Here’s How to Win Football Tailgating Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for football fans. There’s almost always a game on TV, fantasy football is in full effect and, best of all, there are tons of tailgates to attend. Here’s how you can dress up your car and be the star of your next tailgate.

Gear Up

Before you head to the tailgating lot, make sure your car is decked out in team gear. We’re talking window flags, decals, window paint, antenna toppers…you name it! This will help the other fans in the lot know where your allegiance stands. The more outrageous, the more friends (or perhaps enemies) you will make.

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Get Creative

If you really want to stand out, there are endless possibilities for how you can transform your vehicle. If you live in the South, for instance, it might still be warm enough to create the classic makeshift pool in the back of your truck. If you’re in a cooler location, you can create a hot tub instead.

hottub(Photo Credit)

You can also convert the back of your vehicle into a bar. If you really want to win over the crowd, find some of your team’s branded cups. And remember that it’s okay to make friends with fans of the opposing team too. You might just want to keep a few standard Red Solo cups on hand for them….

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Make Fun Snacks

What in the world could be better than guacamole? Answer: a guacamole football field.

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Bringing themed foods to your tailgate will make you a celebrity of the parking lot. Sweets shaped like a football are a classic crowd pleaser. However, if you’re not much of a baker, you can always pick up some football-themed snacks at the grocery store. For example, Snyder’s of Hanover makes fun football shaped pretzels your friends will love munching on.

Football Game Cookies(Photo Credit)

Bring Games

While food and drinks are typically the stars of a tailgating party, fun games are another vital component. No tailgate is complete without a corn hole set. Corn hole sets are fairly easy to construct yourself, but if you’d rather leave it to a professional, opt for a set that showcases your team spirit.

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Besides the classics, there are some new games out there that we’re starting to see at tailgates. One of these games is called Sholf, which is a hybrid between shuffleboard and golf. The object of the game is to putt your golf balls farther into the scoring end than your competitor.

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Whether you’re a veteran tailgater or new to the party, we wish you a very happy football season.

Top 5 Fall Foliage Road Trips

The weeks after Labor Day can be a drag. The neighborhood pool is closed, temperatures begin to drop and you start bringing out extra layers of clothing. It can be a brutal time for those who love warm summer months.

Maybe it helps to remember the fun seasonal events and products that fall brings. We have Halloween to look forward to as well as crisp apples, pumpkin carving and the beautiful fall leaves. And of course, pumpkin spiced everything. No one can hate on Starbucks’ new and improved Pumpkin Spice Latte too much, right?

To offset the autumnal blues, we’ve put together a round up of our favorite fall foliage road trips in the United States. The views on these trips might convert even the most devout summer lover.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Take a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Once there, you can choose to leave the car and explore one of the many hiking trails, or continue driving along the famous Skyline Drive. The road runs for 109 miles and has been named a National Scenic Byway.

As you travel along Skyline Drive, there are over 75 scenic overlooks to view the surrounding valleys. Be warned that as you travel along this road during the early morning and late evening, you might see some wildlife. The Shenandoah National Park has one of the largest black bear populations in the U.S.

Skyline Drive, Rip Rap Area, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA(Photo Credit)

Aspen, Colorado

You’ll have to get moving if you want to experience Aspen’s fall colors. The leaves start changing color mid-September and begin falling very quickly. By the second week in October, there won’t be any color left to see.

Start your road trip in the town of Ridgeway and take Colorado 62. This’ll take you over the Dallas Divide mountain pass. Then head towards Telluride on Colorado 145 to reach Lizard Head Pass where you’ll drive through a forest of white-barked aspens and see beautiful panoramic views of Wilson Peak.

aspen(Photo Credit)

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

Vermont’s Green Mountain byway (otherwise known as Route 100) runs for nearly 200 miles. It takes you through charming towns, along river valleys and the peaks of the Green Mountains. The route’s most popular natural feature is Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.

If you want to make a trip out of it, check out Hamilton Falls, where Cobb Creek falls nearly 125 feet over the granite structure. If you cross to Interstate 89, you can visit the town of Stowe, the village where the Sound of Music’s Von Trapp family attracted worldwide attention and fame for over 50 years.

