Ryan Slabaugh: My goal: Don’t speed for 1,000 miles
August 29, 2008
Outlandish goal setting has become part of the American personality, a trait we learn about each Olympics. Each television profile detailed the athlete’s dedication to win a medal, or overcome a handicap, or win eight golds ” only in America would not winning eight golds be a disappointment. In each case, it started with someone saying “Why not at least try?” and in more than a few cases, that someone had yet to blow out 20 candles at a birthday party.
Searching for more youthfuI voices on goal setting, I found a funny post on blogspot from a young American in China who shares a frustration we all have: Some goals just don’t pan out. She wrote, “(I wanted to be a) veterinarian. Despite my love for animals, my fear of needles and complete lack of interest in medicine quickly did away with this one. Ballerina. An obviously poor choice. I don’t know what my stated reason was for quitting ballet at age six, but really it was because I thought I looked silly in a leotard. I stand by that decision.”
Point is, most of us are walking around with a destination in mind, whether we ever get there or not. Makes life more fun that way.
Before I left on a recent road trip between a Colorado ski town and Truckee, I decided to set a goal: Overcome my lifelong addiction to speeding, and go the speed limit the whole way.
Why? A number of conversations with veteran travelers all contained the same description: gunning it after crossing into the 150-mile, classic scrubrush, mid-Nevada run, and more than one of these amateur Earnhardts picked up a hefty ticket. The romance of reaching 120 mph on a desert highway has been well-documented in movies, and the ability to see 15 miles down the highway at times made it tempting. The remedy was a blend of monk-like self-discipline, good music and the constant presence of highway patrolman to justify the effort.
To be clear, I failed twice. But I did so for safety reasons, so I hope you’ll pardon the exceptions. The first time occurred just outside Salt Lake City, in the left lane, which had been the middle lane moments before. My speedometer was locked at 65 mph, slightly faster than the semi truck in the right lane, but not enough to satisfy the large man in the white truck inches from my bumper. He made several threatening motions with his hands, and after a few moments, I really started to feel sorry for him. I knew the only way to pacify him would be to speed, so I stepped on it.
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Unfortunately, my bumper friend had already slammed on gas and decided to use the shoulder, so when I sped, it looked like I was trying to block his pass. I slowed down, he got through and after a few more gestures ” he looked like a talented conductor ” he moved back onto the roadway.
The second time was similar, except it was outside Reno and involved a wiry-haired ambulance driver. In both cases, I immediately returned to the slow lane and dimmed the gas pedal, absorbing the glares from, well, pretty much each driver who passed. By going the speed limit, I had turned into a cultural heathen.
Perhaps my addiction to speeding my whole life has not been so much an addiction, as much as an ingrained patriotic ideal. In reality, to those who speed (my former self included), the speed limit, posted so boldly in black ink along the roadway, is just a suggestion, a friendly hint at what rate travel is safe.
Yet, that sounds so un-American. To get ahead, rules are often broken, and those who follow the rules suffer the consequences. Some of the Olympians who did not win gold know this ” the ticker tapes remain unpacked ” while the market for forged birth certificates continues to grow.
In America, we set goals, and as I learned on the interstate, we like to speed to get there.
” Ryan Slabaugh is the new executive editor of the Sierra Sun, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Tahoe World and Tahoe.com. Reach him at email@example.com, comment directly on his column online, or call him at (530) 550-2650.