Sunday, July 29, 2012

Runaway Truck Ramps

On a recent trip from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado, I once again marveled at the runaway truck ramps that dot I-70. Maybe it's because I grew up in the flatlands of Nebraska that I find these ramps so intriguing.  

Colorado has 13 runaway truck ramps. Most of these ramps were built between the late 1970s to the early 1980s. I often wondered how frequently these were used.  It wasn't until this last trip across the state that I actually saw a semi-truck near the top of  a ramp. It was severely damaged and the ramp was closed for repairs. After I returned home and started this post I realized that where I saw the truck, on I-70 westbound from the Eisenhower Tunnel toward Silverthorne, is the ramp that gets 20 to 30 customers each year. It is the most used ramp in the state. The other 12 ramps get two or three vehicles annually. 

This is the first runaway truck ramp west of the Eisenhower Tunnel westbound on I-70.

Going up one of these ramps is a one way trip. In Colorado a driver using the ramp must pay for the tow out as well as the repair of the ramp. 

There are many varieties of runaway truck ramps. These life saving ramps can be arrester beds,  gravity escape ramps, sand pile escape ramps, mechanical-arrester ramps or a vehicle arresting barriers. The names suggest the method used to stop a runaway truck. If you'd like to read an overview about these various types of ramps I found a simple description on Wikipedia you might enjoy perusing. There is also a Facebook page on Runaway Truck Ramps with this information.

Truckers, RVs and motorhome drivers are given lots of warnings along  I-70 about the need to travel with great care. Crash Forensics reports that three roadway concerns can contribute to the hazardous conditions of a road. Grade steepness is often what we think of first. Most of the steep grades along I-70 are at 7%, some at 6%. However, grade length and the curve severity also are factors not to be ignored. In the signs below you can see that CDOT has posted warnings with a little bit of humor to catch truck driver's attention.  

The runaway truck ramps are built to stop a semi-truck that is carrying up to 80,000 pounds. If it's indeed a runaway truck it can be traveling up to 100 mph. If you see smoke around a truck's tires make sure you give the road to the trucker. The look of terror on his face and the icy grip he has on his steering wheel might be another indicator of trouble. Summer is the time when the runaway truck ramps are most used. The overheating of the breaks and increased traffic add to this count. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation is trying to avoid accidents by directing the truckers onto runaway ramps rather than the more populated exits. 

Many other states, besides Colorado, and countries too, have runaway truck ramps. Some are called emergency escape ramps, runaway truck lanes or truck arrester beds. The most used one in the world is in the state of Wyoming.  It's U.S. Highway 16. There is a section on it the locals call "Dead Man's Curve." The Buffalo Bulletin published a write up on July 11, 2012 about this runaway truck ramp. It's an intriguing read if this interests you. 

Traveling through the Rocky Mountains along I-70 is a delightful drive. The scenery is breathtaking and changing frequently. Whether you are looking for Buffaloes at Genesse Park or anticipating your drive through Eisenhower Tunnel, the bright yellow runaway truck ramp signs will keep you alert to the steep grades and curves on your trip. Enjoy the views but drive safely.

Below are a variety of the runaway truck ramp signs you'll see along I-70 in Colorado. You can enjoy the scenery as you travel through the pictures. 

Below you'll see the raindrops on the windshield. The weather conditions can change quickly adding to dangerous road conditions for all vehicles.

May you never find yourself at the top of a runaway truck ramp. Safe travels.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maple Glazed Bacon Donuts at the Nickel Diner in L.A.

I love bacon! I choose bacon over sausage anytime I have a choice to make. My earliest memories of bacon are breakfast on school days and weekend mornings when my Dad cooked breakfast. I really love bacon. So when I heard that Maple Glazed Bacon Donuts were a popular item at the 5 Cent Diner in Los Angeles I knew I must check out these donuts. They were really calling my name.  The bacon beckoned.  

My dear husband, Rex, who tries to please my every whim, and our friends, David and Christy  and I ventured out to the Nickel Diner at 524 S. Main St. in downtown Los Angeles. 

