Saturday, March 15, 2014

Learning to Drive

The back story of the route I ran this morning while visiting my parents.  

One summer day in 1981, I was 14, my mother, with a cooler of beer, handed me the truck keys and said you are learning to drive.  Oh ok.  (her recollection of events was that I nearly knocked her down grabbing the truck keys out of her hands, probably true *smirk*)  She said the beer was for her nerves because she remembered learning how to drive her father’s roofing truck and it was stressful, and maybe if he had a beer or two it wouldn't have been so stressful for her.  And off we went...

I’d driven tractors so I got the whole steering and breaking thing down.  Clutches and gears function a little differently.  When you switch into a gear you just drop the clutch and go. Not like the whole easing thing with a vehicle.  I understood the shifting/clutch feet/hands doing different things at the same time concept from the few times my brothers let me ride their mini or dirt bikes.  I suppose if I hadn’t fed them so many mud pies they may have let me ride a bit more?

Anyhoodles, with a sigh my mother plopped her cooler on the floor, sat down, pulled out a beer, cracked it open and began to explain the concept of easing the gas down and letting the clutch up slowly and off we’d go around the farm.  Yeah, there was a lot of stalling, a bit of peeling out, and eventually, maybe three beers in I got the concept and she was laughing, which is better than yelling any day in my book.  

Around and around the farm I went the first few weeks, stopping and starting, the hardest part of driving a stick. Shifting up and down.  My brothers would sit in the pick-up bed from time to time and my mother’s beer consumption became less and less.  Then the big challenge came. My father mowed a narrow figure 8 in a grassy field and my challenge was to drive it frontwards, oh really, come on, and backwards and if I missed a turn they could see where I drove over the grass.  This field now contains trees.  I was pretty damn good at frontwards.  Backwards, took some work to get to perfection.  Parallel parking was taught in between metal 55 gallon drums.  Not a skill you need in farm country, however eventually this would come in handy.

So that was my summer fun in between babysitting the children from hell, pulling nails, and picking rocks.  Seriously, two boys, the devils spawn I’m sure.  Sweetest parents in the world too… Ok so the dad was a little scary looking, only because he was like 6’6” tall and 300 lbs, I swear he would pick up his pick-up and shake it out to clean it, totally not a scary acting person.  So yeah, I blocked a lot of the experiences, when I do have the chance to catch up with their mother, she enjoys reminding me of her favorite recap:  the one where I explained Bart (no seriously, his name was Bart) was running around with a lit blow torch.  To this day I do not remember that day or conversation. Actually I don’t remember too many of the experiences, probably best.  I am happy to report Bart is the father of two beautiful girls who are full of trouble and are going to give him a run for his money when they are teenagers.  His wife?  She is sweet as pie and I have no doubt she can put Bart in his place when necessary.  Matt, the older, and slightly wiser, was a quiet kid, still waters run deep?  His ‘weapon’ was his hockey stick and puck and two very fast legs that would allow him to escape after nailing Bart with one or the other. 

The next summer was driver’s ed, and my mom taking me out on the back roads.  Midwest grid straight roads are good for driving, but not learning to navigate curves.  I was going to slow on curves, so my mother encouraged me to go just a little faster.  Oh OK.  So along the curve in Neblo (the 'curvy' road in my Strava map) I didn't let up on the gas as much or apply the brake as much.  We caught some loose stones and spun around once maybe twice and ended up in a corn field.  No, my mother didn’t spill her beer, thankfully.  We got out of the truck.  Seemed like the thing to do.  Mr. Klankee came out to see what was going on and laughed, and said, well at least the corn wasn’t growing great in that spot so you didn’t take out too much.  HA!  My mother said, well get in and drive us out of here.  OK, so that’s what I did.  Back on to the road, and back home.  She didn’t take me out on hard top roads till I actually had my learners permit.  Just bend the rules, don’t break them.

Boring to look at however lots of memories on and off those roads!

Why did I learn to drive so early?  Well my parents were sick and tired of the endless trips to drop off or pick up one of the three of us and hoped I could get a licence at 15.   They live on a different planet sometimes...   

Driving to me to this day is the ultimate freedom.  Sure it is annoying when people don’t use lanes properly or are distracted when they drive.  All in all being able to pack up the car and just go is my ultimate vacation.  To drive from RI to CA in a convertible during the summer is something I lust for. Dave would prefer to just get to the destination.  Suppose he will fly while I drive?  To be able to go anywhere and stop anywhere and explore what’s not to love?

The run was good.  It was a combination of mud, ice, snow, and slush.  It was nice to see a friendly face and the childhood homes of many of my friends.  The last 3 miles were all into the wind, ugh. I was ready to be done, for sure.  Sitting for 14 hours yesterday one would think I'd be ready to move move move...  not so much.

Beth, with a little glimpse into the past.

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