There is no moment in which I feel more like Im in Texas than when Im driving. Both Los Angeles and Austin are heavily car-dependent cities at least in comparison to places like New York and Boston but there is a wealth of difference in the car culture that permeates these places.
First, the cars themselves. The streets of LA are filled with foreign and often very expensive cars. It often seemed like there were other BMW 3-series everywhere we went, along with plenty of 5s, 7s, Ms, and so on. (Lets not get into the Jaguars, Porsches, Maseratis and the occasional Lamborghinis that wed ogle as we drove by.)
Here in Texas, people seem to love their Ford F-150s. Theres even a specific Texas edition that many people seem to have. The only distinguishing feature of this Texas edition seems to be a Texas-shaped metal decal on the side, but theres a lot of Texan pride here, so perhaps that feature is enough to spark higher demand.
Trucks arent really our thing, although with a three-car garage we have briefly thought about it. Roy has driven a truck and I have driven a van, and we both agree that these large vehicles feel like cows. But we can certainly see the practicality of something like an F150, because weve definitely run into problems attempting to fit furniture purchases in our miniscule hatchback/sedan-sized trunks.
Second, the traffic. And by traffic, I mean lack of traffic. I once saw one of those MSN filler articles listing the worst traffic cities in America, with Los Angeles at #2 and Austin at #8. If that list is any way reflective of the truth, there is a wide, wide gap between #2 and #8, because there doesnt feel like much traffic at all in Austin at least, not compared to what we put up with in LA. Going home from UCLA to Santa Monica sometimes could take 45 minutes; here, I can go 45 miles in that same time. The worst traffic Ive experienced in Austin happens at rush hour on the Mopac Expressway, and even when that happens the cars still move at around 20 mph. In Los Angeles, that experience would be equivalent to the 10 Freeway on a Sunday at 3PM.
The rest of the time, youre speeding along happily at somewhere between 55 to 70 mph. And thats a glorious thing. When youre in a good car (i.e. when Im driving Roys BMW and not my Honda Fit), and you get onto an empty highway, theres this sense of absolute joy and excitement the moment you press that gas pedal and the car just surges from 20 to 78 miles per hour in three seconds.
Finally, the people. Los Angeles drivers are frickin wackos. They take everything personally particularly when you need to merge into their lane, regardless of whether you have a choice. Theyre also really egregious rubberneckers. Austin drivers, on the other hand, are friendly. They let you in whenever you want and they always wave. Some of them are downright slow though. Weve got a 35-mph street going through our neighborhood that is perfectly capable of 60-mph speeds. We usually go fairly close to the speed limit to avoid hitting children, dogs and deer but this morning we were stuck behind someone determined not to go any faster than 25 mph. I swear they were trolling us.