The name of the restaurant is a reference to its location on Main St. south of 5th St. This area in downtown Los Angeles centered around 5th St. is also known as Skid Row or The Nickel.  In recent years, work with missions, LAPD and the Mayor's office, have changed the environment. The morning we were there, all was clean, calm and non-threatening.  I understand that lunch crowds form lines outside the door and waiting lists can be 45 minutes long. People love the whole menu which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Inside the restaurant I was tickled to see this writing above the front door.

The diner is a casual 1940's style. It has no TV, WiFi or alcohol. There are tall ceilings and upside down floor lamps hanging on the ceiling provide the lighting. Red padded booth seats line the wall side of the tables with wooden comfy chairs on the other side. Red and yellow striped columns add to the colorful atmosphere. Music plays and the chatter of diners fills the area.

In October, 2009, Food Network's Guy Fieri paid a visit to the 5 Cent Diner on his show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  He checked out a variety of foods, ending his visit with the maple glazed bacon donuts. With this kind of attention, I'd say this donut is famous! 

Since the four of us were there for a real breakfast beyond donuts, we decided to split one of these  massive, loaded donuts among us. After eating our own shares we agreed that eating a whole donut would have been way more than we needed. The donuts are made fresh, dipped in maple syrup frosting and then rolled in crispy bacon. Yum, wish I had one for breakfast tomorrow!

Maple glazed bacon donuts, anyone? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aurora, Colorado, Theater Shooting at Batman Premier

It's a sad day in Colorado waking up to the news of the loss of life at an Aurora movie theater. I live 19 miles from Aurora, in Arvada, Colorado. It's a 25 minute drive down the interstate. My day has been consumed with watching the non-stop television coverage of this horrible crime. The victims are young, and only this evening the families are being told of who was found dead in the theater. My heart can hardly stand the pain of what those families are experiencing. So many stories remain to be told. I hope you will keep these victims, families and friends in your thoughts and prayers. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coroner's Gift Shops, Did You Know?

Did you know the County of Los Angeles Department of Coroner has a gift shop? Yes, it's true. It's  named "Skeletons in the Closet". 

The picture below shows the lobby of the Coroners office. The door on the right is the gift shop. It's very unassuming and you have to know there is a gift shop to even look for it. The sign in front of it on the red ropes says "Please Be Considerate of our Families Here on Business." A rather sobering reminder of what this place is really about.

It's a strange feeling opening that door and walking into a Coroner's gift shop. I didn't know what to expect. It's a fun tongue-in-cheek humorous room filled with lots of giggles.

The focal point of the room is this casket looking sofa. It's surrounded by skeletons, of course.

Below is the front view of the casket sofa. Would you want to take your afternoon nap on this?

After getting one's bearings in such a store, it's time to turn around and do some serious shopping. Would you want to take home this sun shade for your car? It might remind you to drive carefully.

A toe tag magnet on your refrigerator might take away your appetite if you really think about it. All that extra food just might get you to the Coroner's office sooner than you want.

On the Skeletons in the Closet web site they have this to say about their gift shop: 

Skeletons In The Closet Gift Store has been operating since September 1993. The purpose of the store is to promote how fragile life is and create awareness and responsibility toward one's actions. A complete line of quality souvenir items, such as beach towels, t-shirts, baseball caps, key chains, and more, is offered for sale in the store. Each item displays a unique Los Angeles County Coroner design such as a skeleton in Sherlock Holmes attire, a chalked-out body outline, or the L.A. County Coroner seal. 

The gift shop has many things to look at and consider buying. Below you'll see some of the displays.

Lots of T-shirts...

Body bag for your suit or dress...
Aprons for those backyard BBQs...


Water bottles...
Coffee cups... 
Skull business card holders...
Mouse pads..
Note pads...

And they take shoplifting very seriously...Don't even think of it! 

When you look at the Coroner's office from outside it just looks like an ordinary building. There are no "Gift Shop" signs or hints of what's inside. 


You might see a marked car in the parking lot but otherwise it looks like an ordinary place of business. If you're in Los Angeles, it's worth the visit. I even bought a T-shirt there. If you don't plan to visit Los Angles, you can go to their web site and request a catalog. If you order on line you can fill out your wish list as you go along.

