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Maumee, Ohio.

So this morning Earl and I woke up in lovely Maumee, Ohio. For those unfamiliar with the geography of The Buckeye State, we are just outside of Toledo. Our intention was to find a hotel somewhere just west of Cleveland, but hotels are very popular in Ohio and we ended up here in Maumee.

2014-07-31 10.01.10

Yesterday after work we embarked on our summer road trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The drive is a long one but well worth it.

I’m always up for a good adventure.

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Karma.

So I’m heading off the work and I pull out of our driveway onto the road. A few houses up a neighbor comes flying out of his driveway in reverse and pulls out right in front of me. I slam on the brakes and wait for him to get oriented to the road and let him take off on his merry way in front of me. He quickly glances in his mirror with ‘a look’ at me as he speeds off.

Ten seconds later, a deer comes bounding out of the woods, slams into his car and goes butt over head, landing on his roof and denting it in. The deer is stunned, stands on the car, jumps off and takes off on his merry way, not even looking back at the red car that he just ran into.

Karma.

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Infrastructure.

35W

As a budding Civil Engineer with dreams of working for the Department of Transportation, it’s only natural that I am very interested in yesterday’s tragedy in Minnesota, where a bridge that carries Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River collapsed, plunging several vehicles and their occupants into the river below. While I understand the scope of this tragedy, I have to admit that I am a little dismayed at the media “hype machine” that’s kicked into gear. It seems like reporters are nearly grabbing family members of the victims from the site and trying to get an interview. I think that’s kind of rude.

While there will undoubtedly be an investigation into the cause of the collapse, I think we are seeing a symptom of a growing concern in the United States, and that’s our aging transportation infrastructure.

The bulk of the interstate highway system was built around 50 years ago. Naturally, there have been improvements, modifications, inspections and whatnot along the way, however, many of the bridges and roadways in the U.S. are nearing the end of their shelf life. Unfortunately, with a seemingly unending war that is costing hundreds of billions of dollars and an American need for an increase in vehicle size and such, our roads are getting abused without the monetary support necessary to keep them in shape.

When I was a child there was talk about removing the tolls from the New York State Thruway. This was slated to happen some time between 1992 and 1996, though it never did. I think this is a good thing. As a young driver, I couldn’t wait for the Thruway to be “free”; as a more experienced adult, I find tolls to be a good thing because the road is being paid for by the people that use them. I don’t have a problem with tolls as long as they are used for what they’re intended for and that’s the upkeep and improvement of the roadway that’s being tolled. I’m NOT in favor of hiring toll booth operators at a huge salary simply to hand out tickets or push a “GO” button to let an E-ZPass car through, to me that’s a huge waste of money. However, I am in favor of tolls if it’s going to keep our roads in better shape and allow various transporation agencies to do their job and work to make driving safer for all involved.

I’m also in favor of increasing the tax on fuel. As Americans, while we bitch about gas being nearly $3.00 a gallon in actuality we have some of the cheapest gas prices in the world. Perhaps if we all paid a few more cents at the pump and/or drove smaller vehicles that didn’t beat up the road as much, we could avoid tragedies like the bridge collapse in Minnesota yesterday.

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Mall Me.

I’m sitting in another Thruway service area using their wi-fi. I’m taking a little break from my ride, and yes, it’s the same ride I started around noon today.

One of the cool things about technology is that even though we are separated by nearly a thousand miles, Earl and I are able to keep in touch no matter where we are. For example, I needed to send him an important text message after a particular experience.

I got myself one of those 20 minutes massages. In the middle of the mall. With people watching.

I figured I was in a mall where no one would know me and if they laughed and pointed or whatever they wouldn’t know whom they were laughing or pointing at so I plunked down $22 plus tip and got myself a 20 minute massage.

It felt wonderful. I still feel wonderful.

I told the masseuse to not hold back and the older gentleman certainly didn’t. He pushed, prodded, kneaded and punched until I felt like a loaf of bread ready for the oven. I didn’t giggle like the Pillsbury Dough Boy though. My muscles were a little sore from working out but now they feel great. I must have set a trend because when I got to the booth the four chairs were empty. When I left, there was a line waiting.

I’m going to do it again in a strange city! Soon!

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Out For A Drive.

