Dec 2008 23

Road Trip

Posted In Cars

My family occupies much of the lower 48, so most holidays involve some travel either in the air or by car, to celebrate with my family.  My normal 30 minute workday commute is already long enough to evoke higher blood pressures and the toot of a horn now and again (to draw attention to my one finger wave), so it’s no surprise a longer road trip can cause some stress.  I love driving- it’s the other drivers that annoy me.  If the roads were perfectly clear and paved with elevation changes and chicanes similar to a nice road course, a 6 hour journey would feel like a jaunt.  But having driven through most of the country, I dread some road trips simply because I’ll have to pass through states where driver’s licenses are offered as prizes in Cracker Jack boxes.

Although all regions get all types of drivers, there are certain moves that seem to prevail in some states.  There’s the Connecticut Slide, where drivers enter the freeway on the right and promptly slide across all lanes of traffic to proceed at a snail’s pace in the left lane until a mile before their exit when they (seemingly without the aid of rear view mirrors or any thought to the cars behind them) slide back across the freeway to the exit ramp.  It also doesn’t help that some doofus nailed my rear at mile marker 1 in CT one holiday weekend.  The Pennsylvania Flash, when at any sign of anything besides their speedometer pegged at 55mph under clear skies, drivers turn their hazards on.  It could be cars braking ahead, a little rain, a disabled (even abandoned) car 50 feet off the highway, a leaf flying around, whatever- it never ceases to amaze me how quickly those flashers go on.  What are you warning me of besides the fact that you’re an idiot???  Pennsylvania is also known for the Highway Halt, embarking on the onramp with the velocity of a mouse fart just to stop quickly right at the very end.  These same drivers seem to be able to dig for their cell phones on the floor while driving, so is it really that hard to find a spot to stick their car when entering the highway?  I’ve seen blind people cross an unregulated four lane intersection with more aptitude and awareness!

The Empire State is known for the New York Tap-and-See, named after a bridge across the Hudson that is slightly less frustrating than the gridlocked GW nightmare, but is often the sight of a minor fender bender that results in a third uninvolved driver observing the damage from his or her car, nodding that it isn’t bad enough to attempt to stop and exchange info.

Down South, the flatter roads produce no obstacle to seeing cops miles ahead and I will always remember the trucker who referred to me as a “purdy lil’ seat cover” as my friend Joe tried pimping me off via CB radio. The Texas Throttle Stomp is a definite change of pace to the slower rest of the South- nothing like getting passed on a narrow 2 lane highway by a semi truck doing 40 over the speed limit, but amazingly in complete control. And with the liberal gun toting laws, don’t be surprised if your driving pisses someone off to the point that’s not a finger they’re waving at you! In the Midwest, you have the Chi-town Crawl. Traffic is insane here and if you’re stupid enough to not own a toll pass, there are special lanes designed to demonstrate just how much time you’re wasting.

I’ve yet to drive in the Northwest, but a friend of mine says the drivers love to tear through the rain-slicked roads only to brake abruptly and find their car somersaulting over the concrete center divide. Colorado drivers tend to be pretty good. They have no qualms about driving sideways in a white-out blizzard up one of the many hills in downtown Denver even with a set of bald summer tires. Although I do remember one street in Denver in a not-so-yuppie neighborhood that had a stoplight located in the middle of the road for no real reason, other than to provide a carjacker with a safe crosswalk to make his or her job easier. It abruptly turned red as we drove up to it and my friend and I exchanged meaningful “what light?” glances as we tore through it.

On the West Coast, Los Angeles is full of traffic but it’s no more apparent than around 2am when the bars let out and drivers gridlock the freeways trying to get their dates home before their beer goggles wear off. Interstate 15 past Victorville is home to the High Desert High Speeds and you will become road kill if you go less than 90mph. If you do make it to the City of Sin, the Vegas WTF driving position will have you going “did you just see that???” The tourists drive like they’re forever lost, jaws agape, while the locals weave in and out of traffic (shoulders, sidewalks, whatever) to pass them.

Then there are the idiots that occupy lanes in all states, including the Left Lane Nazi. Slower traffic, keep right!  I don’t care if you’re doing the speed limit, though you’re usually not. Is your plan to continue driving alongside that other car doing the exact same speed? If you’re not passing somebody, let us decide to take our chances with the highway patrol and pass you… safely… on the left. Then there’s the Highway Drag Racer that does twenty over in a straightaway but somehow manages to drop anchor in every corner because it requires slightly more skill than a Nascar course.  Learn to drive on a road, one with curves and grades where the highway doesn’t resemble Interstate 90 through South Dakota.  There’s also the Douchebag Drifter who appears to fall asleep and wake up 2 lanes over. That little stick on the left side of the steering wheel is a turn signal- use it! And what’s with the braking already? How can you possibly be driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brake???

And many a times I’ve almost been run over or sideswiped by the Soy Chai tea latte sipping, Crackberry texting, Prada megabag-carrying, “pretentiously-useless” SUV driving, botox-injected cougar wannabe, who yells at anyone who drives down her street at more than 5 mph, but then considers all other neighborhood school zones to be Nuremburg.  Here’s a thought you nimby bitch- schedule your platinum blonde roots touchup more than 5 minutes after fake tanning appointment and you won’t need to race down my street, on my ass like I were a virile 20 year old with a lush appetite for alcohol and loose women. And finally, my favorite- the Status Symbol car owner who buys the lowest (ie. cheapest) model in a brand’s car lineup because the brand has a reputation for being sporty, then incorrectly assumes ownership of such brand comes with an inherent penile growth, thus curing your Napoleon-endowed “mood killer,” and provoking you to drive with the wrong head. Come on- it’s like putting a tux on GW Bush! It may look pretty but it’s still slow. I’d like to thank these very men for cutting me off (who needs a front bumper anyways?), stop light racing, and generally driving like butt on the road.

And these habits all get considerably worse during winter driving.  For some reason, there always seem to be twice as many people on the roads in bad weather rush hours.  And they’re going half the speed, which is fine if there really is any ice or slush on the surface.  But when the umbrella-carrying “Mortons” chick has sprinkled down so much salt the black asphalt looks like white cement and the stuff falling from the sky is rain and not snow, why are you still driving like you’re behind the wheel of a 1 cylinder Lawn Boy, or with just 2 brain cells? Phew! The therapist said it’d do me some good to let it all out. I feel much better already.