Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Brush With Death -- On the Hairpin Turn At Mohawk Trail, North Adams, MA

Being a native of Eastern Massachusetts, I'm used to Route 2 being an Interstate highway-type road. Out in Western Massachusetts, though, once you get past Gardner, it turns into backroads.

Tuesday I was on my way to North Adams, where it's not only backroads but also mountainous, as you're now in the Berkshires. I got a taste of this firsthand when I discovered that, as you cross the North Adams city line, Route 2 forms a hairpin turn. Your defensive driving skills and a guardrail are all that's stopping you from sliding into a ravine. Not good news for me, a stressed-out and control-freakish driver. Headed westbound, you're going downhill as you cross into North Adams so I slowed down to about 20mph and, despite some stress on a slick and rainy day, I negotiated the hairpin turn without incident, and the rest of Route 2 in North Adams was fine.

Then there was the trip back home.

On the way back, I took it even slower (10-15 mph). Of course, heading back east you're going uphill on the hairpin, and because I was taking it so slow, I didn't give the car enough gas. I stalled right at the turn.
And so I'm sitting there with my foot on the brake, I'm scared to bang it in reverse because I'm not sure how close I am to the edge of the road, and I'm scared to take my foot off the brake because I might roll in reverse, right into the guardrail and ravine, before I can get the foot back on the gas.

It's beginning to rain harder. Also, a car is coming up behind me.

I said to myself, "Great. This is how I die."

Then I said, "Here goes nothing," slammed my foot on the gas as quickly and as hard as I could and got my way up the hill. Shaken, but on the road back to Fitchburg.

If you want to see where this hairpin turn is, go to Google Maps and type in "Golden Eagle Restaurant, Clarksburg, MA" (it's on the Clarksburg side of the border with North Adams). Yes, there's a restaurant here. I look at it on Google and the hairpin turn doesn't look all that bad. I feel like a bit of a wuss. But I'm a Type A driver and I never like to feel that I'm not in control in the car. And, for about 15 seconds, I felt like I lost all driving control, and a quick perusal of the restaurant web site indicates the hairpin turn is 1,700 feet above sea level, and 1,700 feet is not a place where you want to feel out of control.

I will never take Route 2 all the way into North Adams again.  

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