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On Learning to Drive, Part 2

Car driver
We had an old Rambler, but I learned to drive with Mom’s Buick Electra 225. It was a big car and I was not a fan of traffic. Even though I managed to handle the car in Akron traffic, getting my license became less important. I was dating a lot at the time, so I had lots boyfriends who did the driving. There was one dreamboat Dave who drove a baby blue Camaro that matched his baby blue eyes. We ended up best friends rather than boyfriend and girlfriend, but I digress.

My brother ran around with his good friend who drove a Crazy Grape ‘Cuda. There were no ‘cool’ cars in our driveway.

My best friend, Cindy lived only a few houses away had the keys to her mother’s Firebird, so we often went tooling around town on Friday night. Cindy was not a great driver, but I never told my parents that.

Someday I will write the story of my mother’s illness, but not today. In all that chaos, however, I never went to get my license. I joined the Air Force, got married and discharged, gave birth to my daughter, got a divorce, moved to Alaska and eventually remarried. All in the span of seven years. That was a lot of living in a short span of time.

My then husband was in the Air Force. After my son was born, my husband was eventually sent TDY (temporary duty) which found me with two children and no driver’s license. Before he left, I finally – 7 years later – went to take the test for my license. I passed with flying colors.

The first time I would drive alone, was after taking my then husband to the airport. I drove back to the Air Force base alone, with a toddler and a baby in the car. I was scared to death, but somehow things went ok.

A few days later, I loaded my children into their carseats and drove to one of the small Exchange stores on the base. I parked the car away from everyone so getting out of my parking spot would be easier. Imagine my surprise when I walked outside to see a huge motorhome smashed into our car.

It seems the woman driving parked on a bit of a hill and did not engage the parking brake. I am not sure if she left the vehicle in gear, but it had rolled down the hill into my car. Luckily, the motorhome gathered little speed, but it still damaged the car.

I was so naive. I knew nothing about insurance, who to call, what to do about estimates. I called a man who worked with my husband and he came to my aid, suggesting a place to take the car for repairs. Luckily the damage was not bad and the car was drivable.

I hardly recognize that young woman who was me. Dependent, vulnerable and too soft spoken. It is odd to look back and see ourselves in reflection. I have a fondness for that 25 year old young girl, but I’m glad she grew up and found her voice.

In the years to come, I would become a road warrior, taking many road trips between Maine and Virginia and between Florida and the Carolinas. I have had my share of unfortunate events while on the road, but I managed to work through them without much commotion. Lessons learned, I guess.

19 thoughts on “On Learning to Drive, Part 2”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, I didn’t pass my test until I was 38yrs, it took me eight tests, lots of nerves and tears but I got there in the end ….I wished I could of done it sooner life really opened up.
    Here is one of my favourite driving tunes.

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    1. It is interesting how different an individual experience can be, Willow. (I like the song, too.) This is my favorite road song:

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    1. It does take a bit of conditioning to find our comfort level on the road. I have never made the trip cross country. I have done the Maine to Alaska and Alaska to Virginia trip, but it was not me driving alone. Road trips can be such a good experience, although the number of semis on the roads can be daunting.

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    1. My brother reminded me my Dad had a maroon station wagon but I do not remember driving it. Maybe once when my Dad asked me to move the car and I hit a stop sign. 😁 Whoops. 🙄

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    1. Dan, it was not the best scenario after only having had my license for such a short period of time. But somehow, things always work out in the end.

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  2. Years ago I had a brand new little Toyota Tercel, just right for my life as a single mom. I came out of the grocery store to find it totaled. Blessedly a lot of people had seen a motor home crush my little car and had written down the information. I sent the police out and they cited the people who apparently never even knew they had done it! Their insurance restored my car, but it never felt so special again.

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  3. This blog brought back many memories, but I will limit myself to mentioning only one.

    I grew up in the backwoods of northern Arkansas, on a dirt road five miles from the nearest highway. When learning to drive, I was paralyzed with a fear of hitting and killing an animal with my car: a deer, a dog, even a squirrel. Those animals are fast runners and can appear in front of a car without warning.

    One day I was driving, with Mom in the passenger seat. I saw ahead a large turtle moseying across the road. I proceeded, in the car, toward the turtle. Then I heard the sickening crush of my tire running over the animal. I was heartbroken.

    “Why did you run over that poor turtle?” Mom asked.

    “I was trying to straddle it,” I said, through tears. “I don’t know where my wheels are!”

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    1. Oh, Debbie, that must have been awful! It does take time to get your bearings when learning to drive. It is very different driving in a more undeveloped area where animals roam freely. In Alaska, it was not uncommon to encounter moose along the roadways – and since it was against the law (and common sense) to approach them, it was one of the few valid excuses for arriving late to work.

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