Driving in the seacoast area of Maine and New Hampshire can be both a pain and pleasure. I’ve found myself ready to ram the car in front of me while at the same time enjoying the scenic view of the ocean. Perhaps it says more about me and the way I get easily frustrated while driving, but it wasn’t so hard to compile a list of five things that drive me crazy while driving around here. So this isn’t a totally negative blog post, I’ve also put together a list of the five best things about driving around here as well.
First, we have my list of five worst things about driving around here.
- People around here drive too slow and too sloppy. Let me clarify: I don’t drive any faster than five miles over the speed limit. In fact, I remember when I started driving over a decade ago people were constantly tailgating me. My driving habits haven’t changed, yet I find myself getting stuck behind somebody else more often than not these days. Living in a tourist area doesn’t help. People keep coming here from out of state without a care in the world, not realizing that there’s somebody behind them that actually has to go somewhere. And they’re not just slow, either. There’s quite a few people that can’t keep a steady speed, forcing me to tailgate them every thirty seconds. That’s when they’re not swerving all over the place.
- A lot of roads are too narrow and have bad visibility around corners. I get it. A lot of these roads are based on old paths that followed the contours of the landscape, before modern technology made laying down long, straight roads more common. That’s what happens when one lives in New England. But that also makes it harder for modern driving. The road I live on is a fairly major route around here, yet there are plenty of narrow spots that go over hills or around turns with stone walls and old houses, making it hard to see around corners. This makes it especially hard to past bicyclists. But they get their own item on this list.
- There are bicyclists that are just plain assholes around here. Of course I’m not referring to all of them, or even the majority. I’m certainly not faulting them for the example I gave above. But there are those that really get under my skin. This is especially the case when they ride in groups. They’ll ride side-by-side, preventing cars or even motorcycles from passing them. I once got stuck behind a group of cyclists taking up the entire lane, with no indication that they were going to go single-file (which they’re required to do by law). And they then get all snotty about it, as if they have more right to the road than cars do. I understand the appeal of riding a bicycle to get around, as I used to do the same thing. But “share the road” goes both ways—especially when the roads around here really aren’t made for bikes and cars.
- The bridges can be a pain in the ass. There’s quite a few bridges around here. That’s what happens when you live next to the ocean, with all of the rivers and creeks that feed into it. But when a bridge goes out, then it can completely ruin somebody’s plans. Or then there are some drawbridges, most notably the two that connect Kittery and Portsmouth. One such bridge goes right to downtown Portsmouth, and when it’s up traffic gets stopped all through town. Sometimes it’s just so some nuisance wants to get through with their sailboat. I could try thinking of it as another intersection with lights, but normally I don’t have to wait long enough at a red light to turn my engine off.
- Even under good conditions, with no other traffic on the road and the bridges are all in order, it still takes too damn long to get anywhere. Like I said, these are old paths that wind around hills and along the coast. There’s no real straight line to anywhere. There are a couple of highways around here, but they only really help with long distances. The speed limits accurately reflect the roads that they’re assigned to, but it shouldn’t take me twenty minutes to drive less than ten miles.
All right, so this isn’t totally negative, I’m going to present a list of five good things about driving around here. I won’t expand on these as much as the above items—they’re pretty self-explanatory for the most part.
- It’s really scenic around here. There’s plenty of ocean views and nice neighborhoods that you won’t get bored. It is a tourist area for a reason.
- If you ride a motorcycle, the twists and turns on these old roads can actually be fun. As long as you aren’t in a rush to get anywhere, the roads are actually enjoyable.
- The towns and states have really been making an effort in recent years to improve road conditions and in some cases, traffic patterns. This makes some of the above problems a little more bearable. I know of one road around here that has to keep getting repaved every other year because it’s on an old train bed, but at least the Town of York is keeping up with it.
- There are a lot of desirable destinations. It may take longer to get where you’re going than it should, but sometimes it’s worth it. Again, this is a tourist area. That’s not to mention some really nice downtown areas to head to.
- It’s not too hard to find your way around. Until you get to Boston (which is a nightmare), everything is clearly marked and not hard to find. If worse comes to worse, just head east until you hit the water and start again.
In the end, I don’t have a choice. I live here. That doesn’t mean, however, I can’t get angry at an idiot in front of me who shouldn’t be allowed on the road in the first place.