Gustav is going to pieces

Heading farther south and passing through Illinois, Arkansas and even some Mississippi and Tennessee, I ran into a lot of bikers. Not literally, and that’s a good thing too, since motorcyclists in the US – at least this part – seem to view wearing a helmet as anything but a neccessity. I guess natural selection doing it’s work on this group because I haven’t seen as many bikers as I had expected and the lack of headwear explains it. Ofcourse, wearing a helmet and pretty much nothing -but- a helmet (ok, he was wearing shorts and slippers) isn’t going to do you a lot of good either, when you hit that pavement at 70 mph.

Another reason I’m not seeing a whole lot of motorcycles might be the attitude towards speeding, which seems to be present in any state. I see very few people speeding and when they do, they generally speed as a group. For example, the entire left lane of a highway going 5 or 10 mph over the maximum. I’ve seen very few solo speeders and even those didn’t go all that fast. Combine the lack of speed with the abundance of straight roads and generally uninteresting turns and the motorcycle becomes an uncomfortable – no AC or cupholder – alternative to the car. And as far as the motorcycles I do see go, they’re all chrome and no speed. Harley’s, Honda Goldwings, Kawasaki Voyagers, etc.

And while I’m on the topic of traffic: what’s up with putting 4 stop signs on a 4-way intersection? I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve accidentally waited for someone else to move with me sitting at a stop sign. Afterall, in Europe a stop sign generally means you have to come to a full stop and yield. Once traffic clears and you get an opening, you roll. But with stop signs on all ways, the intersection feels more like a busy bakery, with people eyeballing eachother to see if everyone remembers who came first, because your turn to go is about to come up.

It works most of the time and at least stopping everybody at the intersection will reduce the speed of any forthcoming crashes. But people seem to ignore normal rules for yielding – or they simply don’t know them – when they’re at an all-way stop intersection. I’ve seen quite a few near misses of people driving into the intersection at once or nearly rear-ending the car in front of them if it was going before it was its turn. And when that turn actually comes up isn’t exactly clear either.

Of course I read the rules, which are more or less logical, even though they include the phrase “whoever arrives at the stop line first”, which would be more than debatable. But the clincher is the rule that applies in case all 4 ways fill up: “If four vehicles stop, drivers generally use gestures and other forms of communication to establish right-of-way. In some areas, the custom is for the north-south or the more-trafficked road to have priority, although this is rare.” Erm… ok. I think in this modern day and age, these rules may need a little work. But of course I have no access to actual statistics, so for all I know this ‘system’ might actually be safe.

Amusing: I passed through Holland, Arkansas yesterday. Population: 246. What can I say? Don’t move to Holland. Apart from bits like that, an immense freight train and some local oddities, I wouldn’t recommend Arkansas for a scenic drive. More so because I actually took the ‘scenic route’ if I’m to believe one of the best-selling roadmaps of the US and in this case, scenic meant ‘less concrete’ at best.

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

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