Tag Archives: traffic

Your SatNav is Shouting!

If you’re interested, we got lost in Oakland California. After Jimmy had said, “I’m not towing through any more big cities,” my bad angel made me say, “Well you’re going to tomorrow!”

Remember our towing-the-trailer-through-San-Francisco-and-over-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge blooper?

I shouldn't really have been messing with the camera at this point, but you know me!
I shouldn’t really have been messing with the camera at this point, but I can’t help myself.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us that time.

With our last fiasco in mind we were trying so hard to avoid the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge leading into central San Francisco to the west of us, that we turned east and became embroiled in Oakland Good Friday traffic.

I’d studied the road atlas for several days leading up to the journey. We’d studied it together the night before. I’d memorized every route and bridge leading out of Alameda County and planned for every eventuality except the one that transpired.

After we left the campsite south of San Francisco I sat with the atlas on my lap and plotted our course inch worming my finger up the page, not daring to read a book or magazine, play on the laptop or daydream.

Maybe I daydreamed a little. We passed the top of the famous Lombard Steet on the streetcar, I took a photo and didn't even know it until I downloaded it! I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa!
Maybe I daydreamed a little. While on a trolley car I’d snapped a photo not realizing it was the top of the famous Lombard Street until I downloaded it. I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa.

On the outskirts of Oakland I began to chant directives. We stay on 880 North. We don’t want 80 West. We don’t want 80 East. We do want 580 West,” and repeated it several times to plant it in my brain, and hopefully Jimmy’s.

When I’d chanted myself into a trance and was staring fiercely at the map Jimmy said, “The sign says take I980 for 580 West.”

I looked up too late to see the sign. “980? We don’t want 980. We do want 580 West, though.”

“Should I turn off?”

“I don’t think we should go that way.”

“Should I stay on this road?”

“I don’t know now.”

“The exit is coming up. Should I turn off?”

“Y-y-y-y-ye . . . Um-m-m-m . . . N-n-n-n-n . . .”

“Say something!!”

“YES!” And Jimmy wrenched the wheel to the right with our trailer snapping smartly round to follow us. “Oh no, this isn’t right. We’re going east. According to the map we should be going north.”

“Oh great. Now look,” he said with that Dammit! look on his face. Six lanes of traffic was coming to a standstill ahead of us.

“We should have stayed on the road we were on,” I whined, wanting but not daring to blame Jimmy for making me say yes when I knew I should have said no.

Oakland drivers have a bit of southern California driving mania about them and they were changing lanes in a wild free-for-all across our bows.

Other road users don’t account for the fact that we have 7,500 pounds of rolling stock slamming into our rear end every time Jimmy brakes. If Jimmy tailgates, he’s on edge. If he leaves a safe braking distance between us and the car in front someone nips into it in their bid to gain 50 feet and he’s still tailgating. He was now displaying his don’t-mess-with-me rigid posture behind the wheel but trying to remain cool.

“There’s a sign for 80 West,” he said helpfully. “Should I go that way?”

Now let me see. Hmmm. Whoops. Too late!
STAY ON THIS ROAD! I think.

“DO NOT TAKE 80 WEST!” I shouted. “Don’t take 80 West,” I repeated a tad more calmly. We didn’t want 80 West. That much I knew. That was all I knew. That was the way to the Golden Gate Bridge via central San Francisco. The traffic jam gave me a chance to study the map. “I think I can see what we’ve done.”

“You’re priceless.”

“I’d like to see you navigate through this mess.”

“I can’t. I have to drive.”

“Well that’s lucky for you. I always get to take the blame,” and fumed for a moment until I saw the sign I‘d been praying for, “580 West! Keep to the right. If we can get on 580 West we’ll be okay.” Gleeful now, I informed Jimmy, “I know where we are now. We‘re on Eastshore Freeway.”

“Brilliant.” How can he infuse so much sarcasm into a single word?

Once we were on 580 West I relaxed a little and attempted to lighten the mood.

“Right! That’s got rid of the 80 West specter. At least we’re not going to get snarled up in San Francisco today.” Silence. Not even acknowledgement that I have spoken.

Couldn't he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?
Couldn’t he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?

So I tried again. “We just need to avoid 80 East or we’ll end up in New York! Hahaha.” Jimmy didn’t join in.

 . . . . or remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?
Couldn’t he relax now and remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?

“There’s the Golden Gate Bridge across the bay. You can have a last look.” Jimmy turned his head. At least his hearing was still functioning.

For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn't the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It's the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?
For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It’s the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?

We’d towed the trailer over the Golden Gate on a previous trip. We’d “sailed” under it on a bay cruise. That day we’d given it a slightly wider berth than planned.

Sailing under the Golden Gate on a more relaxed day.
Sailing under the Golden Gate on a happier day.

