AMERICA FROM THE SLOW LANE

DISCOVER CHALLENGE: OBSTACLES 

Surviving slow drivers on life’s long highway


I’ve read many stories in which authors wax poetic about the good old days when travel happened at a more gentle pace. Long journeys by narrow roads through quaint towns past farms, field, and woods. No super highways with steel and chrome food courts to mar the beauty of the countryside.

This is going forth to experience Real America.

I can remember some of those good old days. I’m just old enough to have been one of those kids in the back seat. Pinching and punching our siblings while simultaneously whining: “Are we there yet?”

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All of you who ever waxed poetic about those long ago days of back roads travel should make the trek from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont.

The beauty of your journey will not be marred by wide, smooth, high-speed roads. Nor will you be assaulted by fast food or faster drivers. Your pace car is more likely to be an aging pickup truck, rattling its way down the mountain, one of the driver’s feet permanently glued to the brake pedal while the truck rattles back and forth across the single lane.

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It’s 231 miles from Jackman to Danville if you stay on the U.S. side of the border. Only one route is available. Route 201 from Jackman to Skowhegan. Hook a right on route 2. Drive for a really long time and do not plan on ever exceeding thirty miles per hour.

You won’t starve. You’ll find good food to eat, gasoline to be pumped as you pass through dozens of quaint little towns. There will be a pizza place in each village. Baked goods for sale. Sandwiches, too and chilled pop in bottles and cans. Clean bathrooms.

Autumn road to home

It’s a breathtaking journey through the mountains, especially in autumn when the trees are lit from within. The glory of Fall in the mountains of New England cannot be overstated. The mountains are alight with glory. It looks surreal.

And directly in front of you will be a slow, poky driver who will never exceed the speed limit. He will never reach the speed limit. In fact, he would never consider letting his vehicle get within 10 miles per hour of whatever the sign along the highway says is the safe (and possibly best) speed for traveling the twisting roads.

By the time we had been on the road for four or five of the 11 hours it would ultimately take to drive 231 miles, we were nearly overcome by unfriendly urges to get our little old car up to ramming speed and just push the slow, poky drivers out of the way.

“Wow,” I would say, “That mountain is insanely beautiful. Those colors, wow!” as we loop around a curve in the road. I’m over-compensating for my peevishness with the slow driver riding his brakes in front of us.

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Slow drivers wait for us. Not just when we are away from home, but around the Valley, too. We try to pass. They appear out of nowhere, pull out in front of us, and slow to a crawl. If, by some minor miracle we briefly break free, another slow driver is waiting and he or she is going our way. All the way.

It took from early morning to sundown to complete the trip. We crawled through Maine and New Hampshire and as the sun was setting, limped into Vermont. We made it. We had fully experienced the glory days of yesteryear on our highways.

Never have I appreciated Dwight D. Eisenhower more. Truly, we had overcome.

13 thoughts on “AMERICA FROM THE SLOW LANE

  1. Sorry to read about the traffic, that would either make me crazy or force me to pull over and take pictures. No wait, isn’t that what you did? Thanks for that, your pictures are beautiful.

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    • We should not have attempted the drive in one day, but 230 miles is not such a huge distance. We didn’t expect to do the whole thing at 28 mph 🙂 I did take a lot of pictures. And we had a lovely lunch. We made the best lemonade we could make.

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  2. Lovely photos. I remember well the 5 hour trips to visit my grandmother as a child – 4 girls squirming in the small back seat of our small car. No seat belts then. Fighting and pinching each other as a bump in the road made us fall over each other. Trying to sing the latest song. Trying to fight the car sickness. No time to look out the window at all. Too much to think about. Now when I drive anywhere I am always looking around – slightly dangerous I think, but now with my son as a chauffeur I can finally take some photos from the car. Bliss

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  3. Am with you all the way, although our distances are mini distances compared to the State. Our mountains are usually in the way, so they dig a few tunnels through them, which take at least 20 minutes to get through. Once you are over the ridge and see the beauty of the landscape, then it’s all worthwhile.

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    • They spent about 40 billion dollars to build a tunnel under Boston … so now instead of being stuck in traffic in Boston, you are stuck in the tunnel. It’s nicer to look at, but I shudder the the idea of sitting in a tunnel with thousands of other cars and their exhausts.

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    • I think that kind of driving is fine when you’re out to take pictures, find a neat place to eat, maybe someplace where they sell antiques. But when you actually need to get from point A to point B and you have to do it that DAY, it’s not so much fun. There’s a big difference between traveling to get to a place you need to be and just driving around, enjoying the scenery. If we hadn’t needed to get to Vermont, it would have been a lovely drive. It WAS lovely but it was exhuasting. It would have been faster to go home then drive to Vermont from there.

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    • We never owned one, but I’ve seen a lot of them. I always thought it might be useful to have your bedroom with you when you travel, but I never could wrap my head around dragging one of those big clunky things around the hairpin mountain turns in the road.

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      • Well they used to have large Clubs and would all travel together – A long line of trailers. If you got stuck behind them you couldn’t pass them and it was futile to try because there was so many trailers in the caravan. Eventually I believed they were outlawed because they were such a nuisance – and I haven’t seen them in years.

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  4. Our family drove to Florida one winter and that would be a long time ago. The exciting part of the drive was seem those Berma Shave signs.
    Leslie

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