I can vividly remember taking drivers education. Nervously getting behind the wheel of that poor Dodge Neon owned by St. Charles High School. I think at the time, I was just at 5 feet tall… weighing in around 88 pounds. (don’t ask… I was a late bloomer, for sure. Those of you, who know Sally, understand my growth dilemma.)
So the lessons began with classroom lectures, frightening videos of “teens gone wild in the driver’s seat,” horrid tales of drunk driving escapades, quizzes on rules of the road… and then we moved into the Simulators, much like an interactive driving videogame... without speed, challenge, or fun. Imagine if you will: a room full of 15 year old high school students… all separated into driving cubbies, buckled up for safety (as if we could actually pose danger to ourselves or something else), hands on wheels, lights off, staring at individual tv monitors, listening for instruction from our teacher (much like the Great Wizard in OZ).
“Do you see the stop sign ahead?… in 50 feet, begin applying pressure to the break. Good. Now, wait until you feel the car come to a complete stop (uh, duh… we’re in simulators, they don’t actually move or create inertia). Check for cross traffic. Slowly, carefully, let your foot off the break and press the accelerator. This is a neighborhood, so the speed limit is 25mph.”
Finally, after many simulations… it was time to use real gas and GO (well… drive outside the classroom anyway). The “range” (stadium parking lot), was turned into a map of orange cones. The Neons were lined up like solders, ready to be tortured by this semester’s batch of new drivers. We learned to parallel park, drive figure 8’s (don’t think I’ve used that one since), reverse in a straight line, etc…
Soon we moved onto the suburban roads. I began to find confidence in my driving abilities. That is, until I tried driving MY car. That old VW Scirrocco could have it’s own entry here on my blog. Suffice it to say – it was 16 years old, stick shift, no power steering… and I was scared of it. I was just learning how to use the brake & gas peddle! Now, you’re throwing in another one – called a clutch?! Let’s just not go here… it wasn’t a good time for me personally. I got through it, learned to drive stick, and I have used this skill many times since. Thanks for making me stick with it Mom and Dad! I remember being quite the, uh - teenager, during those one-on-one lessons.
*Side note: I am an older sister. (Love ya, Sarah Bear!). Because driving the Scirrocco was such a nightmare for me, you’d better believe I made SURE Sarah experienced the same. Poor girl had to drive that thing too… eventually, I think she killed it.
Where I’m going with all this “learn to drive” babble… my thoughts while behind the wheel yesterday. Becoming a triathlete/cyclist has changed my driving habits and behaviors! There are two major areas affected by my cycling habit:
1. Keen Defensive Driving: I am very aware of where I am on the road, where other cars are, when cars are getting ready to merge. My eyes constantly scan the sidewalk or shoulder… looking for people/objects/cars to get in my way.
I watch road surfaces. Quickly swerve to avoid running over impediments. I’m conscious of fellow road warriors… if I’m in the left lane (typically true), and I see a crazy car flying up behind me… I get over! I use turn signals. I don’t cut people off, purposely. I check my mirrors.
On the other hand…
2. I like SPEED: Triathletes and cyclists are competitive, by nature. We train for races by swimming, biking, and running… but, give us any challenge, and we’re usually up for aggressive action.
By no means am I good at basketball, softball, kickball, tennis, golf, arm wrestling (but, I hear you’ve gone pro… right Jen?), water polo, bowling, football, dodge ball, kick-the-can, etc… but, I’ll give them all a shot!
Anyway, my point is that I like to move fast… in the fast lane. Driving gets my adrenaline pumping. I crave open road, hate traffic, and cuss bad drivers. Sometimes, highway driving can be a fun challenge. You test other people headed in your direction.
Passing is fun! Just like in a race… you seek a target moving ahead of you. Soon, you’re up on them. You must decide, if I pass… will I (do I want to) sustain the pace needed to leave them in my dust?! Will they rise to the challenge?
Ha ha… not only has triathlon training caused me to enjoy speed on the road, it’s usually the cause for my speeding. In the morning, I’m speeding from the pool, windows open to dry my hair… flying to get to the office on time. Then, again at 5:00… I hit the road, trying to capture the daylight. Get home with enough time to ride… or, in time to meet a work-out group.
On the Road of Life… there are passengers, and there are DRIVERS! Fast & Smart Drivers Wanted.