By on July 20, 2016

Renaissance Center At Night Circa January 2011

It was 8:18 p.m. on a Sunday night, and the situation was seeming grim. I had just returned a press car to the Parking Spot at the Philadelphia airport, and not a single rental car agency in Philly was willing to rent me a car.

A combination of poor communication and piss-poor planning on my part made it necessary for me to drive home nine hours through the darkness of Appalachia just so I could turn around and leave again in the morning. I had been awake since 6:00 a.m., and it seemed likely that the clock would make three full rotations before I’d shut my eyes again.

Through deceit and sheer willpower, I saw the bluegrass of central Kentucky at 5:07 a.m., but not before I discovered a few things about myself, not all of which I wanted to discover.

You see, I was supposed to have flown from Chicago to Philadelphia for a weekend race with American Endurance Racing on Friday night (which I did), and then I was to have taken a flight back to Chicago on Sunday night (which I didn’t). Turned out my Monday morning meeting in the Windy City was canceled, and my employer, having already paid for one flight “home” for me, wasn’t too keen to pay for another. So it was up to me to figure out a way back.

A last-minute flight would have been exorbitantly expensive, so I decided that I’d rent a car at PHL and drive it all the way home. I forgot to make a reservation until I was actually piloting the (REDACTED) press car back to the airport Sunday night — but it was Philly, so I figured that one of the nation’s largest airports would have no shortage of rental car inventory. Well, I was right about that part. I was wrong, however, about their willingness to let me drive one of their cars one-way.

If you don’t rent cars often, you might not know that it costs significantly more to drop off a car at another location than the one from which you picked it up. A daily Philly round-trip rental would have cost me about $50. I was prepared for the one-way to cost in the neighborhood of $150. I wasn’t ready for every rental car agency to refuse to let me pay them for the privilege of a nine-hour jaunt.

I did the only thing I could: I lied. I used my app to make a round-trip, one-day reservation, and I headed to the lot. Normally when I select a rental car, I’m doing it on the company nickel. In this case, the rental was coming out of my pocket, so I wanted something that would be comfortable enough for the drive, but economical enough that I wouldn’t be getting 16 miles per gallon. Enter the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu LT.

I plugged my phone into the USB port, told Siri that I wanted to get home, and immediately began to despair. The quickest route was nine hours and twenty minutes, which meant I wouldn’t get home until 6:00 a.m., and I had to be at the office at 8:30. Just enough time to shower, change, and head back out. Sigh. No rest for the wicked.

As I entered the highway, I began to ponder several questions about my life.

You see, I had flown all that way to race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but I hadn’t turned a single lap of the course due to some mechanical issues with the race car. I admit I’m not entirely sad about that. As I’ve said on these pages before, racing always turns the fear knob to 11 for me, and the trepidation I felt about getting behind the wheel of I car I’d never driven before wasn’t quite being balanced out by my excitement to thunder down the front straight of NJMP’s Lightning raceway. I hate to admit I was relieved to not drive in the event, even though I was disappointed to miss the chance to compete. Which direction was pulling me harder?

I had nine hours to figure that out. But first, I had to call the rental car company and tell them a blatant lie.

“Yes, I have an emergency at home, and I need to drop off the car at LEX,” I explained to the overseas after-hours customer service desk.

“Sir, there is no option to do this. You must return the car to Philadelphia,” said the representative, reading from a script in a thick accent.

“Well, that’s what I’m going to do, so how can you help me?”

“Sir, there is no option to do this. You must return the car to—”

“Listen,” I interrupted. “I’m taking the car to Lexington. How can you help me? I’m not concerned about what it costs.” I was terribly concerned about what it would cost.

“Sir, there is no—”

I’m taking the car to Lexington.” 


“One moment, sir.”

More silence.

“Sir, I have arranged for you to return the car to Lexington. There will be no additional charge.”

“Thank you, I greatly appreciate all of your help.”

I’d like to think it was my vast skills at negotiating that led him to make the executive decision to create an option where there was none. In reality, he probably noticed that I had already rented 25 cars in 2016 and that I had rented at least 25 cars a year since 2010. I felt slightly guilty about my deception, but everybody was served well by it in the end. I got to drive home. They got to keep my business for the future.

After that there was nothing to worry about for the next six hours. I felt no need to travel at Bolian-cross country record speeds. I even stopped once to use the restroom in Maryland, as the rental agency had failed to put even a single bed pan in my Malibu.

