The signs of the road is a language in itself. After 3000 miles of tracking across Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California I’ve decided that it’s a language which I had taken for granted. It was riding through Oregon’s highway 31 that I took notice of two signs which to me was an oxymoron. When leaving a small town the speed limit changes from 25 to 45 and upwards, and during this transformation there is a pair of road signs in this order.
1. ‘DO NOT PASS’
2. ‘PASS WITH CARE’
There is very little distance between these posts (maybe less than a few hundred yards). I decided to interpret the law as ‘Do not pass’, but if you’re going to break the law, well you better ‘Pass with care’. i.e. Make sure you don’t get caught.
I tried to find more information about this and found something in the internet was from Oregon’s Department of Transportation manual that describes the technical details of how to implement this law.
2. 2B-28 DO NOT PASS (R4-1) should be installed approximately 1000 feet in advance of the taper that begins the passing lane.
Minimum Size 36” x 48”
3. 2B-30 KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS (R4-16) should be installed where the passing lane attains full width or at the beginning of the first skip stripe.
Minimum Size 36” x 48”
4. 2B-29 PASS WITH CARE (R4-2) may be installed in the two-lane section approximately 1000 feet beyond the end of the taper (if sight distance is adequate to permit passing).
Minimum Size 24” x 30”
And with that I have my aha moment. It is with these technicalities that we can sometimes become non-sensesical in our well-meaning intention.
I dug a little deeper and looked through the driver’s manual, and found multiple scenarios of when a driver should not pass:
Do not cross the center line to pass when:
- You are in a no-passing zone, which is an area that is marked for no passing by a solid yellow line in your lane. A “DO NOT PASS” sign may also be posted. Do not attempt to pass a vehicle if you cannot safely return to your lane before entering a no-passing zone.
- Your view of oncoming traffic is blocked because you are on a hill or in a curve.
- You are approaching an intersection, railroad crossing, or other area where your view of oncoming traffic is limited.
- You are at or in an intersection.
- You are at or on a railroad crossing.
- The vehicle ahead is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross
Well that was boring. I just think it takes common sense.
One of the most interesting signs along the open road was on I97 which I’ve traversed for the first time yesterday. It was the sign post for the 45th parallel. When I lived in Salem (and was working on a project of ODOT – ironically) I would take my little Toyota Tercel on the I5 to Portland and cross the 45th parallel frequently during my jaunts to meet with friends at one of the many local breweries.
(I didn’t stop to take a picture of me at the 45th parallel, but pretend that GMC truck is my red Suzuki SV650.)
One thing I’ve decided on (and I kinda knew this all along, but this trip has reinforced what I’m looking for in life now), is my enjoyment of the open and friendly nature of small town folks compared to bigger towns and cities. There’s a naïveté that comes from living in a small place where you know people by name, or at least by habit of seeing them, and extending that warm hospitality to strangers when they’re passing through your home.
Yesterday, one of the bikes had an electrical problem. We had to stop every hour to cool down the engine while traveling along I97 into the city of Bend. I was in Bend 20 years ago, and it was a smaller community to what it has currently grown into. I almost wish Bruno had a chance to experience it as it was then because today it feels like another large cosmopolitan city. The downtown core boasted nice restaurants, boutique shops and microbreweries along the river; and the city had its fair share of Subarus also. Definitely, Bend has come into its own as a world class destination. The State Patrol man who pulled me over for riding my bike between cars told me so. He was nice. He didn’t give me a ticket, but reminded me that though they practice lane sharing in Europe and California, this is not so in Oregon. After checking into a motel we found a place to eat with good food and wine. Despite the basic needs being met, we felt a little let down, because we missed the warmth of small town folks. We noticed that the restaurant was rather quick to move us along. In our minds, we thought maybe because we were tourists, and not the usual suspects who were repeat customers.
So, we spent a so-so night in Bend, and the next day decided to steer clear of bigger towns. We got as far as La Pine (30 plus miles south on the I97) where we filled up the tanks. I asked the gentleman who pumps the gas if he knew of a motorcycle mechanic between his town and the next big town. He recommended a place called Peak Performance. We rode around a little while and asked for directions from other people, and found the garage a mile down from the main drag. A large man with a beard was cleaning his fingernails with a knife. ‘What can I do ya for?’ he asked. We got off the bikes and Bruno explained that his fan wasn’t turning on and he was loosing coolant. The big man thought glanced at me then said, ‘It’s all her fault’. His words broke the ice and gave me relief. After he suggested some reasons as to the root cause of the problem, he said he’ll be right back. Within minutes he returned and told us to ride the motorcycles to the back where somebody was waiting to help us.
We talked with the mechanic who tinkered a bit, and feeling like we were in his hair, we asked if we could leave him with the bike for a couple of hours. Sure, he said. We told the owner our plan to stay the night in La Pine. He recommended a a simple and clean motel. Cool, that’s all we want. Before going, we asked for his name. Mark, he said. Later, we checked into ‘The Highlander’ where we dropped off some gear and got something to eat at the nearby Harvest Hut. In less than 2 hours we were back to check on the bike. The mechanic, Alan, said the problem was a loose wire and showed us the spot in case it happened again. When we asked how much for the repair, he said, ‘Well I didn’t really spend very much time on it. $20.’ Unbelievably cheap for the quick service and fixing the problem. We gave him $40, and he smiled such a wide grin. ‘Where are you folks staying?’ he asked. We gave him the answer, and he wished us well.
We all leave our impressions in this life in many forms, including sign posts. Certainly being earth friendly is a good thing all around, but more impacting is being heart friendly. It’s genuine goodness that does not mean to be a passing trend but a lasting legacy.
P.S. If you like wine and you’re passing through Lakeview, Oregon towards the California border, there’s a place called ‘Stringer’s Orchard’ in New Pine Creek. It’s a good stop before crossing into California for some wine tasting and homemade preserves. The winemaker specializes in wine and spirits from the wild plum, and the taste is very special in a good way.