Thursday, August 23, 2007

Getting There is Half the Fun

I love to drive. I don't love to commute. I try to keep the work to home distance such that 20 minutes is a bad day on the road. In the morning, on the way to work, I will will take the exact same route every day for years and not care as I am not awake enough to care and figure that autopilot is the best option. On the way home, I like to get creative. And I take detours that lower my blood pressure even if they aren't shorter or faster, although sometimes it winds up that they are.

One of my driving quirks is that I like to have a nice stretch of familiar road where I can just pop the car out of gear and coast. I'm not sure why I get this urge to turn the car off in the middle of a drive, especially when I also enjoy vaulting up big grades, but it's there. I've been thinking about this a lot recently because I found my magic coasting road and it happens to be the lesser used access road between the my freeway exit and home. It's shaped something like a Bactrian camel eating something low and to the right.
Bactrian two humped camel

On good days, when there is no one in my way, I accelerate up the hill trying to hit 55mph before the crest. Once I reach it, I take my foot off the gas, put the car in neutral, and coast up and over the first hump. If I accelerate over the hill, there's a dip in the road that bounces the car in a way I don't like, but it doesn't do a thing if I'm coasting; I can't figure out why but I'll take it. I coast up and o o o over the second hump, which takes me down to the speed limit of 40mph because the hill is broader than it seems. When I get stuck behind inattentive drivers here it entertains me, even when we inevitably slow to 25mph, because they're using their gas to go this slow, and I'm using nothing but momentum.

I'm fine with speeding a bit at the start because the visibility is good, but after the second hump there's a blind driveway on the opposite side, then a turn lane, and the the camel neck which involves a very sharp, badly banked downhill turn so I welcome the braking action of the second hump. Even in a car that corners well you don't want to hit that right turn faster than 25mph. After this, I shift into third and hit civilization again in the form of a mall. But to get home all I need are two quick rights and a curve around to the back of the development. I haven't quite managed to coast all the way from the entrance into my parking space because I would need more initial speed than would be wise, but it's close enough for jazz.

In addition to making me smile, having this little stretch makes the place feel more like home. And reminds me of my summer in Ohio. My primary daily entertainment there, aside from swimming at the Y, was driving around after work. I think I drove most of the paved and half of the gravel roads in Licking county while getting used to driving a stick shift and listening to the Indians' games on the AM radio that I was too cheap to fix to get FM. My reward for trying all the roads was finding a gem of a drive home.

Licking county /uh-HI-uh/ is horse country. There are rolling hills with lots of lush green grass and low patches of fog which hang in the hollows. It looks like a blowsy, overdone caricature of a field from a child's dream. The lushness was startling even to me at first, like the dryness now is out here. There are some lovely looking trees there as well, and some very handsome fences to show someone's keeping the place up. While you can see some of this from the freeway, the back roads are better. (For the record, it's much the same deal if you're in Concord, Mass, but with shorter grass and more stone in the fences.)

I would take the freeway to work. But to get home, I'd drive through Granville, this pukey-cute little town restored to full Victorian gingerbread perkiness, and hook a left after the polo fields. A road little used for commuting led up a hill, to the right, and into the trees where it started heading downhill and just kept going. After a couple of weeks idling down the road, I found that I could even turn the car off and coast for a good couple of miles, just me and the grass and the fences and the trees. I was able to figure out the three places to brake so that I wouldn't run out of brake assisting hydraulic fluid for the final stop sign where I restarted my car and continued home in the normal fashion, using gas.

I think of that drive a lot these days and remember it and my friends from that summer fondly. So while it might not seem like anything special to anyone else, I consider this little camel shaped coasting road a good omen.


Up My Mind said...

You actually make me want to get in my car and drive...which says a lot as I hate driving...

farmwifetwo said...

CO does not hate driving, some would claim she's an aggressive driver but she's very careful, just likes speed :) But I think I can make her spin and her eyes cross... if she just comes and visits. We'll go out on the 401 in rush hour in Toronto.... Cause driving... doesn't happen....