Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘traffic

Close Call

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For once, this time I was on the right side of a backup. On my way home from the day-job yesterday, my car was the last one to traverse the overpass from 394 to east-bound 94 before a big rig temporarily blocked progress. My position was coincidental but hinged on a split-second decision I made.

As east-bound 394 approaches Minneapolis from the west, the right lane becomes the exit onto 94. Since it is an ‘exit only’ single lane and involves a curving overpass, there is usually a backup of vehicles during times of heavy traffic. It is common for drivers to make their way over as early as possible to avoid the difficulty of needing to merge over later when the lane is filled, bumper to bumper.

I was in the right lane yesterday, early enough in the day that there wasn’t a backup of traffic. We were moving along pretty well when an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig moved past me in the lane to my left. I was a little surprised by his speed (you know: anyone slower than me is an idiot and anyone faster is a maniac [ala a George Carlin routine]) and wondered if he wanted to be in that lane to take 94 west or would need to move into my lane before time ran out.

I was centered beside the big rig when the turn signal came on. In that second, I could’ve braked hard to get out of his way or sped up to get ahead of him. I chose the latter.

He tucked in behind me with little distance remaining before the exit makes that turn to the right. At about that same time, traffic ahead of us began braking to make the turn. I was splitting my attention between the rig in my rearview mirror and the slowing vehicles in front of me in order to maintain safe space between both.

Then the traffic ahead of us slowed quickly to just short of a full stop. Without time to divert my eyes to the mirror, I consciously figured the stop wouldn’t be a surprise to the trucker because the high vantage point in that cab would provide a full view of the many braking taillights.

As quickly as everyone stopped, the cars started rolling again and I joined without delay, staying as close as possible to the car in front of me to assure the truck behind me would have the best chance to avoid losing all his momentum.

When I glanced back to see how he was doing, something didn’t look right. The hood over his engine was popped open. It was tipped forward, blocking my view into the cab. The truck wasn’t moving. Nobody was moving.

I was the last car to traverse that ramp in front of a truck that was now blocking everyone behind it.

I’m guessing maybe he stomped his brakes so hard that the hood opened, but I never heard any indication of such. Hopefully, he just needed to hop out and close it so everyone could get going again.

When I got home, I checked traffic maps and didn’t see any indication of residual disruption.

As I rounded the completion of the bend in that ramp with no other cars following me, I mentally recorded this as one of the lucky days of my many workday commutes.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Starting Early

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Cyndie and I left for the lake after I got home from work yesterday. We had no idea that Wednesday night the 3rd of July would be the time when towns would hold their fireworks shows in Wisconsin.

It seemed to me that traffic was flowing fairly well for the night before a holiday that was providing a 4-day weekend for most folks. Maybe the people who were going to be out of town had already left. We only ran into two backups.

The first one was at a roundabout, of all places. The very system that was created to minimize congestion at an intersection was not achieving its potential when we arrived. There was no zipper merging happening because someone in our lane was intent on waiting until no other cars were anywhere in sight before executing their right turn.

The second backup happened as we approached Shell Lake. Several hours before darkness was to arrive, officials had already closed Hwy 63 and were detouring traffic through town to create a safe zone for the fireworks show. We didn’t wait around to see the spectacle. It seemed a day early to us, but maybe it had something to do with the holiday falling on a Thursday.

We stopped for dinner at a local diner/gas station that won our hearts after our first visit there last year. In this case, the second time wasn’t the charm. It seemed so dang impressive the first time we ate there. Last night, our experience was surprisingly underwhelming.

It’s all relative, I tell ya.

Makes me want to try seeing things with the joy and wonder of the first time, regardless of how familiar it may have become. I’ll have a good chance to practice this over the next few days. We are up at Wildwood for the annual 4th of July festivities, including the long tradition of games between the “bats” and “mice” teams.

Water balloon toss; shoe kick; watermelon eating contests; relay racing.

We’ve been through this routine so many times, it is easy for me to become jaded over it. When it was still fresh to me and I was much younger, I was so moved by the experience that I wrote a song about it. The excitement has faded as I have aged.

This year I have a new goal to look at the weekend with the wonder I felt the first few times I came up here and to send a lot of love to all who show up to participate. What’s the worst that could happen? I might have as much fun as the year I wrote that song.

Go, team, go!

Happy US Independence Day everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

July 4, 2019 at 6:00 am

Just Riffing

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‘Twas the night before Halloween, when all thro’ the house… I’m pretty sure creatures were stirring, because I could hear them in the walls. I’m hoping we don’t get any neighbors stopping by for treats tomorrow night, because I haven’t hunted down any of Cyndie’s hidden candy stashes and she is now out-of-town.

