Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Fuelishness

June 19, 2021

Keep on (not) truckin’. Photo courtesy Groendyke Transport

Here’s a fun story. My man Hal was homeward bound after a track meet in Lakewood and lo and behold, there was no gasoline to be found in either Florence or Weirdcliffe.

There’s no shortage of gasoline. But there is a shortage of tank-truck drivers, thanks in part to The Bug® and decisions made around same. And we two old newspapermen, to our everlasting shame, had to get the deets from (choke) the TV stations’ websites.

KRDO had the best piece, quoting spokespeople from AAA, the National Tank Truck Carriers, and Groendyke Transport.

Something like a quarter of tank trucks were parked in April due to a lack of qualified drivers, sez the NTTC. Older drivers decided to retire, sez Groendyke. And driver schools shut down, which kept new drivers from getting certified.

And if Circle K can’t fill its tanks, well … neither can you, Skeezix.

AAA Colorado is urging motorists not to panic-buy gasoline the way they did toilet paper. Yeah, good luck with that. They’ll be panic-buying both because right now they’re out of gas and shitting themselves.

‘You went to bed with a functioning vehicle. …’

May 22, 2021

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

Ken Layne kicks off this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio with a nod to a critter I know all too well — the “truck roach,” a.k.a. the wood rat.

Back when we were camped on that windscoured rockpile near Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, Colo., the deer, bears, ring-tailed cats, buzzworms, mountain lions, coyotes, and wood rats paid us regular visits. Once or twice the rats found their way into our laundry closet via the exhaust ductwork from the washer-dryer combo, which I then would have to disconnect and drag onto the deck so the furry little burglar could make his getaway.

On one memorable occasion, after we had relocated to Bibleburg, we drove back up to the Weirdcliffe place for a relaxing weekend in the boondocks. Herself dashed inside for a wee, and in short order I heard a screech worthy of a slasher film. An invading wood rat had managed to escape the laundry closet only to drown in the downstairs toilet.

But the pièce de résistance of our rodent experience centered on our 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup, pictured above.

This outrageously expensive machine was practically brand new when one day it developed a hitch in its gitalong, an inexplicable stutter in its step. “This won’t do, not at all,” I thought, and lurched down Hardscrabble Canyon and over to the Toyota dealer in Pueblo that had sold me the thing.

The shop dudes said they’d have a quick look-see and suggested I go grab a bite of lunch. When I returned they were having themselves a huge hee, along with a haw or two or three.

Seems that when the young wrench assigned to my problem popped the hood, a giant wood rat leapt out of the engine compartment, then took a high-speed lap or two around the service bay before rocketing back into the truck somewhere.

The sonofabitch had been gnawing on the wiring harness, which explained the spastic nature of the vehicle’s operation. I got a new one of those along with some advice about various potions for discouraging peckish ratoncitos.

We never did figure out what happened to that particular wood rat, who must have been the most widely traveled member of his clan. I often thought of him holding forth to his grandchildren about the time he surfed a Toyota all the way to Pueblo and back.

Purple haze

April 12, 2021

The lilacs exploded more or less overnight.

Our yard has suddenly decided that this is not a drill — it’s spring, for reals.

The daffodils and tulips are popping up. The lilacs and holly are flowering. The ornamental pear has already flowered.

Our backyard maple greets the morning.

The maple and wisteria are leafing out.

I even had to mow the damn lawn yesterday.

Perhaps best of all, it’s not too hot. Yet. This morning, when I rode home from downtown after dropping the Subaru at Reincarnation for its annual checkup, I needed arm warmers and knickers for comfort’s sake.

The ride was so pleasant I added a bit of extra credit/scenic detour mileage up Bear Canyon from Juan Tabo to the Embudito trailhead. What the hell, I was riding a cyclocross bike, and there were no pressing matters awaiting my attention.

The guys at Reincarnation weren’t taking five for any bike rides or flower-sniffing, though. That op’ was hoppin’. After a year of living cautiously it seems some Burqueños are ready for a drive that lets them get out of third gear.

April Fool’s Day is for the birds

April 2, 2021

Miss Mia is on the lookout for April fools.
Either that or birds building a nest on our roof.

April Fool’s Day has been consigned to the rear-view mirror, so it’s safe to navigate the Innertubes again.

Like St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day is for amateurs. Pros do their drinking and fooling year-round without regard for the calendar. Some of the marketing ploys soiling my in-box yesterday were weaker than watery green beer filtered through the kidneys.

I had no time for foolery yesterday. There were menus to devise, groceries to be purchased, bread to bake. Also, Herself’s CR-V required some attention from the Honda grease monkeys down on Lomas; this required me to engage with Albuquerque traffic, which is thick with fools year-round.

Why anyone would buy a new car in this burg remains a mystery to me. You might as well haul a sledgehammer down to the dealership and give your new ride a couple stout whacks before you roll off the lot, get used to the idea of driving a dentmobile like everyone else.

While parked at the curb in my own ratty beater I took a squint at this blog and saw that — in the mobile version, anyway — it remained buggered by WordPress and its filthy Gutenberg block editor, foisted upon the unsuspecting customer base by knaves, cutpurses, and coders who cannot be adjusted by sledgehammer, more’s the pity. So once I got back to El Rancho Pendejo I had to dive into the Classic editor and replace the text and image in the “Playing with blocks” post.

And all of this on a beautiful spring day, too. High in the 60s. Instead of a long bike ride I had to content myself with a 45-minute hike-slash-jog, which come to think of it was not half bad.

And that’s no foolin’.

Road hard, or my home really is on the range

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Hotel Tacoma.

Some of us want to hit the road; others are compelled to.

I’ve been both over the years, rambling from Maine to Spokane and Bisbee to Bellingham, occasionally by thumb, a time or two by bus, but most often behind the wheel of a Japanese pickup truck with a camper shell and all the fixin’s for a bit of home away from home.

Trucks with beds and friends with couches saw me through my rambling, gambling years, as I rolled the dice with one newspaper after another. I eventually came up winners by leaving the business altogether.

Marrying well didn’t hurt, either.

And while I have kipped in the beds of trucks since, I have done so as a tourist, not an honest-to-Steinbeck nomad like the people in Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland,” which has been reimagined by Chloé Zhao as a fictionalized film set to debut Feb. 19 on Hulu.

It’s challenging to make a go of it when your house has wheels. Finding a spot to camp, a shower, or an unguarded Internet connection is a lot like that job of work you don’t have anymore. It’s a whole lot easier when you’re only doing it for funsies and can splurge on an occasional visit to Starbucks or Holiday Inn Express.

The people in “Nomadland” are not posers. They swallowed their fears, and their pride, and jumped into that endless asphalt river.

And speaking of jumps, it’s time for another great leap forward … into the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I went back to the Comedy Closet to record this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearances by The Firesign Theatre (“Temporarily Humboldt County”) and Mel Henke (“See the USA in Your Chevrolet”). I usually saw the USA in a Toy-o-TA, but to each his own.

Nocturnal emissions

January 26, 2021

The view from the guest bedroom at 5:34 a.m.

“It’s a winter wonderland!” Herself sang as I flung open the bedroom door, growling like an elderly bear, a hitch in my gitalong after a night of imperfect sleep.

Son of a bitch. Right again. No wonder they pay her the big bucks.

Happily, neither of us has to take our chances on the Duke City streets this fine frosty morning. Herself continues to work from home in Year Two of the Plague, and I am a senior citizen on a fixed income who doesn’t have to do jack shit other than sit on his arse, bitching about this and that, while waiting for Uncle Sugar to give with the free money.

I’ve seen two fine auto crashes in the past two days. The first was on Tramway near Comanche; a Honda Element and some other vehicle came to grief in the southbound lanes as I was cycling northward on Sunday. The second ate up two northbound lanes on Juan Tabo near Lomas on Monday, as I was taking the Fearsome Furster in for an emissions check and re-registration.

The  emissions tester was a man unhappy in his work, probably because he was freezing his nuts off in his tiny shed, which let the bitter southeastern wind roll in with each customer. Nevertheless, he and the State conspired to rob me of a couple hundy for the dubious privilege of courting death on the mean streets of the Land of Enchantment in a 16-year-old rice grinder, and then we were both in a bad mood.

