Monday, March 19, 2007

Passing Two Lorries

I was driving home, Friday, after stopping at the supermarket, when I noticed a fairly new Porsche 911 in my rear view mirror. The road to Bracknell, from Sandhurst, alternates between four lanes and two, in several places. When I first noticed the Porsche, we were on the four lane section along side the Meadows shopping centre, in Sandhurst, from whence I had just departed. After a traffic light, the road narrows to just two lanes, one in either direction. I usually try to pass as many cars as possible before it narrows to two lanes and that day was no exception. I tried to be quick about it, as a courtesy to the Porsche driver, as he seemed to be trying to do the same. I wasn't quite able to overtake a French car, driven by some woman, before the road narrowed. I felt a bit frustrated at this, because while she wasn't driving excessively slowly, she wouldn't go as quickly as I would. I noticed the Porsche drop into line a couple of cars behind me. He hadn't been as aggressive as I expected, given what he was driving.
I impatiently followed the dame in the French car, a Renault or Peugeot, or something like that, waiting for the road to widen again, just before the next light. Jockeying for position, approaching the light, I was ever mindful of the Porsche behind me. While I was driving my trusty BMW 730i, with 200 horsepower, the 911, in the hands of any descent driver, could eat me alive. Just for fun, I was trying to see how long I could stay ahead of the 911. This particular traffic light is invariably red, so the key is lane selection. After the light, there is only a short distance till the road narrows again and the two lanes of traffic have to merge into one. Sometimes, there is the opportunity to pass some of the slower cars before it narrows. It's frustrating to get stuck behind a slow car there, because it's a long stretch before the opportunity to pass again. Waiting for the light to turn green, I flipped through the radio stations on my car stereo, looking for a descent song. Friday evening rush hour traffic was on the heavy side. This is the last traffic light before Bracknell.
The light turned green and the waiting cars began to move. I'd opted for the right lane again, as is usually best at this intersection. American readers should remember that we drive on the wrong side of the road, here in Britain, so the right lane is the passing lane, here. I managed to pass a couple of the slower cars on the left, but still ended up stuck behind the woman in the French car. The French may do lovely things with snails and champagne, but I am underwhelmed with their autos. This broad was holding up some serious German iron and she wasn't even that good looking. The 911 didn't fare much better and he was still a couple of cars behind me. This guy driving it seemed to lack the killer instinct. Although his car was faster than mine, he didn't seem to have the cojones to press that advantage. We followed along, single file, as the road gently curved on the way out of Sandhurst. I abandoned the radio and switched to my Girls Aloud CD, selecting a fast track, "Something Kinda Ooooh." It's appropriate music to drive fast to.
The road passes through a final roundabout (traffic circle for you Americans) at the bottom of a hill, then heads uphill through Bracknell Forest, toward Bracknell Town. Just as it starts uphill, it widens again to two lanes, allowing the passing of slower moving vehicles. Ahead, I could see a long line of cars behind a lorry moving up the hill. Acceleration is made more difficult, because you are going uphill at this point. I urged as much power as I could from 12 year old Beemer, slingshoting into the right lane coming out of the roundabout. In my rear view mirror, I could see the Porsche do the same. Finally, the dame in the French car fell by the wayside. Still, I accelerated. The Porsche had finally caught up with me and was hugging my rear bumper. Just past the crest of this hill, the road narrows again, so there is a limited time in which to pass as much of the slower traffic as possible. I could see myself closing on the lorry, but I was quickly running out of room. The angled arrows appeared, indicating that it was time to merge. I was running out of roadway. I pressed on, running across the chevrons on my right side as the lane narrowed, but just managed to slip ahead of a minivan. I had ended up right behind the lorry. Even though I cleared the minivan with plenty of room to spare, the driver was one of these chimps who can't stand to be passed by anyone else. He flashed his lights at me, which is what drivers do here, rather than blowing their horns, to signal disapproval. Screw him and his petulant, luminant outburst, I was looking for a way to get around this lorry ahead of me (for my American readers, a lorry is a truck). The Porsche hadn't had the stones I did, so he merged in even further behind me than he was before. That was the last I saw of him.
The road dips down into a small valley, before rising again, up another hill, with evergreen pine forest on either side. Opportunities to pass are rare, especially if there is any degree of oncoming traffic. At the top of the final hill, the road passes through a roundabout where the turn off for Crowthorne is. It opens into two lanes briefly, just going into the roundabout. The roundabout is narrow, but with the right timing,it's possible to stay right, as if you are making a U turn, then merge back left and pass a slow vehicle on the roundabout. The lorry was long, being a tractor trailer combination, but that was my plan. It would only work if none of the vehicles on the oncoming side were turning left at the roundabout. As the lorry began to slow and stay to the left, as expected, I scanned ahead. I could see no left turn signals flashing. I maintained speed and began passing the lorry to my left. Entering the roundabout fast, I slingshoted around it and out the other side, completing the pass without causing the lorry driver to have to brake. Ah, the adrenaline rush of success.
Ahead, the road widens to two lanes again, as the road from Crowthorne merges in from the left. It stays two lanes for about a quarter of a mile, where it enters another roundabout. Coming out of that roundabout, the road becomes single lane again. Up ahead, I saw yet another lorry! This one was from Waitrose supermarket, which is a common sight in and out of Bracknell, as there is a big Waitrose depot in Bracknell's southern industrial area. I roared ahead without hesitation, Girls Aloud egging me on. I needed to catch that Waitrose lorry by the next roundabout, or I would be stuck behind him the rest of the way into town. I stayed in the right lane, accelerating all the way. The roundabout ahead was the intersection with Nine Mile Ride (isn't that a cool name for a road?) and the right lane in the roundabout is supposed to be used for turning right. There was no one ahead of me. Traffic entering the roundabout from Nine Mile Ride, to the right, or anyone on the oncoming side, turning left, would screw things up for me, as one must yield to traffic from the right at roundabouts. However, oncoming traffic continuing straight would cause the Nine Mile Ride traffic to have to yield to them, so that would help me. It was going to be close. As I approached the roundabout, I scanned the traffic on the right, prepared to hard brake if a vehicle was coming to intersect my path. It looked clear. The green and white Waitrose tractor trailer slowed to enter the roundabout. I maintained speed, hugging the right lane in the roundabout, passed the green cab of the lorry, eased up off the throttle and flicked the wheel to the left. Girls aloud sang away, "Something kinda ooooh...makes my heart go boom-boom..." I made it, with room to spare. Ping Pang! Two lorries passed in two roundabouts. The Porsche left far behind. Oh, it's great to be alive and driving a well built, German car.

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