Monday, June 14, 2010

Highway Travel

Gator Wife and I didn't take a vacation last year.  The economy was tanking, the price of gas was rising, and we simply didn't want to spend the money.

We learned from last year that after years of visiting other places and generally recreating is almost a necessity to maintain one's happiness and togetherness.  So this year we decided to return to our old ways and leave home for a few days "just to get away for a while."  Since the Pennsylvania Dutch Country has been for years one of our favorite destinations, we chose it for our time away from home this late spring season.

We drove there.  Driving can be an interesting, or fascinating, experience.  We encountered a few things that might get thinking or talking going.  For example, most of the interstate highways in this half of the country have 65 mile an hour speed limits.  We'd be travelling along quite comfortably on two or three lane highways when they would become four or five lanes in some places.

What would one expect would happen to the speed limit?  Yep! It was lowered to 55 miles an hour.  We'd drive along at that speed on those very wide sections until once again they became two or three lanes.  Yep!  Back up to 65. 

When we were just a wee bit younger, we didn't pay a whole lot of attention to speed limits.  Somewhere along the line I had bought into the rumor that the police would allow up to 10 miles/hr over the posted speed.  Now, though, we tend to stay pretty darn close to the posted limit, but there are exceptions.  It really is much more relaxing that way.  But that brings me to a question:  Why is the speed limit on I-84 from just north of Hartford, Conn., almost to the New York Border 55 miles per hour?

GW and I were in the slowest car on the highway.  Cars were "flying" by us at 75 to 80 miles an hour.  Among those cars was a Connecticut state patrol car.  How do I know those cars were going that fast?  Simple.  If we had been obeying the posted speed limit, we would be putting both ourselves and others in great danger of causing an accident.  We were cruising around 70 and was still the slowest car on the highway.

Our general observations were that when drivers felt the posted limit was fair for the road and conditions, they pretty much stayed within a couple mph of the limit.  When they felt the posted limit was unfair, they moved right along. 

This is, of course, road construction season in our part of the country.  Most places do their best to give motorists a break, sort of like the brake they expect motorists to give.  Some of my pet peeves over the years are miles long construction zones where most states double fines for speeding.  Most of the time there's little construction taking place in the majority of those distances.

I liked the places where those work zone speed limits were controlled by flashing yellow lights.  The message on the signs said, "When flashing."  Sure enough, around the next curve would be workers working on the roadways.  Soon we'd pass another work zone sign with the flashing light turned off.  Still in a work zone, but a safe speed could be resumed.  The interesting part was that motorists seemed to demonstrate that when the state played fair with them, they observed those construction zone speeds.

I liked one little construction sign I saw in Pennsylvania.  Actually, it was a series of signs accompanied by drawings that said, "Right lane closed ahead," then "Merge left," and then the kicker, "Please take turns."

And finally, EZ Pass.  What an easy pleasure it was to drive through the toll both on the Delaware River Bridge in Pennsylvaniua.  65 miles an hour.  On either side of the through lanes were lanes separated by barricades for those who needed to pay or get receipts.  Not quite as simple were the EZ Pass booths on the Tappanzee Bridge in New York.  But that ultra crowded bridge had 35 mph lanes for EZ Pass which were easy to use, too. 

We didn't get to experience the new open road lanes on the New Hampshire Turnpike as they don't open until this week, but if you haven't experienced the open road concept, you're going to love it in NH.  I think I read that New Hampshire converted its toll booths for around five million dollars.  It makes one wonder why the Maine Turnpike can't do the same thing in York and not have to spend 50 millions dollars or so for a whole new palace plaza.  I would think the simple concept used in NH could have open road EZ Pass tolling up and running next year in Maine.


No comments: