transportation

LIVING IN GRIDLOCK

Most of us don’t think about traffic. We just deal with it. It’s part of life. Whether it’s trying to find a parking space or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a holiday weekend, traffic is everywhere. 75-GameDay-Fenway_03 I don’t usually think about traffic because we don’t have much of it here. This is the country. A traffic jam is a tractor and two cars waiting at an intersection. Maybe road repairs. Or an annoying slow driver. Sometimes, a bridge washes out.

Until we moved here, though, traffic was the biggest issue in our lives. Road work in Boston made it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock during holidays could close the city. One Friday in December, I tried to pick Garry up at work. 96-Watercolor-Pops2013_084 I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I made a u-turn and went home. This was before cell phones, so I had to call the guard at the front desk at Channel 7 and ask him to go outside and tell Garry I couldn’t get there.

The next day it was in the papers and on TV — Boston was gridlocked. It was the Friday before Christmas. Everyone had decided to go shopping simultaneously, so no one went anywhere.

A year later, we moved to Roxbury, 4 miles outside the city center. It was less congested. You could park for free on the street. Then came the Big Dig. The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, aka the Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. There were no areas unaffected though it was worse some places than others.  It turned the main artery (Route 93) —  an ugly stretch of permanently clogged elevated highway — into a permanently clogged, long tunnel. 96-RedLight-38 It didn’t solve the traffic problems, but made traffic invisible, leaving everyone to sit in their overheating cars hoping they will live to see the other side of the city. It straightened some of the worst intersections and made getting to and from the airport easier. Made the city prettier.

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. Plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings, design flaws, poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for some offenders (but not enough) and 4 deaths, the project was scheduled for completion in 1998 and was supposed to cost $2.8 billion. It was officially finished in December 2007 and cost $14.6 billion.

The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest, fines, and lawsuits, the project will cost more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until 2038. Maybe not even then. The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me 2 hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.

“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!” And we did. 75-CrossingNK-14 We fled. Traffic was controlling our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood was often closed. Out-of-town visitors roamed helplessly through the streets of Dorchester looking in vain for a street sign or marker. Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home either.

I spent years of my life in traffic. Add time spent in the office and 2 to 4 hours of commuting, life was dominated by traffic. By the time we slouched into retirement, we were wrecks. Also poor, but it was better than commuting. Do I have a solution? No. But traffic wore us out. One day something snapped. We couldn’t do it anymore.

MY TWO CITIES ARE WAITING AND I’M GOING IN STYLE!

A Tale of Two Cities

If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?


Easy choices! I’ll take Jerusalem, Israel and New York, New York.

I’m (of course) assuming you will be supplying attractive housing and unlimited plane fares. Furnishings and appropriate wardrobes, and of course, a generous stipend.

Jerusalem_old_city_panorama_5

That would work for me and my husband. You are paying his way too, right? And all my best friends and close family as well?

Naturally, suitable transportation will be provided at each location. You know … cars, taxis, limos as needed? And support personnel? Cleaning staff, cooks, personal assistants? Dog walkers?

This is going to be our reward for a long life of hard work and challenges no one should have to face, so I’m expecting great things.

new-york-city-housing

Thanks for your kind offer. I’m not even going to pack my bags since I’m sure your people will be in touch and make all the necessary arrangements. Have a good day and thanks again.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Getting There Is Not Always Enough … Marilyn Armstrong

We didn’t get to ride this one.

Yesterday, we went to Busch Gardens. We did nothing, got wet, walked too much, came back exhausted, soggy and poorer. We seem to have absolutely impeccable timing for getting places at exactly the wrong time!

We didn’t get to ride this either.

We planned carefully and sensibly. We figured that if we went late in the day, it would be cooler and probably less crowded too. Logical right? I mean, the park‘s open until 10 at night, so getting there at 3:30 should leave us more than ample time to whatever we wanted and ride whatever we wanted.

After we finally got through the long walk to the park from the very closest parking lot, we decided to take the train ride that loops around the park. It would give us something of an orientation, an overview.

After that we were nearly slavering with anticipation, we headed down the long road to Apollo’s Chariot, the first of the 6 big, bigger and biggest, baddest roller coasters we intended to ride.

We were at the front of the line on the platform, ready to board the ride. Which is when the announcement came that the ride was closing due to weather issues.

Not this one either.

Weather. Mainly, lightning. Not to mention wind and rain. So we stood around a bit, milled around in confusion, then eventually headed back the long road to the rest of the park.

With great anticipation, we waited for a weather update. We were in a code orange, which is bad, but the next announcement was “Code Red,” which was much worse and actually closed everything, except shops.

