Month: January 2012

Musings on driving

In my prior post I alluded to the differences in road surfaces and driver differences between my home state and the state I was visiting.

In this post I’m going to write about the driving experience in our trip to and from North Carolina.

One thing I’ve found is that leaving between the hours of 4AM and 5AM on both ends means you’ll miss all the crap. Coming from RI through New York takes 2 hours. Normally it takes 3 to 3.5 hours but since you’re outside the commute times and on a Saturday or Sunday you aren’t tied up at the George Washington Bridge, drive up, pay the toll and drive off.

Getting up that early is rather hellish but well worth the effort. You can reliably do 80MPH to 90MPH if you so wish and I so wished. Put it this way, the distance between home and our destination was 645 miles. If you eliminated the tolls, and kept the highway somewhat clear you could get there in 8 hours at 80MPH, or 7.1 hours at 90MPH.

It bring me to the law and my interpretations thereof. The left lane of the highway should nominally be used for passing. In my view, the left lane is for serious violations of the speed limit, hence the 80MPH or more during most of the trip.So get the hell out my way!

The early thing also helps to avoid the obvious speed traps. They seem to be more prevalent in MD and VA. If there’s one thing about police it’s that they are predictable. And in VA you really want to come prepared with surface to air missiles for the aircraft they use to clock speeds.But if you understand the rhythms of policing, like the general schedules they keep you pretty much know when to speed. And when you do see one with someone pulled over, proceed to speed once you’re a couple miles away from the scene. He’s likely the ONLY one on that segment of highway.

But if there’s one thing that makes me insane it’s the people in the left lane who like jacking on the brakes for no apparent reason, like going around a mild bend in the road. All you have to do is back off the gas momentarily to negotiate a curve. Had a Nissan Sentra with MA plates on it in front of me that did that constantly. Finally had to break the rules and pass on the right.

 

 

The Annual Holiday Travel Post

Let me start with differences of driving in North Carolina and driving here in Providence, RI.

Driving in North Carolina is interesting. It’s nothing to go 30 or 40 miles to get to a grocery store. But for the most part the roads are fantastic. The major highways (U.S. 17 and U.S. 64) are well striped, and have reflectors everywhere. The roads are also VERY smooth, no potholes, no major issues at all. But then they are sparsely traveled and they don’t get winters like we do in the northeast so I believe that might be why the roads are so good.

And the people. Here’s where the comparison starts. In North Carolina, specifically the northeastern region, if one happens to be in the left hand lane of the highway and you move up on another car in that same lane, they’ll move right for you.

It’s amazing. Do the same here in RI and you’ll have to basically move one lane to the right, pass the offending bastard, then cut them off.

And the roads here in Rhode Island are absolute shit! The highways are pretty good but most local roads like the street I live on, and also on Atwells Ave, Manton Ave, Charles St. etc. are pock marked and it feels like riding down a washboard.

I note they want to put a .03% tax on stock and bond transactions but I say that isn’t enough. I say put a 5% tax on the $6 Trillion. It would mean $5 billion or so per state EVERY YEAR. Maybe some of that money could flow to the municipalities so they could repave the horrid streets. For the City of Providence it would mean $128,205,128.21 which would pave a LOT of streets.

Enough ranting. We got there around 4PM on Christmas Eve. For our nephew we chose a My First Kawasaki set with a guitar and keyboard. You had to see my nephew when he got it. He’s a little ham. He’s playing it with his arms stretched above his head like a rock star. It was too cute, he was really digging the new toy. So it has served it’s purpose, it amuses my nephew and annoys my sister in law. You have to love a gift that serves a dual purpose like that.

And of course I got to deliver a nice little zinger to my sister in law, she noticed the drum kit pictured on the back of the box for the guitar and keyboard and asked if we’d gotten that too. I took the opportunity to say “No, we didn’t get it this year, but there’s always next year!”

And yes we’ll probably get him a full drum kit. Should be fun to see the look on her face. I’ll probably capture that on video for posterity sake.

