Sunday, August 16, 2009

Evergreen State Drivers

Living in California for pretty much all of my life, you get used to the rat race, I have to hurry to work type of drivers. We see them every morning on our way to work and again while driving home. When I ride my personal motorcycle to work, I usually zip to work doing a comfortable 75 mph. But even at that speed I'll have motorists creep up on my ass and I'm not even in the so called "fast lane".

Now I typically don't mind if someone creeps up on my ass while I'm in my car, but I tend not to like it when I'm on my motorcycle. I harbor those thoughts of having a hand full of ball bearings in my hand to toss up behind me to let the driver behind me know that they're too close. Just a thought mind you.

Recently while on a trip in Washington State, the wife and I picked up our rental car at the airport and drove from Seattle, around the south part of Puget Sound and up north along the Sounds west side to Port Townsend.

The speed limit is 60 mph on Washington State freeways. It took some doing not to drive the usual Californian style of 75 mph or faster. I found it easiest to put the cruise control on 65 mph. I was amazed that most if not all of the other drivers were going the speed limit or slightly faster like I was.

I thought to myself, "Geeze, those Washington State Troopers must be some hard asses and not give any breaks to speeding motorists".

Being well into the groove of cruising at 65 mph, and I'll tell you it sure seems like you're traveling at a snails pace, I was feeling pretty relaxed and taking in the beautiful scenery. My wife had a harder time adjusting to the speed limit than I did.

While driving through Tacoma, the traffic was bumper to bumper. I didn't experience the usual Californian "You're not gonna take that space in front of me" mentality when trying to move over. I found the drivers to be courteous and had no problem making my way over to the interchange.

After getting out of Tacoma, the traffic thinned and soon enough we were back up to that sound barrier breaking speed of 65 mph. Once again I was driving along, relaxed, enjoying the scenery and pace.

Driving northbound on Hwy 16 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was very scenic to me. The contrast of the evergreen trees which dominate the skyline as well as the contrasting deep blue waters of Puget Sound and the light blue sky was calming. I drove along with not a worry in the world.

Hwy 16 is made up of two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes separated by a very wide median of green grass. The traffic had become very light. I think I saw more cars going southbound than I did going my direction.

As we neared the Bremerton Naval Shipyard on Hwy 3, I saw a Ford F-150 coming up from behind at a high rate of speed. So I moved over to the right lane to let speed racer zoom by. As the truck zoomed by, you could probably guess which state license plate was on it...... yep California.

I guess there are those who don't do as the natives do.


  1. Washington State - balancing the budget one tourist at a time. Lived there for twenty years.
    In descending order of danger; wood chip haulers, log trucks, Canadians, and Californians. Then there are the volunteer speed limit enforcers from Oregon. It is a beautiful place.

  2. I'm originally from New England where the style of driving is far more aggressive than down south. I often find I have to adjust my driving style to the area I am in.

  3. The first time I ever left Texas, driving, pretty much the second we crossed over into Arkansas, everybody sped up 10mph. The speed limit didn't change; traffic just stopped feeling the need to obey it.

    Only got worse the closer to New England we got.

  4. SEVENTY FIVE?! Good grief, I get wired for sound just driving 55 on my way to Pittsburgh...

  5. Yea... I admit it. I set the cruise control at about 80-85 after my shift. I usually stay in the number 2 lane to let everyone else zip by me.

  6. Around here, if you're not doing 80, you're getting tailgated... even in the left lane.

    As for wanting the ball bearings I don't need them :) A very common defect on my vehicle type (Jeep Cherokee, early 90s) is that the washer fluid sprayer hose for the rear wiper will break off the body, leaving a backwards-pointing washer fluid nozzle instead... if someone is tailgating me, I can simply press the rear washer fluid button and completely soak their car. Even when stopped at a light I have a range of over a carlength.

  7. As a former officer in Oregon, I'm not sure where Well Seasoned Fool found those "Oregon speed limit enforcers". Just drive the freeways around Portland. I know several troopers who emptied citation books daily stopping those speed limit enforcers. My issues were with the rubber-neckers and the rabbits. Every friggin time I stopped someone, people had to slow way down and look and see if there was any blood or they actually speed up because they saw my lights on ruining somebody's day.

  8. I probably shouldn't mention this, but I took a motorcycle safety course from an old retired police officer many years ago. He mentioned that a vest pocket containing a few marbles would be better than ball bearings. When the marbles hit, they tend to shatter into a zillion pieces, leaving very little evidence behind. Just an FYI tidbit. :)

  9. This is fairly typical for the areas you drove in. If you had headed east on either 90 or 2 though, you would've felt right at home as far as the speeding goes. I frequently see traffic traveling at 80-85 down both those roads (during the summer at any rate). I would also agree that most WA drivers are polite and willing to share the road; until you have to pass them. I mean passing in the oncoming traffic lane. So many times I have started to pass somebody, and as I move up my rate of overtaking them starts to slow while I am still speeding up. That's when I get to ball-bearing levels of frustration.

  10. I live in Western Mass. and the big road is I-91 aka Ski and Foliage Highway. We get hit by tourists on their way to Vermont, NH, Maine, and Montreal. These particular tourists are from NY, CT, and NJ. Drivers out here are courteous (unlike Boston-area ones). We stop at crosswalks, give jaywalking pedestrians the right-of-way, and yield on the tiny interstates we have. NOBODY ever passes on the one-lane-each-way suicide state highway passing zones.

    So when the NY/CT/NJ crew shows up and tailgates one of us doing 80, we get upset. We show it by slowing down. Suddenly, everyone with Mass, VT, and NH plates does 60-65. Our guests retaliate by trying to weave through lanes. We close ranks to prevent them. They (especially the spoiled CT girls with the Yankees-emblazoned Yukons) get progressively more upset and honk their horns, wave their fingers, and act like d-bags. All while talking on their phones. There's nothing funnier than a hotshot Porsche-driving NYC lawyer hugging the bumper of a pig-filled farm truck -- in a droptop 911.

    These toolbags will even tailgate the staties. It has been YEARS since I've seen Mass, VT, or NH plates make up more than 1/4 of cars pulled over on any day. The remainder are from our visitors from the south.

  11. Heh. Yeah, Pacific NW types are not the worst drivers you'll find. Our convention is to go three or four mph over the limit - five over and you'll be passing people. Ten over and you've got a big sign on your bumper that says 'ticket me!'. The cops aren't total hard asses, as far as I can tell, they pick out the exceptionally bad drivers the same as other areas. For whatever reason, the normal driver is just slower.

    That said, every region seems to have one particular traffic law that they ignore. In Western NY where I went to college, they happily drove on the shoulder to get around someone who was waiting to make a left turn - that NEVER happens here. In the NW, we ignore the 'stay right except to pass' tradition. It seems that Californians ignore right of way, stop signs, the speed limit, and risk to life and limb. :-)

  12. Virginian road cops are so notorious that Jack Kerouac mentions them in his book "On the Road." 5mph over is tolerated, 6 and up is fair game. The only time I go 6mph or more above the limit is if I'm behind a cop who's doing the same, which they have no problem with.

    Otherwise though, if in VA, don't go more than 60 or 65 tops, or Ole Smokey's gonna getcha.