Back-road warrior

I missed Friday.  I know.  In my defense I was on the road again.  I had grand plans to get a post sent from my phone and, well…yeah.  No.

My travels took me up to Iowa for a visit with the parents of on of our gentle readers.  As always, visiting with them was a blast and, despite the fiendishly-October weather (grey, wet, pea-soupy) I got to see something of Iowa (other than I-35).  It’s not as boring as some people might claim, but then I’m a girl who appreciates small towns and plains (note: Kristy, I did identify a fair number of wooded areas for you to hide in).

My trip up was heavy with free-way driving.  For reasons dealing with cell reception and teleconferences, I had to stay where I knew I would have signal at least through the 11am hour.  This derailed my plans of taking smaller highways and back-roads up through northern Missouri (I’ve driven that area more than once and cell coverage is less than spotty).

But today I had no pressing phone calls to be concerned about so, I avoided the freeway my entire drive.

And it was fantastic.

As much as I appreciate that the US Interstate system is reliable and saves time, I really love getting off the damned things.  The scenery is better, for one.  And not having an ass-load of trucks driving well over the speed limit and honking up on my tail pipe was beyond worth it.  In fact, the roads were so empty in some places that I could drive completely as I pleased–which included slowing down if I bloody well felt like it. And I felt like it quite often because despite this summer’s painful drought, Mother Nature is still managing some nice fall color these days and there was plenty of wild-life out (crap-tons of turkeys out today).

I’ve done plenty of this kind of driving before.  Over the summer, I did most of my driving in Texas, down to Houston and over to my grandparents on these kinds of roads.  But it strikes me that, other than very local-travel, most people don’t see the country this way much.  Understandably, it’s mostly an issue of time.  Between flying and interstate driving, these state and U.S. highways just don’t get the kinds of road-trip traffic they did once upon a time.  Kind of a shame, really.  How else do you see turkeys in Iowa, or pass by the Calamity Jane roadside park, or find out about the Kolache festival in Prague, OK, or stumble on the Watermelon Thump in Luling, TX, or dodge 4 deer the size of cattle in Northern Missouri?


Review: Driving Lessons

Driving Lessons

Director:  Jeremy Brock

Writer:  Jeremy Brock

Have you all missed me writing reviews of movies that have been out for ages?  Yeah, I didn’t figure, but it’s back (briefly, I haven’t had time to watch more than one).  I was over at a friend’s the other night and we decided to watch a movie.  Having just finished finals season we all requested something funny.  He recommended Driving Lessons.

Now let me be clear: it’s not a bad movie.  And it has some funny moments.  But it’s not over all a laugh out loud kind of movie.  And it’s one that hurts a little.  Not exactly what we were looking for to de-stress.  It’s not quite as extreme as when I told Cammy I wanted something light and she picked out Australia (which is a good movie, but not that funny.  Cammy seems to believe that the scene where one of the guys shoots a kangaroo is hysterical.  I… didn’t think it was that funny.)  (Side note:  Like Cammy my friend J felt very guilty for recommending a movie we didn’t find that funny.  I told him the Australia story to make him feel better.  His response:  “Yeah, but isn’t Hugh Jackman really hot in that movie?”  It should be noted that yes, Hugh Jackman is extremely hot.  Just about all the time.)

Anyway, I had never heard of Driving Lessons before.  My friend M had and she said that she remembered it being advertised with “Rupert Grint can play someone other than Ron!”  The trouble is… Rupert Grint doesn’t really do a whole lot during this film.  Yes, the whole movie is about him, but he’s really a mostly blank canvas who has crazy things going on around him.  He sort of reacts to some of them, but not all that much, really.  This isn’t a criticism—he’s clearly written and directed to be that way.  It’s just not something that convinces me of his amazing acting skills.

