September 2020 Road Trip

This is a silly year to be traveling, but we managed it. Now there are other things I need to manage, like remembering to post what I write.

I’m talking about the kind of driving that puts me in front of a steering wheel, looking out a windshield over the hood of a vehicle. The kind of driving that delivers a sense of power and force of will. A big machine goes where I direct it. I get chills thinking about it.

There is really no way to deny that learning to drive a car, or a truck, is a rite of passage for most people. Everyone in my high school looked forward to taking driver’s ed class and getting their license. On the other end of the spectrum, giving up that license, or losing it, is also a rite of passage. I remember my grandfather driving around, half blind, and scaring people. Then I saw my father hold onto the keys as he struggled with everyone’s concern over his driving. Macular degeneration took out his central vision, but as long as there were white lines on the side of the pavement, he knew he was on the road.

It didn’t seem like it was that hard for my husband. He gradually started sitting in the passenger seat and got used to having me drive. He still took himself to work and other familiar places, but he had a tendency to startle and get upset over other driver’s decisions. It was easier to let someone else (me) deal with all that craziness. Mom is also making a more graceful transition. Her driver’s license was up for renewal this November and she decided to let it go.

I’ve always liked driving and have not shied away from the unusual – driving big trucks, driving trailers across country, Ubering people around the city, and venturing into an occasional mud hole. But lately, I’ve become aware of the tedium of long drives. I have fond memories of sitting on the passenger side with my needlework or a book, and being able to look out the window at the passing scenery. That doesn’t happen anymore.

This week the husband and I have taken a two day drive to North Carolina for my daughter’s wedding. Eighteen hours of driving has given me time to think about this process of road tripping, it’s advantages and disadvantages. See, it’s really nice to have the freedom to go or stop at will. And there’s the luxury of taking most anything I want along with me – in contrast to the carry-on suitcase angst of flying. It’s also nice to have that familiar vehicle at my destination without having to rent and return and get a big bill at the end.

BUT there are some slight disadvantages. For instance, I feel the full weight of staying awake and alert. I don’t want to be like the guy who died peacefully in his sleep unlike the screaming passengers in his car (old joke we used to tell). The husband is always chiding me for eating popcorn in the car without realizing that it has kept us alive for numerous trips. I can’t sleep while I’m eating, or at least I haven’t been able to so far. This trip, after I finished the popcorn, I started in on the cheese curds, and then the nuts, and then the carrots/cucumbers/peppers. And then I felt ill, no surprise, but that also kept me awake.

Pandemic driving has some unique features too. For once, we drove through the city of Chicago without a major slow down. I was worried about going there but having no good way to avoid it, we went. There was traffic, and the need for vigilance, but it was surprisingly smooth. And what’s with the toll roads? There were no people in those little booths to collect money! I may have a massive bill lurking somewhere in cyberspace but so far I’ve gotten no notice.

Then there is the mask thing. I can’t remember how many times we were on our way into the rest stop or gas station and had to go back to get a required face covering. It’s not a habit yet. We took food with us, not knowing if there would be the usual restaurants available. Finding a place to sit down and eat was harder, and the experience has changed in so many ways – no uncovered smiles, no condiments on the table, not much merriment.

I knew it was a risk to get new tires right before a trip, but there were reasons why it made sense. I’m talking only hours before the trip, the dealership was able to find tires for my truck. There was no time to test them out. Did you know that pandemic shortages have affected the tire industry? Who would guess that? For this trip I went from worrying about old, misaligned and worn tire noises to worrying about new tire noises. What is that whap, whap, whapping…? Is it lethal? Should we stop? We ignored it. Found out later that gravel and acorns caught in the tread sound just like defects.

Nice loud tires with lots of tread.

All in all, it was not a bad trip, just peculiar like most everything else in 2020 has been. It is my hope that in hearing about this trip, you will find yourself more content, perhaps even happy, to stay at home (like we’re supposed to). I know it did that for me, just sayin’…

Looking for Adventure

I have this fear, and I’m  sure we all do – that we are going to run out of adventures and slip ignominiously into the boredom abyss. To stave off this looming possibility I decided to sign up as an Uber driver.

I signed up a few weeks ago actually, almost by accident because it was so easy. I wondered if I could and before I knew it, I had. Not that they don’t vet their drivers, because they do.  But it takes a matter of minutes instead of the days that usually pass when you want to be cleared for something.

I took my first rider the next day, just to see what it was like before I left to visit my daughter. I took a nice tourist 10 miles south to visit a friend of his. It was the briefest of exposure to the Uber app but enough to make me think “I can do this. I can.”

Now, more than three weeks have passed, my Mom has gone back to the north woods, and Uber has started sending me messages asking why I’m not driving and hinting about my partner account being at risk (AAAAGGGHHH!!!) They call it an inactivity alert. Of course we wouldn’t want that to happen, so I went driving yesterday. All day. I’ll show them.

It’s slightly addictive. It’s like the feeling I get when I’ve just published a post and am waiting for reactions. The phone starts ringing and flashing. I get such an adrenaline rush. I have to accept that invite. I have to see who wants a ride. I have to get out there and sit in long lines of slow moving traffic.

