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Old 7th February 2005, 17:08   #1
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Default My first drive in a big league highway

The year was 1993, me and couple of friends had just obtained our New Jersey Driving Licenses. So, we planned our first big trip, a 1100+ miles in 3 days. Let me remind you, none of us had driven cars in India or anywhere else until then. Among us only I had any driving experience, that too on scooter in Bangalore. The other two only rode buses and trains until then. Therefore, I was chosen as the primary driver.

First we rented a car, it was a 1993 model Mercury Topaz with only 3000 miles on it. Before getting out of NJ we had to join up one more group of friends about 60 miles up north. Hence, we entered the big bad New Jersey Turnpike.

This is a huge 6-12 lane highway which cuts across NJ, almost all of you must have seen this highway in various movies, just don't know it yet. I entered through the entry ramp and smoothly merged into the traffic at 6AM. It was fall time (early October) and still dark. I went with the flow of the traffic and everything was cool. Then I looked at the speedo and shuddered, I had crossed 85 miles (136KMs) and the speedo didn't have markings beyond 85.

Funny thing was I was not speeding at all. I was going as fast as everybody else in the middle lane, as I was taught I was going with the flow of the traffic. My friends were impressed with my driving skills on the very first day on a major highway. But as you will see they were too quick to judge...

We had to get out pretty soon at one of the exits to join our friends. In our excitement we forgot to keep track of the exit numbers. Suddenly one friend screamed, this is the exit. I was about 50 foot from the exit at 85 MPH and I took the exit ramp. BTW, I am pretty good with the brakes, I never pump or jam the brakes. I usually squeeze the brakes in a steady manner making sure it never jams. Anyway, I was able to shed about 20 MPH before the exit ramp twisted into the local road. Basically, I took that 25MPH turn at 65MPH and stared dumb at the red traffic light. After I took the turn I was down to 60 MPH and there was no way I could stop, so I ran through the red light which was followed by one more right angle turn followed by a red traffic light. I was still too fast to stop. These traffic lights were coming up immediately after the turns without any room to slow down. So, I ran through the second red light too. Again one more right angle turn, which again I took. Now this is where things turn little hazy. Few months later we couldn't remember whether I jumped 2 or 3 red lights. My friends thought I jumped 3 lights, but I find it little too far fetched, I think it was 2 red lights and 3 turns before I came to a stop.

When I finally stopped, there was silence in the car. None of us could believe how we rocketed out of the highway at 85MPH and jumped 2/3 red lights and took three 90 degree turns in less than 10 seconds and lived. We didn't hit any cars while jumping the red lights, or hit anything else in the turns and more importantly there were no cops to bust us. I humbly offered to giveup my driver's seat to one of them thinking they must have lost confidence in my driving. Funny how impressions change. However, they were more scared than me by this experience. Since I got them out alive and unharmed, I was asked to continue driving. It took 700 miles more before one of them volunteered to drive.

By the time I returned from the trip, I knew I had graduated as a car driver. Passing multiple 18 wheelers at 80 MPH on the wicked S curves on Pennsylvania turnpike was the highlight of that trip. One more trick I tried and learnt in that trip was how to switch lanes at 80+ MPH in wicked curves that were mile long or more. Like switching from left lane to right lane when the road is curving left or right and right to left lane when road is curving left or right, etc.

I don't enjoy speeding in the straight line, anyone can do that, therefore I don't see much challenge in that. Besides, cops can see you from miles and bust you. After accidently discovering my turning skills in the above incident , I started speeding only in turns after that, especially jug handle turns. New Jersey being the home of jug handles and winding serpentine roads never disappointed me in this aspect.
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Old 7th February 2005, 17:14   #2
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You jumped 3 stop lights? man you are lucky not to have hit anyone.
Drive safe dude.

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Old 7th February 2005, 17:23   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drifter
You jumped 3 stop lights? man you are lucky not to have hit anyone.
Drive safe dude.

Drifter
Yes, I was very lucky and also it was 6.15AM on a weekend in the sleepy local road.

Regarding driving safe, after driving in NJ for 8+ years I have never been in an accident, never got a speeding ticket, never even been pulled over by a cop, ever!

How I managed to do that is a story for some other day.
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Old 7th February 2005, 17:40   #4
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hey Samurai,
thats a nice write up! I had a similar experience when I was at CA, a group of 5 friends with me behind the wheel took off to Yosemite national Park. Nobody had a US driving license not even me , thou I had an international Drivers License. Managed to get a rental car (Pontiac grand am v6, awesome m/c compared to indian cars) But somehow I took to driving like a duck to water had a blast for 500 miles up/down. Our other group of 5 friends(supposed to be leading the way) were in a Saturn I was killing them in the straights
cheers,
Rai
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Old 7th February 2005, 18:13   #5
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I have a correction to make, as I was recollecting the incident again, I was trying to remember which exit it was and I realised it couldn't have been NJ Turnpike. The NJ turnpike has toll booths after the exit, can't have traffic lights there.

As I remember better now, we got out of NJ turnpike at exit 11 and got into Garden State parkway which is again 6-10 lane highway. The incident I mentioned happened when I was exiting the G.S Parkway.

