Saturday, February 6, 2010

Covered Stretch

I just started bartending at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill in Lac La Belle (6 local microbrews on tap and a great atmosphere) which is 17 miles from my house. 17 miles!? That means I have to do something that I really don't like to do: drive.

I've had to commute to work in Wisconsin before (yes, I'm from Wisconsin), but this is my first job that I won't be biking to in da U.P. Now 17 miles may not sound like a big deal, but 11 of this 17 miles is on the "Covered Stretch" of Hwy. 41. It is "covered" with tree branches like a canopy over the top. It zigs and zags with only on legal passing zone. Unless a person takes M-26 (the Lakeshore Drive) to da Harbor, they are taking 41.

This stretch is a narrow stretch, and since you are reading this, you've probably driven it before. You know it's quick to shift and is always at least a little snow covered in the winter. You know that most visitors drive between 25 and 35 miles an hour down this stretch that we can cruise at 50-60 (I know, I'm being modest).

It is a beautiful drive, though, and if hit at the right time, I won't see a car the whole way. Crossing paths on this road is one thing, which is why it is sooooo important to stay in your stinkin lane, but getting behind one of those visitors can turn a normal human being into a road rage roughneck. Getting stuck behind someone going half my speed is one of the biggest trials of my patience up here. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

So yesterday I had an interesting combination of behinds. On my way south, I made it almost to Lake Medora (5 miles into the stretch) before spotting tail lights. Oh, bugger. Down shift. But in front of those tail lights, I saw the culprit... going 30 mph.

This could usually anger me, but I gave myself plenty of time to get to work before my shift started. Plus, I had one of my favorite CDs in, so I just turned it up and jammed. But, luckily, soon enough, the truck in front of me passed the slow car, and I soon had my chance. Now I did say that there is only one legal passing zone, and that is at the end of the stretch, but if someone is going 25-30 mph, even the curves become a passing zone. Don't tell my mom.

No problem. Made it to work. Then I had the way home to go, which was midnight on a Friday. In the dark with light flurries.

As I got to the stop sign before turning north onto the the stretch, I saw headlights. Oh, boy. What now? Two pickups pulling four snowmobiles each lead the way to da Harbor. Now, since it was midnight on a Friday, I assumed the worst with these trucks: testosterone and booze (okay, there are worse things in the world), and I vowed to stay so far behind them that I couldn't even see their tail lights.

So this time I was going 35 mph by choice. I didn't want to be on their tail when they took one of those corners too fast. No, I did not. I stayed behind and wished them the best.

I just thought that the two situations that had me in 3rd gear that day were ironic. One was borderline maddening and one was scaredy-cat voluntary. I'm sure all the locals have at least one covered stretch story, since that is the most popular way to get to da Harbor.

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