During our vacation I said frequent prayers of thanksgiving for our safety. Being on the road, anywhere, anytime, is dangerous. Being on the road every day for 4000+ miles is a lesson in survival!
First of all we had to endure at least 100 miles a day of road construction. This does two things- slows down traffic, and brings out the “stupid” gene in people. My favorite stupid driver is the one who ignores all warning signs, cones, and lights, and at the very last possible second merges to the left/right, thereby disrupting the flow of traffic and making at least three other drivers angry. Then there are the drivers who ignore the slower speeds of construction zones and try to intimidate me into doing the same. At least this time I was driving the pickup!
I am amazed by how fast people drive! If the speed limit was posted at 70 mph I set my cruise control for 70 mph- then got passed by every other driver on the road. Even in areas where the speed was 80 mph, drivers routinely exceeded that! Why? Stupid gene in action again. The worst was posted deer areas. Obviously most people have never hit a deer at 70 mph or they would slow down to 60 mph and keep their eyes peeled for the beasts. I can tell you from experience that a deer can wipe out your car in a heartbeat. There was one grazing on the shoulder in NM- nearly gave me heart failure!
And people do NOT know how to drive in the mountains and around curves. Either they went way too fast or far too slow. I was however, impressed by the sheer willpower of a guy riding a bicycle over the Rockies. Don’t know if he made it, but what a challenge! Message to the crazy guy in the convertible: I hope you have GREAT insurance buddy! Somewhere down the road you are surely going to need it!
Encountered some dangers produced by Mother Nature as well. The wind gusts in the desert caught us a couple of times and nearly made me change lanes. Little critters in the road made me grit my teeth because I knew I couldn’t afford to swerve to save a chicken, dog, mouse or squirrel. I also drove in blinding rain a couple of times.
The oddest road hazard was a jogger. Or I should say “dancer”. He was dressed in white and was wearing headphones. He was jogging along the side of the road, but suddenly swirled and danced in a circle while waving his arms. I’m glad he was enjoying his music and his run, but I don’t think he realized he was on the white line and could have easily gotten sucked into the wind current created by passing trucks.
My driving time in the cities was a reminder of why I LOVE living in the country. You could not pay me enough to make me endure the daily gridlock traffic in most cities. The feeling of desperation on city roads is almost palpable. Drivers take terrible risks and do alarming things in order to make it to the next exit. However, my biggest driving problem in the city is not the increased number of cars, or the actions of other drivers, but ignorance of the layout of the city. When I was in Fresno, where I lived for twenty years, the traffic did not bother me because I had a sense of where I was and where I needed to be. I could anticipate turns and exits and watch traffic flow and make progressive moves toward my destination. In strange cities I had to rely on Gary’s map reading and wait for him to say “you need to be in the left lane to make the next exit”. Then I would realize I couldn’t get into the left lane without causing an accident! Needless to say, there were a couple of tense moments in strange cities. And I apologize for misreading that left turn signal light. I’m sure Gary’s life flashed before his eyes during those moments when the little gray car was speeding toward his door. Yet another hazard- not recognizing odd traffic light configurations, or knowing how soon a light will change.
And what is up with these strange “turning circles” or whatever they are called? I was nearly hit by a car that failed to yield while we were all going around the circle to reach our streets. It reminded me of being on a carousel.
Well, I’m home now. All I have to do is watch out for slow tractors, fast gravel trucks, drunks, deer, rabbits, dogs, chickens, cows, and those crazy tourists!