By Scarlette Quille
Reader Humor Columnist
I remember living in a big city. My morning commute was eight miles, and it took no less 30 minutes on a good day. At 5 p.m. it took around 45 minutes. It was maddening. I’m sure it would have been faster to bike or something, but I had three toddlers to pack around, so my options were limited. Good thing I moved up north to wide open roads and far less traffic. Here in the rural part of the state I have a morning commute of 33 miles, and it takes about 38 minutes, give or take a few. Scratch that: You all know I’m completely full of shit. I have no idea how long it will take me to get to work on any given day.
In the winter, if the roads are closed and I am snowed into my driveway, it could take three hours to drive 33 miles. In the spring, if there is a mudslide or flooding, it can and has taken two hours to get to work including parking outside of my workplace and then walking into work on the “high” ground. On any given day, you must pad your departure and arrival times to any important engagement with at least 15 minutes, just in case you are:
1. Stopped by a train multiple times in one trip.
2. Involved in some way in road kill situation, as a victim, a witness or a first aid responder.
3. An over-filled farm truck full of animals or feed has tipped over on the road.
4. Someone has stopped traffic to save a turtle or some other animal on a suicide mission.
5. An absurd traffic detour has materialized overnight that takes drivers through a road that was last used by a horse-drawn carriage. On each side of said detour there will be an angry weather-worn construction flagger overdoing their job. Likely they will choose you as the car that shall not pass.
6. An influx of lost tourists are going down one-way streets during ski season and sun season.
7. You are forced to spend the majority of your drive behind a plow, tractor or some other slow-moving construction-type vehicle.
Oh, but wait … the ante has been upped this summer. The tourists aren’t the only ones lost. In a cruel karmic turn of events Sandpoint’s overlords have changed all the one-way streets into two-way streets. This has created nothing short of chaos for all of the locals who have been driving through downtown Sandpoint in one direction for a lifetime. This insane roadway switch-up comes on the coattails of the installation of a “roundabout” which I’m sure works in Europe or wherever roundabouts originate from. The concept probably works well in places where there are cute little cars and people driving on the wrong side of the road. I am guessing that the inventor of the roundabout, and possibly those who decide to implement them in our area, have never experienced being sandwiched in a tiny one-way circular road by two Litehouse semis.
Let’s talk about this a little more, just to be sure we are all on the same page.
On any given day a Sandpoint driver knows that the quarter-mile stretch between the Super 1 roundabout and the airport is nothing short of an elite Japanese game show obstacle course.
The obstacle course starts on Boyer Avenue, where you will be driving your civilian automobile through a circular death trap called a roundabout. Don’t let the bricks and flowers in the center fool you. Your fellow contestants will be riding in three-ton trucks hauling liquid blue cheese making a series of hairpin turns. All drivers will be expected to avoid taking out children on bikes and people walking exotic dogs. After you make it through the circular death trap, you will head north through mass quantities of teenagers crossing the street erratically either attempting to reign you in for a car wash, or fleeing the Alternative High School. Next you will hit the first set of train tracks and possibly be stuck there for 20 minutes while the cars in front of you whip U-turns and scream profanity as they attempt to access an alternative route. Once you make it over those tracks and their giant pot hole alignment-wrecking doom, you will hit the second set of tracks, experience a longer wait time, the addition of three to four UPS trucks, more people on bicycles, a sharp corner of semi traffic turning into your roadway. At this point the remainder of the pissed off people in front of you will reach epic speeds using the first set of tracks as a ramp to race the railroad guard rail that will be falling slowly blocking the second set of tracks. You will pass this set of tracks, and head up a small hill where deer and the occasional moose are likely to jump into the roadway at any given time. This course can take anywhere from two hours to two minutes on any given day. Also, there is always construction on the final stretch of the road.
This is because road construction on Boyer Avenue can only be completed between the during high traffic times in the heat of summer, every summer, for the rest of eternity.
So while you big city folk may think you know what traffic issues are, truly you know nothing.
Come talk to me about how annoying traffic lights are after you wait through two trains, take a three-mile detour and then finish your commute by scraping deer guts off your bumper.
Expect the unexpected.