A Tule Fog Story, and Warning

Atwater

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It seems like every year about this time I find myself warning everyone here about the tule fog we have here in the valley. Folks who have never traveled the valley, but are familiar with coastal fog, have no idea. Tule fog can disappear and reappear in the blink of an eye. One minute you're tooling down the road with plenty of visability, the next you're blind. Sometimes it hangs just a few feet above your vehicle, you hit an elevated stretch of road, like a bridge, and your in it deep. Many lives are lost every year, and pileups are far to common on the freeways. This year, I have a story to share. So grab a snack and gather'round.

We were heading to Kern for a day of duck hunting at O'dark thirty, about 10 miles North of Delano on 99. The fog was patchy, but in some spots it was thick as pea soup. I was tucked in between a couple of KW's, when a sedan flew past us, weaving and swerving, speeding up and slowing down....a VERY drunk driver. I got on his tail and hit 911. This guy was all over the road, and bound to kill someone.

I reported what was happening, and the operator asked if I could get a make, model, and license number. They'd already had a couple of calls about the same driver. I'd close the gap a little, and he'd brake, swerve, then speed up. It took awhile for me to get close enough, but I got the info conveyed. As we entered Delano, the operator thanked me, and said that two CHP's were waiting for him on the other side of town. I was damn glad to take my exit and get away from that idiot, as was my better half, Kim.

We headed out toward Kern on Garces highway, chatting about our adventure, and hoping that they'd caught the guy without incident. As the adrenaline started to wear off, I realised that the fog was getting thicker, so I slowed down a bit, but was still going too fast, somewhere around 45mph....that's when I saw something dark in the road.

Something in my mind clicked, and I heard one word come out of my mouth as I pulled the wheel to the left as hard as I could: Horse.

But it wasn't just a horse. It was seven horses, all standing in the middle of the road in dense tule fog. There was a terrible 'bang!', followed by my right side mirror exploding against the door. I'd clipped one of the horses in the head with my right front fender, and again with the mirror. But we had more problems than that, since we were now careening off the road.

As soon as my tires hit the soft shoulder, I yanked the wheel back to the right and hit the gas. My truck is a Ford F250 super duty with a 4" lift kit and, at the time, big mudder tires. I was very concerned that it would roll if I didn't punch it. My truck performed perfectly and jumped back up on the road, fish tailed slightly, I corrected, slowed to a stop, and it was over.

We went back, but found no horses, they'd run off into the fog. Later we learned that one of the refuge staff had nearly collided with the same herd shortly before we did. I can honestly say that, had I been distracted for even an instant, we would have plowed directly into the herd, and even though my trucks big, we would have come to a stop real quick.

So, when you're heading up this way, remember this story, and slow down. There are far worse things in this world than missing the morning shoot.



Note: This happened toward the end of last season.
 

rcrosby

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I remember Scotty and I sitting there in the parking lot figuring you had just overslept. It was horrible fog that day. It took us at least twice as long as normal to get out there. Good tips Scott those can be dangerous roads.
 

Speckmisser

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Good warning, Atwater! That tule fog can be hell.

Every winter, heading down to Mendota on 5 I find myself buried in that stuff. More than once I've come right up on an 18-wheeler before seeing it.

Those orange lights they put over the offramps SUCK in the fog, by the way. Totally blinding at the worst possible time.
 

Duck Fan

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always a GREAT reminder and thanks.

I've been driving that stuff for years - even back in ther 60's when my dad drove from the San Fernando valley to Kern and Mendota....scary, scary stuff
 

DukeMaster

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Question- twice last year I had to get behind a big ole 18 wheeler and followed him from around Copus rd to Derrick Ave in the fog. We were going about 25-40mph. Meantime some people would blow by us going 60 plus. Do those stocl and aftermarket eurotech foglights help that much? Or are those people taking their lives in their hand?
 

Speckmisser

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<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE </div>
Or are those people taking their lives in their hand?[/b]
You nailed it right there, Duke.

I have a good set of foglights on my truck, and while they do help, they don't help THAT much.

By the way, following the big rigs is my trick too... stay close, but not too close, and they'll light the road and break the fog a little bit in the backdraft. But watch the road, too... those guys are just as likely to run off the pavement as anyone else.
 

Bill in San Jose

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Last season a couple of hunters came running to the Salt Slough check station with their resy's in hand. They'd hit a horse coming south and after doing the paperwork with the local police, left to shoot at daylight. Hard core for sure.

I did the following for fog on my 01 RAM:
- PIAA fog lights. Expensive but supposed to be among the best.
- Put 3 DOT approved Hella LED lights on the tailgate like the dually pickups have
- Put diagonal DOT red/white stripes on my rear bumper. the LED and tape for increased visibility from somebody coming up behind me too fast
- Sylvania Silver Star headlight bulbs

The PIAA fog lights help, but are short distance. The Silverstars are incredible with their white light and how much less reflection I get back in my eyes from heavy fog. I've never had an opposing driver flash his high beams, so they must not be obnoxious like the ones on BMWs. I recommend them to everybody. The Ultra's are supposed to have longer life than the original Silverstars.

BTW, it's against the law to turn off your headlights and drive with parking lights and the best fog lights in the world. I was ticketed for doing exactly that at San Luis 2 years ago.
 

Speckmisser

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Bill, I agree about the running lights... although it's a dang good way to get killed from both directions.

Then again, you do what you have to. I spent a couple hours coming down Shields with my head out the window and a maglight in my left hand. Unfortunately, that was after the floods and there was so much mud and water on the road that I couldn't tell where the pavement ended and the mud started... until the tires would start to spin.
 

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