Mile 8, Mercer Island, Washington State.
Backseat of Mom & Dad’s car. Driving to Uncle Stevie’s 50th Birthday party.
When I was 11 years old I learned to drive on Interstate 90. We were driving back from either my Aunt Joanie or my Aunt ReRe’s wedding in Montana. For some reason my Mom wasn’t with us.
My Dad didn’t feel like doing all the driving himself so he decided to teach my 12 year old sister Maureen and me how to drive. At the time we had a red Datson station wagon with a stick shift. Dad claims he had us drive between Missoula and Spokane, but that must have just been Mo because I know I did not get behind the wheel until Washington State. I was given a quick lesson on how to work a stick shift on super-wide Fox Point Drive in Spokane where my grandparents lived, then we were off.
I am not sure exactly where and how long Mo drove, that memory is completely superseded by the more thrilling memory of my first time driving. We stopped at the Moses Lake State Park with the giant (and luckily empty) parking lots on the west end of the lake. My Dad had me drive around a couple of times and to try going real fast. After maybe 3 minutes he declared me ready and his only real instruction was for me to keep my speed up with the flow of traffic, not to poke along like my sister did. Apparently I did just fine because Dad fell asleep right away.
As far as I remember I was an awesome driver, I drove about 57 miles per hour and my only issue was that I was slightly over on the shoulder. So I drove past George, wound down the edges of the Gorge, drove across the Columbia River on the Vantage Bridge and was heading up the Vantage hill toward Ryegrass.
I was as happy as a clam when I started hearing all this honking coming from the car beside me. I looked over and it was my Uncle Jim looking like his head was going to pop off his body. He was yelling and pointing at me to pull over, so I did. Then my sister and I woke up our Dad. We were so busted. Uncle Jim was furious. He kept saying “You let Angel drive???? You let Angel drive?” My Dad’s response was “So? She was doing fine.” To which I think Jim said “How would you know? You were asleep!”
Jim stayed there and watched to make sure that my Dad got back into the driver’s seat and there ended my early driving career. At least on the highway with my parents.