Observations from our Christmas road trip

Kathy and I recently drove from Ann Arbor to Atlanta for Christmas, from Atlanta to Tampa to visit her grandmother, and from Tampa back to Michigan with an overnight layover in my parents’ house in Atlanta again. The trip between Ann Arbor and Atlanta (actually, Johns Creek) is 12 to 13 hours, and that between Atlanta and Tampa 8 or 8.5. We drove instead of flew for two reasons: to take a lot of puppy- and gift-related stuff in both directions and to save money.

The first and most important thing to remark on about our trip was the nearly ideal whether. On the way down, it was drizzling and extremely foggy in Michigan and Ohio, but that’s a hell of a lot better than snow or ice and didn’t impede our travel in any way. Between Atlanta and Tampa both ways was dry and warm. The final leg of our trip, from Atlanta to Ann Arbor, was completely dry and not the least bit dangerous. We were very lucky in this regard, I think. That was Dec. 31, and on New Year’s Day it rained a little and created ice on the ground (which I felt as I was bringing groceries in from the car), and on Jan. 2 it snowed an inch or two. We missed dangerous or at least slow-driving weather by a day, or two at most.

The most important observation I can make or thing I learned from the trip is that Ohio totally sucks. I already knew that from having lived near it for 6 years and having driven through it on our summer road trip to Atlanta and New Orleans, but, man, what a shitty state. On our way down south, we saw either four or five (let’s call it four to give them the benefit of the doubt) speed traps along I-75, compared to a total of zero in Kentucky and Tennessee. There was one that we saw in Georgia. There was nothing close to a speed trap on I-75 in Florida going north or south, as everybody there drives 85–90 mph and I was being passed going 85 in the middle lane. That was the only positive point that has ever made Florida a slightly less odious state to me, not that I’ve changed my tune from never wanting to live there. On the way back north, I’m not sure if there was any speed trap in Georgia, but there were a total of zero in Tennessee and Kentucky, compared to six—yes, six—in Ohio alone. Combine this with the lower speed limit of 65 throughout the state, and you get an entire state-wide heap of shittiness and pettiness. Luckily, we have not been pulled over on any of our road trips, but I saw two people get pulled over behind us after we passed the cops, one in Georgia and one in Ohio.

The absurdity of Ohio’s 65-mph speed limit and its numerous speed traps also emphasizes the fact that speed limits on interstates generally do nothing to increase safety. If they did, then German autobahns would have the highest death rate in the world, but instead they have a remarkably low death rate. Michigan and Ohio routinely have similar traffic fatality rates on interstates; for instance, in 2006, Michigan’s interstate highway death rate was lower than Ohio’s. When we crossed the border into Michigan that night, I didn’t feel the least bit more endangered when we increased our speed from about 68 to about 78. This is because it wasn’t more dangerous. I’ve never felt safer going the other direction, either. I could understand a city, county, and state wanting to increase its police presence on the roads on New Year’s Eve, but at midnight and after, when people are actually drunk and are actually driving home, not at 9:00 when people are going to the places of imbibement. My god, six speed traps on a 3-hour stretch of interstate? I know Jersey Shore has really increased in prominence throughout American culture in the last few years, but you don’t have to try quite so hard to edge out New Jersey for the Shittiest State in the Union award, guys.

On the way down south in the rain and fog, we noticed one additional advantage to those cool-white LED headlights in addition to their looking cooler: they stand out in precipitation far more than traditional headlights do. A lot of them are annoying and probably even unsafe because of how bright they are in your rear-view mirror, and I hope automakers fix that in the near future, but their superiority in fog and rain and their cool, futuristic, science-fictiony look make me really, really want them in my next car. Obviously there are many different kinds of LED headlights, and I want a kind that is not overly bright and not very blue. I like the cool-white look, which is very pure white with probably a hint of blueness in them, but the ones that look blue are just retarded.

On our way home on I-75 north in Florida, we saw a Georgia fan with four Georgia Bulldogs window flags driving down south, presumably to go to the Outback Bowl.

Also on I-75 north just north of Tampa, we saw a billboard for Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland…which is in Michigan. No, there’s not another branch in Florida; the billboard said “Frankenmuth, Michigan”. No, it wasn’t just an advertisement for their website for all those retirees to order piles of tacky Christmas decorations, although the website was listed on there. Just a normal billboard for a store that is over 1,000 miles away. Weird!

Finally, I recently found this new blag You are a bad driver and I hate you, which I will read regularly and eagerly. Dean, sir, you are a gentleman and a scholar.

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