Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Time travel

October 8, 2022

Truckin’, like the doo-dah man.

• Editor’s note: It’s a gray, gloomy day here at El Rancho Pendejo, and Hal Walter’s road-trip tale has put me in mind of my own meditation from the spring of 2000, when the vile Crusty County weather had me thinking about snorting that long white line to wherever.

“I have been buggered to near death by the clock.” — Jim Harrison in “The Beige Dolorosa,” from the novella collection “Julip”

“How do I shut this alarm off?” my wife asked some years back. Her sports watch was cheeping incessantly, like a baby bird in a sack of crack.

“Like this,” I replied, snatching the watch from her, placing it on the kitchen floor and pounding it into a flattened silence with a claw hammer. We both laughed, but warily; killing time just isn’t that easy.

Still, when you see time limping along like it does in a snowbound April in the Colorado mountains, scraping the slush off its boots on the welcome mat of spring, there arises a murderous desire to put it out of its misery. So Shannon has begun hiding the hammers as I glare at the clock, as if I could will its crawling hands into picking up the pace, spinning me up some sunshine.

• • •

“We’re going to be late,” I warned my friends Hal and Mary as we dawdled first over stout, then over coffee, in a succession of Bibleburg bistros. It was my 46th birthday, and we were headed to Colorado College for a poetry reading by one of my favorite authors, Jim Harrison. Harrison seems the sort to bark at nitwits who interrupt his work, and I wanted his autograph, not his antipathy.

Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of “Warlock,” though it was not among his favorite works.

As it turned out, we were right on time, and Harrison was late. A student of Zen Buddhism with his own temporal compulsions, Harrison announced: “I’m not a long reader. This will be exactly 52 minutes.” A koan for a birthday present.

Frankly, I’d have settled for a little less light and a little more warmth. Spring brings Colorado the heavy snows that we used to get in winter like everybody else, and the way my mental batteries were running down under the gray-flannel skies had me convinced that I was solar-powered.

My last escape attempt, a mid-March road trip to a cycling festival in California, was too short and not nearly sweet enough. I’ve been contemplating another to someplace where the locals’ knowledge of snow is limited to what they’ve been able to glean from the Encyclopedia Britannica, but you can’t pilot a Toyota truck to the Virgin Islands, not even in four-wheel drive.

And then there’s the expense. The rising price of gasoline aside, it’s not always possible or desirable to sleep in a pickup, which lacks certain amenities — like a toilet, shower, sink, stove, furnace and elbow room, especially when the camper shell is stuffed fore to aft with a bicycle, a cooler full of beer and a day pack crammed with computer gear and drawing tools.

Even if you pack camping gear and spend your nights outside the truck, you’re doomed to an occasional Motel 666 if for no other reason than hygiene, an impulse that will cost you anywhere from $30 to $60 a pop, depending upon your ZIP code at the time.

So lately I’ve been eyeballing used RVs and wondering whether I’m old enough to own one. This is not unlike like cigar-smoking; you have to be of a certain age to pull it off without looking ridiculous.

Too, as a cyclist who has played mirror-tag with many a blue-haired land-yacht captain over the years, the notion leaves me feeling a little like a Lakota warrior applying to join Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

And the entry fee for the RV lifestyle is a high curb to hop — even an elderly, smallish Toyota RV can run from five to ten large, while free-lance cycling journalism pays on the small side.

• • • 

In the essay “Going Places,” from his collection “Just Before Dark,” Harrison advises: “Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse.” So with a light snow falling and the promise of more on the way, I jumped into my ’83 Toyota 4WD and headed north to talk to a guy who had a used, slide-in, pop-up camper for sale.

As I bounced crazily down our steep, corrugated goat path to the county road — this truck, which under a previous owner carried a camper, has springs apparently salvaged from a buckboard — I realized I’d forgotten my watch. A moment of dismay, then satori; I had more than enough time to make the noon appointment, and there was nothing of pressing urgency requiring a timepiece, so screw it.

So, after checking out the camper — affordable and nicely minimalist, with a cabover bed, a small sink and stove, a pedestal table and bench, and a furnace — I spent the afternoon idling around downtown Bibleburg, where it was not snowing, the roads were paved, and distractions were available in variety.

Drank a pint of Guinness and ate a burger in Jack Quinn’s; looked for Harrison books in the cavernous used-book store Gateways; sipped a tall Americano in a Starbucks staffed by two pleasant young women chattering away like magpies. Then I took my sweet time getting home, and not just because I was following a snowplow and an 18-wheeler up a slushy Hardscrabble Cañon.

Again, Harrison, in “The Beige Dolorosa” from “Julip”: “The clock is the weapon with which we butcher our lives.”

The character who writes this line on an index card — an academic rebelling against the tyranny of the clock as he comes to terms with a vastly altered life — then wraps his watch around the cord of his Big Ben electric clock and dangles both in the toilet, flushing and laughing.

He continues: “The damnable watch still worked. I put it on the floor, stepped up on the toilet seat and jumped, smashing the watch to bits. It occurred to me that I was getting a little excitable, so I took the remnants of the two timepieces outside and peed on them to complete the scene appropriately. I reached back in the cabin and turned off the light, the better to see the stars. They were so dense they made the sky look flossy, almost a fog of stars which had drawn infinitely closer to me than ever before, as if my destruction of time had made me a friendlier object for their indeterminate powers.”

Smash your watches. Pee on your clocks. Go look at the stars.

Sallying Fourth: It’s a gas

June 30, 2022

Get thee behind me.

Behold! The Fourth of July Holiday Travel Extravaganza is upon us, and gas prices are … falling?

Hee, and also haw.

You know what this means, right? If the prices had stayed high, why, you’d stay home, roast your weenies in the back yard. But they’ve dipped a few pennies, so fill ’er up, pard’, we’re gonna go visit grandma back at The Old Home Place, burn some of this discount dinosaur wine.

’Course, soon as you get there, boom! Up shoots the price at the pump. And son, you got to pay it to get home. A whole bunch of you.

Notes AAA:

Car travel volume … will break previous records as 42 million opt to drive this Independence Day. Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancellations and delays may be driving this increase.

I hope to leave old Sue Baroo the Fearsome Furster in the garage through Monday. My idea of a real good time on a holiday weekend is not driving anywhere, even in The Duck! City.

Especially in The Duck! City. Herself recently told me a tale of some poor commuter who had a dope fiend jump on her car and beat in the windshield. Apparently some passing hardhats had to sedate him with a shovel. I’d rather hitch a ride on a flaming garbage truck.

Saturation

June 22, 2022

Splish, splash, etc.

They said it would rain, and they did not lie.

We’ve gotten 0.38 inch since o-dark-thirty this morning, and while the Big Spigot seems to have been turned off for the moment, it’s due to open right back up this afternoon. Meanwhile, the wind is working overtime, trying to dry everything up again.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, wisdom remains elusive. I thought I was on the ball yesterday, slipping out for a short trail run in the late morning before the weather turned. But the afternoon proved dry and delightfully cool, ideal for cycling. And today is as you see, perfect for … for … well, for staying indoors, is what.

A smart fella would’ve ridden yesterday and run today. But as we all know, I will never be smart.

For instance, I fail to appreciate the brilliance of a gas-tax “holiday,” though Prez Joe clearly thinks it’s a swell idea.

Blast from the past.

First, there’s no guarantee that Big Oil won’t snatch up any newfound savings for itself as demand increases but supply does not. Second, it would mean less money in the Highway Trust Fund for Infrastructure Week, whenever that comes around. And third — it’s chump change.

As business economist Garrett Golding at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas told The New York Times: “It sounds like something is being done to lower gas prices, but there’s not a whole lot of there there.”

Mind you, I drive almost not at all, filling up the old rice rocket more or less quarterly. I don’t have a job to go to, or kids to ferry around and about. Your mileage may vary.

But as anyone who rides a bicycle knows, no matter how much the go-juice costs, there is an awful lot of automobile traffic on the roads at all hours of the day and night. These trips can’t all be mandatory; there’s plenty of elective driving going on there too.

Maybe instead of rifling the federal couch cushions for loose change and pretending it’s buried treasure, we should be reducing demand, which is the only real way to cut prices. Is your trip necessary?

‘Anyone can get an auto loan’

March 16, 2022

For when the M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle just isn’t big enough.

OK, so, with the Russian war in Ukraine, random gun violence here at home, and inflation everywhere, we all have plenty to worry about.

But wait! There’s more!

Cyclists, pedestrians, and anyone else hoping for safe streets in a livable environment will hop the first dick-missile to Mars after scanning this New York Times story on what the quarter-point hike in the Fed’s key interest rate means for any of us chickens who’d like to cross the road without winding up fried and breaded in one of the Colonel’s buckets.

A couple key pull-quotes:

“There is far more variation in auto lending than in, say, the mortgage market because there are more credit types. Anyone can get an auto loan.” — Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive, an industry consulting firm.

“Car-loan rates will move up as the Fed hikes interest rates, but it will be a nonissue for car buyers because it has such a limited impact on monthly payments. Nobody will need to downsize from the S.U.V. to the compact because of rising rates.” — Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Damn straight. Fuck a bunch of Prius. Whadda I look like, some hippie? I got an image to maintain. What are the Russian oligarchs driving this season?

Snow? No

March 11, 2022

It ain’t easy getting green.

We was robbed.

Just as well. The ladies have plans, and though they are Marylanders and used to snow, only Herself has enjoyed winter motoring in The Duck! City, whose drivers can’t keep the shiny side up on a sunny day.

Yesterday it was a Tesla and a pick-’em-up truck that ate shit at Comanche and Tramway, where the debris from old crashes piles up like the fast-food wrappers, liquor bottles, and dirty diapers drivers toss from their vehicles between texts as they breeze through the red five seconds late and 20 over the limit.

You want to keep your head on a swivel when your light turns green. Left, right, left again — count one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, etc. — then proceed as though you believe in an afterlife.

Never mind the asshole leaning on his horn behind you. Hell ain’t half full, as s/he will learn after finally honking at the wrong person, who then climbs out of the vehicle with something more authoritative than a middle digit extending from one white-knuckled fist.

The honkers are usually tailgaters too. Some of these yahoos will crowd you so closely you can smell the beer on their breath.

Doc Sarvis, the brains and bucks behind “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” had a solution to that sort of harassment. The Ukrainians are giving these ancient anticavalry weapons a go, and why not? I bet they work against horses and horses’ asses.

Pumped

March 8, 2022

I found a bargain at my neighborhood station.

The gas is mostly $4.19 in these parts, up from $3.59 a week or so ago.

Still not nearly enough. But it’s a start.

Based on what I could glean from a brief, unscientific survey this morning, the rising prices haven’t stopped Burqueños from speeding, running red lights, or idling away a few minutes (and gallons) in various fast-food drive-through lines.

This last is why I restrict my motor trips to grocery-shopping. Once you bring home the bacon, you don’t gotta go nowhere else, watching your fuel and patience needles march toward “E” as you endure some faux redneck’s loudly farting diesel. You cook it up and eat it.

And once the weather settles down, who knows? I may leave ol’ Sue Baroo in the garage even more than I already do, invest a portion of my beans and rice in getting more beans and rice. There seems to be a lot of bicycles around here for some reason.

The (get) off button

January 26, 2022

Shut ’er down.

I suffered my first flat of 2022 the other day. My first in nearly a year, actually.

When you rock stout tires and sealant-laced inner tubes the flats are few and far between, even here in The Duck! City, where spiky objects abound. Broken glass, goatheads, and cacti, oh my.

But as in real life, something will get you eventually. In this case, it was a cactus thorn that looked like the business end of a veterinary hypodermic. I picked it up while careening around the Elena Gallegos Open Space on a Steelman Eurocross, and the tire didn’t go completely unrideable until I was an easy jog from the ranger shack, where I swapped tubes from the comfort of a chair on their patio out back.

This is entirely different from flatting in the arse-end of nowhere with the sleet coming in sideways and a couple teeth-chattering companions hopping around, hands stuffed in their armpits, waiting on you. A certain urgency is implied. Speed, not diligence, is at a premium. It’s a variation on the old whorehouse refrain: Get it out, get it in, get it up, and get going.

Since it was just me, I took my time: shifted into big and little; released the straddle cable; pulled the wheel; ran a tire iron around one bead; and pulled out the flat tube. Then I felt carefully along the inside of the tire, looking for the culprit. Ever just stuffed a fresh tube in there, aired it up, and rolled away only to find the tire flat once more about 50 meters down the trail? Yeah, me too. I learned the hard way to round up the usual suspects first.

In this case the thorn had slipped between two centerline chevrons like a shiv between ribs, driving a good quarter inch deep into the tube, whose sealant had lost its grip.  I couldn’t get hold of the fat end of the thorn with my fingers, so I used the tire iron to scrape off the pointy end. Insert new tube, pump it up good and fat, and off we go.

What a luxury to be able to perform this simple chore while sitting down, in a chair, instead of flailing away with the minipump in a crouch like a compulsive masturbator. This startles passing motorists, assuming their eyes aren’t glued to their smartphones, which is a bet you don’t want to place in this high-desert casino.

You’re not even safe off road, based on the auto-body fragments Herself and I found littering a neighborhood trail during a run last week. An errant Honda Civic street racer will give you a puncture you can’t fix on the fly.

Game over

December 8, 2021

“The better news is, it was an electric vehicle that killed you.”

On the way home from the grocery yesterday I managed to avoid three crashes with Burqueños who were either DWI, DUI, or HUA (Head Up Ass).

Stopping for a red light at Comanche and Tramway, a popular spot for the high-speed not stopping for red lights, I took note of the detritus from a recent collision scattered across the intersection.

And later, at home, hearing the wail of sirens and the whock-whock-whock of helicopters, I wondered idly who else had just made an unscheduled stop for a shit sammich.

Turns out a two-car crash at the next intersection up Tramway — the worst one, for my money — sent six people to the hospital, where four were listed in critical condition.

So color me unamused that Tesla is giving drivers the chance to play video games in their cars. While moving.

The New York Times notes that Elon Musk and his elves at Tesla “did not respond to several emails asking about the new video games and whether they could jeopardize safety.”

Imagine my surprise. No wonder Elon is in such a rush to get to Mars. He thinks it ain’t safe here on Earth, and he’s right.

We should pry Captain Video out of his Starship and drop him into a 1971 Ford Pinto, make him cruise around Albuquerque until he learns how to answer his emails. At a dead stop, of course.

• In other news, from our You’ve Got to be Fucking Shitting Me Department, we have the “Smart-Cockpit,” a bicycle handlebar with a touchscreen featuring Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Is it April 1? Did I sleep through winter?

Taconook

October 26, 2021

Well, now I know what I want for Christmas.

Start passing the sombrero*, y’all. I think you’re gonna need a big one.

* A tip of the hat to Adventure Journal, which agrees with me that “if Toyota was fun and not merely practical, they’d put this sucker into a production run.”

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.