Otherwise it was a quiet week. Well, mostly quiet. I didn’t suffer my usual withdrawal from not having a net connection. I got to catch up on some reading. I finally finished a book titled “Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil”

Here’s what I want in an electric vehicle. A range of 300 to 400 miles on a charge. Four wheel drive with motors on EACH wheel, no transfer cases, differentials, etc. Quick recharging, in the 10 to 15 minute range. And a price point below $20,000. All of that is completely feasible from a technical perspective. But it will take political will to make it happen.

I got to rest quite a bit, despite having to help Keyron move some heavy furniture from his mom’s house to the shed.

And then there were the new blinds we purchased for her. We managed to get one set of blinds up in the living room. The wood was SO hard and the tools so dull, for example the point on the Philips head screwdriver was flat, that it took close to three hours of constant cranking to get two screws into both sets of brackets.

Finally told the MIL that power tools were a NECESSITY for this project and that if she couldn’t find anyone to hang them we’d come back in May with the necessary tools to put them up easily. I didn’t say it quite like that but I did say “If I’d known we’d be hanging blinds I would have brought my tools with me!”

My rest was disturbed a bit one morning when I heard this incessant buzzing sound. I looked out the window to see small airplanes dive bombing the fields. They were spraying for mosquitoes.

Other entertainment included watching a number of movies. One in particular sticks out because at the beginning I figured out who Joshua REALLY was. Yep, old Yeshua Ben Joseph aka Jesus Christ. He did the requisite healing, and the raising from the dead. Don’t think I’m getting religion, I’m just very familiar with the stories in their central text, the Bible.

Also watched Billy Bathgate. Interesting enough movie about a kid who worms his way into Dutch Shultz’s mob in the 1930’s and then manages to walk away alive after meeting with Lucky Luciano.

On the Friday before we left we went up to Virginia Beach, VA to visit with Keyron’s uncle Ike, his wife Lee and aunt Irene. Had a good conversation with Ike about the way this country is going and I mentioned my above calculations about the $5 Billion to EACH state EACH year. He liked that a lot. He drive truck so he sees the crumbling infrastructure and understands that the money could in part be used to rehabilitate the crumbling infrastructure in this country.

Had baked chicken, fried chicken, corn and green beans, macaroni and cheese, overall a very good meal in Virginia Beach.

However the Mac and cheese, well Keyron admits the one I make is actually better. It’s a very old recipe I use dating back to Thomas Jefferson.

Ate some good food too. Collard greens, roasted chicken, pork chops with sour cream and dill sauce and then there’s the turkey meatloaf. Cousin Norma prepared that one and you couldn’t even tell it was turkey. Nice!

I did the pork chop dish and served with rice and some caramelized Brussels Sprouts de-glazed with some red wine. I like those because they aren’t mushy like normally prepared sprouts. You get the sweetness of the caramelized cut face, and then the wine gets absorbed into the sprouts and gives a whole different flavor profile.

Not a lot of sweet stuff this past week. And I left the iPod Touch at home, I use that less and less these days ever since I got my Android phone. But I have to transfer the recipes I keep on that iPod over to the phone, or at least to my computer.

I’ve now been tasked by Keyron with preparing the macaroni and cheese dish and perhaps shortbread biscuits for a family reunion in May. Who knows, maybe I’ll even throw in a batch of corn bread.

Yes – I’ve become quite the cook. I love trying out new recipes. There’s a slow cooker based pulled pork recipe I want to try. If it is similar to or better than Nixon’s Carolina pulled pork barbecue we’ll probably do a couple of those too.

Also managed to get a little stargazing into the picture. Here in the northeast it’s damned near impossible to see anything because there is so much light pollution. A pox upon the politicians and developers who thought uplighting was cool.

But down in Gum Neck there’s but one or two street lights as the community doesn’t pay for them, you do. Interesting concept. But it means the skies are clearly visible if there isn’t serious cloud cover and this week proved fortuitous.

For example, here is Orion with all it’s stars:

Orion

So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the last nine days now you know.