Change #80: The Road That Follows The River, Or The Highway: If You Had to Choose, What Would it Be?

It seems like an easy decision, but brace yourself, you might be surprised.

First off, another tangent. Why? Because, that’s what I do.

In general with this blog, I find my most difficult challenges are the ones that I need to complete on a weekday morning. If I planned to swap my earl grey tea for coffee, I would prefer to do it mid-morning, than at the beginning of the day. The same thing is true with almost anything that requires me to alter my routine and think outside the box; or for that matter, in another box. It’s hard for me to concentrate in the morning when I follow the exact script in the AM; but switch even the smallest detail, and I am fumbling every item for the rest of the day from adding sweetner to my tea, to trying to remember how to operate my vehicle. D is for drive, right? Ok, let me put it in R.

But that’s what this blog is about. It forces me to break my routine, my habits (some good, some bad, although as of late, mostly bad habits) and most things that are familiar.

My normal drive to work requires me to take Carling Aveneu, then the Parkway, as I follow the other worker bees as we head towards the downtown core. Today, I altered that route.

Let me just also mention that I didn’t just jump in my car and go. No way. I would get lost. I’ve lived in this city for over 20 years, and I still get turned around in my neighbourhood. So, yes, I did review a map or two to ensure a street or two lined up.

My new route today consisted of taking the Queensway (aka 417), getting off at Parkdale, then making a right on Scott St. that connected to Booth St. (that was the part I needed to check) as I headed in the direction of downtown Ottawa.

Now for some people that might not sound like a big deal. The 417, you say? I take that everyday.

It’s funny what you grow to miss. When I had another job in the east end of Ottawa, the most convenient, fastest route, was the 417.  And I hated it. I hated taking the Queensway and if something catastrophic happened, (one morning it was a diesel spill) it meant the Queensway would be backed up to the front door of my house. (I’m not kidding. Well, maybe a little. But not by much.)

Also, when I took the Queensway a couple of years ago, I always got caught at one set of traffic lights that would only allow 3 cars to make it across the intersection, before we were faced with another red light. In contrast, the other drivers waiting on the other side, would get a green light that would allow 400 cars to make it across the intersection. I don’t mean to whine, but it’s a little unfair. 

Last year when I started a different job, I was thrilled to escape the Queensway gridlock and sail along the wonderfully quiet Carling Avenue, and turn onto the Parkway where sunrises were reflected on the water of the Ottawa River. It was a FANTASTIC way to  way start the workday!

Fanstastic, with a  few exceptions. For example, when I get all the red lights on Carling and it turns my “sailing commute” into what it must be like when the waves on the North Atlantic throw a ship back and forth, and the Captain is just trying his/her best not to let the ship sink. Then there are days when everyone in my area decides to leave AT EXACTLY THE SAME TIME and traffic is BUSY!!! Finally, there are times when traffic is busy because there has been a major accident on the Queensway and everyone is looking for an alternate route and takes Carling Avenue. (Ok, in this situation, no one in traffic should be angry. Someone else just had a worse day than the rest of us. The worst case for those crawling along in our cars: we’ll be late for work. No big deal.)

The Parkway is also particularly treacherous in the winter. The real fun begins when there is snow that is perpetually gathered along the edges of the two lanes; this  means both lanes have lost about 1/4 of their lane. Cars in both lanes, negotiate at various times who gets to “hog” two lanes. The roads are also typically ice-covered. If that’s not enough to make you want to chain-smoke on the way to work, there will be drifting snow when a car travelling beside you decides it is a good time to pass. This will create whiteout conditions.

The Parkway is the forgotten road as Ottawa snowplows are busy taking care of the major arteries in Ottawa. (aka the Queensway).  This leaves the Parkway drivers to fend for themselves. Proceed with caution at your own risk – should be the sign that you see when you take the Parkway in the winter There were many mornings this winter when I was white-knuckled, and grinding my teeth on the way to work as I attempted to make it on time and alive.

If weather conditions are perfect you may still have the following situations that could happen along Carling Avenue: Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Watch out for the bus!

Then, once I made it on the Parkway: Why is that guy doing 90 on the Parkway? (Speed limit is 60 km/hr)  Oh god, I hate these lights! IRRRCCKKK!! Freaking lights! Why, oh why do they  change from yellow to red in a millisecond! If you blink, you’ll miss the light. And if you do miss the light, there is an OC Transpo bus waiting to pulverize you and push you into the Ottawa River.

Good times.

I’m exaggerating.

No, I’m not.

Ok, maybe a little.

But this morning it was sunny and perfectly clear driving conditions. And I took the Queensway. There were STILL those first set of lights that appear to have been adjusted slightly – it now allows 15 cars to go before it returns to a red signal.

Then, of course, I got stopped outside of Bayshore which means I only had 5 minutes of ripping along at over 100 KM/HR. After that, I got to the exhilarating speed of 20 KM for roughly 20 minutes.  The really wonderful thing about Queensway driving though is this: if it’s a nice day, and with no STOP lights, you don’t have to concentrate on driving as much. That meant my mind got a brief hiatus to work on other puzzles as my physical self was stuck crawling along the highway.

I have to say my morning commute was a little bumpy at times. I am quite rusty with highway driving in the early AM, but I managed to get to work without missing a connecting road. To be honest though, the drive time may have been a little longer – 40 or 45 minutes versus 35 minutes.

Would I do it again?

Of course. Even though my mind had to work a little harder this morning trying to remember when to turn and not to, it was nice to take a different road. While doing a different route may take you to the same ultimate destination – the scenes along the way offer new experiences.


No photos. I was driving.



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