Living on a State Highway
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Living on a State Highway
By Beverly Stoddart
Back in 1987, when we bought our house in New Hampshire, we accepted the fact that it was located on a state highway. It’s a road that your home address can be a number and a name or a mile-marker to indicate the location. At the time, it was the most convenient location for me to commute to Boston Monday through Friday, traveling the 36 miles one-way trip to the Boston Herald. One year, I drove 100,000+ miles in a new car that, at the end of the year, was old. And so, to be able to pull out of my driveway and go the three miles to the interstate and hop on for a straight shot to Boston, through the old South Station tunnel, and take the last exit in the tunnel to catch One Herald Square was a commuting blessing. National Public Radio was my constant companion. On that commute was when I started to think of stories to write. For a very long time, I had wanted to be a novelist, and so with over two hours in the car each day, that was a perfect way to pass the time and help me develop my stories.
It was a time on the cusp of the introduction of the mobile phone, and I had a small suitcase with a phone, antenna, and power hook up to my cigarette lighter. Nowadays, they don’t put cigarette lighters in cars.
The location was ideal, the house had oasis-like land, and the traffic at that time was tolerable. Oh my, how times have changed. The State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation Bureau of Traffic cited on February 18, 2016, that in the year 2010, 9600 vehicles traveled in my section of the highway. In the year 2013, that increased to 12,000: a plus of 2,400 additional vehicles in three years. I think it’s probably safe to say that in the six additional years to 2019, we’ve got nearly 5,000 more vehicles speeding by. I think this is a conservative number considering that it is a major east-west highway that goes for 50 miles. It’s easy to travel north and south in New Hampshire, east and west are less so. There are patches of the road that make the travel easier, but more often than not, it is stop-and-go with traffic lights and crossroad stop signs.
Anyone who has tried to go from west to east during the morning rush hour knows the tedium of the crawl of traffic. From the transfer station to Searles Castle, it is bumper to bumper cars and trucks, both small and large. A decision to stop in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru adds to the peril of the crossing traffic at the somewhat confusing tangle of turning lanes. The reverse is the same on the ride home. We nearly missed a wedding one Friday night when I underestimated the time it would take to travel at 5 pm heading east.
There are times when we are trying to make a turn from our driveway to the opposite side and if it is anywhere near the time of the evening rush hour, this can take upwards to five minutes just to pull out of the driveway. The traffic going west will ease, but the westbound cars make it impossible. We wait for that small window when a turn out is free and clear from danger, and we grab that moment for our escape.
The part of the highway we live on can be quite dangerous. The posted speed limit is 50 miles per hour, but those times when the traffic is light that is always exceeded. There is a road across from our driveway, and over the years, it has been a spot where I will use the word, many, accidents have occurred. You hear the crash and know immediately that the T-intersection has claimed new victims. The accidents have been mostly fender benders and no real severe injuries that I can recall. But we always respond and run down the driveway, cell phone in hand and call 911. Our first responders in town are fast and well trained, and it is comforting to have them working for our community. I’d like to add they are very polite as well.
Our home is in a little pocket of single-family dwellings in town that seem to have had very few changes in ownership. My husband and I don’t have any plans to move even with the road the way it is. It is and has been our home for over three decades. I worry that the next homeowner would tear down some of the old trees that I love and decrease the number of natural animal habitats. Will the deer that leave its tracks in our snowy backyard have a safe place to graze and nibble on my shrubs and bushes? There are two gigantic trees that have fallen in our woods and become a haven for small creatures that keep the yard buzzing with activities and life.
There is one thing of which I am certain about living on a highway, and that is, and I am never alone, which actually is a reassuring feeling. I feel comforted by the whir of the traffic. There is a steady beat of movement but quiets when we are in the house. I am amazed when there is absolutely no car coming either east or west, and I can cross and turn out of my driveway with ease.
For questions, comments, ideas, and challenges, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the newspaper through the website, www.WindyIndy.com. Kind regards, Bev.