I found this post from the end of spring semester last year. Memories of this trip still induce nightmares.
On Thursday, I woke up at 6 AM, finished one of the hardest school years of my life, and drove to Tampa. Google told me it would take 8 hours, 7 minutes. It took me 11 hours, 24 minutes, give or take a few. Strike one for Google.
But let me back up and set the stage a bit: I was headed down to Florida for my life-long friend Becky’s wedding. I hadn’t seen her in years, and was excited to get there as soon as possible to have a chance to catch up a bit before the big day.
Because I was heavily sleep-deprived before embarking upon my trip, I stopped by the grocery store to stock up on Red Bull and Starbucks Espresso shots to get me through the long drive.
While at the grocery store, I also made the following two decisions, which I think can stand as all the proof scientists need that the human brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25:
1) Instead of stopping for food, I would snack on trail mix.
2) I would be limiting my water consumption during said trip.
At the time, I thought, “Hey, this will help the caffeine get to my system faster!” (I have a theory that food and water dilute caffeine’s potency). I wish that I had some sort of trick to let wisdom get to my system faster, because had I stayed nourished and hydrated during this trip, things may not have fared so badly with me.
I have never tried Red Bull before, but after my drive, all I have to say is: either Red Bull doesn’t work, or I was clinically dead on my drive down and only the Red Bull was keeping my heart pumping. Within the first four hours of my trip, I had drained and licked the edges of every can, and I was still blinking myself awake. Clearly something more was called for, and at about the halfway point, I pulled into a CVS and stumbled through the aisles to find 5 Hour Energy drinks. I shot one (and it was narsty), hopped in my car, and got about 15 minutes down the road before I thought, “Uh. . .oh. . .” I was tired. Reeeeally tired. My eyes were drooping, and in a couple more seconds, I would be drooling. Furthermore, I was starting to get a woozy, head-spinning, dehydrated feeling.
I tried to take a rest break, but it did nothing; I was too jazzed on caffeine to take a nap, yet too sleepy to stay fully alert. My best bet, I realized, was to drive like a maniac and try to get to Tampa as soon as I could.
Off I went again, hopping on a southbound highway toward Tampa. . .30 miles later, when I arrived in Gainesville, Florida, I realized that in Florida, signs that say “Southbound” actually mean “Northbound.” I was an hour out of my way, and I was growing increasingly concerned. The sun was beginning to set, and while driving into the glaring beams would keep me awake for another hour or so, I knew that when night fell, I would too.
I wish I could convey to you my desperation at this point. I had my windows down and sunroof open in hopes that the wind would blow my eyelids up. I cranked my radio up to deafness-inducing levels and forced my weary body to sing and butt-dance along with every song, regardless of the songs’ rhythms and tempos.
Dusk fell. The thumping radio was no longer working (I think my eardrums had gone into a state of voluntary deafness). As I felt my eyelids sinking closer and closer to each other, I went into disaster mode; I sleep-drunk-dialed friends and family, hoping that at least one of them would be available to talk to me for the last two-plus hours of my trip. No one answered. (Thankfully none of them have since felt the need to bring up the desperate message I left them as voicemail presents, which I think went something like, “I think I’m about to DIE! PICK UP PICK UP PICK UP! You could save my life, and then I would owe you my firstborn child! Don’t you want my firstborn child?! WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!?!?!”).
I was way past sleepy. . .I was losing possession of my reason. All I could think was, “When will this be over? When? When?” I started staring at my dashboard clock for long periods of time, willing it to change; yet each time it did, I couldn’t help the ungrateful thought, “One minute? All this time, and only one minute has passed by?”
And then. . .I looked up just in time to notice that I was entering a construction zone.
(Click here for Part Two).