Monday, July 25, 2005
Road Rage, Alaskan Style
I have to be honest, whenever I am stateside there is a part of me that really enjoys pulling out on the freeway when it is full of traffic and driving 40 mph. They call it paybacks.
Just ignore the honking, the people stacked up behind you, keep switching lanes so you are always in the fullest one. You see I live at the beginning of one of the country's most scenic byways - the Seward Highway.
In the winter the road glitters with black ice, is often closed by avalanches, and you have to dodge moose and rock slides. You also have to be on your toes for the snowmachiners (that's snowmobilers, for non-Alaskans) - they forget they are no longer on their snowmachines but in a truck carrying a trailer. Can be a little unnerving when they decide to pass on the right shoulder going over 100 mph in a whiteout snowstorm.
We have whiteout snowstorms, and 120-mph winds along the Turnagain Arm that will catch your vehicle and pull it either into the cliffs or over them into the icy cold waters. Driving the Seward Highway in the winter is a picnic compared to driving it in the summer.
Starting in May the rental cars and tourists show up. They stop in the middle of the road or on a steep curve to look at mountain goats, beluga whales, or guys windsurfing the bore tide. They get out of their cars with their cameras around their neck - completely oblivious to the 18-wheeler pulling doubles that is bearing down on them.
After they are through oohing and aahing they pull back onto the highway without looking. Prepare for everything in your vehicle to hit the windshield as you pop the brakes to avoid a collision. They flip you off when you lay on the horn - the latter being an extremely rare thing for an Alaskan to do. If we are honking it is usually the quick "hello" given as you pass a neighbor.
Then they drive 45 miles per hour right past the sign designating the highway as 65. It is a highway after all. How you could not notice traffic backed up for 20 miles behind you (like the poor guys in the oncoming lane were backed up last night) and use one of the many turnouts so that the local COMMUTERS can get home from the day and be with their families?
Rental car, rental car, rental car, camper, camper, motor home, boat, rental car. We should have laws against this kind of thing. Wait, we do, anything after five vehicles stacked up behind you and you are supposed to let them by. Sadly, our state troopers are spread too thin to enforce the measure.
And while I am complaining about the manners of you visiting folk - I am sure this drive at the speed limit thing is not a regional custom - what is with the littering? You see those "Littering $1,000 fine" signs? We take keeping our beautiful state beautiful seriously. You want to play Johnny Appleseed, fine, but keep your forest fire-starting cigarette butts and your plastic candy wrappers inside your car.
There is a special place in hell for those who fail to use the trash dumpsters conveniently located every 30 miles are so at rest stops and park campsites. If you can't find the way I will be happy to draw you a map.
And wake up and dodge the animals. I know in Michigan it is sporting to run over the wildlife, but in Alaska it is the exception, not the rule. You can go for months in the off season before you see a bird that bit it - so give the porcupines a break. Unless you plan on eating them, and if that is the case, pick up after yourself when you are done butchering so that you don't draw ravens and bears to the roadway.
at 9:11 AM