I live in the buckle of the Rust Belt, the cradle of the American Auto Industry: Detroit. And every August, classic car nuts of every stripe descend upon one of our major thoroughfares for Redneck Woodstock, also known as the Woodward Dream Cruise. It chokes traffic along a major north-south road for my part of the city and several suburbs, for 19 whole miles.
Most years, it just inspires irritation at being marooned dawn till dusk on the day of the cruise, and flat-out rage in the weeks leading up to it, in which people with far too much time on their hands set up their lawn chairs or creep along the road at 20 mph under the speed limit to watch ... traffic. But twice, the cruise caused me flat-out anxiety: the hospital at which I was delivering my babies, the hospital which I would need to access if anything went wrong, is right at dead center of the cruise hoopla. Getting there would have been close to impossible.
I was lucky enough to not be due during the week of the cruise, and to have an alternative route to my doctor's office that wasn't congested by all the runoff traffic. One of my friends who lives in Royal Oak, which is epicenter for the cruise, is due any day now and actually scheduled for induction on Sunday. She and her family love the cruise (and are not demonstrably crazy, go figure), but she admits she'd be a little more nervous if she expected to go into labor on her own or if she were delivering at the same hospital I did instead of one clear across town.
I asked a spokesman for the hospital about what they were telling moms-to-be to do, and it involved going past the hospital by about two miles, heading north, and then doubling back for two more miles, adding a good 10 to 20 minutes to the ride in good traffic and more if there was cruise spillover. He added that they hadn't heard reports of any problems caused by cruise traffic during the 15 years of the cruise.
I think I live in the only city that celebrates what's essentially a week-long traffic jam, but I know other cities have similar events that back up traffic for miles around and for several days at a time: Taste of Chicago and Mardi Gras, at least, and I'm sure there are others.
Do you have to plan around enormous crowds and traffic to get to the hospital?
Image via Patricia Drury/Flickr