Musings on a long drive


By Al Vinikour     

Several times a year I drive from Detroit to Chicago for a variety of reasons — one in Spring and one in Fall — and my kids live there. The Fall trip is a great drive because it’s always in early-October, just as the leaves are beginning to change and I don’t have to face the prospects of lake-effect snow in either direction.

As a result of 10 or more hours to myself and a talk show on SiriusXM, I think of a lot of things. For instance, when I drive through Northwest Indiana I recall my wasted youth where I grew up in Valparaiso. I recall old friends – primarily old girlfriends (who unfortunately are old). And I get to observe human nature that makes fodder for future columns (think I just sit at my desk and make this crap up?).

Case in point. I was driving back to Detroit one evening and about a half-hour into the state — around Benton Harbor (Exits 23-34 in your Interstate playbooks) it got dark. No, I’m not afraid of the dark…but I am concerned about suicidal deer running out in front of me. None of them wear reflective vests and this time of the year their coats have gotten darker to apparently add a measure of camouflage from the bow hunters who have the green light to kill those poor Bambis.

Michigan ranks third in vehicle-deer accidents, but we’re trying real hard to capture the ultimate prize of being #1 as quickly as possible.

I never used to concern myself with something as mundane as hitting a deer…until I actually hit one several years ago. There’s nothing like the vision of a big-assed doe running in front of your car to make you believe in the hereafter – because you could possible live there if you sufficiently hit one of those things. It took out the front-end of a Mitsubishi press vehicle I was driving. The deer was hurt, obviously, but was last seen scampering back into the woods…flipping me off with her middle hoof.

So, by about Mile Marker #51 I had my strategy. Find a pair of faster-moving 18-wheelers and cradle myself between them. If a deer is quick enough to run between the trailer’s rear door and my hood…then more power to it. Meantime, I’m going to be protected better than a baby in an M1A2 Abrams Tank.

Another constant thought is the number of vehicles that are unaware their headlights aren’t on. They probably began their drive at twilight when turning on headlights wasn’t a must. However, they’re probably so engrossed with events in their own private hell they’re not thinking that although they can see others…it’s getting harder for others to see them. My solution?...a drone with a bug zapper-like device should be operated and if sensors determine it’s time to use headlights and someone doesn’t have theirs on?...PSHHHTTT!  That vehicle is gone to the world forever…and the driver and any passengers have taken up residence in the Bermuda Triangle. 

How long does it take some trucks to pass another? Sometimes I’ll be driving along with the car on cruise control while I’m listening to a radio talk show when all of a sudden an 18-wheeler will pull over in front of me to pass a slower-moving “brother of the highway.” It’s not like you or I in a car, however. This is a process that can take up to five minutes — especially if hills are involved. Trucks should be equipped with a rocket booster to be used only to pass other vehicles and not create a line of backed-up cars in the left lane.

Finally, I alluded earlier to using cruise control. This technical marvel is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when traffic is relatively light because you can just set it and you’re symbolically having others do the driving for you. However, sometimes you’ll be moving up on a slow-moving car and you’ll delay slowing down because it’s a “pain-in-the-ass” to “go through all the extra effort of thumbing the ‘Resume’ button.” I have often wondered how many accidents have been caused because of a driver waiting too long to disengage his cruise control to avoid striking another vehicle.

There are so many things to observe while engaging in a long drive and I urge all my fellow humans take advantage of this precious time to consider what could be done to better your world. Watch what goes on around you and if you don’t like it, dream up creative ways to torture and maim people you fear are interfering with your life.

If nothing else, think of this: nothing those talk show guys say is going to paint a more vivid picture than what you’re seeing first-hand out your windows.