Backroads and Circles

The red zone can take 45 minutes to navigate.

I’ve been moaning about traffic in and around Hartford lately. I have one more traffic / New England driver related rant coming – just giving you fair warning, but this is not it. Today, I have a bad news / good news thing.

Traffic got so bad on my afternoon commute that I bailed off the highway. Not totally, I’ve mentioned before that I live and work on opposite sides of the Connecticut River – try to never do that – so, I need a bridge. But, getting to that bridge has gone from being a 6-8-minute drill to being a 20-45-or-more-minute nightmare, due to construction.

After spending 55 minutes last Monday, sitting in traffic with a bunch of frustrated, head-shaking, horn-blowing, gesture-making, people-brought-to-the-brink-of-evil, I gave up. I decided that after working in Glastonbury, CT for 12 years, it was time to find a back way to that bridge. I knew two things: the starting point and the best endpoint. There’s an on-ramp a couple of towns to the northeast from where I work, that takes me straight to the road that crosses the bridge I want.

Exploring a map, yes, a map, because GPS isn’t sophisticated enough to find a good back route, I found a straightforward 3-street-zig-zag route from a street near my office to an intersection about a block from my on-ramp.

The next day, I tested my escape route, and I couldn’t help but think of the Ricky van Shelton song: Backroads.

Backroads-RVSThinking about that song unleashed a small flood of great memories, both new and old. My dad introduced me to country music in the early 60s, just as Rock and Roll was gaining momentum. I was torn. I wanted to be cool and I liked rock music, but I actually liked country music. Rock eventually won the battle, but every now and then, country music found a way onto my radio. In the early 80s, it wasn’t uncommon for a crossover hit like The Oak Ridge Boys – Elvira or Roseanne Cash’s – Seven Year Ache to be featured on pop radio. At other times, I’d have a better chance of finding southern rock on a country station than a rock station.

By the mid- 80s, I was in a renaissance period. I listened to a classical music show on NPR in the morning and I switched to a rock station when it was over. On weekends, I often tuned to a country station. Before the 80s ended, Country 92.5 was my first choice and Country cassettes were filling the space under the seats of my pickup. Oh yeah, and I was introducing our daughter Faith to country music, including Roseanne Cash and Ricky Van Shelton.

Truth be told, my 80s pickup was better suited to Aaron Tippin’s: Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with the Radio, but it wasn’t released until I had a new truck.

Cruising along my new-found backroads, I realized that my dad would either be proud of me, or he would be laughing. Probably laughing. My dad preferred back roads. He always argued that they were faster, because they were more direct. He was wrong, if you’re going from Pennsylvania to Iowa, a trip he made several times, but he was often right if you were going to the church three towns over. Oh wait, that wasn’t my dad’s trip, that’s my wife’s – she prefers backroads too. She makes the same argument. She’s probably laughing a little as she edits this post.

I wasn’t exactly cruising those backroads. I was going 35 mph between stop signs, but I – was – moving! The people on the highway were sitting still. My old commute, the one before the multi-year construction project started, the one I will never see again, took 25-30 minutes. My new commute takes a fairly consistent 35 minutes. I’ll trade a 5-minute-likely-10-minute-possible increase in travel time for the knowledge that I will always be moving.

A few weeks ago, this same construction project forced me onto some backroads while on my way into Hartford. Ironically, I was on my way to meet our daughter for dinner and a concert – Rosanne Cash.

48 thoughts on “Backroads and Circles

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  1. “I’ll trade a 5-minute-likely-10-minute-possible increase in travel time for the knowledge that I will always be moving.”

    That’s exactly how I feel when traffic is bad. I’d rather travel the side roads and keep moving than sit on a 70 mph highway going nowhere. It creates a less stressful, non-one-fingered atmosphere for the driver. Not that I ever use that finger…

    Anyhow, I’ve grown to love SOME country music. It started when I was burning CD’s of Patsy Cline, George Jones and Hank Williams for the former in-laws. And I did love some of the cross-over country songs like Elvira. I think when I finally visited Nashville and wandered into the honky tonk bars, listening to the artists, that I found an appreciation for country music and country artists. I still can’t listen to country radio, but give me good old southern rock and I’ll listen all day long.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My father started me out with Patsy Cline. At first, that was a little tough to listen to, but it grew on me. I don’t listen to country radio, but I have some on my i-whatever and I have a bunch of mix-CDs. Regardless of the music, my ride home is less stressful now that I’ve discovered the backroads.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pittsburgh was tough, because we had to get to one of two tunnel/bridge combos to get into the city. BAckroads all over the place in the suburbs, but with three major rivers isolating the city, you didn’t have a chance.


