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Old 29th March 2022, 16:11   #1
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How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

One of the challenges in long drives is to keep yourself engaged when the going gets tough. In my case, I love driving and the better half hates it. So its always me on the wheel, while she peacefully snores away to kingdom come. Music is not my thing. I rather prefer a silent cabin and maybe some soft music at low volume. When the traffic is super thin and you are driving through deserted stretches, how do you keep yourself engaged. In my experience the mind starts playing tricks with your eyes in such stretches.

Of course the default answer is avoid night driving. But there are scenarios when it cannot be avoided. So avoiding night driving or taking a break every 10 minutes (which is impractical) is not an option for this discussion. So I am interested in knowing what one does to keep one engaged under such circumstances Here are a few things I do
  • Tail a well driven car at a safe distance.
  • Safe mock racing with a well driven car. There have been instances where I set the cruise control in such a way that I end up overtaking the car with the delta speed being quit small. And a few minutes later the other one does it. No ego, no rash driving, just fun swapping the tail and head.
  • Eagerly watch out for the next toll (perhaps the only time I am waiting for the toll booth to pop up in the horizon.
  • Sometimes, I solve my code problems mentally (and I have actually had some major success story too out of that)
I would be interested in learning other tricks that fellow members engage in under such circumstances.
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Old 29th March 2022, 16:21   #2
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Might sound funny, but this is the main reason I don't drink tea or coffee normally. So that on the (very) rare occasions I'm forced to extend a highway ride or a drive to post-sunset, say to reach a hotel or the next big town, a single shot of coffee works amazingly on my senses.

But overall, I don't think our highways are suited for night driving or riding, so I don't. Prefer to break the journey much before sunset or just take the day off to split the journey better. Curious to understand the scenarios where night driving is unavoidable. Apart from some emergency, which will be a one-off, can't think of any that would be worth the risk of driving/riding on our highways at night. But of course, to each their own.

Last edited by am1m : 29th March 2022 at 16:23.
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Old 29th March 2022, 16:28   #3
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Espresso (Coffee day), water, apple, and snickers (sometimes). Favorite music playing throughout. I used to do frequent Bangalore-Kannur earlier and this is how I managed. I stopped doing night drives after 2017.

Last edited by Latheesh : 29th March 2022 at 16:30.
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Old 29th March 2022, 16:30   #4
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

I love doing overnight rides. Here's a rough idea of what worked for me.

1. Curated music and/or podcasts. Put efforts into figuring this out so that keeps your interests up.

2. Figure out if you have a family/friend who's up late that night. Can do calls with him/her. Bonus points if this is someone overseas then timeliness match. If this is a safety concern, you can always stop over and talk.

3. Take short breaks. For me it's coffee breaks (eg. CCD or other coffee joints that are open).

4. Be open for short naps when the need arises. I generally park my car in front of a well-lit dhaba/restaurant that is open and take short timed (alarms) naps. Even a short sleep does wonders.

5. Most important, plan ahead and get rest prior to the driving. Not safe to do a ride after a long day at work.
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Old 29th March 2022, 16:48   #5
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

I love night drives and prefer it over a day drive any day. Most of my drives are at night.
Being extremely sensitive to caffeine helps me a lot, a small cup of coffee post 6PM will keep me awake all night. Apart from coffee, few things I follow
  • Good Music
  • Clean windshield
  • Good headlamps to light up the road.
  • Quick bites like chocolate/ candies within arms reach
  • Plenty of fluids, this also helps in spacing out the breaks
  • Sufficient rest prior to the drive
  • Tail a well driven car/bus, this reduces fatigue by a large extent
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Old 29th March 2022, 16:59   #6
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Since you've mentioned that you don't like music while driving, I'd suggest you to ditch the cruise control and get completely involved in the driving. Ignore fuel efficiency and try driving in a sporty manner- shift later (switch to manual mode if you have an automatic), accelerate harder and try to keep yourself as engaged as possible to flood your internal systems with adrenaline which will help you to stay awake longer.

If you feel drowsy, take a quick nap. Totally worth it.
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Old 29th March 2022, 17:14   #7
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Oh man if you can stay awake during long drives on the interstates in US, you can stay awake anywhere. The interstates are the most boring thing to happen to driving. Ever!

I employ a couple of tricks to stay awake and remain engaged. First of all, I ditch my favorite music. Listening to music I like only makes me more drowsy. So I switch to interesting podcasts on topics that interest me. That keeps me mentally simulated.