I was drawn to the movie because part of the plot revolves around Grint’s character Ben dealing with an evangelical mother.  Having taught at an evangelical school for a year, I tend to enjoy things that make fun of evangelicals (humor often stems from recognition).  There are some funny parts related to that, but if this movie is any indication, British evangelicals are different than American ones.  Much tamer by comparison.  Having seen the genuine American article, it’s hard to be properly put off by their mild counterparts across the pond.

Over all, the movie is fairly British.  And while I know enough to understand the context, it doesn’t necessarily resonate.  Sometimes as an American it’s just hard to be shocked by behavior that the Brits consider outlandish.  The style of humor is something I associate more with British films—more The Office style than Monty Python.  A lot of it’s built completely on awkwardness.  And it’s a little grittier than American humor tends to be—it’s hard to describe, but you probably know what I’m talking about.  Even the funny moments have a little more an edge to them.

There are some things I loved about the movie.  For one thing, I appreciate that the Brits know how to use subtlety and that they trust their audience enough to believe they can draw conclusions on their own.  No one ever tells the viewers that Ben’s mum is a hypocrite, but we all figure it out.  No one ever sits down and explains to us that his parents’ marriage is falling apart, but we can tell early on.  Molly Weasley (yes, that’s what we’re calling her because as I write this I have no internet and no way to look up the actress’s name) is hysterical and endearing at the same time as has been actress Eve Walton.  She actually reminds me strangely of my grandmother (the good one).

Over all, it’s a solid film.  Just not one I recommend if your goal is to turn off your brain and veg.

Rating:  Three jars of peanut butter.

WTF Drivers?!?!?!?!