  2. Wow, you actually named country songs I like for a change! Hah! I hate to say I like some country, since I despise so much of it, but between you and me, I do like some, and might possibly own more than a dozen country albums of which I know all the songs by heart. But if any one asks you, I mostly hate country, k?
    I’m with you on taking the long way home, and not just cause Supertramp told me to. Studies show secondary roads, with their scenery, lower blood pressure. My brain thinks the green spaces are much better for its anxiety. I’ve gotten The Mister hooked on it, too. Why battle traffic and merging and increase your stress when you can coast from light to light with things to look at? The other good thing to do is to enter your home into whichever door has the most space at the threshold. Better juju, much relax, many nice. I got him doin that, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, you hate country. Got it. If it’s hard for you to admit liking (any) country, just think how hard it is for me to admit that my dad and my wife have been right all along. I do love that Supertramp song/album. Maddie doesn’t like it when I come in the door you describe. That would be the front door. She likes to sit on the couch by the side door and say hi while I’m still trying to get in, close the storm door and put my stuff down.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can certainly relate to this post, Dan! On a number of levels.

    I currently enjoy the best commute of my working life — a train from a station five minute from my house to a station five minutes from my office — but it wasn’t always so. I once drove the dreaded outer loop of the Capital Beltway every morning past the Mormon Temple, and it was stop-and-go for MILES. Daily. The only way I could survive my wheel-gripping 42-mile (one-way) commute was with a mixture of rock, classical and audio books.

    Can’t say I ever got into country. Apparently it’s my destiny to enjoy the work of people who would probably spit on me for my politics, rather than someone I might actually share a voting record with, but c’est la vie.

    As for straight versus crooked? Yeah. I’m apt to pick the longer route where you keep moving, over the shorter yet more crowded way. Drift’n’brake drives me right up the wall (no pun intended). Motion covereth a multitude of sins.

    *plays Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most rock, and most country music is not good for sitting still. I have a bunch of country music that will get me a speeding ticket on most days (actually, I have a draft of a post about that). I try not to think about the agendas of the folks I’m listening to. I did a commute like you describe for a bout a year. I tried every route, I tried trains, I tried everything I could think of, but, once again, I had to cross a bridge from NY to NJ and it was awful. Glad you can relate – enjoy the train today.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Back before I retired…. (oh, let me type that over again with deep satisfaction)… back before I retired, every Monday morning and Friday afternoon, I commuted between the Twin Cities and the farm, a distance of almost exactly 100 miles – and every summer my good friends at MNDOT did their best to shut down every major north-south route with road construction, so I drove the county roads – with the sun-roof open and the radio blaring country music.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I may have to ban you from leaving comments if you say that phrase too many times. I’m still too far away from that off-ramp. CT DOT is doing everything they can to mess up my commute. The current project is multi-year but only affects the ride home. Next year, they want to start another multi-year project on the other side, so they can whack my morning ride. And, unfortunately, this continues in the winter :(

      I need more music.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Construction here is rampant so they have taken to doing it at night. Which can be scary. On my prison nights, I used to get off my exit from the Interstate at around 8-8:30 pm. only to be greeted by bright lights and monster machines. Luckily, traffic was extremely light so I could zip on home. But those lights and trucks had you crawling to a snails pace. Glad you found a much better route.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the evening construction is horrible. Unfortunately, CT has decided that if the project is big enough, 24-hour work is fine. They said “it disrupts a segment of the population for a short time.”

      Unfortunately, short = 2 years and the “segment” is the group of people that normally use that road.


  6. Sitting motionless on a gridlocked highway for a 1/2-hour or more twice a day is something I’m a little too familiar with. I’m all for taking the backroads too, as long as not too many others have figured it out, and especially when they lead to interesting discoveries.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m with Joey. I’m afraid that country music isn’t my thing. That doesn’t mean I don’t know the words to most of the oldies thanks to a small town upbringing in the North.

