As I have written before, I don’t drive as well as I used to. This disability takes several forms:
· We frequently find ourselves in the Geezer Lane on the Interstate. The Geezer Lane is identifiable by cars driving at the speed limit, often with a turn signal blinking and the corner of a raincoat hanging out the front door. I’ll move to the left when I see cars entering the expressway so I don’t have to time their merge, but otherwise I avoid changing lanes.
· I am cautious making left turns, probably because I have difficulty judging the speed of oncoming traffic, but also because I am likely lost and not certain that I am turning on the right street. Or if it’s not a street at all but a driveway. I’ve learned, possibly from an article in Reader’s Digest, that three right turns are equal to one left turn.
· I am increasingly dependent on the skills of other drivers. They often acknowledge my appreciation by honking and waving to me as they go speeding by.
· You know those vibrating strips they put on the edge of highways to alert you that you have strayed from your lane? Good invention! I’ll bet insurance companies help to finance them. I use them from time to time.
The primary cause of these behaviors is not my physical decline, but rather my lapses in concentration. I’m OK driving with the radio on, but podcasts can be distracting – not only from my driving challenges but also from conversations that Kim is attempting. City driving is the most daunting. I had to make a rule on our last round trip between Michigan and Florida: When driving through Atlanta and Cincinnati, no conversations about sex or money.
Through the years Kim and I have developed several strategies to manage the long (1100 miles) Michigan-Florida drive. Our primary strategy: make it even longer. We do this by seeking alternative routes, preferably ones that take us off of the Interstates. We have taken the bourbon tour through Kentucky, cutting west off of I-75 to Louisville and then wandering south. We have also obtained a National Parks Passport booklet that has places for stickers from various parks. This led us off the fast lane to Congaree National Park in South Carolina. In fact, it led us well off the fast lane because of how many of the back roads were closed due to flooding. A similar digression took us to Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of South Carolina in an unsuccessful attempt to see and photograph the red wolves. Once news of an approaching tornado led us to a lodge in Red Top Mountain State Park in Georgia. Twice we have stayed a few extra days in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. All these moves successfully lengthen our drive to about a week.
Another way to lengthen the trip is to make more stops. Fortunately, my coffee addiction makes stopping every hundred miles or so an easy goal to accomplish. Even when we are not lengthening the distance we travel, we are successful in lengthening the time we spend on the road.
After our last long Florida drive we have come up with another way to manage the trip: Don’t do it. We have (at last!) sold our Florida house. (Well, we have a contract on it, and as we know, these things do sometimes come unraveled . . ..) By the end of November we will be consolidating our real estate in northern Michigan. And so instead of the long drive which for people our age has become increasingly risky, we are exchanging it for driving on ice and snow. Brilliant!