The following entry features gratuitous swearing, cursing and foul language in general.  If you are offended by this, please stop reading.
What.  The.  Fuck.
I’m on travel (again) and my early morning flight combined with the fact that I’d left a document in my office had me on the road at o-dark-thirty.  I’ve been out and about at this hour before, but I’ll grant you, it’s not my regular commute time.  And if this morning was any example, I’m thanking baby-Jesus that I’m not out at this hour more often.  The drivers this morning were total fucking assholes.  Of the highest order (or lowest, depending on how you quantify this).  More than this, they were dangerous assholes, which piss me off more than anything.
I had not one, but TWO cars pass me, in a no passing lane on a narrow road that was under construction winding and poorly lit.  I was already speeding, but apparently not enough for these arrogant sons of bitches.  Of course they high-beamed me and road my bumper before they did it.  I was scared shitless with one of them riding right there (remember, I’ve been rear-ended recently), so I tapped the break.  I think this pissed him off because that’s when he high-beamed me.  Now, understand, this road has a 55 mph speed limit on a regular day.  In broad daylight, under perfect circumstances, I can do this stretch at about 60, except for one curve where there’s a crazy intersection and you never know when you’ll pop up on someone stopped and waiting to make a left.  But in the dead of night with uneven pavement, minimal markings, traffic cones and a posted speed limit of 45?  Yeah, sorry I’m only doing 50, but I kinda like my life.  The first one came early on and it was a beater.  The second one was a BMW.  I high-beamed the Beamer when he whipped back in front of me.  And I think he might have been a bit worried when I followed him right onto the secure facility where we both apparently work.
So, I grab what I need, recover and head on my merry way to the airport.  As I’m passing through one little down where again, the speed limit is 40, I’m doing about 48 because it’s early and so few folks are out.  Once again, a car starts riding my ass.  Oh for the love of shit.  So I bump it up to 50 to put a little more space, which he quickly absorbs.  I know better than to go faster because around a curve is a stoplight which is always red when I come through.  Always.  And of course, my friend the ass-leech waits until the outside lane has not just turned to a right-turn-only lane, but it’s actually mostly disappeared and the pavement is tapering off to pass me on the right.  I had to swerve into the left turn lane to avoid having my fender taken off.  And then the fuck-tard had the nerve to shoot ME the bird as the zoomed past.  Look, asshat, I’m not the one who needs remedial driver’s education, basic physics, and some kindergarten level training on behavior and respect.
Did I mention that this one was another Beamer?
And that stop light around the curve?  Yeah.  It was red.  Again.  He totally had to slam on his breaks and was immediately in front of me.  I’m not sure he could see me in his rearview mirror, but I totally pointed and laughed.  That made me feel a little better.  Not as much as a loaded RPG-7 mounted on the top of my compact car and aimed at his over-priced kraut-wagon, but I take what I can get.
Oh, but wait.  The driving portion of humanity was in fine form today and there’s MORE!
So, we’re on another divided highway.  I hate this stretch because the speed limit is 55, but it’s wide open and with long stretches between traffic lights (all of which you can see easily to slow down for).  My instinct is to go 70, but they do have cops lurking, so I have to reign in.  At 65, I’m usually fast enough to match the majority of the traffic, with those one or two speed demons to scrape up the cops.
But this morning, there was construction on this stretch (apparently they decided to repair every road in this state AT THE SAME TIME).  The two lanes were down to one, with the right lane occupied by a huge truck lit up with all kinds of lights and a few guys working around it.  I figured, for this, I ought to at least slow down to the actual speed limit.  So I did.  And as I did, two more vehicles came screaming up behind me.  These would be the speed demons who do 70 and catch the cops.
With the construction in the right lane, I couldn’t very well whip over.  So I gassed it a little more, and put my blinker on, to let the hemorrhoids know I was going to clear out ASAP.  Except I wasn’t fast enough for them (or they ignored my blinker–maybe they were from Illinois/Indiana and didn’t know what the flashing light meant).  As soon as I cleared the construction equipment, I started to move over.  Thank god I check my mirrors because hemorrhoid #1 squeezed through in behind me to scream past on the right.  I jerked back into the left lane.  Blinker still on, I started moving again, and Holy Shit, there was a damned Dodge pick up doing the same mother-fucking thing.  WTF?  I still had the blinker on.  Anyone except a God-damned blind man could see I was moving over!  Why the SHIT would you do that?  This is the mid-west where even Kristy has noticed, we really do drive in the right lane and use the left for passing.
I finally made it to the airport, and here I sit, pissed at humanity and struggling to figure out where the fuck people get off thinking they’re God-damn invincible in a fucking car.  Ignorant, arrogant jack-asses.  Even if you don’t kill or maim someone, do you know how much of a time-waste and total piss off it is for someone to have to have a vehicle repaired?  And I think I need a big honking sticker proclaiming the fact that I’m an attorney.  Maybe that would dissaude a few of them.  Yeah, I’m not licensed in this state, but I’m free to represent myself and it’s not going to cost me a dime to do it.  And since I know I’m following the rules of the road, I’m going to have a slam-dunk case against the lawyer you’re going to have to pay $200/hour.  And yes, I WILL sue for attorneys fees.
And my rate is $275/hour.

An Open Letter to the Drivers of Indiana

Okay, I know we already alluded to this when Cammy wrote her eloquent message to Illinois drivers, but seriously, TURN SIGNALS! No really.  They’re really freaking useful.  They let the drivers behind you know that very shortly you will be slowing down and blocking traffic.  They let the drivers across from you know that you will be cutting in front of them.  They let drivers who are trying to turn onto the road you are traversing know that you will be setting up a screen to allow them to do so.  See how useful?  Given their extreme usefulness and Hoosiers’ noted practicality, I can only assume your refusal to use them is on moral grounds.  So I borrowed a colleague’s God Phone (I don’t have a God Phone of my own) and asked; Jesus says he’s not that eager to see you in person, so he thinks you should start using your turn signals.

