In today's edition of Small Town Driver In The Big City, I am pleased to report that I did not get lost in Minneapolis.
Suburban Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa, however, was another story.
But first: What, you might ask, could possibly prompt me to drive – by myself – in downtown Minneapolis? The answer is simple, and is the same reason I took on the streets of Chicago: Billy Joel. And so, now I must digress a little further for a mini concert review that isn't really a review at all.
Billy Joel. Sigh. He was wonderful. I mean the concert was wonderful. Although I'll admit I'm not very objective when it comes to Billy Joel (SQUEEE), or the talented group of musicians performing with him. Mike DelGuidice and Crystal Taliefero singing “Nessun Dorma” and “Heatwave” – A. Maze. Ing! Instrumental solos by Mark Rivera, Tommy Byrnes, Carl Fisher and David Rosenthal – Swoony! Andy Cichon and Chuck Burgi – the bassist and drummer never get enough appreciation (and I'm not just saying that because The Little Prince is a drummer.)
The only drawback was the drunken fans in front of me. There's a not too fine line between singing along, and shut the flock up and sit down because if you flail about one more time and hit me things are gonna get ugly. Er.
So yes, while the concert was the highlight of the trip (or maybe it was meeting up with my high school pal for breakfast/gabfest), Driving through downtown Minneapolis without getting lost was a close second (or third).
And I will admit I was more than a little nervous after my last (solo) trip up North – also for a Billy Joel concert – although I did not get lost then, either. Technically, that is.
I did, however, try to check in to the wrong hotel. What can I say? It was dark, it was late, it was raining, there was traffic (there is always traffic). It was not my finest driving hour.
Determined not to make the same mis-adventure a second time, I pored over the maps and directions before I left home and planned my arrival for non-rush hour. In fact, I was so surprised by the easy route, minimal road construction and non-rush hour traffic, that I had to make up reasons to hyperventilate.
Google directions through the Twin Cities were surprisingly simple: “Keep Left,” “Use Left Lanes,” “The Other Left, Dummy.” There was no actual exiting. (Unlike that final “Keep Right/Exit” north of Waterloo, which the truck behind me almost missed, too. Dear God, I hope they weren't following my navigation!)
Since all the downtown Minneapolis traffic was in the right lanes, I hugged the leftest-left lane (after a brief moment of flop sweat when I couldn't remember which was left and which was right), and accelerated to Big City Speeds, meaning I passed almost as many people as passed me. It was glorious.
Until I realized I was driving solo in the car pool lane. And I was going too fast to read the hours for the car pool lane, but not too fast to read the part that said “Do NOT cross white line.” A quick check of the mirror, however, revealed that people obeyed the “Do NOT cross white line” sign about as much as they observed the “Speed Limit” suggestion.
I was just beginning think that perhaps I was not equipped to drive, read directions, seek out road signs, and PANIC at the same time, and hoping that somehow MN-65 would miraculously turn into a quiet-ish 3-lane, one-way, city street from a mega-lane, concrete pretzel when . . . it did.
And I was downtown and I was just a turn and a turn away from the hotel, and I was feeling like a Grizzled, Big City Driving Veteran.
I was feeling so much like a Grizzled, Big City Driver that I wasn't even rattled (much) by the occasional, random honking. Because obviously that car wasn't honking at me when I was stopped at a red light. And obviously they weren't honking at me when I was waiting my turn to zip around the double-parked car and glare at the empty driver's seat.
The car (which came out of no where and) honked at the Small Town Girl walking across the Big City Street despite the flashing “Don't Walk” sign?
They might have been honking at me.