I Drive Like a Grandma

Alternate Title: The Magic of DaveRisner


I’ve been driving like a grandmother for at least twenty years. And it all started one night on a drive with DaveRisner.

My buddy DaveRisner is an epic individual; and I can safely say that I’ve never met anyone like him. As our buddy Joe puts it, not only is he the most interesting man in the world, he’s also the most interested. Through him, I’ve met some of my best friends, among whom include Derek, Joe & John, Jason, Greg, and many others. He’s a good soul, one of the best. And he’s always up for an adventure.

So it was on a cold Thursday night in February 1996, he came home from the office and proclaimed – “Let’s drive to New Orleans!”

We lived in Chicago.

It was Mardis Gras weekend. Within two hours, we were on the road, hitting I-55 from Chicago heading south with plans to head all the way to N’Awlins.

And that’s where the adventure begins.
And this is a big part of the magic that is DaveRisner.
This was a time before cell phones and a time when DaveRisner was just Dave to me (but not to him), and when I spelled my sister Bess’ name with just one “s”.

I was going about 80 mph throughout much of the drive during the dark, cold night, oblivious to the long stretches of highway where the road conditions were so bad that semi’s were stranded on the side of the road, visibility at a bare minimum. We were on a mission, and apparently that mission kept my eyes from seeing what was before me. Of course, the torrential blizzard that night did not help.

From my journal that night…

19 February 1996
“A drive down a cold, lonely stretch of highway. Our destination was my sister’s in St. Louis, and finally Mardi Gras in New Orleans. A wild snowstorm brewed outside our car window. Dave was asleep. I was anxious to see Bes when my life was changed forever. I had been driving too fast. The unforgiving ice dealt its punishment. The car spun around and around. Dave awoke screaming in the background. I was in shock, my hands gripping the steering wheel. The next few seconds lasted an eternity. As the car careened off the freeway, I had made peace with my maker, accepted my fate, and thought about you. We rammed into a twenty foot iron post separating it from the sign it had supported. The car raced forward another thirty feet with the post crushing the hood and windshield until the side of a hill bade the car to a halt, as we thudded onto the steering wheel and dash. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was singing David Bowie’s words “We never lost control…” in the background. Somewhere, there is a joke here.

We were still alive. No broken bones. Not even a scratch. It was not our time to die. My car did not fare so well. I was upset and happy at the same time. A thousand other emotions came and went. After surveying the damage, Dave and I lifted the I-beam from the front of the car. Amazingly, I was able to drive the car to the nearest exit (#41 – I’ll never forget) to a gas station. Dave and I spent the next three hours in the brutal cold trying to bend some of the steel back (my car would not turn left due to shards of metal standing in the way of the tire). Two men (who I insist were angels sent to help us) with tools pryed some of the metal back. Though not in the best of condition, we were able to slowly drive to St. Louis.”

Hours later, we made it to my sister’s dorm room recounting the misadventures of the night, getting a couple hours sleep before wondering what to do next.

We took my jalopy to the nearest service shop, the owner of which looked at it disapprovingly with one eye. My car had become a jalopy.

“We need to get to New Orleans!” DaveRisner told the owner excitedly.

“You’re not getting to New Orleans today. At least not in that.”

“Hmmmm…” The hamster was running on overdrive in the wheel of DaveRisner’s head, when suddenly we both spied another Mitsubishi Galant, that looked just like mine, but instead maroon and intact. “How much for that car?”


Looking at me, DaveRisner whispered, “Dude, you have five thousand dollars?”

“I don’t have five grand!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Um, ok dude.” Looking at the owner, he countered. “Yea, we’re not going to buy that. What other options do your recommend? Can you fix our car?”

“Nothing is going to fix that car. But I can at least get the engine off the ground, so the metal is not scraping against the road.”

“Can we get to New Orleans?”

“I wouldn’t try it.”

Looking at me, DaveRisner tried to win me over, as I was clearly losing my nerve to forge ahead. “Dude, the way I look at it, we got two choices. We could drive back to Chicago and be totally bummed out about a weekend that never happened, and figure out what to do with your car. Or…”

“There’s an ‘OR’!??!?!!!? What other option is there?” I was clearly irritated, but more scared than anything else. I was Cameron. DaveRisner was Ferris.

“…or we could drive to New Orleans, meet your buddy Chris and the girls, and have the weekend of a lifetime. We’ll be talking about this one for years!! Whaddaya say?

Should we do it?
Should we do it?”

Ferris Bueller had nothing on DaveRisner.

Clearly, no one’s cup was more half-full than DaveRisner, whether it was cajoling me into a half-insane plan for a fun weekend in N’Awlins or just getting me through the previous night in the bitter cold with a car that could not turn left. If I wasn’t sure before, I knew it then. I had a friend for life.

Of course, we made the only decision we could make.

We drove to New Orleans.

Within hours after arriving in New Orleans and hanging out with one of my best friends from high school and college Chris (who had his own adventure driving from Dallas) , we lost DaveRisner to a bar fight in the crowds entering our first bar along Bourbon Street.

He turned up a couple days later, but that’s a story for another time.

DaveRisner was absolutely correct. It was one of the most epic weekends of my young adult life, many of which to this day are unprintable.

I have been driving like a grandma ever since.

Alternate Title No. 2: DaveRisner and David Bowie on the way to Mardi Gras in New Orleans


Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.

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