Now, while we’re on the subject of turns, let’s talk about turn lanes.  Turn Lanes are the name for those lanes which magically appear at certain intersections to accommodate large amounts of turning traffic.  It’s understandable you would be confused since no one uses their turn signals around here so you can’t tell why they pull into that lane.  It’s a little complicated around here since many intersections have a right hand turn lane or a left hand turn lane, but not both.  Never fear!  Generally speaking the lanes are marked with helpful arrows telling you which lane goes which way.  What turn lanes are not designed for is so that you can dodge around the car in front of you which is blocking traffic because it’s turning (though you probably don’t have a clue what that car is doing since it’s doubtful the driver has activated his turn signal.)  Now, it’s true, everyone does this from time to time.  You’re zipping along at 40mph on a not-that-busy street and suddenly the car in front of you stops to turn, so you dodge around him so you can continue on you merry way.  But lately I have noticed that a frightening number of you pull into these lanes at stoplights, assuming that someone already stopped at the light is turning.  This creates a dangerous traffic jam when no one does turn and suddenly two lanes of traffic are attempting to compress into one in the middle of an intersection.  Stop this.

Speaking of intersections, it’s high time that someone explains to you the difference between stop signs and stop lights.  At a stop sign you stop and proceed with caution.  At a stop light you stop and wait until the light turns green (unless you’re turning right and there’s no sign saying you can’t.  If you are turning right, use a turn signal.)  It seriously disturbs me how often I see one of you stop at a stoplight, then arbitrarily decide to go long before the light turns green.  I’m not talking about jumping the green light a little early—that’s kind of annoying, but I’d it go.  No, you all just seem to go when you’re ready.  No matter what color the light is.  You can’t do that!  It’s illegal and dangerous.  Stop it!

And on a final note, which may seem strange in light of my tone thus far:  Calm down!  Seriously, I have seen more road range in this little college town in a year than I saw in the five years I lived in the greater Washington, DC metro area.  You know, DC, the city which was not so long ago the murder capital of the United States.  You all are more violent behind the wheel than they are.  Think about that for a minute.  Then take several deep cleansing breaths and proceed with caution.  Using your turn signal when applicable.

Hugs and kisses!


PS.  Bicyclists, you’re getting your own letter.  Because you don’t just make me angry, you terrify me.

Time Vampire Begins With A Screeching Halt

Today’s Time Vampire is just started sucking away my precious hours in the worst way possible:  with a car wreck.

Yup, I got rear-ended today.  The first automobile accident I’ve experienced since I was 3 and someone hit my Mom’s car.

So we start this draining of my minutes with the initial impact.  From movement to stopping.  From progressing to home to sitting on the side of the street, not moving.  Minutes tick.

Phone calls, a bawling teenager, police, sweltering while the cop interviews everyone, and writes everything down.  All told I got home an hour later than I should have.

But that’s just the beginning.  Now comes more phone calls.  Insurance companies.  Auto repair shops.  The call line for the police report. Sllllllluuuurrrrpppp.  Time disappears.

Then come visits to the auto repair shop.  Gathering estimates.  More phone calls.  Then I actually have to get the car in for the repair.  Gurgle gurgle.  A few more hours down the drain.

And let’s be realistic, there will be even more phone calling to get the payment settled.  And more time gone.

So the split second of impact?  Just grew into one massive, hungry time vamp that is going to deprive me of way more time than I ever wanted to waste on this crap.

Dear Drivers….Kansas

Dear Kansas Drivers,

I could berate you for any number of driving violations which you drag across the border, but I identified the worst of the worst over the weekend while I drove to and from your state capitol.

What is WITH the flinging of the cigarette butts out of the car window while driving?  Honestly!

First, memo to you, smoking?  Not healthy.  I’m not going to begrudge you your right to choose to do it, but I figure I ought to remind you that you’re probably not extending your life expectancy.  In case you missed all the warnings before.

Second: ew.  It’s nasty.  You had that in your mouth.  And it’s got all kinds of toxic shit in it.  And you’re gonna go flinging it out so it hits MY windshield?  Gross.  And then when it bounces off my windshield, it lands on the side of the road.  And we all know those things don’t break down very fast.   So, you just added litter to the ground.  Nasty, contaminated litter.  I know sharing is caring, but this is a big fat exception to that.

