Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Driving Across Country

Yes, I've been gone a long time.  Sorry.  Many things got in the way: work, life, and so on.  I hope that is changing, but back to the topic at hand.

We recently completed yet another drive from California to Illinois for the purposes of seeing family over the holidays and I have a few awards to give out as a result.

But first, "Why drive instead of fly?" I hear you ask.  Well, because it's a lot cheaper.

Tickets for two from SJC to ORD would cost, oh, $800 or so.  Then add the cost of putting two dogs in a kennel for two weeks.  That's a big total.  It's a lot cheaper to drive, bring the dogs, and pay for gas and hotels than it is to fly.  And we once had a dog lose over 10% of her body weight in a kennel because she wouldn't eat.  We didn't like that.

Anyway... on to the awards:

To Iowa, for having the least technically competent drivers anywhere along I80 between California and Chicago.  Over the holidays of 2009 we saw a vast number of wrecks in Iowa after an ice storm.  I am happy to say that  this year, though there was no ice storm, the state of Iowa continues to impress with their total lack of driving ability.  Either these folks don't teach driving at all, or they have all collectively forgotten what they were taught.  Driving in Iowa is not for the weak of heart.

To Illinois, for having the most self centered drivers on the road.  Rest assured that when driving in the Chicago area or on 88 between Iowa and Chicago there isn't a single other driver on the road who cares about you, your goals, or your safety.  All they care about is getting to their destination as quickly as possible, regardless of what that may do to anyone else on the road.  Turn signals?  Fugetaboutit.  Following room?  No one needs that.  Speed limits?  Ha!  Just get there baby... ASAP.  Other places might classify lots of what we saw as reckless driving.  Not Illinois.  There it's just the usual stuff.  Yawn.

To Wyoming, for having the worst stretch of road we have ever driven on.  On 12/30/2010, I80 west of Green River was an unbroken sheet of ice, from side to side of the road including both shoulders, and continuing for 20 solid miles.  We'd had blowing snow and blizzard conditions - nearing white out fairly often - through all of Wyoming, and the road wasn't great, but they were trying.  Plows were out with sand or salt, and the road was OK.  We stopped in Green River for gas and decided, since the road had been passable, to continue.  What we found just outside of town really made us wonder about the Wyoming department of transportation.  I am not exaggerating: 20 uninterrupted miles of ice.  Plus the wonder of trucks flying past us at 50 or 60 MPH on that surface.  We saw several wrecked big rigs, but all had been traveling in the other direction that morning.  Why none of the nitwits that passed us as we limped along didn't die in fiery wrecks we really don't know.

To the I80 drivers just west of Sparks NV, for the best impersonation of a Mad Max movie we have ever seen.  On our outbound trip we stopped in Sparks for the night.  We got moving the next morning only to find both lanes of the interstate completely stopped for nearly two hours.  Lots of emergency equipment drove by on the shoulder, east bound, most of which we never saw again once we finally did get moving.  But we did see a lot of wrecks: overturns, collisions, solo spin outs, a jack-knifed big rig, and so on.  Most of these had no emergency equipment present and appeared recent, which was a challenge given the road wasn't in particularly bad shape.  And this wasn't a chain reaction thing.  These were all separate wrecks, scattered over several miles.  We never did find the actual cause of the stoppage so we'll never know what was really going on.  Some might argue that Nevada should get the award for least competent drivers as a result of this little event, but experience tells us that Iowans are still the ones to beat.

And there you have it.  The 2010/2011 holiday driving awards from yours truly.  I hope to avoid this next year by staying home.