Freeway Ends: Signal Ahead

You know that thing that happens when you’ve driven a route so many blasted times that you eventually just black out whilst driving? 

Suddenly you’re at your destination and you have no idea what happened in between your departure and arrival. I know this phenomenon (it is an actual thing right? I’m not craycray?) has a name—at least, I’m pretty sure it does. I think I’ve heard people talking about it before.

Well whatever it’s called—we’ll call it mental cruise control for our purposes here—it happens to me frequently. On my way to evening classes, on my way to work, on my way home, to Starbucks, the bank, whatever. And it freaks me out. Especially the longer drives. I mean, it’s actually pretty dangerous, to just tune out like that. What if I crashed into someone and didn’t even notice? A little bumper tap and I kept going? Or what if I drove by some movie star, without evening noticing? Okay, the likelihood of that happening in Rhode Island is slim to absolutely none, but you get it.

The only thing, and I mean only, that wakes me out of this cruise control stupor is this sign that I see on the highway—bright yellow with black letters. “Freeway Ends. Signal Ahead.” And then I realize I’m ten minutes from home and, what the heck’s happened?

I’m not here to discuss my driving habits, because I’d probably just get yelled at. The point is, I don’t want to wake up from some mental stupor at the age of 75 and realize that, oh my God, that bright light ahead? Yeah, that’s the after life. Cause I’m dead.

I don’t want to live in cruise control. I can’t live like that. When the freeway ends, this road between my life now and the life I’ll be living some day, I want to know what I’ve done in between my departure and arrival. I want to know that I paid attention to every little thing I could possibly see. I want to remember all those flat tires, breakdowns, horn-honking, traffic-bearing, road-raging moments.

Because, if I don’t remember the drive, was it really a drive at all?


  1. I. Love. This. Seriously know EXACTLY what you mean and have made the exact same comparison to my own life! I don't want that to happen to me, that's why I try to document the small things. :)

  2. This is actually your brain focusing more on your thoughts and other things because you've driven the route so many times. It can be dangerous, but most of the time you are still passively taking in data-- sight of the other cars, etc, so if something happens you will be able to react. There is such a thing as completely checking out, however.

    But because this comes from muscle memory and is a natural process, I would not get too upset about it. Definitely pay attention to the road, but have you ever had a drive where you were somewhere unfamiliar, and weather or traffic made it unpredictable and tense? You had to concentrate really hard and it felt exhausting afterwards. Sometimes its good not to be actively thinking about every thing. Be in tune to your life, but if you don't remember every detail of your daily commute, don't necessarily think of it as a problem.

  3. Kerry, love this reminder. No, I don't want to live life in cruise control; frankly, who does? Beautiful wakeup call, friend.

  4. Oh, it's awesome to meet a fellow RI blogger! :D

    And this is a great thought, I definitely try to live each day to the fullest. It's so important!

  5. Such an amazing post! You are so inspiring! I think I got goosebumps reading that last paragraph! I know that is the real point of this post, but also I wanted to tell you that I definitely zone out while I'm driving too. I did hear someone once say that it's actually not that big of deal when you do that because although it does slow your reaction time but that you are actually still focused on driving, hence why you've probably never ran a red light or anything like that. It's still scary to me, but at least I know other people do it? Haha. I really love your little twist on this at the end though and I wish you all the best in making that happen! :)

  6. So true and so inspiring! I wish there was an "I LOVE THIS" button somewhere so I could press it, multiple times! <3


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