    I’ve only recently begun to develop an appreciate for the back roads. I’m usually a get-there-as-quickly-as-possible kind of person, but lately I like the quiet drive along country roads. Privately, I hope to see a deer … But I never do.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good point. I actually almost got run over by a deer while out on my bicycle during a long training ride several years ago.
        A deer burst out of the trees … not more than 10 or 12 feet in front of me. I slammed on my brakes … only to then have another one jump out behind the first one.
        I stood on the side of the road for several minutes until my heart rate dropped out of the heart attack zone!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m with you…as long as I’m moving, even if it adds few minutes….it still beats stop and go anytime…..when I lived in San Diego and also covered the LA market…I learned quickly all of the “back” roads to navigate around LA to avoid the stop and go of the freeways….now my commute is a walk from one end of the house to the other end to my home office….just saying :)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Music in almost any form is beautiful to my ears, Dan. I was in band from 4th grade until 12th so quite a variety happened in the formative years. I liked in marching band that we would play Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar and then, switch to “Crazy” which may be my favorite country song EVER! So, I was happy to see you went to hear a member of the Cash family~ Roseanne. My parents treated my youngest, Felicia, and my son, Jamie to see the guitar shaped pool and listen to the Cash family singers, minus Johnny. I always like his “What is Truth” song but like the one where he sang about heartache and misery in “Folsom Prison Blues.” I am trying to remember the newest and his last one, where it was maybe called, “Hurt?” I admire country music and yet, prefer rock, hard rock, easy listening rock. . . :)
    You are a saint for not going crazy on the commutes and hoping that you can keep on moving on this new route, which I agree, would rather move than come to a standstill, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Roseanne Cash was great. We had seen her before in a similar concert (just her and her husband) and it’s very special. Her voice is beautiful. She’s been a favorite of mine since the 80’s. The fact that Faith likes her too is also special.


  10. Music is always great anywhere at anytime. But in traffic, music is a wonderful companion. I’m not a being connoisseur of country music, only because this genre hasn’t been exported to Europe with the same success than rock and pop music or blues and jazz. But when traveling the back roads, there is a place for country music. And gosh, do I love the backroads.
    Also you’ve got a point with maps. GPS and our phones are great for directions but once in a while they loose agaisnt a good old map, when traffic is re-routed for example.
    Traffic in NE can be easily congested since the region is populated around the major cities and big towns.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I used to live in the metro area of Denver. The city and surrounding area has the shape of a crude wagon wheel, which means there’s little difference from one suburb to the next when it comes to how long it take to get to the hub of town. Most people who commute on the highways in that area thinking they’re saving time, gas, therefore, money. However, once a new highway is built, usually as a bypass route, the lanes fill up fast with people who have recently moved into the metro city, causing congestion once again. I’ve always avoided all those highways, jumping on the main thoroughfares throughout the city, usually making much better time. This, of course, means that I save gas and money too. Why don’t these people think the whole thing ALL the way through?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It used to be quite friendly in the Denver area. However, there aren’t many natives there anymore. The newcomers are a bit like what I saw in NYC, people going about their business never bothering to look at each other, let alone say hi. Are their own shoes that interesting? It’s sad.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Great road story . If only those backroads were undiscovered by others ! I like how you made this a music post after having gotten off the freeway. I think that works out well .
    but was the freeway music , what ? heavy metal ? techno ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have predictable rush hours that are longer than they should be for a city of our size. Many people are going through Hartford to get a train in New Haven (35 min south). From there, they can get to southern Connecticut and as far south as Virginia without changing trains.

      So from about 6:30 – 9:30 am and then 2:30 – 6:00 pm traffic on one or both of the major highways will be bad. Of course, in the summer, there’s usually construction from 6:00 pm until 5:00 am so that messes things up too.


  13. Not a fan o fnew country but love the vintage stuff. But anyone named Cash is okay by me. Traffic….don’t get me started. I posted my first ever mini rant on FB due to a crazed motorcyclist on I4 this week. It is like playing Russian Roulette, seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t listened to country music for a while. I liked many of the artists in the late 80s, early 90s. Faith and I practically wore out a Highway 101 tape on one trip. Today, I mostly listen to mix-CDs of favorites from all ages. We are seriously discouraged from renting cars when we travel to Florida for business. I’ve driven in the Orlando and Tampa areas, but I wouldn’t want to do it often.


  14. It’s why we chose this area and I work five mi utes from my home. But we have another location 40 miles away and I am required to go there every few weeks. Lee literally hates it when I have to drive that highway. We have not been to downtown Orlando since moving back to Florida almost 2 years ago. Oops! I lie. We went for the Phantom of the Opera performance that first Dec. Then zipped right back to the beach! The sad thing is we have always loved to travel and take road trips but road rage has gotten ridiculous out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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