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Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

Maybe New Mexico wasn’t your first guess for a fall foliage road trip destination. However, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is full of stunning fall colors in late September and early October. The 83-mile loop showcases yellow and deep orange aspens as it circles around Wheeler Peak, which at 13,161-feet is New Mexico’s highest point.

If you want to see some different colors along the route, keep an eye out for the purple cinquefoil. There are also a number of cottonwoods that turn a fiery shade of red and yellow.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains, north-central New Mexico, as seen from US Route 64.(Photo Credit)

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

This is another destination that strays from your average fall road trip. Take a drive to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where you will find over twenty forested state parks. The ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore and tamarack trees look absolutely stunning by the water.

The best time to catch the fall colors is from mid-September to mid-October. If you want to extend the trip, check out one of the historic lighthouses in Keeweenaw, located at the northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula.

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Take one of these road trips to help ease into winter. If that doesn’t help, we wish all you summer lovers a peaceful winter hibernation.





6 Tips for Teen Car Care and Safety

This time of year many teenagers will be on the road heading off to college. For many parents, it can be scary to have a child behind the wheel and on their own.

Our own Consumer Auto Advocate, Owen Murray, was recently on WBAL-TV giving parents advice for making sure your student, and car, is safe this school year. Here are some important tips:

  1. Preparation is vital. Make sure your son or daughter is hitting the road in a safe and appropriate car. Have the vehicle examined by a certified mechanic to make sure it is in good condition. Specifically, be sure to check the tires, battery, lights, engine and that the oil has recently been changed.
  1. Get the Driver Involved. Your child should know the basic anatomy of the car they’re driving. Make sure they understand things like: the recommended maintenance schedule, the meaning of dashboard warning lights and the proper course of action and key features of the car’s mechanics.
  1. Get Schooled. Consider signing your teenager up for a defensive driving class that offers behind-the-wheel instruction. You can often recoup the cost of the class through discounts on your auto insurance.
  1. Basic Car Care 101. Before heading off to college, you may teach your teen personal safety tips, cooking and how to do their laundry, but they should also understand basic car care. Take time to teach them how to change a tire, check the tire pressure, monitor and refill wiper fluid, antifreeze and monitor oil and how to jump a dead car battery.
  1. Have the Right Equipment. Make sure there is an emergency roadside kit in the car with all of the essentials. Having the right equipment will help your teen be prepared even with the unavoidable breakdowns or emergencies.
  1. Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving. Currently, 20% of accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Educate your child on the importance of keeping their eyes and mind on the road. An inexpensive dash mount for their cell phone allows them to keep their hands on the wheel.

And finally, it’s important to talk with your kid about the safety behind the wheel. Limiting the number of passengers, never drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone who has, never texting while driving and staying alert are all really important things to stress to your teen drivers.

Back to School Driving Tips

For many parents, the start of a new school year is a glorious thing. The kids are back on a schedule after running wild all summer. Whether it’s more time in the gym or at the office, it’s wonderful to have a few extra hours to yourself after those long summer months.

While parents might be eager to get their crazy kids out of the car and through the school doors, it’s important to take extra caution on the roads during this time of year. As kids crack open their new textbooks, we suggest you do a little reading yourself. Here are our top back-to-school driving tips.

Back_to_school(Photo Credit)

Beware of walkers and bikers

In most school districts, kids who live nearby don’t take the bus. That’s why many kids end up walking to school each day, with or without a parent. While the weather is still warm, there will be many children riding their bikes, too. When it comes to elementary and middle school aged students, pedestrian and bike safety isn’t the first thing on their minds.

Young bikers are more concerned with riding fast and doing tricks, not looking both ways and stopping at crosswalks. Drivers must keep an eye on driveways and alleyways since kids tend to zoom from these areas in a hurry. Also, be sure to come to a full halt and look both ways at stop signs since kids likely won’t do the same.

biking to school(Photo Credit)

Keep your distance

School buses make frequent stops. The rule-of-thumb is to keep the 10 feet surrounding a school bus clear. Never pass a school bus when it’s stopped to pick up or drop off children!

