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Convoy Route Planning

Planning the route to be taken by a convoy is a scientific undertaking. It has more to do with just a map and mileages. When you begin to lay a course there are many more conditions to consider than you might think. Pulling them all together in a symphony is the goal. As a primer, below is a short list of facets to consider when designing your next group outing.

Road Trip Software

Without it you are behind the curve. Armed only with it and you are behind the curve. To begin your planning of scenarios it is a necessary tool that allows you to plug in different locations, average speeds, specify routes, and schedule stops. Most good software allows you to customize preferences for certain types of roads. At a point however you need to apply overriding information to your plan. Not all software can account for local abnormalities like road construction, traffic gridlock at certain times of day. You will need to factor that into the final draft. If the tour is out of your area, this is when you start calling locals to get advice on your drive.

 

Two Lane vs. Freeway

Depending on the scope of your endeavor you will need to choose what works best logistically. Freeways are safer and easier for large convoys, while two lane rural roads are more scenic and interesting when your convoy size allows. I have found that a combination of both is good where you can divert off to a secondary road on the last leg into a mid-day break or to your destination. Time of day should factor into this as everything gets clogged during commute hours and you must avoid stoplights at all costs.

Staging Areas

A staging area is a central location for the convoy participants to meet-up or regroup before departing to the highway in the morning or after a stop. A good staging area is a make or break for an easy convoy. A staging area is usually a large open parking lot located adjacent to or as close as possible to the highway where the cars can depart from in a group. You want as few stoplights between the staging area and the open road as possible or you should have the local police block intersections for you. More than three stoplights can dice up your convoy into many small and angry pieces that may be hopeless in catching up to one another. Remember every 10 minutes of stop requires an hour of catch-up at 10 mph faster than the rest of the group. Possible staging areas are shopping centers, restaurants, stadiums, raceways. Rest stops can work but if you have more than 20 cars, it could anger the truckers and you don't want that.

Lunch / Gas Stops

Figuring a location for a scheduled fuel and food stop must be carefully researched to make sure there is enough capacity at the location. For a large group choose a place with three or more restaurants and a number of gas stations. Out on the open road, most of these establishments are found in clusters. Lunch breaks should try to avoid the noon hour. Set it for 11:00-11:30 where possible. Always let them know you are coming a day or two in advance so they are staffed for you.
Don't drag the convoy though town. Choose a location where the establishments are right on the freeway exits unless you have a substantial reason for doing otherwise. Try to plan for a staging area at or near the stop.

Hotels

Depending on the size of your group, you can choose a specific hotel/motel or a location with several establishments. With MAA and hundreds of cars and we have to land locations with 4-5 hotels in some cases. A location like this will usually have a few restaurants as well. It goes without saying that you need to coordinate your group's visit with the hotel(s) so they know you are coming and make sure they are not re-paving and striping the parking lot that day. You should be able to negotiate a group discount with most chains.
Your event will be well served for you check with non-biased locals on the best location in town to settle a group of expensive show cars in for the night. The $40 per night motel by the truck-stop might not be a good deal if you get there to find they rent rooms by the week to crack-dealing workers of the night.

Keep it simple

Confusion can reign supreme and in the end it will always be your fault. When laying out your plans try to keep in mind that a diverse group of drivers will be following the directions and maps you create. Try to make it easy as once a convoy is on the move, the people behind always follow the people ahead, even if they are going the wrong way. Your directions should be absolute and if there is a part of your journey that is subject to confusion be sure to cover that in your driver's meeting. Researching your route thoroughly, knowing the nuances of freeway interchanges and exit ramps are a must. Case in point: In North Little Rock, AR our group had to change freeways. We all assumed, including the group leader that the exit is on the right side - most freeway interchanges are. When we realized the exit was on the left (Arkansas!) it was too late to get the convoy across four lanes in morning traffic. The group was split up for the rest of the day. This is where local people can help you.

 
 

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