There’s a road – yes, one – that connects my town to my husband’s base. Americans aren’t allowed to pass other drivers on this road, unless the driver is a farmer in a tractor driving slower than 30 mph. (In the fall, you want to pass them so you can avoid being pelted with root vegetables that bounce over their too-full wagons.) I’ve declared several times that locals must purposely drive 40 mph in the national speed limit zones when they see an American spec vehicle in the rearview.
Most of my peers think I’m a lunatic for driving that road instead of taking a convoluted route around it via the highway. Maybe I am; maybe they’re just haunted by the tragic tale we all heard at driver’s orientation, of the family whose van slipped off the icy road into a full irrigation ditch (on the other side of base, mind you). I certainly can’t argue with them when the fog is so thick you can eat it and/or you can’t see quite see the giant white “get over, fool!” arrows painted on the road.
There is no shoulder, by the way.
It’s a bit windy, full of fast-but-not-so-fast-just-yet-ok-NOW-NO-no-30! speed limit variations. You pass through thatched-roof stone-walled towns with perfectly British names like Hengrave, Flempton and Icklingham, where the old buildings are so close to the road that double decker buses always cross the center line. Despite the inevitability of a car parked in the road or the shocking number of cyclists without helmets, I can’t bring myself to pull over for photos. I just don’t have it in me.
Luke of Lackford has fresh eggs and hand-cut flowers for sale nearly every day. I’ve stopped twice to deposit my pound-coin in the open wooden box for a bright (if buggy) bouquet that’s best suited for a mason jar.
After grazing hedgerows with your side view mirror, you pass pastures of sheep, sometimes horses, sometimes cows, sometimes goats. If you’re lucky, you’ll drive behind another American or a BusinessPerson who has no interest in impeding your progress. Then you can fly over the small hills in the straight-ish segment for that floating stomach effect. Whee! But when you hit the shady tunnel of forest, you know you’re approaching your doom: Five Ways.
Let me start by saying that I like roundabouts. Conceptually. I prefer them to piddly four-way stops and often useless stoplights that interfere with your getting from here to there. There’s something about the constant state of motion and the twirl of cars shooting off in all directions that appeals to my sensibility. However, there are times and places when roundabouts have no place in this world. Next to other roundabouts, for one. Most of all: at the intersection of A11 and A1101 and A1065, where I find myself at a standstill for far too long far too often. Five Ways surely exists as some sort of practical joke, a big F.U. to the Americans who are otherwise so graciously hosted in the region. The English have the technology to build a tunnel UNDER the North Sea, but they can’t figure out how to avoid this clusterf*ck of everyone’s commuting nightmare? Does. Not. Compute.
[Actually, there’s a massive construction project underway that, I think, is supposed to remedy this situation. We won’t be here long enough to know.]
ANYhow, Five Ways is unavoidable no matter how you slice it (except for back in the day before the massive construction project, when you could risk your life zig-zag darting across the A11 on B1112, which closed about a month before my second son was due). As such, I prefer my quintessentially British scenic route most days. I’m a bit of a sentimental sap like that.