25 November 2012

I Think I'm a Dumbass...

Why? Why, you may ask, am I referring to myself in such a deprecating manner? Well, it appears that after nearly 38 years of driving (with only a few traffic citations, and a couple of less or more  tragic accidents), I have lost all ability to drive on America's Interstate Highway System. And this tragedy occurred between the time I left Richmond on Wednesday the last to drive to Ohio to visit family for Thanksgiving, and the time I left Ohio this morning to drive back. Apparently tryptophan causes people (read: me, though in this case I think it applies to everyone-bloody-else!) to forget the rules of the road, how to drive safely, and why and when you should slow down to 20MPH on a 70MPH speed limit highway.

"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."
-- Charles Kuralt

I left Huntington after a late (long) breakfast with a friend, and headed east on I-64. Traffic on the first section, from Huntington to Charleston, was reasonably light, something I hoped would continue. But alas, it was not to be. I-64E merges with I-77S at Charleston, and to make it more complicated, it isn't really an Interstate since it is officially the West Virginia Turnpike, a very expensive tollroad with horrible curves and ridiculously steep mountains. The traffic levels picked up when I got past Charleston and the driving began to get crazy. I remember that when I took Drivers Education way back in 1977, one thing we learned was that signs like this...
...were REGULATORY, statutory signs, showing rules that were to be OBEYED. But in 2012, Speed Limits have become Speed Suggestions. I prefer to NOT drive 70 miles per hour, it eats gas (about 10% more per 5MPH over 60MPH), but with the LIMIT set that high (at a time when we bitch about $3+ per gallon gas prices - not a peep out of you Brits, please, this is highway robbery over here), you don't have much of a choice, since using good common sense says that the safest speed is the speed everyone else is moving at. But no one drives 70, they all want to do at least 75. So I cheat and set my cruise control at 73-74. Most of the time, I am OK to go in the right lane. But not today. I don't like people running up my exhaust pipe. However, it seems that the way most other drivers think you will get out of their way is to ZOOM up on your rear bumper and ride so close that I can't see their headlights. OK, you want to be an idiot? Watch this! As I leave my foot on the gas, and tap the brake pedal to flash the brake lights! WOOHOO! They practically swerve off the road to avoid hitting me, except that I didn't slow down! HAHAHAHAHAHA The ones that don't get the message get to watch me gradually slow down with no brakes, until they finally figure it out and go around me.

The other followers are the idjits are the ones who zoom up on my rear bumper when I'm in the LEFT lane, passing other cars in the right lane. I'm not getting out of their way. I'm moving with left lane traffic, passing cars on the right. So they pick a slight opening and zip into the right lane, and then cram themselves back in the left lane right in front of me. So whatever safe space I had is now gone. And what exactly have they gained? ZIPPO!

All of this is tailgating, and not the kind you do at the football game (or NASCAR race). It's fricking dangerous! I saw clumps of 2 dozen cars (I counted once) all less than a few feet apart! It's NOT NASCAR! These people do not understand that "crumple zones" and "Antilock Brakes" and "Airbags" do not make up for a SAFE STOPPING DISTANCE! While these safety "brake-throughs" might keep you alive, they do not prevent the crumple factor that means hours of delay on your trip, and all the inconvenience involved when your car is smashed up, not to mention the citation from a Virginia State Trooper that will probably cost you $200 or more. Back in the day, a safe stopping distance was one car length per 10MPH of speed. But that's hard to judge. So sometime later on, I learned that a better way to judge is to put TWO SECONDS between you and the car in front of you. That's easy to figure almost exactly. Pick a spot...a line on the pavement, a signpost, and when the rear bumper of the car in front of you passes that point, start counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, and if your front bumper passes that point before you hit -two, back off. No one else seems to get this. If you are too close to me, you will see me slow down (see above). But I can always get more room.

I actually think that some of these clowns think they are drafting the other cars by following so closely. It's pretty humorous. That is because drafting only works with vehicles that are designed for it.
In the diagram above, the turbulence disappears as Δx gets smaller. Otherwise, it's no help. So all this "near bumper kissing" is stupid, and unsafe. I learned this is high school physics! Then I relearned it in University Physics nearly 20 years later using calculus. It's not rocket science. I am convinced that only the lowest common denominator drives these days. And it doesn't matter whether it's old folks or youngsters (provide your own definitions for these age ranges), they all

OK, final chapter of this rant. The stretch of I-64E between Beckley, WV and Lexington, VA (about 120 miles) is pretty desolate. On a holiday weekend like today, a few more cars are out there, but even with multiple state troopers sitting in the median strips, speed limits are mostly speed suggestions. But that's OK since the road is empty enough for me to drive my cruise controlled 73MPH. 

