Three White Vehicles

As I was driving my daughters on one of those plentiful summer activities this morning, I noticed 3 white cars in one of our neighbors driveways.  (To be more accurate there was a truck, mini-van, and a Camary-ish car)  Always one to invite my brain to wander, I tried to think thru the benefits of having 3 white (or any of the same color) vehicles in the family.  This is the list I got:

  • Vow:  Although contrived, there may have been a vow of some type taken in the past.  Maybe the vow went something like this, “Because I was so horrible to our goldfish, I will only buy white vehicles the rest of my driving career.”  Of course, the vow is likely to have been far more convicting than this one.  I erred on the side of humor rather than hitting any nerves.
  • Color Blind:  Why have lots of colored cars if you can’t distinguish them anyway?  Just go with one that your defective eyes can reliable detect every day of the year and twice on Sundays!!
  • Family joke:  This one might have potential.  I had friends once who had two identical cars.  One was named “Spot” and one “Stripe”.  I could never tell them apart, but the game worked for them.  (They also have 4 boys.  Back in the day when boys/mens white socks had stripes on them, the mom used this to her advantage.  Each boy had socks with a different stripe.  If the wrong color stripes showed up in the wrong drawer, it was a sorting error or out right theft.)  A son might ask the question, “Which car can I take tonight?”  The dad will just say, “Take the white one.”  (In Texas, this is probably foolish.  Most kids seem to think they deserve their own cars.)  It might just be one of those corny jokes that prevents other color cars from being considered.
  • Perceived Goodness:  Some may want a white car just because it looks more innocent than a red car.  The Lone Ranger rode a white horse.  So, maybe dad’s Mustang convertible is just part of his lifelong quest to fine a good friend named “Tonto” out there on the range.
  • ….most realistic: White cars don’t show dirt as quickly as a dark car.  And, for those who don’t like to visit the care watch too frequently, a white car is an excellent addition to your families portfolio of vehicles.

Wet Driving

Since returning from my trip earlier in the week, Texas has been wet.  When Texas or any place is wet for long due to constant rains (the “flash flood” type rains have a slightly different set of rules than the standard rain driving rules), there are a set of rules common sense drivers should follow.

For your benefit…

  • Hydroplaning:  I have found the far right lane tends to be the lane where the water congregates.  What is hydroplaning?  It is water deep enough that when you try and drive through it it slows you down significantly.  And, if the water is deep enough, it limits your ability to control the car.  (The really bad side of this is usually found under bridges or when rivers/streams overflow.)  While this may be an issue with limited impact to other drivers, if you hit the water just right and shoot up a bunch of water, it may cause other drivers to need their…..
  • Windshield Wipers:  While it seems obvious these are necessary when it is wet out, the speed of the wipers can contribute greatly to your visibility.  IF someone hits a big puddle at a high rate of speed and you just happen to be next to them when the “spray” flies onto your windshield, the wipers help you to get oriented and recover quickly from the blinding spray.
  • Stopping Distance:  IF you are blinded by a windshield flood and you don’t have a proper stopping distance, you will wish you had one.  When I went thru drivers ed MANY years ago, they taught you should have a 3 second stopping distance.  (Watch the car ahead of you pass a certain landmark, light pole or whatever.  Count the seconds until you pass it.  It should be over 3 seconds for good weather and more when wet.) While my competitive nature sometimes modifies this rule, it is still good to have a baseline.  When cars are doing lots of weaving, I especially like to modify the rule to keep them from jumping into my lane.

For the benefit of others….and sometimes you

  • Headlights:  Can you say “pet peeve”?  As the rains poured down today, I didn’t see lots of cars without headlights, but they were still there.  (When the rain is lighter, the ratio or headlight-less drivers seems to be higher.)  As I look in the rear-view mirror, I am not blind–I see most everything.  But, if the headlights are on, I see you more quickly.  While lane jumping is not a great idea when it is wet out and the reaction time of other drivers might be slower, a quick glance that does not immediately reveal a car lurking on your tail may lead to a lane change with a conversation punctuated by horns. When in doubt, headlights are good.
  • Turn Signals:  I did fail ALL of my mind reading classes in college.  And, I don’t think they offered any mind reading classes in driver’s ed.  (An aside….I was taught the I-P-D-E method of driving.  Identify the problem.  Predict what they will do.  Decide what you will do.  Execute your plan.  I guess there is a bit of clairvoyance in there…at least an anticipation.) Turn signals are just a bit of information that allows the other drivers to go, “Oh, he is switching lanes.  How does that affect my safe little cocoon I have tried to create for myself out on the road?  (Cocoon is only used to express a place of comfort.  It has nothing to do with butterflies or any mode of  transportation other than driving.)

