Carnage Alley

Last year at this time I wrote a post about how treacherous the driving was on the southern leg of highway 401 in Ontario.  Aptly named “Carnage Alley”, it has been the site of some pretty horrific crashes.

To make matters worse, parts of the 40l along this southern leg have been under construction.  For 20 kilometre stretches, the highway is down to one lane, bordered by concrete barriers.  This creates a bottleneck of traffic along an already busy section of highway.

Unfortunately for me, driving on this highway is a necessity in order to visit my father, who lives in a retirement home in Amherstburg, a small town some 200 kilometres away.  Not one to push my luck,  I restrict my visits to Sundays, when there’s less traffic and fewer 18-wheelers.  This past Sunday I made the trip down, leaving first thing in the morning. My father and I had a nice visit and I left by midafternoon, thankful that my drive down was uneventful and hopeful that the trip back would be similarly peaceful.

But no.

About 70 kilometres outside of Amherstburg, the traffic slowed to a stop. Shit, I thought; an accident. I and the other drivers peered anxiously in our rearview mirrors, hoping the guy behind us didn’t rear-end us before we made our way off the highway. Thankfully everyone was paying attention.  I said a quick prayer for the unlucky driver(s) and hoped they were ok.

Our caravan of vehicles followed two large 18-wheelers off the highway and into town. (During a detour, always follow a trucker.  They’re usually the only ones who know where they’re going.) We followed them about 40 kilometres to the next highway ramp, which was in the neighbouring town of Chatham.  The ramp was open for business and mercifully past the construction zone. I got back on the highway and hoped that was the worst of it.

When I got home, I googled “401 highway closure”, curious about the accident for which I and many others were diverted. Apparently it was one of three, all occuring within a few hours of the other. The first one was the one for which I was diverted, and involved several vehicles.  There were minor injuries. The second one was an hour later, 40 kilometres ahead but going west, in the opposite direction from me. The third was the worst. Apparently stopped for the second accident, drivers in the westbound lane of the SAME ramp which an hour earlier I took to get back ON the highway were rear-ended by an inattentive driver.  A woman and her son were killed.

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One of several construction zones, 401 near Chatham

I ended my trip vowing I would find an alternate route home.  It might take longer, but at least I would arrive alive.

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Our bridge to Target.

Our bridge to Target.

I live in a relatively small city bordering the Great Lakes.   Those of us who live here benefit from a low cost of living, affordable housing, and all the beaches and waterfront property we can stand. If we hanker for excitement, we have easy access to two major highways which connect us to the major cities of Ontario.

Our beaches are just outside our door.

Our beaches are just outside our door.

We suffer from one shortcoming, however:  we aren’t situated on the 401 corridor, the major highway in Ontario.  The outcomes of our regrettable geography are many.  For example, we are the last to receive social service funding, standing in line behind similarly sized cities which ARE on the corridor.

Also,  we are the last–if ever–to receive expansions of commerce.  I didn’t know that major retailers had  “tiered” stores until I moved here.  There are “first tier” stores, which have all the departments and merchandise sold by the retailer; there are “second tier” stores, which have fewer departments and less merchandise, and finally, there are “third tier” stores, which can be reduced to a lonely kiosk in the center of a shopping mall.

Body Shop is a good example is this.   When it first opened here, Body Shop was a bone fide store, with walls and everything. After a few years, it was reduced to a teeny kiosk near the food court.  A year or so later, it got its walls back again, although with less product.  According to Body Shop staff, the kiosk experiment failed.  Another example of this kind of corporate stupidity is the Cleo retailer.  Cleo sells women’s clothing, both for work and leisure.  It’s one of the few stores that caters to adult females, with adult female figures.  I happened to be in London shopping one day, and saw a sweater I liked. When I got home, I decided to drive to our local Cleo store to buy it.  The store manager said that our store didn’t carry it, and that if we wanted certain merchandise they would have to call the London store–which would, in turn get the sale credit.

From a store with walls to a lonely kiosk--and back again.

From a store with walls to a lonely kiosk–and back again.

Now the Target retailer is coming to Canada.  No more cross-border shopping, we cheered.  But wait–we’re not getting a Target.  Every single comparable town and city within a 200 km radius is.    What is up with that, anyway?

I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait an hour on the bridge, pay the toll, get hassled by customs, all for the pleasure of shopping at the American Target.

I say we should boycott.  Any takers?  😉