Monday, April 20, 2009

After driving overseas, our unfinished outerbelt isn't such a big deal

The blog has been inactive due to a two-week vacation in Greece. But since this is a column about traffic, I'm sharing a few rentar-car adventures from the country that apparently has the EU's highest fatality rate.

The Greek motorways were fine. And the mountain roads weren't too dangerous - everyone seemed aware of their own mortality and drove accordingly. But many of the country’s roads would not be loved here in Queen City.

The highways that are one tier below motorway were a problem. They have two lanes each, with both lanes about 14 feet, compared with U.S. lanes that are between 10 and 12 feet. There are also 6-foot shoulders. This counts as a four-lane highway.

The middle of the road is no-man's land, used by drivers on both sides to pass at will. The speed limit was often 90 km/hr, and everyone was easily clocking 120 - despite the fact that police were everywhere. (Not sure if this was an Easter Crackdown, or a The Country is Broke and We Need Money Crackdown, but something was going on.) So you have two options: Obey the law and be stampeded. Or go with the flow and get pulled over, which was my fate. Good times.

Still having some readjustment issues back in Charlotte. I was driving in my neighborhood, and saw a sedan in my rear-view mirror. Had to fight the urge the jerk my car onto the grassy knoll to let someone pass.

Other thoughts:

The Greeks founded democracy and have perfected graffiti. Highway signs looked like the No. 6 train circa 1976.

I’m fascinated by the ruins of Greece. Not necessarily the UNESCO World Heritage Sites sites such as Delphi, but the thousands of half-finished concrete buildings that line the highways. These ensure that future generations of tourists will have new archeological sites to discover.

The latest Michelin map shows the E65 motorway as complete through the Peloponese. It is not. Instead the highway ends abruptly south of Tripoli, where you enter switchback hell. Especially fun at dusk.

A good way to test the foundation of your marriage is to drive inside the city of Athens with two children in the backseat. Was this a hidden source of power for ancient Athenians? Did the Persians actually defeat them at Marathon and breach their city, only to get lost and go home?

On the island of Santorini, I rented a Fiat Punto, an apparent homage to the Pinto. The Punto’s backdoors only open by placing your fingers in the middle of the latch, then pulling up violently, the rental car agent demonstrated. This did not instill confidence in the Obama’s administration to save Chrysler by marrying it with the maker of the Punto.


barkomomma said...

I'm sure there was a point there somewhere? Maybe not.

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