I initially commented on Melanie Bee Cee’s site (http://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com/author/embeecee/) but decided to transfer my comment to the host site as well. This quick writing prompt is hosted by: Sunday Writing Prompt – Driving – 24th January | Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie (wordpress.com). Forgot about the ping back…duh.

I’ve had a love for driving starting about age 13-14 when my uncle taught me how to drive his big International grain truck around his wheat fields. It was a 5-speed manual shift on the floor with second range which made it basically a 10 speed transmission. First or creeper gear was really low – you couldn’t go twenty yards before having to shift gears. You might have gotten to the blazing speed of 5-10 MPH. But, there was a reason for it. As my uncle combined his wheat, he taught me to drive along side the combine and allow him to offload the hopper while he kept moving. It saved him time by not having to physically stop to do it. Where I grew up in Ohio, it wasn’t uncommon for most, if not all, farm kids to learn to drive in a similar manner. It might be a farm truck, or it more than likely would be a tractor to do plowing, moving or some other task.

When I turned 16, I took my driver’s test in northern Indiana…in a blizzard, and past. The guy giving the test told me I would have to drive in it as a licensed driver, so why not take my test in it. Strangely, when we moved back to Ohio that same summer, I failed the Ohio drivers test! Oh, the hurt! 😂 My hometown in Indiana did not have one-way streets, so obviously I never drove on them or had to turn onto one. The area around my new home towns drivers test center was ringed with one-way streets. I failed because I turned onto them as if they were two way streets rather than one way. I should have turned into the closest lane to me, rather than the far lane as I normally did. The cop (an Ohio State Trooper) was sort of a smart ass, telling me I was lucky to not have gotten a ticket as I was way past the 30 day period in which I was to transfer my license. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had already been stopped for speeding by the local city cop’s.

After I got married, my preacher, in-laws moved across the state (Ohio), and we made the three hour drive to visit about once a month – me at the wheel. I’m one of those people that can visualize the route in my head and almost know by instinct where to go. I’ve had people draw me maps to get to their homes or someplace special and then have lost the map or thrown it away. When wife 1.0 would ask me if I knew how to get to that place, I always said, “Yes, they drew me a map.” To which she replied, “Let me see it.” To which I replied, “I don’t have it any more.” Round one of the fight commenced shortly thereafter. She hated to go someplace without a physical map or written instructions on how to get there. If I got there once, it was burned in my mind how to do it again.

However, she was as dense as a glacier when I came to directions. One month she decided to take the girls and go to her parents by herself. I was working mandatory 7 days a week over time, and couldn’t get off work. Mind you, we had made this trip probably a dozen times to this point. She made it to her folks house after a couple of wrong turns, but finally arrived okay. When it came time to come home, she couldn’t find her way out of town! She had to go back to her parents and get her dad to make her a map with written directions. Of course my girls were taking all of this in, and were told to NOT tell dad about it. That was the first thing they did when they walked into the house. “Dad, mom couldn’t find her way out of Greenville.” That might not have gotten the reaction it did, if they hadn’t been laughing so hard when they told me. Kids.

In the early 80’s, wife 1.0 and I were host parents for a 16-18 yr. old, Babe Ruth tournament in our home town. Local parents agreed to take 2-3 boys from each team into their homes, as part of their families, for as long as that team won its games. When they were knocked out of the tournament, they were sent home. We had three 17 year old boys in our house, with my oldest daughter having just turned 16 and gotten her drivers license.

Our boys were from Cape Cod, MA. As per the rules of the tournament, they stayed in our homes, had to abide by our rules, were not allowed to drive, and had to make sure we knew where the were at all times. Since they couldn’t drive, my daughter had to act as chauffer for these guys. I don’t think she minded it a bit, even if they were ornery at times. She had to make sure they got to practice on time, and then pick them up afterwards.

Most of their parents were in town for the games, but were not allowed to see their boys without permission from the host parents and the tournament rules – everything had to be coordinated. To make things easier, we host parents scheduled a couple of get togethers for both parents and players so we all got to know each other pretty well. It was a great experience for us.

That thanksgiving after the tournament we were invited up to the Cape for a big thank you party for the host parents. Thru PA, it rained cats and dogs the whole way – wore my ass out! We spent a couple days with the families of the boys we kept and then attended the big banquet for everyone. Coming home, my oldest daughter asked if she could drive. I had a hard time saying yes to letting her drive on the PA Turnpike, but decided she had to learn sometime.

