Diatribe: Davy Crockett wasn’t only thing born on mountain in Tennessee
By AL VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media June 12, 2012 4:13PM
As most of you know, I usually go somewhere every week to test new vehicles. The majority of these tests take place in hilly and mountainous areas where there are the twisty, switchback roads. I hate them more than I hate life itself.
Because I have peripheral vision like a frog, I can become nauseous with all the jerking around if I am the passenger. It’s obviously less noticeable when I’m driving because my eyes are concentrated on the road ahead as opposed to sitting in a passenger seat and looking around like a bobble head.
I know the manufacturers want to give journalists the opportunity to experience the handling of their vehicles first-hand; however, many of us write for publications servicing the flatlands of America — and I seldom get the opportunity to test-drive vehicles on I-65 going south through Indiana.
A blind man could tell you that there’s seldom the opportunity to pass slow-moving vehicles when ascending or descending a curvy mountain road replete with double-yellow lines. Occasionally there might be a passing zone but those are few and far between. However, there is one thing that sets mountain drivers apart from their flatland brethren: they’re considerate of those behind them.
Rarely am I stuck behind a slow mover for longer than it takes to find a roomy place for him or her to pull over and allow those wanting to drive faster the opportunity to advance. Equally rare is the recipient of such largesse who doesn’t beep their horn and wave their appreciation as they pass their benefactor. It’s common courtesy, after all, but once leaving the mountains it’s not that common.
I first noticed this phenomenon when I was a little Hoosier and my brother and I were in the backseat of my parents’ Oldsmobile headed south on Route 41 towards Florida to visit my grandparents. We were climbing the Tennessee Mountains, finally approaching Rock City, a place I’d been reading about on bird houses, barns, signs, etc. for the previous 600 miles.
I began to notice that people with Tennessee license plates would occasionally pull off to the side of the road and my father, along with dozens of his closest friends, would pass by and wave. I was surprised that my father knew so many people from Tennessee but then again he was a friendly type.
Flash-forward through a questionable career and when I took the plunge to be an automotive journalist I began traveling to “exotic locales” that generally had mountains in them and just like an acid flashback I started seeing the same behaviors in each new area we’d drive. Then I got to wondering, why can’t people be as polite in other areas?
Granted, there aren’t nearly the number of two-lane roads in the Midwest that there used to be before the advent of interstates but manners are manners and they are in scarce supply the farther away one gets from the “real” people of this country.
Whatever happened to the days of Davy Crockett, where you go to Washington for one or two terms, help the folks back home, and then leave to let somebody else with new ideas take your place? It’s the same with driving; if people can be courteous in Tennessee or New Mexico or West Virginia, why can’t they be equally as polite in Illinois or Iowa?
I propose the following: I think the final grade of a driver’s education class should involve driving on local thoroughfares through the back roads of America, preferably in hilly terrain. If the student hasn’t learned down-home driving manners from spending time with the honesty and integrity of our beloved farmers and hillbillies, then they should not be allowed to have a driver’s license until the age of 85, when they’ll be too old to get one.
Having observed young people as deeply as I’ve done for decades, if my plan is ever instituted I would strongly suggest people forget about investing in the Dow Industrials; run to your broker now and have him buy all of the Schwinn Bicycle stock available.
Al Vinikour is a Midwest-based freelance auto writer. Proving a mind is a “terrible thing to use” he sometimes sits in traffic and ponders about things — generally auto-related — that make him mad. Believing the “pen is mightier than the sword” (and generally results in a whole lot less jail time), he vents his anger through a word processor and produces the Driver’s Side Diatribe column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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