Posts Tagged ‘driving’

The Journey Begins

Friday, June 29th, 2018

The journey begins hours before the sun peaked over the mountains of the East Bay when my mom and I said goodbye to our California home in hushed whispers.

We drove almost 800 miles today and crossed through 3 different states. Tonight we find ourselves in Twin Falls, Idaho where Evel Knievel once attempted to jump the Snake River in a steam-powered rocket. Crazy, right?

Today was mostly a day of just driving, coffee, and bad singing in the car. We didn’t have any real stops along the way to Twin Falls. We had to stop at Philz coffee, however, before crossing the California state line into Nevada, but that was about it.

Twin Falls offered a wealth of beautiful sights to take in under their perfectly blue skies. My favorite was Shoshone Falls State Park where water cascades over huge cliffs like a mini Niagara Falls

I tried to take a normal looking picture of myself in front of this spectacular sight but the wind had other plans…

It was a great way to end a long day of driving. I can’t believe we started our journey and this is only the first of many adventure filled days to come.

 

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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Literally. Yesterday I drove all the way across the width of Kansas from Colorado to Missouri. It was a long day of solo driving, just me, Mama the Llama, the Serial podcast, and corn. Lots and lots of corn.

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I drove away from Colorado with the Flatirons of Boulder in my rearview mirror and my heart in my stomach as I left behind the state I had grown to love over the last week or so. I traded in my grand majestic views for two lane interstates, the loss of beauty exchanged for ease and speed of transportation. Sometimes I think that places like Colorado have such wonderful single lane roads in order to force you to drive slower through all of the beautiful scenery, while places like Kansas and Nebraska offer speedy roadways so you can get the hell across them as fast as possible.

While I will admit, I actually didn’t hate Kansas like I thought I would, it was still a really long day of somewhat monotonous landscapes. It was still better than my old road trip nemesis Nebraska. There were at least some nice rolling hills across the state and every once and a while the sea of corn fields where swapped with some lovely fields of a red colored crop (possibly old corn?) that contrasted with the rolled hay bales resting like giant marshmallows across open fields in a rather photogenic manner. There were also some impressively large energy wind mills that almost seemed to be stirring the clouds like cotton candy as the gusty winds whipping across the open plains sent the clouds speeding across the horizon. My little prius did not care much for the high winds that kept jerking my car across the roadway like a toy.

But the journey, though long, went quickly with a few fun stops like the Kansas welcome center, the World’s Largest Easel, and the historic landmark of Brown vs Board.

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But mostly it was just me and wide empty expanses of road heading off into the flat horizon and my own thoughts. I had thought a lot about how this day would go, considered whether I would be able to make it all the way by myself or not. This was my big trial day where I was either going to be able to prove to myself that I was capable of so much more than I thought I was, or I would crash and burn. I will jump past the long anxious hours of ruminating about whether I could do it and tell you that I did. I made it in one piece and feeling fine.

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This might not seem like a big deal to most people but this was a huge deal for me. Time for some honest talk. For those of you who don’t know me and even for those who do know me but don’t know about this, here it is: I am sick. No, not sick in some horribly dramatic, I am terminal and will never recover sick, but not in a cough cough I just have a cold way either. I have been plagued by chronic pain, migraines, and unknown illnesses almost my entire life. I have some names to label my pain like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Fibromyalgia, and Alopecia Areata but even they do not encompass what is wrong with my body. The baseline is this: I am an adventurer in my mind and heart, but most of the time my body physcially disagrees with me. I cannot predict or know when I will feel bad (and usually what accompanies feeling bad is headaches, painful muscles, extreme and sudden fatigue, and nausea) so I live in a constant state of anxiety about whether I will feel well enough to do the things I want to do.

