Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours! Continue reading

The North Carolina Driver’s License Test

One of the mandatory “To Do’s” whenever you move out-of-state [with a vehicle] is to update your:

  • driver’s license,
  • car registration,
  • car insurance, and
  • license plate.

In Florida, this process was expensive, but easy as cake. I walked into the DMV one morning and out about an hour later with my new driver’s license and license plate in hand.

Three years later in North Carolina, the process was relatively fast, and less expensive, but …there was a test (!)

Bret called the office a couple days ago they confirmed that even though we both have valid Florida driver’s licenses, there would be a mandatory road sign test.

road sign 2

Oh, road signs. Simple. You may be thinking, but I knew better. I had taken the Virginia road sign test 12 years ago when I applied for my first driver’s license, and I knew those questions could be tricky.

Maybe, for example, you know that this is railroad crossing sign…


…but would you be able to identify a blank yellow circle as a railroad crossing sign? I wasn’t.

Or maybe you know this sign below means school crossing:

school crossing

It does. But. If you take those two lines away, it actually means “School Zone,” not “School Crossing”.

We took a free online practice test the night before to prepare. It was hard. There were questions like this:


  1. The road ahead curves to the right and the left?! Okay, okay I guess I see that.
  2. What is that, a yellow sunshine? A traffic circle? Maybe it is a traffic island? No. It is just a flashing yellow light that means caution. But it wasn’t “flashing” on the test, though.
  3. I got the last one right – that hand signal means the car is stopping, although, to be fair, a lot of people just drive around with their arm hanging out the window and it means nothing.

The practice test intimidated me a bit, but I thought, well, as long as the test is multiple choice, I’ll be okay.

Guess what! It wasn’t a multiple choice test.

The test consisted of me having to identify the signs verbally on the spot. And I panicked. I saw a truck on a hill and literally said “truck on a hill” instead of “hill approaching.” The blank signs were the hardest. I know a plain red octagon is a Stop Sign, but a plain yellow triangle? I said, “uh, caution?” And I was wrong. It means no passing. Of course I would be able to identify the sign in context on the road, but it’s different when you’re on the spot and the road signs are BLANK.

By some miracle, though, I passed, and now I’m the proud owner of a North Carolina driver’s license and license plate. I feel like I officially “belong” here, which is a nice feeling.

To celebrate, Bret and I drove our new North Carolina licenses and license plate an hour across the state! One of my favorite grad school friends lives in Charlotte, so last night we drove halfway and met for dinner, Christy2

…and, of course, Sheetz.


Bret LOVES Sheetz and the fact that we live an hour away from one after living in Florida for 3 years (where there are no Sheetz) is pretty much the best thing he could have asked for. I love Christy. She’s so genuine and funny and wonderful and we had the best time catching up on our move to North Carolina, our plans to visit JMU, her awesome job (she gets to play ping pong in her office?!?!), and Bret’s crazy job search. I’m just so grateful to be within driving distance of such a good friend. And I’m so grateful that I passed the road sign test so I can drive to her.