Thursday, July 30, 2009

An EZ day in mid-America.

We drove west to east today from central North Dakota to halfway across Minnesota. Through Fargo? Yah, you betcha, eh?

They have this strange phenomena here where water seems to simply fall from the sky! So much so that grass, trees, and fields are green, not brown as we have become accustomed to. More water falls from the sky than is actually needed by the plants, and the remainder settles into low spots in the earth providing numerous spots for water fowl, other small animals, and reeds. What a concept! I wish we could export it to South Texas!

The lush, rolling land provides habitat for a great variety of wildlife, and we did see a LOT of wildlife in North Dakota: dead deer, dead skunks, dead raccoons, dead rabbits - enough roadkill to stock many a freezer!

Clouds do funny things here, too. While it was mostly sunny where we were at today, we were ringed about by clouds. They were the most varied collection of clouds I've ever seen, and ran the gamut from high, wispy cirrus clouds through towering billowy cumulus to near-black thunder-heads. All mixed together in a swirling horizontal to vertical and back mix--seemingly in the same place at the same time. A sign, I guess, of very unsettled weather, certainly more Spring-like than late summer in my experience.

Nothing at all to report on the drivers and driving styles today -- very mid-American and normal.

This drive follows two days at Minot, ND, taking in the State Fair with two grandsons. What a great event! The fair was fun, and reminded me of the county fairs that I attended each year, as a youth, with my parents. There were displays of everything to do with livestock, agriculture, equipment, and the farm-home, as well as living history and nature displays. There was, of course, a carnival and midway and more fair-food booths than I could count. Glenda and the grandsons drove go-karts and we played putt-putt-golf (2 under par, thank you!--on the front nine that is--the back nine more than made up for my low score.)

We also saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was a half-good movie, but the grandsons enjoyed it.

Dinner tonight at Sawatadee Thai in St. Cloud. A bit above average, I'd say, and a fitting end to the day in central Minnesota, as they had a Thai-spiced Walleye filet on the menu. Seems kinda' local, to me, eh? All in all, today was pretty EZ.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

State & regional driving styles.

On Friday we drove east to west across the state of Nebraska on Interstate 80. This is what I have observed: Car in left lane at 7 miles per hour below the posted limit? Ohio plates. Car blasting past us at 90 mph plus? Nebraska plates. Wandering from lane to lane and changing speed for no apparent reason? Wyoming plates. Driving EXACTLY the speed limit and signaling each lane change for at least 1,000 feet before the move? Iowa plates. Two bicycles on a rack on a Subaru going 3 mph over the limit? Colorado plates. I wonder what other drivers noted about the driving style imposed on our sedan with Texas plates?

Obviously, we cannot claim to have results of a scientific study of driving styles from observation of a few drivers on one road on one day. And no offense is intended to the fine drivers of any state. The observations, above, are based on a small sample one summer afternoon. Still, the characteristic styles were noted often enough to form an impression so I believe there is some substance to my opinions. And besides, there really was not much else to look at!

For example, I have often pointed out that my home-town drivers tailgate horribly, do not know how to merge into moving traffic on an expressway (don't have a clue about matching speed), and they have no comprehension for what a "yield" sign means. Half think it has no meaning and the other half think it means "stop." This would be less troublesome if there were signs on the back of each car declaring the driver's (lack of) understanding regarding the "yield" signs. I hope I've not picked up those habits.

One other observation during this trip from San Antonio to South Dakota (so far.) Highway speed enforcement activities vary tremendously. We saw eight officers running speed radars within the city limits of Austin, Texas, on IH-35. Three of those officers had cars pulled over. Further North in Texas, we saw a few state and local troopers, but not a concentrated group as we had seen during the 30-mile or so transit of Austin. Continuing North, the state of Oklahoma had a few state troopers on the freeway--I did not see a county or city officer while we were in the state. In Kansas we did not see a single officer--not one, although a camera of some kind took our picture at 67 in a 65 zone as we entered Kansas from Oklahoma. Nebraska also did not show us a single law enforcement officer while we drove across the state. So far, I have seen one state trooper in South Dakota.

Driving well is not EZ!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

2009 Continues...

My last post explained some of the automobile-related losses suffered in the family during 2009. Well, since then: Late on June 18th, my son, Derek, while returning home from some evening work, hit a deer with his Acura. Not totaled, but quite a bit of damage. That's three. Then, in early July, driving home from work, my daughter, Jenn, was involved in a three-car pileup when a driver on the freeway stopped, just over the crest of a hill, apparently to read a map. That car was not hit--it was the panic avoidances that brought my daughter's car and two others into the same physical space. Her car was totaled. That's four. Again and still, no injuries. So we count our blessings while digging deep to pay our deductibles. Modern life is not so EZ.