I drove her to the airport in the early darkness this morning to catch a plane for a visit with Dunia and family in Guatemala. Last night, instead of packing for her trip, she was cleaning the house, vacuuming, making me food for the week, …you know, mentally preparing for being away.

I interrupted her vacuuming and mentioned that I could do that after she was gone, in case she might better spend her time getting bags ready for departure. I’m a little surprised she didn’t start cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen, too.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Those of you who are chuckling over this probably have a sense of recognition for this strange trait some people have, that they start organizing or cleaning drawers or closets that rarely get attention until the waning hours before leaving on a trip. What is that about?

The chickens and I benefitted from this pattern yesterday, when the normal evening chores unexpectedly blossomed into a grand chicken pasty-butt cleaning operation. I sure didn’t see that coming, but it will be nice for me that I shouldn’t have to deal with the possible negative consequences of plugged up chicken bottoms while Cyndie is away.

The things we do for our animals.

Cleaning up poopy butts was a nice distraction from the daily news, except that it wasn’t that different from what I suffered hearing about on the drive home from work yesterday. Most of what fills the headlines is pretty sh**ty lately.

It makes me dream of what it might be like if all the news organizations were to magically agree to completely ignore the person whose name I prefer not uttering for maybe five business days in a row. Imagine that. Just fill the time talking about whatever subject would bug him the most, without ever once making reference to him. And the louder he would try to shout for attention by his tweeting fits, the more distance the journalists could put between themselves and him.

Just ignore him until he goes away. But keep an eye on the cash register. Something tells me all the bluster and blather is a smoke screen to distract us from the siphoning of the public coffers that is going on. Check his pockets before he leaves.

Hey, speaking of my drive home yesterday, I had a lucky break by the weird coincidence of leaving for home earlier than usual after having needed to make an unexpected visit a customer site. As I got close to the border with Wisconsin, traffic came to a sudden halt.

I had spotted an alert on the electronic message board over the freeway warning of a crash ahead, so I was prepared to bale out at the exit to Hudson just after crossing the St. Croix River. If I had left at my normal time, the backup would have left me on the Minnesota side of the bridge.

Timing is everything.

Okay, that’s it. Now I’m on my own (with a little animal care help from some local hands in the a.m. hours of my work days) for a couple weeks. Let’s see how long I can keep my happy face on. 🙂

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It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Unexpected Anxiety

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Back on August 1st of this year, the Twin Cities marked the tenth anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse across the Mississippi River. On Tuesday, I unexpectedly found myself remembering it again, with an unnerving amount of anxiety.

On the way home from work, driving east, past downtown Minneapolis on I94, flashing lights of a state highway patrol car caught my attention as it made its way into the flow of traffic ahead of me. Never a good sign.

Brakelights were soon to follow, quickly filling all four lanes. Eventually, I could see an overhead sign in the distance with information. An accident east of the Huron exit had closed two of the left lanes.

Traffic crawled at a snail’s pace, bumper to bumper. It was a little claustrophobia-inducing, with plenty of large trucks mixed in among the autos.

Then, I and all the many vehicles around me reached the bridge crossing the Mississippi river, just south of the 35W bridge. There we sat.

Way too long, for my comfort.

And there was nothing I could do. It became nerve-wracking. Normally, we whiz over this bridge in an instant, but now the weight of these many vehicles was a static load. The west-bound lanes were freely flowing, and I could feel the bridge shake when that traffic passed across the deck.

We progressed not in feet, but inches. The slower the progress was, the tighter the congestion seemed to get. I allowed for greater space between my bumper and the car ahead of me. Images of what it would be like to suddenly be dropping appeared in my mind.

I did not want to be stopped on that bridge –especially when surrounded by the combined weight of all the other vehicles around me.

Talk about anxiety. Imagine what that would have been like for someone who actually was involved in the 35W collapse in 2007. No thank you.

With great relief, I reached the other side of the bridge without incident. I had successfully avoided a screaming and pounding meltdown, despite an urge that lurked surprisingly close. Conscious breathing does wonders in moments like this.

A short distance ahead, I reached sight of flashing emergency lights and the traffic in the left two lanes began forcing their way, two-at-a-time into my lane. Upon reaching the location of the incident, the scene was rather odd. It’s hard to know how many responders may have already departed, but there were only two patrol cars and officers, plus a highway helper truck managing traffic.

A dramatically squished car with fluids beneath it rested cockeyed in the second lane. That was it. No other debris, no people, no tow truck. I’m guessing there was a lot of activity there while I was stuck in line for the preceding 15 or 20 minutes.