In conclusion, when driving on the road there is a “handshake” agreement made with all of the other drivers out there.  While some days the handshake may be like a wet dish rag and other days it may be a firm “Vote for me” type  handshake, the road is not your private domain.  It is a shared resource for all taxpaying citizens (and non-paying) to enjoy. (Or, if you hate commutes, not enjoy.  But, it is still there for you.)  It is a necessary evil in places where mass transit it not readily available.  So, if it not a big problem next time it rains, just keeps the lights on for me.

DIY Hail Protection

IMG_1419As my wife and I ran a couple of errands last night, we noticed the bank drive thrus and other related areas with overhangs were filled with parked cars.  It didn’t take too much thinking to realize this was how many drivers attempted to provide hail protection for their cars that would not fit into their garages.  O, if they were working,  they just chose to park strategically.

Fortunately, no hail came along.  Having heard multiple stories recently of cars being fixed after hail damage only to be hail damaged again, it is quite clear hail shows no favoritism.  As I Skyped with a friend this morning, he jokingly suggested a product be created to defeat the affects of hail.  A quick Amazon search showed a hail protection product (out of stock) that performed this task admirably.    After suffering the disappointment of having a low-cost product already existing to prevent hail calamities, ideas for volcano, hurricane and sink hole protection were also rejected.

As I was in the last third of my walk today, I noticed how somebody used landscaping items to build their own hail protection system.  Since we received no hail in our part of Texas, it could be said it worked perfectly.  Somehow a moving blanket and bags of top soil (notice the one bag that slipped off the front) achieved the goal.  Or, the minimum effort on the part of the homeowner gave them enough peace of mind to allow them to sleep well despite the thunder, wind and other possible weather perils the storm front potentially offered.  And, if I knew 6 bags of top soil would guarantee me a great night sleep, I would make that purchase every time!

Fox On The Run

A couple of days ago, I experienced what wildlife in suburbia looks like in Texas.  This is not the stuff I find taking one of my frequent walks.  This is the stuff found while driving the roads that constitute our “stomping grounds”.  While armadillos and opossums are more often seen as roadkill then lumbering about their business,  it is never uncommon to smell the scent of a skunk as we drive to school.  On this day, a fox and turkey both literally crossed our paths.

The fox siting was far from exciting.  With headlights on and no more than a couple of miles from our house, a fox dashed across the road.  (It was too skinny to be a wolf, and I have recently become an expert in recognizing bobcats.)  I was going south, and he crossed from west to east.  He was wearing a bonnet.  I attributed this to him being someones pet rather than him infringing on the wolf and his Goldilocks aspirations.

After a brief period of frustration battling the two mile stretch of the freeway, I start the final stretch of my weekday journey.  To the east of the school, there is a large amount of industry.  (I have seen a powder coater, a pool cleaning company, and a few distribution companies.)  Within a 1/2 miles of the school, this large object launches itself off one of the buildings on the south side of the road.  (The launching might be a slight exaggeration.) As he lands to the adoration of his entourage, he bows and waves.  He gives oncoming drivers his easy smile as he crosses the road in front of us.  As I begin the return leg of my journey, the tom turkey is on the north side of the road.  He has his rear feathers spread while he continues to strut about. Having seen him and his concubines in this location before, I know he has probably been adopted by one of the businesses in the industrial park.

Sometimes, God lets you see a bit of nature just because you need to realize the world will go on when your worries are gone.  Whether it is a “fox on the run” or a turkey on the move, I enjoy the moments when my concerns are put into perspective.

Little Reasons I Hate Driving III

As I began the part of my day commonly referred to as “pick up the girls”, [taxi for teens]. I got a little bored thinking of the routine of it all. (If my actions should ever rise to the level of being on an assassins radar, a routine could get me killed. Fortunately, I am not very accomplished…) As my mental cruise control continued to run unimpeded, I made the right hand turn onto the access-road/entrance-ramp.  I made sure I was in the far left lane so I would not have to think further as I followed the lane directly onto the freeway.  While the highway was on the left, a big box store was on the right(actually quite a few such stores). The parking lots dumped directly onto the access road. It was the hope all drivers entering the access road would exercise common sense as they pulled onto it.

Since there were many right-sided access points to the road sandwiched between the highway and the shopping area, I was fortunate (Really not fortunate) to encounter a truck.  The truck was driven by a young guy who was determined to squeeze onto the entrance ramp between me and the driver ahead of me. Even though he would have to clear 3 lanes of traffic and immediately enter the highway, he saw it as an excellent opportunity to burn off some excessive testosterone….while forcing me to either find mine or deny its presence entirely.   As he pulled into my lane and forced me to brake (I do admit to speeding up to try and keep him from executing his plan), an extended tap of my horn seemed in order.  

