Things I Learned on the Drive

I recently drove back home to Virginia for Christmas. Why drive 13 hours instead of fly? One, Biddy is too big to take on the plane. Two, I can’t fly directly to Richmond, so counting the drive to the airport, security, two flights, the layover, and the drive home, it adds up to about 8 hours–and that’s with no delays.  I’d rather pack everything I want and be able to finish a book on tape than go through the whole flying rigmarole. Plus, driving gives me the flexibility to come and go as I please, which is helpful in this winter weather.

Every time I drive, I learn something new. Here’s what I learned this time around:

  1. Dragon Dictation is the best. I have an app on my iPhone that converts speech to text. When I drive, my mind wanders to a million different ideas, so having a way to “write” those ideas so I don’t lose them is crucial to my sanity.
  2. I like the smell of skunk. At least, I’m intrigued by it. I wouldn’t seek it out, but whenever it hits me on the drive, I think, “Hey, that’s interesting.”
  3. Fish and chips is a bad choice. I stopped in Louisville for the greatest fish and chips in the world at the Irish Rover. However, I learned rather quickly that fish and chips is not a good driving food. I had grease all over myself within about two seconds.
  4. Tolls suck. West Virginia and Virginia are peppered with tolls. St. Louis is not. I’d much rather pay for roads through my taxes than having to pull over and hand someone money every few miles. (Sidenote: Wouldn’t tolls be so much better if you could get something in return, like a candy bar or a frappocino? Tolls should partner with Starbucks.)
  5. There’s no shame in unbuckling your pants. This is akin to taking off your shoes on the plane. You don’t realize how uncomfortable you were until you just do it. I might start to do this on shorter drives too. Seriously, try it.
  6. Feel free to follow me. Isn’t it nice when someone follows you at a safe distance on the highway at the exact same speed that you’re driving? It’s like finding your highway soulmate.
  7. Taking naps on long drives is okay, but make sure to pull over before you do so. I had never taken a nap on a long drive before, but maybe I’m getting old, because I had to on this drive. I was so groggy both ways until I finally succumbed and pulled over for a nap at a rest stop. A 30-minute power nap makes a huge difference. 20 percent of all car accidents are related to tired drivers, so do yourself a favor and take a nap. Eating loud foods like carrots can also help snap you awake after the nap.
  8. Soon our cars will drive themselves on the highway. Our cars already have this miraculous thing called cruise control. Some cars can park themselves now, and others can detect animals, people, or obstructions on the road ahead. And Google maps their Google Earth software with autonomous cars. I predict that we’ll start to see cars that drive themselves on the highway as soon as 2015, and the technology will be widespread by 2020. It’ll be longer before cars can drive themselves in complex urban environments, but on a straight stretch of road for miles on end? Your car can take care of that.

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Here's Biddy about three minutes after getting home.