Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Swooping Home From Detroit

Since earliest childhood, I've had an utter fascination with high-speed travel. Scramjets (10x faster than current aircraft; NYC to Sydney in two hours!), vacuum tubes, maglevs, bullet trains, and the whole beautiful gamut of clever schemes for interstellar travel; I can dive into this stuff all day, completely absorbed.

It's not about speed, per se. I do drive fast, and would have probably enjoyed being a race car driver. But it's not the pure velocity that appeals to me, so much as the notion of fast transit. I was easily bored as a kid, and car trips felt endless (my father had the habit of driving the final few miles home from a long car trip with regal languor - I nearly stroke out just remembering it). Planes and trains were similarly pokey for my taste. It seemed somehow wrong - almost insultingly so - that conveyance was so earthwormly slow.

I've had a recurrent dream since early childhood where I'm zooming cross-country. It's not clear if I'm on the ground or in the air, but I'm tearing through states like nothing.

Wow. I just remembered where this came from! It was the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs tunnels across a map of the United States, ends up in the wrong destination, and remarks "I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!" Something about this macro view of travel really appealed to me. I wanted it!

So in my dream, I chew up prodigious map distances, gracefully segueing from region to region, executing macro turns to go south (Florida!) or north (Canada!). I'm like Bugs on the map.

Only once have I actually managed this in real life. Driving home from Detroit once, I actually had the sensation of swooping from Detroit to New York.

Let me explain. Virtually no one has ever driven from NYC to Boston. We drive from NYC to the Bronx, and from the Bronx into Westchester, from there into Connecticut, then through a boring patch, possibly involving bathrooms and food. Then we drive to Sturbridge Mass to get on the Mass Pike. From there we might glide into Boston in more or less one swoop. But the drive, overall, is six drives, minimum, and more often 60 or 600. I defy you to get in a car in NYC and simply drive to Boston. You can't do it. You will lose the flow. It will fragment.

But one time I managed to actually drive home from Detroit. There were two major highway interchanges, and I watched myself execute them on a very large mental map. A left at Toledo and a right at Cleveland. I never lost the big picture - the swoop - of it. Particularly one-pointed was the portion from Eastern Pennsylvania to New York, which played out like gliding through a vast tunnel - or like a marathon's final mile with the stadium distantly in view. The drive was one of my proudest accomplishments.

I will, alas, not live to travel through a suboceanic tube from the East Coast to Europe at 5000 mph. Nor will I travel on a generational light sail vessel to Alpha Centauri. These will be my sole dying regrets (however I will, I think, get to go to bed in a self-driving camper and wake up in front of a carefully chosen diner in Maine when I'm old and otherwise unable to manage such an odyssey). But at least I did once swoop home from Detroit.

P.S. - There is a Maglev train connecting Shanghai Airport with the city. It completes the 19 mile journey in 7.5 minutes (!!), topping out at 268 mph. This makes Shanghai airport layovers a very interesting prospect! (The big question is whether there's anything good to eat near Longyang Road Station - the maglev's terminus - or if one must board the metro.)

P.P.S. - If that Bugs Bunny episode had an effect on you, too, then I invite you to witness the following. A good deal of my adult neurotic fear and dread traces directly back to the "Child Catcher" scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I didn't consciously remember until recently stumbling across it:

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Each massive multiplayer online game I have played has included a speed class that can run around solo real fast or grant speed to an entire group. Such fun. Also I watched a bit of the Flash tv show. Best use of speed was when he went to a far away town that had fantastic pizza and got a pie real quick for his family and friends.

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