Yes, this is spaghetti.
But, since we moved to Houston, it’s not only what my brain resembles when I try to figure out the interstates and toll roads, it’s a pictorial representation of the damn interstates and toll roads themselves.
Here’s what I needed to know as a New Orleans lifer to drive in NOLA: was where I was headed on the lake side or the river side of the interstate, that going downtown really meant going up, and going uptown was down. And then we sometimes crossed bodies of water like the Crescent City Connection over the Mississippi River or the Causeway Bridge over Lake Pontchartain that connects the North and South shores. Learning the difference between a lake and a river should have happened in first grade, so even in Louisiana, distinguishing the two was rarely a problem.
However…We moved to Houston and suddenly I have to become a compass expert. I will own that I am directionally disabled. And, please, do not tell me things like, “Take the left by the blue house on the right, then when you see the gas station on the left, move into your right lane…” I lost you after, “Take the left.”
Last year, US News ranked Houston #4 in the top ten Worst Traffic Cities in America with an average of 74 hours spent in traffic. Honestly, if I could spend all 74 hours at once and know that for the remaining 362 days, I’d be traffic-free, I’d sign on for that.
Okay, I know you look at the map and think, “Good grief, it seems simple enough.” Of course it does. That’s part of the madness. Because, for reasons known only to itself, the Houston District DOT has done little to clear the confusion that arises from having two names for the same freeways.
So, I-610 can be North, South, East or West Loops, which requires knowing the direction you’re coming from and headed to or else you will find yourself making an endless loop around the city. And the KatyFreeway? Oh, that’s I-10 West because I-10 East is also called the East Freeway.(Another blog, I’ll delve into this “outside the loop” vs. “inside the loop” caste system.)
Then there’s 1-45, which–praise God–is either only north or south. However, if north, then it’s North Freeway. You’d think I-45 south would be South Freeway, right? Wrong. It’s AKA Gulf Freeway.
Highway 290, at times the shortest distance between two points, is always a no-go for me because imagine trying to squeeze Play-Doh through a strainer with a few rocks thrown in for fun. Just not going to happen in any way that’s conducive to your sanity or your time frame. It’s also called the Northwest Freeway (along with a string of names far too unacceptable for this blog), and just for giggles, the exit ramp has been switched due to construction.
Beltway 8 and the Sam Houston Tollway are actually one and the same. As for 1-69 (which is the “old” 1-59), it can also be the Eastex Freeway or Southwest Freeway. I’ve also heard rumors of a Westpark Tollway that will circumvent traffic. Of course it does because no-one knows where the hell it is. I almost forgot; TX99 is now, in places, the Grand Parkway.
My children have been infinitely patient with me, especially when I call for directions and have absolutely no idea where I am. I just know enough to know I’m lost.
I’ve learned to ignore my Nav system which has some love affair with 290 and always directs me there. I’ve downloaded the Waze app though it sometimes directs me to the oddest places. Plus, she and my Nav System voice compete with one another.
Truly, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of my navigation systems have grown so tired of me, that I’ll hear, “Hey, you behind the wheel. How many times do I have to tell you to take the next left and make a legal u-turn because in the direction you’re headed, you’ll end up in New York, you idiot.”
But it’s all good because moving six and a half hours closer to my children is worth every wrong turn.