JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: As I mentioned earlier this week, I took Youngest to the Boston area on a one day college tour. (Her high school gave the day off to juniors and provided their own tours, but they were to schools Youngest has no interest in, ie, they were in Maine.) We saw Wellesley, which we both liked very much, and then attempted to make the noon tour and info session at Boston College. Attempted being the operative word. Despite its name, BC is located in Newton, which shall henceforth be known as Frikkin' Newton. I've tangled with Frikkin' Newton before. On a past college trip with the Smithie and friends, we visited Mount Ida College, getting lost in both a park and a cemetery before stumbling onto the campus.
This time, Youngest and I managed to find Boston College after backing and forthing several times on Route 16. We just couldn't get ONTO the campus. Despite having GPS and printed directions from the Admissions Office, we couldn't find Admissions, or the parking garage they suggested for us. We went this way and that, through suburban streets, always and ever finding ourselves returning to Beacon Street, like some sort of Twilight Zone episode. Finally we bushwacked our way back to the interstate and headed for Providence and the end-of-the-afternoon tour of Brown. Sorry, BC.
Our own Hank lives in Frikkin' Newton, on a street with no discernible name at an address that doesn't appear on GPS and befuddles taxi drivers. This is not unusual - the villages of Newton have any number of streets with no visible names, opening onto commercial avenues that take the hapless driver right back out into the tangled residential areas. The area was the early settlers' New Town, dating from 1630, and the streets were apparently laid out in the 17th century over cow paths and in the 19th century by developers with inner ear balance disorders.
I'm not even going to talk about the time Hank had to drive in front of me to get me from the charming New England Mobile Book Fair (which in the best Newton tradition is neither mobile, nor a fair) to the highway home. If it weren't for her and Jonathan, I'd be trapped there still. It's a wonder Youngest and I made it out.
For this and so much more, I vote Newton, Mass as the Worst Place to Drive in the United States.
Reds, where are your nominees?
HALLIE EPHRON: So little time, so many confusing places. I vote for the entire Boston area, where cross streets usually aren't labeled. And my GPS runs off its little rails whenever I drive through downtown through what we fondly remember as The Big Dig. The message: if you don't know where you are, you don't belong here. If I had to pick one place it's coming onto Storrow Drive and trying to get to Mass General.
Further afield, there's also a bridge you have to navigate through coming in or out of Pittsburgh with signage to too many connecting roads that is so confusing and comes too late. Ring a bell, anyone??
This is why I love GPS. When it says "Turn left, then turn left, then turn left..." it sounds so calm.
RHYS BOWEN: Oh yes, we had a fun time driving in Boston, taking almost an hour to get to an event with Hank that should have been fifteen minutes away. But things are just as bad on the West Coast. I pity people driving through LA for the first time because the freeways have names and don't actually say where they are going, and the off ramp is sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, across four or five lines of really fast traffic.
GPS makes things easier but I have learned the hard way to check their directions first... as when I was heading north from New Jersey and the GPS took me on a "short-cut" across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan during morning rush-hour.
Italian roads outside of cities are perfectly signed, however I once navigated John onto a street in Florence that was for taxis and emergency vehicles only. And once on this network of streets we couldn't escape because everything was one way. Luckily we didn't get caught. I think India probably takes the cake for the worst roads in the universe ( cows, camels, donkeys, overloaded trucks etc and only one strip of sealed road they compete for, but we've always had a driver so can just shut our eyes and pray)
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, see, here's the thing. In Massachusetts,
there's I-128. If you want to go south on 128 from our house, you have
to take 128 North, because it goes north first. It's sometimes called
I-95. It's kind of the same thing. The North End of Boston is east of
Downtown, and South Boston is kind of east. And there's a neighborhood
called the West End, but I'm not sure what it's west of. 93 South is
called the Southeast Expressway, but you can't go any farther east,
really, because you'd be in the ocean. I mean the harbor. Routes 1 and 3
are also called the Southeast Expressway. And I live in West Newton,
which is North of Newton center.
So, yeah. Italy is worse. And our house is SO easy to find. You just have to know where it is.
JULIA: And they say Maine is where "you can't get the-ah from he-ah."
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh this is a really hard choice. I've ridden in the Boston area while intrepid Hallie drove. I couldn't get over the maniacs rushing past us in the right hand BREAKDOWN LANE! But LA is hideous as Rhys notes, and driving down the length of New Jersey is an exercise in taking your life in your hands, and around Miami is dreadful too, because of ridiculous drivers. I'm becoming one of those people who is constantly looking for back country road "shortcuts!"
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'd have to say anywhere in UK traffic (I will be driving for a few days later on this trip, but not in city traffic!) but my worst ever driving award goes to the city of dreaming spires and Inspector Morse--Oxford. Even my English friends agree that Oxford is even worse than driving in London!
JULIA: How about you, dear readers? What are your navigational horror stories?