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.

Also, head over to Blank Slate Press to check out the pre-order form for our first novel.

Here's Biddy about three minutes after getting home.

25 Responses to “Things I Learned on the Drive”

  1. ms says:

    I am told that it is not a good night sleep that is needed for optimal experience in giving blood, but rather drink lots of water. I am off to ‘give blood, in a few days.

  2. Ariel says:

    oh no – did they take too much blood. It’s 12:30!

  3. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Don’t worry, I made it! Just had to get some work done before finalizing the post. And yes, I agree that drinking water is the most important part of giving blood. It’s also key to be well-rested and eat iron-rich foods the night before.

  4. T-Mac says:

    It’s funny that you mention cars that drive themselves. In the past week, I have had 2 separate conversations about this. It would revolutionize road trips is you coud just get in your car at night, go to sleep, and wake up only occasionally to pump gas. I predicted that we’d have fully functional door-to-door driving service from a car by 2030.

  5. ms says:

    regarding unzipping your pants. Imagine the view a trucker gets? Maybe that is how they stay awake on long drives?

  6. Gabby says:

    That dragon Dictation sound awesome, I think about so many cool things on drives and then try and remember after, always unsuccessfully. Napping is always a good idea, but try 5 hour energy if you are getting too tired, it tastes like hell, but wakes you up immediately. Lastly, comfort while driving is imperative, I prefer wearing nice comfy basketball shorts and a T-shirt, baggy shorts are also a necessity if you plan to save time by peeing in a bottle.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      First you have to get a smartphone, then you can get the Dragon app. But yes, it’s awesome, and free.

      I’ve never tried the peeing-in-a-bottle thing–I’m worried I’ll end up spraying urine all over my car.

  7. Stefanie says:

    I always like when another vehicle keeps pace with me when traveling. Thanks for giving me a name for it!

  8. Katie says:

    I think the Dragon Dictation app is cool, but I find their commercials a little offensive (and I’m not someone who takes offense to too many things). It shows men using it for high-powered business meetings and things of that nature, and women using it for grocery lists or other domestic duties. I know it’s a piddly little thing, but it kind of irks me whenever I see it advertised.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Interesting. I hadn’t seen that commercial. Do people who make commercials think that men don’t go grocery shopping?

  9. Joe Lessard says:

    hey jamey
    i have been reading your blog for over a year. i am so sad i missed you a chrismas but the snow got in the way. i did not know that biddy was coming also i would have enjoyed meeting since i already seems i know from your blog. have a great day, maybe i will get to meet biddy next year. i also think biddy needs his own blog so he can tell us all about how he has to put up with you.
    yours truly,
    uncle joe

    • ms says:

      I good thought — a Biddy Blog. Seems fair enough to me. He has the thoughts – but does he need a ‘ghost writer’?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Hey Joe, thanks so much for reading, and sorry we missed you at Christmas. I like the idea about a Biddy Blog (as does MS, below). The problem is that Biddy is pretty verbose–he has a lot to say on a variety of topics, including his food, water, toys, and sleep spots. I try to keep my blog entries under 400 words, and Biddy would consistently exceed that. He also refuses to be edited. But I’ll talk to him about it to see what he says.

  10. acooperfan says:

    Quick comment on #4. Tolls are there mostly so the truckers and truck companies pay for using that state’s highways. Missouri doesn’t have them, so guess what? It has been voted one of the 10 states with the worst highways in US (by truckers, mind you). Maybe its because we are not making money off the people who use them so we can repair them.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Ah, interesting–you are wise to think of the truckers. That hadn’t occurred to me. Although, couldn’t there be a more efficient way? You could probably add trucker tolls without changing the roads at all–just put EZ Pass scanners on select overpasses and require truckers to have the EZ Pass in their truck.

  11. Bryce says:

    Re: Tolls

    I’m really surprised by your take on tolls. I think tolls are the greatest form of tax there is. Shouldn’t the people that use the road be the people that pay for the road? Doesn’t it just make sense? Why should someone without a car, for example, have their tax money go to roads that they do not use. I think that all roads should be funded solely through gas taxes and tolls (and taxes on bus tickets and other things that use the road). That way if you use the road you pay for it and if you don’t you don’t. The voluntary tax is always the best.

    ps. If you are scared of getting attacked in the shower at your own home, how are you not terrified of sleeping at a rest stop?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      You know, that’s a really good point. I would prefer if people paid for the exact infrastructure they use. Tolls do that quite well. However, I think they could it with less inconvenience. In truth, we’re moving towards that point. But I think it should just be standard for all cars to come with an RFID chip that can identify the card and charge you tolls as you drive around. In fact, I wonder if someday these will be everywhere. Every time you drive on any block, you’ll get charged a micro toll for using the street. I’m guessing there could be some negative repercussions to that too, though.

      There were plenty of people around at the rest stop. I just fell asleep on top of the Pepsi machine–it was fine.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Also, that makes me think–Do some rest stops have places where you can sleep? Tiny pay-per-use, self-cleaning pods so you can lay down for a while. I could see people abusing these–using them as super cheap hotels or for sex–but maybe there are ways to prevent that. I mean, Europe has plenty of self-cleaning bathrooms that charge you to use them, and it seems to work for them.

    • The Gourmez says:

      But to say we should only pay taxes on the services we each individually use is not to recognize that we live in a society that depends on more than our personal needs to exist. Perhaps I don’t drive often, but I sure need that truck to be able to get to the store and supply me with groceries. I don’t have children, but I recognize that I had a public education that gave me a great education and I want the generations younger than me to be smart enough not to run the country to the ground, so I can perhaps, count on them to see to my needs when I no longer can.

      Tax debates aside, “Tolls should partner with Starbucks” might be the most brilliant idea ever. Work on those pitches, Jamey.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Becca–Great, great point. I don’t think it works in every situation (i.e., you might benefit from the shade caused by the tree in your neighbor’s yard, but that doesn’t mean you’re responsible for that tree), but it certainly works in some cases.

        I’m glad you like the Starbucks idea. I could even see different corporations sponsoring different tollbooths. Get your Starbucks at one, your Auntie Anne’s at another, etc. With all these new app cars coming out, you could probably place your order when you’re 5 minutes away from the toll so it wouldn’t cause much of a slowdown when you get there.

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