Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ramsey hill.

[Editor's note: we found this draft from the summer and decided to include it since the writer could think of no other suitable content.]

Four years ago, I had just graduated from college and moved back to the Cities. It was a big time for me - graduating, starting grad school, and also getting my very first car. I was ambitious with my first vehicle and decided I was okay with a manual transmission. So there was another first - learning to drive a stick shift.

While learning to drive a stick was a somewhat harrowing experience in and of itself, I soldiered through and was doing pretty well after a few weeks. Except I was deathly afraid of hills. I would make mental notes of hills while driving, so I could avoid them in the future. (Oddly, I do a similar thing now, but with possible bike routes instead.)

One night, I was driving to meet up with some friends who lived near Dale and Grand. This was back when my geographical knowledge of both St. Paul and Minneapolis was pretty poor. (Hey, I grew up in the suburbs! I hadn't lived there for four years!) I was looking for parking and couldn't find any - I was probably scared of parallel parking at the time too - so I ended up driving down Grand to...well, I didn't know where. I was lost and needed to find my way back. At the first light, I took a left and started driving up Ramsey Hill.

Ramsey Hill, the shortcut between highland and low land, and one of the few hills in the the Twin Cities that rivals the hundreds of hills in San Francisco or Seattle. So in reality, really not a huge deal.

But I was a new stick shift driver, and I was terrified. I chugged up in second gear, thinking to myself that this was the biggest hill IN THE WORLD, psyching myself out for what could be at the top. A stop sign? A light? Perhaps it just levels out with no forced stops! But I knew I could only be so lucky.

At the top is a three way stop. By the time I got there I knew I couldn't worry about turns, I had to go the direction that would get me farthest up the hill. I don't really remember everything at this point - I know I stalled first, and then to compensate I revved into oblivion to take a right, causing a faint burning smell.

Thoroughly freaked out and probably shaking then, I took a right at the first possible street to get my bearings together. After calling my friends, I knew where I needed to go, I just needed to turn around. Only I was on...another hill. Smaller, but still a hill. Somehow in the process of turning myself around, not wanting to back down the hill of course, I found my car completely perpendicular and blocking the entire dead end street. This wouldn't normally be a problem, except that I couldn't seem to drive forward, instead I would only slip backward. Commence more freaking out. I took some deep breaths, moved the gear shift around, and well wouldn't you know, I was in neutral.

After that near anxiety attack experience, it took at least a year to get over my fear of hills, and I also vowed to never drive on Ramsey Hill again. Until one night last summer. Because of construction and road closings everywhere, I ended up driving home on W. 7th St. Although there were many other routes to take, I decided to face my fear and take the shortcut up Ramsey Hill, now a familiar fixture in my neighborhood.

[Editor's note: this is where it stopped before.] To sum up a very long story, I drove up the tallest hill ever and it wasn't bad at all. To think, for YEARS I've been afraid of that thing! Now I can conquer it!

[Editor's note: As of press time, the writer has still only driven up Ramsey Hill twice.]

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