The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for May, 2010

Roads Make No Sense

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Talked to Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director, a little while ago and neither one of us get a few things about the roads there.

Somebody’s been screwing around with the names since I lived there quite a while ago. Didn’t Beach Drive go all the way through Annapolis and to the light at Westbay Center? Now Bay Street goes through downtown, takes a left at that intersection and continues all the way to Olney Street. That’s where Beach Drive starts now.

And didn’t Mile Hill Drive go all the way down the hill to that same intersection. Now it’s Bethel Avenue. What’s the difference between Bethel Avenue and Bethel Road? Why can’t it be one or the other?


Commute Count: May 18

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Took a roundabout way of getting here today so I could check out a few things. I see they did some paving at the Harper park-and-ride lot and painted the bus stop, but it’s not open yet. They’re getting ready to start widening Southworth Drive next week. There are stakes out in the bay on one side and up in people’s yards on the other.

Figured what the heck, I’m already late anyway, and took the scenic route along the water. Been a while since I was in the old stomping ground. Old Stomping Ground. Where did that term come from? It has something to do with frisky prairie chickens stomping the ground bare in their mating routines. I read it on the Internet.

So I wound up in Annapolis and accidentally found out Beach Drive was closed there, for seawall work. I’m working on stories about all three projects and hope to have them to you soon.

Am I the only one who didn’t know about the camels out by Manchester State Park. I was all pumped to tell the folks at work about them, but most everyone had already knew. There’s a one-humper and a two-humper. They’re huge and hairy. A nice lady came out in her John Deere rig to bring them some hay and hollered “Good morning” to me. I took a few pics with my cell phone, but they showed up as specs.

Was heading home early the other day. Head was aching so bad I felt like I was going to puke. So guess what happens. I stop dead in my tracks on the Mullenix overpass. Come to find out about 15 minutes later there’s a car fire closing the right lane. It was out by the time I got there. First off, how does a car catch on fire? And when it does, why doesn’t the gas explode and blow it to smithereens?


Bay Area Passenger Ferry Biz Going Nuts

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

A low-emission ferry that will shuttle passengers between Oakland, San Francisco and the Peninsula was christened Monday, according to a story on CBS today.

The Taurus will immediately provide service between Oakland and San Francisco and in the fall of 2011 it will also provide service between Oakland and a new terminal in South San Francisco, according to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

The Taurus is the agency’s fourth new passenger vessel. The boats are the initial investments in a regional ferry system with plans to add up to seven new routes that are expected to triple ridership.

The Taurus is a 199-passenger, double-hulled catamaran that the water authority says runs 85 percent cleaner than current Environmental Protection Agency standards for marine engines in its class.


The Next Ferry Will Be Named …

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I don’t know.

But I do have the seven possibilities. The Washington State Transportation Commission, which is responsible for naming transportion things, will touch on the names at its meeting next week, but won’t pick one until July.

The first kwa-di-Tabil-class ferry has been named the Chetzemoka. Now the commission will choose the name of the second boat, and maybe even the third.

Here are the seven proposals that met the criteria, copied and pasted directly from the commission’s Web site:

Salish, from the San Juan County Council. It refers to the Coast Salish people and is the new name of the inland sea that includes Puget Sound.

Proposed Name #1: Al-ki

Meaning/ Significance: Al-ki is the Washington State Motto meaning “By and By

Proposed Name #2: Kulshan

Meaning/ Significance: Kulshan is a name given to Mount Baker by indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, meaning “White sentinel” (ie: “mountain”)

Proposed Name #3: Lushoot

Meaning/ Significance: Lushoot, short for Lushoot-seed, is a member of the Salish language family, whose approximately 20 surviving languages are spoken from northern Oregon to central British Columbia, and from the Pacific coast eastward into Montana and along the British Columbia-Alberta border.


Proposed Name: “Tokitae”

Lead/ Sponsoring Entities: The Orca Network

Meaning/ Significance: “Tokitae” is a Coast Salish greeting meaning “Nice day, pretty colors”, and is also the name given to an orca captured at Penn Cove, near Keystone, in 1970. Tokitae was brought to a marine park in Miami 40 years ago, where she was put into service as an entertainer, and named Lolita. She is the last survivor of the 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in WA state during the capture era of the 1960s and 70s. Such captures were later banned in Washington State waters in 1976.


