PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Learning to Drive.....Part III.

Ahhhh, the stretch van. With only one side window, no rear windows. EX. CEL. LENT. Backing that thing up was joy-rriffic. But! It was not a stick shift, and I was far enough away from my father's reach that he no longer was smacking my right knee.

I got the hang of driving, and soon I was sent to get the mail by myself. Now, this was awesome. This is what driving was all about. Our lane was a gradual slope, and my father had put small speed irrigation bumps in to control rain washing everything away. Let me tell you, you can get some serious jumps in an empty stretch van if you hit those fast enough on the downward trip! Ha! And right now my husband feels affirmation that I'm still a reckless driver when it comes to my car's suspension.

Anyway, it was time to make a Real Trip, beyond our little half-mile lane. We were going to Drive on the Highway. We would also compound the solemness of this journey by taking the NEW VAN. Also a stretch. But with back windows. Yo. I don't think I'm gonna be backing this muthah up on the highway, but ok, it's a more glamorous ride. This made me a whole 'nother level of nervousness, though, because not only had I bonded with the Blue Bomber Van, but the van was like, NEW. And I wasn't going to have wrecking it on my conscience.

So off we went. I could not tell where I was in the lane. You must remember this as well. It's hard at first, figuring out where you are in proportion to the lines down the middle of the road, when you've spent your whole life in the passenger seat, or worse, in a director's chair in the back of a stretch van, slidin' around, hanging on to shit to keep from falling. My father kept reminding me that I did not want to be like our family friend, who was always mocked for how tightly he hugged the center line. Hell, I could care less about him, I don't want to have a head-on collision with the NEW VAN. So I hugged the pavement on the shoulder side. For half of the trip, this was fine. It was gravel on the side, and I knew enough to not stray into that, and I began to think that this driving thing was really going to smooth out. Then we turned to head to Prairie du Chien. This strip of road is narrow, winding, and a sports car's dream. Not the dream of a teenager in a hulking van on her first paved road excursion. This part of Iowa is also very hilly, so there are significant valleys and gullys off the side of the road. Oddly enough, though, there was a bike lane, so now I had a paved shoulder I could stray onto, as I kept a very safe distance between the front end of the van and the center line & oncoming traffic. I honestly thought I was "getting away with it." What I didn't realize, and was too nervous to even feel, was that the wise construction people had texturized the bike lane with "rumble strips", so errant, sleepy drivers would be alerted if they were going off the road.

For those long miles before we found a place to stop and switch places, my only memory of that white-knuckled drive is my father pressing his body flat against his seat, hairy-eyeballing out the window and grabbing the handle above the window, shouting "BIKE LANE!" "BIKE LANE!" "JENNIFER! BIKE LANE!" as I kept using that strip of pavement as my "cushion" and my father saw his new van careening ever-so-close to catapulting off the side of a hill, his side first.

They let me get my learner's permit, but not my license. I had to wait until I was 18. That experience being its own story.

It has only been in the past couple of years my father has become capable of riding as a passenger in my car. Either he's relaxed and trusts me more, or? He's made his peace with this world.
posted by PlazaJen, 7:06 AM