Driving Then And Now

by farrah on May 15, 2012 · 16 comments


On a recent Friday night I left home and drove 3 hours to Charleston, South Carolina. Three delicious hours in a car with no one but myself for company. Ah… blissful memories of my youth.

I used to drive all the time. When I was in my late-teens /early twenties I looked for excuses to hit the road for hours upon hours. Something about driving clears your mind- frees you- and allows you to be in the moment of your thoughts. Alone. The repetitive white and yellow lines zoning you out of what ails- and into what heals. I clearly remember chain smoking and listening to bad pseudo-punk mix tapes on many of my drives and existing in that frozen space. I cherished them. Deep down I knew that someday this precious escape was going to be gone and the idea of ‘just driving’ an impossible impracticality.  One thing was for certain- I always, always had an epiphany, an adventure, or a catastrophe on each trip.

My first taste of a long solo drive was as freshly graduated 1994 senior in high school. I left a party at midnight in Detroit- and attempted the 35 minute trip back home. It turned into an 8 hour, 300 mile detour. I tried to figure it out, but I ended up stopping at 24 gas stations for directions. I pulled into my parents’ driveway at 7 in the morning. I had been lost and driving aimlessly- missing my exits for nearly 8 hours. I saw dawn. Eventually I told my parents and they weren’t as furious as they were shocked. My father sat me down and gave me a hard, long lesson on how to read a map.

My subsequent and most frequent drives were to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I loved the challenge of that drive.  Eight hours of pure highway, a bridge- and one freaky 26 mile stretch of nothing but a razor straight piece of road called the ‘Seney Stretch’. Once, on this ‘Stretch’ in the middle of the night I was driving along the dark and empty road. Suddenly I came upon a figure in the middle of the highway waving his arms frantically. I freaked out.  A few yards down was a car with only its parking lights on, blinking around the head of a huge buck.

(Thanks to Jdonelson80 for his YouTube video of The Stretch. Yes, it’s this for almost 30 miles. The Dead in the background is typical too!).

There were other drives I took as well- the longest one moved me out to Montana. That was a 32 hour trip broken up over a couple of days. I stopped at the Corn Palace in South Dakota and hope that it’s still there. If you ever get the chance..SEE IT.

While I lived in Montana I drove to Las Vegas once for New Year’s.  We left at 11pm for the 12 hour drive. In the middle of Idaho at 3 in the morning I hit a great horned owl.  It was awful and I felt so guilty- and my poor little Isuzu Rodeo had one dented in radiator from that impact.

Eventually I drove back to the Midwest. I was in no hurry to return- but life needed to be lived and I couldn’t dilly dally forever. I met my husband soon afterward and my solo traveling days were done.  My singlehood and solitary time was over, and I can’t say that I was sad to see it go.  It wasn’t until we had our boys though that ‘road trips’ have taken on a completely different meaning. We drive from South Carolina to Michigan at least once a year and I dread being in the car the weeks leading up to the trip. The packing, the stress, the fighting- there is no joy- no peace- no oneness with the road. It’s now all about ‘GETTING THERE’– while keeping other people happy and playing DVDs to keep the peace. Nothing like the solitary and cathartic cruises up interstate 75 of years gone by.

It was funny though- because for a few brief hours that Friday I recaptured those free and solitary feelings. True, I had to wear glasses because I couldn’t read the signs like I used to- and I haven’t chain smoked in years. But I was free again. I was 20 again. I could drive all night if I wanted to. And through my mind actually ran the thought that if the ocean wasn’t there to stop me- I might just keep on going.


Did you ever ‘just drive’? Where did you go?


read to be read at yeahwrite.me

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 just keep swimming May 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I personally drove cross country 2 times. Once from Florida to California and from California to Maryland. My husband also made cross country trips. I love the idea of us showing the kids the United States in our minivan, but he is done with all that driving and happiest at home. Maybe when the kids are older he’ll be easier to convince because to me road trips are a rite of passage.


2 farrah May 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Isn’t it such a romantic notion? Our dream is to have an RV and travel the country someday with the boys- I mean, I don’t know what’s more expensive- the gas in an RV or 5 tickets to Disney? And you are SO right- they are a right of passage!


3 Angela Shelton May 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Love just driving! I’ve been across the USA 27 times to prove it. This was a great reminder too, thanks. I love getting lost on roads I’ve never been on. Although I am a map queen. 🙂


4 farrah May 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

27 times is beyond impressive! I’m curious what you listen to all that way?


5 Brianne May 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Hubs and I both had the same job out of college where we were paid to travel the US in a minivan and work for the government. The trips we got to take together were the best. I’ve seen so many amazing things. I can’t wait to show Bugs the corn palace and eat a burger and milkshake from Culvers or In and Out, etc. There is nothing like driving mulitple times across the country to find out where the best and worst places are at.

And the one thing I learned, no matter where you’re at, MLK Blvd seems to be the dividing line between good and bad areas. Why, I have no idea but its true. Ah the days of Mapquest! LOL!


6 farrah May 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm

That sounds awesome- I think Andy and I would have had some pretty great times together driving, driving driving. Instead we will most likely end up National Lampoons style across Europe I’m sure!

Corn Palace is a MUST SEE! Forget Mt. Rushmore!


7 Missy | Literal Mom May 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I used to like driving a lot more before I had kids and it was just my husband and I on a road trip! Now, when he and I get to drive somewhere by ourselves for more than 30 minutes, it’s like a little slice of heaven!


8 farrah May 16, 2012 at 12:29 am

I know the feeling- I really, really do. Come to think of it- I cannot tell you the last time we did that! Oh that’s just sad.


9 Write Rinse Repeat May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Ah, I love to “just drive”. Its been so long since I just drove. I’ve got some “getting lost” to do.
Great post.


10 farrah May 16, 2012 at 12:30 am

Thank you! I hope you get out there for both of us.


11 Kathleen May 16, 2012 at 1:00 am

Great post! I too love the solitary drive. I drove to Saugatuck a few years ago to meet a friend and enjoyed every minute of it. I actually listened to some Echo and the Bunnymen and got a little choked up in my nostalgia.

The family roadtrips get more fun, and far less trying, as the kids get older. Our trip to Yellowstone from Chicago was outstanding — one that we and the kids won’t forget, for sure.


12 farrah May 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

I really look forward to that with the boys- and yes- by that age they won’t forget it. I still remember the trip to Texas for that wedding and I was only 6. Good times!


13 Mayor Gia May 17, 2012 at 2:29 am

Wowza, I never drove that much! I’ve never gone more than like 3 hours by myself. I’m a rookie, I guess 😛


14 jennie May 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Yea I used to love to drive! Now my Monday commute 3 hours round trip kill me. But this Monday I will try and regain some of my youthful free loving driving back! Thanks for the inspiration!


15 Kristin May 18, 2012 at 3:25 am

I miss driving for hours. I used to drive back home from college, and those empty country roads were PERFECT for singing at the top of my lungs to music no one else wanted to hear. Awesome feeling.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: