Driving a car has been a cultural phenomenon in this country for many years. The history is long and usually disturbing; however, my experience has been overall positive. I purchased a new car after my previous car was flooded in one of those famous Florida hurricanes. That car barely made it to 10,000 miles, and so this is a big accomplishment. My current vehicle is running strong, brought me to Illinois, and used to make my weekly commute to the big corporate building for work.
There is nothing like blaring your music and cruising down the interstate going “65 mph” for a solid 40 miles. With my hybrid work schedule, the once-a-week event started to feel special, and thus I treated it like a survival mission with better food. The shortest distance at the highest speed was my goal and the interstate system was happy to comply. As the worst of winter approached, I discovered that the distance seemed further. One particular night, I missed an early exit and was traveling in the incorrect direction for several miles. I ended up having to stop and refill the fuel tank while the freezing wind whipped across my face. This was 5:15 PM, pitch black, with a full snowstorm in progress. My sense of adventure converted to pure determination to stay on the salted roads and not hit anyone. My previous experiences of driving through tropical storms in Florida and the wildness of Canada kept me from panicking like many of the other drivers on the road.
As the winter warmed into Spring and Summer, I decided that while the interstate is good for easy driving during a weather event, I wanted some alternatives. My research session located the state highway that almost perfectly parallels the interstate. I assume this was the road everyone used before the interstate was built. It is a delightful two-lane road that cuts through the countryside and farmland at a comfortable speed. The curves and hills of the landscape are more emphasized than those of the larger roads and the scenery is generally more interesting. Farmland to the horizon only broken up by the occasional county road that creates a massive grid with the land. There are signs for tiny towns just a few miles away. A route to the North of the interstate will be the next drive to investigate.
As with most drives of this nature, the two ends are messy, and the middle is the relaxing part. I have described my longer drives putting me into a sort of trance. The music washes over me, enhancing the scenery. When I start to approach the destination, however, the trance is broken as I reengage the part of my brain that must watch out for people speeding through red traffic lights and pedestrians crossing at abnormal locations. This feeling is only emphasized when I learned about how well roadways can be designed. I’m no expert, but I can see lazy/sloppy design everywhere I go now. (Check out the NotJustBikes YouTube channel for info on design).
My overall plan is to move closer to work sometime next year and reduce the required driving each week. However, that will not take away the joy of flying down the highway watching the country’s food supply pass by in a blur of colors. I have several future trips planned out where driving will be easier than dealing with an airport. I look forward to getting a few more miles on the car as I explore this beautiful state.