Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We are on vacation, which for us usually involves a car trip.  This vacation was no different. We left Chattanooga and headed north along roads flanked with snow. It was lovely as we passed through the Tennessee valley and eventually into the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, I noticed a couple of major differences between Tennessee and Virginia.

In Tennessee, every now and then we’d pass road workers standing along the sides of the interstate holding shovels filled with asphalt patch.  Then in breaks in the traffic, the road workers would dart onto the interstate, dump their pile of asphalt and hightail it back to the shoulder.  I’ve seen the workers out there after any major storm filling the potholes, and I’ve thought this was the height of folly.  And I still do.

However, when we got to Virginia, I discovered what happens when the state isn’t as concerned about highway maintenance. Highway 81 in Virginia is one big pothole broken up by bits of road.  The situation is so bad you could play dot-to-dot with the holes and end up with a spider web of lines.  No matter how avoidant you are, you can’t miss them because there are too many.  I wonder if the state of Virginia will pay for the new struts that I’m sure our van will need. It’s curious to me because I’ve heard, though not through personal experience, that speeding tickets in Virginia are among the highest in the nation.  I’m not sure what the state is doing with the money. But my theory is that if they’re adding to their state income through gouging out-of-state drivers, they ought to at least provide drivable roads.  But that would make sense and the politics of finance rarely does.

Another difference is the quality of driving.  In Tennessee (Memphis excepted) drivers feel a compunction to politeness. At a four way stop in Chattanooga, you might be waved to take your turn early by a kind driver who doesn’t want you to have to wait. This actually annoys Calvin when he ponders liability issues if that driver is really a psycho who’s going to crash into once you pull into the intersection (clearly Cal spent most of his adult driving life in Southern California).  At any rate, in Virginia no one is terribly concerned with politeness.  It appears to be a state of tail-gaters.  While in Virginia, Cal talked to cars in his rearview mirror and asked them why they were idiots and if their hope was to draft off the back of our van.  He became convinced of this when we pulled into the right lane so they could pass only to find that they frequently didn’t.  I think they’re just trying to conserve fuel.  Cal was not amused.

Next state is Maryland.  I wonder what their drivers are like. 


  1. I personally prefer to stay south of the Virginia border in NC except for when I get lonesome for the Lancaster, PA atmosphere.

  2. Feel free to drop on by! Er...its only..oh a few hours off course:)

  3. A few, as in five or six? You wish.

  4. When I drive, I usually go way to slow, and the people behind me get impatient.

  5. Oy. Hope the tailgating didn't keep up, or at the very least, that you didn't get into any accidents! They're bad in any case, but they suck over the holidays. :(