6 Insane Roads You Won't Believe People Actually Drive On
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hanshin Expressway Goes Through a Building
It's not easy building a new highway in Japan, since it's one of the most crowded places in the world. For instance, often you'll find that the place where you want to build your roadway happens to be obstructed by a skyscraper. There's no place else to put it, and the owners of the building certainly don't feel like tearing it down. What do you do?
You just cut right through the middle. Behold, the Hanshin Expressway:
Because the Japanese don't let minor things like reason stop their growth.
In the mid-1980s, the city of Osaka wanted to add some ramps to the already existing Hanshin Expressway. However, as is the case with many Japanese cities, space was a bit of a luxury -- and Osaka was already crammed to the point where they had to build their airport in the bay. So when the Hanshin Expressway builders came across land that already happened to contain the Gate Tower Building, it was no small matter -- especially as the owners of the building refused to yield one inch.
Five years of negotiations ensued, until everyone was frustrated enough to work out the kind of solution that was probably initially only offered sarcastically: Just build through the damn building.
Other ideas included having the building transform into a robot and carefully step out of the way of oncoming traffic.
The two structures never actually touch, because the highway is suspended like a bridge through the building. It still didn't stop the building's owners from literally listing the tenant of floors 5 through 7 as "The Hanshin Expressway," to the point where the expressway actually pays rent. Sadly, the elevators of the building refuse to stop on the expressway floors, opting instead to skip directly from 4 to 8.
What if it skips on payments? We'd pay anything to witness that eviction.
Although you'd think the people on the fourth floor would complain, what with being stuck with the noisiest upstairs neighbor in history, they're apparently pretty cool with the situation. The expressway has been soundproofed and vibration-insulated so well that the companies occupying the building don't really notice it. This is perhaps best shown by the nickname they've chosen to call the building: The Beehive. Because, you know, it's a very busy office building and that's the one and only noteworthy thing about it.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Runs Underwater
So let's say you're driving on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when you notice that, in the distance, it inclines down, down, down toward the water ... to the point that it appears the end of the bridge is submerged.
"Wait, this is the opposite of what a bridge is supposed to do!"
And, sure enough, out in the distance the bridge just ends -- there's a clear expanse of water where your road should be.
"The one day I drive my Mazda instead of the boat-car."
You're not going to drown -- that gap is where the bridge turns into a tunnel. This Frankensteinian creation was drawn up in 1956, when designers stared across the 23-mile expanse of the Chesapeake Bay and realized that none of the normal engineering solutions really worked. Building a bridge that long was risky. Proposals for connecting the shores with a tunnel or a series of artificial islands were laughed out of the room as soon as the decision makers saw the price tag. To make matters even worse, the U.S. Navy politely pointed out that the bulk of their Atlantic fleet happened to be located deeper in the bay, and they would really like to take them out on the ocean every once in a while, thank you very much.
That's when they got creative. The result is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Seen here from goddamn space.
The structure opened in 1964 and was instantly placed among the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.
The only other option was "Just ramp it."
The project, built during hurricanes and an assortment of other terrible Atlantic weather phenomena, features four 1,500-foot artificial islands, two high-level steel bridges, a mile and a half of earth-filled causeway, over 12 miles of straight-up "normal" bridge ... and finally, to mitigate the Navy's concerns, two mile-long tunnels to enable untroubled passage for their ships above. It's so massive that it has its very own special political subdivision and police force, and is reportedly a very pleasant and smooth ride despite the $12 toll.
That is, unless you need to turn back for whatever reason and miss the precious few turnaround spots. Or end up stuck in the tunnel for hours due to an accident ahead. Or happen to get caught on the larger gusts of wind that can and totally do throw cars overboard.
"Hi, OnStar? I have a ... situation here."
Karakoram Highway Seeks to Kill You in Every Way Possible
Karakoram Highway connects Pakistan and China through a perilous mountain range of the same name. It's the world's highest paved international road, topping at about 15,400 feet. The construction process was just as hard as the altitude figures: More than one worker died for every mile along the 800-mile-long highway.
Witness the wonders mankind can accomplish without the tyranny of OSHA!
Yet somehow they managed to build the thing over the kind of terrain that had clearly meant to remain untraveled. They didn't give a good goddamn whether nature threw uncrossable canyons in their way or not:
"No problem, just get us some Legos and rope."
Karakoram Highway is called "Friendship Highway" due to the link it provides between the two nations. Assuming that "friendship" is slang for "actively tries to kill everyone driving on it," the nickname is very, very accurate. After 20 years of perilous construction, the road was opened to public in 1986. It immediately proved to be just as dangerous to travel as it had been to build, partially because of things like this:
"Don't be a wuss, man, walk it off."
The highway came down on travelers like a demon's wrath, dropping huge boulders, sending vehicles flying off perilous turns or just flat out flooding 7-mile stretches of the road, drowning nearby villages under hundreds of feet of water.
Along with the road actively trying to kill them, the passengers also have to keep alert for terrorists, as they are known to attack travelers. Also, snow leopards prowl the area and are prone to lunging at cars. We so wish we were kidding.
And just to be able to get to the "world trying to kill you" part, you'd better be a dab hand at withstanding altitude sickness, a condition caused by messed-up oxygen levels that can very well be fatal. It most commonly occurs at over 8,000 feet ... which is par for the course for Karakoram Highway, as it rarely dips below that altitude.
Real men don't need air -- they breathe solid rock.
Yeah, did we not mention that? The workers basically built the whole damn thing with reduced oxygen levels. So, yeah, drivers should be thankful they have any road at all. If they survive.
For more ways man has slapped nature in the face, check out Man's 6 Most Ridiculous Attempts To Take On Mother Nature and The 5 Ballsiest Ways Man Has Replaced Nature.