Friday, driving to Iowa for a dog show, I encountered several opportunities. These began when about four miles north of Faribault on Interstate 35. The traffic ahead of me - in both lanes - suddenly, (it's always suddenly) stopped dead. I was sure there must be an accident, but as time went by, no emergency vehicles were zooming up the shoulder, so that theory went by the way. This parking lot creeping began at that point and continued until at least a mile or two past Owatonna, a total of about 20 miles, more or less. Highest speed during this character building event - just under 10. Average speed, about 4.
Opportunity one: A chance to observe closely every nook and crevice in the highway for a distance of some over 20 miles. So many times I've zoomed along these highways. Who would have thought that I should stop and admire the cracks in the pavement and the unique styles of highway surface that are part and parcel of our Interstate highway system?
Opportunity two: A good perspective on all the other unsuspecting and confused folks who were also offered this rare opportunity. Many were on their cell phones. One or two got out of their cars to check on the road ahead. They couldn't seem a damned thing, but they tried. Some swerved out a bit to see. Same result. One or two changed lanes, but experience has proven that this is totally ineffective when in a two lane parking lot with nowhere to go.
Three, was the opportunity to save on gas. After an experience in a similar situation in Indiana several years ago, I learned that my RV uses substantially less fuel when traveling in idle, than when traveling at 70 miles an hour. In this case we got about 9.5 miles per gallon - which is good for a 30 foot vehicle. In my previous RV, the savings were substantially better.
Fourth, an opportunity to chatter on the cell phone with my friend, Barbara, eliciting her sympathy and understanding for this rare, but enlightening experience. Unlike the usual on the road phone conversations, this one was not interrupted with cutting out events as I went up and down hills. I was not scooting up and down hills here - absolutely not. As stable as, say, sitting in one's own home and talking on the phone.
Fifth, during one extended period when I sat with the shift in "Park", I got my fingernails both cut and filed - a job I had been putting off. Never, ever travel without a fingernail clipper in your compartments, along with your toothpicks and Chapstick.
Sixth, I labored to maintain patience and charity towards all, a truly worthy, long term personality gain. I was successful at this for at least an hour - some kind of record - until I had to provide space for new vehicles entering the parking lot at Owatonna. The huge semi truck evoked an obscene gesture, but not so he'd notice.
All in all it took well over one and a half hours to navigate this opportunity. It was enlightening to me that about half way into this experience there was a sign saying: "This project is made possible by the Federal Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Act." OMG! I can't even begin to calculate the number of votes the Democrats lost the moment that sign appeared. Mine included, temporarily.
After this extraordinary experiential opportunity, I reached the following conclusions:
One: Under no circumstances will I be persuaded to take Interstate 35 south or north again until at least 2011. I have now returned from Fort Dodge via Highway 169, but don't tell anyone else. It was sooooo smooth and easy, although a little slower. Still, my mileage on my return was 10.5 - a full gallon better than traveling in idle.
Two: This is actually the fault of our Republican administration here in Minnesota. Remember, this was Carol Molnau's department, the Department of Transportation. No traffic engineer who had not deliberately set out to frustrate Minnesota drivers could have devised such a diabolical strategy for making these alleged road improvements. I won't even go into the frustration of traveling along miles of roadway and seeing absolutely nothing going on in the blocked off areas. I'm sure you've all been there and seen that.
Three: There is going to be more of this, as in all the hundreds of times I have traveled this road to and from Des Moines and other points in Iowa, this is NOT - I repeat, NOT - the most needy section of Interstate 35. That is reserved for Albert Lea to just north of the rest stop, going north. That's a section of the highway in which you feel you are rocking on waves - regular thunk, thunk, thunk,etc. I don't want to be a victim of that Economic Recovery and Reconstruction event.
Four: There's a lot to be said for traveling an occasional two lane highway. It has been many years - over 20? - since I traveled the route from Fort Dodge to Minneapolis via 169. Amazing how little has changed, and how comforting it was to find that out.
I'm home at last. More on this significant trip in later posts.