Ah, yes, the Malibu. I begrudgingly admit that it’s a fine car. No, that’s not exactly right. I don’t even begrudgingly admit it. It’s just a fine car. For the first half of my journey, I averaged 33 mpg. Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly. The 1.5-liter turbo motor was just fine. The suspension handled on-ramps and mountainous highways with relative competence. In fact, I think it’s just as good as any other car in the class — and that’s saying something for a GM mid-sizer, isn’t it? But we’ve reached a point where it almost doesn’t matter. The Equinox needs to be better for GM to be relevant. And realizing that GM has finally made a very competent car for the midsize segment, only in time for this segment to become relatively irrelevant, says all you need to know about General Motors.

Miles rolled by without incident. Darkness had settled in over the mountain ranges of Maryland and West Virginia, and my fatigued mind started to wander again. Only this time, it was starting to be dangerous. I noticed a distinct lack of focus. I was driving on pure autopilot, my hands were guiding the Malibu around the turns with little to no conscious input. As the fog settled into the valleys, clouding my visibility, fog was also settling into my mind.

I was faced with a perilous choice. Did I need to find a hotel and sleep just a couple of hours? If I did that, I most certainly wouldn’t be making it to the office on time. But what’s “on time” in the professional world, anyway? I don’t punch a clock. The donuts will be made whether I’m there or not. And I was getting so, so very sleepy.

And therein lies the real question that every middle-to-upper level manager must face about his own existence. It’s a what would you say you do here sort of moment. If I didn’t go to work today, what would really happen? Would conference calls be missed? Would reports not be generated? Would emails go unanswered? In other words, does anything I do genuinely make a difference in the world?

If an assembly line worker at the Flat Rock plant doesn’t show up, then that process can’t be completed that day. Products don’t get produced. Money is lost. Jobs are put at risk.

You know what’s a real motherfucker? When your child asks you what you do for a living, and you give him a bullshit answer like, “I manage the development process for 28 markets.” And then he just looks at you. And you both realize that doesn’t mean a single thing.

So I started to panic slightly. I pushed through my fatigue. My cruise control, which had been set at five miles an hour over the limit, got bumped to 15 over the limit. If I could slice an hour off of my arrival time, then maybe I could actually grab 60-90 minutes of sleep before heading into the office where I so badly needed to justify my existence.

The fog was getting worse, in both the physical and metaphorical senses. I realized that increasing my speed at a time when my reflexes were virtually nil was a potentially catastrophic decision, but I made it anyway. I set the volume of my Spotify to nearly maximum levels, and I sang along to Duran Duran and Tears For Fears at the top of my lungs, struggling to engage my senses and my mind.

I began to pray for sunlight that would never come as the sunrise was scheduled for over an hour past my destination time. Nothing but darkness. Void. Turns and twists throughout the foothills continued to come, and the Malibu and I continued to mindlessly navigate them. I had stopped just one time to use the restroom and get gas, and I was weighing the decision of stopping again for some sort of caffeine, but I feared that if I stopped I wouldn’t have the will to keep going. So on into the early morning I continued.

Again, the Malibu proved to be the perfect companion for my trip. Despite the increase in speed and intensity, the ‘Bu still averaged over 28 mpg through the elevation changes, from Pennsylvania through Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and finally, the relief I felt when I entered Kentucky. The roads turned flatter and straighter, and my mind rejoiced at the sign of familiar highway exits. With less than two hours to go, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And it was good.

Some say it’s good to be alone with one’s thoughts every now and again. In this ever-connected world of apps, messages, emails, and texts, to shut off and focus on the single task of driving through the dark, and dozens of minutes passing without another car entering your field of vision … it’s a rare opportunity. But when I pulled back into my driveway at 5:07 a.m., nearly a full hour earlier than Apple Maps had predicted, I was immensely relieved to be back in a place where my solitary state could be interrupted yet again with the distractions of modern life. The only problem was that there was nobody to text at that early hour. No new email to answer.

Only a bed to crawl into for less time than it would take to watch a Disney movie, and then back into the world once more. A world still filled with self-doubt, fear, lies, and increased feelings of solitude among many electronic acquaintances. Nine hours in the dark had done nothing to change any of that. But it did give me some time to practice all of it.

Perhaps I just need another drive to come up with the answers.

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77 Comments on “All The Things You Learn About Yourself While Driving Overnight...”

