Saturday, December 11, 2010

Car Stories - Part 2 (My Adventures on U.S Roads)

I  have previously written about how car-addicted society U.S is here. Then I lamented about how I am not able to do anything because I don't have a car. So now I bought a car. I wrote about my first impressions about driving on U.S roads here. So these are some of my experiences driving the car in a utterly new country. I do know the rules - Stop at stop sign, maintain speed limit, yield and drive on right side of the road etc - or otherwise how could they have given me license.  Somethings which we take from granted in India cannot be done here and therein lies the problem.

Two big things which you cannot do here are - 1.  you cannot stop and ask anyone for directions (Actually nobody walks on the roads - so even if you tried to do this, you will find no one to ask. And if you really tried to go near someone - they might be afraid that you have guns and shoot you before you even speak a word) 2. You cannot stop on the road wherever you want or TURN BACK or other direction once you passed it. So even though I know these things, the effects of these are not so clear if you don't experience it. So without further ado, this is my story.

Story 1: Even before I bought my car, I wanted to visit the temple at Bridgewater once. I was just interested to see how different it is from our temples. So when I bought a car, I wanted to drive there. I didn't have a GPS set at that time, so I hesitated a bit. But the Google maps application on my phone came to my rescue. I put the address in the maps and followed the instructions and successfully reached the temple. I was happy that I was able to drive that far without any problems. So I was a little relaxed when I was going back. The temple is at Exit 17 (think mile marker 17, except that you can go out of the highway only at that place) and my home was at Exit 40 on I-287.  It is a four lane highway on one side i.e 8 lane highway. We can enter and exit only from the rightmost lane i.e the exit lane. I was travelling on the lane to the left of the exit lane till exit 39. I was happy that I was about to reach my home. Suddenly I saw that I was not going towards exit 40 but I am on a different highway I-80. Thank Google, my phone gps safely brought me back to my home. Later I realized that highways merge into other highways and if you are not careful you might go into some other road and you might have trouble reaching your destination. So I came back after half an hour I was supposed to come home.

Story 2:  My friend Murali is with me now and he started enjoying whenever I went on a wrong route and took a detour. Now my GPS has a penchant of choosing highways over local roads. I don't have a way of knowing the route beforehand in GPS and I will get the instruction only in time. Sometimes it can give you instructions too late and then.. read the story. There is a highway near to our road with number 46.  We wanted to go to a grocery shop on the highway where I haven't gone before. So I put in the address in the GPS and started going.  I expected it to take me to 46 directly but instead my GPS has a penchant for choosing highways even if the destination is a mile apart. So instead of taking me on the local highway 46, it gave me instructions to on I-80. As in previous story, I enter highway 280 which divides into highway I-80. My GPS asks to keep left so that I can merge into I-80. So i was in the left lane, I merged into I-80 in the second lane from left and I had to pass two more lanes to get into exit lane.   Two seconds after I merged to I-80 my GPS asks me to go the rightmost lane and exit in about a 100ft. How the hell can I just pass two lanes to the right without knowing it before hand. So I did as you expected. I missed the exit. As I cannot go back, I had to look for the next exit. I had to take and missed exit 47. The next exit was exit 53, 6 miles ahead. So I had to go all the way to exit 53 and go in a roller coaster, yes three lanes going right, two lanes to the left, two lanes forward, get out of the highway, turn back and come on to the highway and travel all the way 6 miles back again and I reached my starting point again. For a half an fifteen minutes journey it was already one hour and I was again at my starting point. I started again to go to the shop as I was determined to see if I can follow the instruction of the GPS. This time as I knew that I had to take exit 47, I cleared the lanes fast and reached the exit lane just in time. This taught me another lesson  - Never trust GPS blindly. Always review the route beforehand on google maps so that you will have an idea of where to take the next turn. Or be ready to travel 12 miles more for a grocery store nearby. To give you an idea of how superb the roller coaster ride was just see the image above.

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