Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Midnight Drive to Maryland

Wow, what a long day/evening/morning. To be honest, I don’t really know what day it is, and it is hard for me to realize that I am in Maryland. While I may be in Maryland my day, my very long day, began yesterday in Indianapolis.

Yesterday I woke up at my sister’s house with the anticipation of taking the flag stand at the Indianapolis Speedrome. This was going to be the first time I flagged solo at an event that wasn’t quarter midgets or go-karts. Of course this was supposed to happen last week, but rain, storms, and tornado sirens but a halt to that. Anyway, I drove to the USAC office yesterday just after noon and when I got there I was asked by everyone, “Aaron, what did you do to make those old men mad?” in reference to the story from a couple days ago. It’s always good to know people do actually read what I write!

From the office we headed to the track. So many thoughts were going through my head, and the #1 thought was that the weather better not throw another wrench into my tenure in the flag stand. Even though the weather people had the chance at 0% I believe there is always a chance, say, 50% chance of rain because it either will or won’t rain.

Time progressed, and the evening came. From flagging the practice the week before the nerves were gone. I was sure I was going to be nervous to the point of not being able to concentrate. I was sure I was going to be shaking and a complete unconcentrating wreck. Thankfully, one of the moments I have looked forward to happening since I started flagging in 1995 didn’t throw me off. In fact, part way through the night I noticed that I had no emotions about what was happening except the concentration of the event. Perhaps is this good because the emotions didn’t interfere.

Eventually the time at the track was over, and originally I thought the time at the track would be my whole blog, but as I write this I’ve been in this car for twelve hours now and this experience is something I’d like to share.

Ever since it was planned that I was going to be riding with James and the other USAC staff I have looked forward to this with high anticipation. I love long car rides. Call me weird, but I do. I also like layovers at airports so maybe I should see a doctor about this, but in any event we left the track and headed East down I-70 towards Hagerstown, Maryland.

The first leg of the journey wasn’t anything of note. We ate then I proceeded to withdraw into the world of iPhone. I must say I am glad I didn’t have one of these contraptions as I was growing up because, well, that might be a topic of a future blog. Moving on, we eventually got to Columbus and I began to get tired. I put down my phone and tried to sleep, but there was just one problem; I don’t sleep well, or at all, in moving vehicles. If I can lie flat, have a blanket and a pillow I might, and that’s a big might, be able to sleep but it won’t be a restful sleep. I feel every movement of the vehicle and I can’t tune it out. If lights flash I sense it, if the radio is on I hear it so needless to say the car is not a place I take a nap in. And of course I knew this going into this and I was fine with it.

As we entered Pennsylvania we had a problem; we needed gas and no place was open. We stopped at a truck stop and it was an exclusive truck stop as cars were not welcome, at least when it came to fuel. We forged on and got to another exit where there was a gas station. We stopped and the interior of the station was closed, but James put the credit card in the pump seeing if it would work and it did for $0.06 worth of gas. While this was going on two cars pulled in and parked and the drivers from each car got out and was standing looking at the sky. We asked if they worked there and they did, but they said they didn’t open until 4:30 and it was 3:45 so we were out of luck. I wondered, then we all wondered, who shows up 45 minutes early to work in the middle of the night? Furthermore, couldn’t they help us out? Maybe it’s rare, maybe it’s common, but when someone is short on fuel they sort of need it and since they were there couldn’t they have opened for a couple minutes? Sadly, they didn’t.

There was nothing else to do but to go forward. Would we run out of gas? Maybe, but it beat sitting at the gas station for 45 minutes waiting for the employees, who were already there, to open shop. We got back on I-70 and hoped for the best. After a mile there was a sign that said, “Next exit 2.5 miles.”

