Driving I-95 S. With Kramer.

It was Thursday night, the ride home from the office.  The gauge was reading less than a quarter full, 40 miles remaining in the tank.

It would take no more than 5 minutes. My body gently leans right to encourage the mind to turn onto the exit ramp on I-95. But I’m hungry. I’m tired. I could stop. I should stop. I don’t stop. I’ll get up a few minutes earlier and fill-up in the morning. I see the towering Mobil sign in the rear view mirror. I take another glance at the gas gauge: 39.5 miles  I will regret this.

Yesterday morning, I’m in the shower preparing for work. I’m running the mileage tally in my head. 36 miles in the tank. 15 miles to the office. 15 miles back. No gas stations in the vicinity near work. A 6 mile cushion. Tight.

Oh, I have been here, right here, and oh, so many times. I call up other memorable events:

  • Montana: Slash in red zone. Two-lane highway. No sign of anything. 5:30 a.m.
  • Florida Everglades: Slash approaching red zone. Thunderstorm, rain pounding on hood. Late afternoon.
  • Green Bay. February. Twelve miles from next Service Stop. Wind gusts push drifts onto freeway.
  • Northern Michigan: January. Snowstorm flurries. Slash approaching red zone. 8 pm in darkness.

Each was preventable.

All were avoidable.

All were not.

[Read more…]

Let’s Go

…“Let’s go” is on the minds of many people in these last days of summer, especially the getting-out-of-here, going-away, going-home mood of Labor Day weekend. And it is much simpler by car…The long improvisational trip by car is quintessentially American, just as the road book is a peculiarly American form. […]

Yet it is perhaps truer today to say that the road trip has kept alive the romance of travel. Consider the misery of air travel, in what constitutes an average journey by plane. Much has been written about the stress, intimidation, limited space, germ-laden air and the intrusion of other people—the oaf in the seat in front of you who lowers his chair back into your lap, the child behind kicking your spine, the agony of the middle seat. Then there is the sludge that passes for in-flight meals, or the option to pay $7 for a “meal box” of chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, three crackers and a rectangle of industrial cheese that resembles a yellow piece of Lego but isn’t as tasty, and it’s five hours to LAX. After Sept. 11, 2001, casually showing up at the airport—often at the last minute, in my case—and easy boarding became distant memories, and since then air travel has degenerated further, so that the simplest flight is a secular version of hell. […]

This is why—for reasons of dignity and personal freedom—more and more Americans are rethinking the air journey and seeking the pleasures of the open road. […]

Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom—no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will. Though the driverless cars that await us might have their uses in dense city traffic or on tedious L.A. freeways, they will certainly diminish the exuberance of a driver gripping the wheel, flooring it and rejoicing, “Eat my dust.”[…]

The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country’s spaciousness and modernity. […]

So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people’s stories—of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past. […]

Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat. […]

Though I’ve been driving in the U.S. since I got my license 60 years ago, there is an immense amount of landscape I have yet to see. Driving through the deep South was a wish fulfilled, and so was my trip along the entire 1,900 miles of the Mexican border.

But I still have plans. My Road Trip Wish List includes: driving from Cape Cod to Seattle with many detours. Heading north from Cape Cod and keeping on, past the villages of my ancestors, until I run out of road around Lac Albanel in northern Quebec. Or heading south, as I mean to do soon, crossing La Frontera and taking an extended road trip in Mexico. […]

What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth.

~ Paul Theroux, excerpts from The Romance of the American Road Trip (WSJ, September 1, 2017). No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings


Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via Mennyfox55)

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Source: (via Newthom)

Driving I-95 S. With a ‘vanity’ plate.

I’m trailing behind a late model Chevy SUV in the left lane.

It’s twenty minutes in front of the morning rush hour on I-95 S. Traffic is light, I’m cruising at 15 over the limit.

Morning news is spewing Hamburg, Trump, Putin, G-20, protesters, North Korea missile launch, sanctions, UN. Sickening. I turn the dial to 70’s on 7 and turn the volume down.

Chevy won’t give way to the center lane.

Mind shifts to yesterday. Shouldn’t have said that. Could have done that. Not moving fast enough on that. Annoyed with that. Behind on that. Need to press harder on that. Anxious about that.

Chevy is white, I mean like Snow White, not a spec of dirt. I catch the vanity plate. I stare at the plate. I’m overcome with gratitude.

Two men going to work.

Two men sitting in their car and replaying yesterday, today, 10 years ago, 20 years ago.  One swimming in nonsense, the other in horror.

I gently ease off the accelerator, he widens the gap until he disappears and I turn off onto the I-287 ramp.

I get to the office.  I can’t find a replica of the plate online but the image below is close enough.

Peace Friend. Peace.
[Read more…]

Saturday afternoon drive: Then the car becomes a meditation chamber

The basic instructions for beginning meditation are to sit quietly and concentrate on nothing but your breathing for five minutes. Simple enough, right? I can’t do it for ten seconds. I can turn down the lights, burn all the incense and play all the soothing music I want but, after the briefest pause, my brain will recommence to whirr, instantly, uncontrollably.

