Friday, October 26, 2018

Answer To Pleasurable Driving

There is pleasure in seeing semi-familiar places.  The yearly drive to the cabin or the park, the back way to a town only visited every few years, even the highway route to a college, or the house we lived in twenty years ago.  It's fun to still have mastery of such routes, even if construction or side errands kick us out of our groove. The restaurant with the pies is gone, but another is there. Five miles of rural road is now shops and chain hotels, but a few old things still peek out, and then we are suddenly back on a road where little has changed.

I enjoy navigating, though I don't like the very difficult adventures as much as I used to.  I used to be determined to take the shortest line route to a place even if the road didn't look encouraging on the map.  (Lesson learned: the road is never better on the ground than on the map, and it is sometimes far worse. Like there's a stream across it, or tall grass growing up in the middle. Tall grass hides bad things.) That is no longer necessary, but it is still fun to go somewhere new and get it on the first - okay, third - try.

There is scenery.  Ben and I learned when I moved him to Houston, why the RV people are all asleep early and get up early.  At night on the Interstate, the entire country looks the same.  Exit 20: Signs for the same gas stations, signs for the same chain restaurants, signs for the same chain hotels.  Even looking down on the lights of a city doesn't give that much variety. There is no point to driving at night unless seriously avoiding traffic and stark utility and efficiency are your goal. Waffle House in the south. Irving gas stations in New England. That's not a lot of variety. But in the day there is anticipation.  It looks like a wide valley is going to be visible as soon as well get over this rise... What a nice little town!  We could stop at that little place for lunch on our way back... I think there is some landscape difference between Vermont and upstate New York... That town name sounds familiar.  Didn't someone famous come from there?

Some people like the driving itself, the speed or the handling.  Motorcyclists probably include that in their pleasure, the wind and the leaning into turns.  That's less important to me.

I used to like trying to factor the odometer number before it changed to the next mile, but that is much harder with six digits instead of five.  Plus I'm nowhere near as sharp now. I like trying to estimate to the minute when we will arrive in Lincoln, according to our speed and the mileposts and my knowledge of traffic.

Driving at night you can pretend to be a spy secretly heading for a border. It just doesn't work anywhere near so well in daylight.


Grim said...

I used to like those nostalgic drives, too, but the changes finally became too many. I had to cut sling load, and strike out for new places. I still went back to the Stone Games, but most of my old haunts I can’t abide returning to anymore. If they dynamite Stone Mountain, even there will be hard to visit anymore.

Donna B. said...

I liked the driving itself. And scenery. The driving isn't as much fun anymore because so much of the control isn't mine, it's electronic. Now, I get my entertainment by trying to figure out a route that bypasses Atlanta and strip malls populated by mattress stores, nail salons, and chiropractors.

Sam L. said...

I'd suggest that driving into Albuquerque at night from the west ledge is a great sight, as the road drops down and the lights in the valley stretch from north to south.
There I was, in a car with a 6-volt battery and a semi-truck right behind me and the road just BLACK in front of me.

james said...

Night driving often has a Twilight Zone feel to it.