Monday, May 08, 2006


I love driving at what might best be called "elevated" speeds, and I'm fairly skilled at it. That's one of the reasons I love going to Germany: some sections of the famous autobahn system are still speed-limit-free during daylight hours when the weather is good.

Yes, even if you happen to be driving something like this Mercedes-Benz T80 (a monster powered by an aircraft engine. It was built just before World War II to establish a new world speed record somewhere up around 500 km/h, but never had a chance to show its stuff) you are free to drive as quickly as common sense and conditions allow...
(photo courtesy some nameless guy with a camera)

Sadly, this has become less of a pleasure as the years have gone by. Sure, given a suitably rapid car -- in my case, capable of something over 250 km/h -- one can pelt along like Rudi Caracciola in his prime, but the overall skill level of those one shares the road with seems to have declined in Germany as it has here in the USA.

Once upon a time, no driver in, say, a VW Golf diesel would think of wandering into the fast lane to pass an even slower car or truck without looking in his mirrors first. Not so now. Thank goodness brakes are better these days; they need to be.

Part of this I attribute to a wave of political correctness that has washed over Germany. Used to be that a driver who was overtaking quickly could flash the headlights to warn drivers ahead that he -- or she -- was in full flight-mode. No longer. That's considered a sign of incipient road rage now, and is strengst verboten. You can still turn the lights on in daylight and leave 'em on, but that doesn't add up to much since anyone can do that, no matter how fast or slow they happen to be going.

It should be noted that when there are posted speed limits, they are enforced ruthlessly, as are prohibitions on following another car too closely and other elements of inattentive or clumsy driving. I'm all for that, wish such things drew such official attention here at home.

I will say it's still one of life's pleasure to blur the scenery along the autobahnen. I find it relaxing, in fact; you're concentrating, of course, looking a long way down the road, always keeping potential disasters in mind, but it's not very much of a strain. Unless, that is, you have to worry about wandering minds in the cars ahead. Even then, it's more of a challenge than a cause for anger.

For all the times I've been fortunate to enjoy the sensations of b-to-the-w autobahn travel, I've never been King Of The Hill. Even while running absolutely flat-out in one of the confections placed in my none-too-tender care last week -- I'll estimate I was running at roughly 275-280 km/h, not having had time to glance down at the speedometer -- I shot a look into the mirror at one point to see a small speck behind me growing rapidly into a large Porsche that was booming along at something near 300....

I changed lanes and let him by. I'm polite like that.

Fortunately, I didn't have to drive right away when I got home. The adjustment back to 55 mph can be a jarring experience!


Kim said...

Oooh love the autoban - 280 ks is bloody fast though!

MrScribbler said...

It is indeed, Kim! But fun! When you have the power, gotta use it....

Anonymous said...

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