Shortly thereafter, the sky opened up and a sheet of water fell out. We stood under an awning speculating — along with everyone else — whether or not there was any chance the park would reopen.

Also, didn’t ride this one.

It did not reopen.

We hauled ass back to Guest Relations, where they were very gracious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely sorry that we come from so far away, didn’t get to do anything except eat a pretzel and get soaked. They refunded half the money because our friends had to leave today and we took rain checks and will make another stab at it tomorrow. We would have gone today, but the weather report doesn’t look promising and I couldn’t deal with the same scenario two days running.

The best experience of the day? The electric scooter that you can rent and drive around the park. I loved it! It was way zippier than I thought it would be and fun, too. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I was already over-tired and when we finally got back to the hotel, having stopped at the grocery store in between and then cooking dinner … we had barely enough strength to climb into bed and pass out.

Today, the humidity is 99% and thunder storms are likely in the afternoon, so we  are going to go tomorrow morning when hopefully, it won’t be raining because that really IS our last chance.

Talk about disappointing! Nice that Garry and I get another shot at it, but I so wanted to go with my friend too … but … well … it didn’t happen and if there’s one thing you cannot count on, it’s usually the weather.

They’ve left now and it’s very quiet and feels kind of empty. I’m trying not to be a bit down-hearted, but it’s difficult.

Tomorrow is another day, I hope.

YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course

by michelle w. on January 27, 2014

Think about what you wanted to accomplish last week. Did you? What are the things that hold you back from doing everything you’d like to do?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BARRIERS.

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stop-signs

And NO, I didn’t take this picture, but I think it really says it, don’t you?

Other entries:

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Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles

Another of Cee’s cool challenges … and as it happens, I had this interesting photograph of a bunch of motorcycles … and one cyclist. Taken with a very long lens while hanging out the window of a moving car, the length of the lens compressed the image to make it almost abstract.

Hop on over to Cee’s Photography site for more great pictures.

Motorcycles and one rider

Motorcycles and one rider

This is what there is to do — if you carry a camera, that is — when you get stuck in traffic. Because there’s a car show in Mendon on the way to the doctor’s office.

REACHING OUR DESTINATION

We were approaching Gettysburg. Tired and hungry, it was a long haul from Williamsburg to Uxbridge. Not a trip to make in one day. We needed to stop for at least one, maybe two nights. We had to pick a stopover; Gettysburg was on the route. And I wanted to see it anyhow. Being such a tourist town, it was bound to have lots of places to stay.

Gettysburg buggy

I never worry that we won’t find a place to stay. I know it’s possible, but in all the years of traveling, in and out of the U.S., there has always been a place to stay. It might not be exactly what we had it mind. Sometimes it turns out awful, more often, a happy surprise. That’s why I like tourist traps. They’re ready for visitors. Lots of them. Plenty of motels, restaurants and the only color they care about is green.

Tunnel-Lane-Gettysburg

It was late afternoon as we rolled into town.  We asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully since it was our first visit.

Finally, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!”

Indeed we had, although not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, in this case what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew a GPS could have a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found an EconoLodge.

Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow – NIGHT LIFE!

City night - light and life.

City night – light and life.

In the city, life is happening. Every day, every night. Whatever the season the city is buzzing with people going somewhere, coming from somewhere else. Busy, busy like bees. When do they slow down and sleep?

 

Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time Saves Nine

“Are we there yet?

“I promise, you’ll know when we’re there.”

“Yes Mommy … but how will I know? Will you tell me? Please?”

“You’ll just know. I’m sure you’ll know. But I’ll tell you too, okay? Now settle down back there.”

I hated the back seat of the car. It made me carsick, swaying like a boat on the high seas. Sometimes I would pretend I was a pirate in a ship. That way, I figured I wouldn’t get so sick, but it didn’t matter. I got sick anyhow.

1959 imperial custom 4-door southampton rear

We were on our way to the World’s Fair in Toronto. Canada. Another country. We’d never been to another country. International travel! Wow! 1958, 11 years old and I was going to another country. Me, my big brother, parents in front in the huge Chrysler Imperial. It looked like it was about to take off for the moon. A behemoth of a car with fins like wings. It had enough trunk space for a multigenerational family and a cord of wood.

Sprung to absorb every bump in the road and make you feel like you were floating. No feel of the road, hence the boat analogy. It was indeed a land cruiser and I tossed my cookies in that back seat with some regularity. It made my older brother less than thrilled to be back there with Barfy, his sister. He liked me usually, but not in the back seat.

“But are we there yet?”

