Traffic Jams

You'll never get there from here

We've all been in traffic jams. Nobody likes them. Still, if you're stuck there anyway, use the opportunity to look around. You never know what you might see.

Trooper Mockers

troopermockerMy sister and I were in a traffic jam in Colorado in 1970. There was a convertible in front of us with two cute guys in it. A trooper was directing traffic, articulating his instructions with the usual pointing gestures. The guys in the convertible cruised by the trooper, waiving their arms over their heads, gibbon style.

The trooper scowled at them.

Offal in Arkansas

Ted and I were driving on I-40 west of Little Rock. Traffic came to a stop. A crash truck came barreling down the right shoulder. The crash truck should have been followed by an ambulance, but instead a medevac chopper flew over head. If you see a chopper, it's never a good sign for a speedy re-opening of the highway.

dragontankWe studied the equipment on the 18-wheelers as we passed them and they passed us. We saw the weirdest trailer ever. Not much clearance in front of those rear wheels.

Didn't figure out what it was until we looked it up online several days later. It's a portable liquid storage tank.

After a while we crawled up to where the state police were funneling three lanes of traffic into one. Looked like blood all over the two left lanes, but we could see only a jack-knifed tractor-trailer on its side and a little white 4-wheeler--not enough human capacity in either vehicle to dump that much blood. Clearly, though, the road was wet and slippery and not from rain, either--the day was bright and sunny.

offalAs we got closer, I saw what looked like a stomach the size of a Volkswagen Beetle lying on the road. Then I saw what looked like piles of intestines and lungs and more stomachs of varying sizes. The tractor-trailer was apparently traveling from a slaughterhouse when the 4-wheeler did something stupid and caused the crash. It was indeed blood--and stomachs and lungs and intestines--all over the highway.

I don't know how it works in Arkansas, but in Virginia, it's the firemen who clean up of the hazmat spills and this was hazardous material if ever I saw it. A couple of firemen from the crash truck and a couple of state troopers were standing in the median--a couple of dozen yards from the scene--forlornly looking at the mess. This is usually the kind of thing that guys put a paper towel over and leave for their wives to deal with when, say, the cat leaves the remains of a squeaker on the kitchen floor or the dog barfs on the living room rug. Not this time, I reckon.

Geese East of Little Rock

snowgeese01Ted and I were sitting in the fast lane on I-40 in a no-apparent-reason traffic stoppage in Arkansas. The sky was wintery silver, but the air was warm. I rolled down the window on the driver's side and heard geese honking. In the sky to the south were migrating snow geese. I looked out the window to the north and realized that the sky was filled horizon-to-horizon with them. Their echelons blended and separated and blended again kaliedoscopically, crossing from one side of the flock to the other, emerging in the same V's as the ones in which they started. They filled the sky for the entire 15 minutes we paused there.

Farther east, on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River near Memphis, someone with a homestead close to the highway has dug a shallow pond and is cultivating a cypress grove. If I can bring myself to make one more trip east on I-40, I'd like to see how it's coming along. If you pass that way and happen to see it when you're stuck in a traffic jam before the Hernando-Desoto bridge, let me know.

Waterfalls in Tennessee

Ted and I were driving on I-40 headed for New Mexico when construction constriction stopped traffic. We had time to look around, of course, and discovered that the canyon walls alonsgide the roadway were oozing water. We saw that in dozens of places, water was crashing down the mountainside in sizeable cascades and into the river below. It was spectacular. We likely would never have noticed it if the traffic jam hadn't provided the opportunity.