Theme: Roads – The End Of

We take a short look back at the points raised in the theme of the month about to pass.

Street sign

In the opening essay, I asked what are cars without roads to run them on. I also asked “What are those roads and why do they appeal? How do cars and roads relate? Is there a link between geology and the skills of a country’s chassis engineers?” We had some insightful comments from Sean, Eoin, SV and our regular guests, none of which answered those questions.

First to tackle the theme, five days into the month was Sean Patrick who described the Grossglockner pass in Austria, the kind of road whichdestroys brakes, challenges cooling systems and makes passengers sick. Opel bragged about using such a road to test the brakes of their Omega “B”, I recall. A discussion  of motorways brought out divisions between romantics and pragmatists. I argued motorways were ugly and boring and that trains were better suited to long distance inter-city travel. Others felt motorways allowed one to carry a lot of things in your private vehicle, which a plane or train does not allow.

That seems to me, since I have the final word, a high price to pay for scarring the landscape with ugly gouges of sward and asphalt. Supporting my romantic ideals, I described the pains and gains of travelling the back-roads of Ireland (or any back roads) with suitable cartographic materials.  Contributor Melle chipped in to mention “sat nav” as an alternative to paper. What next, electric ignition of motors?

2015 x-roadWe took a detour into the realms of the metaphorical with a piece about Kraftwerk’s album Autobahn  and Chris Rea’s album Road To Hell. Of the two, I feel Kraftwerk’s had the more subtle and ambivalent message, hence its enduring appeal. We could have gone on to discuss music to listen to while on the road but perhaps that is a step too far from our main theme.

In his meditation on Britain’s longest road, Sean Patrick asked to think about the abstract notion of the “north” in Britain and also the changing physical character of the roads we drive on. SV Robinson’s description of driving in France lead to a vibrant discussion of what we were willing to pay for out of taxation.

Still in France Eoin asked us to imagine cycling up Mont Ventoux. This cycling-viewpoint of roads was the one that most concerned me when I was thinking on this topic but I never addressed it as Eoin did – really roads are wasted on cars. The nuances, details, smells even, are all screened from you in a car in the way they never are in a bike. Real connoisseurs of roads are probably those on two wheels.

 A little digression on Rhodes’ roads (capital: Rhodes)  led me to think about roads very few cars will ever go and the irony that to get there you need to spend a lot of time in a boat, with your car moving very little. We missed a chance to address the roads of Rhodesia, didn’t we?

2015 x bad roadThe Guardian provided some inspiration for the ten best roads you never heard of. I have forgotten them already. It did allow Sean to suggest some other equally useless listicles such as ‘Ten 10 Best Lists To Avoid Compiling Unless You Want To Appear To Be An Unimaginative, Lazy Hack.’ I imagined that May, Hammond and C***kson were working on building their own roads in a suitably personal style.  C***Kson would have to have a motorway.

That concluded, effectively, our ruminations on roads which covered a lot of ground but not by the route I had imagined, which is perhaps appropriate for the theme.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

One thought on “Theme: Roads – The End Of”

  1. Richard. Your synopsis has spurred me on to outline the piece I never wrote, which was (would have been) inspired by Melle’s comment about sat-nav. I know London well enough to rarely use sat-nav. When travelling outside, because I am both driver and map-reader, and because I am too short sighted to read a map with the same glasses I drive with, it is more convenient to use sat-nav. However, I don’t really like it. Maps are nicer, give a better overview of the journey but, at the same time, somehow retain a bit more mystery.

    Sat-navs, whose graphics incidentally tend to make you think you are in Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ video, just emphasise that little section of the present that you inhabit. They don’t let you savour a journey, they only deal with the just-in-time crisis management of approaching junctions.

    I see some people driving with their sat-navs stuck to the screen in their direct line of vision. It might be suggested that this is a safety measure, permitting minimum deflection of gaze but, since these people are invariably poor drivers I ask whether the placing of the screen in such a stupid position is just a symptom of their poor driving, or whether the dissociation caused by confusing a graphic of the real world with the real world itself is what has made them poor drivers.

    There are upsides to satnavs. Being able to find petrol stations for instance and real-time notification of traffic jams up ahead. And, I have to admit, speed camera warnings. So I don’t really condemn them, possibly I just wish for a more adventurous, even less literal, interface

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