1. Archive


The starting line: 7336 20th St. N, St. Petersburg

The finish line: Chip & Dale section of the Magic Kingdom parking lot

The ride: a white 1988 Hyundai Excel GLS with 336,389 miles

Approximate gas mileage: (city and highway) I use the car almost exclusively for the highway. I get 29.5 miles per gallon of gasoline on the highway.

The route: 77th Avenue N to Fourth Street N to I-275 North to I-4 East.

Do you ever vary your route?

Only in the event of a street or highway closure.

Distance/length of commute?

88 miles each way.

How long does it take?

About 1{ hours in the morning and at least 2 hours in the afternoon.

Latest you can leave home and still be on time?

5:30 a.m.

What time do you normally get home after work?

6:15 to 6:30 p.m.

Do you ever car pool?

I wish I could. I feel that as a lone driver in an otherwise unoccupied car, I am using more than my share of the earth's nonreplenishable energy resources.

How long have you been commuting?

8{ years.

Did you plan for a commute or did it just work out that way?

It just worked out that way.

How do you occupy the drive time?

I use the quiet time in the morning for prayer and reflection. In the afternoon, I must pay very close attention to driving, but I usually have the car radio tuned to National Public Radio.

What do you like about the commute?

I enjoy the fresh beauty of the early morning, especially the sunrise.

What do you dislike?

Heavy traffic through Tampa in the afternoon.

Any daily rituals related to your commute?

I stop for coffee along the way in the afternoon, even on a hot and humid summer day.

Is there anything that you do on the road that seems to annoy other drivers?

You bet! I obey the speed limit on the open road. In stop-and-go traffic, I allow at least one car length between my car and the vehicle in front of me. Plenty of people honk their horns or flash their headlights at me on both counts.

What do other drivers do that drives you crazy?

I am concerned about aggressive drivers. They take unnecessary risks and jeopardize public safety.

Weirdest thing you've ever seen while commuting?

Take your pick. One summer day I spotted a young man wandering along the side of I-4 east of Lakeland. I stopped to see if he needed help. His car had run out of gas. He had walked to the next exit, but there was no service station there. Then he walked down the exit and headed a very long way down a country road without success. When I came across him, he had been walking for about four hours, and he had just arrived back to I-4. He was dehydrated and disoriented. I took him into Lakeland and bought him a drink and a gallon of gasoline. Then we drove back east until we spotted his car some distance away. After he started his car, I followed him to his exit to make sure he made it safely.

One Christmas Eve, I saw an older woman using a paper cup to dip water from the drainage ditch along the side of I-4. She was attempting to fill an overheated radiator. I stopped to offer her and her husband the gallon jug of fresh water that I carry in the car for emergencies. With an ample supply of fresh water, we were able to determine that the head gasket had blown. I took them into town to use a pay phone to call a wrecker service. Then I followed the wrecker to the service garage, and I gave them a ride to St. Petersburg to join their family for a holiday celebration. They in turn invited me in to share in the joyous gathering, which I was pleased to do for just a few minutes. They made me feel so very special.

Vance Wegner, 56, logs 176 miles round trip commuting from St. Petersburg to Orlando every workday, where he works as a vacation planner for Walt Disney World Co. Wegner and his wife considered moving to Orlando a few years ago, but they decided to stay put. "We love St. Petersburg; we love our home," Wegner said.