"Kissing" a Construction Barrier

Friday, September 5, 2008 -- Overnight in Gaylord, MI

Feeling some sadness we left Camp Soldner Thursday morning about 10:30. Our good neighbors Bill and Nan came over to bid us farewell and help get the bus-house out the driveway at the camp. We drive straight in when we arrive in order to have the lake view out the big windshield. But that means when we leave the bus-house must be backed through a driveway bordered by trees onto a single-lane road bordered by trees and big rocks. In order to pull this off, a tight reverse double twist backward somersault must be accomplished to keep from hitting something. With everyone's help we achieved success on the first try and with a double blast on the air-horns, we were off.

While we didn't hit anything leaving Camp Soldner we did hit something as we were going through a construction zone only about 15 miles from camp. This summer the state is upgrading highway M-28/US41 and in the construction zones they've got the lanes pinched down to the bare minimum width for normal traffic. In areas where the road is being completely rebuilt, they've got it narrowed (emphasis on "narrow") further -- to just one lane, the shoulder really -- and use flaggers to alternate between eastbound and westbound traffic.

We were headed east and were stopped by a flagger in one of those single lane areas. When it was our turn I started moving through the work zone. This particular area has a few twists and turns to complicate matters. As I came around one of those curves, right near the end of the work zone, there was a steep downward embankment on the right side of the road protected by a guardrail and some construction barriers immediately next to the roadway. On the other side westbound traffic was stopped and queued up waiting their turn to proceed. In that line of waiting vehicles was a large pickup truck pulling an even bigger fifth-wheel trailer. For whatever reason the back end of that trailer was intruding into my lane, making the space available to squeeze the bus-house through even smaller. It was a pinch-play with a camping trailer on one side and a guardrail and construction barriers on the other -- and the bus-house in the middle. I wasn't moving fast -- maybe 25 mph. As I moved through the pinch-point I paid particular attention to make sure my big outside driver-side rear view mirror would clear the back corner of the trailer and I'm sure I cleared it by, oh, at least a half-inch. I knew I was close on the other side but really thought I'd make it. As we squeezed through there was a dull thud or bang from the rear of the bus-house -- not totally unusual as stuff often shifts in closets or drawers or cabinets, especially during the first few miles on moving day. We looked at each other -- Uh Oh, what was that? -- and hoped against hope that it was just something harmless. I knew we were good on the drivers side .. if that big mirror cleared the camping trailer, so would the rest of the bus-house. So, as we moved out of the construction zone I looked cautiously in the other rear-view mirror, the one on the passenger side, to see if anything was obviously damaged or dangling or shards of fiberglass were flying or anything else that might indicate a hit. Nothing obvious, at least from the drivers seat.

Just 5 miles or so up the road I found a safe place (even the safety director approved) to pull over and do a walk-around inspection. I did, and sure enough, as soon as I jumped off the stair onto the ground and looked back at the right rear corner I saw damage. Damn! The really obvious damage was a black-ish mark on the last compartment door, the battery bay door. About two feet long and an inch wide, it looked ugly but I didn't see any deformation of the panel door itself. Closer inspection revealed a couple other smaller, but deep scratches. Dar thinks they're gouges -- canyons really. It does look like most of the large black mark is some kind of rubbery material that will rub right off. The scratches will require more work, but all in all, considering how bad it might have been, I think we were lucky to emerge from this incident with only very minor damage. I'll get some pictures up on our photo collection when it stops raining... in the next day or two -- to see what you think.

Other than that, the day went really well. The rain started about noon as we were about half way across the U.P. It was a light, but steady rain with only a few heavier downpours -- all of it the remains of tropical storm Gustav. The roads were generally in great shape. The traffic was generally light. When we got to the Mackinaw Bridge things were going so well that the safety director gave me the "green light" to cross the bridge and make some progress to the south before stopping for the night.

The day's end found us in Gaylord. Since it's only a quick overnight and it's raining, we decided to save a few bucks and park on WalMart's asphalt. We had dinner at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant right across the street and hit the sack early. And how about a hot breakfast at the Bob Evans just down the street in the morning??


Slightly Better than Most