Another thing I do involves a bit of mental math. I compare distance to destination on my GPS with miles of fuel remaining. Drive at 80 mph and I can see distance to destination take the lead. Drive at around 65 mph and I see the range take the lead. Little things to keep me engaged
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Old 29th March 2022, 17:14   #8
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by am1m View Post
Might sound funny, but this is the main reason I don't drink tea or coffee normally. So that on the (very) rare occasions I'm forced to extend a highway ride or a drive to post-sunset, say to reach a hotel or the next big town, a single shot of coffee works amazingly on my senses.
I don't drink either of them, but for some strange reason, even when I do, I never seem to feel any difference. I know , caffeine is supposed to keep us alert, but I am not sure why, it has never made a difference to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by am1m View Post
Curious to understand the scenarios where night driving is unavoidable. Apart from some emergency, which will be a one-off, can't think of any that would be worth the risk of driving/riding on our highways at night. But of course, to each their own.
In the past, I used to drive a lot at night cause of the thin traffic and lesser morons on the road. Of late I do it only for emergency. But many times I do plan in such a way that I reach Bangalore just around midnight. I find the traffic pattern to be forgiving for the Krishnagiri-Bangalore stretch when planned this way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Latheesh View Post
Espresso (Coffee day), water, apple, and snickers (sometimes). Favorite music playing throughout. I used to do frequent Bangalore-Kannur earlier and this is how I managed. I stopped doing night drives after 2017.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
I love doing overnight rides. Here's a rough idea of what worked for me.
Again as strange as it may sound, music is not my thing. I may listen to one or two songs, then it will all be lost on me

Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Figure out if you have a family/friend who's up late that night. Can do calls with him/her.
Eons ago, when the wife was still a girlfriend, this actually worked. Now her choices are simple. She wont board a car if anyone other than I drive, and if I drive, she thinks its OK for her to sleep through the entire drive! Now, ego does prevent me from waking her up.. Why damage that reputation that I am a trustworthy driver for her!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Bonus points if this is someone overseas then timeliness match. If this is a safety concern, you can always stop over and talk.
Never crossed my mind, but indeed an interesting suggestion

Quote:
Originally Posted by speedmiester View Post
  • Clean windshield
  • Good headlamps to light up the road.
  • Plenty of fluids, this also helps in spacing out the breaks
  • Sufficient rest prior to the drive
  • Tail a well driven car/bus, this reduces fatigue by a large extent
Yes these things work well for me too.

The reason I raised this subject is this. I recently had an unavoidable same day return trip from Bangalore to Chennai with a good 7 hour sleep before the return journey. On the drive back, I was alone, but on 2 different occasions, I saw imaginary stones and logs bang in the middle of the road and I had to sharply steer the car trying to avoid those non-existing entities. This has never happened before and this was around 10PM on that sweet peaceful stretch between Vaniyambadi and Krishnagiri - one of the best tarmacs and incursion free stretch in the Chennai-Bangalore route. It scared the hell out of me. I wasn't tired, I am sure of that. I have never faced this before, so wondering what was this all about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amitoj View Post
Oh man if you can stay awake during long drives on the interstates in US, you can stay awake anywhere. The interstates are the most boring thing to happen to driving. Ever!
Couldn't agree more!! I just responded in a another post today about how I almost wrecked the car at high speed in the Mojave desert stretch. Its a darn piece of straight stretch with thin traffic and no change in horizon for miles together. I think our winding highways are actually life savers!

EDIT: Before I could quote, the mod who posted the "driving itself is engaging, so why need anything else" seems to have taken out the post :-).. Yes, true and no offence taken on that point, but when you do like arrow straight stretches' on smooth tarmac with no change in scenery, those rules go flying out of the window, at least that has been my experience.

Last edited by SR-71 : 29th March 2022 at 17:24.
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Old 29th March 2022, 17:58   #9
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Oh well, since you mentioned cruise control - I had it in my erstwhile CSUV back in the US; and cruise control used to have a soporific effect on me. With cruise control on, when I wasn't using my legs/feet constantly, I found that sleep would start taking over pretty quickly. So I never used it beyond once or twice in the 4 years that I owned the car.

That's all I've ever needed on long night drives - keep cruise control switched off!