Most of the time, there is no physical or external symptom that others can see so it is hard for a lot of people to understand this fear and these feelings. I have an invisible illness that even I don’t fully understand. It is unseen yet dictates most of my every day decisions and actions. This is why this road trip means so much to me as a solo adventure. I am so constantly worried about being incapable or handicapped by my illness and this is my big middle finger to not feeling well. That might be strong, but I have a lot to prove to myself and each day at a time on this solitary adventure I am learning to trust in my own abilities and stretch my capabilities.

So to drive for ten hours by myself is a huge obstacle surrmounted that has lingered in the horizon for quite some time for me. Despite how flat Kansas is, it has seemed like Mount Everest to me. This long day was my veritable mountain to climb, just to show myself that I was capable of anything, no matter my illnesses, no matter my fears.

So driving across the Missouri River into Kansas City where I was staying the night with some incredibly generous and hospitable family friends was like crossing the finish line of my own personal race. I was tired, but it was a well earned exhaustion that was soul satisfying and only bodily tiring.

I had the great treat of trying out a local Kansas City BBQ joint called Gates where your ears are constantly ringing with the sing-songy cry of “How MAY I help YOU?” as you enter into the building. It was the perfect end of a long day filled with conversations with old family friends and good food. I was only stopping for a night and would then be continuing on to Madison, Wisconsin the following day. One step closer to Michigan, one step closer to my next major stop. I am almost halfway done with my trip now, Michigan is the next major stop and I will be there for about a month and then continue onward to the East. My mind is being pulled in a thousand directions towards memories of what I have seen and imaginings of what tomorrow will bring, but all of it boils down to the road, the pavement beneath my tires and the miles speeding past my eyes. I am right where I need to be.

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Rivers and Roads

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

With the sun rising over the mountains on one side and the open horizon on the other, I drove away from Durango, my brother, and the comfort of knowability to begin my first day totally alone on the road. It is never easy saying goodbye to the ones you love, even if it is just temporary. I have loved getting to explore the city my brother now calls home with him and meet some really amazing people that he has in his life. I really feel that a part of my heart belongs to Colorado and my brother is a huge part of that feeling. So I drove away in the dark, the first light of sunrise peeking through the rugged mountain tops, knowing that I was leaving a piece of my heart behind me.

But the road is open, the way is long, and I have many miles to travel before I find more places to leave pieces of my heart in as I move forward.

The end destination for the day, Boulder, Colorado. Another Colorado city that has a lot of meaning to my family; it is where my parents met and fell in love after adventuring and working together for some time. I have visited Boulder once in the past but for a very brief time, so needless to say I am excited to get to dig deeper into what Boulder has to offer. But first, the nine hours of driving in between Durango and Boulder that I completed by myself today.

To leave Durango you have to go over Wolf Creek Pass, a mountain range that climbs steadily to heights of even thinner air than Durango (which was hard enough on my wimpy sea level conditioned lungs). The colors were spectacular and the river that followed along the road after the summit was wondrously beautiful.

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I took about a two hour detour to visit a National Park that I made the mistake of skipping once many years ago and refused to make the same mistake twice. Great Sand Dunes National Park is a natural wonderland of sand, mountains, and colorful trees. I can never pass by a national park, even if it is quite far out of my way. So Mama the Llama and I settled in for a long drive and went to check out the park that lays claim to the highest sand dunes in North America.

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Before we hit the dunes though, we went and explored a small side trail that wove uphill through colorful aspens and alongside a fast moving creek. It was quite a nice spot even though it had nothing to do with the sand dunes that give the park its name.

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I hiked out from the main parking lot across trickling remants of a river and a wide expanse of flat sand to reach the base of the dunes. I must have been quite a sight to the other people out there who were decked out with walking sticks and proper hiking gear, while I was walking bare foot and in a dress. One man asked me where my high heels were as I climbed up the side of a gigantic sand dune.

But I didn’t mind, I was out there, I was doing it, and that was all that mattered to me. Deserts have always struck me strangely since I am not a terribly big fan of the sun or anything hot in particular, yet I have always deeply enjoyed going to desert parks. Death Valley is one of my all time favorite National Parks and here again, I found myself loving the desert sands of this entirely new national park.

