Saturday, August 28, 2021

Observations from the Highway

I’ve spent a lot of time on the interstates this summer, and I’ve seen some things.

1. What’s with all the tire shreds? Everywhere you look there are shredded tires littering the road like oversized rubber spiders. Most of the time you can avoid them, but sometimes you can’t and then you just have to hope that you’re not going to add your own tires to the pile.

2. Is there a reason why they put speed limit signs on the highways around Chicago? Half of them are marked as 55mph and the other half have construction zone limits that are even lower but I have never seen anyone travel less than 70mph on any of those roads – not even state troopers. May the deities of your choice protect you if you try to go the speed limit, because there are only two outcomes to that. You might get run over by faster traffic piling up behind you. Or you might get deliberately taken out by the road rage of the faster traffic piling up behind you. I spent five years running with a rescue squad back in the Jurassic Period and if I got anything out of that experience it is that you should never be the fastest or slowest thing on the road, so if traffic is holding steady at 20mph above the speed limit well, that’s where I’ll be.

3. This has been a banner year for road construction. I think they’re trying to get it all done before the pandemic ends and traffic returns to normal, but while the pandemic rages on thanks to all the blistering morons who refuse to accept basic public health measures, traffic has indeed returned to prepandemic levels. This does tend to make the construction a bit trickier than perhaps intended.

4. The state of Indiana has no idea how to run a construction zone or a highway rest stop. Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, folks, even Ohio does those better.

5. The cult of Trump refuses to do the decent thing for the nation and die out already. Everywhere I go there are nitwits flying Trump flags at highway speeds from overpowered vehicles, right next to their Confederate battle flags – another white supremacist failure that lasted only four years – and seriously people, it’s pathetic and it needs to stop.

6. If you go by what you see from the turnpike, the middle of Pennsylvania is mostly rolling hills, rising mountains, dying towns, and Trump cultists. At mile 203 of the turnpike, on the south side of the highway, someone has hauled a pile of white rocks up onto the side of a hill and arranged them neatly into the name of their false idol. Just above them, at the top of the hill, there is a flagpole with one of the aforementioned nitwit flags. At one point there was an altar or podium or some such – it’s hard to tell when you’re flying by at highway speed – but it seems to have collapsed into a heap now. I’ve gotten to the point where I look forward to seeing it, if only out of a sense of morbid curiosity. What exactly did the deluded soul who put together this knockoff version of a golden calf want to achieve beyond snorts of derisive laughter and eyerolls? The world may never know.

7. When it’s raining hard enough to make the semis pull over, that’s a good sign that you should pull over as well.

8. Having those transponders where you can pay your tolls without even slowing down is really nice in the sense that you don’t have to slow down but it also means that you really don’t have any idea what your actual toll is so they can keep raising it without you even getting bothered by it. You have to hand it to them.


LucyInDisguise said...

Oh, yeah! I kinda live there …

1. We call ‘em alligators.

So many companies are now putting retreads on the (my) big trucks. The problem is that retreads are considerably more sensitive to tire pressure - however, very few Drivers get any training at all about how to maintain these tires, OR, more likely, they just don’t give a shit. Low pressure increases the flexing between tread and casing which creates excessive heat which then results in a catastrophic* failure. And it’s not your tires you need to worry about - your windows, engine, transmission, steering and running gear are all at risk of getting eaten by these alligators. Any piece larger than a hot dog is dangerous - and those pieces are not just rubber; they have steel wire embedded in them that can cause considerable damage and cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

2. For most people, speed limits are, apparently, merely a suggestion. Best Strategy? Keep pace with the traffic, or just a titch under. Let the traffic flow around you and work hard to maintain a safe following distance between you and the vehicle directly in front of you (3 - 4 seconds). Raise your head, watch the traffic 1 to 2 minutes** ahead of you, and keep an eye on the traffic coming up behind you. Reduce or eliminate distractions while driving. Concentrate on what is going on around you outside of your passenger compartment. Try to figure out what the single stupidest thing the driver in front of you could do and come up with a plan for what you are going to do when they do it. Because they very likely will do it. And, if it is safe to do so, cut the Driver in that semi a little slack.

3. You really shouldn’t get me started on this. I could do a book on it without any effort at all … I hate construction orange. Why can’t they switch to green or, maybe, purple occasionally? Even school bus yellow would provide some relief. They are currently bringing road engineering up to where it should have been ten years ago, instead of what it’s going to be like ten years from now. They’re consistently about a decade behind in engineering. I’m currently driving on roads that were designed for a maximum of 65 mph and the current speed limit is 80 mph (and most people are going 10 mph faster than that!). And my truck is governed at 68 mph. Couldn’t go faster even if I wanted to …

4. Why, pray tell, should Indiana be different than any other state? [SIDEBAR]There really are only four states where construction is properly characterized: solid bullshit (cowpie state), liquid bullshit (diarrhea state), gas bullshit (afterburner [fart] state), and plasma (infused into a vein at the ER after the crash). There are some intermediate stages, but this blog is (mostly) family-oriented so I won’t go there. [/SIDEBAR]

5. Yes, pathetic is the proper word. However, I do believe that yours is basically the definition of a “Lost Cause”.

6. I think I can sagely speak for the world when I say: “We don’ wanna know.”

7. Be still, my beating heart! Could it be? Could it possibly be? There! Over on the internet! Someone writing one of those old-fashioned blogs just made an accurate observation! SOMEONE on the internet is NOT WRONG!!!

8. I don’t pay tolls. I take the long way around. Here are three of the many reasons why:

Well that certainly was entertaining (if not exactly fun)!


* Catastrophic is the appropriate word. You do not want to be next to one of those tires when they blow. I have seen them take out windows, rip doors off of cars, and worse. I had a tire rip off a fender and take off one-third of the under-ride bar on the rear of my trailer before getting tangled up around the inner tire and axle. Took the tire guy an hour just to get the tread belt untangled from the running gear.

** Yes, minutes. Or as far as your line-of-sight will allow.

David said...

Hi Lucy –

Yeah, this is definitely a subject you know more about than I do.

1. I can see the steel embedded in those “alligators” and that’s what makes me worry about them. I hadn’t thought about the damage they’d do to the car itself, though. I have enough to worry about with tires. I swear, if I thought my neighbors noticed me at all I’d think they were sabotaging my tires – I can’t tell you how many flat tires I’ve had recently. I try to go around those alligators as best I can, and hope for the best.

2. I always keep pace with traffic. I’ve cleaned up after people who don’t. And my standard assumption is that everyone on the road other than me is an idiot or an asshole, and some days I’m not sure about me either.

I always cut slack to people who could run me over without intending to or noticing. :) I’ve also driven enough to have figured out how to signal to them that they can merge in front of me, which they seem to appreciate.

5. There are a lot of similarities between those Lost Causes, aren’t there? White supremacy being just one of the most obvious. Next thing you know they’ll be trying to carve that loser into Mt. Rushmore.



7. It happens once in a while! I KNOW!

8. I end up paying the tolls because it’s faster and easier and I don’t do it enough for it to make that much of a difference in my life. But if I had to drive for a living (and routes 2 and 3 on that list overlap significantly with my path) I would definitely take the longer road. That stuff adds up.

LucyInDisguise said...

1. Just don’t make any violent moves that could cause you to lose control or take you out of your lane. Unless you’re all by yourself. Wait. What I meant was don’t run into someone else trying to dodge an alligator.

2. We’re all mostly human, and therefore, by our nature, we are all idiot assholes from time to time. The goal is to not be the idiot OR the asshole all of the time.

Damn few people recognize the danger that a truck laden to 80,000 pounds poses to them. Big trucks are just an obstacle to be overcome at any cost. I started asking the question “What is the stupidest … ?” about 22 years ago. You would be amazed at how often I’m correct. On the other hand, maybe you wouldn’t. Those of us who consider ourselves to be Professionals* do appreciate any effort that helps us keep you safe.

5. Mt. Rushmore would collapse in embarrassment.

7. Roughly once in every three centuries, I imagine. We'll have to wait and see ...


* Current estimates would place that number around one in forty. Watch out for the other 39 - they haven’t figured it out yet - they’re still learning the trade.

David said...

One of the first things I figured out when I started driving on interstates is that whether I hit the truck or the truck hits me, I lose. A little circumspection seemed appropriate.

And, as George Carlin once said, the point of driving is to get from A to B without changing the shape of any of the Big Iron Things on the road. Anything I can do to help counts as a win all around.

I fear the UHaul/Ryder trucks more than the semis, to be honest. I've rented UHauls and Ryders. I know from experience that there is no screening or training and half of them are being driven by college kids carrying dorm furniture that they don't care about losing.

LucyInDisguise said...

Carlin had a way of looking at the world and seeing it in a way no one else would.

You have good reason to fear the UHaul & Generic Rental trucks (not gonna pick on Ryder cause there are lots of others out there ...).

There are those of us who do this for a living that refer to those people as Suicide Truckers. Unfortunately, they take a lot of innocent people with them when they go.

But ya wanna know who sends me into a cold sweaty fear? Check out the drivers of those oversized minivans - the diesel pusher RVs! A significant number of them couldn't pass a DOT physical or skills test, yet they're driving what is essentially a bus. Passed one last Friday that was pulling a trailer and the rig was bigger and longer than my truck. The driver clearly did not possess the skills required to be driving a Chevy Chevette let alone that monster. No understanding of the physics involving mass & momentum. Couldn't even keep the thing in his lane going thru gentle curves. Took me sixteen minutes to get past him; had to keep backing off and waiting for him to get back in his lane. He has the same license in his wallet that you have in yours, and he's sightseeing to boot.


David said...

Yeah, those are definitely high up on the "put distance between them and me" list.

The interstates are a lot more Darwinian than they need to be, sometimes.

I miss George Carlin. I got to see him live once (with Leon Redbone as the opening act) and it was a glorious evening, let me tell you. I grew up on his classic routines, and his "I Am a Modern Man" routine is pure poetry.