Friday, February 11

Dodging Silver Backed Whales [Updated]

All is sunshine and rainbows, the OBS and I cruised in to work in record winter commuting time. I guess the "rest" was good for me. And despite the local news station's efforts to sweat me out, I made it.

I dressed for the reported 16°F but stopped 15 minutes into the ride to shed my sweater and fleece hat. Then as I passed out of Wheat Ridge (Thank Dawgs!) Mr. Steve Casey explained to me why I had been sweating under a sweater (do you see the irony?), a cotton tee and a long-sleeved polypro...27°F!

I grumbled a non-verbal curse under my breath toward meteorologists in general and slammed on the pedals as I moved into No Man's Land.

There was a lot of icy patches this morning. There was very little snow to plow over, but I definitely had to keep my speed in check as I wound between glassy humps. Who am I kidding...when I ride to Golden I poke along pretty slow. Its an elevation gain of about 700 feet. Tonight will be another edition of "Ramming Speed Fridays" as the joy of the impending weekend, the catastrophic loss of elevation and the reduced friction of the ice on the trail will allow me to ride home in about 30 seconds flat. Stay tuned.

But that's not my whole morning story Morning Glory. Oh no! There is more!

I opted to climb up to work via Illinois Street in lieu of the 13,000 ft Steep Climb Ahead that is The Six. I was pretty sure the ice would cause issues. So I took to the streets. Almost immediately I realized what complete imbeciles were using Illinois as a conduit for their stupidity this morning.

Was that too harsh? Tell me the truth. I can take it. I should tone it down a bit, huh?

So I took to the avenues. Almost immediately I realized what generous and thoughtful morons were using Illinois as a conduit for their homicidal stupidity this morning. I rode one block south from the CCT, and as I approached the stop sign I took the lane and slowed to a stop. And a Baby Boomer whale pulled up beside me in a silver sedan with Maryland plates.

I don’t know why coming from such a merry place he would think it okay to completely ignore traffic laws after he got East of the Mississippi, but he did. He was going to pull ahead and I gave him a Superbark. He stopped.

Then I proceeded to assert my dominance over inferior vehicular transportation by continuing on through the intersection as mandated by traffic code. But the Silver Backed Whale, being West of the Mississippi and out on the "Frontier" decided to mix it up and completely ignore all traffic laws and polite manners. What a rogue! What a dashing example of "Frontier" spirit! If he had been riding a horse it would have died from sheer depression. He gunned through the intersection and passed within millimeters of me on the snowy and icy road to continue up the steepness that is Illinois and onto the Mines campus. I hope he couldn't find a parking spot and had to walk. And was wearing dress shoes. And thin socks.

Good riddance!

Anyway, as I continued my crawl up Illinois my faith in higher education was restored as a Mines student gunned the engine in his SUV and barreled past me on the steepest part of the Illinois Ski Slope; again, within millimeters. He only reached the top of the hill about ten seconds ahead of me. I opted not to chase the guy down and give him a tongue lashing (with his own tongue of course).

The rest of the ride was pretty anticlimactic. Crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl. Open door, roll bike up to cube. Go back down to kiosk and get coffee. Sit down and compose new post as coffee cools.

BTW, how many more posts til I can go on a self-righteous rant again? We gotta be getting' close.


A recent Op-Ed in the Denver Business Journal proposed a startling alternative to the I-70 ski traffic cluster of problems. Neil Westergaard, the editor of the Journal, suggests restricting trucking traffic during peak recreational traffic times. What?!

He goes ahead and parries the obvious killing blow from the trucking lobbyists who would jab "Disrupting Commerce! Costing Consumers More! Profits down!" Westergaard points out that much of the cargo crawling toward the Divide isn't really time sensitive anyway. He prefaces that by explaining that much of the problem stems from trucks crawling up the long grades and having to continuously stop and start to put on and remove chains. Traffic just can't flow around the beached whales of commerce.

The solution sounds pretty viable. The peak times are Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and evenings and Sunday morning and evenings and the occasional Thursday or Monday thrown in on the random holiday weekend. As Westergaard states: its roughly 15 hours of the week, or about 9% of the time. I don’t think that's asking too much. It would give the truckers crossing the Divide more rest time, and we know they all need a little more shuteye. They could use that time to call and talk to loved ones so their hands are cell phone free while they navigate their behemoths through the mountains. The could resume their commerce driven treks east and west fully rested and all caught up on crucial communication.

The other options really aren’t viable. You can't cost-effectively widen I-70. If you've never driven west from Denver up to the Continental Divide let me explain it briefly. I-70 goes up a steep, deep, rocky gorge between 12-14,000 foot peaks. The weather varies drastically from that of the plains and once traffic snarls and/or the weather goes in the toilet there's nowhere to go. At one point in the canyon even bicycle traffic is relegated to the shoulder of the interstate (though reportedly there is a new paved bike path between the last exit east and Loveland).

Why not challenge the machine? Trucking is important, especially until we find a better solution than shipping stuff from everywhere to everywhere, but trucking shouldn't have top priority over all other uses. With careful, thoughtful and creative logistics we can keep the supply lines moving and no one will lose a single beach house in Maui.

The link for the article is found HERE, but you have to subscribe to read it online. Unfortunately to read the entire article for free you will have to find a copy of the most current Denver Business Journal laying around like I did.

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