No, wait…

I thought I was used to the long red lights at intersections. Here in Florida, probably no where else, the traffic is horrible, horrible, horrible in the winter. The weather is nice and that’s why so many people are here, in their cars. But now, the red lights seem much longer, like maybe half an hour when I am trying to get quickly to a passenger. And maybe even longer than that in cases like tonight when five teen-age boys were giggling and snorting over something on their ride to Shake ‘n Steak, in my car.

I won’t get rich driving for Uber (more about that later) but I’m already finding it adventurous. Can’t wait to write about the experience as it progresses… just sayin’.

Evidently there are other desperate adventurers in the area…




I was waiting out by the road so my brother wouldn’t have to come down the drive. When I saw what he was pulling I understood why.

We started our adventure about 5pm yesterday and drove until 2am with stops only for gas. It turned out well that we were through Atlanta at night and didn’t have morning rush hour to deal with.

The motel was great!  I am highly impressed by any place that has a variety of pillows, that all smell good. Nice, nice, nice. ..for about five hours.

A full day ahead, in which I may attempt driving this thing – but absolutely no backing up (my bro is great at that).


Today’s Marvels

Today I was suddenly entrusted with delivering my 9 year old cousin (twice removed) to her play date at a friend’s house.  She hadn’t had breakfast and the plan was to stop for a yogurt parfait at McD’s.  I was mentally thinking of the best route for fast food on the way – these are roads I travel frequently.

Me: I think we will head toward the interstate and stop at the McDonald’s right near there.  Ok?

Gracie: That’s fine.

Me: Is there anything else you’d like for breakfast? Is that all?

Gracie: Well, there is a Marathon gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts right there and I really love their hash browns.

Me: So you are sure you are hungry enough for me to make an extra stop for hash browns?

Gracie: Yes, I’m pretty sure

I made it to the first stop without any trouble  but on leaving I got in a lane that I wasn’t sure would lead to the hash browns.

Me: Oh, I think I’m in the wrong lane.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to turn left again before the interstate.

Gracie: Yes, you can.

Me: I really don’t think there is another light to let me turn left.

Gracie: No there isn’t a light but there’s a place that you can wait in line and turn when there aren’t cars coming.

So you might not think this is a marvelous thing that a 9 year old should know where all the favorite fast food is – true it’s not. But how many know for certain the traffic patterns and how to navigate them when they have never been drivers?  I didn’t know there was a left turn opportunity there, for cryin’ out loud!  This is also the child that shows me all the short cuts through the neighborhood “the way Daddy goes”.  I have been with teens and adults who couldn’t direct me to places they go to ALL THE TIME because they don’t pay attention when someone else is driving.

I’m just sayin’ I know who I want riding with me when I start to forget where I live.

And I also want to remember where this gas station is.

I know it won't last but wow, look at that price!
I know it won’t last but wow, look at that price!

In A Rhythm

I’m going to be gracious and say that’s what it was.  He was just in a rhythm and because of that it felt possible.

A couple weeks ago the husband and I both had to be out on a Monday night, in the same direction, so to save fuel we rode together. That was good of us. I am always a bit leery of this kind of arrangement because it means giving up a great deal of control.  When my meeting starts first I get dropped off and I never know when/if  I’ll get picked up again.  He tends to lose track of time.  I think it’s wonderful that he’s such an “in the moment” type of person, but understandably, he’s always more in his moment than in mine.  I have resorted to walking to meet him (blisters from walking two miles in dress shoes) or waiting in the deserted parking lot (creepy).

The other vulnerable element is having to let the husband drive my car.  Sometimes I just have to put anxiety aside, let it go, because there is no other reasonable choice.  And when/if he picks me up, and if I don’t make him get out of the driver’s seat I end up being a passenger. When I do this, I know God is giving me an exercise in self control.  I abhor having to tell other people how to drive and unless we are about to go head on into a semi-truck I try to keep silent.  It’s hard.  I try not to even watch the road when the husband drives because, well, I just trust that we won’t die before it’s our time to go.

We did a short stretch on the interstate, all was well, and then headed west in city traffic.  As I said, I was not paying a great deal of attention until, going through a wide, major intersection, there was an unusually bright flash of light.  It had never happened to me before but I knew what it was.  We had been photographed.  A Kodak moment on the road.  That doesn’t happen because you have a beautiful car, or you’ve won a drivers sweepstakes.  It means the traffic signal was red and somebody didn’t stop when they should have.

This week, in the mail, I got a letter with a picture of my car traveling, alone, through the intersection.  It was a nice shot – the only thing I would have done differently would have been to get the angle that showed who was driving.  So now I have a violation on my license until it’s cleared up (and it will be, trust me).  There is a “generous” fine.  In explaining the whole thing to my daughter on the phone today, the husband told her “well, I went through two other yellow lights before I got to this one…” so I figure that he was kind of in a rhythm that he didn’t want to break.  Like he said, it should have been a longer light.  Like he said, those traffic cams aren’t legal are they? Like he said, he didn’t want to have to slam on the brakes.  Excuses, excuses.  I’m just sayin’…