Time seemed to be standing still. When we’d set off on this journey, this endless multi-day journey, it sounded like fun. Until my motion sickness set in. Until the endless roads all began to blend together and look exactly the same.

Giddy with excitement had faded to curiosity and sheer restless energy, the energy of kids confined for days at a time in a lurching motorcar on the way to someplace too vague to be pictured in our minds, but held out to us like the grail.

We had passed now from even curiosity to numb endurance. We’d even stopped squabbling. Time stretched out like a gray, endless road … to someplace.

“Mommy? Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“Are we there yet?”

 

Daily Prompt: It’s not fake. It’s faux!

Some call it Gettysburg, but you can call it Tourist Haven. I do.

Here you can meet the local ghoul. Or is he a zombie? So hard to tell. He lives behind our motel. Fine faux design. It’s an excellent photo-op for those of us who have had trouble finding a cooperative ghoul or zombie to pose for that special vacation photograph!

Remember: It’s not fake. It’s faux. Faux, being French for fake, is much less sleazy. If you are going to an assignation with a fake ghoul or zombie, why not arrive in style, driving your faux horse? Note that the carriage is entirely real. Just the horse is plastic.

Yay for Tourist Haven! Happy vacationing.

Keep an Open Mind

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

– Dr. Lee DeForest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.” 

“The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.”

Admiral William Leahy , US Atomic Bomb Project 

“There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.”

– Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923 

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”

– Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949 

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

– Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943 

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.”

–The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957 

“But what is it good for?”

– Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip. 

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

– Bill Gates, 1981

This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,”

– Western Union internal memo, 1876.

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”

– David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible,”

– A  Yale University  management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,”

– Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say  America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make,”

– Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,”

– Decca Recording Co. Rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,”

– Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this,”

– Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy,”

– Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”

– Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics,  Yale   University  , 1929.

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,”

Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole  Superieure de Guerre,  France  .

“Everything that can be invented has been invented,”

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

“The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over  Niagara Falls  to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required.”

– Professor of Electrical Engineering,  New York   University

“I don’t know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn’t be a feasible business by itself.”

– Head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”

– Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at  Toulouse  , 1872

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,”

– Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen  Victoria  1873.

“Who would want a F*****G Computer to sit on their Desk?”

– President of Warner-Swayze, 1977

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

– Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Serendipitous Photo Ops — Big Car Show in Mendon

I had a doctor’s appointment in Upton. It’s about 6 miles away and normally takes me 20 minutes to get there. I usually leave half an hour because it’s all local roads and it’s road repair season in New England.

75-CarShow-NK_2

But today, traffic was stopped. Like everyone’s tires had been super-glued to the road from Uxbridge all the way through Milford.

It turned out … they were having a car and motorcycle show in Mendon.

75-CarShow-NK_8

We are not renowned for entertainment in the Valley. Carnivals don’t come here any more, though they used to. Maybe the carnivals are gone and that’s why they don’t come. Or may it’s because the town sold the fair grounds to a private developer. That could be the answer. Thus a big car show — this was a large one by any standards — draws a huge crowd. And everyone has to get there via Route 16.

Which doesn’t mean that other people, like us, didn’t also need to use the road. Hah. Fat chance.

75-CarShow-NK_13

Route 16, which is the main route from one part of Blackstone Valley to anywhere else is two lanes. One in each direction. When it bogs down, it backs up for miles in both directions, which is exactly what it did. You can’t go around because we don’t have many roads. With so few roads, it’s hard to get lost in the Valley even if you have no sense of direction. The paucity of roads makes it hard to get lost, but close to impossible to find alternate routes from town to town. Essentially, there are none. You can make huge loops that take you miles out of your way, but it’s not really an alternate route … just a long circuitous detour.

75-CarShow-NK-B_27

So, while we were sitting in traffic, occasionally moving forward a few feet, I opened the window, stuck my head outside and took some pictures as we crawled past. All of these pictures were shot from a slowly moving car through the open window.

75-CarShow-NK_9

These are the ultimately serendipitous photographs. I was using a long telephoto lens, which accounts for the odd perspective. But interesting. Almost abstract.

75-CarShow-NK_3

I couldn’t get shots of most of the cars … too much stuff in the way, but I got some of the motorcycles and other attractions. It’s what to do when you’re stuck in traffic … and why I always carry a camera.

 

Daily Prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land – Magic Time!

Last summer, we drove into Gettysburg on the return trip from Williamsburg. It was late afternoon, so we asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions since we were in a town we’d never visited. Finally, Richard announced “You have reached your destination!”

Indeed we had, though not the one we had it mind for that night’s repose.

As far as the eye could see, Richard had brought us to what must have been Gettysburg’s largest non-war related cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.

