Moran: Traffic jams are an annoyance in the grand scheme

Mario Dunn of Carpentersville controls traffic during a burn of natural gas at road construction along Delany Road and Yorkhouse Road in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr./Sun-Times Media
Mario Dunn of Carpentersville controls traffic during a burn of natural gas at road construction along Delany Road and Yorkhouse Road in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr./Sun-Times Media

Tales are being spun at this very moment about the Great Route 120 Shutdown of 2014 — now playing in Grayslake and set to end on Wednesday, Aug. 13.

But I’m here to report that Interstate 65 south of Indianapolis is also currently the stuff of traffic horror stories, specifically between mile markers 50 and 29. And northbound I-75 south of Macon, Ga., is down to two lanes at mile marker 105, which might be a problem even if you’re hitting it after sunset.

These are among the traffic updates I can lend after a 2,500-mile journey to the Deep South and back, a voyage that revealed many things, not the least of which is that sweating is a way of life anywhere beyond Chattanooga, Tenn.

Let me state right up front that I love to drive cross-country. To my way of thinking, pulling out of the driveway at 4 in the morning with a goal of reaching a Super 8 in Valdosta, Ga., sometime before midnight is not a task but an adventure.

In a driving life that has taken me to Seattle and Phoenix and New York City and beyond, much of this travel has been done in overnight fashion, which comes with certain advantages. You don’t have to overuse the air conditioning, and the kids can shut down their need for bathrooms while sleeping the miles away.

An overnight drive also largely does away with the evils of traffic. You can escape Chicago on the Tri-State without worrying about delays around O’Hare or the 163rd Street Toll Plaza, and you can pass through unfamiliar metropolitan areas and admire the bright lights rather than curse the time you’re wasting.

For example, I’m told that Atlanta has some of the worst metro traffic the nation has to offer outside of Los Angeles. Having passed through there twice last week at 11 p.m., this complaint remains a mystery.

But much of last week’s Southern Campaign, for various reasons, took place during the heat of the day — and during the heat of the aforementioned construction zones. I was all set to complain about his until we passed through a gaper’s delay in Nashville and saw the remains of what turned out to have been a fatal accident between a minivan and semi parked on the shoulder.

The victim? A man exactly my age.

Not that I needed the reminder, but traffic jams are merely an annoyance in the grand scheme. When traveling anywhere near or far, it is always best to arrive safe and sound rather than early.

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