What do you do when you get that invitation to do something that pushes you well BEYOND your comfort zone? Going to a BMW driving school in the RAIN was something I NEVER thought I’d do. I grew up in sunny California and the thought of driving in rain scares me. But I decided to put on my big girl panties and do it anyway. I ended up LOVING this experience!
This is a true story of my BMW performance driving school experience in South Carolina. It’s equal parts my personal anecdote as I overcame my anxiety and part site experience. It was part of my sponsored trip through what’s called South Carolina’s Upcountry. It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back on my own. Watch for more stories from that trip soon.
Going Beyond My Driving Anxiety
Let me start by saying, I hate driving. More specifically, I have severe anxiety attacks when I think about having to drive somewhere. That’s another story all together, but let’s just say that I’m only comfortable driving in certain situations. Outside that, Uber is my friend. Driving on a wet track is doubly frightening because I grew up in sunny California where it almost never rains. When it did, most people avoided driving and waited for it to pass so they wouldn’t have to drive on slick roads.
So what do you do when something scares you? I could either (A) sit on the sideline and watch everyone else have fun or (B) suck it up and join in. I chose the later and am actually glad I did it. Believe it or not, I am more confident now about my driving ability. I think knowing that I can teeter a $60,000 vehicle on two wheels and NOT flip it does that for a person! Did that get your attention? It did me too.
How do you get over driving anxiety? I’m not a doctor, but for me I’m getting over it by actually driving. Let me tell you my story, what scared the h*ll out of me, and what I learned. Maybe it will help you overcome your anxiety while driving too.
BMW Performance Center
I mentioned that I was on a South Carolina trip through the Upcountry Region, up in the northwestern part of the state. The BMW Performance Center in Greer about 20 minutes outside Greenville. There’s a second center
My Driving School Experience
Because I was on a work trip, we didn’t do the full day experience. Instead we got a sampling of the M School, the Adventure Course, and something called a Rat Race where two cars chase each other in a circle at high speed.
During my test-drive experience, I drove these four cars:
- M2 – BMW’s most popular car the past 10 years
- M5 – all the bells and whistles plus 605HP (my husband says that’s important – all I know is I really like how it drives )
- M850i – brand new 2 door coupe that is in line with an Aston Martin (Again husband saves HP is important, but all I know is I REALLY want one of these)
- X5 – BMW sport activity vehicle with all the bells and whistles
Adventure Course Driving
The thing that drove me (get the pun there) completely outside my comfort zone was driving the X5 on the adventure course.
This course had me traverse hills, obstacles, steep inclines, and rocky terrain that had my vehicle see-sawing on two wheels (front right and left rear). I think most of us fear getting into a car wreck and here the threat of flipping am expensive vehicle seemed VERY real. Looking outside the driver window and seeing the ground 2 feet away directly underneath you is nerve wracking. But a skilled instructor guided me through the course, very, very carefully. Our guide had each of us pause on two wheels at the top of a rocky hill to gain an understanding of what that feels like. It’s completely unnatural! But after a few seconds the fear subsides (just a little) and you realize you aren’t going to flip over. You will be okay and then you move on. It’s kind of cathartic really.
Driving the adventure course taught me, to trust myself. Before starting the course, the instructor said, “Don’t worry, no one has flipped one……. in a while at least.” I didn’t break that streak and completed the course with me, my passenger, and their vehicle in one piece. It also taught me
M School Experience
For a girl who doesn’t drive in the rain, this experience had me asking, “You want me to do what? On a rainy day, I took out three different cars to drive around a performance race track. On the straight aways I was told to floor it. Then just before the turns I was told to brake and brake hard. I had a fear of losing control on wet roads and sliding out going through the turns. But I didn’t. I found that each car handled the road a little differently. I really liked the M850i and the M5 the best for their handling. The M850i hugs those turns and was really fun to “floor it”. I won’t be buying that one any time soon as it’s well above my budget, but…….. (I’ll just leave that sentence open because you just never know. )
What I Learned
- Driving like this on a closed course is a LOT of fun. Even for people who hate driving, it’s an experience in so many good ways.
- I came out of this without having a car accident. I didn't destroy someone else’s vehicle.
- A drivers course like this teaches car control and provides new skills that go beyond driving.
- I need to drive more because I really liked going fast (but I promise to obey all posted speed limit signs…. there’s my PSA).
anxiety ofworrying about something that hasn't happened yet. Looking ahead, think about all the positive adventures that could happen rather than fearing for the worst.
- I need to get out beyond my comfort zone more often. I don’t write a lot about that, but maybe I should. I held my driving anxiety close to the vest for years. Only after I shared it with a close friend did I learn that it was very common. Many of my friends have similar issues.
- So less comfort and more adventure will be in my future, although the cars I drove are pretty comfortable. I wouldn’t mind having one.
Little Known Fact: You can experience the BMW Performance Center for FREE.
Customer Delivery Program
Not exactly “free” free, but when you buy a new BMW, instead of picking it up on the lot, you can opt for their customer delivery program. This free program invites you and a guest to one of the BMW Performance Centers in South Carolina or California to pick up your car. You pay your own way to the center, but once there you are put up in a local hotel, treated to dinner, breakfast at the hotel, and then shuttled to the center. There you are given a factory tour, thorough car overview, two hours on the track with your car, and a hot lap around the race track with an instructor. Did I mention this is FREE or included when you buy a BMW?
When was the last time you leaping beyond your comfort zone? Tell me about it in the comments below.
A big thank you to BMW Performance Center, Tim Todd with Discover South Carolina Upcountry, and Travel South for making this experience happen. I will never forget it.