Here in India, it's one thing that most cars don't come with the feature; even if it did come on a car which I were hypothetically evaluating, I'd ignore it completely.
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Old 29th March 2022, 17:58   #10
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by amitoj View Post
Oh man if you can stay awake during long drives on the interstates in US, you can stay awake anywhere. The interstates are the most boring thing to happen to driving. Ever!
On the contrary, I actually enjoyed driving in the night in the US. The longest I did was a Charlotte - Miami overnight drive and thoroughly enjoyed the route, especially via GA and FL. Even stopped at a rest area and took a short nap. But that is definitely 'boring' compared to driving in India at night, although much much safer.
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Old 29th March 2022, 18:42   #11
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

I avoid long night drives but sometimes they're inevitable. Indian roads are horrendous for safety even without the added complications of night driving.

My rocking audio system and upgraded headlamps help. The Missus rides shotgun and constantly prattle away to keep me company.

I used to night drive alone in Arabia and followed the head under the running tap routine at regular intervals, followed by a strong Sulaimani chai!

I was once rudely forced to interrupt my air travel at Frankfurt due to a pesky volcano in Iceland. I picked up a rented Mercedes E Class from Hertz and drove the 8 hours to my destination, all alone. It was peak winter, so stepping out of the heated coccoon of the car to visit the loo was enough to wake me up!

But to summarise, Head under the running tap followed by caffeine works!
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Old 29th March 2022, 18:58   #12
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

I generally avoid night time driving, but if at all I have to, I use the following steps:
1. Play a game with the missus or occupants of the car: For example: Name as many 4-legged animals (or flowers, or African countries, etc.) as you can in 30 seconds
2. Start a healthy debate with the occupants of the car. For example: With my dad, missus & mom in the car we collectively have a wide range of subjects covered, from agriculture to finance etc. Pick anyone
3. Listen to an interesting podcast or a simple YouTube Channel like Khan Sir's videos which talk about Geo-Political events etc.
4. Rock music
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Old 29th March 2022, 19:00   #13
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Don't know if the following works for others. Works for me.
Being parents to a chatterbox angel and living with my parents, me and wife rarely find time to talk without interruptions.
So during our night drives (typically between Bangalore and Chennai, once or twice a year), we start talking as soon as my daughter goes to sleep. And before we know it, the destination is reached. No caffeine. Just catching up with the better half.
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Old 29th March 2022, 19:22   #14
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

My most frequent routes are: Bangalore-Calicut, Bangalore-Perumbavoor and Bangalore-Chennai. I was a daytime driver early on (even about 5 years ago) but now - especially when the destination is in Kerala - I prefer driving in the nights. Kerala's roads are simply not meant to be driven during the daytime. Elsewhere too, the lack of local traffic (bikes, small pick-up trucks, sand/concrete trucks, autos...) makes the road that much nicer (most of those who drive overnight are very disciplined and experienced professionals).

Basically I leave Bangalore at the end of a workday and time my arrival at Walayar after 9-10 PM and then drive within Kerala during the night peacefully. What works for me are:

1. Music. Especially rock & heavy metal.
2. Coffee. I have 2x travel mugs which together hold nearly 1 litre of strong coffee.
3. Power naps. I haven't needed many of these but I do take them, usually at all-night fuel stations or toll booths. Set a 15-minute alarm in the mobile and wake up refreshed.
4. Water - lots of it.
5. A/c off, window down (and sunroof open) driving.

One thing I realise is that spending a few years in an engineering college hostel has resulted in the ability to go reasonably long periods without sleep. But I don't overdo this - I get a good night's sleep the night before my journey.

Also I don't schedule complete all-nighters. The latest I have done is a 5 AM arrival at Bangalore, in which the final 2-3 hours was terrible due to the heavy bus traffic bound for the city with little space on the road for everyone else.
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Old 29th March 2022, 19:34   #15
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re: How do you keep yourself engaged on long night drives, when alone at the wheel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SR-71 View Post
EDIT: Before I could quote, the mod who posted the "driving itself is engaging, so why need anything else" seems to have taken out the post
I used to say if you cannot change the roads, change your car, that keeps you engaging on the same routes. Looks, that fellow mod is now doing the same things (do keep a tab on his threads)

Coming to the subject, have been doing the whole night's drive for donkeys Year. The last one is in 2020 though. I finish my Dinner in Ahmedabad at my colleague's home at around 10 and when he calls me in the morning to check where to pick, I am resting at my home in Gurgaon. Countless runs in fact but now after 30 Years of driving, I don't travel at Night. Not that I want you to consider similarly as you have clearly mentioned but still sharing as I find more than anything else, the overall traffic and discipline or respect for fellow drivers is diminishing. Everyone is in hurry, without giving a hoot to others.

Though road conditions and the overall reliability of cars has improved, a simple puncture can throw your journey for a toss especially when you are with your family.

Last edited by Turbanator : 29th March 2022 at 19:37.
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