Hello, South Jersey.
How was my trip back, you ask?
Well, it was a bit more interesting than usual. The weather was perfect for the entire trip. That's always a plus. Another plus was getting off to an early start Friday morning.
I departed Memphis around 5:30 am.
Okay, so that's not very interesting.
However, shortly thereafter things changed.
As many of you know, back in the Year of Our Lord 2009 (December 2009 to be precise), I had a brief encounter with a member of St. Francis' flock on I-64 in Virginia.
The results were one very dead doe and $9,288.64 of improvements to the AirTrafficMobile.
I kept that in mind as I proceeded eastbound on I-40 Friday morning. It was prime time in the day for deer to be moving around.
At approximately 6:10 am I saw something moving out of the treeline ahead and to my right. The distance was about 100 yards. I became very concerned very quickly. 100 yards isn't much room when travelling at 75 miles per hour.
Sure enough, a very large doe was attempting to cross the Interstate.
I thought, "Crap. Here we go again."
She was already in the right lane. I was in the left. Seeing as how my last deer encounter didn't go so well, I decided to try something different this time.
I turned my headlights off, slowed down, and shifted over to the right lane. I figured if I didn't startle her too much she might just keep on moving.
Maybe I was right, maybe I was lucky. She didn't freeze. I assume the sound of my approaching vehicle was enough to encourage her to keep moving forward. I passed well behind her.
The last I saw of her, she was bounding over the wire safety rails of the westbound lanes.
There was traffic over there. I can not attest to a successful crossing.
However, it got me up on full alert for the rest of the trip.
There were plenty of reminders on the way to Bristol, VA.
I counted 11 deer carcass by the time I pulled into the hotel at Bristol. That's only the dead remains I could positively identify as deer. There were lots more dead critters scattered about the highway. Let's face it, by the time a creature has reached the "Welcome mat" stage of decay, it's nearly impossible to say what it really was. Fawns and large dogs are about the same size.
I also didn't include any "deer smears".
"Deer smears" are those long bloody streaks down the highway where a large truck or 18 wheeler traps the poor creature underneath. The result is a wide, bloody path lasting for days and a shortcut to the "Welcome mat" stage of decay.
There were quite a few of those as well, especially up on the Cumberland Plateau.
In spite of the carnage, I made really good time getting to Bristol. I was off the road by 3:15 pm.
I checked into the hotel. I noticed my room came with a small refrigerator and microwave. At that moment I decided that I didn't really feel like eating out or driving anymore. I walked across the street to a large grocery store, picked up a chef's salad, some freshly made chicken tenders from the deli, some sodas, and a bag of pretzels.
Since the best part of foraging is eating, I called it a day.
Sometimes, just a few hours of simplicity make the difference on road trips.
I was in bed early. After sleeping poorly for the preceding four to five days I was glad for it.
Yesterday I did something I rarely do.
I slept in.
Checkout time wasn't until noon anyway. I figured I'd wake up when I woke up. Yesterday, that meant the luxurious hour of 8:30 am.
I hit the road around 9:30 am.
As well as traffic was moving the day before, it was that horrible yesterday. I-81 in southwest Virginia is a very hilly road. It is also a major truck route. Factor in traffic for the upcoming holiday and it quickly got stupid. Seems like everybody had to be first. In all my travels I have never seen more aggressive driving. I thought one guy in a pickup truck was going to die pulling in between two semis on a downhill run.
That was all my head and heart could take. I pulled off and grabbed some lunch. I figured if I got out of that group of drivers my luck might improve.
Well, for a while.
Then I came up on the Christiansburg, VA exit.
That's the exit you take if you are headed to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Most folks just call it Virginia Tech.
It's graduates mostly just call it "Tech".
I can't repeat what I called it yesterday.
All I'll say is this. Apparently Virginia Tech has no entry requirement in regards to having completed a Driver's Education course, nor do they seem to offer one remedially.
However, they do have a sizable enrollment and after all it IS a holiday week. Everybody who stayed Friday night to party was heading out by the time I reached there. This group was crazier than the last. I had no desire to mix it up with any of them. The right lane was just fine as far as I was concerned. It took about 8o miles of driving for the mess to sort out.
Yet, that wasn't the worst thing I saw all day.
You'll see in a second.
First, all the nominees for the 2012 Air Traffic Mike Bad Driving Award sponsored by 1-800-BAD-IDEA:
- North Carolina guy pulling in between two semis on a downhill run. Just because you came from the birthplace of NASCAR, it doesn't make you a stock car driver. You'd better thank the professional truck driver behind you for anticipating your stupidity and his use of both his air brakes and "jake" braking. It's the only reason you survived that move.
- Five black guys from New York in Toyota Camry. Trying to make a right exit from the left lane is never a good move. Especially when you make a Tennessee State Highway Patrol officer jam on his brakes to miss killing all of you. Hope you enjoyed your night in jail, boys.
- North Carolina checks in again with a U-Haul trailer in tow. Note to driver: Next time you rent a trailer that says, "Do not exceed 50 MPH" on the back heed the warning. You passed me doing around 70 mph. I passed you and all your wrecked shit about half an hour later doing about the same speed.
- Maryland girls driving a Nissan Quest Van with Virginia Tech stickers plastered all over it. Trying to back down an exit ramp in heavy traffic is a great idea. Withdraw from school IF you survived the attempt and enroll in a State approved Driver's Ed program. Without that degree, the one from Tech won't matter.
- New York's back in the house. This time it's young couple in Honda Pilot, covered with Virginia Tech stickers, and a no yield entry onto I-81 in front of the semi load of BMW's. You're driving a Honda. You can't afford eight brand new 3- and 5- series BMW's otherwise you'd be driving your Bentley home from an Ivy League school. You might want to team up with the Maryland girls from Tech and see if you can negotiate a "class" deal with a State approved Driver's Ed program.
Some compelling cases, aren't they?
By the time I had reached the I-695 beltway outside of Baltimore, I was pretty sure I had my "winner" all picked out.
Then, one more person stepped up to the plate.
I couldn't believe it.
So then, without further ado, here's this year's winner of the 2012 Air Traffic Mike Bad Driving Award sponsored by 1-800-BAD-IDEA:
- Young African American mom driving a "vintage" Toyota Tercel with baby in car seat. Texting in heavy traffic is already a bad idea, but doing so and ignoring the risk to your child is incomprehensible. I don't give a rip about your life, but I pray to God your baby got to where you were going, safely. You're possibly the most ignorant driver I've ever seen. Maybe God will turn your lights on, maybe he'll turn them out. If given a vote yesterday, I know which one I'd cast my lot for. You're apparently not smart enough to either travel or be a mother, let alone do both simultaneously. If I could have gotten your license plate numbers, I'd have called the Maryland State Police.
Fortunately, I made it to South Jersey without further nominees and intact.
Maybe next time I'll rig a video camera and film the trip.
Today, some grocery shopping, maybe a stop by the farm to see Doc, and a low key Sunday.
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.
I Know DKDC
21 hours ago