If you've tried to get to downtown Lebanon from the north or west anytime this summer, you know that it's the 5th circle of Hell. You could take I-89 to Exit 18, but... there's construction. You could take Mechanic Street, but... there's epically worse construction. Businesses along Mechanic Street are suffering. So are drivers.
So we here at Worth Knowing figured we'd check out the alternative that drivers seem to be relying on: Slayton Hill Road to Dulac Street to School Street, then on to Colburn Park. We wanted to know: Is the detour really worth it? Destination: Lucky's Coffee Garage. Time: about 1:20 on a sweltering weekday afternoon, when traffic wasn't terrible. The loser had to buy the winner something cool to drink.
The report from Mechanic Street: Mark Travis
For the second straight time, my trusted colleague Aileen Lem flipped a coin to determine whether Rob Gurwitt or I would get the “doomed to lose” side of the assignment and for the second straight time, the coin decided that I was doomed to lose. Two straight! What are the odds? Have I mentioned that Rob and Aileen sit next to each other?
Anyway, good sport that I am, I accepted the assignment -- and the race to Lucky’s was on.
I started off great: no one in front of me for 100 yards or more. “This is such smooth sailing!” I said -- which I know I actually said, because I had a recorder running. I rolled past Jake’s in a blissful state, taking care to note the price of regular: $2.79.
The first sign of trouble was an orange construction sign in front of Lumber Liquidators that said BUMP. “Not a bad bump though,” I added. “That doesn’t faze me.”
Then: ROAD WORK AHEAD.
Then: ONE LANE ROAD.
And then: FLAG MAN.
At that point I said a bad word -- not because I had stopped, which I had, but because in my excitement at the start of the race I had forgotten to turn on my timer. This would have been directly after Rob said to me, “Mark! Don’t forget your timer!”
But the larger point here is that I had stopped. It looked like this:
When I finally started moving again, it looked like this:
Eventually -- around the corner, past the porta-potty and beyond the ginormous excavator -- I found my way back to pavement and began the climb toward Colburn Park. I chortled at the sight of traffic backed up onto Route 120 in the other direction, waiting to make the turn on to Mechanic Street. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so.
By the time I curled around the green and into Lucky’s, of course Rob was standing there waiting, looking all victorious. Again. But you know what? Suffering makes you stronger.
Total time: 7 minutes, 2 seconds. Time stopped by flag man: 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
The Calm Green Vistas of Dulac Street: Rob Gurwitt
Okay, yes, Aileen and I sit next to each other. But she is fair and honest and trustworthy. That coin couldn't have been more aboveboard if it had been tossed by Mother Teresa.
(Mark didn't happen to mention to you that Aileen does payroll, did he?)
As Mark gunned it onto Mechanic Street, I headed the other way -- down Slayton Hill, across the Mascoma River, and up the slight incline to Dulac Street. Or rather, I waited for a couple of cars to make the turn off Mechanic Street, fell in behind them, and then headed down Slayton Hill. For all I know, I may be the last person in the Upper Valley to try this dodge, because there's some traffic up and down these roads.
Which you can pretty much figure out right away, since as soon as you turn onto Dulac, you see this:
Keeping local sensitivities in mind, I drove the 25 mph speed limit the whole way, even though I had troubling visions of Mark breezing through the construction zone with the flagger's orange "Slow" sign turned in his favor. (Though I suppose it's possible that once or twice the speedometer might have crept up to 30. I mean, 25 mph without a car in sight? I'm not superhuman.)
The truth? It was a pleasure to dawdle. Dulac is an exceedingly agreeable road -- houses only at the beginning and the end, a quaint view of the back side of the Rivermill complex through the trees, mostly open road, and the only real obstructions a couple of speed bumps to keep you from going all Dukes of Hazzard.
The slowdown on Dulac Street
From there it was up the hill through the edges of downtown Lebanon -- past Church Street, with its view of the First Congregational Church, up to School Street, which had no traffic at that hour, left past the Marsh Brothers Deli at the Little Store, through the Colburn Park Maze, and on into the Lucky's parking lot. I could already taste the expensive iced... whatever... I was going to make Mark buy me. Because there wasn't a sign of him or his car.
But there was also no sign of people inside Lucky's. In fact... well, here's how it looked:
It was 1:30. Here's what's weird: I read the business hours sign first. And thought indignantly, "It's not even close to 4!" But then I got to the third line of the bottom sign. I sighed. Who can argue with a heat wave?
Then I noticed that the front what-used-to-be-garage-doors were open, and
Lucky's owner Deb Shinnlinger was there. I wandered in to say hi. We got into a leisurely chat. Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, Hamlet's "To be or not to be"
soliloquy, how great Andy Serkis was in Lord of the Rings and The Black Panther... Along about then, I glanced up and noticed Mark's car finally rounding Colburn Park. For the second time in a week -- let's just roll that one around a little bit and enjoy it: did I happen to mention that it was the SECOND TIME? -- I got to take his pic as he walked up.
Still, I'm a little worried. Because even though Lucky's was closed, Deb took pity on us and sold us some ice-cold Mexican Cokes (the kind with actual sugar in them). Mark insisted on buying an extra. Which he smugly carried back and offered to Aileen. Next time we do this, there's not a chance I'm trusting her with the coin toss.
Total time: 3 minutes, 47 seconds. And remember, people live on Dulac. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.
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