  • avatar

    The Malibu is competent (in a class that’s nothing if not competent) but it’s still a second class citizen. And remember, the Accord and Camry are at the end of their designs.

    It’s the same old GM – they launch a car that’s a solid contender just before the best-in-class cars go up for a redesign. The 2012 Malibu was an alright car (yeah the back seats weren’t super great but it was solid) just in time for the 2013 Accord to come out.

    • 0 avatar

      2012 Malibu was the final year of the “it’s finally a pretty decent midsize contender with interesting styling” 08-12 generation. ’13-15 was panned for stagnating/regressing just as the new generation of midsizers (’13 Accord like you mentioned) came to market. A ’12 Malibu in LTZ trim is still a fresh and sharp looking car today IMO, and much more distinctive than either the 13-15, and even moreso than the flattened, aero-optimized ’16s like what Bark rented.

      • 0 avatar

        I really don’t like the pinched rear end on the new Malibu. The trunk opening looks to be tiny as well.

      • 0 avatar

        I find the ’13-15 Malibu to be more attractive than the ’08-12 (and the new model that Grandpa won at the casino even more attractive than either of those), but if it came down to it, rear legroom would win out.

  • avatar

    Glad you arrived home safely……not a good feeling when your eyelids feel like they’re made of cement and you still have a long way to go. Reminds me of a straight drive from Albuquerque to New Orleans, just me and a buddy (Texas was miserable through the night, and I felt like I would drive off the causeway in LA). Just….don’t do it again :-)

    • 0 avatar

      I was doing part of my preceptorship in a small town and got off a night shift and decided to head home over 500 miles away. Half way home I almost fell asleep. I pulled into a 7-Eleven and had a nap and guzzled a Super Big Gulp of Coke. That went to that bladder rather quickly. Doing battle with the urge to pee did a good job of keeping me awake. I never did anything like that ever again. (The no sleep drive, not the Super Big Gulp. LOL)

  • avatar

    [ You broke rule #1: No personal/ad hominem attacks. One can communicate disagreement without attacking those with which they disagree. ]

  • avatar

    Let’s see feeling like crap, so less set the cruise 15 over the limit in fog, one day you will not enjoy the ending of this show, the hotel or rest stop was the wiser choice.

    • 0 avatar

      he probably won’t do it again when the question arises “one day” ten years later. he only did it because he is a male, and relatively young.

      • 0 avatar

        While it is totally irrational, I understand the speeding up and how at the time it does seem like the appropriate thing to do. I’ve done that when getting really tired and rationalized that getting home sooner was safer than spending more time at a slower speed. Of course that was not the right choice, but in my mind, at the time it was. I did choose to not use cruise control, thinking that striking an object a full road speed if I were to fall asleep would not be good…live and learn….

  • avatar

    I recall several overnighters that ran close to that. For a while, I remained behind in Charleston while my wife headed to Detroit in advance of our moving up there. On a lark, I decided to take the three (yes, three) dogs and I to visit her for a long weekend after work one day. At the time, I owned a 1993 Cougar in fair to moderate condition and luckily, the pooches were small (two corgis and a min-pin). I distinctly recall that by the time I made it to the Ohio/Michigan border (something like 9 or so hours into the trip after a full day’s work), I started to miss seeing some cars on the road, and just as scarily was seeing things that were most definitely NOT on the road. That was the moment when I pulled off at the first available rest stop, reclined the seat and prayed that my pups wouldn’t bark at every stranger that walked by the Merc.

    Then there was the time I went to see my wife (before she became my wife) and stayed at her place a tad too late. My drive back home became a washed-out blur as I somehow managed to get back into town on snooze-control. I awoke to the sudden stalling of my 325is when my foot slipped off of the clutch and the car lurched forward near an intersection (I say “near” as I fell asleep approaching a light some 50 or so feet away from the actual intersection). Thank God there was virtually no traffic at 3:30am in the burbs of Detroit. The sheer adrenaline rush of nearly getting myself killed was enough to propel me the rest of the distance to my apartment. When I got home, though my body was dead tired, the extra kick of “scared sh!tless” coursing through my veins was enough to deny me of any semblance of sleep.

