Thursday, January 6, 2011

PA22

This is a true story, or at least as true as I can remember it.  This happened about 5 years ago so the details may be a little off.

When I was a kid, highway 22 in Pennsylvania was a death trap.  It hadn’t changed much by the time I started my job with regular trips between Altoona and Pittsburgh.
I was on my way home from a standard install in Altoona.  About half way down 22 I caught up with a truck going 25 miles per hour in a 45 zone.  This isn’t an uncommon thing on the small, windy road, so I wasn’t upset.  I knew that there were several two lane sections throughout the highway for this exact reason.
I see one of these two lane sections coming up.  I accelerate and slide into the left lane.  I get to about half way past the truck before I realise something’s wrong.  I look down at my speedometer and see I’m going 80 but am unable to pass the truck.  With the end of the passing zone coming up fast, I slow down and get behind the truck.  I wasn’t thrilled that the trucker had done this, but figured that at least he sped up.  I was wrong.  As soon as we left the passing zone he slowed back down to 25 miles per hour.  The next passing zone was a few miles away.  The truck continued to drive slowly, only varying speed to drive at ten miles per hour going up hill.
When I saw the next passing zone coming up I thought I might be able to get around the truck if I jumped the gun a little.  Before the passing zone, I jumped lanes and floored it.  The truck must have had an empty trailer because it sped up to match, quickly.  Again I was unable to pass the truck, and again the truck slowed after the passing zone.
By the time the third passing lane arrived, a red pickup truck was in front of me.  The pickup had just turned onto this road so he didn’t know what was happening.  I watched as he tried to do the same thing I had done, change lanes and floor it.  The truck did the same thing it had been doing and cut the pickup off and then slowed down when the passing lane ended.
Around a half an hour latter, I look ahead in the road and see the start of the next passing lane.  I recognise this one due to it being an absolutely pointless passing lane.  The lane starts, there is a blind turn around a cliff, and the lane ends.  There’s probably only 200 yards of second lane.  I see this coming and slow even further down.  The red pickup backed off as well, but the three cars we had picked up since the last passing zone didn’t know what was coming and tried to pass the slow truck.  
I slowly came around the bend expecting the worst.  Somehow, no one hit anything.  The first car had managed to pass the truck, this time the truck didn’t speed up.  The second car was in the wrong lane stopped, facing another car also stopped.  The third car was stopped at the end of the passing lane.  The truck was already down the road not having even slowed down for the carnage he caused.  Enough space had grown between the truck and the pickup to allow the two cars to get over before it caused any more problems.
I don’t know if it was due to this event, but it was only a few weeks after when Penn DOT finally closed that second lane.
That road is no longer part of 22 since they started the project to make it a four lane highway.  But, veterans of that road still remember that turn every time I tell this story.

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