March 04, 2005

An Interesting Trip

It seems that Kevin is besieged with poor luck, and nobody bothered to let me know about it before taking to the roads with him. I mentioned the other morning that it was spitting a little snow outside, right? No biggie. Just a few flurries. However...when I mentioned it, I had only seen the very beginning of what was to become a bona-fide snowstorm. Yep, it was comin' down "purty good". Undounted, Kevin points the shop-van west on Interstate 40. We should have gone back to bed.

Once we cleared West Knoxville, we start to notice that the snow is "sticking" quite nicely to the road. As usual, the DOT was caught with their collective pants down, so there had been no salt or de-icer layed down on the roads. Max-speed was about 40 mph. Keep a good following distance, etc. (Thank goodness that the sun was clearing the horizon at our backs around the time we really got rollin', because this section of our trek would have been a tinge more exciting if we couldn't see the pitfalls before us.) I'm sure that you've all seen the signs out there on the highways and byways of America that state: "Bridge Ices Before Road". It would seem that the literacy rate in the state of Tennessee is not quite up to the level of actually comprehending those signs. We began to see see several vehicles scattered along the sides of the road. Most had been "scuffed" just a bit, as pinballing off of the cement bridge railing tends to leave a mark. Let's just say that I appreciated Kevin's extra bit of caution as we crossed bridges and overpasses. Max-speed dropped to around 30 mph.

Needless to say, we were both getting a bit concerned. We are still in the valley, and we have the Cumberland Plateau ahead of us. If it's bad in the valley, it's always worse on the Plateau. At one point, some trucker had parked his semi on the inside median of the road just past an on-ramp. The road is climbing up a hill, and all the drivers out there are a little nervoous, so they slow way down. One poor slob in front of us actually brings his mini-van (with which he is towing a U-Haul trailer) to a stop. On the bridge. On the Icy bridge. The one that goes up hill and cambers off to the right. every time he tried to get moving forward, the front of his vehicle just slid down the camber of the bridge toward the guard rail. Luckily, Kevin had stopped with a good 25 feet to go before the bridge so we were able to get 'er rolling again. Albeit with much laughing and pointing.

The ride was starting to get allright after we climbed up onto the plateau. We are still seeing vehicles stuck in the median and the ditches on both sides of the road, but the DOT had been able to catch up and got some treatment down on the roads. We are actually clipping along at 60 or 65 mph. Life is good. Until we get about 40 miles this side of Nashville. That's when our max-speed dropped to zero. (Insert four hours of sitting in traffic here.) AS we are rolling past the scene of the wreck, we note that both of the tractor-trailers are pretty mangled up, but one of them is a little worse than the other. I'd be amazed if the guy driving actually made it through the accident, because the entire cab of the truck had been dislodged from its frame. Ugly business all the way around.

After we cleared the wreckage, we were able to finally make some time. It's still spitting snow occasionally, but the sun is well up into the sky, and nothing is sticking to the road. We fly around Nashville, and I get to point out the apartments where I used to live over there, as we pass by. Stop for a McBurger on the other side, and keep on rollin'. We finally make it to the appointed gas stop (at exit 126, I live just off of exit 384) when Kev's luck strikes us again. Just as we exit the van, our olfactories were accosted with the most noisome odor. It would seem that the fates had determined that we didn't have an interesting enough trip yet, so they placed the septic tank truck there to liven up our day. Not to mention the clerk there who was about "as sharp as a bowling ball".

Just a little further down the road, we hook North on Highway 22. It was then that I realized that I'd been misled. We weren't going to Memphis, we were going to Union City. Please note the maps linked to above, and you'll notice that the two places are decidedly dissimilar. Now I don't want you to think that I'm "Throwin' off" on Union City, TN, but it ain't exactly what I would call cosmopolitan. We roll on up the mian drag, in hopes that we will be able to secure a room at the Hampton Inn there. Walk through the doors at quarter 'til five in the evening, only to discover that the place is booked solid. Alternatives? A Super 8, and the Hospitality House. Not lookin' good for the home team. When we drive around back of the Super 8, and notice the pry marks on the lower floor windows, and decide to cruise on across the road to the Hospitality House. It is a remodelled circa 1940's Holiday Inn, and it didn't look too bad from the outside, but it never hurts to be cautious. Fortunately we were pleasantly surprised. The rooms were really nice. Finally something is looking up.

At around 6:30 in the evening my workday started. We arrive at "THE TALLEST BUILDING IN UNION CITY" to begin working on their five-stop elevator. Oh yes. I'm not saying that the town has slowed down a little bit, but that elevator was installed in 1931. Not exactly what you would call a happenin' town.

The building maintenance guy had taken the drive motor to be rebuilt, and when he reinstalled it he didn't get it square with the reduction gear that drives the shieve. On the ride up, the car was shaking like a dryer with a pair of workboots in it. Not exactly a comfortable feeling I can attest. So instead of getting to work on rigging the car up in the hoistway, we start in correcting the drive motor issue. After that, we run the car all the way up so that its top is level with the fifth floor landing, and sling it up. Since the counterweights are heavier than the car, we have to go down below them and set some rail-chocks to hold them up. Then we get to quitting-time. 1:30 in the morning. What a long day.

That was just day one. Luckily, it got a little less interesting as the rest of the trip went by. I'll update soon.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at March 4, 2005 10:34 AM

Ya know, as much as I bitch about the northern winters, at least they're quick with the road treatments up here.

Posted by: Harvey at March 4, 2005 01:45 PM

Yeah, Harv. Around here, when there's inclement weather, they lock up like a chastity belt on an Amish prom-night. Heaven forbid that our tax dollars be used in an effective way. I'm sure that htey're fine people to a man (someone I'd be honored to have a beer with), but I just wish they'd get offa their lazy butts when things get nasty.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at March 4, 2005 11:07 PM

Wow, someone who doesn't call a "median" a "medium".

If you ever mention "bowling ball" again, you will be tortured before you are fed to the hogs.....

Posted by: _Jon at March 4, 2005 11:37 PM

I just want to know how he knows about the Amish chastity belt and if he has any pictures!

Posted by: Tammi at March 5, 2005 06:53 AM

Pictures? Hell, Tammi, he stole yours when you weren't looking :-)

Posted by: Harvey at March 5, 2005 02:19 PM

I had to laugh... I had a similar experience with a co-worker who always got caught in bad weather. I dreaded when he had to go to Maine with me in Winter. I might have to work that into my blog sometime... the sinus problems, the suggestion of sucking water up them to help (the stores were closed), the immense pain... and the laughter of me relating this story to the other workers. Do NOT every suck warm salty water up your nose - EVER. Learn to sleep with your mouth open no matter how cold it is. ;-)

Posted by: vw bug at March 5, 2005 08:54 PM

sometimes it is just good to find your comfy spot and sleep. :-)

Posted by: sarah the penguin at March 6, 2005 02:02 AM
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