I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and remember spending many afternoons in the basement due to tornado warnings and watches. Several times a year, we saw homes across town destroyed by the tornados. Seeing homes destroyed up close as an eight year old made an impression. After our first winter blizzard, Mom started prepping and established a corner in the basement with our food stuffs, books, toys, radio, flashlight, water and a mattress for us to sleep on.
About two years ago, I gave up on living in the suburbs and moved 20 miles away in a rural area in the next county and bought a place with three acres. Since then, I have rekindled my prepping roots. This year we planted an orchard with 11 fruit trees, planted a 20 x 40 garden of heirloom vegetables. We also built a chicken coup and established a flock of 15 chickens with the neighbors.
I want to commend all of those people that are able to live on a remote retreat full time. Unfortunately, my career and family choices do not permit that at this point in my life. I live in the central Midwest and work in sales with a territory that now spans five contiguous states including where I live. Over the last 30 years, I have averaged more than one trip a week for the entire span. I am what most people would call a Road Warrior and have learned how to travel efficiently, and make it tolerable.
Over those 30 years I have had several close calls while traveling. What I hope to share here is some of the hard lessons learned with a prepper insight.
One night, I was on the last plane into Raleigh, North Carolina during a freak blizzard. They closed the airport due to 6 inches of snow as we were landing. When the rental car bus arrived at the car rental lot, everyone ran to the closest cars for their cold dash to their hotels. As the bus pulled into the lot, I noticed three pickup trucks at the far end of the lot. I trudged through the snow and climbed into one of the trucks to find out it had four wheel drive. For the next two days, the entire city was paralyzed. Virtually no snow plows, shovels or salt were present in the city. My fellow travelers were stuck in the hotel trying to dig out their Ford Taurus rental cars with their bare hands and having to eat microwave popcorn for dinner. In the meantime, I drove from one end of town to the other and stopped at several stores and watched as crazed locals stripped the shelves bare in just a few hours. To this day, I still chuckle when a car rental agent asks if I would consider a truck as a rental instead of the usual corporate sedan.
The night of the first Gulf War invasion, I got stranded in Detroit due to a mechanical issue with a very late flight. They canceled the flight and rebooked us on a flight the next morning and offered us a hotel room and bus transportation. On this night, I had checked my luggage as I was headed home and tired. Since the luggage was checked, the FAA regulations did not permit the airlines to give our luggage back to us for the stay in the hotel. I found myself on a bus with nothing but my laptop bag and regrets.
Years later, I was driving across the turnpike in western New York during a winter storm. I pulled off around 11 PM to get gas and supplies because the storm was getting worse. I should have gotten a hotel room but convinced myself if I rushed, I could get ahead of the storm and get to my destination 50 miles away safely. I picked up several bottles of water, a sandwich and some granola bars while topping off the gas. Thirty minutes further down the turnpike, the traffic stopped and turned into a parking lot. The snow was nearly 8” deep with 30 mph winds blowing. Later, I would learn that the state police closed a ten mile stretch of the turnpike for safety. Unfortunately, they closed the ramps both on and OFF that section of the highway without letting any cars in between get off before they closed the gates. During the night, the snow increased to almost 18” deep and the winds blew hard all night with wind chills below zero. I turned off my car, pulled out the book from my bag and covered up with my heavy winter coat. As the hours passed, I ran the car for about 15 minutes every hour to keep some heat. I also checked to make sure the tailpipe was not blocked. I ate well and made the best of it. The older ladies in the car ahead of me did not have coats and somewhere around 2 AM took turns holding a blanket for each other as they relieved themselves outside. They tried to use the space between the parked cars to block the wind as they bared their backsides. It was almost noon the next day before the snow plows cleared the road enough that paramedics could reach the stranded cars. Many people were without food, water, adequate clothing and most importantly their medications. An hour later, the cars were slowly guided through the snow to the freshly cleared roadway and released, after being forced to stop at the toll gate and pay their fee.
Now when I travel, I always give thought to how I will get home in a SHTF scenario. September 11th demonstrated how fast our travel infrastructure can come screaming to a halt. Thinking like a Prepper is a great start but you also have to act like a Prepper. At the first sign of a SHTF scenario, leave and head to your home, retreat or meet up location. If you wait for the sheeple to act, then you will be stuck in the mob scene with them. You need to get to the car rental counter, or airline desk before the masses. If you decide to drive, you need to get off the main arteries, before they are blocked by the unthinking and unprepared.
