Saturday, September 7, 2013

Driving Mr. Barkley

I have a commute that takes several hours, though I don't have to do it every day. That commute involves working out of more than one location, two very divergent cities,   But I have a large, reliable American made truck, lots of music and usually a furry companion for the drive.

Sometimes there's miscellaneous cargo of the squirrel, and not so squirrely variety in one of the vehicles.
Often it's dark as I leave, which is actually my favorite time to head out. It gives me another night in my own bed, and I miss the worst of the traffic.  At 4:30  roads are mostly vacant, the sky nothing more than the thin deceptive perception of safety.
So I make sure the doors are locked, my firearm is handy and the road ahead clear. Then the night succumbs to day, and everything quickens, the traffic, my pulse, as light spreads over the road like water. Soon it's day and from the vantage point of a vehicle that sits up high I can see all sorts of things. 

Over the last few months I've snapped a few photos along the drive.   The photos aren't great as 80% of them are from the point and shoot in the glove box in case of accident and yes, I need to wash my windows.  But it's fun to look back on some of the trips, "bed hair" and all.
The doggie gaze equivalent of "Mom - What the. . . .?"

This truck probably cost more than some of the houses just west of here.  You could have performed surgery off most of its surfaces.  The driver apparently very proud of it, wants you to know who is driving it by the giant day glo orange name across the back window.   At first I thought his name was "Tarzan".  Either I'm getting nearsighted or I REALLY need to clean these windows..
Driving through the freeway stretch  of Gary (which is normally done at twice the speed of sound, the cops not even wanting to pull any one over on that particular  stretch), I saw what appeared to be the bat mobile.  At least the Batmobile Gary style. 
The young man driving it was probably the best driver on the road, in and out of lanes discretely and expertly, yet not being stupid (unlike Vlad the Impala that tried to kill me several times).  I'm not sure what that hood ornament is.

On this same stretch of road, another trip, there was a vehicle for which I didn't get a picture as the traffic was to heavy to be distracted by a camera. There was a couple extra antennas on it.. One looked like it was Elmer-Glued on. It looked too new to be a Grand Marquis de Sade, more likely a later model Crown Vic, but the shape and color was such that hundreds of drivers in the past had likely slowed down in its presence.

The driver, as well, was all in black, (though I'd have bet someone a beer he was wearing Multicam BDU pants) with a black baseball type hat, ear piece in his ear, muscled arms clenched on the wheel. In the back window, another black ball cap, this one with 3 letters indicating a squirrel type employer. At this point I started to grin, knowing a bit about such headwear. I can tell you one does NOT put them in the back window of their car. They're worn for a specific purpose and it's not advertising.
But what our Mall Ninja failed to realize, that despite the old police shaped spiffy car with the extra antenna or two, the clothing, the hat he bought on the net, and "the look", one thing just screamed "mall ninja!"

The yellow triangle in the window that said "Baby on Board".

I did get a picture of this. . .
Camouflage submarine?

Even with a state that's about as hilly as Saskatchewan, I still don't get more than 18 miles to the gallon.  But I bet I get more than this guy, driving a truck that  appears to be made out of four separate vehicles with a camper that appears to be attached with Velcro. I kept my distance in case the wind picked up.
And, in an off the freeway foray to get gas in a safe area,  I saw this. Fifteen miles per gallon in hot pink.   I'd tint my windows too if my SUV was that color.
I laugh though, as I take the photo, figuring there's probably some hippies in a car with Greenpeace stickers, spotting the Bat Truck with it's American flag and gun stickers and trying to get a photo of the strange women in  a baseball hat - "Look!  A conservative!" (Hey, at least on a bad hair day they weren't shouting "Look!  Rush Limbaugh!)  Still It's all what makes the landscape of America interesting.

There are quite a few drives though, where the cars are mundane, the landscape clouded with shadow and the camera stays still.  Such are the mornings I look at the light coming up in the sky, shooting upward in the darkness like the upward floating tresses of a drowned maiden sleeping in a motionless sea, I wish I could capture that.  I also know that the cheap little camera in the vehicle, in motion, never captures it, that moment or the words in my head and I go back to my coffee and the thump of the miles.

I keep an eye on the weather as well, high winds not being a big concern in my vehicle, but definitely affecting other drivers I'd just as soon stay out of the way off.  I keep the radio tuned to the local alerts, and there is always the weather cow, one of the first pit stops on the journey. It's not the cheapest gas around, but the place is frequented by most of the local LEO's.  It's more country than city and the bathrooms are spotless (unlike the ones up by Crown Point where I think they lock the gas station bathrooms to keep people from sneaking in and cleaning them). 
 Weather cow says it's windy with a chance of flurries
 Weather cow says it's sunny.
Weather cow says it's raining.
Look Mom !  A trailer full of tractors!

He can sometimes be a pest, but  I miss him when I'm cruising without him for work, driving some big Chevy Subdivision of a vehicle, logging miles between light and dark, the clock on the dash only changing the minutes, it seems, when I look away, the slight of hand of time that shapes us all.  

With or without him, it's all worth the trip.    


  1. Another fine story. We noticed all kids of strange cars, trucks, vans, motor homes and bikes on the road from Florida to Minnesota.

    Try driving with a family of seven between two cars. You think Mr. B drives you crazy??

    Have a great weekend.

