I shall be telling this with a sighRobert Frost
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The case this weekend was the opposite, but the same. I took the one more traveled by road, and that made all the difference. Gawd how I hate the interstates.
I had about an hour of nice back roads for the start of the drive, but after that, it was one interstate after another: I-75, I-24, I-57, I-64, and finally I-70. And there was a detour for construction on I-24, so I also collected I-440.
I-75 is three lanes all the way to Tennessee. I had the aforesaid detour in addition to a couple of dozen active projects. Not active today, they don’t work on Saturdays, but they all have lane diversions and concrete barriers.
Toward the end of the day, the road surface was pretty good in Missouri. I spent most of the day trying to minimize the number of patches I drove over. The occupants of the giant land yachts passing me surely were in the comfort of their living rooms, but with my low-profile tires, stiff springs, and wafer-thin upholstery, I’m certainly more sensitive to bad roads than most travelers. I’m not saying the back roads are all well-paved, but it’s clear that the heavy truck traffic on the interstates takes a toll on the road surfaces.
Another difference between the interstates and the back roads is the detritus. In a mile or two of interstates, I see more tire carcasses than all day on the back roads. I saw half a dozen torn-off car fascias. There are at least ten times as many dead animals on the interstate. The vast majority on the back roads are raccoons or smaller. Along the super slab, there’s no shortage of road-kill venison.
That section of I-70 in western Missouri I mentioned above didn’t only feature a nice driving surface, it also was laser-straight for what seemed like an hour. The bone-jarring patches and holes were gone, only to be replaced by mind-numbing monotony.
Every now and then a nice Mustang or Challenger comes up next to me. This is almost always on 3-lane sections, where there’s a fair amount of traffic. They’ll get their door next to my nose, then back off so my door is at theirs. Then they’ll put the pedal down, making a big display of noise. I have no idea what they’re expecting me to do. We’re invariably in traffic. I’m guessing they want me to know what I already know: because they have two or three times the horsepower, they’re faster in a straight line. I find straight-line speed uninteresting.
I spotted two cars worth mentioning. One was a right-hand drive Jeep with no doors. I had to look twice when he passed me and even then I had to make sure when I passed him back a few minutes later. The other one was either a Skyline R32 or R33. I don’t really know the difference. I was surprised the car was left-hand drive. When I first spotted him, he was catching me at a good clip, and when finally saw me he maneuvered to pass me on the right (we were still in Georgia). He passed me with a GoPro in his hand. I gave him a peace sign.
When I’m passing trucks, I don’t stay next to them for very long. Before I get my nose in there, I see what’s in front of them. If they’re catching somebody, I don’t want them squishing me by changing lanes. I want some open space ahead of me in my lane so I can throw a little throttle in there and get around them with dispatch. When I’m in a long line in the left lane, which happens all too often, sometimes it irritates an impatient fellow behind me while I’m creating that gap. I refuse to drive side-by-side with a tractor-trailer rig.
By noon I decided to skip the Eisenhower Museum tomorrow and take US 36 back.
I didn’t blow any fuses today. First, there was no reason for it to happen, as I had already canceled my track day and I’m headed home. I don’t doubt that had I gone to Barber, I’d have had problems. The other reason none blew is that I bought that box of spares yesterday. The angry godz have had their fun with me.
I got to the hotel at 6:20 or so. I had plenty of daylight left. I didn’t make a reservation for tonight. Plan A was in Concordia, Plan B thirty miles farther; I’d stop at Concordia and see if the further one had a room. As it happened, they were full up, so Plan A it was.
When I showed up at Jayne and Dan’s, Dan remarked that I didn’t look like I’d been driving all day. No doubt about it today: I’m beat. Four hours later, I felt like I was still vibrating. I was on the road for ten and a half or eleven hours, with all but the first hour keeping the tach pinned at 4k or a bit under, depending on the speed limit. The interstate really gets me buzzed, you might say.
I woke up at about 5 am and lay there a few minutes before deciding to hit the road early.
Google Maps suggests two routes: I-70 and US 36. This is a no-brainer. There’s no way I’m going to subject myself to another full day of the super slab. The route starts on the interstate: I-70 to Kansas City, then I-29 north (my 7th interstate of the weekend) until it reaches US 36. At least four times, I got the message that there’s a quicker route I should take. Silly me. If you present me with two choices and I take one, why ask repeatedly if I would rather go the other way? Is my phone doing my bidding, or the other way around?
I stopped for breakfast at the first convenient restaurant on US 36. I was expecting a warm day, so I wore shorts. At 8 o’clock this seemed like a bad choice. It was quite cold, and the wind was fierce. I might have changed clothes if my jeans were readily accessible.
I quickly settled into the rhythm of the drive. Motoring at a reasonable 65 or 70, slowing down when the highway became the main street of the various farming and ranching towns of Kansas, then getting back up to speed on the other side. The open road was nearly empty. There are at least a hundred times more cars on the interstate. I kept within 5 mph of the speed limit, was passed by faster traffic only three times, and passed not many more cars who were slower.
I was home by 4:15 and felt like a normal, non-vibrating human. Not stressed out, not fatigued.
Again, I didn’t blow a fuse. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had I tried to do the Barber track days. I surely didn’t want to blow a fuse again at the start of a lap. I know I made the correct choice in cutting the trip short (missing not only the Barber days and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, but planned visits to Andersonville National Historic Site, Shiloh National Military Park, and the Clinton Museum and Library).
I’ve already decided I’m going to go to Barber next year. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment.