Trying to survive Highway 85People who look for adventure often go hang gliding, parachuting, deep sea fishing, deep sea diving or they ride bucking horses; which are a lot of dull pursuits compared to darting up Oil P
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
People who look for adventure often go hang gliding, parachuting, deep sea fishing, deep sea diving or they ride bucking horses; which are a lot of dull pursuits compared to darting up Oil Patch Lane, better known as Highway 85, north of Belfield these days.
Stupidity reigns on that fast track and I know because I’ve seen every form of automotive stupidity that exists, having negotiated southern California freeways during a 20-year hiatus in the City of Angels and beyond.
Back there they drive 85 mph an inch from your bumper and think nothing of it, scurrying from one lane to the next and back, overworking to gain an additional second of time as if it was worth more than a hill of beans, a lost crescent wrench or a wife who dates the postman.
I was rear-ended twice, passed by a truck tire, spun out across six lanes, slammed into a retainer wall, had two cars spin out in front of me and, as if it was the grand prize, had a plane land on the freeway in front of me.
It is deadly, deranged, dramatic, depressing and a daily ordeal that drags you down, digs deep, robs time and gives birth to varying levels of a dementia known as road rage, a disease now afflicting even Oil Patch Lane, the nation’s latest fast track, surpassed in danger only by Talladega, Daytona Beach, Martinsville and a few other NASCAR venues.
On Oil Patch Lane, young dudes in giant pickup trucks, raised up as high as a forest ranger’s lookout tower, drive so close that they are nearly hooked to your bumper, hoisting an occasional beer or energy drink and gliding over the centerline to see if they might have an inch or two to pass, especially uphill, putting pedal to the metal, shooting dark dungy diesel in thunderous clouds out of their tailpipe.
Or it is a company truck from Texas, Louisiana, Colorado or Oklahoma, full of tools and fools, dipping in and out from one lane to the next, playing a glorious game of chicken while putting everyone at risk for a two-second gain that results in a lot pain and a small-town newspaper headline worth of fame.
It’s a rush, a high, a desire to fly, or something crazy that motivates these few who’ll ultimately find that their time is due.
I saw it this past weekend as part of a pack of 10 vehicles in a row with two white ones in back. They were fighting for position, a pickup and truck, until one passed the other and the other passed back, on the right, on the shoulder, half in the ditch.
Crazy it is, insane if not worse, a game played on asphalt that makes no sense and reminds me of a quote I once heard that said, “It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road.”
That’s twice in two trips that I’ve seen some moron pass on the right, too much in a hurry with too much at stake. What’s the rush and the hurry you want to say, take your time and live another day.
Meanwhile the U.S. Transportation Department announced that, in the rest of the country, highway deaths fell to 32,885, the lowest level since 1949, even though American’s increased their driving by 1.6 percent.
Of that number, 5,474 were “distraction-related” fatalities caused by texting or talking on a cellphone and 10,228 deaths were caused by drunk drivers.
Still, it is especially alarming to note that drug-related deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the U.S. by almost 5,000 people per year and these deaths are due largely to the growing popularity of powerful prescription pain and anxiety drugs, which are often highly addictive and dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol.
Which reminds me of another quote that went something like this: “To all my friends I bid adieu, a more sudden death you never knew. As I was leading the old mare to drink, she kicked and killed me quicker’ n a wink.”
So look out for the old mare. She comes in many forms these days.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.