Tag Archives: driving

Estimated Miles Per Gallon May not Represent Actual Life Lived

On Saturday I pulled into the garage after returning from Lincoln. The odometer read 171,201 miles. And that was just for this minivan, which we purchased in 2014 when we found out that we were having our sixth child. At the time it was the only minivan that had 8 seats. Our first minivan had over 80,000 miles on it.

My heart was full of memories driving home from watching my son’s basketball team play in the state title game. The team earned the runner-up trophy, but the hardest part of the day was knowing that my son’s career was over and that we wouldn’t be traveling for his basketball games. My wife and I talked about how many times we traveled I-80 to Lincoln, or Omaha, or Minneapolis, or Chicago, because of basketball. 

But those 171,201 miles represent more than basketball trips. They represent college visits two years ago, traveling on mini family vacations to the Omaha zoo. My wife and I have traveled to marching band competitions, honor band performances, and art award ceremonies.

Yes, part of parenthood is spending time on the road to support your children’s activities, and we have spent a lot of time on the road. But many of the miles also represent our Saturday trips to the library where we would play games before we checked out books. We rack up miles every weekend grocery shopping. There are miles on the odometer that are from simple date nights of DQ treats and parking at the lake to talk.

Over the last seven years, the minivan has taken us 171,201 miles. What that number doesn’t show is the memories of the places we have been. You can’t feel the panic of driving in all the different weather conditions, or the near miss of an accident in Chicago. The miles can’t show the funny view of every child asleep with their heads at odd angles in the back, or see us all jamming out to the song playing before a basketball game. Every season there was a new song. 

The miles don’t express the love between me and my wife. We have traveled most of the 171,201 miles together. We have laughed, cried, and been exhausted as we’ve traveled these roads, but we have driven them together.

171,201 miles is one way to measure a life lived. 

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Decisions in Seconds

I am still amped-up. Less than 30 minutes ago I was almost in a serious accident.

This is a diagram of downtown Hastings, which has a number of one way streets. Second street is a one way street (west to east) downtown. I had to drop off some mail at the post office this morning. I was heading south on Colorado, which is one way also. There is a light at the intersection of Second and Colorado, but it only faces the traffic flow of the one way streets. I was half a block away from the intersection when the light turned green. My lane has a green arrow (Colorado turns into two-way traffic after the light) and I slow down a little to make the turn. The roads are still snow packed from the snow storm on Sunday. That’s when I notice the headlights of a beer truck coming the wrong way on Second street, right where I am supposed to turn.

I wish I could tell you everything slowed down in my mind and I handled the situation like a hero. It didn’t. I remember everything now. But at that moment everything seemed to move into hyper drive.

I could see the truck’s left turn signal blinking on the hood of the truck. I remember thinking in my head, “What is he doing?” because he doesn’t seem to be stopping. There is no traffic light for him because he is traveling the wrong way on the Second street.

Decisions. Choices. Sometimes we see the results of our decisions immediately. Sometimes the effects of our decisions manifest themselves later; maybe a minute, a day, a year, or sometimes never. Making a decision can be a heavy responsibility… in fact every decision we make actually creates the life we live. And most of the time our decisions affects other people’s’ lives. I don’t know when the driver of the truck decided to drive down the wrong way. I don’t know why he chose to do it. Maybe he didn’t want to navigate the extra turns it takes to get through all the one way streets downtown, so he decided to take a short cut. What I do know is that his decisions and my decisions (to drop of the mail and drive down a certain street) was about to meet at the intersection of Second and Colorado.

I decide not to slam on the brakes to try to stop. The intersection was snow packed and helped me in this case. I was able to drift into the right lane on Second street. Missing the truck who also decided not to stop and turned left onto Colorado to drive away. I came to a stop to watch his taillights disappear at the corner of a building.

Decisions. Choices. Some of them seem more important than others. But in reality, every one of them matters. Everyone of them makes an impact in our lives. Makes an impact on other people’s’ lives. This morning I am glad that the driver’s choices and mine did not collide, literally.

 

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Driving in a Fog

At times we can be on the right road, but that doesn’t mean traveling through life is easy, sometimes we come across our own personal fog.

country road with fog

I stopped this morning to take the picture above. You can just see the fog covering the road. Sometimes the fog fades quickly as you drive, but other times you have to slow down because the fog is so thick and lasts for the whole commute.

Fog is a cloud made of tiny water droplets that is suspended in the atmosphere. In life our fog is made up fear, doubt, self-criticism and other negative emotions. And sometimes that fog just rolls in without any notice. That makes life hard, even when we are on the right road.

So, how do we get through our own fog?

First, understand that most of the time the fog dissipates. Emotions come and go. We can wake up in a bad mood, but by the end of the day we are having a better day. No particular reason why, just that time passed.

Other times, especially with doubt, fear, or being critical, the fog has to be driven through. You have to focus on your driving, in the case for life it can be your goals that you stay focused on. As a track coach I would talk with my athletes about the voice in their head telling them to stop, or slow down. That voice can be loud, but it can be defeated by focusing on their workout, understanding how the pain was building strength to achieve their goals.