View Larger Map

Until I get to Exit 55. Exit 55 is the split for I-64 to head east on I-81 North, or to head south on I-81 South (makes sense, right?). Lots of times, I get off on Exit 55 and take US Rt. 11 North. US 11 is a beautiful scenic route up through the Shenandoah Valley that passes through a few neat old towns. The speed limit is 55MPH, though in the towns it is 35. I love it. While it is a four lane road, it is leisurely, laid back, and a lovely drive with NO STRESS!!! I intended for today to be no different. And I was glad I'd made that decision. Because, when I hit the split to I-81N, I instantly realized (about 1/2 mile too late) that I-81N was impersonating a parking lot. I rolled out of the access ramp at 55MPH, and laid on the brakes since nothing else was moving above 20. The merge was effortless since I just crowded out some clown in a Ford Exploder who refused to give me an extra inch. Yeah, I know, I've been railing against the "force their way in" crowd up until this point, but sometimes survival is important. I guess it didn't matter much, both lanes were moving at no more than 20. This is normal, and the only reason I decided to take this route, rather than get off back at Exit 55 onto Rt. 11 there was the fact that I'd passed up $3.399 gas in Covington in hopes of getting $3.149 gas at Raphine. 25¢/gallon is a lot when you need to save money and you need more than 10 gallons of petrol. So I am now stuck on I-81N/I-64E until I get to Exit 195. I can't wait. We inch along. I get space between me and the car in front because that way I don't have to ride my brakes to move at 10-15-20MPH. But that just means that the fucktards in the right lane take up that space, only to NOT move any faster. ARGH!!!!! GET ME TO EXIT 195!!!!!!

I see the Camping/Lodging sign, then the Food sign, then the Gas sign (all signs on American Interstates that show you the services that are available at the next exit). I see a truck-length space and dart into it! I am behind a gas tanker truck. I can't see anything in front of me. I prefer to be able to see MILES of roadway in front of me, so I can anticipate traffic movements, and now I am 100% blind. As I inch along, I see a sign I have NEVER seen before on the Interstate. This sign is PINK! I thought I was going to see an emergency mastectomy!!! (NO, I am NOT making fun of breast cancer!)
Who ever thought up THIS thing???? What this absolutely guarantees is that you will be held up by RUBBERNECKERS!!!! Those LOOKIE-LOOS who just have to slow down at the "scene"...if  you ever get there. So, the fricking sign that declares "Emergency Scene Ahead" implies that in a few miles or more, I will get to see a scene on the highway I am actually traveling on. 

Oh! Lo and Behold, There is the Exit! Dotted white lines to the right! I move into the Exit Lane! The OFFICIAL EXIT LANE!!!! But Holy CRAP!!!  There are VDOT trucks and orange cones and flashing amber lights blocking my ONLY way out of this. I have to duck back into a barely truck-length space in {gulp} 20 mile an hour traffic (HAHAHAHA). As I inch past the exit, I look over my right shoulder, and it is apparent that an accident has occurred on the exit ramp. A fire truck is blocking the exit ramp. An ambulance is visible facing up the exit ramp. A red tent has been erected in the middle of the road. That means it's a fatal accident. I am very unhappy about this. But I am also pissed that everyone on this damn interstate highway has to slow down to look at this spectacle where NOTHING IS VISIBLE! Let's get on with it, drivers!!!!

A few miles further up the highway, we finally regain Interstate speeds. But now I have to get off (no, not that way, but yeah, it's been several days, so yeah) and I see the exit I want, and fuel is only $3.1889. I can deal with that. I gas up, and the rest of the trip is uneventful. I manage to arrive home about 1030UTC. 

Sorry about this ridiculously long rant about drivers on the Interstate Highways. Needless to say, the trip from Raphine (my fuel stop) and my exit onto Rt. 288 (Veterans Memorial Highway) was more of the same, though I chilled out and didn't point my bazooka at any more drivers. I made it home in one piece. Thanks for riding along!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment