Yes, it’s a bitch, but it’s doable. Even on a Friday afternoon. Even on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend. Especially if your partner gets out of class a little early and you can beat some of the traffic. Because although it was doable at 4:30p, I can’t make any guarantees about later.
And by the skin of someone else’s teeth, we made it home in one piece. Don’t ask me how; I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Trade secret. Or maybe, just dumb luck, granted to me by an entity higher than myself.
Apparently, everybody’s coming down here, to the Alamo City, for the weekend. Maybe it’s just that they’re on the way to the coast and we’re a stop on the tour, I don’t know. But either way, US Interstate 35, our own national colon that connects Duluth, Minnesota to Laredo, Texas, is teeming with life. It has its own Microbiome. And that Microbiome is in a hurry. To do what, I’m not sure. All we were trying to do was get home.
Which is old news now, because I’m peacefully sitting on the deck, waving away the occasional mosquito (the night is young, however), and vaping my ass off (which does nothing to deter mosquitos).
Oh, and I need a new coil. At least this one isn’t going to kill me. I’m sure it’s shot to shit, though.
The weather forecasters are predicting that this will be the hottest summer in a long time. They are not my friends at the moment.
I’m going to fight fire with fire; when Mr Kitty asked me what I wanted for dinner, I answered without skipping a beat: “buffalo chicken, please!” Which, in our house, means boneless dark chicken cut up into tiny pieces and rolled thoroughly in a medium buffalo sauce–“medium” for us meaning “probably still too hot for everyone else”.
Chicken is a yang food. I’m sure dark chicken is even yanger. Buffalo sauce is pretty yang, too. Maybe I’m trying to saturate myself so full of yang that it’s like I’ve beat Mother Nature to it: “sorry, lady, no hot flash for me tonight! See? I’ve got enough yang fire already!”
And maybe, I’ll just get lucky enough for her to pass me by. This time.
Or maybe she’ll take pity on me, since she’s already had enough fun pelting me with mosquitos.
So bless his heart, the minute we got home from our colonic commute, Mr Kitty turned right around and… Went. Back. Out. In the Friday now-evening traffic.
Mr Kitty is kind. Mr Kitty is brave.
South Texans sort of cringe when Memorial Day Weekend hits the calendar, because I-35 (The Colon) funnels everybody south, and will do so through Labor Day Weekend. Come on, y’all, we just survived the Spring Breakers! Can we have a little more than the month of April to recover?
My town boasts the Alamo and the Riverwalk and thus, we’ve become sort of this regional Place To Play, typically for grownups who want to act more like children. At least, they drive like children. Seriously, they’ll text, scroll, tailgate, and cut people off. So many people make such pointless lane changes that it looks like the highway is braiding itself in front of me.
I’d trust a teenager with their head on their shoulders more than I’d trust these sagging brain-fried 30-to-50-year-olds.
But what’s an introverted, common-sensical Texan resident to do? Meh, stay home, that’s what. I’m not missing anything. I get to travel next weekend. And I’m flying, so somebody else gets to do the driving 👍🏼.
But anyway, here’s how to survive Austin traffic (if you absolutely must drive in it):
Just get on I-35. Don’t do what I did and get all cute and take the parallel frontage road for 15 miles. It doesn’t actually save one much time unless there’s a huge accident that has all lanes on the freeway shut down for a while.
Merge like a zipper at every get-on (entrance ramp), whether you’re the one getting on or you’re already on and others are trying to merge in with you. Don’t be a dick; unless they’re (still) f**king with their phone, let them on.
Once you’re on, settle in and if traffic is heavy, calm the hell down; nobody’s going anywhere fast, but if everyone keeps their head, everyone will get to where they’re going. There’s no bonus for speed if you don’t get there in one piece.
Keep a Goldilocks distance of a few car lengths between you and the car in front of you (give or take, depending on your speed) – not too little (that’s dangerous and unnecessary), and not too much (you don’t want to make a half-court basketball shot when you’re creeping along at 7 miles an hour), but like Goldilocks “just right”.
Pick a lane and stay there as much as possible. Changing lanes is actually the most dangerous move you can make in all of normal Driving-Dom in general, and the more often you do it, the more you boost your odds of getting in a wreck. Not to mention the ridiculous habit some people have of thinking “yeah, I’ll fit”, and sandwiching yourself between 2 cars that are already spaced too close together just because your vehicle will technically fit inside the confines of the space. Not cool, not safe, not smart, and not necessary.
Beware “the decks”. If you ever have to go through the center of Austin, make sure you’re in one of the 2 right lanes; you’ll come across “the decks”, a dastardly few-mile stretch of I-35 that I don’t know who dreamed up but rumor has it that the engineer responsible met his own voluntary demise, which is sad in itself, and so is this stretch of road. The Decks comprise a section of I-35 that separate into “upper deck” and “lower deck”, where just before, the interstate swells to almost double its normal size and the 2 leftmost lanes in each direction suddenly disappear from sight as they plunge down into a new lower level that offers access to the downtown exits, while the 2 right lanes carry you happily “over and out” on an upper level, offering a by-pass of sorts. It might have looked good on paper, and maybe even sounded good in print, but it’s a disaster, especially if you get caught/committed to going down into the lower level, which is gridlocked, and from which there is no escape. But that’s totally not going to happen to you, because you read this blog, so… 😉
“The hills” south of Austin are hellish, and there’s no good lane to be in. Semi trucks are supposed to stay out of the left lane, but despite the numerous signs peppered up and down this section of the interstate saying so, the Disregard Rate is high. Even if the truckers behave themselves, you invariably have douchecanoes in the middle lane who get a sudden epiphany at the last minute: “oh! There’s a giant semi truck in front of me and he can’t hack the steep hill. I’m right on the bumper of his trailer now, so I think I might get around him. I need the left lane.” So the right and middle lanes are already slow, bunching up because of the slow-moving trucks, and then the left lane starts crawling, too, because of the last-minute-decision maker and the 4-5 sheeple behind them who do the exact same thing in unison. And there are about 3 of these hills, so be prepared. (My strategy: stay in the middle lane; half of it will clear out as people move into the left lane to pass the semi, leaving more breathing room for you.)
Do not be a texticle. (Mr Kitty’s spankin’ new word for those who “drive” while texting.) If the steering wheel is in your hand(s), your phone (or any other Device of Distraction) should not be. This should go without saying, but apparently–and exasperatingly, it doesn’t. (Obvs, this also applies to anything equally unwise, such as applying makeup, shaving, brushing one’s hair or teeth, reading a novel or newspaper (or anything else), and so on. Time and Place, people.)
Know (at least roughly) where you’re going, before you start out. Do not rely solely on Google or Siri; they’re not infallible. Their directions don’t always give you time to plan ahead properly in heavy traffic. They’re good for confirmation that you’re going in the right direction, but don’t neglect the forgotten art of doing a little checking/research beforehand. Sit down at your computer or with your tablet and find your destination. Then, before putting your vehicle in gear, check for traffic jams along your intended route. Adjust travel route as necessary. Then program the address into the GPS and go.
That’s my small talk, PSA(s), and how-to rolled into one.
Safe (and smart) travels!
(PS: I’m doing this from my phone…in the passenger seat of Mr Kitty’s car…so if the graphics don’t look right, I’ll fix them when I get to a real computer lol.) 😉