The Adriondack's roads, with the exception of the Northway I-87, are 2 lane state country highways. As far as country highways go, they are great roads, say compared to state highways in Pennsylvania or Connecticut. The routes are well marked, posted and banked and are usually in good repair. Route 30 has an extra wide space cleared back from the road on each side to reduce the chance of collisions, especially with deer. Outside of villages and hamlets, it's almost always posted 55 mph. If the route has one or two numbers, like our NY Route 30 or 67, 29, 28, 12, 10, 8, 7, 2 it will be a major road. Three number state routes, like 421, 334, are connector roads and they will be short and usually have tighter bends and curves. County routes are good too, a notch below state highway standards. Fulton and Franklin Counties have great county roads, get a good county map. Town roads can get real basic though, unpaved and often sparsely cleared. Remember, town roads are crowned or the center of the road is higher than the sides, so on a left bend, you'll have a negative bank that can throw you off the roads.
Stay in the right lane except to pass, let faster cars go by. Be conscious that outside villages and hamlets on 2 lane roads, the speed limit is 55 mph, uless posted. If you feel uncomfortable driving at high speeds, don't hog the road. Pull over and let others by. A lot of people will take the pass and the harder you make it on them, the harder they'll make it for you. Nobody needs a low speed nanny! Space is a driver's best friend, and there is no shortage of that in the 'Daks.
Before you head to the Adirondack Mountains, make sure all four brakes are good. A common problem is that rear brakes get out of adjustment and the front brakes do all the work. The car will dive under heavy braking and the fronts rotors will warp and the pads will burn out quickly. Front brakes are easy to fix and is usually a simple d.i.y. job. Rear brakes, however, are a more difficult job and they should be left to a pro if you're a novice. The rear brakes usually self-adjust when the parking brake is used. If you never use the parking brake, chances are that your rear brakes aren't doing their share of the work. This happens a lot with automatic transmission cars because the parking brake usually never gets used. If the brake pedal feels low and the car dives under heavy braking, check and adjust the rear brakes by working the parking brake mechanism. Many older American cars have really poor parking brake cables subject to rust, so if you haven't used it in a while, don't force it or they'll lock up on you. Get new cables if the old ones are shot and lube any external linkages. Make sure your parking brake is fully operational and can hold the car alone on a steep hill. The best way is to adjust a rear drum brake by "spooning" the brake adjustor wheel through the slot in the backing plate. Make sure to cover the slot hole with it's rubber cover or a piece of foam if the cover is missing. Adjust the slack on the parking brake assembly after you adjust the rear brakes. If you have front wheel drive, parking with the parking brake means all four wheels are locked, very safe!
If you break down in a remote place, stay with the car unless you are prepared for the bitter elements (like winter parka, wool pants and sweater, winter lined boots, etc.). Don't continually run the motor. Use blankets and body heat for warmth, keep some candles to burn. If you run the motor for heat, leave the windows open a crack and make sure the tailpipe is blowing the exhaust gas up through the snow. Make a hole in the snow for the exhaust gas if necessary! Avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning! That happens when the snow traps the exhaust gas under the car and it rises into the cab. Prepare a winter kit, with tools, sleeping bag, food and fullsize spare tire ahead of time. In the old days they had emergency phones on the Northway which almost never worked anyways, but now with cellphones, being stranded is not as lonely. Remember though, there are dead spots on the Northway for cell service.
Driving Tips and Hints
- The speed limit on the Northway, till Exit 8 and south, is 65 mph, or 103 kmph
- Off the Northway, if the road isn't posted with speed limit signs, it's 55 mph, or 90 kmph
- You can do the speed limit when you see the sign. You don't have to get to the sign to do the speed limit.
- However, if you see a lower speed sign in front of the higher one, you have to do the lower limit until you clear that sign
- You can pass on the double yellow lines on two lane roads unless it is posted with "NO PASSING" signs. (recommended for slow moving vehicles only!)
- The speed limit on a yellow diamond road hazard sign is just a suggestion. Speed limit signs are black on white.
- Village & city speed limits are usually 30 mph.
- Headlights on when wipers are in use, state law.
