Looking at Relative Driving Distances

Personal Writings

             New Orleans       Time changes, but what does the body know?  What was 4am is now 5am, and on and on.  Over recent weeks, my internal clock is confused.  Nepal and then India to New Orleans on a ten-and-a-half-hour difference, and then on a three-day turn around, head to Heerlen, Netherlands with a seven-hour differential.  Wash, rinse, and repeat, and two days later drive to Atlanta an hour ahead of New Orleans, then drive back the next day after a great training day with the Anthropocene Alliance and others, including a nice mix from Kennesaw State and Georgia State University Schools of Social Work, getting home in time for the annual spring forward jump to Daylight Savings Time in the USA.  The clock can’t keep up, and in two days I’m on the road again to Little Rock and the Ozarks.  I’m not complaining, and I’m just saying this merry-go-round is moving quickly for flesh, blood, and brain cells to compute.

It’s funny how we see distances and how to cover them?  Talking to colleagues in the Netherlands, where trains are ubiquitous in this smaller European country, the notion that in the US, we would just jump behind the wheel and not think twice is a head scratcher.  Here, we know something about highway relativity when we talk to our fellow Americans born and raised in the West, somewhat like I was for many years of my youth. The miles they travel routinely in Montana (12,000/year average), Wyoming (19,000/year average), and elsewhere, up and down the intermountain West is something others might not be able to imagine.  It’s all relative, and it got me thinking about exactly how relative it really is.

It takes more than three hours to take the train from Heerlen to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.  It would have taken two-hours-eleven minutes, if I had been driving.  It got me looking.

The drive from New Orleans to Atlanta is 6 hours 33 minutes without the time change, 6 hours 39 minutes to Little Rock, and a bit over 9 hours to the heart of the Ozarks.  By comparison, it’s 6 hours and 13 minutes from Heerlen to Berlin, 4 ½ hours to Paris, 7 ½ hours to Prague, 9 hours 43 minutes to Turin, Italy and about the same from Heerlen to Vienna.  New Orleans to Houston is a bit over 5 hours, to Dallas, it’s 7/11.  Heerlen to Brussels is one and a half hours, and from New Orleans to Baton Rouge is one hour and fifteen minutes.  Do you kind of see what I mean?

I’m not sure if this really matters much to anyone except me, but when we jump behind the wheel and start rolling in the US, it’s all in one country, no matter what the state welcome centers say from here to there.  We may be a divided country, but we’re still one country.  I can remember being on a train years ago with our family and having passports checked on the train between Prague to Vienna, virtually next door.  Within the European Union, that doesn’t happen anymore.  When I have time to kill, I wonder if these trains and borders creating different countries will ever get even lower there, just as I wonder when I travel from states with different shades of red and blue in the US, whether some politicians are trying to raise the borders now and take down the welcome centers and put gates on the highways.

Many of my colleagues in the EU and UK don’t drive at all or bother with a driver’s license.  In the USA, supposedly more young people are delaying or going without a license as well.  What a loss of freedom and mobility, of time zones and distance, and people and places.  Being behind the wheel, you feel the distance and embed in the country.  For all of their immense value, trains and planes are a poor substitute, when it comes to really getting to know a country and something of its people.

Now a bus ride for over 24 hours, that’s another matter!