I won’t take my brand-new sticker out for a spin today, thanks all the same. We have already established that my neighbors can’t keep the shiny side up on a sunny day, and I’ve just paid in advance for two years’ worth of happy motoring.

Anyway, it’s cold out there. Colder than a gut-shot bitch wolf dog with nine sucking pups pulling a number-four trap up a hill in the dead of winter in the middle of a snowstorm with a mouth full of porcupine quills. …

Draught for a drought

October 31, 2020

Man, you just can’t beat the clouds in New Mexico, even if they occasionally snow on you.

Seven inches. I measured it, with a steel ruler.

No, not that. The snow. The landscape drank it the way a wino chugs a short dog.

You’d be surprised how quickly an Albuquerque lawn can drink seven inches of snow. Maybe not.

Winter’s drive-by with its record snowfall and low temperature meant I had to crank up the furnace two days earlier than last year. There’s something final about the sound of that Trane XR80 groaning back to hideous life; every time I switch the thermostat from “Cool” to “Heat” I feel as though I’ve just driven a stake through the heart of summer.

The streets cleared quickly — after 133 vehicle crashes and 31 injuries, nobody wanted to be on them, not even the snow.

But if you were afoot and kept your eyes open it wasn’t awful. I went out for a couple hourlong walks and by Friday it was warm enough for a ride, in long sleeves, knickers and tuque.

Anyway, we’ve got a stretch of 60-something and sunny on tap, so it looks like the landscape is back on the wagon after slamming its cold one.

TGIFuhgedaboudit

October 3, 2020

Santa may not be squeezing his fat ass down my chimney at the moment, but with a sky that blue, who cares?

Some Fridays I send no thanks to God.

The press brays about another delivery of magic beans from the Orange House. My main MacBook Pro develops a bloat I can’t doctor and must be shipped off for emergency surgery. Sue Baroo the Fearsome Furster goes in for a radiator transplant. And WordPress shanghais me into its pain-in-the-ass block editor.

All this being said:

At least I don’t have to edit any bean-delivery stories for The Daily Disappointment-Fabricator. (“Just who says ‘he tested positive,’ anyway? Same guy who’s been lying about anything and everything since he was whelped?”)

I have a backup MacBook Pro. Not as powerful, but hey, at least it’s not swelling up like a poisoned Russian dissident.

The Furster is 15 going on 16. Of course she’s gonna have occasional meltdowns. They’re still cheaper than a monthly payment for the car I don’t want to buy anyway.

But WordPress? Fuck those guys. This block editor eats shit out of a hipster’s thrift-store fedora. It makes me want to run away from the news, my second-best MacBook, and my credit-card statement, and go for a nice long bike ride.

See ya.

Just a few autumn leaves

September 22, 2020

You can trust your car to the man who wears the star. Or not.

• Skid Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

• Al Sleet lives: “The weather will continue to change, on and off, for a long, long time.”

• Raiders of the Lost Arkea-Samsic: “We have top men working on it right now.”

Car park

July 9, 2020

“Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?”
Uh, because they’re climate-controlled living rooms that go places?

A good newspaper not only reports the news, it stimulates debate on the issues of the day.

And this piece by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times — “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing” — is certainly going to set some chins wagging.

But hoo-boy, talk about your roadblocks:

Given how completely they rule most cities, calling for the outright banishment of automobiles can sound almost ludicrous. (We can’t even get people to agree to wear masks to stop the spread of a devastating pandemic.)

In other words, don’t swap the Escalade for an e-bike just yet, Sparky.

One more minor quibble: I think this sentence — “Manhattan, already one of the most car-free places in the country, is the best place to start.” — is just a wee bit Noo Yawk-centric.

How about starting with a smaller space, like Santa Fe? Wall off the actual walkable/bikeable bits from the metastasis that surrounds them, provide car parks around the perimeter, and encourage people to engage in muscle-powered transportation.

Pedicabs will be available for hire, but you’re gonna have to show me a serious hitch in your gitalong or other qualifying infirmity before you make someone else haul your fat ass around town. The penalty is crucifixion (first offense).