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I hiked to a vantage point on a ridge of one particularly long sand dune and sat down to eat my lunch. This didn’t go as perfectly as I had imagined it as I was working my way up the ridge because I was being sand blasted the entire time. I think I ate more sand than I did sandwich. But it was a magnificent view and to watch the sand shifting under the powerful winds right before my eyes was awe inspiring. The way that the sand blows in high flying eddies feels like the entire world is vibrating and moving with exuberant life. I always have to bury my feet in the sand when I watch the world move beneath my feet because when they are buried you can feel your own pulse in your feet, but it feels like the heartbeat of the Earth beating in tune with your own.

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Mama had a bit of a hard time at the park and actually took quite a tumble down a sand dune because the wind was so incredibly strong that she couldn’t stay grounded even with her feet entirely buried in the sand. IMG_9247

Covered in sand, we both returned down the dunes as the wind whirled around in pirouettes. On the way down some very nice women actually let me borrow a sled to slide down one of the sand dunes, which was wonderfully exhilarating except for the tumble I took at the end. But still, it made me laugh and it made me feel alive. I waved my goodbye to the friendly group of women and Mama, PriPri and I left the Great Sand Dunes National Park receding in the rearview mirror. IMG_9260

The rest of the drive was a confusing mixture of flat nothing and bounding mountain passes covered in colorful trees . There was such an amazing array of autumn colors that I kept stopping all the time to take pictures because I was so awe-struck after rounding every corner by the new landscape that lay before me.

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I even did some off roading down a National Forest side road that provided some amazing aspen forest views. IMG_9283

No matter where I went, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I have never in my life seen sights like these and I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be able to take my time driving through all of it so I can soak it all in on my own time and at my own pace. IMG_9288

The most beautiful array of fall colors was at an overlook by Kenosha Pass. The entire mountainside was covered in a kaleidoscope of colors, like a chameleon caught between hues, the trees were somewhere between deep orange reds and fleeting green that could be completely gone tomorrow.

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After the astonishing natural beauty of this day of driving, I also have to throw in some kitschy weird things too; namely, a weird Coney Island hot dog stand that is shaped like a giant hot dog. Yeah, there are some pretty random and strange things to see out on the open road…

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Finally I cleared all of the mountains and descended into Denver. I didn’t stop in Denver proper, but I did take a quick trip to the Red Rock Amphitheater.

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After many a stop light and countless rush hour traffic jams, I made it to my hostel in Boulder where I am currently crashing and burning because I am so exhausted. It will be interesting to meet my roommates and see what sort of people they are, but I already like the hostel complex, which comes complete with a slack line yard that I am dying to try out and a wonderful river running directly through the complex. I can’t wait to see it in day light.

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Most importantly (at least to me), I did it. I made it. I completed my first solo day with no great tragedies, no misadventures, scary happenings. I was fine. If I can do one day I can do many more. This was almost like a trail for myself, I needed to prove to myself that I could actually do this, not just talk about doing it, but actually succeed in doing it. And here I am, all in one piece, a little tired, but ready for more adventure tomorrow. I cannot wait to see what adventure the newly risen sun will bring with it tomorrow.

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The Weird Llama Lady

Friday, September 18th, 2015

I have officially become that weird person wandering around with a little llama fluff ball sticking out of my purse. I have already had numerous conversations with strangers about it; it is a great conversation starter. The first conversation I had was with some very nice janitorial staff at a rest stop who were entirely baffled by Mama the Llama. They hesitantly followed me around the rest stop as I took pictures and finally came up and asked me what in the world it was that I was holding. I told him it was a llama, which then sparked a somewhat circular conversation in which he insistently question me about whether it was a real llama or not no matter how many times I told him no, it was most definitely not a real llama. Aside from the giggles and pointing whenever I am out and about taking pictures with my lovely sidekick it has been quite a lot of fun even if it is hard to remember to always take her with me places.