    Then there was the “fly from Tennessee back to Saudi Arabia (24 hours of travel time), get home, sleep for a few hours, get a call your uncle is passing away, get back onto a plane less than 24 hours after getting home to fly BACK to TN (another 24 hours of travel) and be stupid enough to rent a car and drive to Alabama after having made two international trips in less than three days” trip…

    And to think…I used to be the guy who would go from north-central TN overnight to D.C. to visit my sister on a Friday night after being in classes all day, visiting my GF before leaving, drive straight through the night, have lunch and see a movie, then get about four hours of sleep before making the 8.5 drive back on Sunday. Anymore, I just get jealous of all those hotels along the way and think of those soft, comfy beds. Drives like this I just don’t have in me to do anymore, at least not alone. My last “OS” drive was from Huntsville to Detroit just prior to Christmas to pick up my niece (now adopted daughter) after her birth mother called completely wigged out.

  • avatar

    this strikes me as an astoundingly more useful *review* of a car than what most publications do.

    1) it’s real-world usage
    2) of a mass market vehicle which people actually buy.

    for the average person, how comfortable, convenient, and economical the car was is way more useful than comparing its handling to a Camry.

  • avatar

    This kind of story is what happens when everybody wants to rule the world.

  • avatar

    Your job really doesn’t matter to anyone except others at the same or similar levels of management that may enjoy or at least have their day affected by your presence. You are middleclass, meaning your only purpose is to keep the trickle-down effect Srunning, since actual rich people have learned to only share their riches among each other.
    Some of us build, test and stack and pack and ship stuff and things around the globe so that you and others on your level can ‘consume’ to your hearts delight. But at least you can write and play music to give some of us a bit of joy or at least a bit of slightly subjective information about cars once in a while. So youre existence makes a difference even beyond your family and social circle. I wish I could say that about more people in middle management systems…
    That said, even people who’s jobs are a complete waste of both time and money for everyone else, can still be important people outside work, and can be good fathers, friends, and generally contribute to society in more ways than just providing money for goods and services to keep the rich people rich, and keep some of us lower class subhumans with jobs.

    PS: Yeah, don’t drive when youre dead-tired btw. I’ve tried driving the whole 13 hour drive home from where most of my family lives, in one day, and when you just ‘can’t stop and sleep only two hours from home’ , those last two hours of the trip suddenly get very very sketchy…

    • 0 avatar

      Managing professionals is always a very vague business as it can be hard to see what you’re actually accomplishing day-to-day. If you’re doing the job correctly, you can disappear for a few days to a couple of weeks with no immediate issues, as the people you are managing should know what they’re doing and be able to handle small emergencies. As a manager it’s your job to be looking down the road and removing obstacles before your people ever run into them. It is only when you’re out of the picture for an extended period of time that you can start to see what impact you do (or don’t) have.

      Coming back from a four week vacation a few years ago, I found everything on fire and it took me two months to resolve all the issues that had come up in my absence. That’s when I realised “Jeez, I guess I do accomplish something useful around here.”

      • 0 avatar

        I had a similar experience. On the way back from my 3 week wedding and honeymoon I landed in atl for my connection home. I had 6 or 7 vm’s waiting for me on my personal phone, 3 of them had a person crying on the other end of the line. Our client had forced the firing of the idiot filling in for me, another company had been read the riot act bc it was clear that I’d been doing their job all along and the client was making noises about changing the structure of their vendor accounts because of the drama (which they did). It felt perversely good at the time I have to admit, although I ended up having to housebreak and negotiate with a new employer when the client followed through and I lost lots of the autonomy that I had enjoyed because of those same changes (the client brought me along to the new account holder).

        To bring it back on topic one of the changes they made was I was no longer encouraged to drive ridiculous overnighters from say Florida to ny after full work days. That I can’t regret, it would have killed me eventually.

    • 0 avatar

      The bottom line is, you do your work for the guy who signs your paycheck.

      If HE thinks it’s meaningful, and is happy with how you do it, it matters little what people at the bar, or even the dinner table, think of it.

      And if YOU, the person with the job, don’t think it’s meaningful, it’s probably time to start shopping for another job. First, because you cannot do your best when you don’t believe in your work; and second, there’s that possibility that your supervisors may be coming to that conclusion, also.

      Better to choose your out than to have it sprung on you.

      As for all-nighters like this one…that is what Motel 6 and sick days were made for. We’ve all driven dog-tired; but I don’t think many people have ever tried to do a cross-country run with toothpicks holding the eyelids up.

