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Letters of the Week

We don't know about you, but travel always makes us want to write long juicy letters to everyone we know. Maybe it's bragging rights, maybe it's a burst of poetic inspiration from seeing the Taj Mahal, but one way or another, suitcases and sunsets in strange places turn us into letter-writing fools. So, if it turns out you're the same way....be sure to include us in your list of people you just have to drop a line to. Don't worry, you will make us jealous...but hopefully we'll also be inspired by your adventures.

Want to see what other Savvy visitors have to say? Read our letters of the week, and be sure to tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you!

August 10, 2001

How to Drive 450,000 Crime-Free Miles

Hi Savvy Traveler!

For the past four decades, I've made round trip coast-to-coast road trips nearly every year, often solo. My parents retired in North Carolina years ago while I lived in Northern California. Then I lived in Maine for several years while my best friends lived on the West Coast. So, for one reason or another, I'm on the road a lot. In fact, I've driven my current car, a `72 Volvo, some 450,000 accident-free miles, mostly highway, and I've never witnessed nor been a victim of crime while traveling.

Granted, there was the Texas patrolman who stopped me for speeding and took $40 cash he said he'd give to the judge, and then never got around to writing a ticket. Seems the rules are a little different in the South. When visiting Beaufort, North Carolina, a few years ago, I asked a cop for directions. He gave them to me, looked at the luggage in the back of my car and said, "Y'all got a gun in thar?" "Why no," I replied dumbfounded. "If'n I was you, I'd have me a gun," he said, nodding sagely.

I wasn't too sure about that. True, I'd been tailgated and cut off more than usual in the rural South. My funny foreign car and California plates seemed like a red flag to a bull in those parts, but I didn't expect anything worse. Still, this was a COP suggesting I carry a gun! I wasn't ready to do that and have never had an occasion to wish I had. There have been a couple of times I've made the motions of reaching under the seat for a pistol and smiling wickedly at toughs in another car who wanted me to pull over due to some imagined slight. Both times, they fled. And once I emptied my fire extinguisher out the window on a persistent and dangerous tailgater in Louisiana, but there have been no direct assaults. So far.

I think the main reason I've traveled crime-free is I don't look like an easy victim. I'm not all that big and mean looking. It's probably the way I carry myself, moving purposefully, especially in places that might be risky - though I try to avoid those areas. If eye contact and conversation with a potential attacker is unavoidable, I maintain good humor and a confident bearing. I always try to speak in a friendly way, being careful to convey no condescension or fear. I try to project the assumption we're all in on some joke together while staying lose, hands and feet ready to move in any direction.

I also keep my eyes open and look around a lot to avoid unpleasant surprises. And I trust my hunches. I never stop in rest areas unless they're fairly crowded, nor in remote gas stations with few people around. To nap in the car, I find a hospital parking lot, a police station to park beside, or a fancy hotel's parking lot, and I lock myself in.

My methods may not work for some - certainly not the numb and oblivious - but they should for most travelers.

Yer fan,

Weaverville, NC


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