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Giddens: Slow down, but not in front of me
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When it comes to driving, it sometimes seems that we have the worst of both worlds in Newton County, with urban congestion on roads and drivers who learned their skills in the country.


Now, I love how courteous folks are here. I'm grateful for the motorists who let me merge onto U.S. Highway 278 when I'm leaving Kroger.

I've got that Southern hospitality gene when it comes to driving, too. I gladly let folks in and out of the Quick Trip at Highway 278; it's just good manners.
But manners can be taken to extreme, such as the well-intentioned drivers who come to a stop in the Turner Lake Road roundabout to let another motorist in.

Don't do that.

That's one of my driving pet peeves in Newton County.
Two other irritants should soon be alleviated.
Ga. Highway 81 will get a new coat of asphalt, and hopefully the railroad tracks will be smoothed out, too.
I absolutely can't understand the motorists in pickup trucks and in SUVs who slow to a walking pace to cross the tracks. Yes, they're rough, but unless you're driving a Yugo or some other rattletrap, there's no need to basically stop on the tracks with a gaggle of other drivers behind you.

The abandoned Norfolk Southern railroad tracks around the county are also problematic, especially the bumpy Emory Street crossing.

Again, it's the folks who basically come to a stop atop the old track because of the metal sticking up into the roadway.
You can drive around it, folks.

This, too, should soon be a non-issue, with the city set to pave over the tracks.

That should also eliminate an irritant that shouldn't be an irritant, school buses stopping at the abandoned Norfolk tracks, even though the stop sign has been removed.

I know that it's part of the training for bus drivers to stop at all tracks, even if they're abandoned and there's no stop sign, and that it's best to be safe, but it still is enough each morning to elicit a sigh and a slight bump of the forehead against the steering wheel.

Maybe I spent too many years living in an urban area, but I also am annoyed by the folks who toddle down the road at 5 mph as if they were returning to the family farm from a Saturday shopping downtown, oblivious to their growing following of agitated drivers.

That shouldn't bother me, but it does.

That's just how people drove out in the country.
And that's where I learned to drive, too, on lonesome lanes of asphalt passing through fields and farms and swamps.

As teens we'd spend long hours behind the wheel driving the backwoods, making a sport of trying to make it up a hill through slushy mud without ending up in a ditch.
Getting stuck was half the fun, sloshing through goo that would suck off a tennis shoe and pushing the car up and through the worst of the bog.

For us, it wasn't about the speed, nor was it about getting from one place to another in the fastest manner possible.

We were living in the moment. It was tactile; it was sensory.

Sometimes it was mud, others it was dust and washboard bumps of hardened clay to navigate

Even in the summer, a slow drive on a back road was best experienced with the windows down, the better to enjoy the swampy cacophony of tree frogs and insects in the night.

And so I understand the slow-driving mindset, but it's not something I'll indulge in on Salem Road or even on Ga. Highway 36 out by the lake when I'm sharing the road with a bunch of other folks.

That's country, but it's just not courteous.

There's plenty of natural beauty to savor this spring in Newton County, the pastures and farmlands north and east of Oxford, the back roads leading to Social Circle, and the awesome farms and hills in the southern and eastern portions of the county, especially around Mansfield and Newborn.

Slow down, open the car windows and savor the moment.
Just make sure there's no line of irate drivers queuing up behind you.

Tharon Giddens is editor of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5011 or at