      Working swing shift long ago, I did fall asleep behind the wheel, coming home around noon on an urban-beltway stretch. Nope, didn’t pile up. Yup, did lose it for a minute, shooting across two lanes of traffic. You try to learn from the bullets you dodge.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d say it depends a lot on the size and competence of the company you work for. Some people are quite content sitting around adding their names to internal spam-mails, crunching numbers that don’t say anything into colorful graphs in powerpoints that confuse people who don’t care what they are supposed to mean as long as they look good, and don’t want anyone to know they are incompetent, and take responsibility for jobs that are performed elsewhere by people they have never met. And in large corporations there can be hundreds, if not thousands of people whos primary function is literally nothing. And they are hired by other people who are in charge of things they have no understanding of at all, in hopes that they are able to explain it to them, or at least write papers that seem meaningful, that the manager can take credit for if it is ever read at all.
        And the guys who sign the paychecks work for a different company altogether, since that job has been outsourced a long time ago…
        I could never be anywhere in middlemanagement and feel good about myself. Except maybe at the very bottom where I am in direct contact and dialogue with the guys doing the actual work.
        I have gone from hating the middlemen though feeling sorry for them until I realized most of them actually have a function on their level, it’s just that their level is more or less in another dimension where people just have different values and morals than the ones I’m used to.

        • 0 avatar

          Bark, how can you not know the why of your job? I thought you are mostly a writer and in sales. Obviously, you do not work in health care where most people actually have to DO something. In that case, better to call off sick as soon as possible so that the supervisor can arrange coverage.

          I once worked in a medical records department and we had a manager who could not spell, did not know medical words, was obsessed over time cards, and told me she wrote an report to upper management. When I asked her what this report is about and what did the managers do with it, she could not tell me. How could she be writing this report and not know why?

          What was the purpose of this article, to show off that you can stay barely awake all night?

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            There are a lot of people in the medical field that don’t DO anything. My wife used to work with some of those people. Luckily, she doesn’t have that problem at her new job.

          • 0 avatar

            You wife must not have been a nurse, as “when no one else does it, nursing does it” and it is best to call ahead so that a nurse manager can arrange for someone else to come in for that shift. That said, there are a lot of people in administration with long titles who do not appear to do anything. Did your wife have a long title? She must have been an administrator. Everyone else in health care is understaffed.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a great situation for cat nap in the car.

    Even 30-60 minutes of sleep makes a wold of difference in my alertness and functionality on long drives.

    Just pull over in a nice safe spot (open businesses in upscale suburbs work well) by the interstate, set an alarm, recline, and snooze.

    This may not work well if the driver is one of the folks who always wakes up groggy and requires a long time to get functional again, but I’m fortunate to have a quick boot-up and can transition from sleeping to complex tasks in about 30 seconds.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe because I’m older now, but I would have pulled over to sleep an hour or so. It would make a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar

      Every time I try that, I get frustrated because I’m a light sleeper (SLIGHT noise might as well be bass drums being played in the back seat lol), and with my physical issues, I can’t get the pain level low enough to actually rest sitting in a car.

      I just end up at a rest area, and I take a long walk or something to wake myself up (this is usually after a failed attempt at resting in the car).

      I dealt with this exact thing about a month ago when I left Florida. I hadn’t slept and I had left at 4 am, so by 9 or 10AM, I noticed myself drifting off. I stopped and tried to take a cat nap. Nope. So, I walked around the rest area and read all the informational signs, made some phone calls, got a cold Diet Pepsi and hit the road again. I was fine from then on, until I arrived home at like 3 or 4 that afternoon.

  • avatar

    You would have been safer at NJMP.

    The TPS reports can always wait.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to hear you made it home O.K. ~ the last time I did this same foolishness I woke up *just* in time to swerve so the lamp post I hit going 40 embedded itself in the _passenger_ side of the dashboard of my much loved 1965 Chevelle instead of driving the steering column through my chest ~ as it was I broke off the steering wheel and damaged my sternum badly , the paramedics said I should have died anyway ~ thank god for lap belts and me using them , it took over a year to fully recuperate that time .
    Also nice to hear The General is making good cars again .

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Bark, Nice description of epic endurance. Just reading it made my eyes burn. One word of advice. Ditch racing and take up golf. Then figure out how to beat Stinson.Golf provides ample agony and satisfaction without much physical danger unless you like to play chicken with lightning. I used to play in a league after work. I relished the sound of thunder along with the fear in my opponents eyes. I won a few matches as a result of that anxiety. Now, I’m just about as wimpy about lightening.

