Monday, May 20, 2013

20 May 2013 Nine mile skid

Cassi Creek:  Yesterday I drove the second leg of a trip from Jefferson City MO to home in Chuckey TN.  I expected the leg to take about hours.  That would have resulted in the journey’s end at about 1500 according to my trusty companion Garmin. 
          The morning began well. I was showered, packed, and loaded by 0600.  The motel breakfast service opened at 0600 and I was the first guest to attack it.  0645 found me fed, gas topped off, and onto the interstate.  Fog rapidly rolled in on the Ohio valley and as I crossed the Ohio at Paducah drizzle began to be present in sufficient amounts to require wipers.
          When I filled up with gas at Nashville, the roads were still mostly dry but the clouds appeared ominous as they built in. 
          This is, I know, a recap from last night’s post.  It was a highly dangerous leg of the trip that I don’t care to repeat again. 
          I-40 is old highway across mountainous terrain.   It carries a tremendous amount of car traffic and a comparable volume of tractor/trailer rigs.  There are two rest areas between Knoxville and Nashville.  These are 58 miles apart.  I stopped at the area nearest Nashville to stretch and then returned to the road.  The rain began within ten minutes. and continued to Knoxville. 
          With combined fog and torrential rains, visibility rapidly declined to about 50 feet.  Those cars running without lights were nearly invisible.  Even more dangerous were trucks with white trailers and only their lower taillights showing.  Those trailers blend into the surrounding rain and road spray.  The relatively dim lights are next to useless.  In several cases, I was unable to see such a rig in front of me until I was in that 50-foot gap. 
          Along with anyone possessed of a will to survive the highway’s risks, I had my emergency flashers engaged and tried to keep up with the prevailing traffic.  Demonstrating a truly dangerous ignorance, three times I found a car in front of me suddenly stopping and remaining on the traffic lanes. 
          When the winds  gusting at sufficient velocity to affect the Pathfinder on a dry pavement, with ponding on the lower side of the curves and in the valleys, just holding the road became problematic during the worst of the storms.  Factor in partially resurfaced traffic lanes with a 1-2 inch drop from inner to outer lane.  Changing lanes required planning and concentration. 
          I pulled up the radar loop for that location and time this morning.  If I had been able to see what I was driving into, I would have pulled off at a truck stock or any place where I could wait out the storm. 
          The weather delay resulted in two additional road hours.  I had just enough time to unload the Pathfinder before it began to rain here. 
          I’ve driven on laterite roads during monsoon storms.  I was delivering a jeep load of fragmentation grenades to a perimeter bunker under blackout conditions when the jeep skidded off the road and landed on its side in a ditch. I’ve driven across Colorado and Kansas in blizzard/ice storm conditions.  Yesterday’s trip was near the top of my “I’d rather not repeat the experience” list.  After that drive, mowing and trimming are less odious.
          Like any landing, one can walk away from, ending up safely home makes the trip yesterday a good one.  Getting safely home is always good.

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