Sunday, March 14, 2010

Road hazards, interstate style

Well I’m back after a whirlwind 2-week trip to “supposedly” warmer climes. Supposedly? Let me just say this: on at least a couple of days it was warmer back home in Ottawa (which is, according to the calendar, still in winter’s grasp) than it was in Florida. However the weather did cooperate when it was important, like the couple of days we spent at Bike Week. The rest of the time the wind, cold, and rain made me very glad indeed that we were on four wheels and not two. Wimps, I know. But in my defence, trailers heading into Daytona outnumbered bikes by at least 20:1, and the few riders I did talk to at rest areas on the interstate were questioning their own sanity in deciding to ride. It was miserably cold!
It wasn’t only the weather that made me glad I wasn’t on two wheels. I have been driving since I was 13 (a long, long time ago), on three continents, on both sides of the road. I have driven vehicles of every type in all sorts of conditions on all sorts of surfaces. I have driven fast, slow, and mostly in-between. But nothing prepared me for the sheer number of idiots on the highways – I-81 in particular.
Just one example. Coming up through PA we hit heavy, heavy fog for about 30 miles. Visibility was down to 4-5 car lengths and there was lots of traffic, including the ubiquitous 18-wheelers. I’m tucked in behind one truck in the slow lane that was travelling at about 70, hoping that all his flashing lights and mine would offer sufficient warning to anyone coming up behind. While we convoyed through the soup at a speed still too fast for my liking we were passed by a steady stream of cars whose drivers must have thought they were running the Daytona 500. Bumper to bumper at high speed with absolutely no visibility. And usually with no lights. They were driving totally blind, putting themselves and others into incredible danger because if anything happened – anything at all – they were going to drive right into it at 80+.  Fortunately we made it through unscathed and didn’t see any evidence of a massive pile-up, but I question the sanity (and morality) of those morons who cared more to save a few minutes than possibly a life – their own included (although that would just have been another good example of Darwin in action). And there’s no way I would have ridden that on two wheels – a 200-mile detour would be preferable.
And then there were the shredded truck tires. In all my US travels I don’t ever recall seeing the same number of shredded tires on the road. Over 3000 miles on the interstates and I don’t think there was a single one of those miles that didn’t have pieces of truck tire on the road. They would appear suddenly from under the car in front, or be on the shoulder lying in wait for anyone who needed to get off the travelled portion of the highway. Is no one responsible for picking up these road hazards and ensuring US interstates are safe to drive?  Hitting a large chunk of rubber at 70 or 80 miles per hour would be bad enough on four wheels, but on two it could get pretty ugly real fast. Just one more thing to be on the lookout for that we shouldn’t have to worry about.
Now lest you think the trip was entirely negative, it wasn’t. We had a great time (although short) at Bike Week in Daytona (more on that later), thoroughly enjoyed Charleston, SC (a beautiful city with incredible history), took a 3-day cruise to Nassau (which has an H-D dealership right at the cruise terminal), got in a round of golf in Tampa, and even had good experiences crossing the border – on both sides. So net it all out and it was a great trip and an excellent get-away for a few days. Now it’s back to the real world.

4 comments:

  1. road hazards are such commonplace in the USA now that its scary. i cant wait to hear more about daytona. sorry that it was cold, weird weather seems to be everywhere...

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  2. Ms M - I was really surprised how much crap there was on the highways. Not so much the litter - that's become ubiquitous in North America it seems - but the true road hazard stuff like tires or parts of lost loads.

    Maybe I passed through just before the spring cleanup in the northern states, but that doesn't explain the Carolina's or Florida.

    One more consequence of the drive to reduce taxes at any cost I suppose.

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  3. It was a harsh winter through out the south. Many southern states simply are not prepared for extreme winter weather as it doesn't occur all that often. That being said its not that surprising to me that there would be lots of debris. The tires could be a indication of the economy as well. More tire treads on the road could mean fleet transports and owner operators are using "Re-Caps" more, as a cost saving measure. Recaps as I'm sure you know are notorious for separating at high speeds over distance. I'ts my personal opinion that recaps should be regulated or banned by the DOT. I'm not one for government intrusion, but our Constitution speaks to taking care of the roads and I see the DOT a nessecarry evil.

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  4. Crash - I expect you're right on the truck tires. Like you I think they should be banned, but they have a pretty strong lobby group, so don't hold your breath.

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