route I plan to travel is not right through neighborhoods where my presence would not be appreciated. I also never want to be going against the flow of a fleeing crowd or right toward the heart of the event that triggered it. If something springs up around me, I want to use the escape route very few people will think of (instead of the main thoroughfare), but not so deserted that there would be no help/witnesses in case of violence.
I can think of lots of scenarios that make knowing alternate routes a good idea. The hospital where we would go in an emergency is in the center of the nearest big city, near a university. Traffic is always a problem around there, but it can be suddenly much worse if there is a home game, a concert, a street festival, etc. If we are headed to the ER, it’s serious and I don’t want to waste time looking for one-way streets that go the direction I need to, and so on. Scout these things out in advance, when it’s not an emergency.
Practicing these guidelines may not guarantee us the luxury of meandering down a sunny lane listening to the crunch of fall leaves beneath our feet in idyllic times, but hopefully they will keep us safe and healthy.