In the name of making all of us appreciate what we have in life, we have in the past looked at some of the most terrifying commutes in the world, proving that none of nature's obstacles can keep man from going where he wants to go. For further (even more insane) evidence, you only need to look at where we've chosen to build our highways, oblivious to all obstacles, elements and mortal danger.
#6. Lena Highway Eats Your Car and Casts You into a Hopeless Dystopia
It carries the loving nickname "Highway from Hell," and when travelers say they're "neck-deep in mud," they're just trying to give an accurate measurement:
"Hon, would you mind getting out and giving us a push?"
And in fact ...
... they might be making an understatement.
That nightmare is in the Yakutia region of Russia and was built in the '50s when it became essential to connect the capital of the region, Yakutsk, to the Trans-Siberian Railway. This posed some difficulty, as the nearest train station was almost 800 miles away. Normally this would have been solved with a brand new highway, but as the Yakutia region is the absolute backwater of Siberia, it was not too high on the Soviet government's give-a-damn list. So they just mowed a half-assed dirt road next to a local river, named it the M56 Lena Highway, placed it on the list of actual federal highways and had the rest of the day off.
The thing about all the mud is -- wait, is that guy wearing pants?
During winter, this works just fine. Yakutsk is the coldest town on earth, with January temperatures averaging around -40 degrees, and the rest of the area isn't much better. Such temperatures seal up and harden the dirt into a very neat, tarmac-like structure that drivers can cruise over at a relatively cool 45 mph.
The problem is that the highway is also used during summer, when temperatures can reach up to 90 degrees and rainfall is abundant. And the river that runs alongside the road is extremely prone to flooding. And this isn't some remote roadway -- every summer, hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles venture the road (because, you know, there are no alternatives), only to get stuck in traffic jams that continue for days on end.
"OK, so who are we eating first?"
In deepest Siberia.
With all the cars slowly sinking.
It is not uncommon for an unassuming joyride to turn into a full-blown movie-worthy survival situation. Hunger runs rampant and fights break out easily. People have been known to break into other travelers' cars in search of food and shelter. One woman freaking gave birth on the bus she was on, since it was stuck in the mud and no ambulance driver was willing to try and reach her.
Which only supports our crusade to convert all ambulances into monster trucks.
That doesn't mean that Russian ambulance crews are pussies, by the way. Rescue crews tend to never show up on the highway because if they do, the stranded people beat the living shit out of them in frustration.
#5. Winston Churchill Avenue Cuts Through an Airport
What's the worst intersection you know? The Cross Bronx? The one in your nightmares, filled with drunk, Hummer-driving clowns? Well, nothing your imagination can conjure holds a candle to Winston Churchill Avenue, where the vehicle screaming at you from the left weighs more than a dozen semis ... and may very well have freaking missiles.
"Nice turn signal, asshole!"
Because it's a plane. Because you're driving across an active airport runway.
"Man, if he takes that empty parking space, I'm going to be so pissed."
Gibraltar is a hunk of rock in southernmost Spain that, for a variety of historical reasons, belongs to Great Britain. To add insult to injury, this tea-and-crumpets-munching boil on the Spanish ass built an airport on the heavily disputed isthmus area between Gibraltar and mainland Spain during World War II. The airport, used by civilian and military planes alike, took up pretty much every inch of flat land they had. This left no place for the road out.
Well, no sane place. Because they totally built the damn road anyway -- and it goes straight through the runway.
"Oh, hey, just drop me off here at the intersection. It'll save me the walk."
This is the only road connecting them to Spain. Thus, Winston Churchill Avenue is Gibraltar's busiest road by far, and you absolutely cannot avoid driving among goddamn jumbo jets if you want to enter or exit the area ... which must be particularly nice for the multitude of people who have regular dealings with the other side of the border.
The whole disaster movie waiting to happen is held together by a traffic light system of sorts: Every time an aircraft lands, they just close the road for about 10 minutes. Naturally, this leads to giant, road rage instigating traffic jams. The fact that the downtown area is only a third of a mile from the airport doesn't help much.
"They're not going to let you merge if you just sit there. Just go."
But hey, what can they do? It's a tiny speck of land, with no room for a better solution.
Except, of course, the most obvious one. If you've been screaming "Just build a tunnel, goddamnit!" for the duration of this entry, well, they are, now. It only took 70 years to get around to it.
#4. Guoliang Tunnel Is a Homemade Deathtrap
You see those dots in the side of that mountain there?
The ones that make it look like a fucking perforated notebook?
You are looking at a tunnel, one carved by the residents of the remote Chinese mountain village of Guoliang. Yes, cars drive in it. And yes, it has to be one of the most terrifying do-it-yourself projects in history.
It doesn't help that it looks like a row of glory holes for rock golems.
Honestly, every picture we see kind of makes it worse:
If God set up human traps, there would be a naked model and some money under there.
Still, it's better than it was. In 1971, their village of 300 people was only accessible by an incredibly difficult mountain path featuring the "Sky Ladder," which was just a set of stairs up the side of the mountain without any railings or safety features whatsoever.
It was like a test of manhood -- one that you had to take every time you went into town, and regardless of your gender.
Understandably, the people of Guoliang were sick of doing the Indiana Jones shuffle every time they felt like visiting civilization. The government, however, didn't hide their lack of enthusiasm for solving this dilemma. So, in 1972, after having the government refuse yet another request to blast out a roadway for them, 13 villagers set off into the mountains to tunnel their own damn road.
Only instead of explosives they used hammers, and instead of careful planning they used the subliminal whispers of the Car Accident Gods.
"If they ever have a 'bad idea' arms race, we're totally going to win."
Six years, a bunch of fatalities and no doubt some very inventive swearing later, Guoliang had a mile-long tunnel that finally allowed cars and other modern things into their world. The only problem was, said tunnel was built by people whose only concept of road safety came from that death-defying stairway they'd been using all their lives. The tunnel was all jutting angles and death-turns.
It was ridiculously narrow, barely allowing two cars to go past each other. Its open side was a mess of randomly alternating giant stone pillars (to better crush your car with) and open, unfenced spaces (to better send you screaming to the abyss below). So when the road opened in 1977, it took it roughly 0.5 seconds to gain the nickname "The Road That Does Not Tolerate Any Mistakes."
"Or really any kind of traffic at all."
Half-assed attempts to improve the tunnel's safety have been made, but seeing as this is still a very distant area of China, and as the tunnel has been gaining some repute among tourists precisely because it's so ridiculously unsafe, the authorities aren't exactly rushing to turn it into something approaching sensible.