Today we left Page for Durango where I will be staying for almost a week with my little brother. I am happy to say that we made it safe and sound with little incident.

After a slow morning where our tour plans for Antelope Canyon fell through and a meandering look at the ever faithful Horseshoe Bend we headed out to Monument Valley.

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We took off from the straightforward route and fit in some adventuring time to visit this tribal park. Sitting right on the border between Utah and Arizona, this collection of monolithic rock formations of fiery red stone and sunset oranges always is a treat to stop for on a road trip.

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At Monument Valley we took a picnic break and then I made an ill-informed decision to try to drive just a short bit of the dirt road loop around the monuments. I learned today that PriPri is in no way, large or small, an off-roading vehicle. There were a few moments on that road (which I was doing by myself since my dad had the foresight to decide not to come with me) in which I really thought my car wasn’t going to make it. I survived and so did PriPri, although the car was definitely covered in red dust for quite some time afterwards.

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From Monument Valley we continued on a smaller road to cut over to Colorado above four corners where we encountered some really beautiful rock bluffs that towered over the road. Driving in the shadow of these red mountains is truly a humbling experience. It makes you wonder at the thunderous sound it would make to hear the mountains crumble and it is impossible not to feel small when underneath them.

There is an extreme beauty in this country that constantly confounds me. The fact that I can drive on these bumpy chewed up roads across this vast nation and be so close to so many incredible natural formations and feel as if it is perfectly normal for them to be there next to me is astounding. I never feel more humbled than on a road trip, especially when I go through the Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. I cannot put into words the incredible beauty that this country has to offer and my photos cannot do it justice either.

Now I am in Colorado, nestled between mountains in the little lively town of Durango. I will be adventuring, relaxing, and spending time with my brother here before I head out on the second part of my journey across the states that will take me to my next big stop in Northern Michigan.

I cannot wait to see what Colorado has in store for me.

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The Weight of Lives I am not Living

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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One reason I have decided to resurrect my blog is to document my cross country solo road trip. Today I hit the road and won’t find myself back on the West Coast until I have climbed the mountains of Colorado, rolled in the fall leaves of Northern Michigan, put my feet to the pavement of New York City, driven nearly the entire length of the East Coast, let the Atlantic Ocean wash the dirt from my tired feet, sipped a cup of coffee at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, and driven all the way back home. In total, I should be gone for about three months. Just me, my Prius (nicknamed PriPri), vast open expanses of road, and any adventure that finds me along the way.

The main question I have received upon telling people this (after clarifying that yes, I do actually plan on doing this and no, I am not crazy) is WHY?

And this question is not unjustified either, I have asked myself the same thing over and over again as the date of departure creeps closer and closer. I will be the first to admit it, I am terrified. I can make this trip sound so romantic, dreamy, courageous, and many other enviable traits, but the reality is that this is scary; this is going to be extremely hard. There are going to be days I will wish that I had never left home, never gotten out of my bed, never said goodbye to my parents, and never abandoned everything that made me comfortable in life. There is one thing that I know even though the trip has not yet begun: I will never regret this decision.

I could have stayed at my job in the Bay and lived comfortably, but this is the path I have chosen. So to answer the ubiquitous question, which follows me like a shadow wherever I go, I have four things to say.

