Thomas Jefferson

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The Danger Zone

Posted 01/31/2022 by Gracelyn Leonard

The wide open road of Kansas where my first highway experience occurred. photo by SheKnows

My first, and unforgettable, experience driving on the highway. 

My family’s luggage was tightly packed in the car as we embarked on our annual nine hour Thanksgiving drive from Denver to Kansas City. I had just turned 15 and recently received my driver’s permit. Early in the trip, my parents thought this would be a great opportunity to get some of my required highway hours, although I was not sure I agreed. As we pulled into a gas station to stretch our legs and get more of our necessary road trip snack, Smartfood popcorn, my dad looked over at me and said, “your turn.” Still unsure of my abilities, I accepted the challenge. I took a deep breath and tried not to show my overwhelming stress, though I was horrible at concealing it. 

As I slowly turned on the car and put it into drive, I quickly began to sweat. Once I got us on the on-ramp, my dad said in a firm voice, “you need to go faster.” I looked down at the speedometer, I was only going 25 mph. I hit the accelerator. I was shaking and knew that I needed to merge, but this car full of old ladies cut me off. Immediately my mom let out a panicked sigh and my dad reached over, grabbed the wheel, and laid on the horn. I was mortified and told myself that I was never going to drive again. The next hundred miles, there was much silence except for my dad’s continual driving tips, something which I have learned does not go away. In the distance, there was a huge truck that I knew I needed to pass. As the semi-truck swayed back and forth, I grabbed the wheel tighter and tighter. At that moment, I thought, “this is the end.” I looked straight ahead and gunned it. Success! We passed the truck. My dad looked over and said, “you know, you don’t need to hold the wheel so tight.” I looked down at my white-knuckled hands and released my grip slightly. 

Thankfully, we made it to our destination with no harm. Now, I have over 38 months of driving, and I am much more confident and relaxed. But my dad will always remind me of my first white knuckle driving.