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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2011

Planning ahead key to safe winter travel

BY MARY ALICE POWELL

Happiness is a full tank of gas and a destination.

This time there are two destinations that hopefully will chalk up 1,722 safe driving miles.

Friends continue to be amazed and relatives worry that I take off by automobile with no qualms. That is not totally true because there are some concerns, but determination to win the challenge overcomes them.

The first goal was Branson, Mo. And from there I will turn left or right, whichever, and take an easy eastward route to Aiken, S.C.

To those single women who consider being as gutsy as me, never think that planning is not a pre-requisite before you take off on the highways.

The car should be checked with a fresh oil change and tire and brake inspections.

Henry, my 2003 Mercury, now has 155,000 miles, but according to Dick and Pat, Hudson mechanics, it's good to go.

I too qualified for the trip according to my doctor, who gave me a clean bill of health after a checkup two weeks before departure Thursday. Hopefully, the cookies I took him were not an influence.

My allegiance to AAA of Ohio puts me in the driver's seat with confidence, thanks to routing directions and lodging choices.

Making sure the cats will be in good hands is very important.

The kitchen counter is piled high with canned food and there is also a good supply of dry food. Litter? Of course. The three house cats will stay in the kitchen and the full basement. Dove and Calico, the outdoor cats that have been eating on the porch for more than two years, have many niches to get into in cold weather as do other creatures that visit.

After stacking the outdoor furniture on the porch I covered it with a large tarp and weighted it down, leaving an entrance for the animals to get in and hopefully find a warm spot out of the wind. Six bales of straw on the north end of the porch also block the wind.

Three standard garbage cans were placed flat lengthwise and each is lined with rugs or blankets. You could call it a classy cat motel.

They all will have turkey cat food and gravy on Thanksgiving.

In addition to hiring someone to care for the cats, another person will check the house and water the plants every 10 days.

The day before leaving, two large dead trees near the house were cut down as a preventive to storm damage this winter.

Once you get everything organized and the car packed you sometimes wonder if it's worth it.

My answer? Yes, don't give up.

If I pack too much for a short trip, you can imagine how loaded the car is for what may be three months.

Besides clothes for all seasons and occasions, it's a good time to pull things from the cupboard to take along; favorite spices like cinnamon, dill weed, lemon pepper, and thyme, and packaged food, like corn muffin mix, rice, and grits that may not be used on the other end either.

If there will be a kitchen on vacation, I don't think we should ever leave home without our favorite wooden spoon, a whisk, measuring cups and spoons, and the shaker for dressings.

Recipes? More are crammed into one box than will be used I am sure. Oh, yes, and Christmas stuff, including a tree.

Plans to set up mini housekeeping were canceled at the last minute when the owner of the bungalow I had rented in Aiken for two months decided to rent to a friend instead.

Such disappointments are not handled graciously but I feel certain I can find a place when I get to Aiken Dec. 1.

My personal daily driving rule begins at 7 a.m. and does not exceed 4 o'clock, leaving time for a good breakfast, a light lunch, and a good dinner.

From Posey Lake to Branson is 719 miles that was broken into two overnight stays, one in Indiana and another Missouri. And from Branson to Aiken the final destination, will be 1,003 miles, but it will be interrupted with stops in Memphis and Nashville to visit longtime food editor friends. I will also overnight in Asheville just because.

That's a total of 1,722. Wish me luck and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at mpowell@theblade.com.



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