One of the thrills of learning how to drive is the newly found independence once you have your provisional operator’s permit or your full license. What I’d like to talk about in this post is my experience with my longest solo drives in increasing order.
Since I learnt to drive in Lincoln, my first non-Lincoln solo drive was naturally to Omaha… well, the Metro. In late February 2005, I drove to Papillion-LaVista South High School on my own. I watched my Knights lose to Omaha North in the district final basketball game, but nevertheless the Knights got an at-large bid to state. I remember that game well, and the drive was easy. I know that Mom and Dad were worried about me, but I obviously called them when I got to PLVS. When I got back home, I saw a clip of myself from the crowd on TV, as I gained notoriety for my Superfan outfit.
Since then, solo drives to Omaha from Lincoln became routine–whether to see family, go to Pokemon tournaments, or to go to Nebraska sporting events on the road or in tournaments.
My next long solo drive took me out of the state of Nebraska–but it wasn’t until December 2007. I wanted to go to a City Championship Pokemon TCG tournament in Overland Park, at Collector’s Cache, which I had been to twice before as a passenger with Leaguers from Lincoln. This time, I was on my own, and I used a GPS to help get me there. I wouldn’t need the GPS again, since one time generally burns it into my mind.
A three-hour drive I would ordinarily easily do without stopping, but I made a few bathroom and sanity stops, due to the unfamiliarity of the route (in terms of my own driving). The stop which was most salient was the rest area just south of Rock Port, but I’m not sure why that sticks out to me. In some sense, I felt it was unnecessary, but sometimes, you just want to smell the flowers.
After I won that tournament and had dinner with my cousin Michael, I returned home that same night and all was well. That was a fun time, and I’m glad I went!
Then, in March of that year, I drove to Ames for the Iowa State Championships for Pokemon. I started with a 2-0 record in that tournament, and then things went downhill–go figure. On the return drive, I listened to Star 102.5 and they had an 80s request show, just like the Ultimate 80’s Request Party. Thus, part of the drive was enhanced while I was in the listening area of Des Moines.
Once I got into grad school in 2009, I didn’t have a car in Evanston, so solo drives were few and far between. I did take out a Zipcar a few times to go to Pokemon League and/or tournaments, but that was a fairly rare occurrence.
After I defended in 2015, I took out a rental car for the first time, in order to drive to Menomonie to interview at UW-Stout. (Definitely more important than a Pokemon tournament or a sporting event.) The GPS took me on a strange, tortuous route via Lake Geneva and US-12 and county roads, spitting me out near Madison, rather than taking me on I-94 through Milwaukee. Nevertheless, the drive was easy as I listened to music from nearby radio stations, stopped at a Culver’s at DeForest (just north of Madison) for custard, and arrived in Menomonie in good time. And the interview the next day was successful!
So, after not doing much driving, I put in a 6-hour solo drive. Not too bad!
Several more solo drives between Chicagoland and Menomonie followed in the following weeks, and during my time in Menomonie, it was perfectly normal for me to drive solo between Menomonie and either Eau Claire or the Twin Cities.
Then, in March 2016, I drove back to Nebraska for spring break. From Eau Claire, I drove to Fort Dodge for a stop-over. The excellent reason: I stayed with family friends that I hadn’t seen since 2009! The next day involved a Memory-Lane drive through Fort Dodge, an unfamiliar drive down a freeway-style part of US-20 which was not there in 2009, and the favorite towns in rural Iowa, including Odebolt, Denison, and Dunlap.
The return drive to Menomonie, however, was a full-afternoon-and-full-evening affair. I did the thing in one fell swoop (though I did have two bathroom breaks and one gas break). Thus, my longest solo drive was now on the order of 8 hours…
…until March 2017 when my drives from Kenosha to Omaha, and then Lincoln to Kenosha, which each took over 9.25 hours! Whoo!
One of these days, I might have to attempt a solo drive that would be 10+ hours. But, for now, I’m a little travel-weary. I’ll stick to Chicagoland or Lake Geneva or Milwaukee for a while.
פסח: ו’ ימים (Passover: 6 days)
ארץ ישראל: ס”א ימים (Israel: 61 days)