the long road home

The drive home from Panama City should have taken us five hours.  I think it took seven. 

Mike was exhausted, as was I, from a long several days of hospital vigils, family, and last minute room renovations.  We didn’t mind, this is what family does.  When someone needs you, you just dive into the fray and start treading water.  We just happen to be excellent water treaders.  But once we were piled into the car, ready to head back home, the exhaustion finally caught up to us.  After about an hour on the road, my husband looked at me and said, “I’m having a hard time staying awake, can you drive?”

For the record, I can drive.  I’m actually a very good driver.  As long as the sun has not gone down.  And since we were still a good hour from sundown, I was fully prepared to trade seats with him to take the wheel.  Lucky for me my daughter piped up with, “I’ll drive!” 

At long last…a perk of having teenagers!

She has logged many hours of driving since getting her permit in January so we agreed.  I cranked up the GPS, let my husband crawl into the back with the other two girls, and we were off. 

After another hour or so on the road, I was very glad to have someone behind the wheel that could see after dark.  I worked on my book while she drove.  My husband was snoring loudly in the back and the other two girls were taking turns charging their iPods on the mobile charger.   

Once the sun had completely gone down and the sky was at its blackest, our other daughter asked if she could have a turn at the wheel. 

We pulled into a McDonald’s in Eufaula Alabama and switched drivers again.

The drive between Eufaula Alabama and Columbus Georgia is the darkest, blackest stretch of road I can ever recall being on.

I am, without a doubt, blind as a bat at night.  And I have no sonar whatsoever.  Trying to play navigator to a student driver was an exercise in futility, and probably very dangerous.  She was driving at least fifteen miles under the speed limit, and I was counting in my head to calculate how many extra hours this would be adding to our trip.  I wanted to go home badly so I was torn between telling her to speed up to get there or slow down to not die.  It was a tough call at ten o’clock on a Tuesday night several hours away from home and my comfortable bed. 

The problem with switching drivers on a dark and scary road is there is never a place to pull over.  The blackness swirled in front of us like it was alive, and while the white lines were barely visible, the shoulder vanished into what could have very well been the abyss!

I had a chocolate shake in the drink holder that I was too freaked out to drink and I had closed my laptop to grip the “oh shit” handle until my knuckles went white.  And if the situation itself wasn’t bad enough, my husband had woken up in the back seat and was shouting instructions to the driver until she was shouting back at him that he was freaking her out.  I had no choice but to tell him to shut up!  I was the navigator, and there would be no backseat driving, and no speaking directly to my student, lest we all die!

It was a harrowing sixteen miles to the nearest town. 

While we were stopped Mike checked the tires because they were making an ominous sound as we sped through the darkened highway.  Apparently there were two loose lug nuts on the rear tire.  As if I didn’t have enough going on to freak me out! 

All things considered, I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.  Being a business banker is way less dangerous than riding in the car! 

Until the next time…I’ll be sleeping…finally!

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on April 7, 2010 .