On the Interstate – Part 3

Easy Rider

(Previously part 1 and part 2.)

I believe that part of my fascination with road trips derives from a movie I had watched many times during my teenage years. It was Easy Rider, now a classic American movie.[1] A bunch of guys on their Harley Davidson motorbikes.

I was attracted by the American landscape but what made it addictive was the sound track. Many of the songs became my favorite, the most loved being “Wasn’t born to follow” by The Byrds, which I append at the end of the post. The lyrics are magical.

But let’s get back to my journey. I left off at Atlanta, GA, where I had arrived last Saturday evening. Departure was very early on Monday around 7 AM. The route was simple: drive 40 kms from the starting location (which was Alpharetta, GA) to take I-20 and head east on it for 1,225 kms. Then take US-80 West towards Dallas and end up in Allen, TX. Total distance would be 1,320 kms with an estimated time of 12 hours. That’s approximately the distance between Mumbai and Delhi. Here’s the map.

Atlanta to Dallas. Click to embiggen.

Google maps says the entire journey would take 12 hours. But it took a bit longer than that. As I wrote, I started at 7 AM and reached at 8:30 PM. That’s 14 and a half hour, not 13.5 hours because TX is Central time which is an hour behind Eastern time.

The additional 2 hours 30 minutes were circumstantial. In a journey that long, one must expect delays from road construction and from a crash or two along the way. I think those two factors added an hour to my journey. Then the stops for gas. My car has a 52 liter gas tank. It took me 2.25 tanks of gas. So I had to stop twice for gas. That adds a total of 30 minutes. And then the last factor was that my car was loaded.

Filling up. Note the bag on the top.

I was moving house from Newark, DE, to Dallas, TX. I had stuff loaded to the roof inside the car. And I had a huge bag — my bori-bistar — on top of the car. In total, I was hauling an estimated 400 kilos of stuff. Add my weight of 82 kilos to that. The bag’s induced drag forced me to drop my speed below the legal limit of 120 kmph.

Now a bit about the car. It’s a 2018 Honda CR-V AWD (all wheel drive.) I mostly use it for road trips. Aside from the engine oil and filter change every 10,000 kms, I don’t have to do anything. I have checked tire pressure once a year. Never took it for any service except once for brake and transmission fluid exchange. After a car wash, it looks as if it was just then driven off the showroom floor. Nary a scratch on it, touch wood.

I don’t mean to brag but (and then he does brag) in my over 40 years of driving in the US, I have not had a single accident due to me. I am a bit of a speed freak but generally drive very conservatively.

The car has a couple of very nice features. I like that I don’t have to fiddle with the lights. It has day-time running lights on all the time, of course, like all modern cars sold in the US do. The headlights come on automatically when it gets dark. And the high beams go on automatically when needed, and reliably go off when another car approaches.

The best bit I like about the car is it’s “lane assist” feature. It has what they call “adaptive cruise control” — meaning the car will drive at the speed set but if the traffic slows down, then the cruise control will slow down the car, and then resume the set speed when the traffic picks up speed. You don’t have to have your foot on the gas pedal or the brake.

When lane assist is engaged, the car follows the lane. So you can let go of the steering wheel and the car automatically turns as the lane turns. This feature disengages itself at speeds below 65 kmph (40 mph.)

(In the bit above, I was on a stretch with had a 70 mph speed limit. I was doing 66.)

In an hour of driving on the highway, I estimate that I would hold the steering wheel for at most a minute total. As a driver, I just sit, take in the scenery, listen to music, eat a sandwich, take pictures, chat with people, and generally relax. And once in a while grip the wheel to change lanes.

I can’t wait to have self-driving cars. Then I would be able to take a nap or read a book.

Well, this post has gone on long enough. I should leave the rest for another day. For now, here’s the promised song by The Bryds. Pay attention to the lyrics.

Here are the words:

No I’d rather go and journey
Where the diamond crescent’s glowing
And run across the valley
Beneath the sacred mountain
And wander through the forest
Where the trees have leaves of prisms
And break the light in colors
That no one know the names of

And when it’s time I’ll go and lay
Beside the legendary fountain
‘Till I see her form reflected
In its clear and jewelled waters
And if you think I’m ready
You may lead me to the chasm
Where the rivers of our visions
Flow into one another

I will want to dive beneath the white cascading waters
She may beg, she may plead, she may argue with her logic
And mention all the things I’ll lose
That really have no value in the end she will surely know
I wasn’t born to follow


[1] A bit from the wiki:

“Released by Columbia Pictures on July 14, 1969, Easy Rider earned $60 million worldwide from a filming budget of no more than $400,000. Critics have praised the performances, directing, writing, soundtrack, and visuals. It received two Academy Awards nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson). In 1998, the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.”

Author: Atanu Dey


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