  • avatar

  • avatar
    George B

    Glad you got home Bark. I had to make a 5 hour drive from the Dallas area to SE Kansas overnight 15 years ago due to a health emergency with my Dad. The trip was difficult because I had very little sleep the night before. What I learned was 1) there are a few people out driving at all hours of the night even in sparely populated rural areas, 2) don’t skip sleep for work, and 3) I was glad I didn’t have to worry about the car on top of other more important worries.

  • avatar
    Testacles Megalos

    It takes about 18 hours to drive non-stop around Lake Michigan if one wants to drive the fewest miles. If one starts in the afternoon in southwestern Michigan and heads north, Roads like J, K, A, etc… in northeastern WI get all fuzzy and confusing. Chicago is a blinding blare. And the foggy dunes along Lake Michigan’s southern shore in the dawn twilight get spooky. Several cold long-necks at the end lubricate some really good stories before one dozes off.

  • avatar

    “More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s just what happens when you transition from a manufacturing to a service-based economy. It’s not “bad” that 90% of the population isn’t in a shop building things with hammers. We don’t have to anymore.

      Physical production is almost always sourced to the cheapest place possible while maintaining acceptable (and sometimes not acceptable) quality.

      • 0 avatar

        Has this ever happened before in recorded history?

        • 0 avatar

          Transition from manufacturing to service based? Happens with first world countries almost every time. Standard of living goes up, education levels increase, and with it wages. Then it’s not profitable and doesn’t make sense to produce things anymore.

          England is a good example.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t disagree. I posted the NYT blog piece mainly for the humorous bits about the modern epidemic of “exhaustion.” I recognize that my job is mostly pointless, so I can’t get too worked up over it, even though I’m relatively well paid for doing little. There’s always another day and another place to push paper.

          • 0 avatar

            So, and I’m being completely serious, this has never occurred before prior to about 1970?

            “England is a good example.”

            Yes, because Londonistan is the example we should strive to achieve.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s the example which sprang to mind. Never said it was any sort of ideal or something to seek out – I said it happens.

            The natural efficiency-seeking nature of capitalism and production.

          • 0 avatar

            Capitalism in a textbook and theory is efficient. In the real world, it is far from efficient, especially in that, all of the old theories of capitalism pundits so ignorantly embrace, fail to take into account the fiat money printing press available, and fractional reserve banking. I won’t get into moral hazard, nor will I go into the lack of morals of today’s CEOs, politicians and bankers….all of which contribute to the complete lack of efficient markets. Rigged markets? Oh yes. Efficient? Hardly.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t remember there being any snakes in Richard Scarry’s Busytown. Come to think of it, I can’t remember there being any non-mammals at all besides Lowly Worm.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        There is a crocodile/alligator, turtles, and chickens. The crocodile isn’t common. Mostly there are alligator cars. Goldbug shows up now and then too.

        • 0 avatar

          I liked that cartoon. I was already too old for it when they started showing it on Nick Jr. in the mornings.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Oh, he’s referring to the cartoon and not the books. My sister watched that cartoon, nut I had Richard Scary books. My daughter has a bunch of those books as well. We were just reading “Richard Scary’s Biggest Book Ever” yesterday.

  • avatar

    “I did the only thing I could: I lied.”

    No. You could have sucked it up and paid the the few hundred bucks extra for a flight and chalked it up to poor planning on your part.

    Was the risk really worth it?

  • avatar

    I made the trip alone between Blackfoot, Idaho, and Springfield, Ohio, several times during my Navy days years ago when 8-track stereo was king. Made the run in a ’71 El Camino (about 31 hours each way) and in a ’72 Type 2 VW (about 32 hours eastbound, 41 hours westbound against the wind). I’d usually stop at the 1000-mile point in Omaha during the eastbound run and rest for an hour or two, then press on. The westbound trip was an endurance race – I was usually cuttin’ it close to getting back to work at NRTS without being UA (unauthorized absence). Night time driving wasn’t the worst for me – it was dawn with the sky gradually lightening up that really got me sleepy and hallucinating, seeing things jumping across the road.

  • avatar

    Is it existential crisis week for the Baruth boys? I love long trips but they’re dreadful when you’re tired. I did Sarasota Fl to Columbia MO almost straight through once. Stopped an hour short to grab a nap at a rest stop cause I was past the point of keeping my eyes open.