While visiting Skeletons in the Closet, I found out only one other coroner in the country has a gift shop. It's in Las Vegas. If you know me well, you could guess it was quickly added to my Bucket List. To my delight, four months later I was heading to Las Vegas for a Jimmy Buffet concert. Since we were driving there, I begged my husband to go out of his way and drive me to the Clark County, Nevada, Coroner's office.

Arriving in the parking lot I knew we were at the right place.  The line up of cars all displayed Coroner signs and seals. Even a license plate told of one's vocation. 


The Las Vegas Coroner's Office has a whole different feel than the one in Los Angeles. I had to admit to the lady at the front counter what I was doing there while my husband embarrassingly stood back . (In Los Angeles we were able to just wander in on our own.) We had to wait a few minutes until someone was available to escort us into their gift shop area. As you can see below it is just a glass enclosed, locked cabinet with three shelves of items. However, all their items are also available to order on line at The Las Vegas Coroner Store.  They have a wishlist available so you can line up all the items you'd love to buy or have gifted to you. There are patches, T-shirts, coffee mugs, toe tag reels, boxer shorts, lanyards, jawbone business card holder, license plate, stolen pens, duffle bags and hats of all kinds. I bought another coroner T-shirt and a pin. 

Having been a volunteer victim advocate with police departments and having rubbed elbows with the Coroner, I probably have an unusual interest in all things related. Some people just do not understand my enthusiasm for these gift shops but that's okay. It's all in fun.
I hope my post has perhaps inspired you to buy an awesome gift for that person who is hard to shop for. I feel it's good to share the valuable information I collect up when I'm in Roaming Rita mode. And may those who have gone before us, rest in peace.

Monday, July 16, 2012

H-O-M-E-S this how you remember the five Great Lakes, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior? Works for me. After all these post grade school years I can still easily name the five Great Lakes 
 A rare cloudless satellite view of the entire Great Lakes region, April 24, 2000, (taken from Wikipedia)  
grew up in the Midwest so getting near the Great Lakes, or any major bodies of water wasn't easy. I visited Lake Michigan when I was still in High School. I saw it from Chicago. I don't have digital pictures from that era so I'll post about my recent visit to Lake Erie.

The Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail is 293 miles long. It would take roughly 8 hours to drive it straight through. Three or four days is recommended to take advantage of all the available stops and sightseeing along the way. Since I had a plane reservation later in the day, I had to take the mini tour west from Cleveland.

There were heavy rains on the day I was visiting the Lake Erie Coastal Trail. But I was thrilled to be looking at a part of the 12th largest freshwater lake in the world. I loved how closely the Trail followed the shoreline so I could enjoy the scenery without getting soaked in the rain.

A sign posted in a park along Lake Road

My First View of Lake Erie
More Views of Lake Erie

 I had been told to be sure and stop along the way for some Lake Erie yellow perch. Even though they are caught year round, it was prime season while I was there. I must say it was totally delish. Look at all that butter on the mashed potatoes. Pure home cooking. I highly recommend trying the yellow perch if you're visiting the area. 

The Vermilion Lighthouse is one of many lighthouses along this route. This lighthouse is actually a replica of the 1877 lighthouse. There is a fascinating story about the history of this lighthouse. I hope you go to the link and read about it.

Attached to the Vermilion Lighthouse is the Maritime Museum. The museum was at one time the childhood home of one of the town residents. The house had been built of gravel from Lake Erie in 1909 and the old house became the main structure of the Great Lakes Historical Society Maritime Museum.  It is now permanently closed and the museum will be relocated to Toledo in 2013. Research operations continue to run in Vermilion. 

I had been looking forward to a Miller Ferry ride at Catawba to Put-in-Bay. We arrived when the last ferry was going out and wouldn't be returning till morning. With my airplane beckoning me, I didn't have the time for an over-nighter. Maybe another time I can do this. I always hope to return to places I've loved. 

I only got to look and didn't get to ride, so I took a picture instead
On the way back to Cleveland, off the Lake Erie Circle Trail, in Catawba Island, I had to stop and photograph these amazing water lily pads. They were abundant and so beautiful. 

In the dry Colorado climate we don't have things like this. We have gorgeous mountains but no lily pads

The water lily pads stretched on and on.

 Ohio is a great state to explore. I'm pleased to have had such a great visit there, even though it was a soggy one.