- Use high beams at night, focus at the end of where the beams hit the road. ignore the rear and side views, any car approaching from behind or on the side will be visible for miles if lit. Drop high beams 500' before an oncoming car and 250' behind a leading car. Actually, the law says that you don't have to drop your high beams for oncoming traffic on a divided road, but when the oncoming lanes are close to you, be a sport! Driving lights are great, but they must shut off automatically when the high beams are on. Brighter and more lights are better and safer!
- Take the transmission out of high gear or overdrive in a village or city speed zone. It will help you stay under 30 mph.
- Pull off the road onto the dirt completely if possible when parking on a country road. Pull as far off the road on the shoulder and on the grass if you must stop on the Northway. Avoid getting rear-ended!
- Never, no, verboten: Do not back on to a country highway! Back on to the shoulder then point yourself in the right direction.
- Walk on left facing traffic. Watch out, stay on the side, people speed. The speed limit is mostly 55 mph. This is Upstate New York, not New York City!
- Dip, or pull a little to the right when passing oncoming cars on two lane roads.
- The worst case is a head-on collision, so remember to stay right in traffic!
- Maintain safe following distance, ten lengths or better. Don't tailgate or ride the brakes, a good driver uses his brakes sparingly.
- In passing grades on two lane roads, watch for the pass! Be prepared to "squeeze three", which is easy if the road's shoulders are good. Use your headlights.
- Minimum speed limit in a city or village on a NY 30 is 30 mph, except school zones. Minimum speed limit in a town on a NY 30 is 35 mph, except school zones.
- An end of lower speed limit sign, like "END 35 MPH ZONE" is the same as 55 mph.
- If you look behind you, and there are a bunch of people following closely, pull over and let them pass!
- Finally, the simplest rule of them all that avoids all confusion: If you have the right-of-way, take it! If you don't, yield it!
Winter Driving Tips
- Make sure your thermostat is working properly. If it doesn't, you'll get poor heat, the motor will run crummy and get poor mileage and the oil will gum out.
- Check to see that your air filter is good and the hot air intake duct is functional. The hot air intake duct lets the engine draw warm air in when it's cold
- Many town and county roads are almost totally ice now, as of 1/10/03. So assume there's ice under you. Usually they put just enough salt and sand on hills and curves to keep you on the road. Check braking traction on straight aways before bends or hills.
- Let the car engine get totally warmed on the first start of the day. Block off part of the radiator with a piece of cardboard, this will help keep the motor warm during heavy heater use.
- Wait a few minutes after a cold start before driving and run the heat on low till your motor gets all warmed up.
- Good mud & snow tires are mandatory! Save the all-season radials for the summer.
- Most villages and cities ban all-night street parking during the winter. Don't park in snowplow turn-arounds.
- Use light weight oil like 10W-30, or 5W-30.
- Check coolant. Make sure it's around a 60/40 mix and the coolant is still clear green.
- Engine block heaters are a great idea, except that you need 120VAC access.
- Carry a full size spare, make sure that's inflated too, along with the other four tires. Carry warm clothes, blankets, shovel, sand, salt. Carry cardboard or planks for traction. Get a good jack! If stuck, jack up the drive wheels and put the cardboard or planks under the wheels. Chains are great idea too.
- Keep the speed up in snow, otherwise you'll plow snow and bog out, especially going uphill or through drifts.
- With rear wheel drive cars, put some heavy weight in the rear. With front wheel drive cars, put some heavy weight in the front, like under the seats. All wheel drive cars are best, but a little weight will help too.
- When parking in snow: Back up and go forward a few times to dig a track and keep the car pointed downhill towards where you want to go when you leave.
- Rock the car, if stuck. That means going foward and reverse till the drive wheels catch. But apply the brake between forward and reverse or you'll drop your driveshaft in the snow.
- If the drive wheels start slipping when under load, let off the gas, then feather it carefully till they catch again.
- Pump brakes and shift into neutral for stops.
- Always steer in the direction of the skid. Practice this important manuever in a snowy parking lot, it may save your life.
- Use higher than normal gears for a given speed with a manual transmission on ice or snow so there is less chance you'll spin the drive wheels when under load.
- Motorist, watch for snowmobiles at marked crossings or look for snow tracks across roadway. Snowmobiles must stop and yield to traffic when crossing roads, but be careful anyways. Often the trails run alongside the road, especially on NY 30.