07 September 2013


In Vietnamese proverb, there's a phrase that goes

Đi một ngày đàng, học một sàng khôn

It means "Travel one full day and learn a container of smart things", or something to that extent.  While it's true you can learn a lot from watching YouTube videos or from reading exciting blogs, just like this one :-) , all from the comfort of your home, you still need to be out there in the physical world interacting with people and things.  I just came back from a long car ride and indeed learned a few things that I want to share with you.

My long car drive took me from New York City south past Charlotte, NC, passing through D.C.  And back.  I am not a big fan of voice-assisted GPS devices and prefer to print out the direction and not follow it too closely.  For example, if I am to get off I-95 at the exit for Route 123 merely to connect to I-85, just down the road upon entering Route 123, I'd rather not have to know about Route 123.  Maybe saying "Take exit 29 to get to I-85" is enough for me.  I want to memorize the general route, I don't need to know the directions in all its glorious details.  But that's what Google Direction told me as I entered the D.C. area.  I traveled through D.C. before, either for Florida or back from Florida.  I recalled I-95 would take me right through, maybe with some traffic congestion, but it was still pretty straightforward.  Not the way Google Directions had it though.  It seemed GD automatically chose only the shortest distance using interstate roads, i.e. I-this or I-that.  Around Baltimore on the way down, I was to take I-495 to I-695 then I-395 and finally I-295 only to connect back to I-95 eventually.  Or something like that, there are too many switches I don't really know which x95 comes first or last.  Just my luck when I got to the area it was dark and I did get lost briefly.  I had a vague sense that something was amiss and it was getting late so I stopped for the night.  The next day, thanks to the still-complicated direction I crawled slowly with morning rush hour traffic on I-295S.  Maybe it was just as bad on I-95, maybe not.  On the way back, I decided to follow my gut and went with I-95 all the way.  Or just I-85 and I-95, to be exact.  It meant going east a little more, instead of traveling through the heart of D.C., but I like to keep things simple.

The other thing I discovered is that there are too many ways to record toll payment from moving vehicles.  More than I wish to know anyway.  In the NYC area, when you pay toll with EZ-PASS, you slow down significantly and wait for the gate arm to lift or some light tells you payment was made.  A little outside of the metro area you may have places that let you somewhat drive right through without stopping.  And then we also have red-light cameras that if you run a red light you get flashed and a photo of your plate is taken.  You receive the ticket in the mail some time later, always an unpleasant thing.  Seeing flash of light behind you as you drive = bad news.  So when I was in that tiny state called Delaware and approach some toll booth that keeps telling me I have x meters to go before the booth, I slowed down somewhat but still moving at a good pace.  The booth finally appeared, no specific speed posted, so I rolled through and saw a flash of light.  Argh!  What did I do wrong!  I wasn't speeding!!!  On the way back, I noticed the car in the distance in front of me was flashed, then my car was flashed even though I was already below speed limit by 5 or so miles.  So it's just the way Delaware works.  Given that Delaware is so close to NYC, I think there should be a sign that alerts drivers not to worry about the flash.  Is it a crime of some sort to give the camera the finger?  I'm tempted to do that.  I was worried for a few days that some day next week I'll receive in the mail a ticket, from Delaware.

In closing, I'd like to toast the inventor(s) of cruise control.  On a long trip, it made the trip so much more less painful!  Cheers!

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