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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Learning to Drive was Easier than Learning to Navigate the Nervous Nellies in the Passenger Seat

Posted August 17, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: driving lessons

Not long ago while driving in the U.K., I was shocked to see a single-track road, with less than 50 yards of visibility at all times and somehow meant to accommodate two-way traffic, with a 60 mph speed limit. I was later kindly informed, by an ex-pat Brit friend who grew up driving on such roads, “That’s the speed limit — you don’t have to go that fast!”

The last time I heard this was when I was a young, learner's-permit driver in the mid-80s. Mom was a terrible passenger at the best of times, and the blue mouse-fur interior on her caucasian-inner-forearm-beige ’85 Grand Prix had an insufficient number of oh-crap handles for her to grab on to as I trundled cautiously through the smoothly-paved neighborhood with visibility for days. Feet stomping ghost pedals on the passenger’s side, sharp intakes of breath, hands struggling to grip as I’m on my best behavior, in broad daylight. In a string of traffic on a Monmouth County, New Jersey back road, I’m going 44 mph on a 45 mph road, with ample space behind the car ahead of me using the one-Mississippi-two rule. I'm being good and doing it right. Despite traffic ahead and behind, I am constantly being admonished to slow down. “I’m going the speed limit!” I finally protest. And then came the words that will live in my head until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil, and even then will continue to haunt me in whatever afterlife awaits me:

“Just because that’s the speed limit doesn’t mean you have to go that fast!”

This foolishness hands-down beat my dad riding shotgun; he just yelled. And when the echo of his rage had finally been absorbed into the headliner and upholstery, he yelled some more. I accelerated, he yelled. I turned, he yelled. I avoid an obstacle in the road — a dead skunk, in one instance — and he yelled louder. It’s not that what I did was wrong or illegal — it’s just not how he would have done it, and was therefore wrong.

This was in the waning days of the 55 mph speed limit, a figure that made me want to yell too. When the nation shook itself from those bonds, my home state insisted on keeping the double-nickel, and did so for as long as I remained there. As someone who commuted 162 miles a day round-trip for his minimum-wage magazine gig after college, 55 mph felt unreasonable: less time on the road meant more time for sleeping (for example), which would make me a healthier and more alert driver when I was commuting on the Garden State Parkway. And 195. And 78. And 287. And 80. All in one day. New Jersey’s State Troopers collectively disagreed with my assessment. Ultimately they won and I left the state. The stress of that drive – or rather, the fear of getting busted while simply trying to go home – contributed more to my grey hair than fatherhood ever did.

Be quick and read on...

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#1

Re: Learning to Drive was Easier than Learning to Navigate the Nervous Nellies in the Passenger Seat

08/17/2022 11:05 AM

Those roads are quite common in the UK countryside. You have to watch out for not only other cars but also horses, tractors, sheep & other wildlife. When you use them frequently, you get into the habit of noting the last passing place you drove past in case you have to reverse back into it.

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Re: Learning to Drive was Easier than Learning to Navigate the Nervous Nellies in the Passenger Seat

08/17/2022 4:15 PM

I lived in Wales for a couple of years and drove home on a "D" road, one where if you meet someone coming the other way, one of you has to back up to a wide spot. Most people would honk at a blind curve.

Sometimes I'd meet a farmer leading his cows back home from the grazing pasture. The only thing to do was to stop and let them pass. Interesting times.

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Re: Learning to Drive was Easier than Learning to Navigate the Nervous Nellies in the Passenger Seat

08/19/2022 8:39 AM

I've had that experience of having to pull over whilst a flock of sheep is driven past, polishes the bottom half of the car nicely though. I can also recall glimpsing some people in the road as I came around a bend & slowing down, I found 3 people trying to persuade a bull to return to it's field.

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#4
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Re: Learning to Drive was Easier than Learning to Navigate the Nervous Nellies in the Passenger Seat

08/23/2022 2:57 AM

The verb "driving" originally applied to the time-worn practice of getting animals from one place to another along a road. It is only in recent years that it has referred to motor vehicles.

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