Tuesday, February 2, 2010

That Famous River In Egypt

I’m a crummy passenger. Actually, I used to be a terrible passenger, but now I believe even Chuck would say that I have improved to being a mediocre, occasionally pleasant passenger. Back in 1998, when we drove cross country, I was still too much of a control freak to be consistently comfortable just sitting in the passenger seat while Chuck drove. It was much easier on both of us when I was behind the wheel. So after we checked out of our motel each morning I would start out driving. At the various rest stops, gas stations and restaurants we would walk around a bit, stretch and then head back to the car. Chuck would invariably ask if I wanted him to drive the next leg. I, most often, would demur. And so it went, mile after mile after mile. Chuck did drive every day. But that meant we had two drivers - only I did not have a gas pedal, brake pedal or steering wheel. Which, as far as I was concerned, put me at a distinct disadvantage!

In addition to the OCD/control freak issues I was also in denial. I knew I was a good driver. I knew I was a dreadful passenger. I knew I might drive my husband crazy if I chose to sit in the passenger seat for too many miles. But I had convinced myself that we were splitting the driving dead even, 50-50, completely egalitarian. That is until the third night on the road.

We had left Yellowstone and headed for Cody, Wyoming. That was where my wristwatch alarm went off and I began looking for a payphone. While I was checking in with my Mom, Chuck went across the street to a place we’re pretty sure was called Taco John’s to get us some dinner. He got us a couple of amazingly tasty burritos to go and we ate them in the car, on the main drag in Cody. Fed, we continued on our way. At some point we decided to aim for Sheridan, Wyoming as the place we would sleep that night. As the night drew in around us, we chose to continue along Route 14. On our paper map we saw that the road looked twisty, but we couldn’t see the elevation. It turned out to be crazy steep and full of sharp twists and turns.

No surprise, I was at the wheel. It was a tough drive, in total darkness, on a two lane road which we were of course completely unfamiliar with. Let’s just say there were white knuckles on both sides of the vehicle. After what felt like forever, we reached the highest point of the road. There was a wide, dirt pull off area and I eased the car over. I shut off the engine as we took deep breaths and collected ourselves. It was then we noticed that in the now pitch darkness the sky was filled with stars. We stepped out of the car and stood, awed by the enormous beauty. Out of the stillness we were startled by a rustling nearby. My adrenaline rushed back. More sounds - we were not alone. Then we heard a lowing. There were cows around us also taking in the night air - although not with the fast gulps I was! We laughed with surprise, relief and wonder. As we got back in the car, there wasn’t a peep out of me when Chuck headed for the driver’s side.

I’m convinced Chuck had the tougher leg on that winding road. He had to ride the brake, but not too hard or for too long. Perhaps halfway down, we came upon a school bus and a couple of cars on the side of the road. It looked as if the brakes on the bus had overheated because we could see a combination of dust and smoke in the headlights of the attending cars. Chuck soldiered on the rest of the way down the mountain and into Sheridan. We found a motel. We got the last available room - apparently there was a rodeo in town.

When we opened the door to the room, I flopped down on the bed. My entire body was vibrating from the feeling of wheels on the road and automobile engine rumbling. Chuck hustled about, unloading the car, getting us some ice from the machine down the hall and generally settling us in for a very brief night’s stay. I couldn’t move. I asked Chuck where he was getting all the energy, when I was so exhausted. He said he had only driven that last leg. I protested, insisting we had divided the driving equally all day. Chuck patiently reminded me I had driven all the way from Yellowstone, except for the downslope of the mountain, after the cows. And that the two previous days I had driven well more than half.

I was busted. I knew Chuck was right. For the next five days I still drove a lot. But I had the good sense to turn the wheel over to Chuck more often. Late in the evenings, when we stopped for the night, I would still be tired, but not nearly as close to trembling. And now I would tease Chuck, saying I couldn’t imagine why I felt tired, because I “only drove halfway”!

Twelve years later, we spell each other on long trips. Now I really do “only drive halfway”.

Well, at least in my mind it’s halfway - - - right Honey?


Anonymous said...

I too am a terrible passenger especially after my accident CC

Roo said...

I'm with you on this, I can drive and get tired and crotchety, or I can be a passenger and be wired and critical...there is a choice!

I love the thought of those dark skies, pin point stars, and really really scary moo-cows ;o)

purpleronnie said...

i am the worst passenger ever!!!!! Ask my husband... but he still will never let me drive because he is an even bigger control freak than me lol!!
Ronnie xx

Pink Granite said...

Hi All -
Now what does it mean that so many of my regular readers make less than stellar passengers?
Is this just a more common condition than I knew or are we attracting one another?

As for the moo-cows, they were more startling than scary. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
- Lee

Sue said...

Heehee - I'm a revolting passenger too, I think most people are. It's about lack of control. Thank goodness I'm the only person who ever drives anywhere - I dread the day I have to start letting my son drive me about. And I know it's not too far off!!!