Sunday night, October 9, at about 10:30 pm we were driving up Fancy Gap Mountain from North Carolina into Virginia. It was just a week ago that there was a chain reaction accident involving something over thirty vehicles which crashed in the fog.
We were lucky, traffic was extremely light going north bound. We hit the fog about three miles from the summit which is over 3,100 feet. That's about half way up the mountain. Just before we ran into the fog we were traveling within sight of two other cars. There was one behind us and one in front of us. We were in the middle lane as was the car in front of us.
The good news is that we hit the fog gradually enough that we were able to slow down quickly to 40 mph and the car in front of us also slowed down to approximately the same speed. The car behind caught up quickly but also slowed down. We all spread out and increased the distance between cars to over six or seven lengths at which point the cars lights were still visible but just barely.
Fortunately no more traffic caught up with us, and we didn't catch up with anything else either. I don't like running in the left or right lanes when it is foggy on Fancy Gap. You're more likely to have someone going fast zoom up on you in the left lane, and the right lane or truck lane is more likely to have a slow moving truck. Fortunately the trucks are usually more visible. We carefully went up the mountain in the middle lane, and only had to slow to around 30 miles per hour once for a brief distance.
Our car has fog lights so that helped. I have seen it so foggy that you have to get in the left lane because the yellow stripe on that edge of the road is more visible than the other markings.
I have never understood why VDOT doesn't do a better job with reflectors on Fancy Gap or put lights in like they have on Afton Mountain near Charlottesville. The "Automated Pavement Lighting" on Afton Mountain is explained in this article. Probably if more politicians traveled Fancy Gap in the fog, we would have a lighting system in a flash. :)
The fog Sunday night lasted for two or three miles after we went over the summit. Sometimes it is just on the mountainside and other times like Sunday night it extends on both sides.
We were fortunate last night, there were no stupid drivers, the traffic was almost unnaturally light, and there were no problems to cause any other issues. At least this time the warning sign at the bottom of the mountain was correct with it's note to expect "Dense Fog."
If you haven't seen pictures of Fancy Gap, this link is the best set of pictures I have run into on the web.
I can't even count the number of times I've been up or down Fancy Gap in the fog. Sometimes we'll even cancel a trip to North Carolina if it is foggy on our mountain in Roanoke Country just because that increases the odds that it will be foggy on Fancy Gap. You get lots of people coming up Interstate 77 who get their first taste of mountain driving on Fancy Gap so it can be a very dangerous place.
As we finished our trip home last night, we saw some large numbers of vehicles headed southbound. I haven't read the paper yet, but I assume they made it down the mountain without any trouble. I'm just glad I wasn't with them. It's very foggy here this morning. It's a great morning to stay home.