Monday, September 28, 2009

Motor Home Adventures Or How Not To Act Around Things Bigger Than You

If you've been following along the Adventure Series you are aware that the land whale is pretty big. Let me be a touch more specific, loaded weight is just under 20,000 pounds and I look down at the roofs of lifted full size pickups and make direct eye contact with drivers of tractor trailers and the width is exactly the same. That land yacht fills up a lane on a freeway.

The 454 Vortec Chevy is quite capable of powering the thing along at 70 mph, it also is quite capable of sucking the bottom out of an 80 gallon thank at that speed while at 62 mph or so it sips at nearly 10 miles per gallon. Think a bit, if nearly but not quite 10 mpg is good consider what bad is. This pace means that I'm moving at slightly under the Oregon 65 mph freeway speedlimit and a bit over the 55 mph truck limit (observed by trucks at generally 60 mph speeds). I dislike moving slightly slower than trucks forcing them to pass me at a couple mph, a long passing interval. I use the cruise control extensively and accelerate to pass truckers. I try to be a considerate driver, enhancing safety for all concerned.

Today's average bigger car weighs 3,000 pounds and big pick-ups weigh 7,000 pounds - the motor home is a tad bigger and occupies just a smidgen more room and handles little like a sports car. This disparity creates a situation where any mingling of body parts means someone else is going to be a big loser in that equation of mass and inertia. Apparently this equation loses all force of reason in the face of a desire to travel 7 or 8 miles an hour faster.

When highway work has signs out stating that the left lane is closed and barrels are angling across that lane it makes life interesting to wedge a Mercedes two seat sports car into the remaining couple feet beteen my fender and the barrels. It really won't make much difference that I have full ride insurance on the land whale or that the Mercedes is a really expensive car when I have concrete crash barriers to the right, a misjudgement will mean the tiny car either goes through the barrels or underneath the 20,000 pound behometh. Any contact at all means the sports car gets pulled under. Not so good. The traffic ahead is moving at the same pace I am and it is single file so the only gain is my 36 feet of length. Quite a risk for not much return - a crooked broker is probably a better bet.

If the turn signal is flashing and the motor beast is crossing the dotted line it does mean that I am serious about leaving that lane. A high speed dash in a Tacoma pick-up into that shrinking space means someone has to give suddenly. You've just gotten lucky enough to survive that move because I was watching for it, if I'd glanced out the windshield instead of at the mirror there'd have been mangled sheet metal - mostly Tacoma sheet metal and possibly driver. Just because your pick-up would fit in the space between the tractor trailer I just passed and my back bumper doesn't mean it is a good idea to shoot in there. I was getting out of your confounded way.

Honestly folks, the speed I'm driving is the speed I'm going to go. Your vehicle is not powerful enough to push mine faster and I'm not intimidated by that itty bitty thing right on my rear bumper. If I have to brake you're going to mess up the appearance of the back end and I'll hear it but it sure won't crash me, your results will be much worse. I really don't care where it is you think you're going and when you think you need to be there, if there are no pull-outs or passing lanes you'll have to try your luck with a pass. If the lines aren't in your favor or your vehicle doesn't have enough butt to do it you might as well relax because I'm bigger than you.

Here's the deal, getting squashed like a bug will cause a real delay in you getting there, where ever there is. At highway speeds it takes quite awhile for 10 miles per hour faster to make a difference, I will get 62 miles in an hour and you will get 70 miles, that is eight minutes at my speed. You could almost smoke a cigarette in that time and it would shorten your life a lot less than mixing it up with me.

It just isn't worth it, I can't stop real quick and I can't change directions real quick and you'll lose. Truckers will second this real emphatically, none of us want your paint on our vehicle or your blood on our mind - use that brain for something other than keeping your ears apart.


Carla said...

When next you traverse from eastern to western Oregon in this monstrosity, let me know. I'd like to stop by and visit you in your gas-sucking, carbon-loaded mess and say hello. :)


Phil said...

I second that emphatically, Chuck. A 25-year career as a truck driver convinced me that fully 90% of four-wheeler drivers are incompetent idiots. So, how about some photos of the brute?

realbtl said...

While not on the scale of the land whale, my 4x4 F250 with camper is still relatively large and has lots of ground clearance. When I'm driving it I'm almost always on vacation and therefore not in a hurry.

Does it make me a bad person that, when I'm being tailgated by some import sport sedan with all of the fake ground effects, I start fervently wishing for a huge, ripe dead skunk right in the middle of my lane?

Chuck Butcher said...

Carla, you're always far up my list.

Phil, thank heavens the percentage was much lower than your 90%.

realbtl, why stop with a skunk, I think a great big alligator would be a lesson.

realbtl said...

I don't know, it's just the thought of that $300 piece of plastic hanging below the bumper splattered with skunk appeals to me.
Plus, dead skunks are much easier to find on the road than alligators.