Driving Unfamiliar Routes

June 26, 2006 psipsina

My wedding seems to involve a lot of an activity that I don’t usually do very often and don’t enjoy very much, namely:  driving.

The first time we drove up to Salem, I wondered if I was making a big mistake getting married there.  The route is complicated, involving  interchanges onto I-93, from I-93 to I-95 (which is the same as Rte 128) to Rte 128 (which stops being the same road as I-95 somewhere before Salem) to State Rte 114, around a busload of twists, turns, and rotaries, to an area with LOTS of parallel parking.

The on-ramp from I-93 to I-95 is about one car length long before it becomes the off-ramp from I-95 to I-93.  It is possible to get on that ramp and never ever get off until you run out of gas or starve to death, whichever comes first.

And I don’t own a car.  We rent them, either from standard rental car agencies or from Zipcar, when we need them.  I have probably been behind the wheel less than 200 times since I got my driver’s license twelve years ago.

The trip to Salem makes me crazy.  And no matter how we schedule our visits, it’s always dark and always raining cats and dogs for at least some portion of the trip.

Still, driving back and forth between my home town and Somerville this weekend, I was astonished at how calm I felt.  True, the route is simpler, and true, the traffic was mostly light, and true, most of the trip was taken in the daylight hours, and true, there was only a little rain for about a half hour.  But still, why is a 40-minute drive to Salem a harrowing series of missed exits, lost time, and scariness, while a 7-hour drive across two turnpikes and an interstate highway is easy and almost relaxing?

The clue came at the beginning of the return trip home.  The route is utterly familiar; I’ve driven it a dozen times, and so I know, when I come to the I-81 junction, which ramp is north and which is south.

Good thing I know it, too, because I couldn’t read the signs, until we were almost on top of them.  NORTH and SOUTH look mighty similar if your vision is a little blurry, as do EAST and WEST.  If you can’t tell them apart in time, of course a trip that is somewhat unfamiliar is going to be nerve-racking.

Sheesh.  I should’ve figured this out months ago, when I noticed that I couldn’t read the clock on the VCR from the couch.

Today I scheduled an eye appointment.  I expect the next trip to Salem to be a little easier.  Either that, or I am moving the wedding from Salem to our living room so I don’t have to get into a car again.

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Entry Filed under: car, driving, highway, interstate, salem, travel, vision

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