They’re called ash-trays.  Most cars have them.  In fact, all cars I’ve ever been in.  Now, I’ll grant you, mine is chock full of spare change waiting to be transferred into a larger jar which will be used to fund a major multimedia empire, but you’re not in my car (and if you are, you won’t be smoking, even if you roll down the window), but in your car?  You can totally use that ash tray and stuff that cigarette butt right on down in there.

I’ve driven back and forth over your state in multiple directions and I keep getting smacked in the windshield with these things.  It’s more than just a coincidence.  And what’s worse, is that you do it over here on the Missouri side.  Really?  It’s bad enough that you have this nasty habit at all, now how about you at least keep it on your side?



Another Return

This will probably be a dull post, but….I’ve returned home from travel yet again.  The visit to help Kristy celebrate the big 3-0 was successful and entertaining (at least I thought so).  Unfortunately the lure of a paycheck caused me to hit the road today.  Well, the paycheck and the realization that I had a cat who was undoubtedly missing me (or at least missing a lap to sit on).

But, even if it sucks to end the fun, it’s always nice to get home especially when the journey in between has been a long drive.  Even after a short visit, I come back to a tomato plant that has apparently decided to take over the entire flower bed, a bunch of peppers that weren’t there when I left, and an eggplant that will be ready to pluck in a few days (plus others which look to be on the way).

Of course, I also came home to laundry had to finish, and a cat that literally bitched me out before I even got in the door (I could hear her inside).  Oh, and the knowledge that the bill-paying-job starts up again tomorrow.

But I won’t dwell on that.  For now, the cat is done bitching and has curled up next to me contentedly, the garden will be dealt with tomorrow and I’m back in my cozy chair after having had an oddly pleasant cross country drive back from a fantastic weekend with an old friend, eating, drinking and generally being merry.  Oh, and I’ve put Rio Grande in the DVD player.

I’ve got the warm and fuzzies and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Maybe it doesn’t make for an entertaining post, but the pleasant-yet-un-exciting really ought to be worth a mention just as much as the annoyances, right?

Dear Drivers….Illinois and Indiana

Once again, in an effort to prevent my frustration at fellow drivers from turning into physical violence, I feel the need to indulge in another therapeutic epistle to relieve the pressure caused by the regional failings encountered on my drive here.

Dear Illinois and Indiana,

I do not know, but strongly suspect that this is mostly Illinois’s fault and Indiana has just fallen under the influence due to close proximity.

The problem is the blinker.

See you two, they actually come standard on all models of vehicle.  Even those tiny little numbers that look they’re hamster-operated.  All of them.  The controls are located on the steering column.  And they serve a purpose.

No, I’m not shitting.  They aren’t just decorative.

You know how sometimes you’re not sure what the other cars are the road are thinking?  That douche who is straddling the line on the freeway and may or may not be changing lanes?  The blinker?  It’s designed to help that douche tell you what he’s doing.  Similarly YOU can tell the douche (and all the other non-douches) that you are about to move over into the fast lane and pass the entire lot of them.

It’s actually kind of awesome.  You don’t have to read their minds, they don’t have to read yours, and your side of the story when some moron jumps the right of way and hits you?  Totally gets better because you told him you were turning.

I bring this to the attention of you two in particular because in my multiple trips across your states, I’ve found a sad lack of blinker usage.  In fact, I have driven across Illinois 3 consecutive times without seeing a blinker used (this is why I’m pretty sure you’re the bad influence on Indiana not vice versa).

So break out the owner’s manuals and learn to communicate.  No one likes poor communicators.



Dear Drivers….Missouri

I’ve got significant driving hours clocked in a non-negligible number of states.  Each state comes with its own driving… personality.  And by personality, I mean annoying driving habit that makes you wish you had an anti-tank weapon mounted on the roof of your car with fire control in place of cruise control.

