Highway Star Rising, Act 3: A New Gold Dawn in the Old Dominion

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
highway star rising act 3 a new gold dawn in the old dominion

Fifteen years. That’s how long I’ve gone without a license.

Never again.

When I last left you, the path to regaining my license was uncertain beyond knowing I would likely need to leave Kentucky to get it.

(Editor’s note: This is the third piece in an ongoing series. For more background, click the link above).

And that’s what happened. Circumstances surrounding my old Kentucky home of Louisville led me out of the Bluegrass State last October, landing in the New River Valley of Virginia to stay with my mother and maternal grandmother. The thought then was I would return to Louisville soon enough, then save my pennies to immigrate to the Netherlands to obtain my license.

This didn’t (and won’t) happen, of course. Instead, one of my aunts had found me a home on Craigslist, a cottage in the backyard of a home owned by a middle-age couple from New England. I met with them in December, signed the lease, and moved in in January of 2018.

A few months later, I headed over to my local DMV to take the written permit test, believing I would only need a few dollars to collect my new Virginia permit. Turned out I needed $35, which covered the $3 permit fee and the $32 fee for a full, eight-year license. A minor setback, but one overcome once a partial payment from one of my writing clients was sent over.

There are two ways to go to obtaining a license in Virginia once one has a permit and is over the age of 18: complete a state-approved driver training course, or wait a minimum of 60 days before taking the road test at the DMV. As I wasn’t financially able to enroll in a course, I spent the full 60-day waiting period working on my skills among friends.

Anticlimactic, I know. On the bright side, I didn’t need to work on a whole lot to be able to walk away from the DMV with the first license in my life since I was 25.

I also realize that if I had never believed my former friend in the first place, this series would not need to exist, either.

So, what did I do once I regained my license? Go on my first long-distance road trip, of course. I had left my art behind at my father’s house in Louisville. Rather than either one of us paying tons of money to ship the art to me, let alone figure out how to do so without damaging the pieces, I opted to go to my local Enterprise, then drive nearly 400 miles through the West Virginia Turnpike and I-64 to my old Kentucky home.

The car for the journey was a 2018 Nissan Sentra SV in Deep Blue Pearl, whose 1.8-liter inline-four delivered the goods through the Xtronic CVT. All I can remember of the car was the constant hum of the CVT, having more than enough space in the trunk to stow my bag and art, and how I really needed the backup camera when backing out of Sheetz to return the Nissan to Enterprise due to how things have changed regarding visibility since I first learned to drive back in high school.

Speaking of high school, the last weekend of September 2018 was my 20th high school reunion. I wanted to show up to the reunion in style, especially since this reunion would be my class’s first-ever reunion. Thus, I had hoped I would be picking up a Ford Mustang from the Budget counter at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport to drive from Wichita to Augusta, Kansas. Alas, none were available when I landed.

Instead, I took this 2018 Toyota Corolla LE with an automatic. Since most of my driving was in-town (and since my hometown is over 3 miles long north to south, and over a mile wide west to east along U.S. 54), the needle on the fuel gauge hardly moved backwards until I took it back to the parking garage. The Corolla was a nice enough car, but it was nicer to finally be able to drive around Augusta, having never done so in my high school years.

Where will the road take me next? There’s a wedding in Madison, Indiana coming up in mid-October, for starters. And of course, I’ll need to enroll in a manual-shifting course soon; there are some manual cars in the United States left to review, after all.

After that, I don’t have anything in mind other than buying my very first car, now that I’ve regained what I should have never given up at all.

Still would like to drive a Mustang, though.

[Images © Cameron Aubernon/TTAC]

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2 of 45 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Oct 10, 2018

    @Cameron - congratulations and welcome back. People tend to take for granted the privilege of possessing a driver's licence. Driving a manual is something else many of us take for granted. Manuals were very common when I was young but that may be more related to where I lived and the industrial nature of the region. I guess I'm getting old and showing it too. Cheers.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Oct 10, 2018

    Congrats, Cameron!

  • Kwik_Shift If I'm in that situation of being in an unfamiliar area looking for an address/parking, I'll put on my hazards. If you want to pass, then pass. Otherwise you have warning.
  • Tassos Strictly a collectible, nota daily driver. Way too old. Even the Awesome S class from 1991-99 is getting to old to be a daily driver these days.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The small van segment is quite popular in Europe. Many business owners and crafts people buy the Transit, the Renault Kangoo or Peugeot Partner since it fits their needs and can navigate the narrow streets. They should have done better here for folks whose Ranger or S-10 with a cap is getting old.
  • Kwik_Shift So well-used ones can be overpriced.
  • Cprescott Ford killed the TRANSit because it identified itself as a station wagon.