Driving through fog is not easy, but it can be done. Give yourself time and focus on your life, your goals, and you will make it to your destination.

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Winter Driving

It is January, that means winter driving. That means snow ruts.

Winter Ruts

Last weekend was one of those times when we were running around town all day. Groceries, Speech Meet, kids visiting friends, it felt like I was in the car more than in my house. Even the main roads were still a mess and as I navigated the snow ruts I got to thinking.

When a storm hits, ruts actually help navigate your path. The ruts give a clear path to drive in. It is the safest path to follow during the storm and right after the storm. But then something happens to that safety.

As time goes on the winter ruts become dangerous in two ways. When the storm passes and the sun starts to shine again, ruts become filled with slush that then becomes ice as the days progress. Trying to stop for a light or stop sign becomes dangerous because the ruts are filled with ice. You have to move outside the rut to gain grip on the tires so that you can stop.

The other way that ruts become a hazard is when the ruts become so deep you scrape the undercarriage of your car. Sometimes the snow storms come one after another, building up the snow on the ground and roads. Again, the winter ruts help at the beginning, but soon the ruts are so deep you can’t get out of them.  You have to alter your route because you can’t turn on a secondary street because you can’t get out of the rut.

Last Saturday I thought about this as I ran all over town. And as so often happens I thought about how the ruts of life work the same way.

Ruts are helpful to show us the way, specially in our personal storms. But after time, ruts become dangerous. They can keep us doing the same thing for so long we can’t get out of the ruts without a drastic change in course. Or our life becomes filled with issues that won’t allow us to stop, unless we make a drastic change in course. Even more, the ruts of life are not so easy to see, but so safe to travel.

 

Navigating winter roads is tricky.

Navigating life is even more complicated.

 

I wish you safe travels.

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Are You Ready?

For all the hours I’ve spent on the road, all the years living in Nebraska and Wyoming, I have never hit a deer or an antelope.  I have had a number of other car accidents, but I’ve always spotted the deer while driving before anything bad could happen. Until this morning…

Right now, it is completely dark for most of my commute.  This morning the moon accompanied me on my drive. I was in between Doniphan and the interstate (as the picture below shows).  Things were going fine, music on, cruise set, and I was checking traffic to decide when to go into the left lane so I could merge onto the interstate.  I just crossed the bridge when the deer appeared.

Image from Google Maps

I was still in the right lane when the deer appeared on the passenger side, just in the fading part of the headlights. Both of us were caught in that eternal second. Because of the light the deer looked like a ghost, faded, almost transparent.  I could see his head snap back and his black eyes widen.  I swear his expression was, “What the….”

I did nothing. Which was the best thing. The deer and I caught up with time. It seemed my car lurched forward to do it, getting ahead of the deer to miss him.  I looked into my review mirror but could not see if he crossed the road or not.

No matter how much we try, we cannot control Life.  We have control of our attitude, or work ethic, and our smile.  But Life, it is like a box of Ping-Pong balls dumped out on a concrete floor.  We will get knocked around, sometimes drastically.  This got me thinking about dictionaries…

As an English teacher I forever get the question, “How do you spell that?”  I would always respond with directions to the bookshelf where the dictionaries sat waiting to be opened.  Even when my students had computers I would get that question.  At a time when answers are sometimes just a click away, why did my students still ask that question?

I think part of the shift we are experiencing, in school and our own lives, must include the ability to react (or know when not to in my case) to Life.  That is a grand statement, but I’m not sure I have had a whole day where something didn’t go wrong.  Where a Ping-Pong ball didn’t knock something off track.  Or a deer run out in front of you.  Are you prepared to react, to adapt?  Are students prepared?

Courtesy of Flickr user Lester Public Library

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Cruise Control

My new commute is mostly on the interstate, and like everyone I set the cruise control and drive.

But is setting the cruise really driving?  It seems like it is more of an attitude that we have set our speed and we are not going to change.  No matter what.

I am sure you have experienced that car that sits just inside your blind spot, no matter what you do with the cruise control.

Or the car that is set a half a MPH faster than the truck it is passing.

How about when you see that you will be able to pass the car and truck ahead of you, so you move into the left lane, and just as you get to the car… it jumps into the left lane making you slow down (and yea, it is the car that is a half MPH faster than the truck).

But is this cruise control attitude just a reflection of what we do with our lives?  The cruise control comes in many different forms in life.  Work, school, same nightly routine.  Cruise control is a great function for the car and life. At times. I have become angry when I drive just using cruise control (“just pass the truck, the cruise goes back down automatically,” I’ve mumbled on the road). But, I’ve noticed I feel the same when I am living by cruise control.  When something happens that makes me step on the brake, or change lanes; a sick child, me ruining dinner (homemade French fries are not easy to make), or any number of things that are just apart of life. A part of driving.

The road I drive to work stays the same, but I will never have the same driving experience, ever.  The cars and trucks change, road construction, a new CD to listen to, any number of things make each day different.  At times I can just cruise.  At times life runs smoothly.  But we must be ready to drive. A car is designed for that, just as life is designed to be lived.  Enjoy the drive today.

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