Last edited by Samurai : 7th February 2005 at 18:30.
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Old 7th February 2005, 18:21   #6
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neat write up ....
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Old 7th February 2005, 18:38   #7
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Thatís a nice write up dude. I am another guy here, who has done his graduation in car driving in US.
At that time i was not even aware about this mist forming on windshield due to temp diff. Once on a night, driving back to apartment, it started raining and man, the ride was one scary thing which i will never forget. Used a piece of paper to wipe of the moisture!!!
Then went and took a 200$ car driving class. 200 might sound costly, the way the instructor conducted it was simply awesome and completely worth it. Later spent about four months zooming around atlanta. Did a couple of overnight ride to florida. Off late I managed to get a speeding ticket for 145$.

But have to say that after some time, driving in US is boring.

Last edited by gkrishn : 7th February 2005 at 18:39.
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Old 19th February 2005, 17:42   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gkrishn

But have to say that after some time, driving in US is boring.

Haha, i totally agree. Nothing beats the challenge and fun of driving in India!
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Old 20th February 2005, 12:16   #9
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u lucky dukes,

driving around the freeways of the u.s. - the american dream (or at least the freedom run for teenagers!)

samurai - good write up - glad u got out without knocking anybody - and didn't get sued.

you would have still been in the local deli - scrubbing dishes when on payrole
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Old 20th February 2005, 22:40   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cream
u lucky dukes,

driving around the freeways of the u.s. - the american dream (or at least the freedom run for teenagers!)
Not exactly, US highways are infested with state troopers waiting at speed traps to trap speeding drivers. It is basically a fund raising activity for them. In fact, most US cops have a quota for catching violators. You have to be especially careful during month end since many cops are looking to fill their quota.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cream
you would have still been in the local deli - scrubbing dishes when on payrole
You mean parole... Well, when non-citizens on temporary visa commits a major non-violent crime, they get deported. There was this case around the same time. One guy from my company had bought a used car even before getting his license. He had not registered it since he was waiting to get this license. One day he got really drunk and took his unregistered car and drove into a major highway. In his drunken state he exited from the wrong exit. As he realised his mistake, he started reversing back into the parkway using the same exit... That's when he was caught by the cops. A non-citizen driving drunk without license in an unregistered car (no license plates!) backing into the highway via an exit...

After spending night in the lockup couple of days, he was deported
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Old 23rd May 2008, 09:51   #11
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Yeah, I know this is an old thread, but chanced here from the cliff-hanger thread.

BTW, nice write-up, Samurai.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai
In fact, most US cops have a quota for catching violators. You have to be especially careful during month end since many cops are looking to fill their quota.
Ha. And I was thinking this month-end quota is only for the CCTP (Chennai City Traffic Police).

Maybe I am wrong, but I think it is easier to drive and get used to the US/European way of driving if you have never driven before in your life, rather than if you have driven extensively in India. I tried driving in Belgium just once in '98 and gave up promptly and never even thought of driving during my subsequent trips to the US. On the other hand, I have colleagues who have never driven a car in India, but who cooly rent cars in the US and drive around. And to rub it in, they say it is soooo damn easy.
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Old 23rd May 2008, 10:22   #12
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Why is it that in the US of A, people drive on the PARKWAY and Park on the DRIVEWAY.......

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
I have a correction to make, as I was recollecting the incident again, I was trying to remember which exit it was and I realised it couldn't have been NJ Turnpike. The NJ turnpike has toll booths after the exit, can't have traffic lights there.

As I remember better now, we got out of NJ turnpike at exit 11 and got into Garden State parkway which is again 6-10 lane highway. The incident I mentioned happened when I was exiting the G.S Parkway.
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Old 23rd May 2008, 13:08   #13
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SupremeBaleno, I was in a similar position many years back. After years of mastering the ways of our country's highways and urban roads, getting used to the 'Left hand drive (LHD)' or 'keep right' can be a little frightening because of the tendency to drift left and the risk of entering the wrong lane whilst turning.
Many of my British colleagues in New York agree on this point, but after a brief period one does get 'acclimatized'. The one thing that always used to get me though is, returning from a trip to India, my left hand would hit the drivers door trying to shift gears on my LHD manual transmission car in the US
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Old 23rd May 2008, 16:05   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PraveenM View Post
SupremeBaleno, I was in a similar position many years back. After years of mastering the ways of our country's highways and urban roads, getting used to the 'Left hand drive (LHD)' or 'keep right' can be a little frightening because of the tendency to drift left and the risk of entering the wrong lane whilst turning.
Many of my British colleagues in New York agree on this point, but after a brief period one does get 'acclimatized'. The one thing that always used to get me though is, returning from a trip to India, my left hand would hit the drivers door trying to shift gears on my LHD manual transmission car in the US
I think LHD and RHD is more in the mind. My approach from day 1 (when I drove in the US). The driver stays towards the middle of the road, and the passenger side to the edge of the road. After this, everything is pretty easy including taking turns in either direction - atleast I never faced a problem. Initially, LHD/RHD was a big worry though ...
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Old 23rd May 2008, 18:28   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shankar.balan View Post
Why is it that in the US of A, people drive on the PARKWAY and Park on the DRIVEWAY.......
That was really
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