SMOKE: The Fast Drive Home
Originally published: 14 October 2005
I'm the guy you hate - believe me. The one you curse as he and his stupid car squeal past your house on a quiet suburban road, setting the birds chattering and the dogs barking in alarm.
I don't drive slowly. Ever. I can't. Believe me - I've looked into it, and it's impossible.
The problem is simple: I hate being in limbo. Between point A and point B. No matter what I'm doing - from walking to the bogs for a large one to the drive home from my Man in Mowbray.
I'm highly impatient - you should see me in a conversation with a person who stutters. It's ugly, particularly when that person is a four-year old with a lisp to boot.
I find people generally way too slow. If you've got something to say - say it. If you've got somewhere to go - don't tarry. And if you're on your way home from Mowbray with imaginary cops turning out of every corner and filing in behind you, sirens wailing - light up a smoke, adjust your shades, hit the gas and get the fuck outta Dodge.
Which is precisely what I did on Thursday afternoon, at 17h02.
I decided to give you a bird's eye view of the trip, using Google Earth's satellite imaging system. You can use it to find any house on the planet just about - if you're keen to get it for yourself click here
(This next bit gets hairy. Click the image above for a full-size map of my route home, to accompany the following commentary and blown up pictures, which are also enlargeable. Bear in mind that the route I am driving is always from the top of the picture down.)
Ready? Easy now ... Go!
My Man lives near to the left of the marker, and I roar out of Durban Rd and turn hard right onto the Liesbeeck Parkway.
I've been trapped a few times by cameras on Liesbeeck, so I've already done my homework on the way to Mowbray - I drove at the speed limit going there, all the while checking across the road for my return trip, to see if there were any cameras planted.
I already know there weren't any so I have full license to shift up through the gears, as fast as possible. I change to fourth gear when I hit 80km/h, then hold my foot flat and allow the speed and madness to build.
Liesbeeck is a fair run if you don't get caught by the lights midway. I find I can get up to 140 comfortably before I enter the braking zone at the massive fourway stop which marks the beginning of Liesbeeck.
This fourway stop is particularly uncomfortable as there is always tons of traffic and a long wait at the lights, but far more importantly and awkwardly one of my ex-drama school classmates sells African curios at them.
He fell on hard times a few years ago and now has to make a living standing at these traffic lights selling crap that nobody wants to buy.
I got out and chatted to him the first time we met (that was a nightmare - he came up to the car window and started yelling through it at me until he recognised me, and then neither of us had anywhere to go) and caught up on old times, but now there's nothing more to say and I always feel embarassed for some reason.
I could turn left at the intersection and head off alongside the Rondebosch Common, but I learned a back route from a colleague of mine a few years ago and it has served me well ever since.
Instead I carry on the Liesbeeck, which turns into Camp Ground Rd. This is the heart of Rondebosch.
There's usually a lot of traffic in the short burst from the intersection to the top of Sandown Rd, but clever driving - and good awareness of what the traffic is up to ahead of you - will usually get you past a couple of slowpokes.
At Sandown Rd I turn hard left - quickly if the left arrow is allowing traffic to bleed that way. It's a nice turn, which can be taken at around 60km/h if you're prepared for the looks of irritation as your tyres squeal.
I get on the throttle and head down the hill, alongside the lush green fields of Bishops High School. There's a nasty camber to the road which threatens to throw you off to the left and into a hedge, and with a bumpy road surface you have to be careful.
You also have to pick your braking point well before the right hand turn into leafy Coniston Avenue because the road has a number of bends, and braking on one of them - while not pointing in a straight line - will put you in hospital quicker than a lightning bolt from God.
If you follow Sandown Rd all the way down you eventually hook up with Milner Rd, which in turn becomes Belvedere Avenue, which later becomes Rosmead Avenue - off which my road lies.
But I'm no fool - if I follow Sandown all the way to Milner I'll find nothing there but traffic and heartbreak, stacked up and waiting.
Remember - the idea is to get from Point A (the corner of Durban Rd and Liesbeeck) to Point B (the TashiTagg Offices) in as little time as possible - preferably within the duration of one smoke, which lasts roughly eight minutes.
So the less traffic there is the better, and I know just the way.
I brake hard for the 90° righthander into Coniston, praying that I won't see any cars ahead. Usually the only cars in this insignificant, quiet road are blokes like me - frustrated racing drivers who know a quick route when they see one.
But occasionally you get a doddering old Hat, so called because usually when you see a driver wearing a hat it means he was born pre-WWII. And trust me - you don't want to get stuck behind a Hat. They've long since lived out their frustrations and are content to dawdle along, smiling at the world.
Enemy No. 1, in other words.
Coniston takes me to the top of Avenue de Mist, a long road which runs parallel to Sandown, and which also bisects Milner. The green field you see at the bottom of the picture is one of the playing fields of another famous Cape Town school, Rondebosch Boy's High School.
It's where we take TBD for a crap every so often.
You'll notice I've placed a marker on the traffic circle which takes you from Coniston into Ave de Mist - that's because that traffic circle is my favourite motoring moment in all the world.
It's an incredibly tight turn (90 degrees) with a concrete strip in the middle of the road, but I've discovered that there's more grip in that corner than in any other I've ever known.
I hit it at high speed, and if you're a passenger of mine you'll scream in horror. The corner comes up fast and it seems impossible that I won't hit the concrete strip - but I never do. I sometimes brush it with the outside wall of my right front tyre, but that's just me finding out where the ragged edge is.
I take that tight, tight corner so fast I'm able to enter and exit it in third gear, and within seconds I'm already up to fourth and laying waste to Avenue de Mist.
There's a speed bump near the bottom, but you don't have to slow for it - it's flat, and with a decent suspension you hardly notice it.
Eventually the road meets up with Milner/Belvedere and it's a hard right turn that's quite slippery if you're not careful.
Depending on the traffic situation I motor down Belvedere, past the yellow train park and after turning off from Belvedere I go through a few bends until I'm at the bottom of my road.
You'll notice to get into my road I have to drive on a road parallel to the Kenilworth Shopping Centre on my left, and there's a right-handed hairpin at the bottom of my road.
It's about a 115° angle corner, folding back in on itself, and it provides a serious driving challenge for those prepared to have the back of their car step out.
I am. If you give it some serious gas while turning into that hairpin and handbraking you can get the back to slide out to your left, which leaves you pointing neatly up the road.
From there it's a squirt on the accelerator and I'm screaming through my front gates at around 50km/h, ending in a shuddering stop.
When I stop I can always smell burning. You can't touch the car - the bonnet is white-hot.
I step out of the car and grind out my cigarette - which I lit at the intersection of Durban and Liesbeeck. Exactly eight minutes ago.
I am the King of the Suburbs. They shall not pass.
I go inside and inspect the parcel I got from My Man In Mowbray. It's all good.
The Pigs are defeated once more. The inept slowasses have been shown up for the useless, doddering old farts they are. The Hats are choking into their pacemakers. The neighbourhood curtains are all shut, but one or two of them twitch slightly.
Point A to Point B, man. Fast.
All Smoked Out,