  • avatar

    What – no sick days?

  • avatar

    There is a condition known as “get-there-itis”. It is a major factor in killing people who fly small airplanes and nipping it in the bud is an oft-emphasized topic in flight training. Find a hotel, get some sleep, and call work in the morning to tell them that you won’t be in. Don’t feel guilty about it at all.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      This. The insidious thing about this condition is that it degrades one’s ability to self-evaluate. People who are extremely fatigued have been known to nod off to sleep without even realizing they had done so. While I’ve never done an all-night drive, I recall one time in my early 20s when I was working the night beat. Someone, a co-worker, called me in the middle of my sleep (at around noon) and had an apparently coherent conversation with me. I recalled none of it. I only know it happened because that person told me about it later.

  • avatar

    Drives like these are when I resort to podcasts. TheSmokingTire is always great, and serial shows like, well – Serial are good for getting attached to a narrative to stay focused. Ultimately the time and place have a huge impact on how long the drive feels, which is why I still loathe any jaunt through West Texas or Oklahoma/Kansas.

  • avatar

    Sorry to hear you didn’t get on track.

    Racing is the enemy of sleep, every time I can remember being up way too late and on the road it was racing related. I did briefly fall asleep behind the wheel coming back from a race. I’d driven two and a half hours of a six hour enduro at Daytona on July 3rd, and was almost home to north Georgia when I briefly nodded off, gave both myself and my father, who was in the passenger seat, quite a scare.

    This line concerns me: ” I hate to admit I was relieved to not drive in the event…”

    I do recall you saying that racing scares you, and I did read that posting that you linked to here. I raced SCCA for 14 different seasons between ages 18 and 39, and I can’t recall ever being scared in the car, even when I spun, was facing counter race, and got hit nose to nose by another car.

    On a gut level, different things scare different people. I have ridden motorcycles approximately 75,000 miles in my lifetime, and I’m what I call “aggressively conservative” on a bike, I ride like the stereotypical little old lady. While I love being on a bike, I have no desire to go fast on one. Four wheels on the racetrack, I have no fear, two wheels, and I’m very cautious. Is one of those things more dangerous than the other? Probably not, but my gut tells me otherwise.

    After I hung up my helmet, I took up hang gliding for a few years. The place that we launched from was a ramp launch, and is very dramatic. On a no wind day, you got about six steps before you were airborne, on a day with a breeze, you got maybe two. It’s also near a well traveled road, and lots of motorcyclists stop and watch. One of them watched one of our pilots launch, and on the way back to his Harley, he loudly said, “!”. Now hang gliding is safer than is riding a motorcycle on the public roadways, but there’s no way that was going to matter to that man, his gut told him that running off of the side of a mountain while attached to an aluminum and nylon kite by nothing more than some nylon webbing and a carabiner was unsafe. Whether or not riding a motorcycle was more or less dangerous wasn’t important, the only reason that anyone flies a hang glider is for fun, and being scared is not fun.

    Racing is inconvenient, expensive, and time consuming. If it scares you as well, are you sure you want to continue?

  • avatar

    Pay for the last-minute flight. Or just be a day late.

    Years ago, when my age started with “2” instead of “4,” I would frequently drive overnight from Seattle to Portland in my unreliable, much-abused ’89 Taurus SHO. I stopped feeling so cavalier about it when I realized one night that I was driving on the shoulder instead of the right lane, and had no idea how it happened or how long I had been on the shoulder. Now I won’t do it anymore. I have an iPhone, so I can respond to emergencies at work and jump on calls, and the less urgent desk crap can wait a day.

  • avatar

    I assume you have PTO time built up at your job, this would have been an excellent situation to use some of it. Glad you got home safely though.

    I like to take 5 hour energy with me on long trips, it works well if you’re not a fan of coffee and would like to stay awake.

    Also, how are the headlights on that thing?

  • avatar

    Louis CK has a bit where he’s late for a flight and has a rental car. He pulls up to the arrivals drop off, hops out and leaves the car running. As he’s making his way to the plane he calls the rental car company and tells them to go pick up the car. “Sir you can’t do that” is met with, “It’s already been done, if you want your car back, go get it.”

  • avatar

    Sorry bud. That was a reckless and stupid decision. You put your own life and the lives of others at risk.. for what? Even if you didn’t fall sound asleep behind the wheel, you would have been groggy enough to be as bad a drunk driver.

