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I am nothing. I am a single grain of sand amongst billions. I am a single voice within a crowd. I am human, I am god, I am here, and this is what I have to say:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Things to Learn Over 1,200 Miles: Part 1

So recently, as some of you undoubtedly know, I had to take a little trip back to my home town. To do this I decided to drive. As things worked out, I made the twelve hundred-mile-plus trip alone. Why did I decide to do it with as few stops as possible? The only answer I can come up with is “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I did it. It was very much like a religious experience. In fact I think of it being much akin with a Muslim Hajj to Mecca. Like a Hajj, I think it was something most likely only to be experienced once.

I did however have quite a few epiphanies along the way. I learned a couple things about life and, well, about driving long distances. Let’s say, driving twelve hundred miles over the period of slightly more than twenty hours, kind of long distances. Stop only to get gas and relieve my biological function. Preferably at the same time, hey, I won’t even begin to talk about some of the country gas stations I saw along the way. You can thank me for that, and I’ll thank you for not asking me to elaborate further.

Anyway, here are some of the things I learned that I do wish to elaborate on:

1) Cruising along at 70 mph (the legal speed limit where I was I might add), any sudden changes to course trajectory can and will easily lead to a compact car being up on two wheels. Allow me to explain. Prior to embarking on my trip, I slept the entire day--quite literally, actually. I finally woke up around 11pm and was out on the road at midnight.

Over tiredness was not an issue, because, as it was I was quite refreshed. The issue was however, that it was dark and the road was not perfectly flat rendering it physically impossible for me to have seen the thing in the road that was about to make me panic, beforehand.

So, I haven’t been living in Florida for very much time in the scheme of things and to me, it feels like it has not been long at all. I keep telling myself the reason I haven’t met many friends down here is because I haven’t been here long, and not because I spend all my time sitting alone at home writing something, but I digress… Anyway, as an avid appreciator of all wildlife, and having known for some time that the South Florida climate was their home habitat, I have always wanted to see an armadillo.

I never wanted to see one like this, however--large and gray like a giant boulder, suddenly looming up before me in the middle of the road, mere feet ahead of my car. With no chance to break in time I hit them anyway and swerved my vehicle. That was a mistake, and leads me to,

2) If a poor dumb animal, creature, obstruction , or human ever suddenly appears out in front of your car while cruising at 70mph and with no time to break—HIT THE POOR DUMB BASTARD! I can’t stress that last part enough. And I meant it when I said I love wildlife. It always pains me to see dead animals, humans… meh.

But anyway, I swerved, and suddenly, my life was no longer in my control, my car was up on two wheels, I could tell by the way the road suddenly slanted in the view of my windshield, and I was driving towards the side of the highway, where fortunately a lot of trees were close at hand waiting to catch me.

Instinct, or panic, or some other mighty influence guided my hand as I cut the wheel the other way. Fortunately, I was already breaking, and I heard a loud thump below me as the road righted itself in my field of vision, but now, I was heading towards the big solid, median between the separate lanes of the highway.

I cut the wheel back again and the car straightened in the lane, albeit it was the complete opposite lane of where I had started, but it was straight and the view from my windshield was clear from any obstructions. I continued on my way, with the lesson well learned. Should something ever step out in front of my car again at 70mph, with no chance of breaking to save it, I will hit the poor dumb bastard head on. It’s either that, or risk serious injury.

I continued on my way, carefully finding my way back to 70mph. It was now 2am and I had only been driving for two hours. With over eighteen more to go, I realized I was off for a great start.
(To be continued…)

Has anyone else ever had a really interesting experience while on a road trip? How do you feel about road trips in general? Are they something that should always be avoided, or do you love them when the circumstances are correct? Would you be willing to spend twenty hours in a car alone?

Give me your thoughts so I can devour them like candy and respond as necessary. Does anyone else feel Halloween approaching or is it just me?


Elmer said...

I'll be driving from near Kansas City back to Fort Lauderdale in about a week. Looking forward to seeing the seasons change, so I'm taking a route that will bring me over the Appalachian mountains in NC.

With an iPod loaded with a bunch of podcasts that I usually don't have time to listen to, the time passes quite well.

Interesting story:

Sophomore year in college (1995) some friends and I decided to drive my buddy's converted Toyota van from Denver to Lauderdale for spring break. For some reason, we decided to do it in one shot, like your last trip. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. It ended up taking around 33 hours.

We left around 3pm, and by 6am the next morning we were several hours into the 12 hour trip across the width of Texas.

None of us had slept, and we had an assortment of contraband on board. Someone started to pass around a pipe. Next thing we know, the driver announces we are in the process of being pulled over. I peek out the shade covering the back window, and sure as shit there is a Texas Highway Patrolman right on our ass with his lights going.

Call it panic, but it was immediately decided to dispose of the contraband by the only means available: eating everything.