I cannot count the number of times I have had my travel changed due to large storms or other scenarios.
Move quickly, quietly without drawing attention. Use your assets like frequent flier points, or car rental status to get any seat available on the next flight out or a one way car rental. Getting into an argument about price is only going to slow things down and make things worse. Take the first available anything! Many times have I been at the counter and heard others being told that there were no more seats or cars available while I finalized my arrangements to get out of Dodge.
You need to prepare your luggage and travel appropriately. As a business professional, it is not advisable to walk into a Wall Street conference room with a full camo military issue pack and bugout gear. At the same time, a $1,000 suit with stylish shoes are not going to help you get home. You must strike a carefully planned balance.
I carry highway maps of all the states I travel in my bag, along with medications, flashlight, spare batteries and emergency phone charger. I have plans for all my major destinations for how I can get home by flying, driving, or some combination of unplanned travel. I know the main arteries as well as alternate routes to avoid congestion. Periodically I will even drive to distant cities instead of flying so I can familiarize myself with these alternate routes. Make sure you communicate your plans and emergency alternatives to your family as you start your travel home if possible. Tell them it might take hours or even days longer than normal to get there.
Here are some of the things I carry when I travel now:
• A small zipped bag with a week’s supply of all my medications, vitamins, bandages and over the counter medications for colds, headaches and fever.
• Water, always have at least one bottle of water
• Granola bars or other snacks that will hold you 4-6 hours until you can get to a good food source. I even carry a few single cup coffee and tea bags for those times when extra caffeine is needed.
• An emergency ID card or passport in case my wallet is lost or stolen
• A flashlight with spare batteries
• A spare battery, and charging cable for my cell phone
• Paper maps of all my travel areas
• A print out of important credit card, frequent flier and rental program account numbers
• A print out of contact information for local friends that will help me if I need it
• My laptop with charging cables and power supply
• Hard candy
• A handkerchief which can be used as an emergency bandage
• A book to read as I wait for my flights or other delays
• A strong and large computer backpack instead of a briefcase
When I travel with a suitcase, I make sure to include a pair of comfortable distance walking shoes with thick socks, along with weather appropriate coat and gloves. I also carry additional granola bars and medical supplies. It is important to note that if you check your luggage you have much more flexibility on what you can bring with you when you fly. However, I almost never check my bags due to frequent flight changes and mostly short trips. FAA regulations require the passenger to be on the same flight as their luggage so checking bags, limits your ability to make last minute changes.
In the days before the advent of the TSA I always carried the legal limit for a folding knife along with a Leatherman. Today, I feel naked without these.
I wish I could carry a handgun when I travel, but several areas I frequent are very strict about prohibiting Concealed Carrying of Weapons. Checking weapons on airline flights is also a hassle that I cannot afford when I typically fly 100-125 times a year.
I always make sure to carry extra cash with me when I travel “out of town” where I am not in my own vehicle. More than one taxi driver has balked at credit card payment. In a SHTF scenario, I want to leave NOW and not haggle about payment. Typically I will carry between $300 and $500 cash, all in twenties or smaller when I travel.
There are times when I am able to travel in my own personal vehicle and not have to fly or use a rental car. In those cases, I am much better prepared for SHTF scenarios. I have a large diesel 4×4 truck in which I carry a large bugout bag with 5 days of food and survival supplies for two people. I also carry a comprehensive medical / trauma kit. The tool chest in the bed carries a variety of tools, shovels, axe, tow chains, emergency fuel jugs, fire extinguisher, tarps and door look pick tools. Stuffed under the back seat are two wool blankets, 12 liters of water and my emergency weapons. The truck also has a CB radio.
Future upgrades to my travel gear will include a triple band handheld ham radio wrapped in an EMP-protective foil bag with a spare battery. I am also starting discussions with two trusted friends about leaving a small cache of “get home” supplies with them in cities where I frequently travel.
In thirty years of being a road warrior, I have learned two key lessons. The first is that Schumer does Hit The Fan when you travel and when it does, only you will be looking out for you. The second lesson is that you always forget something on every trip. Most of the time it is something small like a pair of socks, a toothbrush or a sport coat. Make sure what you forget is not something important! Pack your own bag, and check the critical items every time before you leave.
Travel smart and safe. At the first sign of SHTF, leave your meeting or event quietly and head home before the masses make a mess of everything. You are no good to your family stuck in an airport or on a turnpike 500 miles away. Careful prepper planning and quick action can get you home safe.