Until I get on that blissfully empty stretch of open road, that is. Then the car becomes a meditation chamber. It all happens by itself. Breathing slows, the benevolent sky swells out, almost always a blue so pure, clean and enamelled that even worries of climatic catastrophe recede for a moment. Maybe there are some clouds, artfully arranged. Choose your moment to leave town — I like to leave at around 5am, just before rush hour — and there won’t even be any traffic to speak of. Just the white noise of the purring engine to amplify the calm, blissful silence, which will at last find its way into even the most stubbornly busy mind.

Dropping into the Central Valley from the mountains surrounding the Tejon Pass is like breaking open a petit four, getting past the glossy, pretty exterior: inside is the cake. The urban surfaces of California are what we see in movies and on TV: slick, manufactured, shouting, cajoling, bamboozling, seducing, ready to sell you something. And then the confected beauty of the city gives way; now the land reaches far out to the sky. Your ears pop from the pressure change, and a sign advises you that the next gas station is 19 miles off.

~ Maria Bustillos, from “On the Road” (Aeon, May 2, 2013)


Sources: Quote – Andrew Sullivan, Ode to Highway. Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via newthom)

Driving I-95 S. The Last Term.

snow-gif-winter-white

3:39 am. Thursday morning. Or, Wednesday night bleeding over.
20 minutes until shower time.
I’m staring at the ceiling. Woozy.  Did you get any sleep?

Six hours ago Mom’s helping him pack.
Suitcases are open.
Zeke sets the mood, moping.

“Dad, do you have any sweatpants I can take?”
“Take anything you want.”
“Do you have anything that doesn’t look like leisure wear?”
I smile. It’s clear who mentored that sarcasm, honed now, cold steel glistening.

We’re in the car.
It’s Silent. Father and Son awkward.
He’s turning the dials, away from my 7 on 70s on Sirius to some thumpin’ Electro BEAT.
The bitter taste of scotch at 4:30am.
I let it pass. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With A Distant Fire.

driving-lights-highway

6:28am.
I hit the ignition, the middle aged lady groans but fires.
It’s 23°F and she’s not liking it.
You and me girl, still firin’. Going down with our boots on. Till death do us part.

’70s on 7 are spinning on Sirius.
Drums and Horns lead – and then the band comes in.
YOU only need a FEW bars, and you can feel it: HIT IT.

And I’m off…
Foot leans in on the accelerator.
Traffic in speed lane clears for the DK Express.
Head’s bobbin’. Shoulders’ rockin’. Karaoke winds up.

And here she comes… [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. Miracle? All of it. 

gif-driving-illustration

7 am.
Clear. 50° F. Blue skies.
I’m flowing down I-95 S.
I lower the windows and rest my arm on the door frame.
The gusts fill the cabin. November chill.

70s on 7 is spinning Neil Sedaka and Bad Blood.
Doo-ron, doo-ron, di di, dit, do-ron-ron

To hell with these nonsensical lyrics. I plug my own.

I do what I want to do.
I hear want I want to hear.
I See. Thank God I can See.
Good Blood. Good Blood. Good Blood.

And the brain train starts to pull,
the steel couplers snap between the rail cars,
the words begin to slide down the rails.
And here they come. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Wabi Sabi.

autumn-fall-highway-drive

55 F.
6:15 am.

Red tail light blinkers flash ahead.
One car after another, clears the way.
Left lane is all mine today. All mine.

Autumn hues frame the highway.
The browns, the yellows, the reds flash by.
The clouds, paintings, gliding silently overhead.

What is this?

It’s Roland Barthes in Deliberation: The window is wide open, the gray day has lifted now. I experience a certain floating euphoria: everything is liquid, aerated, drinkable (I drink the air, the moment, the garden)

7 on 70s spin on Sirius. Boz Scaggs playing Lowdown:

Nothin’ you can’t handle
Nothin’ you ain’t got

Youwzah!

17 minutes door-to-door.

Game time.


Notes:

Driving the East River Drive. Every risk, shimmering.

new-york-city-autum-fall

It was Tuesday. Yes, Autumn. Yes, New York City. But it certainly didn’t look or feel anything like this. Add 5,000 cars.  And move the map to the FDR, the East River Drive.

I’m one hour and 20 minutes on the road and Waze is signaling that I’m still 30 minutes away. 1:50 for a 0:45 min ride. And now, the crush of the morning rush.  My lower back is stiff.  There’s a nagging kink in my neck. And, I can’t settle. I shift left, then right. I grab my water bottle, take a pull. Tap my fingers on the console.  I glance at my watch. I’m going to be late. Didn’t count on this delay. I push the pace. DK won’t be late.

If you’ve never driven the East Side Highway, think Daytona 500 with a crudely straightened 3-lane track.  Three lanes made for 2.5.  Traffic, sardines, tightly packed. There’s zero room for a slip, no room for wandering. Hugging your left shoulder is a 4-foot cement girder offering a bumper car cushion. Drains (sink holes) are distributed every 1000 feet to release rain water.  Off your right shoulder, another car – open your window and finger brush the door panel.  You grip the wheel, white knuckles, and Glare, eyes panning up front, left, right and down (especially down to avoid the abyss) and then back again. The Gotham Death March.  I push the pace with the cabbies, we dart in and out, looking to gain one car length, maybe two.

SiriusXM is spinning 70s on 7. [Read more…]

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