Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dispatches From The Road: Grand Junction Edition

So this weekend, I'm in Grand Junction, Colorado, which is on the western border of Colorado, halfway between Denver and Salt Lake City.  I was here to teach a class about emergencies to daycare and childcare workers.  The class is only four hours, so it gives me a fair amount of time in the places I teach it.

Grand Junction is the largest city in Western Colorado, which isn't saying a whole lot, as this area is pretty sparsely populated.  According to all knowing Wikipedia, while it is the King of the West, it's only the 15th largest city in Colorado.  It seemed like the cultural capital of the various small towns that are within an hour's drive.  It has an 11-story building and everything.

Everytime I come to places like this, I always wonder what people do who live here.  At dinner last night there were a few couples getting drinks at the bar I was having dinner at who looked like they could be at a trendy bar in DC. Except they all appeared to be in their early 20's and married.  On a sidenote, I forgot how fast meals go when I eat by myself.  With no talking and only chewing and occasional sipping, I blaze through meals in record speed.

Grand Junction has a cute and small downtown with a few brewpubs and other random stores that are closed on weekend evenings.  They have a really cool outdoor public art program, which was surprising for a smaller city.  The downtown is like many others is the midwest with the largest buildings being banks and the new parking structure for the revitalized downtown.

When I asked people what to do here, the responses were all outdoors-related.  And that makes sense, because Grand Junction is a city surrounded by absolute beauty.  I drove through the Colorado National Monument Park and walked a few of the trails within.  I'm a city kid.  As a matter of fact I'm such a city kid that when I was in rural areas visiting family or with family of friends, I would always read the local yellow pages to convince myself that civilization wasn't that far away.  "See, I can get a limo and computer repair out here!"

Though asphalt will always run through my veins, I was moved by the beauty out here.  You can't help but be.  It punches you in the gut with every hairpin turn that reveals another landscape that seems otherworldly.

Now I'm sitting in the Denver airport, being lucky enough to change my flight so that I don't return home at 2:30AM.  I really enjoy trips like this, even though I'm alone which generally isn't my thing.  The loneliness is tempered by the excitement of exploring new places and knowing that I probably won't be back here for a bit.  This country is an amazing and diverse place and its nice to have weekends to appreciate that.  

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Driving Advice: Free of Charge

So this past long weekend, we spent a lot of time on the road.  Some of it moving fast and much more of it moving slowly.  As I was driving and cursing in many languages at people for not knowing how to drive, it occurred to me that maybe they didn't know how.  They had their license and knew what a stop sign was, but never learned highway driving.  So may I present to you, my rules for highway driving.

Read the book Traffic
It's really good, and explains why traffic happens.  How we bizarrely conflate our auto with ourselves, and thus view merges as attacks on our personal space.  Also this book explains that late merging (when you see that the road goes to one lane in a mile, you stay in that lane until the merge point) actually is better for the flow of traffic.  So read this book before you attempt the next long road trip.

Cruise Control
Listen, this technology has been around since the 1950s. USE IT.  I'm not talking about the fancy radar cruise control you see on TV, or the one that stops your car if a truck backs into your lane.  I'm talking about the stick on your steering column that has the words Set, Accelerate, Resume and others written on it.  Not only do you save gas by not speeding up and slowing down, but you also can maintain a constant speed which helps not get speeding tickets.  Have you ever been in the left hand (high speed) lane and had the lane come to a complete stop and then speed up again like a rocket?  Yeah, its because some dumbass ahead of you couldn't modulate their speed and floored it only to slam on their brakes as they almost hit the car in front of them.  Also use this shit on hills where your foot naturally comes off the accelerator and you slow down by 10-15 mph.  I know you don't mean to.  You're simple.  Of course its not your fault.

Listen, the idea behind the passing lane is that it's used to pass vehicles slower than you. This means you pass the car or truck and then pull in front of them.  This does not mean that you want to go 71 when everyone else in the right lane is going 70 and so you slowly pass the cars on the right for 40 miles.  Also, if you're in the passing lane and someone is behind you, then you are not passing fast enough.  So pull over to the "slow" lane which I know hurts in your Toyota Sienna with three bicycles on the back because you're still a "man" and you're driving fast.  But seriously, let people pass you.

If ever you're in the left lane and you're passed on the right, then that's the universal sign that you need to pull to the right.  You're not that cool.  Suck it up.

If you are being passed on the left, please don't think this is some macho game and start speeding up.  If you want to go fast, and just noticed that you're not, let me pass you before you unleash your inner Dale Jr.  I'm not attacking you as a person.

If you're passing a car and notice that a mile down the highway, there's a truck you'll probably pass later, don't stay in the left lane.  Think of the passing lane as only existing in the present tense.  Not the future (You will pass that car in awhile) or the past (You did pass a car and so you get to stay in the lane 4evah)

We have covered my issue with feet, but please don't air your tootsies on the dashboard or out the passenger window.  First, no one needs to see this. And we all can.  Second, in the event that your vehicle leaves the roadway unintentionally, you are going to lose those things like an umbrella in a taxi.