A week ago, I was clutching the steering wheel of the rig while driving 60mph on a 70mph highway. Back tense, sore neck, and a constant headache and whispering to myself it was going to be alright. Reminding myself to blink was part of my plan, as well as to breathe. I had my asthma inhaler in my lap the entire time. I didn’t use it, but I was ready.
Today, just seven days later, I was singing along to the radio while I drove out of the campsite, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand petting the dog. It is amazing what we are capable of when we try a little bit.
Sunglasses: The Drama
Exactly a week ago while I type this, I wanted to wear my sunglasses midway through my 57.3 mile drive. The problem was that they were dirty. Without taking my eyes off the road, I shoved them at Jeremiah, “Clean my sunglasses?” We were driving in silence: no music, no comedy, no audio books.
“Sure,” he said, and he nabbed them and rubbed them on his shirt.
“How did you see through these?” He asked, “they’re filthy!” I could hear the smile in his voice.
“I didn’t.” I replied with both hands on the wheel. “That was the problem.”
He handed them back to me, the left ear piece in my right hand.
Scared to put them in my lap or grab the glasses with my left hand, I handed them back to him, eyes still glued to the road. “I can’t put these on,” I told him. “Can you put the other ear piece in my hand?”
He laughed. “You’re funny,” he said, slipping the other side into my right hand.
“What?” I said, as I cautiously placed them on my face one-handedly. I sighed.
Today I expertly removed my sunglasses myself while driving the motorhome. It really was a feat.
Peddle to the Metal
Since last Monday, I’ve driven about 400 more miles in the motorhome, putting it at around 450 miles in this trip. (More if you count the drive I did back in September, which I’m not.)
Since I have an Oregon drivers license, I’m not required to take any type of certification or pass any extra tests via the dmv. Any vehicle considered a recreational vehicle is allowed to be driven by anyone with a regular old driver’s license in Oregon – a weird concept when you consider the extent Jeremiah had to go to obtain his Texas license and extra certification to be able to drive the motorhome. Because of this, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t quite capable of driving the Home on Wheels. However, I also know the majority of Oregon RVers have never had to pass anything extra, either, and there are plenty of those on the road.
When I popped behind the driver’s seat today, I didn’t give myself a pep talk. It was the first time as I pushed down on the bright yellow parking brake button that I didn’t think, “You can do this. You can do this.” I just did it. Then, I asked Jeremiah to play some Adam Lambert or Queen on the radio, and off we went.
Want to know something crazy? I passed a truck in the left hand lane today because it was going too slow for me. While I am absolutely sure Jeremiah noticed, he didn’t mention it. He knows if he does, I’ll spiral into asking a barrage of questions of whether or not I should have passed him, and then reconsider every life choice that brought me to this exact moment behind this exact black steering wheel. So, he was silent, and I merged back in to the right lane at nearly 70 miles per hour.
Chipping away at those miles with my music friends
As I sang along to Mr Lambert and pals, I realized something. Jeremiah was looking at his phone, sitting in the passenger seat, his legs stretched out in front of him. Instead of me, it was him. And instead of listening to a sci-fi audio book, we were listening to my music. I’m finally chipping away at all those miles he’s driven. Pretty sure we’ll never be even at this rate, but it’s amazing how quickly something can be normalized.
Last Monday I counted percentages of miles. Today I drove 30 or 40 miles without glancing down at the odometer. I don’t even know the exact number of miles I drove – a far cry from 7 days ago when I rejoiced every 10 miles.
The daunting generator
Last Tuesday, Jeremiah wanted me to turn on the generator so we could use the larger A/C. He walked me through where to put my hand to turn it on so that I wouldn’t have to look down for more than a glance. “This button?” I asked repeatedly until I found it. I didn’t press it long enough to turn on the generator. Then, I didn’t try again until there was a good space for it – about five minutes later. Jeremiah didn’t say anything; he just sweated those few extra minutes waiting for the AC.
Today, while he read something on his phone, I realized I was hotter than I wanted – our aluminum box on wheels gets hot QUICK. I glanced down, leaned forward, and pushed the generator button while asking Jeremiah if he were also warm. Things change so quickly when you let them.
This is all to say I don’t actually hate driving the HOW. It’s a good reminder to embrace change so I can continue to grow. In the mean time, I’m going to continue working on driving in smaller spaces and avoiding low-hanging branches. Navigating city streets is still nerve wracking for me, and I don’t like stop-and-go traffic. I’m practicing. It’s okay to be bad at something you want to be good at if you continue to improve.
Planning for a long drive
If you have a long road trip ahead of you, I’ve got some tips:
Download a Spotify playlist to your phone in case you don’t have cell coverage. Consider also getting a couple of podcasts ready if that’s your thing – I’m a fan of “This is Love” and “My brother, my brother, and me.” If you want other suggestions of good podcasts, let me know! I am a recovering podcast-aholic.
Have a straw handy to drink water without needing to tip your head back. I use these bamboo straws. They’re easy to clean and I dislike the feel of metallic straws.
Figure out good stopping points or rest stops before you start driving. I use the truckerpath app for that, but you can also use a rest stop app. (There are a couple.)
Google maps satellite view is a fantastic way to know if you’ll be able to fit in a parking lot or if you should plan a grocery/beer/emergency Target shopping spree elsewhere.
Have a snack handy. Carrots are good. Candy is better.
And, lastly and most importantly, if you can, make sure to have someone to clean off and hand you your sunglasses while cruising down the highway.
Notes: While driving in the past week, 2 things have happened that have never happened before. Bernadette sat on the driver seat functions while I was driving, pushing me very close to the steering wheel and leaving me shaky and whispering aspirations to myself. We fixed her bed after that. Second, the walkie-talkie fell onto the button that controls the automatic windshield shade and the black-out shade started coming down while I screamed at Jeremiah, “HELP ME I CAN’T SEE I CAN’T SEEE.” (I could see.) After that, I moved the walkie talkie…and Jeremiah moved the shade back up the 3 inches it had lowered in the panic.
As the great Kimmy Schmidt says, You can stand anything for 10 seconds, so excuse me while I go back to counting to ten while I drive. But I’ll only do that in heavy traffic now – instead of while driving down an empty highway like I did a week ago.