As he got up to speed and we entered the freeway, I thought briefly the whole affair had ran its course. This was not the case. The lane we were in was an exit only lane. I immediately switched lanes expecting him to do the same. When he didn’t switch lanes, I made an effort to pass him on my right.  Not surprisingly, I was greeted by his bumper as he whips his truck into my lane and cuts me off.  He briefly slowed which forced me to do the same. Once his appetite for revenge was quenched, he sped up and thought no more of me-at least in a tangible way I could see.   

Apparently, the use of my horn deeply bruised his manly pride.   I will admit to exceeding the advised and posted speed on this access road.  I just continue to be amazed at his need to create a collision course only avoidable by me not wanting to play chicken–he already committed.  When I decide not to allow the construction merging cars to blend into my lane EVEN THOUGH they ignored all signs preparing them for this eventuality, I get flipped off.  As I age and tire of having to compensate for drivers who fail to see “merge” or “yield” or “stop” signs, I have no choice but to drive on.  I am looking forward to the day when the drivers who feel “entitled” to their own private freeway can all fight it out WITHOUT me having to watch their individual temper tantrums.  (Some days I realize I may be having a little tantrum myself….)

Little Reasons I Hate Driving II

Today, I had a different morning driving encounter.  As I was driving the daughters to school, I noticed the traffic on the other side of the highway was not moving too fast.  I resolved to take the access road that runs parallel to the main road when returning back to our home.  It did throw a couple of extra traffic lights into my commute–traffic lights that seem to only let cars trickle through when a flood would most certainly benefit me.  One light was a very light trickle this day.

While patience is not one of my strengths,  I like being trapped on a freeway with non-moving vehicles far less.   As I was within a light or two of clearing the intersection, I continued to look to the right–a turn only lane.  I kept looking for turn signals of people who wanted into my lane-driver’s who wanted to skip the line I waited in and jump ahead quite a few cars–like jumping in front of my car for instance.  I had nearly convinced myself I was going to make it without any intruders even attempting an attack on my lane.  I don’t consider myself an “aggressive” driver, but I will certainly defend my car’s right to its little safety cushion.

So much for maintaining the safety cushion….  As a small gap opened ahead of me–not even big enough for a small vehicle–a truck stuck his nose in.  Since he hadn’t given the obligatory pause to seek my permission and just plowed into the lane, I was not going to give in quietly.  My horn was fully engaged until he was completely absorbed into my lane.  (It must have been a couple of seconds.)  As my pulse was heightened and I was still processing the special bonding I had just shared with this cowboy, he decides to honk his horn for an extended period to commemorate our chance encounter.

Fortunately, no damage to my car or me.  It just was a continuing reminder of why driving is not for the perfectionist.  While others may drive and be oblivious to those sharing the road with them, they do often need to have other drivers help them out when they look up after sending that text or petting the non-distracting dog on their lap.  I may not like having to be friendly with these other drivers, but every time I put the key in the ignition I am taking an oath to try and work with all of those who chose to stick their keys in the ignition, too.

While I dislike the driving process, rarely do I need to read the asterisk related to my oath that mentions how some days my horn is a little more sensitive than others….

Little Reasons I Hate Driving I

After dropping my daughters off at school, I was sitting at a traffic light waiting for it to change-something I do numerous times every day.  (This traffic light was where an exit ramp and main road met–I was preparing to turn left.)  While I was relaxing at the light listening to music, I received a slight jolt.  A quick glance in the rear-view mirror revealed a truck had definitely got too far into my space.  

I briefly paused, weighing my options.  I felt obligated to hop out of the car and make some sort of a show of frustration.  The driver was quick to tell me, “It didn’t do nothing.”  Of course, this was hard to confirm or deny–he was after all still in contact with my vehicle’s bumper.  Although I only justified my lack of further action later-sticking my nose into my bumper with a potential crazy maniac in the car behind me would not have been a good decision, the vehicle only had a couple of bumper scratches.  (The towing attachment installed a couple of years ago may be a pain when going over areas with low clearances, but it may have played a part in keeping the bumper from yielding to the pressure exerted by the uninvited bumper.)

After calming down (it did not really upset me that much, but it was certainly off my normal routine.), I made my way home.  My wife was still there-not having yet left for work.  She was disappointed I chose not to be more firm in seeking resolution at the point of the accident.  I was glad she went to work shortly and came home nearly forgetting about it.  I had practically already forgotten it myself….