So, in an effort to diffuse my violent reaction, it’s time for a little therapeutic letter writing:

Dear Missouri Drivers,

Right.  Hand.  Turns.  Of all the aspects of driving you manage not to grasp, the right-hand turn is it?  I get how left-hand turns are intimidating–oncoming traffic can be scary.  Being smacked by a semi broad-side is a legitimate fear.  Popping U-ies, also frightening–especially if you’re unsure whether they’re legal in the area and a cop might pop out.  But right-hand turns?

I can almost forgive your complete inability to make use of a full-sized shoulder to make a right turn.  It would be wonderful if you’d figure out how to move into that shoulder when you’re going to turn, so that the rest of traffic could keep going without having to slow down to the 2.5mph you deem necessary to proper right-hand turn execution.  Maybe there’s somewhere in the Missouri driving code that tells you not to pull into the shoulder to make that turn (I mean, I know you can’t just drive in the shoulder).  I’m willing to give you this one.

But I cannot and will not forgive your consistent ignoring and miss-use of a painted, dedicated right hand turn lane.  This is not complicated, Missourians!  Notice how the white line demarcating the shoulder gives way to a dotted line on the right?  And how there’s a big, honkin’ arrow painted on the pavement and pointing to the right?  Look.  It’s RIGHT THERE.  Looks just like a left hand turn lane (which I have never seen you have any trouble using properly), except it’s going RIGHT.  Yeah.  You’re supposed to pull your car into that when you’re going to turn right.  See, when you do that, you can slow down to that 2.5mph without pissing off the car behind you (namely the car behind you that I’m driving–you’ll know me if you look in the rear-view mirror, I’m the girl death-gripping the wheel, shaking it violently while appearing to scream streams of obscenities).

But no.  Apparently y’all believe it’s okay to make that right turn from the regular lane, like those lines on the pavement are just decoration.  And if you do decide to use it, get the ass of your car all the way in.  It does me no good if your bumper’s blocking half my lane–I still have to slow down to your snail’s pace.

I hate to be harsh Missouri, and believe me, I’ve got words for plenty of other states, too, but this is the driving equivalent of being the kid in the back of the room eating paste.  It’s kind of embarrassing.  I mean, people come to visit from out of state and they’re like “Damn, are these Missouri people all mentally deficient?  Why can’t they make a decent right-hand turn?”

Do you really want to be known that way?  Honestly.  Set up some cones in the high school parking lot on Sunday and start practicing.



BSG List: Yes, But How Do They Roll?

What kind of drivers are they?

Adama:  A good driver.  He might speed  and take some fast corners, but over all a smooth ride.

Roslin:  Somewhat spacey and prone to really bad road rage

Billy:  Cautious driver, doesn’t parallel park.  Protective of that Golf he just upgraded to.

Gaius:  Gaius doesn’t drive.  He lets others do that for him.

Six:  Likes speeding with the top down.  Doesn’t pump her own gas (though she can)

Doctor:  Drives a big old Caddy that’s trashed inside.  Drives kinda like a grandpa

Dee:  Sings to the music.  Pretty easygoing and speeds occasionally.  Parks badly.

Apollo:  Drives a nice car but drives it like your grandma

Starbuck:  Very in control.  She has skills and she knows it and will consequently use them to mess with her passenger’s heads

Tyrol:  Sloppy driver.  Criticizes the road layout.

Callie:  She rides the bus.  She’s saving money after all.

Helo:  Likes to off road.  He has a dune buggy somewhere.

Sharon:  Drives somewhat recklessly but can talk and flirt her way out of a ticket

Gaeta:  Drives a pinto while playing Weird Al.  Has lots of bumper stickers.

Tigh:  Makes his own traffic laws!  Especially since his license was suspended for DWI’s

Ellen:  Very bad driver.  With a wedding-cake white Escalade.

Tori:  Overly cautious.  Not able to flirt her way out of tickets, but would like too.  Has gotten her share of tickets (hence the cautiousness)

Anders:  Red light?  What red light?  I thought those cops were my escort!

Leoben:  He’s that calculated fast driving weaver on the highway that you hate.  But he’s good at it.