I made, what is beginning to feel like, my weekly slog to
In normal traffic conditions, it's about two hours from my back door in
to Greenville, SC 's I-285 outer loop. It's another 30 minutes to the airport, yesterday's destination. Atlanta
Not a terrible drive, the time passes quickly enough. For the most part the scenery is pretty with sufficient hills and curves to keep things at least a little interesting.
I've made the drive in everything from a Hyundai Accent to a Cadillac Escalade ESV. Bigger is better, at least for the purposes of getting from my house to the
Yesterday's journey was in a $49,900 Audi A6 3.0 Premium. It was more like $61,000 with all the trappings. Not too shabby.
Its 310-horsepower supercharged V6 was eager and the ride Queen-Mary smooth. It has an eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission, so fuel economy was pretty good, too. The EPA folks say it gets 22 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
I was tempted to take advantage of its iPod integration and plug my player in, but instead tuned the Sirius satellite radio into channel 10, The Pulse. Typically I listen to the 70s on 7, the 80s on 8 or The Pulse when I have a vehicle with satellite radio. Eventually I tuned into the Raw Dog comedy channel -- another favorite -- for a laugh or two.
My A6 had regular, rather than adaptive, cruise control. I prefer regular. I have purist friends who will shudder upon reading that I use cruise control at all. "Heavens," they might say, "you actually turn some degree of control over to the car's computer?"
While suddenly looking down at the speedometer and finding myself charging along at 90 might not happen in an Accent, it is certainly a distinct possibility in the A6, or most of the vehicles I drive. I-85 between
and Charlotte, NC is a shooting gallery of radar traps. Very few state troopers post themselves along that route, but the local-yokel cops and sheriff's deputies are out there in mass. Atlanta
It makes one wonder who is handling law enforcement in their towns and counties. Must not be a whole lot of crime that they can be spared to run speed traps on stretches of highway that in no way impact their jurisdictions. Is it more about safety than revenue? I think not. Things that make you go, hmmm.
Anyway, back to the cruise control. With adaptive systems that use radar to automatically slow the vehicle down when approaching slower traffic, I suddenly realize that instead of going the 77 miles per hour that the cruise is set at, I am going 65 miles per hour because there is a vehicle 10 car lengths ahead doing 65. I find I have to concentrate just as much on my speed with adaptive cruise control as I do without any cruise control at all. What's the point?
And if nothing else, this stretch of I-85 is almost always a continuous train of 18-wheelers. So, an adaptive cruise control system is constantly braking as I run up on these slow-moving mastodons of the highway. There are times when I believe I could practically walk to
across the tops of their trailers without my feet ever touching pavement. Atlanta
And this brings me to a pet peeve: Truckers who pass other trucks that are traveling 2 miles per hour slower than they are. What makes these fools think it's perfectly okay to take 10 miles to pass another truck with 30 vehicles backed up behind them?
Going down hill the truck they are attempting to pass speeds up, thanks to gravity, and then slows down on the next incline. The passing truck loses ground then gains ground then loses ground then gains ground mile after mile.
I could probably cut 15 or 20 minutes off my
runs if 18-wheelers didn't try to pass other 18-wheelers going only marginally slower than they are. Is there really all that much difference between going 62 miles per hour and going 63? Atlanta
There was nothing to do about it but sit back in the A6's remarkably comfortable, leather-wrapped seat and enjoy the music.