From that point, it was instantly back to highway speeds and an uneventful commute the rest of the way home, during which, I had time to think more about what people experienced 10-years ago when the 35W bridge collapsed.

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

Holding Court

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When the weather outside returns to single-digit cold, there is added incentive to spend a little more time indoors. After work yesterday, I sat down and leaned the recliner back for a little relaxing review of the latest newsworthy offerings from a multitude of front pages on the internet. dscn5755ech

It didn’t take long for our furry friends to join me at that location. Cyndie captured the moment for posterity. I was holding court with our crew.

I read them some of the most outrageous blurbs, but they both ignored the content. Delilah just wanted more scratching, while Pequenita simply wished Delilah would go away.

I switched to telling them tales from this week’s commute to and from work. One morning I had the pleasure of moving in a group of vehicles stuck behind the dreaded slow ambulance with flashing lights.

It moseyed along at a speed about 5 miles an hour slower than the prevailing desired rate of travel. No one dared to pass him, because if you are in front of an emergency vehicle with it lights flashing, you are supposed to pull over and let it pass. Meanwhile, other cars ahead of the ambulance were noticing the lights and pulling over, subsequently becoming added vehicles to our ever-increasing pack.

It was odd to see this huge group of cars slowly “rushing” down the highway together toward their diverse destinations.

On the way home, on a section of divided 4-lane expressway, I spotted a car ahead of me that was having dramatic difficulty maintaining position in the right lane, both crossing the center line and moving off to the right shoulder. It was a little scary to witness. I wondered if it was alcohol related or a case of texting while driving.

I decided to get around the car by passing in the left lane. As I made my way cautiously past, I glanced over to assess the likely reason for the poor lane management. I can’t swear it wasn’t alcohol related, but the easy explanation and my first impression was that it was probably age-related.

The driver was a little old man who could barely see over the steering wheel. I am fairly certain he wasn’t doing any texting.

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Full disclosure: No animals were injured in the creation of this post.

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Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2017 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Snow Arrives

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The drive home from the day-job yesterday was a fascinating adventure in the full gamut of transitioning to winter precipitation. It was wet at the start, then turned in to a variety of audible ice hitting the windshield before becoming heavy snow. Traffic slowed to a crawl as the visibility dropped and the sides of the road turned white.

The delay only added a half-hour to my commute because no sooner did I clear the delay occurring at the sharp curves where I94 touches I35E near downtown St. Paul, when the precipitation slowed and flakes transitioned back to ice.

Speeds picked up again and before I knew it, snow was no longer visible on the shoulders. As I reached the Wisconsin border, the roads were dry again. Before I made it home, I passed through one more brief barrage of clattering icy precipitation followed by calm.dscn5494e

I stepped in the door to find Cyndie had Thanksgiving preparations well under way. My favorite cereal treats, and a major threat to my control of daily sugar calories, were prominently displayed on the counter. Without hesitation, I grabbed a handful.

Instant reward in the pleasure centers of my brain!

On top of that comfort, there was a warm fire in the fireplace and she had dinner all planned.

I’m spoiled rotten and I admit it.

dscn5500eAs the night wore on, the weather I had driven through earlier arrived and began coating the world outside our door in a beautiful blanket of snowflakes.

This is more like it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2016 at 7:00 am

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Very Wet

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DSCN5081eYesterday was a beautiful day and we spent the middle hours of it in moderate traffic driving home from the lake. I don’t know why it didn’t bother me more to have driven up to that beautiful place and then experience most of the time confined indoors due to incredibly wet weather. When it finally turned nice, we were packing up and driving home.

For some reason, I didn’t mind one bit.

Just like that, we were home and it was back to the regular routine. I finished the day mowing our grass. The ground was completely saturated in many areas, surprisingly so in the back yard, to the point that the mower left muddy tire tracks in its wake. There is standing water in multiple places, which I needed to navigate around instead of cutting.

I’m looking forward to the few days of dry weather being forecast for the beginning of this week.

The signal booster I ordered last week is scheduled to arrive Wednesday. Getting it installed and calibrated will become my primary objective on Friday if the weather permits.

If it works as intended, it should significantly reduce the time it takes for me to load photos and program my daily posts. I’m hoping to convert the precious freed up minutes into added sleep time.

Getting more sleep will be a welcome change to my daily routine. I’m hoping my posts will begin to reflect it with a little bit less sleep-typing going on during the processsssssss.

