It’s a long way to the destination

by Gilbert Keith

415 miles by Google Maps is a long distance. And, mind you, that was using the “fastest path” per Google Maps, which inevitably was going to take me down the primrose path of I-90 through the heart of Chicago. I am much too wise to fall for that trap; for although it may actually end up being a tiny bit faster than circumventing the heart of Chicago, the drain of driving through the heart of Chicago, which invariably involves sudden speed changes (a couple of which are enough for your heart to skip a beat) and much more mental exhaustion than the marginal time savings that going straight through I90/94 merits.

[Retrospective review, I was exactly right. The marginal saving by going through downtown Chicago, per Google maps, is 5 miles and 2 minutes. Not worth it.]

Nay, I did the time-tested, and friend approved approach of going on 290/294 into Indiana, going as far south as 160th street before turning east on 80/94, and eventually approaching Indiana after passing the big quarry that’s right on the border. This probably added a few more miles to the tally of 415. And I managed the 415 in almost exactly 6 hours. The car clock had registered 7:15 when I pulled out of the driveway in Fitchburg, and read 1:15 when I pulled into the driveway in Novi. 415+ miles in 6 hours, one 5-10 minute gas/coffee stop included. Not bad, I say.

Ironically, the audio selection to accompany me on this journey featured Speed by James Gleick front and center. The book is sort of a semi-intellectual history of the pursuit of modern society to save time from daily pursuits by enhancing the “speed” of various processes. I’ve gone through 4 CDs, and it seems to me that Mr. Gleick has done a good job of being dispassionate about swaying the reader (or, shall I say consumer) of his book – I’ll have to listen to a couple more CDs to see if there is any such commentary in the conclusion, but so far so good.

To be fair, I wasn’t particularly trying to hurry when driving. The natural speed of the I-90 corridor from Madison through Schaumburg is, on average, 73 mph for a distance of about 120 miles. The 35 miles on 290/294 was covered in about 32 minutes. So I was pretty much in Indiana by 9:30 Central. An hour and half after that, when I was by exit 40-ish in Michgan, I took my pit stop; at this point there were about 150 miles left and it was around 11:05 central when I got back on the Highway, so I gunned for reaching at 1:15 Central. There, the entire drive was accounted for.

The Drivers today were somewhat frustrating. But before that, let me tell you something inexplicable: I-94 from Indiana all the way through Grand Rapids, MI is 6-lane highway. This seems a bit much. Perhaps I’m not familiar with the economic engine that 94 is for that hour and half stretch. Perhaps it used to be a true powerhouse, but is now an anachronism. But anyway, I opine that when there is more than one lane on the highway that leads you to your destination, always stick to the right most lane, and use any lanes to the left of that strictly for passing. This was clearly not happening today and it was frustrating. There were a lot of people on the road today, and it seemed to have a natural speed of 75 mph. A very few people were sticking to the right lane at the posted limit of 70 mph. This meant that often, there were huge gaps between two cars in the rightmost lane, often ranging from half a mile to a mile. When such a huge stretch of the road is empty, and it is going to take you a bit of a time to pass the car ahead of you in the same lane – simple arithmetic suggests that you’re going 5 mph faster than the car which is half a mile ahead of you, it will take you about 6 minutes to catch up to the car – then it behooves you to move the hell over into the right lane, and leave the left lane(s) for those who want to pass. This was not happening today, and it made me mad. People were weaving through some lanes like crazy. And it kind-of sort-of forced me to weave too, which left me a bit annoyed. Not the most enjoyable of drives through that region, but oh well.

The Vilambit Bandish in Raag Bageshri that I got to hear from a truly remarkable Ashwini Bhide Deshpande was the highlight of the remainder of the drive. What a bandish it was! I first heard it on Pandora a couple of days ago, and ended up buying it from one of the music vendors, and boy was it a great buy. There are a couple of spots in the song that totally nail it. English truly has a deficit of describing those moments – not that I have poetic phrases in Hindi to describe it either, but let’s just, for now, revel in my fantasy of how awesome it is. The album has 4 other pieces on it, but this one is by far the most compelling! It’s on Pandora, so I’m sure that if you create a station for Mrs. Deshpande, it’ll show up soon.

Good musings, good day.