Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Arrival of Toasters

Sometime in the fall, gradually all the recreational vehicles disappear from the roads.  I call them toasters, though, since my days working in Yellowstone National Park--a name that has stuck over the ensuing 20-some years.  A couple weeks ago I saw the first toaster of the spring.  In other places it might be the first robin or the first daffodil that increases one's hope that spring is here.  Since some robins actually winter over in Homer, and my daffodils bloom in mid-June or so, neither of those are accurate indicators of spring.  So when I parked at Mariner Park on the spit yesterday and saw two toasters and one converted house-bus, I knew that spring was truly here.

The arrival of 'toasters' signifies spring in Homer and around Alaska
Unlike robins or daffodils, I am not inspired to joy when I see toasters.  I--and just about anyone who has driven Alaska roads in the summer months--have been at the mercy of slow-moving toasters for countless miles with no option to pass.  In the summer I add 30-60 minutes to the time it takes to get from Homer to Anchorage to account for them.  The thing that is the real kicker of slow-moving toasters is that it is illegal in Alaska to have 5 or more vehicles backed up behind you.  Pulling over to let cars pass is the law. I have counted as many as 25 cars backed up behind one toaster along Turnagain Arm, where there curvy road extends about 30 miles--but there are countless wide, paved, well-marked pull-offs and the beauty is stunning so it would be a great place to just pull over.

I have also heard of strong and courageous Alaskans, caught behind a toaster for too long, who pull off when the toaster does and proceed to inform the driver of the law.  I want that to be me.  The Seward Highway south of Anchorage to just past Girdwood is one of the deadliest sections of highways in the state.  I can appreciate people wanting to come to Alaska, and driving in an RV can be more flexible and economical than renting a car, staying in hotels and eating out every meal.  But I don't appreciate the danger they present when people are so furious about being stuck behind them that they do crazy things. 

So if you come to Alaska, please watch the traffic behind you.  If there are more than 5 cars behind you, pull over.  Last fall my uncle was driving the speed limit on the Kenai Peninsula and he got stopped for cars backed up behind him.  My uncle couldn't quite get his brain around the fact he'd been stopped for going the speed limit, but as the state trooper pointed out, it was creating a traffic hazard.  Even better, you can do what I often do now:  if there are more than 3 cars behind me, I pull over (in the winter, it only takes 1 and I'll let them by.  Better than them spinning out trying to pass me.), even if I'm already going over the speed limit.  I see it as making other people's day, setting a good example and allowing everyone to drive safely and comfortably.

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