We’ve been in Houston for a few days.
It’s always a good trip to make me glad I live twenty-five miles from a traffic signal.
Trivia: Did you know you can drive from Dry Creek, Louisiana to Pineville and never be stopped by a red light?
If you know the path, let me know.
As we drove along seven lanes of I-10/I 610 loop today, I had a flashback to about 1976 or 1977. Back to the day they opened the five lane along US 171 North in DeRidder, Louisiana.
This stretch is called North Pine and stretches from downtown DeRidder at First Baptist Church northward to Ludington.
During my college years, I worked summer for the highway department. That specific summer was the winding down of the five-laning of 171 North.
This highway had been a narrow two-lane asphalt road that now was five lanes wide. (Do anyone of you remember the large oaks overhanding on Pine Street near present day McDonalds and Popeyes?)
The job had been done in three parts.
1. Two new lanes had been built west of the present roadway. Traffic continued in both directions on the old two lanes.
2. Construction moved to the old two lanes and traffic enjoyed the new concrete 2 lanes.
3. The new middle lane (this was a new roadway plan for DeRidder.) was formed up and finished. Traffic was detoured back to the original lanes which were now wider and ready for use.
The fateful day arrived when all barricades and orange cones were removed. I was on a survey crew near West Park that day. I can attest that drivers were using all five lanes in both directions. The middle lane with its yellow stripes really threw off Beauregard Parish drivers on their ways to West-Gibson or The Oaks Restaurant. They drove full tilt down the middle lane as if it was DeRidder’s answer to those HOV high occupany lanes on city interstates.
We stopped surveying and watched the comedy of errors. Several times cars stopped nose to nose in a lane with both drivers shrugging at each other. I love the normal patience of area folks.
Eventually the DeRidder police showed up to block off the middle lanes and wave cars onto the correct lanes.
As far a I know, no accidents occurred but I often think about it while driving along multi-lane highways.
I’ve also thought of the DeRidder 5 lane on African roads.
On the dusty crowded streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No traffic lights. Few stop signs. Every man and woman for himself.
Watching drivers dodge potholes, pedestrians, and Goma bicycles in eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Steering around piles of garbage on the corduroy streets of Monrovia, Liberia.
Avoiding eye contact on the mean streets of Johannesburg, South Africa hoping to avoid a smash and grab robbery or carjacking.
I’d throw in driving in New Orleans in the weeks and months after Katrina. No stop lights. every intersection was a four way stop. It worked pretty well.
DeDe and I leave for Uganda after Christmas. We’re excited but apprehensive.
Our overseas supervisor asked, “Can you drive a standard on the floor?”
No problem. We grew up with stick shifts. The H on the column as well as four on the floor.
“Have you driven on the ‘wrong side of the road’?”
I felt DeDe fidget.
“Can you drive from the other side of the car?”
I’ve done that in Ireland. Moving across the seat is more difficult than switching lanes to the British way.
Several times I saw Irish cars where the “driver” was leaned over the back seat scolding a kid at 35 KmHr before realizing that it was the passenger not the driver.
But Ireland ain’t Uganda.
I shudder at the thought.
It’ll be the day the five lane opens up in DeRidder.
Or the historic day several decades ago when seven drivers on I-610 in Houston spread side to side and drove the speed limit (60 mph). Cars were lined up for miles angrily honking and trying to get past.
As Mr. Frank Miller used to say, “Don’t forget to keep it between the ditches.”
But Mr. Frank had never been to Africa.
On the wrong side of the road
And the wrong side of the seat.
Bon Voyage and good luck!