Friday, December 07, 2007

...uhhh, no thanks, I think I'll pass...

There are several 2-lane highways in Oregon that connect Interstate 5 to various points on the coast. I've driven on all of these connecting highways, on which you have to navigate an average of 60 to 70 miles before actually reaching the coast. That means, you've got to cross the coastal mountain range, and on at least two of these highways, there are tunnels drilled through the mountains. Just 'cos it ain't high here doesn't mean it ain't steep, after all. And judging from the steepness of the tunneled hillsides, I'm thinkin' the Chief Highway Engineer threw up his hands and said, "I've HAD it! No more HILLSIDES! Boys, we're goin' THROUGH!" That's my delusional take on it anyway.

My favorite route to the coast is Highway's a narrow road, barely any shoulders, and it twists and winds either up and down fairly steep and long hills, or along the undulations of a river which has carved its way through layers of rock. Off to your left you have a steep hillside, to your right, you have the river; the shoulder of the road might be 2 feet, and the road twists and winds around the curves in the river. Not a fun driving option, but out of all the 'connecting' interstate-to-coast hiways I've been on, ol' highway 38 is the's less 'twisty' and 'winding' than the other routes.

During the recent storm, it turns out a couple of boulders the size of a house (or bigger), in addition to a whole lot of dirt, gravel, smaller rocks and pieces of trees, came loose, spilled down the hillside, landing squarely on route 38. Here, a highway crew is surveying the situation. "Well, Joe, that's a purty big darn rock there, eh?" "Well, Zeke, I'll betcha we could make a whole lotta road gravel outta this one; how 'bout it, Clem?" "Well, Joe, I remember a similar rock fallin' on a road back in the great storm of 1996..."

Okay, okay, I'm being harshly stereotypical here...after all, highway crews do more than just look at things and make painfully obvious remarks. (I hope.) I'm sure they are genuinely concerned, as all dedicated state employees are. (I'm pushing it, huh?) Some folks, not knowing this happened, drove inland 20 or 30 miles before coming upon the mess, with crews telling they'd have to retrace their steps (well, tire tracks) and Return From Whence They Came. And if they wanted to access I-5, they'd not only have to "retrace", they'd have to head up or down hiway 101 (the Coastal Hiway) until they came to the next (hopefully not closed) connecting route. That would amount to, in some cases, a 1o0-mile(or more) detour.

However...and this is lane of the road was opened Thursday evening...some 3,000 cubic yards of material were cleared away. And, the event pictured above will cost $200,000 to clean up by the time all is said and done (or another storm blows in).

But, no matter how bad you've got it, someone else is worse a similar but not-really-similar situatiuon in Washington State, severe flooding rendered a portion of I-5 under water, effectively closing down the Interstate between Vancouver, Wash. and Tacoma. If someone wanted to go, say, from Seattle to Portland, they'd have to head up over Snoqualmie Pass, turn Right at Ellensburg, go thru Yakima, then cross the Columbia River (at Biggs), and head down I-84 into Portland. A lot of truckers said, "Thanks, but no thanks", and who could blame 'em? That's at least a 500-mile detour.

...and to think that all I was worrying about during the storm were mere TREES falling on me, not boulders half the size of the Rock of Gibraltar...


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