Saturday, October 06, 2007

To Tidewater

A friend of Diane’s was getting married in Newport News, Va. this weekend, so off we went to visit Tidewater.

The trip down was anything but uneventful. First, there was a navigation error by yours truly, but we won’t talk about that. The most notable difficulties came later. On the way between Christiansburg and Roanoke we encountered an electronic message center along I-81 telling us that there was an accident at mile marker 130, about 15 minutes ahead. We had just talked to some friends who lived nearby about a place to eat they’d mentioned a while back, and they called us back to tell us about that accident, and another one farther down the road that we didn’t know about. Both had the same message: left lane closed.

As we got to MM (Mile Marker) 124.6 the traffic slowed to a crawl, and everyone (nearly) moved to the right lane. Traffic continued to crawl, though it never really completely stopped, for a few miles, and then, as we rounded a curve at MM128.8, things just magically opened up, and traffic began speeding up to highway speeds. As we passed MM130 and into MM131, we noted that nowhere was there any sign of an accident: no emergency vehicles, no skid marks, no broken glass … nothing.

Very weird.

So, on we went, and eventually we encountered the traffic backup from the MM 146 accident … at MM 134.3. This one was somewhat less painful, as the average speed of traffic was 20-45 mph most of the time, although it lasted longer, over a greater distance. One thing I have noticed in situations like this, when traffic has been advised to merge to one lane, and some nabobs decide to push that to the last possible moment, is that truckers will line up two abreast, forcing traffic to do what is advised, merge into one lane. There was a Fed Ex truck about a quarter mile behind us that had positioned itself in the left lane, blocking that lane to the opportunistic drivers who might think they could gain ground in the left lane. During one of my periodic checks in the side mirror I noticed that the Fed Ex truck was coming on fast in the left lane, and realized that something was going on. Truckers have their own communication system, you know, and I judged that this driver knew more than I did about what was happening ahead, so I moved into the left lane at the earliest opportunity, and followed along. Sure enough, not far down the road, things opened up, and traffic sped up to highway speeds fairly quickly. As we passed MM146 and 147, I couldn’t help but notice that there were, again, no signs of an accident.

It appears that all of us on I-81 were slowed down by 40 to 60 minutes for these two mysterious events, and it appears that there were no wrecks that caused the slow-downs. Or, there were accidents earlier in the day, and for whatever reason it took several hours for the impact to resolve.

Very weird.

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