Ghoul Soldier

I’m the world’s best traveler. I love it all. The good parts, the weird parts, the things other people would call the bad but I just think of as part of the adventure. I love it all. Short of food poisoning or getting arrested by a local militia for crimes against the revolution, it’s all good. Oh, and don’t make me eat bugs. I don’t like bugs. And I will admit I prefer it not rain the entire time.

I love meeting people — weird and otherwise. I love seeing different architecture, customs, local legends. I don’t care if no one speaks English. As long as they don’t point a gun at me (in which case, I’m gone), I’m up for anything especially if it makes a good photograph. So’s my husband. We travel well together.

Church by the Tracks

The railroad — the Grafton-Upton line — crosses in front of the Unitarian church on Grafton Commons. The tracks pass the church just a few feet from its front door then cross Main Street and move off into the woods. The tracks are so close to the church you have to walk on them as if they were a sidewalk to get from the back to the front of the church. When the train ran more often, it must have shaken the entire church when it passed by.  That was when the train was an important part of the life of the town and the valley.

Now, of course, the train runs but once a week … a mere memory of what was when the Blackstone Valley was a major hub of industry in America.

Daily Prompt: Rolling Stone – Where’s my moss?

I used to think about tossing it all in and getting an RV — just rolling from place to place, sleeping wherever we landed. Waking up to watch the sun rise atop the Rockies, or something like that. The problem is, I have this annoying brain. It doesn’t let me just fantasize. It wants the details. It wants a workable plan. So I don’t fantasize. I obsess. About the logistics of the thing. I start making charts, budgets, schedules.

Rolling into Gettysburg. Goal, a comfy motel wioth WiFim cable TV and lots of hot water. A good restaurant too.

Rolling into Gettysburg. Goal, a comfy motel with WiFi, cable TV and lots of hot water.  A good restaurant too.

The price of gasoline. I mean, do you know how much it costs to run an RV? Holy smoke! It’s not a question of how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. I have friends who own a yacht, but they almost never go anywhere. They hang out in the marina because it cost too much to actually go anywhere in the boat. I’m not arguing with the joy of yachting, or RV-ing, but seriously — that’s mucho dinero.

How much can I fit into the trunk? And about those dogs?

How much can I fit into the trunk? And about those dogs?

Then, there are the dogs. There we are, on the open highway, tooling along, watching the gas gauge drop and the dogs are restless. Do they really need to do something? Or are they just messing with us? Who knows? Do we want to take the chance? Our dogs are smart enough to know if they exhibit certain behaviors, they are going to get what they want and I can see us never making much progress because the dogs think it’s a real hoot to get us to stop everything and let them run around. Even at 3 in the morning when we’ve just fallen asleep.

With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s us, the dogs and leashes, standing there, whining “Please, go already, it’s cold, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie laughs at us as only a Scottie can.

Now a train, that might be okay. Except how long can youstay aboard? Really? And what about those dogs?

Now a train, that might be okay. Except how long can you stay aboard? Really? And what about those dogs?

And then … well … there are the bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He would be okay for a few days, but then … he wants a nice, comfortable room with a spacious shower and unlimited hot water. A place to sit, ponder and all the rest. Not squinched into a little tiny airline-size nook (or cranny? does anyone know the difference?), but room to spread out, leisurely. And me? While he’s doing his leisurely morning ablutions, what the hell am I doing? Beating the bushes for a bit of privacy where it isn’t full of poison ivy?

But wait. You gotta pump out the head. You gotta fill the water tanks. You need to hook up to some electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in that tiny little galley. I stopped loving meal preparation about a decade ago. Am I going to rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? Why do I doubt that?

And WiFi? Without getting complicated, Garry has bathroom issues. I have WiFi issues. Take away my Internet connection and I will probably have a psychotic break.

Who is going to water the plants?

Who is going to water the plants?

My head is reeling. I WANT TO GO HOME TO MY COMFORTABLE BED. I’m not a stone and I don’t roll. I limp. And hey, I have a doctor’s appointment. I’m tired of rolling. I want my recliner. I want my computers, my big screen television, my huge oak desk.

I want my desk. My computer. My big monitor. My chair.

I want my desk. My computer. My big monitor. My chair.

Roll, roll ye stones. But I don’t think I’ll be rolling with you. Nice but not for me. Nope. Sorry, the gypsy life passed me by. Send postcards!

Oh, thank you Lord. My bed! I need my bed!

Oh, thank you Lord. My bed! I need my bed!

Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles – Journeying

Two journeys. Through the Blackstone Valley. Through Boston. Life is a long journey punctuated with shorter trips.

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