Proposed Name: “Kennewick”

Lead/ Sponsoring Entities: City of Kennewick

Meaning/ Significance: Kennewick has several native meanings: “winter paradise”, “winter haven,” “grassy place” and “grassy slope.” The name Kennewick comes from the Indian name Kin-i-wak. Kennewick was the gathering place for Native American peoples of the Chemnapums, Nez Perces, Walla Wallas, Yakamas, Cayuses, Wanapams, and Umatillas. Kennewick, located along the banks of the Columbia River, has been a major transportation artery since 1811, when fur traders began exploring the northwest. By the 1860s steam-driven riverboats ferried men and their freight up the Columbia.


Proposed Name: “Cowlitz”

Lead/ Sponsoring Entities: Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Meaning/ Significance: The Cowlitz tribe provided key assistance with pioneer transportation and commercial activities in what some historians refer to as the Cowlitz Corridor which linked the Columbia River valley with South Puget Sound communities long before Washington Territory was established. The Washington Territorial Legislature honored the tribe by naming one of our earliest counties for them. This county includes a broad flood plain located at the mouth of the Cowlitz River at the Columbia River that was a swamp in pre-European settlement days which some authorities believe was the source for the meaning of the name Cowlitz, which is “capturing medicine spirit.”

For me, Tokitae is by far the best. For one, I just like saying it. Like Chetzemoka. Plus I was around when they were catching all those orcas. I remember cruising past the cove on Beach Drive where Namu was.


Commute Count: May 10

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Kid left the windows down overnight. Can hardly blame him. I sure didn’t expect it to rain. So my butt is went from the drive in. It must’ve rained a lot. The door handles were full of water. Still are, for that matter.

A silver, unmarked cop car pulled alongside of me, waking me out of a daydream. I kept an eye on him for a few blocks, then spaced out again and started to leave him in the dust. Oops. Back down to 25 mph on Burwell. Do you know how hard it is to do 25 mph on Burwell? OK, maybe 30 mph.

No incidents. I’m sure they have better things to do than pull me over for going 35 in a 25. I hope.

Saw a big hawk preening on a light pole, the Canadian goose family waiting for the tide to come in so it could go for a swim at the Gorst log pond, and two stark white seagulls sharing the top of a piling. It looked like they were on a date.


Somebody Else Gets To Pay Tolls

Monday, May 10th, 2010

A big chunk of the monthly two-day Washington State Transportation Commission meeting next week will take up tolling on the Highway 520 floating bridge. They’ll talk about that from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. I got a tweet this morning from DOT saying tolling would start there next spring. I’m kind of feeling sorry for those Eastsiders. Yeah, right. In fact, they should have to pay for the whole thing like we’re doing for the Narrows Bridge instead of getting millions from the state. Bitter? I guess you could say that.

Also at the meeting, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday, will be a discussion of ferry name proposals at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. I have a call in to see if there are any names we haven’t heard about. Will let you know when I hear back. Also at 4:30, they’ll take action on whether to name Highway 110 near Forks the “Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial Highway.” Wonder who came up with that idea, and why there?

On Thursday at 3 p.m., they’ll talk about the the ferry fare increase that will happen in October. They’re in October now, not May. The press release says “By statute, the Commission is required to set ferry fares to cover those operating costs of the ferry system not provided for in the transportation budget.” I wonder if that’s some kind of warning. The directive from the Legislature, from what I’ve gathered, is an annual 2.5 percent increase. One went into effect last October, the first fare increase since May 2007.

The public comment period is 4:20 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting is at DOT headquarters, 310 Male Park Ave.


Commute Count: May 7

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Right off the bat, some jerk in a souped-up Civic with a big spoiler passes the guy in front of me on my little country road. Just so he could hit the skids behind a line of cars and then stop at a red light. Might be the first time I’ve seen somebody pass there in 25 years.

