Monthly Archives: April 2010

Commute Count: Wednesday

Not a single animal, dead or alive, not even a goose. It’s dark and wet. Think they all slept in. Wish I could’ve. My kid got to. On Wednesdays his district starts an hour late. We never got to do that.

No cops, no wrecks, no idiot drivers, no baristas. One DOT incident response rig helping somebody in a van. Maybe they needed a jump or some gas. One lamp shade. One tie-down strap.

The Scotch broom is in full bloom. My late grandpa had a cattle ranch in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Oregon. He came up here for a visit, probably in the 1960s. Saw that Scotch broom and figured it’d be great food for the cows. Took some back. They wouldn’t touch it. I did a story last year about the Navy using goats to clear some land. They ate the Scotch broom flowers and the tender parts, but even they couldn’t gnaw through the stalks, which are like steel cables. Ever try to cut through one of them?

I asked yesterday if any of you remembered the old sawmill in Gorst near where Viking Fence is now. How about when they ran the huge trucks across the highway from the quarry and loaded up barges with rock?

Commute Count: Tuesday

I was kind of groggy, so might have missed something.

No wrecks, no cops, one idiot driver who pulled right in front of me for no reason without signaling, no dead possums or raccoons that weren’t there before, no baristas, lost track of how many Canada geese. A bunch were swimming in the old sawmill pond by Viking Fence. Who remembers when there was a little sawmill wedged between the highway and the bay, and that was their log pond? It’s interesting how the water goes in and out with the tide from under the railroad tracks. Doesn’t seem that long ago that there were those little sawmills all over the place, but I guess it was. My family had one when I was a kid. It was really cool. I’ll write about it someday. Interesting place to grow up. I’ll give you one story now. We had a sawdust burner, you know those bit, rusty upside-down cones you might have seen. I was 5 years old. Wandered over to the burner. The sides were high around the walls and then it cratered down to the middle. There was no sign that it was hot and for some reason I decided I should walk down into it.

The entire bottoms of both of my feet were blistered and I had to be pulled around in a wagon for months. The doctor eventually popped the blisters and the pink goop exploded all over his office. I can still smell my feet burning sometimes, and that was 50 years ago.

Go Orange for Work Zone Safety

This is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and to bring the issue to everyone’s attention, the Washington State Department of Transportation is Going Orange.

Workers will be wearing even more orange than usual, and the entire DOT website will be orange instead of green this week. Washington residents are encouraged to participate by wearing something orange and submitting their photos. You can see everybody else’s photos there too.

Forty-six drivers, passengers and roadway workers were killed and close to 4,000 injured in work zones from 2005 to 2009. Since 1957, 57 state DOT employees have lost their lives in work zone-related activities.

The week will culminate with a memorial to fallen workers at 10 a.m. Thursday at DOT headquarters in Olympia. There will be a special tribute to DOT worker Neal Richards, who was killed while clearing the roadway near Port Angeles on Nov. 19.

Commute Count: Monday

Pretty uneventful drive in (23 miles, by the way). 0 wrecks, 0 cops, 0 idiot drivers. Sunny. Mountains out. High slack tide like glass. 0 hawks, 0 geese, 0 eagles except a huge blow-up red, white and blue one on Peninsula Subaru. 3 dead possums. 0 barristas. Little dogwood tree I’ve been watching grow up for years by Burley-Olalla. It was a little spindly thing sprung up in the shadow of huge firs. It’s flowers shined out against their dark trunks like it was plugged in. Now its a big, round, mature thing totally blanketed by white flowers.

Work to Cause Backups on I-5 This Weekend

If you didn’t learn it the hard way last weekend, here’s a warning. Don’t try to take I-5 from Lacey to Tacoma this weekend.

Crews are removing 295 bumpy old concrete road panels and replacing them between Martin Way in Lacey and 48th Street in Tacoma. This will be the second of nine weekends of lane closures. There will only be one lane open from 7 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Saturday and from 7 p.m. Saturday until noon Sunday.

