Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Peculiar Driving Habits in Different US States, Cities, or Regions

November 19, 2010

A non-scientific observational listing of the quirks considered normal by residents of particular states and regions that are not, frankly, considered normal by any normal person, and including cautionary notes for the wary traveler through said regions.

 Washington DC region:

1.) *While normally and officially yellow traffic lights are considered a caution to slow down, in the DC region they are considered a warning that if you don’t step on the gas hard, you’re going to miss this light and sit for up to 4 minutes waiting for the next green light.

Cautionary note: When your traffic light turns green, pause to look both ways before proceeding into the intersection or you’re liable to get wiped out by that last car trying to sneak through on the yellow (by now red) light.

* This seems to apply to most cities in the northeast

2.) Except in DC itself, where it is illegal, cell phone use (talking or texting) while driving a vehicle is common. A rigorous scientific study conducted by my boyfriend and me (he is a real scientist, with a PhD, if that matters) concluded that 50-75% of all drivers on the road at any given time are talking (hand held) or texting on their cell phone. Of the remaining 50-25%, half of those are fixing their hair or makeup, reading the paper, or trying to deal with a recalcitrant child in the back seat. The remaining drivers are foreigners, the majority being Hispanic (aggressive and apparently lacking knowledge of a use of signals) or Asian (slow and tentative to the point of extreme aggravation to all drivers in their immediate vicinity). 

Cautionary note: Granted, more than half of all time spent in a vehicle in the Washington DC Metro Area is spent sitting in traffic at stoplights. Regardless, that still leaves half of any journey open to being killed by cell phone-wielding drivers, multi-taskers, and foreigners. When driving in the DC Metro Area, do not assume that the drivers around you are conscious. Drive defensively at all times.


Changing lanes in heavy traffic? Trying to make a left hand turn out of a side road onto a busy street? Attempting to get out of the gas station near a crowded intersection? No problem. Whether due to innate Southern graciousness or the presence of a lot of old people who were raised in a different world, Florida drivers are polite to those around them.

Cautionary note: If you’re stuck in a long line of traffic, expect those ahead of you to let in every car that comes out of a side road in front of you, exacerbating your already snail-like progress.

Mississippi & Louisiana

A following distance of ten feet is considered adequate for all speeds up to and including travel on highways and freeways. In one ten minute drive across town in Hattiesburg, I witnessed five rear-end collisions. I’m not sure cars down there are even equipped with turn signals.

Cautionary note: If you have to slow down for a turn, signal your turn and slow down well ahead of time to allow the idiot on your bumper to react. When at a stoplight, watch what’s coming in behind you because I’ve seen an inattentive tailgater plow right into the car in front of them when a light turned red. Although it’s unlikely that any of the drivers around you will signal their intentions, go ahead and signal yours – they’ll probably be able to figure out what they mean.


On the generally crowded highways of Ohio, drivers are erratic and aggressive. Signals are sometimes used, sometimes not. Drivers change lanes and dart toward exit ramps as if on a sudden and unexpected whim. Cutting in front of another car with less than three feet of clearance between the front and rear bumpers is apparently acceptable.

Cautionary note: Drive defensively at all times – these people are erratic and dangerous.


Understand that speed limits are a vague suggestion.

Cautionary note: Drive with the speed of traffic, even though it’s up to 30 mph over the speed limit. Try to avoid driving to or through Chicago if you own a slow, clunker car or have slow, clunker instinctive reaction times.

Upper Midwest *

Generally polite, practical and able, Midwesterners are perhaps at their most inept when merging onto a freeway. Not all have grasped the concept of speeding up to seamlessly merge with the flow of the freeway traffic.

Cautionary note: As you head down the entrance ramp, don’t assume that the car in front of you won’t come to a dead stop at the point where the entrance ramp meets the freeway. Plan accordingly.

*more generally true outside metro areas; includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, rural Illinois, and Indiana


Traffic lights are NOT strung up across the roads. Instead, they are located on posts on the street corners. Blizzards would destroy lights hung on cables across intersections.

Cautionary note: Watch for traffic lights to be located atop on posts on street corners.

South Dakota

If it’s a two-lane street and cars are only traveling in the left lane of it, a right hand turn onto it from a side street is de rigueur.

Cautionary note: If you’re one of the cars traveling in the left lane and suddenly see a car emerging from a side street, stay alert but try not to panic. If the right lane is clear, that’s what they’re aiming for – and they’ve had a lot of practice so they’re pretty good at it keeping their nose out of your lane.


Many of the older freeway entrance and exit ramps are very, very short.

Cautionary note: Natives really hit the gas on the ramps in order to work up a decent amount of speed to merge with traffic. Don’t expect those on the freeway to shift their trajectory too much to accommodate you – adjust your own speed if possible. If you have to crawl out into fast traffic to get off the ramp and avoid the inevitable next exit that’s only about 100ft away, go for it. Natives seem to have quick reactions and hey, they’ve had to do the same thing themselves on the same damn ramp. 


Every California driver that I know describes him/herself as a really good driver, and brags (yes, I chose that word specifically) that California drivers are the best drivers in the world. There’s your first clue to the reality: California drivers are arrogant. They are generally assertive and impatient with any form of dilly-dallying, legitimate or not. They also consider a ten foot following distance normal at any speed. On the plus side, they are more attentive than Mississippians and use cell phones less than East Coasters, so you’re unlikely to get rear-ended unless you fail to signal your intentions.