Thankfully these 2.5 miles were downhill and we, certainly on fumes, made it to the next gas station. But, was it open? The first one was not, but the one next door was and the gas crisis was no more. Looking back on how I used to react with gas light issues is like looking at the difference between North and South. When I worked at the kart shop about five years ago we would be driving down the road and I would have a constant eye on the gas gauge and when we would get to a quarter-tank I would constantly state the need for gas. It was almost an uncontrollable urge, but I feared nothing more than seeing the horrible yellow gas light. Over time I think the driver kept pushing the envelope just to watch me squirm. Perhaps that experience has made me immune to stressing about it, or maybe I’ve just grown, but today’s gas light crisis created no stress.

After the gas station dilemma it was no hotel dilemma. Hotel after hotel after hotel was sold out. I don’t know what was going on in Washington, Pennsylvania, but every hotel, and I mean every hotel, was sold out. Eventually we stopped at a sold out hotel and everyone took a nap except me. The engine was running, the radio was still on silently, and the sound of jake-brakes from semi-trucks kept filling the Pennsylvania night air.

What did I do? I tried to sleep, but it was useless so I talked to Rob on Facebook on my phone and when he said he was going to bed I kept talking to see how long he would stay on. I mentioned the NHL Finals and he stayed on for another fifteen minutes. After that I checked each of my friend’s wall on Facebook, and then played some chess via the app. Again, I tried to sleep, but at sometime past five in the morning the sun began to light up the sky in the East. I am used to a pitch black sleeping environment so needless to say sleep was not going to happen.

So now here we are, we have made it to Hagerstown. I am tired, and somewhat out of it, but I’ve got to be honest and say that I wouldn’t have changed one moment of this trip. Remember, I love long car rides and I see today as a challenge, but also a huge gift. While I may be pining for a bed in a couple hours I feel great now. Tomorrow we’ll have practice and Saturday and Sunday will be racing. The racing should be on on the quarter midget page. So yes, this trip despite the lack of sleep is amazing. I look at it this way; without experiences like this what would I discover about myself? What would I learn? How would I notice challenges and be able to define them? So yes, it is going to be a long day, but I wouldn’t be using my vacation for anything less!


  1. Hey Aaron :) I'm reading up on your blog again! It's hard keeping up with it, since I have a job now and I keep falling asleep when I get home (chronic fatigue remember) and then I only have the time after dinner left for myself. I mainly use this time to socialise and work on the events. But I keep trying to find time to catch up on your blog, so don't worry!

    A night without sleep and still being happy... That's Kansas for ya. I wouldn't be able to do that even if it is Kansas, but that's because of my chronic fatigue. Because of this I bought myself a sleeping mask. A bit of an expensive one, but I really needed one that's soft on the eyes, or I'd stay awake because of it, instead of it me helping to get to sleep.
    This sleeping mask helps a great deal if I have a night like you had. It makes me able to 'extend' my night a bit, so I can maybe still fall asleep in the morning from pure exhaustion.
    You might want to consider getting one too for difficult nights.

    By the way, little update on myself: I got promoted at my favorite anime/manga event! (Abunai) I'm a Supergopher Events now. A Gopher is a volunteer and my position means I can supervise the Gophers and help the staff with organising some events. I've already been put on the Japanese Baking (officially called: Yakitate Abunai!) event, which combines my 2 strengths: Baking and organising. :D And it's one of the most popular workshops!
    The 25th of June the Supergopher Events will get together and then I'll know what else I can do.
    Bliss! :D

  2. Hello Aaron, my name is Chris and I am new to your blog. I am diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome myself and I have never completely been able to comprehend how I myself felt sounds rather than just actually heard them but when I read your blog, it made a lot more sense. Now I understand why I feel the way I do when I feel a sound like say my girlfriend's voice (we video chat since she lives in Russia). I would also like to say that I am very glad to see someone being a member of this special organization who has Asperger since I had made a failed attempt to advocate for people like us in my high school (you see in Moab, it's more common to judge the autistic by surface things such as "strange" actions that we may do that make us different. All I can say is that this is very inspiring and further proves that people with our mutual disorder can succeed as I have in my school and hope to continue doing.