I am currently sitting in a service area along the New York State Thruway, the self proclaimed “Main Street” of The Empire State. Always keeping up with the times, the Thruway has installed free wi-fi service in each of their service areas along the world’s longest toll road. This is the first time that I’ve used it.

In an effort to be money conscious, I packed a lunch for my little ride with the intent of eating and surfing at a stop along my drive. It’s still sitting on the kitchen counter. I’m sure it’ll be delicious tomorrow. So I’m eating a veggie wrap from a local sandwich chain called “Mr. Subb”. The second “b” denotes that this place is hip. My wrap has an extra “p” on the end, because it was made Pretty darn quick.

There is a person behind the counter at the McDonalds that is snapping their gum incessantly. I am very tempted to walk up to the counter and slap them right across the face but I suppose that would be rude. It would probably be ruder than the snapping of the gum, though many would agree that snapping gum like some sort of cow is pretty rude in itself. Now that I think about it, cows don’t really snap gum, they just chew their cud and they do it quietly.

I’m not sure where I’m headed on this ride today. I’m out enjoying the weather, picking up tubes for my bike tires and just clearing the cobwebs from my head so I’m ready to go for my last final exam on Thursday. Earl is out of town until tomorrow night. I plan on studying the majority of the day tomorrow and hope to sit in the sun while doing so.

Today I’ll just enjoy being a loner in an Acura on the Thruway.

Get Smart.

Our Jeep Tour took us through Texas last month. We missed this awesome event. “Missed it by this much.” Oh well, there’s always the next Jeep tour.

texassl80.jpg
The daytime speed limit in west Texas along Interstates 10 and 20 is now 80 MPH

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Driving Enthusiam.

I was recently polled in a road geek forum on how we would describe our passion for roads. Just what was it about roads that piqued our curiosity and interest so much. I answered the poll with a short statement. “I’m a driving ethusiast.”

I love to drive. I love exploring the highways and byways from the seat of my merry Oldsmobile. I find little more relaxing or intriguing than the rush I get behind the wheel of a car. Some people see artistry in the Louvre, I see artistry in overhead expressway signage.

Because I’m a driving enthusiast, I need to feel proud of the vehicle I’m driving. A decade and a half ago, I drove a candy-apple red 1994 Hyundai Excel. Was it the fastest car on the road? Hardly. Was it reliable? When the winds were favorable. Was I proud of it? Yes. It was the first car I had bought new, it was eye-catching and it served it’s purpose well. At least until the transmission died on it.

Fast forward to 2006. I now drive a black 2005 Acura RSX Type-S. Is it the fastest car on the road? Occasionally. Is it reliable? Yes. Am I proud of it? Of course I am! I love my RSX for several reasons. I’ve always wanted a black sports car, I’ve always wanted my vehicle to make a statement and I’ve always wanted to be able to zip in and out of lanes with ease (safely, of course). Because of my pride, I often wash the car two or three times a week. And forget about driving it in the winter. And it’s only been within the past week that I’ve eaten in the car (or allowed someone else the honor) and I’m thinking of abandoning that practice because it’s entirely too risky. The car does not look good with special sauce on the seat.

As a driver I can be rather aggressive. As a passenger, I can be a pain in the ass. Sometimes I pity Earl because I can be a tad bit critical as a passenger. For example, he and I have different approaches on how to drive a stick. I always say that my way is the “right way” because my first Hyundai (an ’86 Excel) had a stick and I owned it for over 254,000 miles and it had the original clutch in it the day it was towed off the charity I donated it to. He says his way is the right way because he taught himself in a Camaro back in 1979 and his method has worked longer than mine. I then counter that I learned to drive stick in a tractor, followed by a dump truck and then finally a Ford F-150 pickup truck (for skill polish) and all he’s driven are cars. By the time we’re done discussing shifting methods, we’ve passed our destination.

And don’t get me started on turn signaling. (I use them, he only does when someone is looking.)

So as I sit at my cubicle today, looking out at the sunny skies and daydreaming about the upcoming weekend, I really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m planning a road trip for this weekend.

Where shall we escape to this weekend?

Mean Ol’ Soccer Wench.

Driving back to work today after my lunch hour, I was flipped off by another driver on the expressway.

It was a “soccer man”. In a minivan. With said minivan filled to the brim with children. None of them in car seats. A couple should have been.

Apparently she didn’t like the fact that I was passing her on the right because she was needlessly in the left lane.

She was setting such a fine example.

A Clever Scheme.

I’ve been occupying my thoughts for the past 18 hours or so by cooking up a clever little plan for the end of this week. I’d love to share the details, but I can’t at the moment, because the pieces haven’t fallen together, but when this all comes to fruition I’m sure all parties involved will be just giddy.

# # #

Even though we were just on vacation a month ago, I’m already primed to hit the road again. Earl is out of town this week, he’s in fabulous Indianapolis and won’t be back until Friday night. We’ve already made plans to visit friends in Buffalo this weekend, so there will be some mileage and stretching of the legs there.

Tonight I’m having dinner with an online friend. We’ve chatted via e-mail back and forth for the past year or so and finally found time to actually meet face to face. It’s the second time I’ve actively went out and met an online friend in the past couple of months. I hope I don’t come across as the clod I fear myself to be. I was hesitant to go with Earl out of town, but he told me to stop moping around the house just because he’s gone on business and to get out and do something. So I am.

I’m sure it’ll be a good time.

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Drive Me Crazy.

I know that I occasionally rant about the inept drivers in our area and I guess today is going to be no exception. If you’ve been to my Road Geek site, then you’ll know that I am an avid driver and pride myself on my motoring abilities. Thinking about it, I guess everything thinks they’re the world’s perfect driver and that the rest of the world is off their crankcase.

Anyways, Earl has told me that I’ve become a much more aggressive driver since the purchase of the Acura, and I tend to agree with him. I can punch the gas pedal now and get the response needed to zigzag my way through traffic. It’s a cool feeling and a bold confirmation of the power I have as an Acura RSX Type-S driver!

I’ve often wondered if there should be an IQ test associated with earning one’s driver’s license. Yes, every driver, to my knowledge, in the United States has to take some sort of written test and demonstrate their driving ability in order to earn their license. In most instances, that is the only demonstration of prowess of required. Once you get your license, you never have to take another test. You simply visit a surly DMV clerk named “Donut Breath” every X number of years, smile for the camera, plunk down an obscene amount of money and voila! you can drive with a license until 20xx whatever.

I think all drivers should be tested every 10 years or so. Reflex abilities change. Eyesight dwindles. Mental capabilities fluxuate. Let’s face it, when I got my license at 16 years old, the only thing on my mind was whether the other tuba player in the band looked hot in his band uniform and whatever other high school drama was gripping my life at that moment.

I also think that a special class of license should be required to drive an SUV. After all, the driver that passed their test in a 1974 Chevy Vega has not demonstrated to the examiner that they are capable of driving an SUV that’s bigger than a school bus. Why should Yolanda Yugo be allowed to assume the role of Henrietta Hummer and drive a vehicle that can hold four of her old Yugos at ten times the price with no questions asked? I say if it qualifies as an SUV, then you should qualify to drive an SUV. Simple as that.

To wrap this all up, I need to get these little nitpicks off my chest:

  • I am pretty confident to say that nowhere in the United States or Canada does it require to make a 176 degree turn to the right to leave an interstate or freeway. That would be you driving up the ENTRANCE ramp, not the EXIT ramp.
  • NO LEFT TURN means NO LEFT TURN. It doesn’t mean NO LEFT TURN EXCEPT YOU WITH THE LOUD MUSIC AND RATTLING TEETH FILLINGS.
  • Last I knew, a red light meant stop. It doesn’t mean, stop if you feel like it or only if its really red instead of “sort of red”.
  • “Keep To The Right Except To Pass.” This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem by the minute. Moving your vehicle to the left, setting the cruise control and hanging out in the left lane is wrong and in most cases, illegal. Because of your idiocy, state DOTs are determining that they need to add more lanes to existing roads because you’re creating an unneccessary roadblock, which is throwing off the traffic flow of the roadway. Stay to the right unless you’re actively passing someone.
  • And finally, in New York State its illegal to use a handheld cell phone while you’re driving. I don’t agree with the law. I think the law is absurd. I think it’s stupid that the government feels they need to legislate common sense. However, using a cell phone while you’re driving is also stupid. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING so earth shattering that you need to be yammering on your telephone while you’re driving. I don’t care if someone farted, got married, had a crisis, made a fool of themselves at the mall or died. When you’re driving, you should be paying attention to the road, listening to the radio and possibly conversing with other passengers. There is no need to be talking on your cell phone.

Thank you for listening. Happy motoring.