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Driving in the East of the USA

My first major road trip was when I was seven. And really, it wasn’t a trip as I never did make it back to the starting point. When my family moved from San Antonio, Texas up to New York, we drove. 5 days visiting various famous sights along the way–though we did ship the rest of our belongings up. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything. I have no idea which sights we visited and what famous things I touched or experienced. It’s extremely sad as now I wish I could remember the places I had seen and been so I could happily remember these places, scratch them off my list and get ready for the next destination.

Even in more recent years, road trips and I haven’t been major friends. I hardly remember what the passing scenery looks like because, once you put me in a car for a very long ride–as in, over an hour, my attention span is not great when in a car–I fall asleep. My belief is that since I am unable to read in a moving vehicle without getting extremely carsick, I just naturally turn to sleep to make the time pass faster. Now, when my dad drives me to Wellesley or picks me up from there, I immediately fall asleep in the car. It might be because my body is exhausted for the return trip home but I think I’m simply well trained at this point.

I’ve never been in love with driving. I enjoy it and I can understand how it is a destressor. Despite being the oldest in my friend group, I was one of the last ones to get my license. Driving isn’t the love of my life and I’ll live without it, quite well. And so, I have never convinced friends to go on a road trip with me. My dream destinations have always been a flight away.

Recently I joined my frisbee team on spring break, down in Georgia. This was going to be my first major road trip without the parents. I was prepared to be cramped and get to know my car family really well, through all the awkward times we would share. But my car family and I were just not meant to be. Not even ten minutes onto the first major highway south, our poor little car broke down. As drivers who are under 25, there are fees on top of normal charges when renting cars and not many companies will allow their cars to go across country. And a last minute flight didn’t exactly fit our college student budgets.

But with some wiggling and shaking, solutions were found and we flew down to Raleigh, North Carolina to meet up with the rest of the team. We were split among the cars with room and eventually made it to the motel for the first Ultimate-tournament-filled weekend. I helped drive that final stretch as most of the drivers had already driven 11 hours total at that point. It worked out rather well as I prefer driving at night. And, I am not ashamed to admit, I drive better then, too. Driving in North Carolina and Georgia was nice and simple. On the drive back up, after an exhausting and awesome week, I drove through the Baltimore/DC area and all the way up to New York City. I am not a fan of either of these city areas. I highly recommend changing drivers either before or after major cities.

After driving long stretches of roads where there’s little change beyond merging, driving in a metropolitan area is a drag and rather shocking change. There’s honking, construction, changes to traffic patterns and major confusion as road signs suddenly disappear. So, congratulate the driver, give them a pat on the back and then boot them into the back seat so they can relax and recuperate. I would recommend, in my rather limited experience, avoiding interstates and using parkways as an alternative. The route is prettier and has less traffic. Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike is not fun, in my personal opinion. A few of my friends, when driving south, avoid NJ altogether. Again, further south than Baltimore is more enjoyable driving–cornfields, random sightings of farms and horses.

For Wellesley’s Commencement this year, my dad wants to test my skills and let me drive up. Not alone, mind you, as he still wants to teach me and be there just in case. As I don’t have a car, it’s bigger than my skills as it involves his car, insurance and things I hope to never need to understand. I think it’ll go off without a hitch but I will have to drive in New York City traffic to make it north. Goodness knows, I don’t want to do that again. At the same time, I think it will be good to know that I can drive long distances for the future. Knowing that I can do it will allow myself to consider this option if I ever need to drive somewhere. I won’t need to shy away from the idea of a road trip if it’s the cheapest option for fear of not being able to do it. And it will calm my parents’ minds if I do it in the future. Now that my sister is in college, also in the Boston area, I might actually need to make this trip in the coming year.

Sam Wu
Sam started traveling on the wrong foot and was every traveler’s pet peeve–the bawling baby who just couldn’t be silenced. Since then she has fallen in love with planes and boats and going places. Sam once studied abroad in London but is now slowly growing more roots in NYC.

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