This included a week's worth of several different psychedelics (for 5 people) and an appropriately sized bag of cabbage (if you catch my drift). Somehow, we manage to do this with nothing but warm Sprite to help it go down.

After being pulled over, the officer (he was alone, luckily) stuck his nose in the driver's window and announced something smelled funny. Everyone out of the van.

Having fairly recently gone to jail outside Houston in a similar incident, I was now aware of the proper way to deal with the situation. Here's what happened.

We were all told to stand at the rear of the van. The driver was summoned by the officer to the front of the van and was getting grilled. The rest of us are listening from the back of the van.

Being a smart man, he denies having done anything illegal. At this point, the cop starts in with his well-rehearsed pitch.

"Is there anything illegal in the van you want to tell me about?"


"Then do you mind if I search it just to make sure?"

Here is where the driver starts to mishandle the situation. "Well, I don't see any reason to, but do you have to?"

At this point, I calmly, slowly approach the two and interject myself into the conversation. "What is the matter?" I ask.

Driver: "He wants to search the van."

Officer: "We had a report from another driver behind you that you were seen passing a joint around."

--continued in next comment--

Elmer said...

--continued from first comment--

Now, knowing full-well that while we had in fact been passing the pipe, we had been careful to close every shade on the van (it was designed with a bed in the back for camping, and it had shades on all the back windows).

Me: "Officer, we are all smokers. If someone did actually see us smoking anything, I can assure you it was nothing illegal."

Cop: "So you won't mind if I take a quick look inside then?"

Me: "I don't see how that is at all necessary."

Cop: "Are you refusing my request to search your vehicle?"

Me: "With all due respect, yes. Under no circumstances will we let you search our van."

Cop: "Well, how about I just arrest you and take you to the station while I get a warrant?"

Me: "Do what you have to do." I stick my arms out in front of me, wrists together, in a gesture that meant handcuff me.

Awkward pause. I look around and notice the others are now standing behind me, intently listening.

Cop: "I smelled something funny when I first pulled you over."

Driver: "Well I don't know what you smelled, but we have nothing illegal with us. We are on our way to Florida for Spring Break and are simply passing through Texas."

Cop: "I smelled something. Maybe you were burning incense?" He's backpedaling. I know we've got him beat at this point.

Now everyone with us is breaking out with random suggestions, like "I was putting on deodorant and some cologne, freshening up because we've been driving all night" and "I smoked a clove cigarette a short while ago."

Cop: "Well, I'm going to go ahead and let you get on your way, but if you DO have anything illegal in your van, try to be a little more discreet in the future."

We thanked him and got back on the road. About 45 minutes later everything we'd eaten started to kick in.

Luckily the driver was an expert at driving while impaired, and we made it to Lauderdale with no further problems.

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was a total blur.

AmberInGlass said...

Haha, I guess it would be a blur after all that. Thirty-three hours, that is a long drive.

Rebecca said...

cool story, one mroe thing, check out my Transylvania blog, you're in it!

Brian, the old man said...

I know exactly how you feel. I have had many long trips on the road in my life. One time when I was driving along in Florida in the middle of the night I fell asleep. Now I have fallen asleep at the wheel more times than I care to remember luckily without incident. As you know the roads are long, straight and flat in Florida. I was riding along with a friend of mine and he had fallen asleep in the passenger's seat and had been out for some time. I fell asleep and all of a sudden my friend woke up and yelled STOP! It had been raining and the roads were slick. I quickly awoke to his cries and saw the road coming to an end with a large stop sign and a caution sign the size of a small billboard dead ahead letting me know I must turn left or right. Of course I slammed on the brakes and we started spinning in circles. When we finally came to a stop we were on the other highway headed in the right direction. Thank God for small miracles. I enjoyed your story I look forward to hearing the rest of the story. hAv a Gr8 dAy!

AmberInGlass said...

Thanks for the shout at Rebecca, always appreciated.

Brian, thanks for sharing your story. I think yours was even more scary then mine. I too have nodded off at the wheel a few more times then I'd like to admit, and it was always frightening.

I used to drive small trucks for a living 6am-5pm or later. There were just sometimes when dozing was unavoidable. I'm definitely glad to hear your story ended without incident. For sure, thank God something was watching out for both of us. Things could have been much worse easily.

PrettySiren said...

Golly jeepers! That's why I never drive long distances alone. (That, and no one will let me -- overprotective family.)

And yes, by George, I feel All Hallows Eve is approaching rather too quickly. I like to savor October. It's usually my favorite month. (Except for that wreck I had last year...stupid rednecks and their driving down the wrong side of the road.)

Uninvoked said...

I hate long road trips, but I'd rather season myself with honey and throw myself in front of a bear's cave then take another train trip ever again. If I take another trip anywhere for work/play/whatever, it'll be in a plane or in a car.>_>

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