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The joys of motoring in the mountains of Maryland

EVERY ONCE in a while, I receive interesting stories about folks' driving experiences in other places - whether their own or events they've witnessed.

Mark Greenwald inspired me to share these stories because they remind us that it is not necessary to relentlessly participate in the race. He e-mailed to gloat about the wonders of life in Western Maryland.

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"I read with great interest all of the pet peeves your readers have mentioned," said Mr. Greenwald, a former Howard County resident who lives in Allegany County. "As I read them, I smiled ... at the LACK of problems in my area. What's amazing to me is that in my eight years of living in the mountains, my driving habits have improved: I don't stay in the left lane at all costs like I used to. And if I see someone that wants in on my lane in front of me, sure, not a problem, it's not going to kill me to let them in.

"One of the things that amuses me is that the 'locals' up here can spot a driver from 'down-state' a mile away. The driving habits are so unusually aggressive to this area that they stand out like a sore thumb. We also cheer when the police set up speed traps [on Interstate 68] at Exit 39 (in LaVale) and Exit 46 (east of Cumberland) because we know that the majority of those caught will be travelers from the Baltimore/Washington area," he said.

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"You can be as aggressive as you'd like in your neck of the woods, but not in our neighborhood, so we support the speed traps and cheer them every time we see them," he said. "Take it from one who has been on both sides of the road, we may be considered 'backwoods' and country up here, but when you factor in the cost of living and the lack of stress on the soul, I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Dan Tebbs, who married a former Marylander, sent me an interesting story about the day after their wedding.

"When we got married, I left my '71 Dodge Dart at the airport and flew out to Maryland for the wedding," he said. "Honeymoon night we stayed in a hotel near the airport and then flew back to Salt Lake City. Home-sweet-trailer was 90 miles north, we had time to kill and we were both absolutely [exhausted] from the wedding day.

"It wasn't rush hour, so I decided to drive real slow and just savor the experience. She slid over on the seat, I put my arm around her and we went about 35 mph the whole way up the interstate," he recounted. "To this day, we feel fortunate that no road-raging maniac ran us off the edge. Indeed, there were many horns. Surprisingly though, only two of the horns included [an angry gesture]. The rest of the folks seemed to be enjoying the spectacle, many waving and either smiling or outright laughing at us."

I also heard from Gay Adams. "North Carolina is the South, and people are for the most part very polite here," she said. "They don't even honk if you don't move when the light turns green! But, there's always an exception, and we probably have quite a few of those in Cary (Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees).

"The two I met must be married to each other. I call them Mr. and Mrs. Mercedes (Obviously, they both drive Mercedes). I don't single out Mercedes drivers, and I don't know why these drivers both happened to be driving Mercedes. They just were. Anyway, Mr. Mercedes, sporting a big brimmed, straw golf hat, was stopped at a light. There were four lanes across: left-turn and right-turn lanes, and two through lanes. I was in the through lane on the left and Mr. Mercedes was in the through lane on the right, next to me," she recalled.

"When the light turned green, he proceeded to turn - left! No signal, no hurry, just everyone stop what you're doing while I go where I need to go, for I am king. Mrs. Mercedes (the queen), whom I've met on more than one occasion - she must live near me - loves to get out of her car and chat with friends while parked in the single-lane road next to the parked cars that were waiting to pick up their children from school. She blocked everyone and was totally oblivious to that fact or didn't care. I'm sure many people would liked to have exited their cars to strangle her - but we live in the South and try to be polite!"

What are your favorite traffic stories about drivers from other places?

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What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.


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