An unasked for guide to: Long drives

Driving tips from the Spectator

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

The Tator
December 13, 2022

Nothing heightens the senses like anxiety, caffeine shakes and a full bladder

I do a lot of driving. From driving for work and between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities, to my summer trek to Houston and back, I’ve logged thousands upon thousands of miles in more than half a dozen states.

All this experience has taught me one thing, a lot of people have no clue what they’re doing on the road. Hopefully, some of the people who have cut me off, blocked me from passing and nearly ran me off the road are reading this.

The left lane, snow driving and night driving seem to confuse a lot of people. Despite what I occasionally yell at my dashboard about these people, I’m not mad, just disappointed.

Or maybe they do something I’m guilty of; forgetting other cars are being driven by real people with lives who aren’t on the road specifically to inconvenience me. To quote Miley Cyrus, musician and former Disney Channel star, “Everybody makes mistakes.”

No matter who you are, or how good you are at driving, someone out there probably thinks you’re the worst at it, so these tips are to help prove them wrong.

The left lane

The name of the Eagles song ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ has a literal meaning. The left lane is for passing people quickly. If you’re cruising down a highway in the left lane and someone is driving behind you; move over, please.

Here at the Spectator, we would never condone speeding, but personally, I would never condone going the speed limit in the left lane unless you’re a fan of the middle finger or getting tailgated.

It’s actually illegal to drive in the left lane if you’re not passing in Wisconsin. It’s a law in Minnesota too, but you’d never know based on how they drive. It’s my home state. I love it, but in my opinion, it’s full of bad drivers.

Snow driving

Driving in the snow, every midwesterner’s favorite pastime. We do it for what feels like most part of each year, but you’d never know based on every first snowfall.

Driving slower is a good idea, but driving like a blind, geriatric pigeon isn’t. Slow down when turning, start braking early, don’t drive too close to people and we can all survive winter repair free.

Also, if you drive a vehicle with four-wheel drive, please drive like it. I shouldn’t pass you in my Chevy Aveo while you’re driving a car made to climb mountains.

Night driving

Night driving — especially on those dark, empty midwest highways — can be boring. Staying awake can be tough, but I’ve cracked the code.

First step, you’ve gotta quench your thirst. Caffeine and water, lots of it. Nothing heightens the senses like anxiety, caffeine shakes and a full bladder. 

Second step, entertainment. I recommend music for the first half, then podcasts for the remainder. Listening to high-energy music keeps me up for a few hours, then switching to something interesting keeps me going from there.

If all else fails, think about deer. If I’m ever tired and driving, imagining a deer in front of my car helps me stay focused. It also makes me terrified and miserable, but awake.

The last option is a car nap. Pull over at the next Casey’s General Store or rest stop, close your eyes and enjoy the worst 15 minutes of sleep you’ve ever had. You’ll probably feel gross afterwards, but it provides the burst of energy you need to keep driving.

Johnson can be reached at [email protected].