Driving a 40-ft. rig across the country has given me a unique perspective, perhaps not unlike the one over-the-road truckers know all too well. Perched high above the world, I’m able to view the colossally stupid up close and personal through my enormous, aquarium-like windshield. It’s like watching stupid fish in a stupid fish tank. I swear I’ve been cut off more times in the past 9 months than I have in the previous 26 years of driving combined. People will dart in front of me just about every chance they get, apparently oblivious to my braking distance. They see this huge, slower moving vehicle and they see opportunity. All I see is death. Your death. Because my 35,000+ pounds will win. Every time.
Please know that when you cut me off it makes me say bad things and curse you and your family to the third generation. You don’t want that bad juju. And I don’t want the spike in blood pressure, sweaty palms and severe butt pucker. So how bout we just agree to use some common sense. A little goes a long way.
Even before I got behind the wheel of The Beast there were things I just didn’t do in car. I never cut off a semi, or even jumped in front of one in heavy stop-n-go traffic. I figure it’s just common knowledge that they can’t stop on a dime, or a dollar, or a road full of nickels. I would always signal and wait a good long while until there was no doubt they saw me. Then, only then, would I slowly make my way in to their lane… if they let me. Call it “cautious”, call it “respect”, call it what you want but you can’t call it stupid.
I’ve noticed that each part of the country seems to have it’s own unique “driving culture”, if you will. Some parts are definitely worse than others. You might have a different perspective, but here’s a rundown on a few of my faves from MY experience…
D.C. and surrounding area holds the title for most cars on the side of the highway. And not just empty parked or disabled cars…people out walking around said vehicles. Doors flung wide open on the shoulder of a freeway like they’re at a grocery store parking lot. Some even perched in the fast lane. If it were one, or two, or even ten times I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention. But it was every day. Seemingly every mile. Stupid.
Florida, congratulations, you have the most rude drivers. Aside from being flipped off for no apparent reason, I believe I was cut off here (in my tow car) more than any other place. Signalling is nonexistent and racing is a way of life. Speeding doesn’t bother me, Mario Kart road rage speeding does. Stooooopid. Oh, and you might consider finishing one of your highway projects before starting 1,000 others. Might be spreading it too thin.
Speaking of speeding, California has to be tops. The natural flow of traffic, in places that it actually flows of course, is roughly 140. (In Los Angeles that number dips down to 4.) But it didn’t have that awful Mario Kart Florida-feel. In the mountainous areas where there were pull-outs for big rigs, every time I pulled over to let cars pass, people would actually honk in appreciation. So I give Cali a pass on the stupidometer. Too bad your broke-ass state can’t afford to fix a pothole though.
Oregon felt the most laid back. No one (outside of Portland) seemed to have any place to be. I played the “you go – no, you go – please, you go first – no, I insist” stalemate, back-and-forth game more than I can count. I’ll take courtesy over stupid any day.
New Mexico. Can’t say I noticed the other drivers. I was too busy white-knuckling it, trying to keep the wind from pushing us off the road. Western Kansas/Eastern Colorado has strong, steady winds. No biggie. Wyoming dials it up from there a notch, but it’s still steady. In both cases you drive with the wheel turned about 1/4 of the way into the direction of the wind and off you go. In New Mexico it would gust so hard that it pushed me into other lanes. And you can’t over-correct because the gusts disappear just as fast and you”ll end up off the road or further into another lane. Totally sucks! No wait, it blows 💨😁
Texas. Oh, Texas. You’re a mess. There’s just roads to nowhere everywhere, and it’s a free-for-all. I think I was most uncomfortable driving here. Granted, I’m mostly talking about Dallas and Houston. For real though, don’t mess with Texas.
Honorable mention: In New Jersey we witnessed a tire screaming down the highway. It bounced across a couple lanes, into ours, and finally off the shoulder to who-knows-where. It all played out in hi-def through my windshield as I bore holes into the steering wheel with my fingers, and prayed it away from careening into us.
Can’t comment on NYC because I didn’t drive there. We parked the rig in New Jersey. Not sure why anyone would drive there though. Walking around is a sport in itself. It’s absolute insanity.
The rest of the country is just a mish mash of these attributes. Perhaps in lower, more tolerable dosages? Who knows. But my driving habits have changed a bit too over the course of our trip. When we first started out I would signal and patiently wait for that one rare individual willing to let a 40-ft. rig, towing another vehicle, change lanes in front of them. I would signal for miles and occasionally miss an exit. Now? I signal, wait a car or two, then start coming over. Guess what? People move. They slow down. They get out of my way. So I guess I’m more aggressive now, yet I feel like it’s a nice aggressive 😄.
For the most part I just stay in my lane, the far right lane, and do my thing. My thing happens right around 63mph, 2mph from what’s supposed to be the safe top end for flat towing a Honda CRV. Anything over 65 is supposedly harmful to the CRV’s transmission. But I’ve seen plenty of ass-hats in Class A’s, with toads, blow past me in a hell of a hurry. I’ve seen many more travel trailers and fifth wheels towing way too much, way too fast. Not me man. I’m in no hurry. So I just shake my head and watch the stupid fish swim on by.