Rotaries & other reasons to stay put

By Dawn De Busk

Rotaries are the reason I won’t leave Alaska.

I won’t know how to drive around a rotary. And, if I am scared to drive, how will I ever get anywhere? I am not moving to the Northeast.

This was my usual stubborn-as-a-mule response to my husband’s request to move to New England — one he kept hearing from family members who did not want to miss out on our daughter’s “growing up” because of the great distance between, and the cost to visit, Alaska from the mainland. So, it was the separation from the contingent 48 states that propelled the move in his mind. (My aunt works for the airlines so my parents were not as pushy about moving closer with the grandkid. Just so you know why I wasn’t getting grief from that angle as well.)

The rotary will totally stump me, I vowed like the main character in the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham.

I do not like the rotaries. If I do not like the rotaries, I will not be able to drive on the East Coast. Therefore, I do not want to live there.

A rotary is road infrastructure to which Alaskans abstain. I have heard numerous objections from citizens at Alaska DOT project meetings — where a rotary versus a perpendicular four-lane crossing had been suggested. A rotary takes up less space, requires less land acquisition, state officials would say.

Audience members would ask: How will we know what to do when we come to a rotary?

So, there I was in Sutton, Alaska, in the summer 2005, standing in my carport, which would soon house a leaving-the-state yard sale. There, I was repeating the no rotary-for-me mantra.

Less than a year later, there goes my argument down the drain as I learn to navigate my way around the rotary in Windham, Maine.

Yeah, right. What a piece of cake! There have been times when the traffic is so slow that I allow my car to cruise around that circle a couple times like it is a merry-go-round and I am a child who cannot get enough of a rotary. Most times, I am all business, and stop, and yield, and turn, exactly where I am supposed to. After all, I’ve been around the rotary a few times. Now, I know what to do.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Mind you, folks — don’t laugh at the simplicity of that section of Route 302. The first rotary this attitude-fed Alaska girl had to negotiate was in Peabody, Mass. Fortunately, my let-off point was always the same so I memorized the way my car had to go and conquered that one with one eye closed.

Later, in northern Mass., I would borrow my in-law’s fuel-economical truck only once a week — on the day of the local library’s story and crafts time. After I figured out how to get to the library, I always encountered a one-way street that would take me on these cross-towns journeys in which I would admit out loud to the child in the back seat that I was lost.

However, we would stop at cool places for directions like a veterinary clinic or an ice cream stand. So, it wasn’t a big deal and we always found our way home.

One day, I left the Amesbury Public Library and ended up haphazardly in Newbury. That town had banners for a film festival I would have liked to attend — if I could have remembered how to get back to where I had gotten lost.

That is the point where I always learn.

From repeatedly getting lost, I figured out how to get there. This has occurred in travels to Portland where I have said to myself, “I’ve been lost here before. I think I know where I am.” But, I also have had those big-city excursions where I have argued twice with computerized navigational device, and insisted driving toward the water would bring me west (which would have been true in Alaska.)

I guess the rotary was not the big obstacle I thought it would be.

That argument could fall to pieces because I am living in the Lake Region now and I am virtually rotary-free. Once again, I must be avoiding the rotary dilemma — unless, of course, we count the long loop around Big Sebago Lake. If you ask me: That road trip is one super-cool rotary.

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