Cautionary note:  Know where you’re going before you start your journey, or as you peer at the street signs or slow to figure out which exit you need, you’ll have some self-important Californian right up your butt – as if s/he can push you faster by forcing that small airspace between your bumpers to act as a plow. Use your signals, and use them well ahead of time to avoid a heart-stopping near-miss rear end collision. Pay attention: it’s a fast-paced world but you’ll usually get warning time to react if you watch for other drivers’ signals.

Arizona & New Mexico

See California above, though without the arrogant (and erroneous) assumption that they’re the best drivers in the world.


1. ) Some genius (honestly) has designed most left turn traffic arrow lights to come AFTER the through-traffic green lights. As through traffic thins, some drivers waiting for a left turn can execute, and the rest will clear on the green arrow.

Cautionary note: While waiting to make a left turn, it’s acceptable to creep out into the intersection because you’re not going to get stuck out there: the green turn arrow is coming up. Check the intersection signs – if the green turn light does NOT follow the green through traffic light, the signs will tell you that.

2.) In Tucson and Phoenix, be aware that U-turns are happening all over the place.

Cautionary note: Before you make that right turn on red, check that no one is U-turning into your lanes.



My House

November 11, 2010

Three months ago the last of my doctors finally turned me loose. Workman’s Comp finally settled on the amount of a schedule award for loss of sight in one eye. So the bulk of the bureaucracies associated with being injured in Iraq have come to a satisfactory conclusion. I’m feeling free and new.

Time to buy a house of my own!

Most people live where they work. I can live anywhere now, without worrying about finding a job to support myself. I intend to work – besides the psychic energy readings that I provide people, I intend to start my own custom funerary urn business. But that work doesn’t dictate where I can live. I’m able to do phone readings and set up a clay studio anywhere I choose.

In the past thirty years I’ve lived many places: Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, eastern Oregon, western Oregon, Wyoming, Florida, Maryland, and Iraq … I’ve camped for a month or more at a time in Arizona and New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana. Each of these places has its own unique beauty and spirit of place that tempts me to return. Minnesota has abundant water and a lovely, bucolic landscape. South Dakota has the rugged Badlands, the beautiful canyons of the Black Hills, and wide prairie spaces. Montana will always feel like my heart home, there where the prairie meets the Absarokas and Gallatins, clear rivers and spring creeks tumbling out of the canyons. Eastern Oregon has the best friends on earth. Western Oregon has the quiet serenity of forests and the rich and rocky coasts. Wyoming is a lost land of secret beauties, red dunes and private mountains, immense rocks and the widest skies. Florida has empty sugar sand beaches and lazy rivers; Maryland rolling green hills with stately old stone houses tucked between.

In trying to decide where to live, I went around in circles with the temptations of each. And with the drawbacks of each. Minnesota has epic winters, long and cold, and is perhaps too close to family. South Dakota and Montana have long winters as well, and the real estate prices haven’t dropped as far as they have in some other places. Much as I love my friends in eastern Oregon, the foggy winters are a horror to me. Western Oregon winter clouds make me want to point a gun at my head by February. Florida and Maryland are fatally over-crowded to my western mind. Mississippi and Louisiana are muggy bug breeders.

Figuring out how to assign measurable weights to these positive and negative qualities, as well as other more practical criteria, became a burden to me over the past two years as I worked toward the decision of where to live. I made lists of pros and cons, and spreadsheets with geographical qualities weighted appropriate to my interests and desires. I spent hours on and and spent afternoons on the phone boring friends with my circular fretting. I added states I’d never lived in, then crossed them back off the list. One week I settled on Rapid City and the next I knew that was simply wrong and I should concentrate on Nebraska or Oklahoma. Two days later I was convinced that I should live in Minnesota. Friends and family hunted houses in their areas of the country, urging me to move near them. I felt like a fine mist scattered across the continent.

If you could live anywhere, where would you choose? How would you choose? How would you weight qualities like weather, arts and cultural outlets, sports, politics, taxes, friends, family, topography, water, and demographics? It took me two years of head spins to begin to sort these things out for myself.

Making matters worse, I’d never owned a house before. As The First House, the decision felt huge and dire. What if I bought a house and six months later hated living in that town or area? I wouldn’t be able to just give 30 days notice to the landlord, pack my truck and move on. This house ownership business would require a leap up in the level of commitment that I was accustomed to taking on. I longed to look into the future offered by each place, then choose knowing I’d chosen safely, wisely and well. Perhaps my spirit, my soul, was doing just that, but none of that information was coming through in meditation, dreams or other forms of communication…

In the end I simply became sick of thinking, of trying to reason my way to an answer. Action felt necessary. I packed my truck and hit the road, hoping that by visiting some of these places I’d either find the perfect house for me, or eliminate some of the choices. Desperately watching for signs from my higher self or the All That Is, I nervously tiptoed around the country trying to feel my way to a decision, catching many eddies and hiking up quite a few side canyons. 

 It took two months and over 8,000 miles of driving, but it worked.

My new home is in Arizona.

I should close on the house before Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it carry some strange symmetry if I closed on November 24, 2010 … three years, to the day, after being blown up in Iraq.