The fog comes on little cat feet
And then it kicks your ass
With sounds of twisted metal
Human screams and broken glass
Thanksgiving morning brought dense fog to Beaumont, Texas, setting up the conditions for an horrific chain-reaction pileup on eastbound Interstate 10 that involved at least 100 vehicles. Amidst dozens of injuries, two people died when their SUV was crushed by an 18-wheeler.
All the ingredients for a disaster were in place. The speed limit on that stretch of I-10 is 75 MPH, perfectly reasonable on a dry, sunny day. Throw in some poor visibility, along with the tendency of too many drivers to follow way too damn close - one car length seems to be commonplace at 70-75 MPH - and you’ve got Big Problems.
Fortunately, our drives to and from Texas for Thanksgiving week did not involve I-10. We traveled the northern axis, that stretch of I-20 that runs from Atlanta to Foat Wuth... and we did not drive on Thanksgiving Day, yet one more thing for which we could be thankful.
No road condition scares the shit out of me quite like driving in fog. Ice, snow, blinding rain - they’re all cakewalks compared to fog... especially at night.
Many years ago, I worked on a project for the Great Corporate Salt Mine that required me to cover the night shift at a contract chemical operation in Bayport, Texas, southeast of Houston. I would leave our house in southwest Houston around 11 p.m., arriving at the plant after a 45- to 50-minute drive, part of which was on dimly lit two-lane roads. It was December, and the combination of cold air, warm ground, and Houston’s naturally high humidity created ideal conditions for fog to form in low-lying areas... and pretty much all of the area south of Houston is low-lying. On any given night, it was almost a dead certainty that I would encounter several patches of pea-soup fog in which forward visibility would drop to about zero. It was terrifying... because there was a real possibility of (1) running up someone’s ass because you couldn’t see his car right in front of you, or (2) having someone else flatten you for the same reason. If that someone else were a tractor-trailer, things could have gotten very ugly in a big hurry.
I was glad when that project was over with.
When we used to make regular road trips between Atlanta and Houston during the holidays - either we were living in Houston and SWMBO’s clan was in Atlanta, or vice-versa - we would inevitably encounter heavy fog at night on certain stretches of I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama. It got to where we would break the journey in Mobile to avoid passing through certain fog-prone areas at night. (Fog during the day could also be problematic, but it was generally denser at night and much more dangerous owing to the darkness.)
Thirteen months ago, when I drove a U-Haul truck filled with the Mistress of Sarcasm’s possessions to her new home in northwestern Connecticut, we encountered drizzle and fog in central Pennsylvania on a particularly hilly and winding portion of I-81. What would normally have been a beautiful scenic drive through autumn colors turned into a jaw-clenching, wheel-gripping exercise in terror... at least for a couple of hours. It was especially nerve-wracking when the truck’s windshield wipers started to show signs of giving out; fortunately, they kept working, or I might not be here writing this post.
When I got out of that truck at the next rest stop, my sphincter had clenched up so tight, my ass pulled about ten pounds of cotton batting right out of the seat. Man, there’s nothing scarier than driving in the fog!