Sunday, August 25, 2013

Passing Lanes on Mountain Highways

As you drive along for hours on a two lane mountain highway, stuck in a long line up of traffic because the lead car driver is new to mountain driving, drives 10 kilometers or more under the speed limit and hits the brakes on every corner of every switchback, is there any more giddy feeling than seeing a sign announcing there is a passing lane coming in 2 kilometers? AND that you are close enough in line to the lead car that you will likely be able to make use of that lane and get past him?  Oh, what a rush!!

We definitely saw it all on our drive home last week.  We got stuck behind so many frightened, inconsiderate and downright rude drivers that finally we just started to laugh to dispel the tension.

It started on the drive around Mara Lake on our way to Sicamous.  It was early in the morning and there were only 2 vehicles on the very windy, winding, narrow, zero passing lanes highway.  There was our vehicle and the woman in the 3/4 ton Dodge truck in front of us....driving 15km under the speed limit the entire time.  Diddle, diddle, diddle, completely oblivious to my husband driving right behind her, straining to get through to her that he needed to get by.  On she diddled past pullouts, large driveways, and a couple of wide shoulder areas that she could have pulled over into to let us by.  She was driving so slowly she wouldn't even have had to touch the brake as we passed her.  My husband has little hair left to pull out but if he had, he would be balder than he is now.  Finally, as we approached town and the speed limit dropped from 90km to 50km, he saw a clear straight stretch of road, hiked his speed to 120km and flew past her just as we hit the 50km zone.  For my husband to do such a thing and risk not only a BIG ticket, but having an accident...well that is as close to road rage as I had ever seen him come (until 45 minutes later...).  The lady in the Dodge apparently has only one speed for driving. She continued to drive at 75km in the 50km zone, just as she had driven 75km in the 90km zone, so once we got past her we could barely stay ahead of her until we reached the next highway and zoomed back up to the speed limit.  Aaaaargh!!

We got past a couple of other pokey drivers as we entered the national park and continued on our way east.  The drive through the park was interesting as well, but we were able to use the passing lanes just fine to pass logging trucks and other slow pokes.  Coming out of Revelstoke we got trapped in a line of traffic that was blocked by a slow moving, large, white work van.  At first we couldn't figure out why no more than one vehicle at most was able to pass the van in the plethora of passing lanes between Revelstoke and Golden.  As we crawled closer to that lead van we understood.  The van was travelling at just under 80km in the 90km zone, slowing occasionally as low as 60km for no apparent reason.  Then when the passing lanes began he would suddenly hit the gas pedal, cruise quickly up to 110km so that hardly anyone else could pass him.  People who do such things in passing lane situations are my husband's pet peeve.  And I do mean he gets PEEVED!!  When our turn finally arrived to attempt to get by him in the passing lane, the van driver pulled his usual stunt and my husband just lost it!  He drove at a speed I can't even mention in order to pass the van, shaking his fist in the mirror as we went by and talking a mile a minute about people who drive badly and cause problems for others.......wisely I kept my mouth closed about his own driving at the moment.  The man driving the van, judging by the equipment he was transporting and the company name and address on the side of the van, is a local to that area. There is no way he could be ignorant of how passing lanes are used there.  I can only assume his speeding up in the passing lanes and then slowing down again to block the traffic was deliberately executed in order to anger other drivers and give himself a big laugh.  When he could rile my mild mannered husband to the point of taking chances then the man certainly succeeded, but he is one day going to cause a fatality accident.

Onward to Golden with no further incident.  Leaving Golden, with all the new highway construction and amazing new twinning of the roads through all that mountain rock, there is only the twistiest, most dangerous few kilometers of the old 2 lane highway left to climb on the way to Field.  We were initially delighted to start that climb with only one vehicle in front of us....a middle aged man, Alberta plates on his mid sized car....a middle aged man from Alberta who, as it turned out, had obviously NEVER driven in the mountains before.  This is when we started laughing.  The poor fellow was so unnerved by the sharp, blind corners and the narrowness of the highway that he seemed paralyzed, particularly when large semis and logging rigs whipped past going the other direction, only inches between his vehicle and theirs.  His top speed was 50km in the 90km zone.  He hit the brakes on EVERY corner, of which there are many, he hit the brakes every time the road began to climb, he hit the brakes when the road took the occasional slight dip downward, he hit the brakes every time there was an oncoming vehicle. It was tempting to pass him by using one of the the two large pullout viewing areas on the right hand side...and we could have done it easily...but my husband had his nerves back under control by then and didn't take that risk.  The way the fellow was twisting his head around to gaze up at the huge mountain looming up alongside us, we could almost hear the conversation:  "Gee ma, look at the size o' that thar hill!!"  hahaha

By the time we got to Golden my dear husband was back in control of himself and got us safely to Field for a biffy break and some lunch. The rest of the drive was not particularly notable, except that he actually let me drive it.  I am blessed by the ability to drive for hours when I am ill.  I can drive for more hours without feeling sleepy when I am ill than when I am healthy, so he got a good long break to rant about the drivers we had been stuck behind for most of the day.  O yes, there were other interesting characters out there on the highway, but these were the standouts.

"You need to blog about all these lousy drivers!!", my husband told me.  And so, to appease him, I have now done so.  It's okay dear.  We are home now.  You can return to being your mild mannered self.  You can stop waving your fist in the rear view mirror as you pass the lousy drivers and wishing your profession made it bad form to curse them out as well.  It's okay.  All better now.  Safely home.

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