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10 Essential Items That Make Summer Driving In Austin Bearable

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In case you haven’t stepped outside in the last few weeks, it is painfully obvious summer has arrived in Austin. Long gone and long from coming back are the days of crisp mornings and evenings. Now, your morning greeting when you walk out the door is a blast of warm, sticky air to the face.

But hey, we still live in Austin, so it can’t be all that bad.

When you get off work after a long day, what’s waiting for you in the parking lot? You guessed it. A car in which you could bake cookies. You’ll probably leave the cookie dough at home, but here are 10 items you need in your car to help you bear the Austin summer.

10.) Hands free capability for your cell phone

Photo: Flickr user Josiah Mackenzie, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Josiah Mackenzie, creative commons licensed.

You shouldn’t text or talk on the phone while driving. You’ve seen the commercials, and you know it is just common sense to keep your eyes on the road instead of on a little screen in your hand. Texting and talking on the phone is a big no-no in Austin. If you’re caught, Austin police officers won’t think twice about writing you a big, fat ticket.

9.) Reusable grocery bags

Photo: Flickr user Kal Hendry, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Kal Hendry, creative commons licensed.

A few years ago, one of the most controversial issues in Austin was whether or not grocery stores and other retailers could give customers disposable plastic bags. There was some angst at first, but now, Austinites take it in stride when they forget their reusable bags. Keep a few in your car for when you need to swing by the grocery store on your way home from work.

8.) TxTag

Photo: Flickr user greg, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user greg, creative commons licensed.

Have you ever tried to get from Buda to Round Rock any time between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. or 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. on a weekday without taking a toll road? It isn’t pretty. You might get there sometime this century, but don’t count on it.

A TxTag allows you to use area toll roads at the cheapest rate possible. You can fly through toll plazas knowing you’re not going to receive a hefty bill later.

7.) Steering wheel cover

Photo: Flickr user Jamie, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Jamie, creative commons licensed.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, it can be an old, ratty towel. Whether it’s a brand new purchase from your favorite auto parts store or some makeshift contraption you cobbled together, your steering wheel cover just needs to get the job done. And that job is shielding your steering wheel from the sun’s beating rays so you don’t burn your palms and fingers.

6.) Sunglasses

Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart, creative commons licensed.

They’re called the dog days of summer for a reason. The sun up early in the morning and stays up well into the evening. You need a pair of sunglasses in your car at all times. They can be cheapos you pick up at a gas station. They just need to keep you from squinting the whole time you’re behind the wheel.

Hit ‘next’ to see the rest.

5.) Snacks for when you’re hangry in traffic

Photo: Flickr user Charles Stricklin, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Charles Stricklin, creative commons licensed.

Sometimes your schedule won’t allow you to pull off the highway to wait out rush hour by finding a happy hour. If you’re stuck in traffic and waiting for dinner, you’re going to get hangry. Make sure you have a little food in your car to take the edge off.

4.) Cell phone charger

Photo: Flickr user Sean MacEntee, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Sean MacEntee, creative commons licensed.

Even though local ordinances don’t allow you to use your cell phone while operating a vehicle, you still need to keep your device charged. Since your phone is just sitting there, why not take advantage of the screen-free time? Your phone will have a good amount of battery charge built up, and you’ll be ready for that text or phone call you missed on the drive.

3.) Podcasts

Photo: Flickr user Timothy Krause, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Timothy Krause, creative commons licensed.

If you haven’t discovered podcasts yet, you’re missing out. When you drive in Austin anywhere outside your own neighborhood, you’re spending at least 15 minutes in your car. This time allows you to listen to a sizable chunk of the latest episode of your favorite podcast.

2.) Air conditioning

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, creative commons licensed.

For most cars, the air conditioning compressor is the third most expensive part to replace. The engine and transmission are the top two. Sure, you could drive around Austin in the summer without air conditioning, but you’ll be sweaty everywhere you go. If you can’t get that A/C up and running, Capital Metro might be your best option for getting around town.

1.) Water

Photo: Flickr user bark, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user bark, creative commons licensed.

Water is essential to life. And in those 100-degree August days, it is the most refreshing beverage you can get. Forget craft beers for a minute. Water will cool you down the quickest.