SLOWLY DRIVING ACROSS NEW ENGLAND – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We can still remember the good old days when we were one of the kids in the back seat pinching and punching a sibling while whining: “Are we there yet?” How come our parents didn’t kill us before we grew up?

It’s a question that has taken on considerable depths of meaning with the passing decades

Those of you who wax poetic about the wonderfulness of slowly trundling down America’s scenic back roads should take a car trip across New England.

New England roads — the good roads, the paved roads, the roads with passing lanes — run north and south. Although no one can explain why — lack of money? no interest? not enough tourists? — so only small local roads go east-west. If, for example, you are traveling the 231 miles from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont, you will experience some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery. Slowly.

These are classic roads. They have not changed and in many cases have not been repaved in your lifetime.

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No limited-access highway will sully your pure travel experience. You won’t be tempted to eat fast food from familiar chains. No driver will tailgate to make you or honk for you to speed up. The car ahead of you — what we sometimes refer to as our “pace car” — will be an aging pickup truck rattling down the mountain. One of the driver’s feet will be glued to the brake pedal while he or she engages in a lively conversation with his or her partner while the truck weaves left and right and an occasional fishtail.

You’d be hard put to figure if the vehicle has a steering problem, rowdy children, or the driver is doing it on purpose to make you crazy. Whatever the reason, you are not going to pass that pickup.

You won’t find fast-food chains on this route, but you won’t starve, either. There’s plenty of good food and gasoline to pump as you pass through the quaint New England towns. Classic towns with white clapboard churches and at least one or two pizza joints. Fresh baked goods for sale. Chilled pop in bottles and cans. Clean bathrooms.

TRUCK ON ROUTE 201 IN MAINE

It’s a breathtaking journey through the mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes. Magnificent and surreal. For the entire trip, directly in front you — on every road — will be a poky driver who will never exceed, or even approach, the speed limit. He or she would not consider letting his vehicle get within 10 miles of whatever that silly sign says is a safe, legal speed for traveling those roads.

Let’s not forget the neverending construction. It is one of New England’s seasons: winter, sort-of spring, and construction. Oddly, if you go back the next year, the construction will still be ongoing with little sign of progress. After four or five of the dozen hours of the drive, the urge to get your car up to ramming speed and push the slow drivers out of the way becomes obsessive.

Slow drivers lurk on side roads. Do they use spotter craft (drones?) so they know when we are coming? We try to pass, but they appear out of nowhere. They pull out and immediately slow to a crawl. If by some miracle, we briefly break free, another slow driver is poised for action at the next intersection.

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Supposedly Dwight D. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system in case of an emergency, so military vehicles could get where they needed to be.

Maybe there was a hidden reason. Ike came from farm country and had been traveling glorious back roads his entire life. The great general he was, he knew defeat when he saw it. Never could he or his military \ever defeat the slow drivers. And that is the real reason he built interstate highways across America, all of which currently need paving. But that’s another story.

Enjoy the beauty of New England. Just remember to enjoy it slowly. If you have a specific arrival time? Leave extra hours. Many extra hours. And remember to take a lot of deep breaths.



Categories: Cars and Trucks, Garry Armstrong, highways, New England, Photography, Roads

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. When David and I moved to Tasmania we found that as we drove towards Hobart on the narrow, sometimes winding road that is known as the Huon Highway we’d often find ourselves behind an old guy wearing a hat driving an ageing ute (pickup), a tractor with a trailer of apples or hay depending on the season or a huge log truck. If we were going south it could also be someone with a caravan, boat or horse float who was unfamiliar with the roads. One regular visitor to the Huon had a huge RV towing a small car and they never got out of the way to let people pass.
    Sometimes it was exasperating but we’d say to each other. “This is what you get when you move to the country.” We also got plenty of tailgaters and David would usually pull over and let them go but often there was nowhere to pull over and we’d have to put up with being monstered from behind for several kilometres. Those people scare me when they try to overtake two or even three cars at once. I don’t really mind the slow ones except that I know that if a line of cars builds up behind us as we follow the old guy wearing a hat eventually one of those cars behind will get impatient and do something stupid. Of course, as I am a non-driver going slowly is fine. I am scenery watching or map reading but even I know that going too slowly is as dangerous as going too fast.
    .

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    • These are the people that CAUSE accidents. By speeding past slow drivers, or driving up into your back seat, they make other drivers do dangerous things. It’s particularly scary when you are on the edge of a cliff and there really isn’t anywhere to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is scary. A lot of roads in Tasmania are narrow, winding, steep or all three. The impatient ones who want to overtake everyone are the ones that cause accidents. Usually, it doesn’t save them a lot of time. They will have to slow down when they get to the next town anyway and often you catch up with them so what was the point of all the rushing?

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        • For us, the absolutely MOST terrifying roads were along the Irish coast. First, we were driving on the wrong side of the road which makes Americans very insecure. The natives drive SO FAST on those tiny roads (if you miss, you are going to fall down a mountain and it’s a long, hard fall) . And they drive so close on these very narrow mountain roads, you have to look to see if you still have a rearview mirror if someone passes you.

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          • There is a place on Tasmania’s east coast called Elephant Pass. I have never been there and am never likely to go. Naomi went that way once and vowed never to use it again. One section of the pass is really narrow and has a sharp curve so you can’t see what’s coming towards you. I’m told that there is a sign telling drivers to use their horns as they approach to warn other travellers. Needless to say it would be impossible to photograph this sign except from a moving vehicle.

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  2. My family love road trips and this sounds marvelous, Garry.

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  3. That seems to be a standard memory of kids fighting in the back seat of the car.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find that there are two types of New England back-road drivers – those that you describe and those who are behind you and want to go 20 miles an hour faster than you, no matter how fast you are going. You are driving 70 in a 25 mph zone? Too bad, I want to go 90! I often like the slow drivers because to have someone in front of me takes the pressure off of me to drive 40 mph over the speed limit 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trent, good observation on those “other” drivers.
      – The ones, chomping at the bit to get past you, they are the “Tailgate Brigade”. Once you pull over and give them the road, they usually slow down. Makes me wonder what’s their game?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s the roadway power play. They don’t REALLY want to go that fast. They just want to force you to move over.

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      • lol, I lived in Texas for a short time where it is considered polite to pull over and let people by. I have found out that it freaks New Englanders out to let them by. As you say, they usually slow down to the speed limit! Agreed, what is there game?

        Changing the subject a bit, but thinking geography – I grew up in Ohio but have lived in New England for just over 30 years. When I visit my family, the word “pop” always sounds odd to my New England ears, where it is now “soda”. Of course, when I say “soda”, they look at my funny before saying, Oh, you mean pop! OK.” Just thought it funny seeing a New Englander writing “pop” 😉

        Like

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