ALMOST thirty years ago, rocker Sammy Hagar wailed about the restriction of driving 55 miles per hour, back when such speed limit was more common than today. Now we have stretches of Texas highway which have speed limits of 75 miles per hour, or even 80 miles per hour. Thus far, I’ve found the 75 mile per hour stretches more difficult to drive than the 80 mile per hour segments.
We left highway 290 beyond Fredericksburg and connected onto highway I-10 west. Two hundred twenty miles later we arrived at Fort Stockton. That portion of our trip took less than three hours, thanks to the great divided highway, the straight road, the 80 mile per hour speed limit and the paucity of traffic. All factors combined to make that two hour and forty five minute drive fly by with ease.
Driving 80 miles per hour took some getting used to, but my car drives well, and I have new tires all the way around. It was daylight. The sky was clear. There were no impediments to safely driving that 80 mph speed limit. If there had been, I would not have driven 80 mph.
I told my nephew, Dave, it was too bad his late granddaddy Moore never got to make that drive. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Daddy would drive the family from East Texas to Idaho every two years to see my Mother’s parents. In those days, when you drove through Provo, Utah, you drove THROUGH Provo, Utah, not around it or over it. You drove through the middle of every city and town, and those towns made racking up over five hundred miles a day very unlikely.
Daddy used to love “making good time.” He could only dream of driving 80 mph for under three hours and putting 220 miles behind him. We drove through every little town and down every goat path between Lufkin and Lewiston. With no air conditioning. Just a car full of kids singing “Blowing in the Wind” or “The Battle of New Orleans” for the one hundredth time. I don’t know how he did it.
Daddy would have loved driving on a divided highway at 80 mph, but I’m not so sure he would like the 75 mph stretches. On the ones I have driven so far, they tend to be undivided highways. That puts the passing lane a mere few feet across the line from the cars passing on the other side of the highway. Inevitably, some drivers don’t want to drive that 75 mph speed limit, while others are content to drive that speed or higher. This results in traffic bunching up in clusters of cars, with faster cars working hard to get around slower cars and trucks.
When I drive our highways, I like having room all around me. That buffer of distance from cars in front of me, behind me, or beside me is my best assurance of safe travel. I do not like clusters of traffic where one group is trying to stay at a slower speed and one group is trying to maintain a faster speed. So 75 mph stretches have thus far been more stressful than those 80 mph segments I have found so trouble-free.
Safe driving comes down to conditions and speed limits. Those speed limits anticipate the best of conditions. Rain, fog, smoke, traffic conditions, road conditions, and daylight all factor into safe driving. Sometimes the speed limit is not the safest speed, and that has to be recognized.
I enjoy driving Texas highways. Always have. From East Texas to the rolling limestone hills of West Texas, the scenery is Texas through and through. Pine trees, cedars, mesquite, or tumbleweeds, it’s all Texas. Be smart out there. Go the speed limit when that’s safe. Drive below it when it’s not.
© 2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore,
All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. firstname.lastname@example.org