  1. I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living. This quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has resonated in my heart like the rattle of little Oskar’s tambourine since I first read this magnificent book my first year at UC Berkeley. My bones, my body, my mind, and my spirit ache with the weight of not knowing the many paths that my life could lead me down. I plan to go to graduate school and get a doctorate and after that seek a professorship for the rest of my days. While a majority of the people I know are now desperately pursuing a lifelong career, I have found myself unwilling to tie myself to one thing. There are so many things in life I want to do and be that after graduate school I may never get to experience. So I have decided to put real life on hold and go adventure for a while. I do not want to be one thing, I want to be many and I hope to never cease changing in my life. As an English major (aka major book nerd) I have always felt that the most amazing result of reading is that the reader is able to live a thousand different lives through the novels they immerse themselves in throughout their own finite life. I have lived the lives of others both real and imaginary, some more than once, but I have yet to live my own.
  2. Desperately seeking self. Perhaps it is cliche to seek yourself on the open road, or perhaps there is a wisdom in this repetition that proves success. I never feel so inspired than when my wheels are spinning on the pavement and my mind is whirling with thoughts heavily lined with the experiences of yesterday. A solo road trip is obviously a lot of alone time, which both terrifies me and intrigues me with the possibilities of unformed experiences. I have to communicate with me; there is no way around it, no where to run or hide. I am an introspective and introverted person, so this isn’t exactly new to me, but lately I have found myself wrapped around the fingers of others. As time has passed and I have dedicated less time to writing and creating, I have found myself throwing all of my time into others. This is not to say I should not have done this, or that I regret doing this, but I have lost the confidence in being alone that I once had. I have shelved my purpose, my pursuits, and my identity for far too long and traveling alone allows me to be selfish in a way I have not been able to be in a long time. I want to recover the entirety of who I once was and learn how to live a life that is fully mine.
  3. I am a strong young women building my inner independence from the ground (or road) up. Let’s be honest, the main reason people ask me why in the world I would do this is the same reason I have to do this: I am a woman, alone, and the world isn’t always nice to solo women trying to find their place in the world. People ask me, aren’t your parents scared for you? and I can see the real question in their eyes and implied in their words, there is a lot of danger that I am courting just because I am a young woman with no one to watch my back, no one to protect me, no one to stave off the danger of cat calls, rude and greedy eyes, lecherous thoughts of strangers, and the unknown/unpredictable mishaps that could occur on the road. This, however, is the very reason I must go. Yes, I am a woman, yes I can do this on my own. I am capable, strong, independent, cautious, wise, and fear will not hold me back. I am a part of this world and I am going to take part in it. Hiding at home will never change the way the world perceives women. To think that my blog in any way will affect this though is naive and not what I am getting at. What I want this blog to do over the next couple of months is serve as an example that women can do anything. I am just one of many women who has chosen to take to the road alone and just as those women who have served as an example for me, I hope that I can help at least one other woman see that they can do it too. To help show just one person, even if that one person is myself, that it is totally worth it is all I want to achieve.
  4. I am an adventurer and nothing is going to stop me, not even myself. A lot of people see me as someone who is unafraid, outgoing, adventurous, and motivated. In truth, I struggle with all of these things greatly. But still, I must go. Crippled by anxiety, scared, small, often sick, and indecisive, I am horrified by things that are unknown and uncontrollable. But still, I must go. Unable to let go of control and filled to the brim with nervousness, I am unsure about everything I am about to embark on over the next few months. But still, I must go. Why? Why. why. No matter how scared, nervous, chronically in pain, or unsure I am, I am only sure that I must go. Because I am an adventurer; because the road has been calling my name since my mother first introduced me to it six years ago; because I am my own worst enemy and adversaries exist to bring out the best in us; because I am not living my life if I let my fear, anxiety, or illness win. These are the things I know. For some reason my heart picked adventure and I cannot say no, even if the rest of my being is against it.

In some ways, this post is more for me than for you. I am my harshest critic, the one with the most to lose in this, but also the one with the most to gain. I guess you can say this is my manifesto, or simply a reminder for those dark days when all I want to do is give up or cry in a corner. This is my reminder that I can do this, that this is exactly what I want and need, and that no matter where I find myself, I am still me, I am still strong, and I will keep moving.

By the time you read this, I am already gone. Another white streak across the sky, tumbleweed rolling down the road, a stranger in a car window disappearing in the opposite direction. I will see you all again, some sooner rather than later, and hope that you will embark on this journey with me in one form or another.

