Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More on Wisconsin Driving

Early on Father’s Day morning, I drove to Marshfield. There was hardly any traffic on what is now called I-39. To me, it will always be 51. If the Wisconsin Highway Department was serious about a Highway 10 bypass, no one would have to slow to a crawl through Junction City, Milladore and Auburndale. It is still faster to take 10than the old route on back roads from Mauston.

I drove past 2104 S. Palmetto Avenue, 1101 W. 8th Street, where Connors live on 5th Street, other houses where friends had lived, what had been my Junior High School and Jesus on the Ball. I saw Mr. Berry, who was my teacher for Shakespeare as a high school senior when my attitude was terrible. I had lunch at Chip’s, which is now on South Central Avenue. There are other stores at their former location at Upham Street and North Central Avenue. I got gas at a family location on South Central Avenue. I was flooded with memories all the places I went. Some were good and involve friends. A few were terrible.

I was overcome by sleepiness during the trip back. For an hour, I slept and used the facilities at the rest area near Westfield. When I got on the road again, it was about 1 p.m.

Everything about traffic had changed; the road was now crowded. People who had been up north for the long weekend were driving home. The speed limit on I-39 and I-94 is 65 mph. I was driving 71 mph. People with Milwaukee dealership stickers on their autos or Illinois plates sailed past me. On I-94, State Police had pulled over several speeders. I said out loud, “It serves them right.”

Flash forward to Monday. I can feel my blood pressure rising because I am driving in Madison again. It is not yielding to pedestrians and bicycles; one simply accepts this as part of driving in Madison. No, it is other drivers. Some older drivers can barely see over their steering wheels, drive 15 mph below the posted speed limit and never use turn signals. In other places, Toyota with Stock Car decals are the danger car to watch; here it is the Subaru Forester with liberal decals. It does not matter how far I park from the front door of the place I am going. As I am exiting the car, someone is trying to park next to me. Invariably, it is an older driver.

My second wife joked that I drove like an old man because I drove defensively, looked far ahead to anticipate trouble and only drove seven mph above posted speeds. I still do that. The difference in Madison is that there are too many cars on roads that are too small to accommodate them. It is really hard to be defensive when other drivers are so offensive.

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