Beyond school buses, cars will be making more stops, too. With crossing guards halting traffic at a moment’s notice, the last thing you want to do is tailgate the car in front of you.

bus stop(Photo Credit)

Mind your manners

Being courteous can go a long way when you’re in a school zone. Remember that honking, yelling and other aggressive behavior might scare a youngster. Even if you have the right-of-way, try and refrain from honking or revving your engine.

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Also keep in mind that you should limit passing when around a school. Many times, the car in front is slowing to avoid a pedestrian or bicyclist. By passing, you run the risk of striking whatever (or whomever) that car was trying to avoid.

Set carpool rules

If you’re part of a carpool (and even if you’re not) make sure your kids understand the importance of seatbelts. More importantly, be sure that all other carpool drivers enforce the same rules and set a good example. You might even want to assess the other drivers yourself. Do this by taking a ride with other driver and take mental notes of their driving habits. If the driver texts or is aggressive while driving, perhaps you should join a different carpool.

Boy fastening his seatbelt(Photo Credit)

Brushing up on your safety tips each school year is just as important as your back to school shopping. Stay safe on the roads this year, and don’t forget to enjoy that extra time away from the kids!

Summer Road Trip Safety Tips

As summer winds down during the month of August, many families are gearing up for their summer vacation. Recently, our Consumer Auto Advocate shared summer driving tips with Fox 45 in Baltimore. Check out the video to learn how you should prepare for your summer road trip!

Mary: Oh, let’s hope you don’t need any of those this summer, right? We’re looking at jumper cables and we are talking about road trips. Of course August is a very big month for summer vacations for those road trips. If you have been putting off the preparation for your vehicle, for instance for that road trip, now is the time before you head out on the road. Before that emergency comes up, for instance. So Owen Murray is here with us this morning to talk about all the things you need to stock the car with, all the things you need to know before you set out on the road. You’re here from CARCHEX, so where should we start? Talk about prepping your car or all the items you brought with you today? It’s a good list!

Owen: Well first and foremost, you should always start with prepping your car. That is vital. It’s great taking it to a certified mechanic to have all the most important things looked at starting with your headlights, engine, wiper blades, tire pressure. Especially the spare – a lot of people forget about their spare tire, so make sure your spare tire has the proper air pressure as well. And of course prepping for your trip with the most important emergency roadside stuff. So, you have here your jumper box just in case you’re alone on the roadways. You have the jumper cables…

Mary: Great, so you don’t have to rely on someone else.

Owen: Exactly. It also has a charging socket as well, so you can plug your cell phone right into it.

Mary: Hey, fantastic! Anything that does double duty we’re on board for.

Owen: Exactly. First aid kit, side of road safety jacket. This is just as important as well. You can also use this – this is a tire pressure gauge. So, it also takes the tire pressure to tell you the actual pressure itself. It also blows up the tire, and you can use it for your family to blow up a raft and/or beach ball.

Mary: Again, another triple duty item this morning! Fantastic.

Owen: Also, some food and things in case you get stranded on the roads. For a bottle of water, you should have at least a gallon for each person that’s in your vehicle for sanitary purposes.

Mary: We always hear about folks getting stranded and not having enough to eat and drink. So, drinking most importantly.

Owen: Flashlight, most importantly. If you’re out at nighttime, you definitely want to be able to see. Jumper cables, just in case. Have an extra just in case.

Mary: An extra set, sure.

Owen: And maybe a tow rope or some duct tape to do some minor repairs on the side of the road if anything happens to you. You know it’s very important – especially nowadays – with six out of ten families traveling over 50 miles this summer for a trip, so we’re seeing an influx of traffic. So, you want to make sure to stay alert, stay off your phone. No cell phones, no texting, no anxious children. So stay alert, stay aware. And there is also a lot of traffic in the summer months due to…

Mary: Those cone zones.

Owen: Exactly, exactly.

Mary: You gotta watch out for them and keep your speed down. And yes, absolutely. Some great information, hopefully we’ve planted a seed for you this morning if you’re headed out on that road trip. Really important to do these things before you jump on the road and realize you forgot. We’ll post all the information for you. Owen, thanks so much for being here this morning.


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