    Find a place to park and get some sleep. Even an hour will help.

    I once had a long overnight drive in college. I was tired. So I pulled off in to this field, parked under a tree, and went to sleep. 30 minutes later a cop is tapping on my window. I woke up and we chatted. He told me that I wasn’t allowed to park there. I told him that he had a choice. I can either sleep right there. Or I can sleep on the freeway at 65MPH. Which would he rather deal with?

    So he left me alone. I slept 2 hours, then finished my journey.

  • avatar

    This is a wonderful article, Bark. As good as you have always been, I feel like you’ve kicked it up a couple of notches in your latest articles. It’s insightful and a pleasure to read.

  • avatar

    @ Bark M.

    Nice piece. Except for: “And it was good.”

    You should have added: “It will be like in the old days. We will sit in the sun and drink wine.”

    It is OK imho to channel Hemingway.

    • 0 avatar

      “I went down to the cafe and had a sandwich and beer for lunch. And it was a good sandwich, meaty and true, not like so many of the sandwiches made these days that are full of falsehoods that leave men feeling hungry in more ways than one…”

  • avatar

    I have made that trip up and down I-79 in WV many times, some times in the middle of night, and a few times at a felonious rate of speed. That road can bite you quick if you lose attention, especially in the fog and if the deer decide to be suicidal. Glad you made the trip safely.

  • avatar

    I have had two friends/acquaintances who have had similar fatigue related accidents. This entails falling asleep at the wheel, leaving the road approaching an intersection. The car enters the near ditch and goes up the side to the intersecting road. At this point it goes airborne for quite a distance and lands…. somewhere. Driver wakes up somewhere along the way. Both survived without injury. The cars not so much. Another was a co-worker that simply ended up in the ditch. Also with not a scratch, but totalled the car. It is pure luck that none of these (all) guys were killed or severely injured. All the accidents were in very remote areas without any traffic, so no other vehicles were involved. Driving overtired is as bad as, or maybe worse than driving drunk.

  • avatar

    Trying to make decisions about your state of impairment with the mind that’s impaired almost always yields a result of “just barely OK” no matter how impaired you are. Far better to make some rules for yourself and then follow them.

    What you do at work is be a piece of a complex organization that does real things. Your job doesn’t have to make sense by itself, that’s not where you do it.

  • avatar

    thomas k —- have not heard from you for awhile, would like to hear of your latest adventures.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for that. Unfortunately I’m working on some other stuff and am on a bit of an auto-blogging hiatus right now. As long as the current crop of writers continue to produce great articles like this though, I’ll be an avid reader.

  • avatar

    I keep a bottle of caffeine tablets in my glove compartment for overnight drives (and make no mistake about it, if you have to drive long-distance, the best time to do so is overnight). If you’re in a position when stopping and resting isn’t an option, it’s better to pop a caffeine tablet at the first yawn than to end up in a ditch.

  • avatar

    Think about this story the next time you board an early morning/late night regional aircraft because it’s likely at least one, if not both of the flight crew are flying in a similar condition. And they’re doing it for less than most of the passengers in the back earn.

    One of my most beautiful and surreal travel experiences occurred on an all night drive from west Texas to central Nebraska. Driving through western Kansas in the wee hours of the morning one sees all the stars in the sky because the only lights are isolated farmhouses which are few and far between. The AM radio in my car repeatedly scrolled through the dial searching for a signal strong enough to de-modulate. I can’t remember how long I drove without seeing another vehicle. Hours. The twilight stretch through New Mexico was quite pleasant, however.

  • avatar

    Glad to hear you made it home ok man. I think we’ve all been there where we think it worth it to just keep trucking despite the danger. My dad gave me a piece of advice that I try to stick to when it comes to speeding / driving tired that I try to stick to as best I can especially now that I’ve got two young kids. “Its better to show up a little late than to not show up at all”

    Good story.

  • avatar

    You’ll keep doing this until you really fall asleep at the wheel. Hopefully you won’t have cruise control engaged at the time, no innocent parties will be harmed, and you’ll get off lightly. Nothing like awaking from a pleasant dream to find oneself at the controls of a 2-ton vehicle headed for oblivion.

    We all know this, but we keep doing it anyway – until the inevitable crash. So the only solution is to bet on a car that has driver assistance systems.

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