Saturday, July 7, 2007

More of Middle America

Success! Got a good shot of the sort of highway sign I noticed on the first leg of the trip.

Now I just have to get some info from highway department and turn it into a physics problem. The approximately 2 foot wide base makes it ideal for a torque problem, and treating the two trusses and the sign as if each was a uniform object is probably not a bad approximation.

The shortage of "W" stickers continues, with a new twist. I saw the first example of a "coverup" - an oval sticker in the style of the "W'04" ones, except this says "GOP". Looks like the perfect way for a disgruntled Republican to show they line up with Hagel (and now Lugar) rather than Cheney and Bush. Still rare, however.

I also saw a regular "W" sticker and, more interestingly, one that read "May God Bless W" printed in a flag pattern. The latter was in a car with Florida plates driven by white haired folks who, apparently, think that their God would bless someone who ships people off to be tortured after even less of a trial than Pontius Pilate gave His Son. The United States is, truly, a land for everyone.

Puzzling over the mindset of the half of the Republican Party that still thinks things are going as planned in Iraq kept me awake for another hundred miles, but I prefer roadside delights like that pictured below to break up the monotony.

The sculpture is huge, by the way, and would not come cheap.

Then there are the things you don't want to see. Stopped traffic:

For an hour, parked on the freeway.

It did, however, turn out to be an interesting break from the road that contained an interesting lesson in chemistry and physics. Got a chance to talk to a wide variety of people who were on the highway, a truly interstate group. Among them was the driver of the truck you see in front of me. He filled us in on what he had heard over the radio about the wreck. Later I asked him about his load, since his tanker truck had an amusing warning sign suggesting a corrosive liquid.

He said the truck was carrying Maleic Anhydride, used in everything from making epoxy type resins to food products. (Google, in addition to confirming my memory of how to spell the name, confirms that it is used to make artificial sweeteners as well as epoxy hardeners and oil additives.) It was being transported in the liquid state at 150 deg F. It is solid at room temperature, so he needed to keep his truck running to avoid a very nasty problem. Although it reacts to become Maleic Acid when it encounters water, a spill is more likely to result in a white solid when it cools and hits the ground. One web link gives the MSDS info on it, and shows the "corrosive" symbol I saw on the truck. I'm glad I don't have an iPhone, where I would have known that info while parked behind it!

Bet you never guessed that a pretty truck like that would be carrying a hot chemical.

Anyway, the accident had occurred hours earlier. Reportedly the driver had either fallen asleep or had a heart attack, although there was also another vehicle involved. In any case, a truck hauling a double trailer (like the one in the parade picture) had run off the road, dumping his load in the ditch. You can't see any of that in the picture below, but you can see part of the response team.

Traffic had to wait while the back hoe was used to right the truck, because it had to swing across the only lane available for traffic. At the same time, a "bobcat" was being used to clean up the load from the ditch.

No comments: