Thursday, October 20, 2016

International Harvester 1, Honda 0.

        Young lady who had just sideswiped my tractor drawn plow.

  Your mission: Venture out on any reasonably busy GTA road in your car. Rules of the road are to be obeyed. You will be given one hour and a dashboard camera. You will record any egregious traffic violations by other drivers: speeders, texters, road-ragers, non-signallers and the like.

  The task is sadly, laughably simple. On most days, a highlight reel could be compiled long before the hour was up.

  Now, let's change the rules. Instead of a car, you will be driving a tractor. A tractor pulling an implement that is wider than the lane you are in (wider than 12 feet).

  You cannot travel at the speed limit, because most tractors cannot travel that fast, therefore your speed will be limited to 20 km./hour.

  After an hour, you will be driving on the gravel shoulder, because your highlight reel is getting too heavily weighted towards one-fingered salutes.

  Your audio track will consist mainly of Country and Western music and the sound of your breath being quickly sucked in between your teeth as yet another late-for-tee-off-time kamikaze passes you with inches to spare and narrowly avoids being rebadged as a Peterbilt.

  And, every once in a while, sadly, it will change from being a spectator sport to a contact sport.

  That was my experience in early October of last year. The day was perfect, sunny and bright. Traffic was light at 10 a.m. as planned. Most farmers avoid rush hour travel if at all possible. I was pulling a four furrow plow drawn by a large tractor with a cab.

  Part of the route between our two farms involves travel along 19th. Avenue in Markham, a road designed for 1960's (lighter) traffic and (smaller) implement sizes. Road shoulders are tiny to non-existent between Warden Ave. and Kennedy Road.

  The choke point is a narrow bridge that used to be single lane, but was  given two lane stature by an
optimistic road painter when the road was paved. An unwritten first-in-first-out rule has existed for as long as I can remember for any wide vehicles approaching from either side.

  Imagine my surprise when the quickly closing oncoming Honda made no attempt to slow down or yield to my much larger tractor, despite the fact that I had already traveled more that half way along the bridge.

  I'll give the International Harvester plow credit for being well named. That plow effortlessly harvested the driver's side mirror and windshield molding and struck out a nice furrow along the door. The donor car was a brand new Honda Civic, still in the dealer wrap on its way to a new car buyer.

  The young lady got out of the car furious at me. I would add the adjective "lucky" to her, although she probably wouldn't agree.

  The spine of that plow that struck her car is fabricated of a six by ten inch tube of 3/8 inch steel. It is pulled at a roughly 45 degree angle to the direction of travel. This allowed the Honda to be deflected to the side of the road, rather than the plow demolishing the driver's side of the car.

  Let me put it this way: In the counter intuitive game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, paper can "beat" rock because it is able to cover it.

  In the real life game of Plow-Airbag-Scissors, airbag may cover plow, but that won't stop plow from heading  through your vehicle and right on down the road  if the speed is great enough. Mercifully, in my accident, both vehicles had slowed down enough to make the crash a low impact event.

  Could I hear her horn? No, and really what difference would it have made?  That is a "horn" icon on your steering wheel, not a "vaporize" one.

  The policeman who showed up on her insistence was a picture of diplomacy and a credit to the York Regional Force. He advised her to slow down and reminded her that the signs posted on rural roads advise one to "Share the Road", not "Own the Road".

  He expressed concern about the state of my plow, after seeing the car. I was unable to find any damage at all to it beyond a quarter-sized patch of non matching paint.

  There were no charges laid against me, but, through the no-fault insurance laws neither were there any laid against her. I hope she learned from the experience.

  I am sure that anyone who is reading this is a terrific driver. However, I would like to remind you that May-June and September through November are busy times for farm machinery on rural roads.

   Driving at speed for awhile on a 400 series highway makes one comfortable with travel at 110 kph, so that first meeting with a 20 kph tractor or combine can be memorable.

   Just make sure that encounter is safe as well.