Tag Archives: transportation

Road Trip

20130218-185001.jpgIt is 9 pm, central time, and I am still an hour east of Memphis, Tennessee. We’ve been on the road since eight that morning, Eastern time. We had crossed the Appalachian Mountains and nearly avoided a storm front that generated tornadoes throughout the South. The night sky is moonless with the highway traffic light. I am settling in to the driver seat after having been forced to stop for an hour in the middle of the highway while a semi burned up ahead. Beside me my wife, Donna, has her eyes glued to the iPhone as she searches for a decent place to stop for the night. A FaceBook friend of hers had commented on my posted image of our traffic predicament and informed us to reconsider staying in West Memphis.

Throughout the past six days on the road, we put her iPhone and today’s technology to the test. In Louisiana she found a small creole type restaurant that served crawfish by the pound; in Mississippi it was a hotel; in Alabama she applied for a dozen jobs, even having a phone interview; in Florida she helped navigate through some back roads to avoid an accident which shut down Interstate 95; and in Georgia she found the most important thing — Chick-Fil-A. I’ve used my phone to determine different routes back west, kept up with the Twitter universe, posted FaceBook pictures at South of the Border, and the next morning find a Starbucks in Little Rock.

Another exit passed by and I reminisced on road trips from my past. I recalled hitchhiking thirty-five miles in the middle of the desert because of a blown engine. I remember the heat of the Alabama summer while I helped my dad rig the brakes on my grandmother’s Cadillac to get us, and my broken down Impala, back to New York. In the nineties there was the night of three exits and five hotels trying to find one with vacancies. And how could I forget the hundreds of roadside gas stations with the unsanitary bathrooms and raunchy food. Our trip had none of these. The stress and trials of road trips seem to be a thing of the past.

Donna asks if we should stay on the Tennessee side of the River. I think of the Monday morning rush hour and consider it would be safer to be out of the city. Forrest City, she says, is just west of Memphis and a Holiday Inn Express lies right off the highway. She switches to another app and pulls up ratings. There are few reviews, but it is probably because the hotel is new. She calls and reserves a room while I stretch the tension from my back and shuffle in the seat to ease the pain settling in my posterior. Donna pulls up the address and inputs the address into the car’s navigation computer. In seconds a route is calculated and shows me that a bed is now just an hour away.

Tonight there will be no guessing. We won’t have the fear of leaving our car in a parking lot. Best of all the shower will be clean and the toilet will flush, not over flow. I kiss my wife’s hand. Her work as navigator and companion has made our impromptu trip enjoyable. And the technology in her phone has made it bearable. Once more long road trips can be considered without dread and derision. I can foresee more road trips in our future as we explore the beautiful country we live in. So long as we keep our smart-phones charged.

 

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The Joys of Madness

Our mornings are a blur of rushed half-asleep commotion, followed by hours of mind-numbing meetings, then a flurry of exhaustive chores before retiring for the night. On the weekends, we try to squeeze every ounce of fun we can into our measly 48hr pardon, before the cruelty starts all over again. Day by day and month after month we continue in this endless cycle. Occasionally, we need to stop and smell the roses….

Okay, I know it’s an old cliche with an obvious meaning. Take a moment and enjoy the things that life has to offer us. But that is different for each of us, especially different between men and woman. Take my wife and I for example. She is one to take the phrase literally. She will walk through a garden and smell the roses, the gardenias, and what ever flora is in bloom. And, if her ever-present allergies are flaring up, a trip to a local shoe store will suffice as much as any garden. Not sure why, but she says shopping — shoe shopping more specifically — is a relaxing therapy.

Yeah, no.

Not for me. Crowds of people, endless lines at the check-out, and countless outfit changes is not a day for me. Personally, I prefer seeing the mall pass by at high rates of speed. A rose by any other name is still a rose, but getting a bug splattered on my face shield is pure adrenaline. That’s for me.

This past weekend I took the cruiser in to get the front tire replaced and have the 12K service done. Three hours they told me. My fast pace life screamed to a halt. With so much to do and I’m stranded for a whole three hours. What was worse, the weather was perfect for riding. I chatted about it with the owner, who took pity on me and offered a joy that only a man could appreciate. (okay, there are some adrenaline junky women out there, but let me have my man-moment). Out comes the keys to the Holy Grail of super sport bikes. A machine that is said to top out at over 200mph, one that will do 0 to 60 in three heart beats, a bike that separates men from the wannabes. HIS Yamaha YZF-R1!

Can I get a man-grunt?

I consider myself a calm and collected adult, but the sight of those keys dangling in front of me had man-drool dripping from my lips. Just imagine Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter “Oh! OH! Me! Me!!”. I’m so excited I barely acknowledged the text from my wife – “make sure you wear a helmet if your going to test ride”. What else is a kid going to say? Okay, no problem. I can do that. Besides, sand and a bald head don’t do well at high speeds. Helmet on, and a quick lecture on the “changes” he’s made to the bike, and I’m out on the road. Well… not really. I had to stop once or twice on the back street to allow my hips to relax from the weird angle.

I typically ride a cruiser, a bike made to sit upright or to recline BACK. A sports bike (or in the R1’s case a super sport) is designed to lay the rider FORWARD over the gas tank — with your legs behind you. If you are not used to it, expect some adjustment time. Like to the end of the block.

The light turns green and I lean into the turn and up the ramp to the highway. In mere seconds I’m in second gear and doing 60mph. I hit third and I’m doing 80mph. I notice the speed, hit fourth and throttle out. I’m cruising at 70mph in fourth and the bike is like holding back a leashed cheetah. The beast under me roars with caged excitement and I realize I have two more gears! Traffic keeps my speed at an almost legal velocity, but I can’t help feathering the throttle. That’s all it takes, a little twist and the beast screams from 70mph to 100mph. I’m in fifth gear and see the exit to 161 south. A new highway of three lanes and very little traffic.

Not one to pass up an opportunity, I throttle and shift down to lean into the turn, at 65mph. I know its insanity, but the R1 takes the turn with ease. Ahead of me is a long stretch of concrete heading onto the super clean highway. I jump down to third and release the animal. The end of the ramp I’m at 100mph and fifth. Seconds later the wind is screaming by me at 130mph and I’m straining to keep my head down and looking forward. Just a word to the wise. An open face helmet with a little sun visor clipped in place is NOT a good choice for facing speed in excess of 120mph. It took all I had to keep my head straight as I broke through 135mph.

I approached a small rise in the road and thought it would be a great place for Ft. Worth’s finest to hang out, so I throttled down. I crested the hill and there he was. My speed? 80mph! Ha. I avoided a big one!

The trip back saw the speed frequently in the triple digits, but I was also testing out the nimbleness of the crotch rocket. In and out of traffic with ease, and the tight turn of 161 was taken at an un-godly speed. I’m not really sure how fast I was going, I know I was leaning very close to the concrete and my mind just kept screaming “please don’t kill me” over and over.

Was it insane? Hell ya.

Would I do it again? In a heart beat.

My wife can buy all the shoes she wants, so long as I get to play with the joys of madness.

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