All went well until it started raining again – buckets of it. She had gotten in a line of semi-trucks and the mist coming off of them was like driving in fog. She was smart enough to back off from the one in front of her to reduce the mist, but it was still very hard to see. She asked if she could pass the truck. Gulp! My heart skipped a beat. If I were driving, yes, I would have passed the truck. But letting her pass was not in my comfort zone. I finally said okay, and told her to put her signal on and wait until I told her to go – then put your boot into it and get around as fast as possible. We pulled it off and a few more miles down the road it finally quit raining. By that time I was soaked with sweat from anxiety – she picked a helluva time to want to drive, but she had to learn sometime.

My last two big trips were moving my mom from South Bend to San Diego with us. Wife 2.0 and I, flew one way to SB, loaded her stuff in a moving van; loaded her car with us and took off for San Diego via Montana. Took 8 days but what a trip. My wife loves to travel and we stopped several places along the way to sight see. Our first little side tour was of Chicago as I had been there many times on business trips. I showed her and mom some of the famous places in town before heading off to Wisconsin and points beyond.

We stopped to see Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills; we stopped to see the new Crazy Horse sculpture being worked on; we stopped at the Custer Battle field; and spent some time in Yellowstone before finally heading south towards LA. We stopped there long enough to see our kids before going on to San Diego. It took a full day longer than I had anticipated and cut out my day of rest before going back to work. But it was worth it.

The best for last…I was a contract programmer for the last 15 years of my career. The last item on my bucket list was to work for Boeing in Seattle. For me, that was the ultimate contract job. I had worked for many Boeing sub-contractors or as they call them, tier one suppliers, but never for the home company in a direct fashion. It was the icing on the cake and a fitting send off for a 50+ year working career.

When asked if I wanted a job there, “Hell, yes!”, came to mind. It was a tough decision due to my mom living with us (in her 90’s). My wife wanted to come with me but we couldn’t take mom and we couldn’t leave her by herself. All of the options we considered just would not work, except for one. After much discussion, my wife agreed to stay; take care of mom; and I would go alone.

I made the 2200 mile drive by myself from Arlington, TX thru New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and finally Washington. I broke it up over four days. Along the way, I listen to a language course from Pimmsler – a brush up on my German. I took two years of it in high school but never had anyone to speak to, and eventually lost it. I was hoping I could pick it back up if I immersed myself in it with no one else around. I was certainly alone, driving across our western states. I began to notice that rest stops were few and far between – 70 to 100 miles. Gas stations were even farther apart which made me pay very critical attention to my gas gauge. When it hit the 1/2 full line, I started looking for a gas station.

I also worried about emergency response way out in the middle of no where. I found many places with dead cell phone signals – miles and miles of it. Going across Wyoming there were 70-80 mile stretches with no towns of any consequence. In Idaho, there were miles of huge farms but no towns. I did stop at one place for gas that called itself, “The gas station in the middle of no where.” And it was. After getting gas, it was 78 miles to the next sign of civilization. If one had a medical emergency, or a traffic accident, or mechanical failure of some sort, it would be a very long wait for help of any kind. That part really bothered me.

Coming home when my contract was up, I did it in three days – almost a mistake, but I couldn’t wait to get home and retire. My first days drive was from Puyallup, WA where I had my apartment and about 50 miles south of Seattle, to Twin Falls, ID. That’s a 630 mile jaunt in one day. I normally figure an average of 60 miles an hour although I do drive faster than that. At that rate it was a 10-11 hour day on the road. Not excessive, but really tiring to say the least.

The next leg I really pushed myself, going from Twin Falls, ID to Pueblo, CO – a whopping 805 miles in one day. By the same calculation, that turned into a 13-14 hour day on paper. When I got to Denver, traffic was horrendous. There were four accidents on south bound I-25 as I would discover as I drove south. At one point, I called the hotel to let them know I would be very late for my reservation – just to make sure I had a room. My head hit the pillow that night and I was out instantly – clothes and all.

The last day from Pueblo, CO to Arlington, TX was another 670 miles, a 12-13 hour day. It might have been shorter by a few minutes, but I was feeling the affects of the previous two days and started stopping more often to rest, walk around, do anything to stay alert. I was anxious to get home after my nine month stay in Washington. When I finally got home around 9:00 PM that night, I told my wife I was retiring immediately – I was a happy camper for her helping me achieve my last hoorah at Boeing. I owed her big time.

I wrote a diary of sorts along the way…maybe I’ll turn it into something one of these days. Now that I’m retired, and with the “bug” being around, my driving is limited to grocery shopping and doctor appointments. Maybe my wife and I will take a road trip after the bug leaves. Who knows?

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Sunday Writing Prompt – Driving – 24th January | Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie (wordpress.com)

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