Speed

Lights Out Time On Frenchtown Road

At my first job during high school I used to work at Lucky bagging groceries. Justin Ames bagging groceries? Yeah, I’m not above a little manual labor now and then and it was a good first job because the hours were flexible and it paid quite well (Also, as I found out later, Snoop Dogg’s first job was bagging groceries for Lucky. So, I was in good company). Anyway, during the week, I used to work the 5-10 p.m. shift because I had school during the day (not that I went that often, but that’s another story). Getting off work at 10 p.m. in those days meant a pretty lonely drive back to Oregon House as Highway 20, Marysville Road and, particularly, Frenchtown Road would be essentially empty at that time of night. I soon learned to maximize this drive to the point that I once completed the Marysville to Oregon House run in seventeen minutes while racing another driver.

One night as I was driving home and contemplating additional ways I could make the drive more interesting, I noticed that there was a brilliant full moon out and that the countryside was fairly well lit. Well lit to the point that I thought someone could probably drive without their lights on. Click. I flicked off my lights. Sure enough, it was indeed bright enough to drive without one’s lights on. After a minute my eyes adjusted to the dark and after winding my window down and turning the radio off, I felt as one with the road with nature and with the night. It was a glorious feeling.

So, naturally, I had to experiment with the limits of “lights out” driving. I tested driving in less than a full moon (much more difficult), driving faster and faster (difficult but rewarding in and of itself) and driving in different weather conditions such as fog or hail.

The most productive experimentation emerged from my efforts to break the Frenchtown Road time record for driving in the rain. Setting the Frenchtown Road speed record and/or time record during sunny weather is a fairly straightforward process. However, I found that my efforts to set a time record in the rain were hampered by the fact that I could not help but react to the presence of puddles and water on the road, causing me to reduce my speed or take a less productive line through a corner.

So, using my “lights out” driving style, I reasoned that if I could not see the puddles and water on the road that I would not be able to negatively react to them and would, therefore, improve my times. I was right and the rain record I set in the dark stands to this day despite efforts over the years to best my record during daylight rain time trials.

If you want to make your drive more interesting or try and set a rain time record of your own, give it a try…

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