Once ensconced on the picturesque route 101 going north I knew my map reading expertise (questionable that day, granted) wouldn’t be needed for another 100 miles or so, so traced our route back to study my booboo.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!

Where my wits had deserted me was at the confluence of five – that’s FIVE – interstate highways in a city of nearly half million people on a holiday weekend.

I think we’re lucky to still be married. Lucky probably isn’t the word Jimmy would use.

Can you see where he’s taking me?

Can you see where he's taking me?

Click on the picture and all will become clear!

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Another Dam Mistake

Can we? Can't we?
Can we? Can’t we?

What a couple of dopes we are.

“Are we going over Hoover Dam?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you see that sign?”

“Yes. Let me look at the map.” Flip, flip, flip, flip. “Oh! Yes. Oops.”

Though we only had a journey of about 150 miles from Wikieup, Arizona to Las Vegas, we’d both studied the route several times to check our approach into Sin City. Hoover Dam nestles on the border of Arizona and Nevada, as bold on the map as the Boulder Dam that it used to be. The 247 square mile mass of Lake Mead shows as a big blue splash behind the dam on the road atlas, fed by the mighty Colorado River, downstream of the Grand Canyon.

Lake Mead NV
Lake Mead NV

How could we miss that? But neither of us had seen it, noted it or planned for it.

“The sign said ‘no trailers’.”

“It meant no commercial trailers.”

“Are you sure? It just said ‘no trailers’.”

“Well, yes . . . no . . . . I don’t know. We’ll just keep going and see if we get turned back.”

Flip, flip, flip, flip. “A hundred and forty miles.”

“What’s a hundred and forty miles?”

“A hundred and forty miles there and back to a junction where we can then go the long way round.”

“What should we do?”

Why does he ask me these impossible questions? I’ve learned not to commit myself. Equal blame will be allocated if the journey goes all wrong. I kept quiet while he concentrated on aiming the car down the road, possibly in the wrong direction.

“There’s another sign. It definitely says ‘no trailers.’ Ah, a phone number, 1-866 . . . oh. How are you supposed to read all that at 55 mph? Now what do we do?” I asked.

It was Jimmy’s turn to be non-committal to my question, perhaps pretending it was rhetorical. We’d only just passed through the town of Kingman and the landscape was looking barren as we climbed into high desert.

We’re always climbing. The slightest puff of wind on our nose causes our car to change down into third gear. We’ve traveled “uphill’” all the way from Washington State down to Florida and back to Washington again.

“If I’m quick, I might get an internet signal. Maybe they have a website.” And they did. “Commercial trailers are prohibited to drive over Hoover Dam but recreational vehicles CAN cross the dam,” and then I did lose the signal.

“Well this is a nice surprise. We’re going to drive over Hoover Dam. I didn’t know it was here, did you?”

Hoover Dam - too big to fit in my wide angle lens!
Hoover Dam – too big to fit in my wide angle lens!

We’d driven hundreds of miles specifically to see the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State yet here we were about to drive right over Hoover Dam by mistake, or like the chicken crossing the road – to get to the other side, but in this case, to get to the other side of a river.

Hover cursor to read captions or click to enlarge:

It is a little concerning that in this late stage in our travels, with all our navigating experience that we failed notice Hoover Dam. It is so huge it contains enough concrete to construct a two-lane road from San Francisco to New York – a definite landmark.

The deep ‘V’ shape of this dam is an image familiar to both of us as it is to many people but who knew it was just 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas? We’ve probably missed more tourist destinations than we’ve seen as we hurtle around the three and a half million square miles of this country. Jimmy is an alien and I’m almost a non-native, having lived more years in Europe than the U.S., so what he never knew in the first place as a foreigner, I’ve forgotten as a repatriated ex-pat.

So, no, we didn’t know Hoover Dam was smack dab in front of us and we were going to tow our trailer right over it.

This country is so vast, that there are too many geological, technical and historical wonders spread over thousands of miles for us to be aware of every little (and big) one in our vicinity.

Anyway, I’m making excuses now for our ignorance. One would think we’d have a better system by now.

While the pleasure of seeing one of America’s great engineering marvels was still causing us to grin with our serendipity (a more pleasing word than stupidity) we drove straight into Las Vegas rush hour traffic on a main artery to the center. Memories of towing through Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, as well as the kamikaze driving styles around us raised some white knuckles in the car. I counted down the numbers to our exit to North Las Vegas where we proceeded to get lost and Jimmy became more terse.

Which is only funny when it is someone else’s husband.

We popped back three years later for the pleasure of driving over the new bridge. Disappointingly you can’t see nuthin’ as you drive across. I guess gazing at the stunning landscape while attempting to point a car across a high bridge vulnerable to cross winds is asking for trouble:

Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge - photo taken from Hoover dam
Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge – photo taken from Hoover dam. Old road visible below – waaaay down there!