I just got back form a little road trip. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the road for so long or so far. Things have changed – and some haven’t.
In general people still haven’t figured out the fine art of driving. Speed limits are optional, turn signals must be broken, brakes apparently don’t work nearly as well as horns, and lanes are merely a suggestion of vehicular placement. I recall when everybody went to driver’s ed in high school. Now nobody goes. And it shows! But no school will pay the cost of a car, a teacher’s extra time (for some reason it was always a gym teacher), and the outrageous insurance it must cost when the only authorized drivers are unlicensed teenagers and a gym teacher.
Rest stops have gotten dirtier, with less real food and more unreal people. And they are farther apart. When many highways were being built in the 1950s the cars were big but of suspect power. In the east and the west where mountains rule the terrain, all roads had stops at the peaks. This allowed the motoring public a chance to stretch their legs, enjoy the views, and allow their cars to cool down after doing their imitations of an asthmatic billy goat. And there the rest stops stayed. The ones that weren’t torn down. Today’s cars are much more powerful and can easily make it up three or four thousand feet. And much too easily they then make it back down the other side. I feel sorry for the people who live in the flat middle of the country and don’t get to enjoy the experience of plummeting down a mountain around bends often only feet from all too real sheer drops, bending, twisting, turning, ducking into tunnels then back into the sunlight only to plunge into the new darkness of a companion tunnel then thrust back out for another few miles of downhill slaloming all at a speed for which breakneck is too mild an adjective. We don’t need rest stops at the top of the mountains; we need them at the bottom. With liquor licenses. And underwear changing stations.
Gas stations are being augmented by charging stations for electric cars. A great idea. I saw a half-dozen charging stations at each stop I visited. Even at the smallest of the stops where I stopped there stood the usual six charging stands. For the entire four days on the road I encountered one electric car. Perhaps someday there will be lines for them also.
A new nicety at rest stops is the farmers’ market. I love farmers’ markets and have posted a few thoughts on them. But I don’t understand why they are there. Except for the few RVers still on the road, how many people pick up a peck of fresh veggies for dinner while on vacation?
In the 1970s everybody reduced the speed limit to 55mph to save gas since prices had skyrocketed to a whopping 59 cents per gallon. Even though gas today is cheap at $2.50 a gallon, speed limits keep getting higher. Except for whoever is driving in the left lane. For some reason as soon as I pull out to pass a slower vehicle the car that just sped past me discovers that his brakes indeed brake.
And perhaps someday somebody will be able to explain why there are handicap lanes at the toll plazas. I didn’t use them. But there they were, and that might be this week’s newest, greatest mystery.
That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?