Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fast Company: going for the checkered flag on the Parkway

Posted By on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. It's race day and time for couch potatoes to sit back, relax and watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on television. But, what if you're into speed but want to be more active than sedentary? Might I suggest taking a drive on the Parkway? Afterall, the Parkway is the closest thing to an unofficial raceway that we have in town.

While the real NASCAR drivers were turning laps at the Pocono Speedway in Pennsylvania, local Benites, tourons (aka tourists) and pseudo Ricahard Pettys were making with the speed on the Parkway.

I couldn't resist the urge to get in on the action so got my 1994 F-150 Ford pickup up to 50 mph and started down the Parkway south to north. By the time hit the hunk of metal sculpture apparently donated to our fair city by the former Soviet Union (it does appear to be post Tsarist industrial art), things were already heating up.

Up from behind me came an SUV with two touring kayaks on top and four bikes on a rear bike carrier. He's was doing about 75 mph. Blocked from changing lanes, the SUV's driver slowed and got about four inches off my rear bumper.

This excellent drafting technique was soon followed by others as a spiffy Audi and a brand new hot Ford Fiesta fell into the pace line behind the SUV, each car about four inches from the one in front of them.

Suddenly, there was an opening in the left lane and bam, all three cars drafting off of me switched lanes and I'm left there plugging along (now at 55 mph) looking about as slow as a cement truck at a drag race.

But wait, there's trouble ahead for the very fast in the left lane and it's a woman in a battered Corolla who refuses to drive a single mile per hour above the 45 MPH posted speed limit. What is she thinking? Why is she screwing up a great day of racing?

Then the right lane became clear as a few cars exited onto Empire Avenue. The stream of fast cars (now hitting what must be between 75 and 80 mph) race ahead. Behind me the action is hot with cars coming up fast and switching lanes every two seconds.

It's wild and sure beats the hell out of sitting watching racing on television. I was considering doing another run or two up and down the Parkway when a Chrysler 300 blasted by me at 90 mph, and I knew I couldn't compete.

But how cool was the scene and how much fun is Parkway racing? Loads of fun and forget the 45mph speed limit that's just a recommended slow speed.

For the record, I was on the City Council (then Commission) when the Parkway was approved. The original design called for numerous stoplights and the Council/Commission went to ODOT and asked that the roadway be stoplight free.

ODOT revised their plan dropped several stoplights, however, they refused to budge on the Council/Commission's request for a 65 mph speed limit. The limit was set at 45 mph.

So, I ask, how about we revisit the speed limit issue because apart from the lady in the Corolla this past Sunday, I seriously doubt that anyone ever drives 45, or even 50, mph on the Parkway.


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