Old Man Rush

As I was driving home after picking my daughters up from a end of summer party, I was feeling pretty good about what I accomplished today.  I noticed some interesting license plates and complimenting myself on my good driving.  (My daughters were busy reading so somebody had to.)  When we got to within a couple traffic lights of the house, the right lane was merger over.  And, this is where the contrast between “old man” and young, aggressive driver became clear.

As I projected onto the driver behind me and how I would my handle the situation, I anticipated the driver doing the necessary mental calculations and deciding his best path was easing his car into the middle lane (my lane) before the merger took place.  So much for projecting!  As the road sign screamed “MERGE” and the cones echoed merger, the car to my right kept speeding up.  Knowing the speed limit, I knew I could bump up my speed a little more to teach this young whipper-snapper a lesson.  As the cones began to squeeze the driver into the center lane, the trickle of “I-must-conquer-juice” in my system was completely exhausted.  I had to be content blowing on my horn for what seemed like a really long time (likely just a second or so).  No birds flew, and based on the other driver’s lack of hesitation when he had to decide on pushing the accelerator, he probably didn’t even use a small portion of his available testosterone.

All parties survived without any scratches being administered.  This incident only confirmed what many previous events implied–I am not meant to play chicken.  It may be fun to pretend how you would handle “chicken” should you agree to participate, but when it is thrust upon you, I will choose the horn over the accelerator any time.

Keeping The Shotgun Awake


It was a pleasant drive yesterday morning (This was originally written a couple days after Christmas.) as we headed out to Florida.  (Pleasant assumes you believe good things can happen before 4:00.)  After fighting the kids into the car, turning down the thermostats, and going back to the house for the inevitable “I forgot to go to the bathroom.” or “I forgot my contact solution.” etc, we were off.  Once we cleared the worst of the vehicular stairsteps (i.e. north/south and east/west roads) to get the luggage-carrier enhanced van heading east on US 20, I slipped in and out of brief micro-naps until we hit the Louisiana border.  (somewhere near 3 hours.  It was somewhere between 7-8 at this point.) And, this is really where our adventure begins…

Just over the border (or border plus 20 miles), the dashboard trifecta occurred.  I was awakened by an “Oh, no.” and us getting off the exit of a perfectly good road to find out our dashboard was lit up with 3 extra dashboard lights (engine light, VSC, & Trac-off).  As my normally calm wife calmed down, I searched by phone for “sienna engine light on” and “sienna VSC light on”.  The answers were not completely satisfying, (it could have been an o2 sensor OR it could have been as simple as the gas cap not being on tightly enough.) but having just taken the van in for a 100,000 mile physical at the dealership, I felt somewhat reassured that the van was not about to turn into a huge pile of scrap metal.  Regardless, after a breakfast stop, I did earn the driver’s seat for what I anticipated to be just a couple of hours.

The dashboard “lights of doom” continued to stare back at me as the miles ticked by.  As my “shotgun” (aka “wife”) fed me occasional directions, I just kept plowing on.  I would sometimes hit the rumble strips on the side of the road as I was constantly checking all 3 mirrors for visibility. (Driving in the mini-van with our 4 bios and 2 exchange students made us a family of 8.  There were no options to leave the rear-view mirror with clear visibility.  Thus, all 3 mirrors were critical as my eyes were constantly checking one of hem..)  And, when the windshield got too dirty or misted over, I would turn on the wipers.  (The wipers never seemed to have enough moisture–they kept squeaking.)  When I was thirsty and my navigator was not available, I would yell to the back to get me a water.  And, when I saw hunter’s dragging a deer from the woods to their car, I had to tell someone what I saw. (I was informed later how hard all of my actions made it to sleep.)

As the first tank headed toward fumes, we found a much needed gas station, but we filled up and emptied the end of our digestive tracks on the eastern side of Mississippi.  We got all of our packed lunch items (my daughter made me an excellent sandwich of ham, cheese, lettuce and cilantro the night before.) out and I settled in for another period of unknown length in the driver seat.  The unexciting “Welcome to Alabama” sign greeted us as we dreaded any extended driving on a 2-lane road.  (It is hard to believe driving from Texas to Disney involves driving 20+ miles on 2 lane roads and quite a bit of small town and city driving.  Maybe Disney ought to pay for road improvements on all of the many roads leading to their Magic Kingdom.)[On the way back, we went a different set of roads where it was almost entirely 4 lane or more.  Despite these improvements, the deep south is not racing to become “super” accessible.]

