I’ve been driving since before my feet could reach the pedals. That’s the thing about country living – when there’s hay to be hauled, it’s all hands on deck. Daddy’s old farm trucks were always “granny” geared, so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t reach the pedals. Just dump the clutch, let it roll, steer toward the hay bales and don’t hit any cows.
Once my feet did reach the pedals, I became Daddy’s saving grace on many occasions. There were many afternoons I was sitting at the dining room table when I would see Daddy walking up the road, which meant only one thing. The tractor was stuck. By the time I moved out, I could have started my own Stuck-Tractor-Removal Service.
I loved baha-ing the old Ford down the dirt roads of the government woods around our house and dodging craters and low-hanging tree limbs along the “pig trails” that snaked through the woods and pastures behind our house.
Before I got my driver’s license, I had to be able to drive a stick, change a tire, change the oil, use jumper cables, maneuver a dually and hook up a gooseneck horse trailer. I swear I can still hear “Don’t tear my fenders off” every time I get behind the wheel of any vehicle.
I never in a million years imagined that all of that off-roading would have been preparation for driving in a major city. But all of that experience has certainly come in handy while navigating New Orleans streets.
With all of the cramped side streets and one-ways, it’s imperative to understand the size of my vehicle. Many times, I’ve had to squeeze into and through spaces that would make a SmartCar driver anxious. And I don’t have the luxury of a back-up camera.
Then there’s the streets themselves. I’ve actually seen a car get lost in a pothole. I realize it’s a sinking city which makes street maintenance damn near impossible; but I also think there must be an occasional meteor shower. That’s the only logical explanation for the massive craters surrounded by buckled concrete and unsuccessful asphalt patching on nearly every side street in the metro area. I think the city’s public works department has basically given up on repairing the streets. In my driving around the city I’ve actually seen:
- A pothole filled with Mardi Gras beads.
- The tip of an orange barrel complemented with large piece of driftwood jutting from a pothole.
- A barrel in a hole in the middle of an intersection – at Poydras and Convention Center Boulevard downtown in the middle of tourism central no less.
- Manholes that used to be flush with the street now at least two feet above the right-of-way surrounded by cones and roped off with crime scene tape.
In the country, however, there was never any warnings of road craters along the pig trails, so my skills of seeing buckled pavement and potholes in advance and dodging them without decelerating are honed to perfection.
Still, even being such an adept driver, I’ll probably never recognize my dream to own a Corvette or any sports car as long as I live here. I suppose I’m just destined to drive a farm vehicle. I wonder if what kind of deal I could get on an H1 Hummer…