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Driving Lessons

March 9, 2008

Picture of a corolla dashboardI drove home a few nights ago in one of the worst driving conditions that I can ever remember driving in. Now, I’ve driven in adverse conditions before. I once drive home, overnight, from the finger lakes in New York, on winding roads, in a fog so dense you would not believe, and some other very notable times, like the day I drove to work, over a mountain, on ice. so I’m not a stranger to bad driving conditions. All that being said, last Tuesday night flood warnings are out, the rain is poring down, I cannot see, it is 10:30 pm.

As I’m driving on the Capital Beltway in the blinding rain I have an important decision to make…which exit…The one on the right to the Parkway, (no light on the Parkway, and no shoulder either) which will lead me to Chain Bridge Road, down a pretty steep hill to the bottom where the river is? Hmmm…it’s pretty low ground there…it’s really raining….is it flooded? …or continue further down the beltway and take the exit for rt 66 which is on the left. If you’ve never seen it, it is a pretty scary exit. Hard to see and has a pretty sharp curve right away, and have I said anything yet about the trucks and other drivers right on your bumper as you approach the exit (25mph) at highway speed? Did I say highway speed? With the rain pelting down at record rates, and the road having a lot of standing water on it, highway speeds were really not the world’s best idea.

Ok, so I took the parkway exit…right into blinding rain and now, fog! There are no lights at the exit, the ramp is long, there are no walls or rumble strips at the edges, and I seriously thought that I was really in trouble. If I were not careful, I could leave the road. After all, I could not really see it. Just the white line, which , buy the way, needs to be re-painted. It’s kinda faded. Thank God I take this exit all the time. I knew what the road was supposed to do, even though I could not see out the window very well.

All this to bring me to what I want to say in this post. It’s about my father. He has taught me everything I know about driving safely. On my 17th birthday I got keys to the family cars. Oh my gosh! I was so grown up, and being shown that I could be trusted with the responsibility of driving. I was terrified and so excited. The day I got my permit, (or was it the next day?) my father (to you), Daddy to me, took me to an empty parking lot to get used to the 1972 Toyota Corolla. It was red, automatic transmission, and no power steering. After a while of starting and stopping and turning and driving around the parking lot, and learning how not to flood the engine, he said “Ok, now drive to the light at the parking lot entrance on Eagle Rock Ave, and drive us home”! He always liked to throw me a big challenge, and I took it. I drove down Eagle Rock Ave, along the “S” curves, and got us home!

The next Saturday we went out for the whole day. Here’s the deal we had…he said where to turn and drive, and I did it. Easy. Starting simple on back neighborhood roads where there was no traffic, I practiced driving on the road and making “k” turns. The next big thing was to go to the garage where he worked. He set out cones and taught me to parallel park. He has never been know to just let us win, so I don’t think he made it easy for me then either. He had a game that he had played with us forever…we could get a treat, (maybe ice cream) if we could do something perfect 10 times in a row. So the deal is, park the car 10 times in a row and we get lunch. It took a while to get it because if a cone got knocked down, the count went down to 1 again. Imagine the pressure when I got to 9 perfect! He never let me off the hook, and to this day I thank him every time I execute a perfect 3 move parallel park.

Anyway, by the end of the day I had driven on the interstate, on Broad Street in Newark, and on just about every street in Essex county, and I was competent. Here are a couple of things that he taught me. Never just look at the car in front of me. especially at their tail lights (after all, they may not even have working tail lights!). Always look at the car in front of him, and the car in front of him, etc…as far as I can see. Anticipate what may happen way down the road so I can get out of the way of trouble. Adjust speed to match conditions, and never use the brakes in snow and ice
Whenever I find myself in a tricky situation on the road (and other times) I remember driving lessons. Start slow and easy, build confidence, look ahead and anticipate what will happen to stay out of trouble and achieve the goals that I want. Thanks, Dad! Your teaching saved me, once again, on the beltway last Tuesday.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. michjoy61 permalink
    March 9, 2008 2:19 pm

    Hiya, great post about driving and your dad! Brings back lots of memories of my dad teaching me how to drive! Some days we had fun, and others well lets just say, not so much!!! :O)

  2. March 10, 2008 7:29 am

    Michelle – Thanks for the visit!

  3. Karen Cain permalink
    March 11, 2008 12:48 pm

    Liz, that REALLY sounds familiar, except not so much with the lunch part for me!
    Roy and I did somewhat the same for our kids in the winter at the Firestone Research parking lot: learning how to handle the car when the snow is out of control! It came in handy this last weekend when we were “blessed” with 18 inches of snow falling from Friday at noon until Saturday midnight. I left the house at 11 a.m. Friday to make a “quick trip” to the office, (I had taken the day off); and then to the post office, and the grocery store for last minute items to get us through the weekend! Everyone in Tallmadge was also at the grocery store (it seemed). Long lines. Fortunately, I had a very good friend with Roy. I kept calling him to see if I needed to “hurry back”. Bob said, “no, take your time, we’re fine!” When I got home, I stayed in the house until Sunday! Karen

  4. MOM permalink
    March 11, 2008 7:38 pm

    Dear Liz–Dad also tried to teach me to drive–
    There was one problem. When he told me to drive down Broad Street, I asked him if he thought I was crazy, and took lessons from a driving school.

    I still can’t parallel park!!!

  5. March 11, 2008 7:38 pm

    Karen – You sure got your fair share of snow in Akron last weekend! Nothing like an empty parking lot to check out what the car will and will not do in snow.
    If others are reading this comment…go ahead and share how your dad (or other person) taught you how to drive!

  6. angela permalink
    March 12, 2008 9:30 pm

    What an adventure! This is why I want to move where it is warm!! I don’t really remember learning how to drive except my brother taught me on his stick shift and he bumped his head a lot! lol

    here’s an article on lyme

  7. March 13, 2008 7:49 am

    ha ha! I’ll bet you want someplace warm…too much snow in your neck of the woods. Funnnny image of learning to drive a stick shift! Pretty brave of folks to sacrifice their clutch for a beginner.
    Thanks for the link…will read later!

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