To many, including UK residents, the M1 motorway was not Britain’s inaugural Special Road, that honour goes to what was enigmatically entitled the Preston Northerly Bypass, now part of the M59. While the UK began to contemplate 70mph limits and new styles of signage, the M1 of today’s piece is across the Atlantic, owning a longevity along with its own unique history – Woodward Avenue.
Many years before Detroit was even a township, native Americans had developed trading routes and trails, one of which was the Saginaw. By the early 19th century, that path had become a 120ft wide right-of-way for the now burgeoning city. The aftermath of a devastating fire saw a city layout redesign, somewhat mirroring Washington DC and labelled the ‘Paris of the West’. Continue reading “Detroit, Michigan 48226-3473”
Many moons have passed since receiving that joyful package by post – my prize – my road atlas. A local newspaper held a competition whereby one had to successfully recognise parts of the UK motorway network as a black line on a map. From memory, the M1, the M5, the M62, the M3 and the one I believe won me the prize being the M55, Preston Northerly to Blackpool and Britain’s first stretch of motorway.
We take a short look back at the points raised in the theme of the month about to pass.
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.
Everyone has a skeleton of some form in their cupboard. Among the bones in my ossuary is the fact I sought, bought and listened to Chris Rea’s Road to Hell.
The album is from 1989 and does not fit in with the other material I listened to at the time which included the Fatima Mansions first EP “Against Nature”, The The (“Mind Bomb” and “Infected”) and various random bits of 20th century classical music, as I recall. Plus the Housemartins. I still see the Beautiful South as an inauthentic replacement for the Housemartins.
This article is a list of the ten best roads you might not have heard of. It’s cheap and easy padding for the Guardian but the photos are nice. Here is one:
I had not heard of any of the roads though some of them seem to be good enough to warrant a higher level of awareness than they seem to have. Isn’t the problem with tourism journalism that it makes people go to see places because they are unspoiled, thus spoiling them? It’s an extractive industry in a way.
Rhodes is pretty much as far east as you can get before you leave Europe. Most people fly there.
Rhodes is not that big a place, almost 80 km from north to south and almost 40 km from east to west. 115,000 people live there full time and must cope with a huge, fluctuating tourist population.
Most of Rhodes’ roads are paved and once you get out of the main towns there are many sinuous and varied local roads winding through the island’s mountainous landscape. Like most Greek roads the surfaces are irregular and poorly maintained. Road signs are only sporadic and you must Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Rhodes”
Racetracks are a type of road. A decade ago I had my one and probably only racetrack experience, a drive on the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
What do I remember? What really stands out are that if I had been driving the car myself I would not have survived the first corner. The facilities suffer a want of quality and style. And, finally the other people there are not really people I have much in common with.
“Physically, the Ventoux is dreadful. Bald, it’s the spirit of Dry: Its climate (it is much more an essence of climate than a geographic place) makes it a damned terrain, a testing place for heroes, something like a higher hell.” (Roland Barthes)
The urge to ascend mountains is ancient and mysterious. It has been suggested it’s rooted in the notion of a spiritual journey toward the divine. Certainly there’s an altered state one feels at high altitude, but this probably has as much to do with oxygen deprivation than anything of a more lofty nature. Continue reading “Theme: Roads – A Ride to the Moon”
A recent trip to La Belle France served only to remind me of just how dire are our UK roads, and to wonder at how the French can afford to keep theirs in such good condition.
During the Easter period, my family spent 10 days tooling around roads in the very centre of France. There was a real mix of roads: Autoroutes, dual-track roads, main roads (we’d call them A roads), as well as single track stuff and streets around towns and villages. All this was in a new-ish, but humble Megane 1.5dCi hire car. Our base was a pretty (but not fancy) little town called Argenton-sur-Creuse, but we ventured as far as La Rochelle, and in and around La Brenne. It’s fabulously rural (La Rochelle excepted), but the state of the roads is anything but that. Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Central France”
The 1952 British film ‘Mr Denning Drives North’ is supposed to be a mystery thriller, so you’d think it would have been given a suitably mysterious title. And it was. Though its star, the excellent John Mills, was born in Norfolk and was never entirely typecast, his speciality was playing the essentially decent, resilient, middle class Englishman with an accent that is usually associated with what are known as The Home Counties – the Southern counties surrounding London. As such, the idea that he needed to ‘Drive North’ might have suggested mystery enough. Why would he ever want to do that, unless he had to for some, dark, dark reason?
The North/South divide is not confined to England. It exists in many countries and, I’d judge, is far more common than an East/West divide. There are many possible suggestions for why this is, but in part one might be climate. Climate affects character and, in more extreme cases such as Italy, the climate in Naples is very different from that in Milan. Even in the UK, Southerners generally get a softer time than those further North and this, combined with the fact that the Capital city is only about 60 miles from the South Coast, has increased the divide still further. Continue reading “Theme : Roads – Britain’s Longest”
Wait. Didn’t we do motorways a few days ago? Why are we doing the same thing again, only in German?
The Autobahn in question is Kraftwerk’s landmark albumfrom 1974. I have a copy of this record but I don’t listen to it very much, in part because it rather too successfully captures the tedium of driving on an Autobahn and not Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Autobahn”
On two occasions I drove diagonally across Ireland using local roads. It was rewarding though tiring.
The first trip went from the south east, Wexford, to the north-west, Sligo. We drove in the middle of winter in my much-missed base-model 1990 Peugeot 205. What could have been a four-hour trip via Dublin on the main roads took about eight but we got to see corners of Ireland by-passed by the 20th century. It was rather a long time ago now (1993) so I can’t provide a great deal of detail. What stands out though was Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Across Ireland as the Crow Drives”
James May* wrote that if you find yourself driving on a motorway you are probably in the wrong vehicle. You should be on a train.
I tend to agree and having begun a twice weekly commute of 100 km, I have not once considered driving. I have done so in order to avoid the E45 motorway. On the train I can read, sleep, write or even meet people. A dislike of motorways is something that car enthusiasts and ecologists can agree on. Motorists, on the other hand Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Motorways, the Case Against”
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße) in Austria, referred to hereafter as The Glockner, is known as one of the great Alpine roads of Europe. Only open six months of the year and named after the local mountain, I’ve crossed it several times, in varying weather. I’ve enjoyed the experience, I’ve marvelled at the view and I’ve maybe wished that I was driving something faster and nimbler, without a passenger whose comfort I needed to consider and with less dawdling traffic around. Because it is a fine and challenging road with lots of hairpin bends, long curves and occasional straights and tunnels. Continue reading “Theme : Roads – Meandering”
Quite a lot of ink is used discussing the handling and ride of cars. Is it ride or is it handling that comes first? For some, these parameters are the deciders when it comes to assessing a car’s excellence or otherwise. Very thorough people go so far as to take in interest in tyres since some cars’ behaviour is affected directly by the rubber chosen to deck the wheels. This raises the question of why ride is an issue and why Continue reading “Theme : Roads – An Introduction”