Monday, April 16, 2007

Driving in Tennessee

Now I know that Tennessee must have some traffic laws, problem is I have never actually witnessed anyone following them. Well, I take that back. The one and only traffic law to be obeyed is the speed limit. And rule of thumb there is to take the speed limit and reduce it by 10 mph just to be on the safe side. The double yellow? Just double the fun to cross. Red light? Just a suggestion. Stop sign? What's the point. Left turn on green? Only in emergencies (pray that you are the point car in the left hand turn lane. If you find yourself 3 cars back it would be much easier to make a right and then a U-turn.)

Let's just say that the roads in TN are roads only in that they may have some asphalt and a few painted details. And at one time, they were probably more than adequate for vintage Model B's. And since change comes slowly to TN, I would say that the roads are still adequate for Model B's but that's as far as it goes.

Now I'm sure to someone who has lived in 10-OC for 25 years or more, the roads make some sort of sense. There are no straight roads in TN. To head off to the south, you must first start out on the road that is marked "west" which begins its life heading north. Never turning off that road you will eventually end up south of where you started. I have a feeling that most of these roads began their lives as cow trails. Then one fine day a farmer thought that the cows had a pretty good route going and decided to drive his truck down after them, then the neighbor across the way decided that it all looked pretty fun and he'd take a shot at it too. Later some local kids dared each other to drive on the rut tracks and before you know it that road was paved and a Route 46 sign stuck in beside it. As a matter of fact I know that they had to be single file cow trails because there is no way 2 cows could even pass side by side and still have room before falling into the ditches that line each side of the roadway.

When I first started driving these roads I drove about 35 miles an hour in a cold sweat. I didn't dare take my eyes off the road because there is no room for sight seeing, with that double yellow on one side, a white stripe about 5 feet over to the right of that and the 3 inches beyond a 4' deep ditch. And when a semi is coming from the other direction at 60 mph, well, I'm telling you, all the Six Flags white knuckler rides have nothing over it! Add to the excitement deer jumping at you, turkeys playing chicken , bicyclists using the double yellow as route guidance and you're in for quite an adventure. One day I got brave and tried to hold the speedometer at around 58 mph. I made it to 2 miles to the red flashing light at the 2-way intersection before I had to drive back home to go lay down for 3 hours.

Driving on the back roads is something entirely different. I have yet to figure out why there are double yellow lines on these roads as they are not wide enough to warrant the effort to paint them. My theory is that they are there mostly for the hound dogs. So they know just how far they can run out into the street before getting skinned by a tire. Tree limbs get trimmed when unsuspecting semi trucks drive by. Actually I think it's a licensed betting sport out here to see how many limbs a semi can knock down before putting a hole in the trailer. And the locals, the locals can somehow smell it if you're new around here. When they see you driving, they cross the double yellow and wait until you've slammed on your brakes and have one tire in the ditch before moving over. Then they give you a big wave and a smile as they drive by.

Yep. A lot of good fun out here on the Tennessee public road system.