  2. That was a neat trip, taking photos probably makes the time go faster. I usually have a camera in the car but since I am on the back roads, I don't get many photos of the other cars. I still have my Goode for president sticker on my bumper so they are probably taking my photo!

  3. What fun, got to see Tazeen(obamo's decorator), bet the guy with the camper shell had Cali plates, and a submarine!
    Driving stories are great.

  4. Ah, I don't get to drive much but when I do it is epic! I sadly have no four legged friend for these journeys.

    I DO have a new ride and hope to get familiar with it. Next weekend. I will probably make just slightly better than you on MPG in the Bat Truck.

  5. Once, when I lived in MI, I saw a salmon colored Corvette. My thought was..."but why?"

  6. When I lived in MI, I once saw a salmon colored Corvette. My thought was...."but why"?

    Great writing as usual, Brighid.

  7. Tails of the road,,,, wag ... wag....

  8. You get 18 in a full size truck?
    I'm getting 19 to 20 in my Ranger.
    I had an hour daily each way and couldn't afford it in my F-150 at 15mpg or less.
    Tonneau cover helps.
    Good post. Thanks.

  9. Great story and pics, and you're right there IS no telling what one will see running down the road these days!

  10. The upside of this region being filled with gadget obsessed geeks is that the Waze navigation app works very well on the road between PDX and SEA. Accident and law enforcement locations are dead-on, and I've regretted the times I ignored the traffic avoidance routing suggested by the system.

    The "cheapest gas" finder in Waze is also very accurate locally, but the whole system depends on having lots of techies in your area.

    I think I've passed this link along before, but, even though the film has its flaws, this documentary was one of the coolest movies I saw this summer.

    Easily a better use of time than "Into Darkness" or "Pacific Rim".

    If you drive long distances on a regular basis, the flick does inspire thoughts of questionably legal activity. :)

    (And, yes, that is the Sim City developer you see in the trailer. He held the old record.)

  11. I'm guessing that the "submarine" is actually a bunker for a prepper/survivalist. It looks too large to be a storage tank (more like two of them welded to a central hub) and the flat section up top would be where the hatch is.

    Why they would completely camouflage something that is designed to be buried is something that baffles me, but I see it all the time (I watch a lot of shows like "Doomsday Preppers.") I just assume it's meant to help sell the things by looking more tactical, the same way that chrome furnishings help sell cars.

  12. Great trip especially for those of us who really enjoy road trips and can relate. Thanks for taking us along.

  13. A most excellent travel tale (tail) indeed!

  14. Sorry if I've said this before - but I believe there's a connection between claustrophobia and "keep moving." Those of us who have it always seem to drive often and stay active - anything to be outdoors and moving forward. The weirdness encountered along the way is just extra entertainment, LOL.

  15. Old NFO - I once was driving down the freeway in SAN and saw a young women in a sports car wearing a full crash helmet.

    Roscoe - thanks for the links. I'll keep my eyes open for a used copy of that book you told me about last night.

    Erin - you can't tell it from the photo, it does look painted on, but the cammo was some sort of durable cover. I had more than one person think it was some bunker, others said fuel tank. I was stumped, that's for sure.

    Lois - I certainly enjoy all the stories of your seafaring adventures with your husband. Being an engineer on such a huge vessel must be fascinating and it's great you can travel with him.

    Murphy - thanks for sharing the flights this week on your blog!

    nature girl - I'm VERY claustrophobic, so there must be something to that. My Dad always said as he watched people his age, quit exercising and walking, not for necessity, just because it's work, "you quit moving, you die".

    Borepatch - you noticed! hehehe

  16. Your Dad is very correct. And I'd add to that: new experiences. If you aren't moving, you aren't finding any of those either.

  17. Ha! Love the road pics. No matter the adventures though, it's always good to come home

  18. If you need new musical ideas, you could always try this one:

    And you're not alone, at least in voice depth. I'm a contralto (the proper term for the lowest female voice range), and I can hit lower notes than my dad sometimes. Freaked Hubby out the day I hit the D below middle C, and without effort. That was before we were even dating, and he still decided he wanted to keep me. (For the record, I don't have the all-volume-no-tone thing, but I *did* have to convince my college voice professor that 6 years of cheerleading in junior high and high school didn't ruin my voice.) Contraltos are rare, so even if you need a bucket for carrying tunes, you're still in unique company.

  19. Oh! The other reason I was going to comment: le pink SUV.

    Moons ago, we owned a car that was just shy of that shade of pink...and it was a metallic pink. It looked like Mattel had commissioned a Barbie-themed '89 Nissan Sentra. As if that didn't make it enough of an eyesore, the arms for the windshield wipers? They matched the car. The bumpers? Painted to match. The turn signals? Covered in paint, except for stenciled-out arrows. The taillights? Also pink...except for three stenciled-out circles on each light. Surely they left the antenna alone. Right? Wrong. It too was metallic hot pink, and zig-zagged.

    In our defense, we were poor newlyweds and it was what we could afford.

    I will say, however, that we never once lost that car in a parking lot.

    It was SO recognizable that friends would see it—from the other side of the 6-lane, 60-mile outerbelt—know it was us, and tell us they'd waved as they were heading the opposite direction on the interstate. Yes, easily spotted on a multi-lane highway, at speeds of 65+ mph.

    Only one picture exists of that thing, and I'm not even sure where it is.

    It's the cornerstone of what will ultimately be our family legend.


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