Q I'm writing this in case I do not make it. My family and the world need to know how my last days were spent trapped on Interstate 680 trying desperately to reach the new toll lane in Sunol. We were promised a faster commute but have been stuck in a level of hell only surpassed by those waiting in line to audition for "American Idol."

Jeff Durban

Pleasanton

A It's now nine days after the opening of the new express lane, which solo drivers can use for a fee while carpoolers ride free. And the delays persist.

Q Like many others on Day 1, I joined a long line of cars creeping along 680 south at Bernal. We crept along listening to reports of congestion extending to the Oregon border. We measured our commute not in miles, but in inches.

Jeff Durban

A Day 1 was nasty, with backups to I-580.

Q By Day 2, I had made it to Sunol Boulevard. I toyed with getting off the freeway and returning home to my family. But my job beckoned and promises of commute nirvana ahead in the new toll lane kept me queued in the long line of frustrated drivers.

Jeff Durban

A Roadshow readers never give up! Never!


Advertisement

Q By Day 3, all the food and water I could scrounge from my car was gone. Other commuters and I started talking about sending a scouting party ahead on foot to see whether there was an overland route to take. Four brave souls struck out in their Bally wingtips and ties, but they returned one person short. Details of their harrowing trek will be the stuff of legend if this journal survives. The lost member of their party will be remembered as a hero due to his actions to save the others. We are still not clear as to what occurred, but survivors say commuters further south had turned to cannibalism due to a lack of food and coffee. The three remaining members brought back his wingtips and leather belt. We may eat those later.

Jeff Durban

A Desperate measures for desperate times.

Q By Friday, or Day 5, the smell along the freeway was fetid and rank. Most cars had run out of fuel, so drivers were pushing their vehicles any time the long string of cars inched forward. Only those driving hybrids still had power, but none were as well armed as SUV drivers, so they were easily overrun and their fuel supplies taken. Armed gangs began terrorizing weakened commuters. Barter systems were set up, people trading bags of airplane peanuts for a few ounces of fuel. I made a desperate attempt to hike home, but was forced back into my car by a roving band of Caltrans workers threatening anyone who dared to leave their car and not experience the glory of the express lane.

Jeff Durban

A And "...

Q Monday, Day 7 dawned over the eastern hills. I was delirious from the lack of sleep, hunger and Starbucks withdrawal. I was awake most of the night fending off a horde of commuters called "tollbies" -- similar to zombies, but without the insatiable appetite for human flesh. Tollbies had lost their sense of reason, seeking only to experience the FasTrak-enabled rush of express lane joy. These lost souls wandered down the freeway in small groups between camps of stranded motorists, waving transponders in the air hoping for that reassuring beep signaling they had reached the promised lane. My encampment used our laptops and spare tires to create crude barriers to keep the tollbies from overrunning us. Our latest plan for rescue involves tying a note to a dead cell phone and seeing if we can throw it at a passing ACE train, but we hold little hope of rescue.

Jeff Durban

A And "...

Q A few of our group have scouted northbound lanes for any sign of rescue, but we were met with resistance from those stuck in the miles-long backup from the evening commute. Small wars are now occurring between north- and southbound commuters as the northies try to claim the southbound toll lane. The northies feel they are justified in their seizure since their commute has been horrendous for many more years than the southies and they have never benefited from a carpool lane. All hope of reconciliation, rescue or free-flowing traffic is abandoned. My BlackBerry is almost out of power, so this will be my last entry. If anyone reads this, tell my family I love them. I only hope they have FasTrak in heaven.

Jeff Durban

A Forget the Donner Party; we have the Durban Party.

Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.