Ultimately, there are a thousand reasons why I should not go and only one that underlies all of the reasons of why I should: I must. I have told myself a thousand times that I would and now it is hear and there is no backing down. So here I go, down the rabbit hole. Unsure of where it will lead me, this road is the path I have chosen; through all of the exciting loops and digressions, through all the wrong ways and misadventures, through all the new friends and unfriendly strangers, through all the beautiful sights I will see and the empty expanses of nothing, I have chosen this path and now I must follow it to its end.

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Travel Update: Home

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Today was our last day on the road and we got home around dinner. It was a really long vacation starting on June 28, driving for a week to Upper Michigan, four weeks in Michigan one of which was in Chicago, then a week drive back. So it was a long trip and we are glad to be home. The experiences we have had are unforgettable and will stay with us forever. Glad to be home, but missing the adventures. I can’t wait to see what sort of adventures we go on next.

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Confessions of an Evil Driver

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I have a confession to make, about my driving. No I am not admitting that I am a bad driver, because I am not. My confession is this:

I can be an evil driver.

I love road trips, but when you have been driving for hours in the middle of nowhere, you have to find ways to amuse and entertain yourself so you don’t go insane. My remedy? To be EVIL. When there is nothing to look at on the road except for other cars, have fun with the other cars. I am expert, or you could call me an evil genius, at being an evil driver.

You may be wondering, what is it that I do to make me or anyone, an evil driver. There are many ways one could fit the criteria of an evil driver. Here are a few that I do:

  1. Mess with the other drivers. The key to this is to not appear to blatantly be messing with the other drivers. Don’t be obvious, act like you aren’t doing anything or as if this is how you normally drive. One way I do this is with the left lane. Keep in mind this can only be done when several other cars are present (not totally crowded but cars every few minutes or so). When I get really bored I switch into the fast lane and go just fast enough to be passing people, but just slow enough to drive the person behind me crazy. This make it so they have to either pass me in the right lane or just tail gait me and get pissed off and wait until I leave.
  2. Another slight modification of my first point is not letting the person behind you pass when they want. Not just not letting them pass, just not exactly when they want to. This is best to do with those crazy drivers on the road that think everyone will move over when they come speeding up. They are easy to spot, and easy to bother. This can be the most entertaining fun on a long road trip. Again you must have several cars on the road for this to work. Get in the fast lane before these people come up, pass a couple of cars until the road master comes right up behind you. They will probably tail gait you but don’t let it bother you. That is when you slow down just enough to slowly pass the car in the right lane. After you have cleared the car, they will expect ou to immediately get out of their way and into the right lane; don’t. After they figure out you aren’t going into the right lane, even though you should, you know the person behind you, as soon as they clear the car in the right lane, they will switch out of the left lane and try to pass you in the right lane. This is where you act. As you see them start to get into the other lane, speed up just enough so they don’t have enough room to pass you. Then they have to go back behind you in their shame and rage. It is very entertaining to watch them try again and again to pass you. You have to make sure not to make them too angry so after a few times of this actually let them pass. And always, always look at them when they finally pass you. It is pretty funny. Yes, evil I know. Can you blame me? Boredom really is a source of evil.

One thing I am going to point out is that no I do not do this normally. This is not how I drive so don’t worry about it. I only do this on road trips when I am really bored or if a driver is bothering me. The point of being an evil driver is to not push them too far, just enough to get a little reaction but nothing bad. To be a true evil driver you have to understand when the fun has gone to far or where there is room for more mischief. There are always more people on the road to mess with, don’t get attached to a certain car. If you ever go on a road trip with me you can always tell when I start messing with people because I sit there and snicker evilly to myself for no apparent reason.

Don’t be afraid my evil driving, it is very rare, but is very real. Hopefully my evil tips will help save your brain on a long road trip from insanity and boredom. Be evil, but be safe, not stupid.

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