Thursday, December 24, 2009

Road Trip

Today I went on my very own "Road Trip". This may bring to mind a certain image, of several college age men and/or women, setting off in a 1950s Thunderbird for a "road trip" across the country during one of their college breaks, or a rememberance of reading Jack Kerouac's book, "On The Road". But, my road trip was neither of these.

I set off today, under a cold wind but a bright sun, to make the trek from my Dad's house to the town center, a trip of about one mile. Since it was such a nice day, and I hadn't gotten any exercise to speak of all week, I bundled up in my new ragg socks and long underwear from LLBean, the prequisite ski hat and wool knit gloves plus multiple layers of cothing and my hiking books and trudged off down the street.

Now my Dad, even though I'm 56, ALWAYS tells me to be careful anytime I head out for a walk from his front door. This goodbye ritual has not changed since we moved here when I was 14 years old. This is because if you're not paying attention walking down our town's fine roads, you could easily end up as roadkill.

When we moved here when I was 14, things were a bit different. My Dad's street still winds through the woods, up and down hills, and around sharp curves. But when I was 14, my Dad's street was narrower than it is today, and much more bumpy since it was essentially a patchwork of asphalted potholes, a natural speed deterrent. When I walked to town as a teenager, I walked down our little used road, watching for the occasional car, and when I got to the end of the street, took another road even less utilized, past the pond, and then into the woods, which took me the remaining half mile right to door of the town library. Back then, all the town center had was the library, the post office, the lunchonette, the town market and a couple of other small stores. Of course, in 30 years, things change.

A number of years ago, the town council decided to put a road through the very same woods I had hiked through as a teenager to get to the town center. This new paved shortcut meant more traffic, both on my Dad's street and the little utilized street that ran past the pond and into the woods. They repaved my Dad's street, widened it a bit, and smoothed out some of the curves, the recipe for a virtual raceway to the town center right past my Dad's house. The problem is, the road is almost as hilly and curvy as it was before, and not a whole lot wider, except now cars can go much faster because the roadway is smooth, new asphalt. Pedestrians beware.

As a teenager without a drivers license or a car, I did a lot of walking on the old roads. I learned how to navigate them safely, and still use my small town honed skills today. When walking down the streets of my Dad's town, there are a couple of rules to follow. First, one must be ever vigilant, both ahead of you and behind you, like a fox. Second, you need to use your ears as well as your eyes to become aware of oncoming traffic that may be hidden behind a curve or hill. Third, you always need to be aware of your options should you need to jump off the road, ie, if two cars pass you in the opposite directions at the same time. This requires a lot of crossing back and forth across the street, depending on the terrain and time of year.

There are three distinct times of year for road trippers here - fully leafed out (late spring, all summer, and early fall); bare trees (early spring and late fall); and snowy (winter). "Bare trees" gives you the best visibility and best options should you need to move. During the fully leafed out summer months, it is more difficult to see around the curves, not to mention that the foliage you jump into could be poison ivy if you are not paying attention. Winter/snowy weather poses its own challenges - six inches of snow isn't bad, but when the plows turn the six inch snowfall into three or four feet of plowed road-edge snowbank, its more difficult to find a place you can jump to quickly and safely.

The good thing is that these days, once I've traversed the first dangerous third of the trip, the remaining two thirds are relatively safe. I go around the back side of the pond, which has been dead-ended and thus has little traffic except for people who actually live there. The former woods has been turned into condos, senior housing, a shopping mall, and a "Soon to be Open" development of some 230 houses high up on the hill. Where the trail through the woods used to be, there are now sidewalks that run next to the road and alongside all these developments. Its not so bad; the sidewalk also runs along the river, which, thankfully, is still there and has not been diverted or cemented in. And, lest I forget, the town fathers did preserve part of the old woods as a town park, where the river runs through it.

I made it to town and back safely earlier today. I'm sure there were people in cars shaking their heads and wondering who was this odd person, trekking along the town's sidewalk-less winding roads in the bitter cold weather and snow blanketed terrain. Well, I have to say, my road trip was kind of fun, more like an adventure than exercise. I felt like a fox evading its predators, an urbanized-savvy wild animal who survived to live another day.

1 comment:

  1. It was good for you too, as well as being fun. I walk and jog every day, and I feel like it is my freedom, it really feels good, and I see something interesting when I'm out there.