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rolling roadblocks


I am teasing my way through Leanings 2 by Peter Egan. This evening I came across a gem describing as I wish I could the massive barrier to free movement when a large group of motorcyclists, or specialized car gang decide to CRUISE roadways that the vast majority of travelers use for actual travel.

I have come across small-to-medium-sized batches of them from time to time. If there aren’t too many, or the roadway is favorable, I typically put them behind me … thus disappearing from their lives forever … which should not be any bother at all to them, but often is a major insult in some weird way …

if you don’t want to crawl down the highway at a speed of their choosing you have now insulted their manhood. They would love to physically pummel you – if they could catch you, but there is almost no danger of that.

In as many cases as possible, I simply refuse to plod along under the restrictions they choose to impose on “fellow travelers”. In my ridiculously under-performing half-ton, I put a lot of them behind me. It is a whole bunch easier when I am driving steeds of greater handling potential.

One of the most storied, popular and highly rated “motorcycle roads” of the world is Highway 12 between Lewiston, Idaho and Lolo, Montana. I have driven it several times in a GMC 4-wheel-drive 1/2-ton pickup with a 6-cylinder engine and 5-speed transmission. Gear guys will get the picture that this is very definitely NOT a twisty-road superstar.

In every traverse of that path I have ended up passing a few, often more than a few of those mobile roadblocks. I am always a bit disgusted when the pilot thereof is so grossly under-utilizing the capability of his/her vehicle that my utility pickup has to work itself free of the blockade they present, and that they are so oblivious to their surroundings that they do not understand the restrictions they place on fellow travelers.

Budding young drivers used to be taught that if there are three or more cars backed up behind you, pull over and let them by before you inspire an accident. That bit of knowledge is about as well known as correct English language, grammar, descriptive adjectives, and sentence diagramming.

I turn you over to an excerpt from the elegant Peter Egan:

RAMBLING ROADBLOCKS

APRIL 12001 PETER EGAN
Rambling roadblocks

LEANINGS

Peter Egan

ONE FINE SUMMER AFTERNOON A COUple of years ago, I was batting around the hills of southwestern Wisconsin on my old Harley FLHS when I suddenly realized the hour was growing late.

Turning up the wick a bit to get home in time for dinner, I came around a corner on a small country road to find myself at the back end of a long parade of very slow-moving cars and pickup trucks. Little old ladies with gray hairdos in vanillaplain sedans, farmers hauling milk cans, the usual rural mix.

“Okay,” I grumbled to myself, “who’s causing this log-jam in the middle of nowhere? Manure spreader? Com picker? Elderly farmer?”

Alas, I came around the comer and crested a hill to find the slowdown was caused by a long line of 35 or 40 motorcycles, all chuffing along at about 49 mph. A riding club of some kind, no doubt. The bikes were staggered down the road in perfect symmetry for at least half a mile.

The cars ahead of me, of course, were afraid to pass. They always are. First, it appears there’s no room to pass because it’s unclear whether any of the bikes have left a large enough gap to fit a car into the procession.

Second, people are afraid. They move out and take a look down that long column of motorcycles and can almost see the headline in the paper the next day: “Local man blunders into motorcycle gang; is badly beaten.” Or worse yet: “Grandmother accidentally kills 4 bikers out for peaceful Sunday ride.”

Both bad scenarios, and most people don’t want to cause trouble. So they drive 49 mph and wait for deliverance.

I, however, am an impatient person, so I simply put on my turnsignal, twisted the throttle to its stop and moved out to pass on a long, downhill stretch of straight road. Rather than hopscotch a few bikes at a time and risk disturbing the formation, I simply held it open and passed the group in one long swoop, waving to people as I cmised by.

On the following Monday morning, I stopped into a local bike dealership to buy an oil filter and overheard an interesting conversation.

“Yeah, it was a nice ride,” a customer was telling the clerk, “but on the way home, some jerk (this wasn’t the actual word he used) pulled out and passed the entire group.” He shook his head sadly. “No lane discipline…”

Could he have been talking about me? Maybe. On the other hand, he didn’t mention that his group was holding up a long line of cars and trucks, so maybe it was some other club.

As I stood at the counter, I said, “I passed a long line of bikes myself yesterday, but they were holding up traffic, and I had to get home.”

The excerpt above only tickles the story. See the rest here: RAMBLING ROADBLOCKS