Monday, April 13, 2009

We Changed Our “Shoes!” or “Russian Driving in Spring!”

Russian Spring Shoes

Did you get some new shoes this Spring?  

In Russia it is a happy Spring day when we can clean and put away our winter boots! 

After wearing those things every day for 5 months there is such a feeling of lightness when I put on my Nikes!  
We also change the “shoes” - “peri-obivatza” - on our cars.  
We take off the snow tires and put on the regular roadies.  
And it is the same feeling of lightness with those "spring shoes"- better control - 
      like gliding on and hugging the road at the same time!
This week Anton changed our shoes and everything is different about driving in Russia.
Driving in Russia - Goodnight, I DREAMED of the freedom of driving in this country for so long! I LOVE to drive!  I grew up in East Texas and learned to drive on twisting country roads.  Windows down, Journey cranked up . . . FREEDOM!    FUN!
Country Road Driving Aside . ..   
One of my first driving lessons with my father -  I was going around our Spring Hill “S-curves” and didn’t use the breaks AT ALL!  My dad just about had a heart attack and yelled, “What are you DOING!?”  I said, “I didn’t think you were supposed to use a break around sharp curves!”  It’s amazing my dad let me keep driving!  (Thanks, Dad!)
Back to Russia. . . 
Now, I feel like I’m learning to drive all over again . . . 
    Snow tires - We never had these in East Texas.  And actually DRIVE on snow and ice . . . are you kidding? Everything closed down and we sat inside drinking hot chocolate and listening for the school closing reports!
Snow tires make driving safer but they don’t let you cling to those curves, baby!  : ) 
    Pot holes - Ok, I just thought I knew what pot holes were.  Those little tiny holes in the  Texas road were wimpy pip-squeaks in the world of road hazards. 
Here, we have seismic shifts in road plating that result in death traps of astronomical size. The ice and snow fill these up and winter driving is pretty smooth, but as soon as the Spring thaw begins, the holes appear - like asphalt and gravel monsters breaking free of their winter homes.
Driving in Spring and Summer is a constant focus of attention so as not to hit a crater and blow a tire, or worse, your whole suspension! 

There is one stretch of road near our house where the road now consists of one lane. Everyone has to ride on one side to avoid falling in a hole at least 3 ft wide and 2 feet deep!  Some other spots in Smolensk the traffic speed decreases to about 10 miles p/hr while we all slowly weave around pot holes and “road waves” - at one spot we all just drive up on the sidewalk to miss a huge hole that covers most of the road!  
   CRAZY DRIVERS - Here is my latest theory about Russian drivers . . . 

Only Child Syndrome!  

For many years, families here couldn’t afford to have more than one child.  A couple of generations grew up as only children surrounded by parents and grandparents who catered to their every need and want, resulting in some of the most self-centered drivers on the planet!  (no offense intended to any only children out there - I, too, have an only child and hope to raise her to respect others)

Remember the bad stretch of road I mentioned above - the one that limits the road to one lane?  Well, last night I was driving with Sophia home from a visit with family and when we got to that place in the road, I noticed a silver Volga, license plates with a 1099-something (yes, I tried to memorize it). He was behind me was flashing his lights, signaling me to GET OVER IN THE OTHER LANE AND LET HIM PASS!!!  I couldn’t believe it and said out loud in the car, “What!? No WAY, DUDE!”  (Like I was just going to risk damaging my car so he could go a little faster . . . unbelievable!)  
I stayed in my lane.  

When we got to the intersection about 100 ft up, he whipped over in front of me, barely missing my front end and almost hitting the car in front of me.  I looked over and there were 20-something year old guys looking at me and laughing!  At that point, I tried to memorize the license plate and wished so hard I knew some “kreesha” in the town!  That stuff just makes me crazy!
So, this Spring as you drive - enjoy your SPRING SHOES - and remember those of us dodging pot holes and crazy drivers!

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