02.03 First Impressions from First Monitor Run
- Posted by Trish Weber
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AATH-nation member Sharon Cousins of Moscow ID was awesome enough to not only participate in the first night’s monitoring of the Conoco-Phillips megaload movement, but also wrote down her impressions and shared them with us. Give it up for Sharon, everybody!!!
Tired out of my mind, but jotting a few impressions while I unwind. Whew. While it is true I am a night owl and work most of the night, the usual work consists of sitting in a chair typing and editing, not hours on the highway, let alone with tonight’s light show. My son was a super driver. He also managed to catch some very good footage of the lit up convoy that does an excellent job of showing how horribly jarring and distracting all the lights are. Hopefully he will be able to get it downloaded and sent off to you once he’s had some sleep (unlike me, he’d done an 8-hour shift of hard, on-his-feet work Tuesday, though he did get a nap between that and the drive). The light show is awful, just awful. Totally distracting, completely destroys your night vision. When the back of the tag-end state patrol car is fully lit, adding insanely bright hot pink and electric blue it is even worse. At one point I actually made sure Nate knew where to grab the sunglasses on the visor if it got any worse. In terms of safety consideration, it would actually probably be safer to move them in the daytime, but then everyone would be able to see what a bad idea the whole thing was.::rolling-eyes::
One of our passes actually (though not exactly by design), put us on a very small pull-off just past a guard rail (but definitely a pull-off, not just shoulder.. one of those little one pickup size ones) pointed west with our tires at least three or four feet from the road edge. We were able to experience the load passing us, headed east, from way up close and personal. It almost shadowed our rig, and I don’t think there was four feet between the top edge of our rig and the most stuck out part of his as it went by. It may have been less than three, but I wasn’t about to get out an measure. Those things are scary. If I had been a tourist with no idea such a thing would be going on, I would be high-tailing it for the state line as fast as I could go. (At another point we interacted with another trooper, also very polite interaction, more on that one when I can take time to access the hours of recording.)
For the most part, traffic direction for cars following the convoy was a disorganized mess. Half the time we were following the convoy we weren’t sure who we should follow or what lane we should be in. Pilot cars with ‘follow me’ signs would pull out into the wrong lane and sit without really looking as if they expected anyone to follow. There was a lot of pulling into the oncoming lane by convey support rigs, and maybe they know no one is coming, but if you are following it is very confusing. There were only a couple of times near the end when we found ourselves being directed by someone in reflective gear with a glow-wand or whatever you call them. There were guys sticking their hands out the windows to wave you by, one guy flapping a bit of red gauze about the size of a hankie that you could barely see… the whole issue of traffic direction in for vehicles following the convoy was mostly just a total mess. Civilian traffic ends up mixed with the convoy, some of it is so spread out, so sometimes you have no idea if you’re following a convoy rig or a civilian one. I think they did a better job with oncoming traffic, but they did not do a good job directing the following traffic.
Overall, the aggregate lights of the convoy really are a horror, especially during the really slow stretches or stops, when they are bunched up. Nate and I found it interesting that the semi with the half-box on the back, which we kind of presume was the parts truck for the rig, was often far ahead, I think as much as a couple of miles sometimes, often in places where it would be quite a ways to somewhere where it could turn around and get back to the rig if it needed parts. That struck us as kind of odd. The porta-potty rig, however, stayed quite close to the mega-rig.
One particular thing about the lights is the running lights on the big load that look like trouble-lights on a chain. They are white. On a lot of those river curves, when you are following and see it in the distance on the far side of a curve, it looks like a row of oncoming (or stopped) traffic. Are white running lights even legal? I thought only front lights and back-up lights were supposed to be white? The first time it completely fooled me. I thought we were seeing the line of stopped traffic up ahead. The second and third time I knew because of the first, but really, it absolutely is not safe for them to use running lights that can look like headlights in the other lane for the traffic that follows them. Those lights should be yellow/amber or red. Not that the light show needs more of any kind of lights, but those white lights are a very bad thing, and someone should probably at least check on their legality.
Our primary record of the trip is pretty much a play-by-play recording, with notes on time and mile markers stuck in when I could, that I did on my Echo Livescribe Smart Pen. Amazing little device. Unfortunately, even stopping at Shari’s, it was too noisy and I was too tired to go through enough of it to translate the most relevant parts to the form. That might not be in until Thursday or Friday, but you will eventually get paper from me too. The one time we were really seriously in a flag-man stop headed east, we timed at least a bit over 15 minutes, but I’m too tired to find the spot in the recording to see by how much. We had actually passed those guys with the stop sign about five minutes before we turned around and came back and stopped, so they were holding the sign there for at least twenty minutes, but until we came back there wasn’t any traffic to stop, so I don’t know if that counts. We’ll see how long I said it was in the recording. Also, when we pulled out of that beautiful little rest area up on the bluff and picked up the end of the convoy again, I recorded for more than nineteen minutes of slow driving with no traffic coming through the other way. I think that was the one where when we did finally get to where the west-bound traffic could proceed, Nate counted and typed the rigs. Several loaded logging trucks were held up in that one.