Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Road Trip Rant
I've spent more than my normal allotment of time on Interstates this summer: Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And I've seen more of my constant companions on these roads, O. Blivious, E.R. Ratic, and O.P. Tunist.
O. Blivious is typically a left-lane bandit. He's dealt with easily enough if you have three lanes to play with: pass on the right. If you're stuck with two lanes, you're condemned to being a unit in the long train behind him as the miles roll by--slowly. Drivers who want to run various speeds, with various amounts of patience, pack up behind Blivious. Cars get too close, brake lights begin to flash, and the risk of a chain reaction collision rises. This is when I usually back it down and pull into the right lane to let Blivious's train fight it out amongst themselves. Eventually they get sorted. He continues on at or below the speed limit in the left lane. Then this movie, which is on a continuous loop but with different lead and supporting actors, re-runs. I've come to suspect that Blivious is not clueless--he just doesn't give a damn.
E.R. Ratic is harder to deal with. He comes screaming up behind you, passes, and then slows down. The most accomplished of this type slows down to just a couple of miles per hour slower than where your cruise control is set. So you pass him, and maybe even put some distance between you. Then he speeds up again, passes you, and slows down again. Some Ratics go for extra style points by pulling into your lane right in front of you, even though nobody is following them. Repeat as necessary until exasperated.
Then there's O.P. Tunist. I run a radar detector. Some people notice. Then I notice that I've collected a little wake of barnacles, now seemingly stuck to me, who were previously going 10 m.p.h. or more slower. Do they hang back, sensibly, 1/4 of a mile or more behind, so that if I get nailed they won't? No. They follow me around like puppies (to mix the metaphor), constantly getting underfoot.
The Indiana and Ohio Turnpikes have done a role reversal. It used to be that the Ohio Turnpike was perpetually under construction, with lane closures. The pavement was rough. It was hard to make good time. The oases were dirty and aged. The toll seemed like an insult. The Indiana Turnpike was much smoother and a comparative bargain. Now the Ohio Pike is three smooth lanes across most of the State. The oases have been renovated and are clean, airy, and pleasant. Well... as pleasant as a toll road oasis can be...
The Indiana Pike is now bumpy and features "jumps" over its many short bridges and overpasses. The oases are now aged, dirty, and unpleasant. The toll was doubled within the past 10 years, and was recently doubled again. This was around the time that the management of the Indiana Pike was privatized. So much for the benefits of privatization. I suspect the residents of Indiana don't care. Most of them don't use the Pike. Leaving aside Gary, which is really part of metropolitan Chicago, the biggest town anywhere near the Indiana Turnpike is South Bend. The Pike is used mostly by out-of-staters and trucks, trying to get somewhere not in Indiana. "Let 'em suffer: our taxes are lower."