Stay above fifty! (USA Coast2Coast #2)

Trinity: You always told me to stay off the freeway.
Morpheus: Yes, that’s true.
Trinity: You said it was suicide.
Morpheus: Then let us hope that I was wrong.
— The Matrix Reloaded
  • 35 mph = 56 kph
  • 50 mph = 80 kph
  • 75 mph = 120 kph
 The correct answer is "keep right"

The correct answer is "keep right"

A couple of days before I got on my flight, Speed was on TV. I rarely watch anything on the teev these days, so the fact I caught it seemed liked a sign. Of what, I'm not sure. Now, I love Speed. I even use it in teaching narrative structure because it's very nicely structured. But before I arrived in LA, I sometimes struggled with the plausibility of the plot. I mean, how far does Dennis Hopper's bad guy thing his plan is going to get? There's only so much road. I thought a bus driving at 80 clicks for a couple of hours was far-fetched.

Yeah, well, LA is a tad more vast than I gave it credit for, and the motorways go on and on forever. And there can be traffic jams at stupid hours, like at 5:30 this morning when I was driving out of the city. One-hundred percent gridlocked not moving jammed. Insane. After that was thick, thick fog in the mountains, fog that made the rising sun into a gold coin, floating disembodied from, well, everything. Fog so thick you could barely seen anything, except the lights of the trucks in front bleeding through as little dabs of red.

Finally, I made it out into the spanking-along interstate, turning off onto the I-40 before I accidentally ended up in Vegas. Despite the constant stream of trucks, it was a relief to be out on the open road. Driving in LA put me very much in mind of the freeway chase in Matrix Reloaded. I bet the screenwriters had LA in mind when they wrote it, even though I think it was shot in Sydney. Haha, Sydney, you're such a n00b. There's no photos of my driving there because, well, that would have been suicide. 

 Driving on LA freeways is exactly like this, except with fewer cool Ducatis

Driving on LA freeways is exactly like this, except with fewer cool Ducatis

Anyway. From there, came lots of pale ribbon roads across wide valley floors, disappearing into the distant smoky mountains. Felt like real progress to be eating each leg up. A flash of the Colorado River was an incongruous, icy mint blue, and then came the border. As soon as you enter Arizona, the speed limit goes from 70 to 75 mph, but let's face it, most people are doing more than that, and there's a constant left-right ballet as you pass trucks and then pull right again so that all the non-trucks doing 90 can pass you.

 The only safe-ish shot of the road is a boring shot of the road

The only safe-ish shot of the road is a boring shot of the road

 So many trucks ...

So many trucks ...

A dust devil chased the highway, crossing over and fizzing out just as we were on a collision course. That made me pause. There's signs up at the truck stop about dust storms in this area. I knew they can get bad storms roaring through these plains, and Flagstaff has even had an out-of-season snowstorm in recent years. It's up in the hills there, with pine forests all around. Once you spit out the other side, though, all the snowcaps are in the rearview and it's just exposed plains, and the wind today is roaring through. Roaring. I'm nowhere near Tornado Alley yet, but you have a sense of being at mercy of the elements.

At least by the time I hit Winslow, I was fairly into the right-side driving thing. It's still a conscious effort, but I'm no longer terrified by left turns. I've checked into a motel room smelling strongly of air freshener, and only slightly less strongly of cigarette smoke. The sun is bright and harsh. It's not unlike outback Queensland in the winter. Bright clear days and dangerous sun. Things still happen that I don't understand. Like trucks putting their hazards on while they're still driving. Really need to google what that's about. Still, success.

Tomorrow, will be crossing New Mexico and entering Texas, and listening to the end of the audiobook that's kept me company today – Colleen Hoover's November 9. Incidentally, it's a love story about a writer writing a love story, with lots of meta references to the tropes of romance, and the characters happen to live in LA and New York. I didn't know that when I picked it out. A coast to coast story for a coast to coast story research trip. Very nice.