Random thoughts while driving

I have a friend who moved from Colorado to South Dakota a number of years ago. To make the move, they purchased a used cube van and hauled their things. It depends on which of the couple you talk to, but they made either 19 or 21 trips with that van before they were completely moved. We are a little over half way to our new home on our fourth trip moving our possessions. I’ve pulled a trailer every trip. The first trip we pulled our camping trailer. The second trip, we pulled a trailer with all of our canoes and kayaks. The third trip, we had a U-Haul truck and a U-Haul trailer. This trip we have a U-haul trailer. This is our last trip. We have our pickup with the trailer and our car. Since we aren’t driving together, I’ve had a bit of time to think over the past couple of days while I drove. Here are some very random thoughts that have occurred to me in no particular order:

The Wyoming Department of transportation puts up brown signs with white letters to inform those driving on the Interstate highways of the state about local attractions. The signs point the way to parks and museums and other attractions. At Gillette, there is one of those signs inviting people to check out the Campbell County Rockpile Museum. Since I was driving, I didn’t have an opportunity to check it out until later, so I wondered exactly what one would exhibit in a rockpile museum. Would there be just one rockpile, or several? Would there be pictures of rockpiles or actual stones piled one upon another? Maybe I should stop sometime. I know a bit about rockpiles because we used to be able to make a few cents by picking rocks in the field of a neighbor. We made a sizable rockpile that later got sold as landscaping rock. Why someone would want to transport a load of river rocks to their yard is beyond me, but people do it. I’ll have to check out how the museum in Gillette got its name some day.

I have a theory that the size and expense of a head gate at the entrance to a ranch is inversely proportional to the amount of time the owner spends there. I haven’t checked it out, but the more ranch land that is bought up as second homes and recreational property, the larger the head gates are getting. I’ve seen some that reflect a heathy amount of money spent on custom welding and other features.

I’m not sure how the computers that control the large diesel engines in semi trucks have some kind of sensor that can tell when there is a car passing the truck. The sensor causes the truck to accelerate so that the car has to speed up by more than 10 mph to get around the truck.

Speaking of trucks, why is the cost of diesel higher than the cost of gas in South Dakota? It used to be that diesel, which requires less refining, was the less expensive fuel. And, as we travel west, diesel is less expensive than gas in Montana, Idaho and Washington. But back home in South Dakota, diesel is more expensive. What gives?

We saw a disabled snowplow alongside the highway yesterday. It was sitting there with its hood up. I got to thinking about the complex job of deciding how to allocate plowing equipment in a big state like Montana. There are a lot of roads and the weather is always difficult to predict. There must be times when there are too many plows in one area and too few in another. Plows, of course, are mobile so they can be moved around, but there are limits to how far they can go without becoming inefficient. They consume a lot of fuel and drivers must want to be able to go home when their shift is over. Somehow states that get a lot of snow, like Montana, figure out how to do a pretty good job of having the plows where they are needed. Our drive yesterday was definitely a lot better because there were a lot of plows in the places where they were needed.

On the way down from Homestake Pass over the Continental Divide, not far from Butte, there was a sign that said, “Incident ahead.” I slowed because usually this indicates an accident and sometimes it requires a change of lane. What the “incident” was turned out to be an enormous boulder, larger than a car that had fallen from the rocks above and landed on the shoulder of the road. It must have been dramatic when that rock landed. They had set up orange cones around the boulder. What struck me as I drove by was that a couple of the cones had been hit and toppled by passing cars. As I drove on, I wondered what the drivers of that car was thinking just before hitting those cones. Perhaps it was, “Oh no! I nearly crashed!” But it might have been, “Wow! that’s a really big rock, I want to get a good look.” Or maybe, “Hmm, interesting geology. I wonder what made that happen.” I suppose it could have been, “Oh no! that semi passing me isn’t in his lane!” It also might have been, “Hmm, this new trailer sure is cool! I wonder how wide it is. It must be wider than my tow vehicle because I can see it in my mirrors. Oh well, I’ll just drive like I do when I don’t have a trailer and everything will work out.” Whatever the thoughts of the driver, I’m glad it wasn’t me. Hitting those cones so close to that rock would have scared the daylights out of me.

With Covid, we have been planning our stops carefully so that we limit exposure to others. It was hard to stop to see my sister yesterday and keep our distance as we visited outside as she is in quarantine after having been exposed. Fortunately, she has had no symptoms and is feeling great, though a little “stir crazy” from the isolation. Because we chose to make our trip in four days instead of the usual three, our days have been a little bit shorter. Still, we are more than half way to our destination. We’ve got two big mountain passes to cross today, but the weather forecast is good. There will be more snow tomorrow when we cross the Cascades, but unless there are more snow plows broken down alongside the road, we should be in good shape.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!