Ben Rosenfeld drove a Ford F-150 for sixteen hours. Here’s what happened.
“Well this should be interesting,” I said. The engine of the huge Ford F-150 rumbles to life as we start a 16 hour drive from New Brunswick, NJ to Gainesville, FL. My previous longest continuous drive is 4 hours. Not only have I never driven a pickup truck before, but this fella is hitched to a luxurious two horse trailer. I promptly dub it, “Cirque Du So-Hay.”
The first two hours of the drive go fine, because my girlfriend is driving. I watch the side mirror, DJ the music and we chat to pass the time. Then it’s my turn to maneuver The Ringling Brothers Behemoth.
This is a good time to pause and explain how I’ve never enjoyed driving. I’ve never taken particular pleasure in it, or felt very comfortable doing it. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t listed on my family’s car insurance as a teenager (in order to save money), which made me extra nervous the few times I did drive. Or maybe it’s my uncanny ability to wreck rental cars. Either way, driving is something I try to avoid whenever possible. Instead, I’ve always enjoyed navigating. (This was the pre “GPS on everyone’s cellphone” days.)
My regular highway driving method is: when the road is wide open, stay in the middle lane and pass cars on the left as as needed. When there’s traffic, hug the left lane unless there’s a maniac flying up behind me, in which case I change to the middle, let him pass, then change back to the left. I avoid the right lane at all costs until it’s a half mile before my exit.
Back in this behemoth of a horse truck, I have to stay in the right lane. THE. ENTIRE. TIME. The truck is so heavy, I can’t properly accelerate. A car takes the on-ramp. They get parallel with me. But they’re not speeding up fast enough to merge in front. So I want to speed up so they merge behind. But I can’t speed up quickly enough. So I have to slam the brakes and let them in. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Which in regular east coast traffic is nearly every exit. Even when the roads aren’t congested, I can’t switch lanes because that requires a football field sized opening in the adjacent lane, which I don’t know if I have or not, because I’m only using side mirrors. It feels like I’m driving a super-sized zamboni down I-95.
It doesn’t help that not only do I hate driving in general and driving big trucks in particular, but I also hate horses and everything horse related. My girlfriend at the time is a competitive equestrian rider (aka a horse rider – I didn’t know that word before we started dating either!) so she needs to get this equipment down to Florida. While annoyed at horses (it doesn’t help that just the thought of them triggers my allergies), I’m happy to leave the northeast in the winter. But this driving is less fun than being trampled by a horse.
Luckily for me, this truck is so huge, the 25 gallon tank needs to be refueled every two hours. So after averaging 40 pathetic miles per hour in the right lane for two hours, my job quickly becomes “keep my girlfriend awake for the next 10 hours.” I get hopped up on coffee and Red Bulls and only fall asleep once for 20 minutes. With all this refueling, by the time we hit Georgia, I feel we’ve single handedly melted a polar ice cap and my manhood.
When we finally arrive in Gainesville, we’re greeted by my girlfriend’s mom and a brand new puppy. The puppy takes a suspicious look at me for hopping out of the truck’s passenger side, like it knows I failed at driving. But after a few seconds of disapproval, the puppy comes over and starts licking my face, helping me forget the fact that I couldn’t drive this truck.