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Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2016 at 6:00 am

Cyndie Returns

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How smart are dogs? Ours picked up on my activity right away when I got home from work yesterday. Sure, I dropped a few verbal hints that Momma was coming home, but I think she could tell by the way I was putting furniture back in place and converting my temporary man-cave back to our shared living space.

rt21wrn2Cyndie has actually returned a day earlier than her original plan, due to the winter storm that is expected to be in full swing this afternoon, around the time her flight was supposed to arrive. She moved it up 24 hours and arrived without hassle last night, making the drive from the cities on dry pavement.

At one point last night, I found Delilah standing with her nose up against the door to the garage, clearly expecting it to open any minute. Maybe she heard something. I don’t know about that, but Cyndie was still over an hour away at that point.

It was a pretty fun reunion when Cyndie stepped in the door. Delilah was incredibly happy, almost as much as Cyndie.

DSCN4401eWe have had enough warmth recently to melt most of the snow off our driveway. I took a picture to use as a comparison to what it will look like after the 8-12 inches of predicted new snow stops falling.

I’m going to stay at work as long as possible today, hoping to head home before snow accumulation begins to create traffic backups. Unfortunately, they have moved up the time that precipitation is expected to start to 9 a.m. today, so driving could be impacted long before the afternoon rush hour.

If the depth of snow and strong winds lives up to what is being forecast, there is a strong possibility that I will stay home from work on Wednesday.

All these possibilities are a lot less stressful for me now that Cyndie is home.

I think Delilah feels the same way.

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Written by johnwhays

February 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

Driving Adventures

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DSCN3252eWhen we awoke on Wednesday, the beginning of our 7th full day in Guatemala with the Morales family, we started packing almost immediately. It was time to leave Bill & Karin’s beautiful lake house and embark on a road trip to the beach house, reported to probably be 2-hours and 45-minutes duration. After a short time, just as we had on the drive to Lake Atitlán days before, we arrived at a mysterious stretch of road where up and down directions are reversed.

Marco stopped our vehicle, turned on the 4-way hazard lights, and shifted to neutral. The Toyota began to roll uphill. It’s crazy-making!

When we approach a “T” intersection very near to our planned restaurant stop for breakfast, the traffic came to a complete standstill. We were just a couple of car lengths from where we wanted to make a left turn, but were pinned with nowhere to go. Several guys on foot seemed to be trying to augment the single traffic cop’s attempt to orchestrate some progress, but many drivers just chose their own solution and drove around any vehicle in front of them. It only served to complicate the mess.

DSCN3253ePatience turns out to be the best course of action, and eventually we made our turn and got to stretch our legs and sit down to eat. The restaurant had a roof, but no walls around the seating area. Cyndie ordered in Spanish; an omelet with vegetables for me, pancakes for her.

Breakfast automatically came with cups of coffee and a bowl of a sweet porridge. I noticed Cyndie and Marco set their cups aside after their first taste and he ordered better coffee for the two of them. I normally don’t like cooked oatmeal or porridge, but this was sweet and not heavy. I liked it a lot. It was a great breakfast on the road.

Shortly after departing from that restaurant, we came to a stretch of divided highway with a very long backup of stopped traffic in the lanes approaching from the other direction. Shockingly, we suddenly spotted vehicles driving toward us in our lanes! After multiple cars switched lanes in reaction, everyone going our direction adjusted to the right lane. After the initial alarm, it wasn’t as unnerving as you’d think, because there is a lot of driving in each other’s lanes to make passes on the two-lane roads everywhere else. Still, they were driving into traffic and it was very hazardous, so Dunia got on her phone and reported the situation to authorities.

Despite the traffic challenges, it seemed a relatively short time had passed when we reached sights that I began to recognize from my visit there with Marco a week earlier. The beach house was just ahead.

Upon arriving, we were able to meet Bill and Karin. The two families each have adjacent beach houses beside the large shared pool. It reminds me very much of the community of families at Cyndie’s family vacation home in Hayward, WI. We also are greeted by Karin’s sister and niece, and later, Bill and Karin’s son, Anthony.DSCN3254e

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It was significantly hotter this day than any other we’d experienced, in large part because we’ve come down to sea level and it was sunny all day. I get my first chance to play some football with the Morales boys and Anthony, followed by a jump in the pool. Dunia’s parents arrived and we met them as Marco began preparations for a dinner of grilled lobster tail.

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As the sun got low, mosquitoes and the heat contributed to drive us into our air-conditioned room at around 6:45. It feels much later than that and we give in to beckoning sleep early, after a day that felt like we mostly just lounged in the pool. Hardly the exerting activities that should have caused such tiredness. Maybe the week was finally catching up with us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2015 at 6:00 am