I know I haven’t posted in a while – there hasn’t been much to post about aside from family drama. Living with a 13-year-old who thinks she’s 23 can create drama. Add into the mix the fact that I’m now an authority figure but neither her mother nor married to her father and it leads to nothing but trouble.
I’ll let you imagine that mess – no need to post about it.
What I have been up to lately, however, has been driving like I own a race car. I have a speedy little import (manual transmission, dual exhaust), but it’s not tricked-out or anything. When I drive it, though, I feel like I’m James Bond. I love feeling like a spy, but it’s not quite satisfying my car-driving needs.
This is me, in my head
I have always loved driving and road trips. I don’t have to be behind the wheel in order to enjoy a good ride, either. Riding along is soothing – the motion of the car, observing the surroundings, even cursing out other bonehead drivers. When I was just a tot, before I went to school, I learned how to read a map. Ever since I’ve been my family’s official navigator, even for the long trips from the Midwest to the South.
Since I’ve been able to drive I’ve seen my car as a sanctuary – the open road inviting and really my only destination. A radio, a few snacks, and sunglasses were all I need, maybe even an overnight bag. I’ve always felt that roads are inviting, calling me to “come and find!” whatever’s beyond the horizon. It sounds cliché, but that’s really my experience as a driver.
My first car was old but it had a 3.1L V6 and was extremely fuel efficient. I used to drive from Wisconsin to Toledo and Detroit on a regular basis (sometimes just on a few hours’ notice) when I was just barely out of high school. The last time I went to Detroit I made the great circle – I went south on 94 to Detroit and came home through the UP and highway 2 through Eastern Wisconsin. It took forever, but the beauty of the Northwoods and the craziness of the people who live there was absolutely worth it.
Mackinaw Bridge, connecting the two Michigan peninsulas
I used to make the 20-hour drive between Wisconsin/Minnesota and Western Virginia in 14-16 hours. Central Illinois is pretty flat and boring, aside from the one windmill farm you pass on your way to Bloomington/Normal. Just like the main peninsula of Michigan, everyone’s going 85-100 mph and the roads are mostly straight.
You have the stretch from Kentucky to the Appalachian Mountains where you can’t get away with speeding (unless you want to whip yourself off the side of a mountain) but the curves are thrilling to maneuver. You can look out the window on a bridge and not be able to see how far below the ground is. A minute later you can look out the window to see rock walls and have trouble craning your neck to see the tops.
McAfee's Knob, overlooking the Blue Ridge Parkway
My latest road trips were from the Midwest to Las Vegas and I didn’t have the good fortune of driving a car built for the thrill of the road. My first trip to the desert was through Nebraska/Colorado/Utah in a pile of crap that was barely capable of going 70 mph. The speed limit for much of this route is 70+ mph, so I was not popular on the rare occasion there were other drivers on the highway. The mountains of Colorado are delightful if you’re driving anything other than what amounts to a shopping cart with the brakes stuck on.
I-70 heading into Utah
I drove a friend from Vegas to Florida because she didn’t want to ship her car. Oklahoma tried to kill us with rain, but the characters we met in Florida were worth it.
Pro tip: Clearwater is a great place to visit, if you ignore that’s where Scientology is headquartered. The Tampa area is pretty awesome, but I like the beaches in Clearwater the best.
Last year I made the trip through South Dakota/Wyoming/Utah in a car that was slightly better suited to the trip. It was tiny and I was able to go 85 mph without the car falling apart.
Western Wyoming, near Rock Springs
My new car is DEFINITELY suited for the adventures of the open road. The only problem with my new car is that I don’t want to crank up the miles just yet. I plan on keeping the car until it’s old and dead but the idea still nags at me. I want to cut loose and explore the mountains and desert of Northern/Central Nevada, Arizona, and maybe even California. The 215 and the 95 have some fun stretches, but they don’t quite satisfy the way the open road does.
For now, I’ll settle for feeling like a spy/race car driver when I’m putzing around town. Zoom zoom!