22 December 2016

How many of you have driven 1700 miles (2,700 km) without any sleep?

If I have mentioned this once, I have mentioned this many times that twenty three years of travel has taken its own toll on me but the unique experiences I have gained on the road has made it totally worthwhile. Of all those experiences, the ones that I absolutely love are those that involve meeting complete strangers on the road.

Each and one of them has had a story to tell. Each of them has had a very interesting journey in life and after every meeting, I have left with a great sense of satisfaction that my path in life intersected with theirs. Today, I met another such unique person.

I was in Milwaukee on my perhaps-last-business-travel for the year. I needed to meet my colleague Mark – who is also our CFO and COO – and get a lot of things knocked off before the holiday season started. Mark, being a very organized person, was there in the hotel at 7:30 sharp and one by one we kept finishing up the long list of things he had for us to discuss and decide.

Towards the end, we had moved near the bar of the hotel and were getting things done at a great pace. But I was also getting tired. That is when I decided to completely frustrate Mark and get distracted by talking to this lady who had been sitting at the bar for about an half hour or so by then.

“So, where are you visiting from?”, I started in my traditional way.
“Key West”
“Key West? I used to live in Coral Springs”
“I know that place”
“Did you fly out of Miami?”
“No, I drove here.”
“YOU DROVE HERE???”, I asked somewhat incredulously. “That is what – seventeen hours?”
“Ummm.. more like twenty six hours”, she said making short shrift of my knowledge of Geography

I figured that it must have been an interesting drive. As a background, Sharmila, Natasha and Nikita are driving to Dallas during the holidays without me and I have been trying to find out hotels on the way where they can stop over. That would be an eleven hour drive.

“Where all did you stop over?”, I asked remembering the above.
“Oh! I came straight up.”
“You came straight up? You have not slept for over a day?”
“Yes. I sleep less”
“How old are you?”

For a moment, I was dumbfounded. 62 and she drove 26 hours straight out flat.

“Don’t you feel lonely on the drives after some time?”, I had to ask.

Then I got to know Claudia a lot more deeply. Having suffered an alcoholic father during her formative ages, she fled home at the age of 16. Got married at the age of 17. Got divorced at the age of 22. And then fought her way back in life.

Remember Mark? Well, by now, even he had forgotten about our office work. At some point, the sheer energy of the discussion had sucked him in. And good thing too. For, eventually, we found out that Claudia had worked in GE for some and was the personal admin for the same person that became Mark’s boss in GE (much later though). Speak of intersections!!!

We had a great time learning how she, one day decided that she had had enough of the local cold weather and and thirty four inches of snow and went off to Florida. And she comes back to meet her family in this area….

Eventually, Mark and I had to get back to the last parts of our work.

Such people and such stories have always been great inspirations for me as I have crisscrossed the world for work. Fighting adversity and living life in your own terms – that is what it is all about. We are all given a different deck of cards. We do not get to control that. What we do get to control is what we do with those cards. It is all about playing them with class and vigor…

So, if anyone of you see a BMW X3 driving down southbound I-75 in a few more days with the lady in the picture driving it, do not forget to give her two thumbs up.

And I hope you now understand, why I cannot wait for the new year to come around – I need to foxtrot to the airport in the hope of meeting a few more great human beings and learn from…

Posted December 22, 2016 by Rajib Roy in category "Intersection Points


  1. By Claudia Nelson on

    Awww Rajib! It was such a pleasure meeting you and Mark, and I’m convinced that people have more in common with each other than they initially think. You guys were fantastic to talk to – – and I was looking for a conversation! I’m so glad I met you both. I’ll be returning to Florida on December 28… but I’ll break the trip up into two days this time! It’s 8 o’clock, and I still need to force myself to stay awake another hour so I don’t wake up at 2 AM! Our lives are what we make them. You have a lot of time to sleep after you’re dead! as you can see, I’m in my pajamas and ready for bed!

  2. By Raghu Raghuraman on

    Driving like this for 26 hours is a safety issue for her and other drivers. Not sure I relate to this. Hopefully she takes a break and gets sleep every few hours. There are now rules for Truck drivers to ensure theu get a break as well

    1. By Claudia Nelson on

      Second, if at any moment I would have felt tired or felt that I was going to fall asleep, I would’ve pulled over immediately and slept. Typically, I cannot drive more than 14 or 15 hours at a time. Usually, I would have to stop at a hotel. However, on this trip I seem to have an unbelievable amount of energy. Whether that is because I just slept 10 hours, or I left at the right time… I don’t know.

    2. By Claudia Nelson on

      Raghu Raghuraman There was never a moment I felt The least bit tired – – actually, I was listening to books on tape and the book I was listening to most of the way was called “never split the difference” by Chris Voss. It’s about negotiating. Since my boss happens to know him, and he worked for the FBI, I found it very interesting and stimulating – – to say nothing of his methods which are unconventional and will be extremely useful to me. Of course, I’m tired now because I got here seven hours ago and if you add up the hours I should be falling over by now. 🙂 However, I’m forcing myself to stay awake so that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and I am exhausted the entire day tomorrow. This is nothing new for me. I used to travel internationally for General Electric.

    3. By Claudia Nelson on

      Raghu Raghuraman there were a lot of breaks. Breaks for bathrooms, breaks for meals, breaks to get gas… And I even pulled over a few times at a few stores I thought were pretty cool.

    1. By Claudia Nelson on

      Pratyush Paul if this is a case of you feeling that they will not be safe by themselves, I assure you that they are. My mother and I drove from Arizona to Florida alone in a U-Haul, and she was 84 years old. We had a grand time! She passed away six months later from cancer, and I will always have memories of that terrific trip through Texas singing “home on the range,” as we were passing thru!!

    2. By Claudia Nelson on

      Rajib Roy not only was she a huge Green Bay Packer fan, but four days before her death, she insisted on voting by mail for president of United States. My mother was a yellow dog Democrat. In case your readers don’t know what that is – – it’s a Democrat that would rather vote for a yellow dog then vote for a Republican; yet, she voted for Donald Trump because she believed that we needed change, and she was sick of all the lying LOL. My mother was incredibly patriotic – – she belonged to the VFW women’s auxiliary for 50 years.

  3. By Alex Rotenberg on

    No ambition to break that ladies record. Longest non-stop drive I did was Brussels-Sevilla and 1700 km highway but that is more than ten years ago. Am 10 years car free now. Note Camino Santiago allows you to walk a similar distance as the lady all the way down from North-Europe. And for pilgrims craving for more adventure there is the road to Jerusalem… 🙂


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