Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweet Home Mobile

This blog series replaces "No Place Like Home", which was focused on the state of Oklahoma. Back when I lived in Oklahoma. Now, I live in Mobile, AL. Quite a change, and not at all a bad one. Besides having an "actual" job, I'm really enjoying the new surroundings. The Gulf Coast has a culture that is very fresh for me. I like the emphasis on food, in particular, but the relatively good nature of seemingly everyone is enough to turn any frown upside down.

So, in the coming weeks, I'll write about a post a week about the goings-on in Mobile. Where I'm eating, what I'm doing, where I'm going, when it gets too hot for me to handle. Sort of the Mobile expose, from an amateur city dweller and Alabaman.

Currently, I'm just getting acquainted. And that means driving.

Driving in Mobile is, well, interesting. There is a lot of traffic in this town. I suspect that if people had the choice of going in one car or three, they'd ask "Why not four?" Where are all of these people going? Are they taking the quickest route? Do they really need the extra cab space?

It's not as if there are only two roads in the town. In fact, one could argue there are too many rather than too few. Also, the name-changing roads are many and baffling. The roads do not necessarily change direction at an intersection; instead, the name just seems to change. I guess there were too many people to dedicate street names to. That and discontinuous city planning, I suppose.

As stymieing as the street planning is here, I'm still waiting to turn right out of my apartment complex. I've been waiting for a few minutes now. On a Saturday at 3 pm. I get it. People like to go out on the weekend. But so many? Alone in separate vehicles?

Everyone who lives in Norman knows about the red street lights. Every intersection, no matter what intersection, is a red light. Wait a minute, then see the left-turn-only light turn green. Wait some more, then go. Just as traffic begins to stop on the crossing street. Norman has mastered the "stopping everyone" traffic lighting. Well, Mobile has taken Norman's skills and gone pro.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that I stop at approximately 80% of streetlights I encounter in Mobile (west of I-65). A normal trip to work for me (about 4 miles) takes about 20 minutes, and the return home commonly takes a little longer (20-25 minutes 6-7 pm; 30-35 minutes 5-6 pm). As the lowest speed limit I have on the way home is 30 mph, there is some serious waiting time at street lights.

The busiest road in Mobile (again, west of I-65) is Airport Road. Basically, during the day, it should be avoided at all costs. During the evening, it's tolerable, but still a lengthy drive for short distances. At night, it's a ghost town. Who needs curfew when you have goody-two-shoes for citizens? Sadly, it is easily the quickest way to reach the interstate on the west side of town. Even more upsetting is the tendency for I-10 to drop southward to the west of downtown -- meaning, it takes a long time to reach either interstate from the area of town I live in. Having taken both routes, it turns out that taking Airport Road is, on average, faster but -- more annoying. More traffic, more waits at stoplights, and the frontage roads -- oh, the frontage roads! That shall be saved for a later post, however.

Oh, I can turn out of my apartment complex now. Yes, I'm moving! And the light in front of me is gre--, uh...never mind.

Perhaps a more substantive post on Mobile next time...