They replaced 30 panels northbound last weekend. People paid attention to warnings, so the worst backup was about three miles, said DOT Olympic Region administrator Kevin Dayton.

“If drivers had not avoided the area, we could have had up to 21-mile backups,” he said.

I don’t know how he calculated that, but we’ll go with it.

The best time to travel are Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

You can stay informed and watch the progress at www.tacomatraffic.com.

Commute Count: Running Over Animals Not What It Used To Be

What’s the deal with the animals?
Back in the day, only dogs ever got run over. Poor Mom picked off a bunch, herself, including a few of mine. My milkman, who shall remain anonymous, rolled Prince under his truck like he was in the spin cycle. Missed the tires completely, though. Didn’t teach the dog anything. He kept chasing cars, and if he wasn’t chasing cars he was chasing chickens. Couldn’t break him of either one. He’d chase cars with a dead chicken tied around his neck. Somehow he lived to be 20-some years old. All the kids grew up and moved away, and Prince was still there.
I ran over a dog once, on Long Lake Road. That was so sad. Picked up the limp ankle-biter and carried him to his owner. Turned out, she was a friend of the family’s, which made it even worse. Miraculously, the dog was only knocked out. It woke up and was fine.
A fat robin slammed into my head while I was riding my Honda Scrambler 90, and a bee flew into my mouth. Never hit a deer, but almost. On Fragaria Road, right when I was about to pop one, it sprang over the hood of my car, a gravity- and death-defying feat.
Occasionally, chipmunks dart into the road, changing directions like Barry Sanders. You think they’re goners, but when you look in the mirror you missed them.
Those are close encounters of the Kitsap kind, as opposed to raccoons and possums. Where did they come from, anyway? I’d never seen one before. Now they’re in my garage, in my garbage and dead on the shoulder. If there were ever two animals that should stay away from highway, it would be them. They can’t run, they can’t jump, they can’t think and that adds up to a poor win-loss record against 3,000-pound, 60 mph cars. Despite all the black-masked carnage, however, they don’t seem to be on the decline.
I used to think raccoons were cute, and that hawks were majestic. It was a rare treat to see either one. Now hawks are just street vultures, sitting atop every light pole waiting for a raccoon to get hit. Even in the city. Hawks don’t belong in the city.
That was a low blow. I’ve never seen hawks eating dead raccoons or any other kind of roadkill. I have watched them swoop down into the median and grab something with their talons. That’s pretty cool, but distracting if you’re trying to drive.
Talk about distracting. I gave up trying to get a glance at the Gorst baristas a long time ago, but Gorst, of all places, has other head-turning attractions. Going down the hill from Tremont, there’s the red-winged blackbirds that come back every year to the brushy island between the northbound and southbound lanes. Nearby, a kingfisher sits on a telephone wire overlooking the bay. Most days there’s at least one bald eagle perched or flying around. Black cormorants dry their wings on floating logs. I’ve even seen a fisherman drag a big, flopping salmon onto the mudflats.
And Canada geese. They’re thick between Viking Fence and the Navy ships, often followed by strings of goslings. I don’t remember seeing Canada geese when I was young. They’re the raccoons of the Kitsap bird world, but at least they know enough to stay out of the street.

Chime in on Transportation

The Washington State Transportation Commission wants to hear from you about your priorities and hopes for the state’s transportation system.
The Commission has established a blog to provide an opportunity to share and discuss information about the development of the 2011-2030 Washington Transportation Plan. WTP 2030 is a comprehensive and balanced statewide transportation plan that establishes a 20-year vision for the development of the statewide transportation system, from state highways and ferries to sidewalks and bike paths, county roads, city streets, public transit, air, and rail.

The blog will feature WTP 2030 elements, such as the Vision and Goals, along with specific questions for your consideration and response. The first two posts are about the draft WTP vision statement.