After crossing the long bridge south of Mobile, I (yes, I am still driving.  And, yes, the dashboard lights are still bright.  At one point, I mentioned to my wife maybe she should find a Toyota dealership near our condo in Orlando.  I could try and take the car first thing in the morning to get the lights tested and see if it was a ghost or a REAL problem.  Somehow she never got to far with this project.  She took a picture of me driving and posted it on Facebook[see above] and she opened about every app on my phone while she was playing.) the Florida panhandle awaited.  If one is not aware, it is nearly 275 miles from the beginning of the panhandle to I-75.  I set goals of driving 50 miles, then 100, then 200 miles of this distance.  The distance kept increasing because the cities were not coming up anywhere near the desired mileage goals.

As I completed my second tank of gas behind the wheel, we confirmed the next exit would bring a gas station and a couple of candidates for dinner.  (I have called Mickey D’s “Yech-donalds” for years.) As we settled in after the fill-up and after the obligatory evening meal demanding by all growing children was purchased, I hopped in the passenger seat to rest my weary body.  My wife hopped behind the wheel and got us back heading to US-75.

We hadn’t driven too many miles before I realized all of the lights that had been on the WHOLE time I was driving were now out.  Either the gas cap miraculously tightened itself, the car used a seldom used “self heal” feature OR the van was ready again for a woman’s touch.  Whatever the cause of our now “perfect” looking dash, I was grateful for the van seemingly affirming my driving time was “up”.


820 Express Joy Ride


After coming off of almost 4 years of construction (ever since we moved to Texas), it would seem almost “whiny” to find fault with the “school taxi” route being reduced by 5-10 minutes both ways.  Of course, categorizing this as an observation clears my conscience and allows me to do the retelling…

The closest highway to our house is due south.  It is “820”.  It is an outerbelt to Fort Worth.  Just to the east to southeast of us are a couple of more well-traveled highways.  And, to the west, there is US 35.  (US 35 is a slightly messed up highway.  It “splits” north of DFW and reunites south of DFW north of Waco.  This allows directions containing “Go north on 35W off of 820W”) The story I heard is when “the really smart highway engineers” realized all of these highways were generating more traffic than could reasonably be handled by the existing structure, somebody came up with a rather unique plan.  Since we have quite a few toll roads in Texas-even though some of them are lightly used, “the really smart cheapskates who make decisions on how to pay for highways” decided they would allow someone (enter a rich guy from the Middle East-remember, I am not researching this-it is what I was told) to pay for the construction of this new road.  Fortunately, due to the incredible volume of traffic, “the people in Austin who have a conscience” would not allow the road to become a toll road with no alternatives.  They chose to split the difference.  They created a “normal” chunk of 820 (speed limit 60 mph), and they created a chunk of 820 (and points slightly east) where there is a toll with a speed limit of 70 mph.  (Having a toll card makes the pain minimal.)  “The people who sucked in an investor to this unique project” did give him/her (“the person/company who needed to spend lots of money on a project where they may never get a return on their money”) a concession.  Not only did “the greedy investor” get a toll road, but they got a road with varying tolls.  I have seen the tolls as low as $0.25 and as high as $3.25.  It varies on time of day and how thick the traffic is at that particular moment.

My adventure occurred yesterday morning.  It was a thick foggy day with visibility of less than 1/2 a mile.  After dropping off the girls at school, I began the normal 7:30ish route home.  Due to the visibility or the novelty of fog or the arrogance of some over-zealous Texas driver, my normal, non-toll route was WAY backed up.  I detoured to the access road (This is also a phenomenon in Texas.  I was not aware of “access roads” in Ohio.  Essentially, it is a road that runs parallel to many of the highways.  It allows a driver to get on the highway from the access road without having to enter an entrance ramp from a complete stop.  It also allows many addresses to incorporate the names of the highways.  An address like, “8200 820E” might be a completely valid address.)   to avoid sitting in traffic for any extended time.  At the next intersection, I could make a turn to the left or right OR I could go straight before choosing to take the left or right fork – one to the “normal” 820 and one to the “toll” 820.  Unfortunately, I chose left.  (I should have known left was the toll because on the highway the toll road is situated inside of the normal road.) I endured a near traffic free journey to the next exit. (This exit was past my normal exit.  The “express” did not allow me to get off where I wanted, but it was close…)  The rest of my journey home was uneventful.

As I dropped off the girls today, there was minimum fog and light traffic on the normal route home.  When I drove by the sign where my toll would have been displayed yesterday, the same “detour” today would have cost me $1.40.  I have convinced myself I would have sat in traffic for a considerable amount of time if I did not take my “joy ride”, so it is obviously money well spent!