Speaking of souped-up Hondas, aren’t they the last cars you would’ve thought kids would be attracted to? It makes some sense, I guess. They’re reliable and good on gas. But when did high school kids ever make sense? Not when I was there.

So now we have all these kids buzzing around in lowered Civics, Preludes and even Accords with goofy-sounding mufflers. That’s exactly why my kid doesn’t want a Honda, because everybody else has one, plus our family has owned nothing but Hondas his whole life. Still, he loves driving my Accord. It’s a 5-speed he can treat like a racecar.

So he got his license last week and has been on Craigslist for months scoping out his first car. I don’t know why he needs one. We’ve got this wonderful 1988 Ford pickup sitting in the driveway. Went out and cleaned off the green layer that had grown during the winter. Now it’s a nice, shiny black, except where there paint is worn off. There are still some little seedlings growing in the cracks, but they’ll die when the weather heats up. One of the speakers and one of the windows even work.

The first car I bought was a 1966 GTO in 1972. My folks co-signed for the $1,400 loan. Don’t tell him that. It was the greatest car ever. Had a 389 in it. Could hit 100 down Berry Lake Road. Don’t tell him that, either. Got rid of it because of the 1973 oil crisis. Gas prices rocketed from 39 cents a gallon to 55 cents, and we had to wait in long lines to get it. One of the dumbest things I ever did was get rid of that car. Could get another one now if I had $40,000 or so.

My kid hopes to save up about $3,000 by the end of summer. He was really depressed this morning, though, because he turned in a bunch of applications two weeks ago and still doesn’t have a job. Teenagers live in their own little worlds. Well, if he does get a job and save $3,000, I’d be pretty proud of him, and he should probably be able to find a halfway decent car. My GTO, by the way, if adjusted for inflation, would cost $7,000 today instead of $1,400.

He’s actually been semi-reasonable in his wants, like a Mazda3 or Nissan Altima. Then there are ones I’m less excited about, like Mitsubishi Eclipse and former police Crown Victoria Interceptors. He actually said he’d give me a thousand bucks for my old Accord. That might be the best way to go, though I’m sure he’ll have second thoughts. Then I’ll have to go out and find a midlife crisis car.

We really need some help here. Got any suggestions?


Commute Count: May 6

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Sightings are getting scarcer and scarcer. Did see a cute squirrel, belly up in the middle of the road, pretty orange belly and legs sticking straight up. Another one that zigged when he should’ve zagged. I know from our squirrel reporting a couple years ago that a lot of you think they’re just cute rats, but at least they haven’t gotten into everything at my place like the racoons. I used to think raccoons were cute, too.

When I was a kid we lived in the middle of some woods and would climb trees chasing squirrels. You had to get them in an isolated tree because they could jump from one to another. We’d chase then out to the end of a branch and then shake it until they fell. Somebody would be on the ground waiting to catch them in a gunnysack. We’d put them in a hamster cage and keep them for pets. But the next morning they’d always be gone. Mom!!! She never said anything, but I don’t think she liked wild animals as pets. The fun was more in the chase anyway.

Did see the Goose family again, swimming in the Gorst log pond. Mom, Dad and three or four little ones. The kids are growing up fast.

I’ve never eaten goose, but know some people do, like on holidays. Do they eat Canada geese? Can you hunt them? It wouldn’t be much sport. You could go down to the railroad tracks and plunk a bunch of them in no time. Somebody told me they taste like mud.

Speaking of tasting like mud, my grandma and grandpa had a place in Purdy on the creek. He was a a mad scientist kind of guy. Built a 10-foot wooden waterwheel for electricity along the creek. I don’t know if it ever worked, but it was pretty cool. He also dug a big pond and put a post in the middle of it. From the post ran a cable or rope to a row boat. Somehow it was powered, maybe from the waterwheel, and you could get in the boat and go around in circles.

He’d haul salmon out of the creek and put them in the pond. They’d get huge. We’d throw our leftover pancakes to them and it’d be like sharks on blood, thrashing about. But they were gross to eat. Tasted like mud.


More From Bainbridge Ferries

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Didn’t have room in the hard copy story to get these notes in from Tuesday night’s ferry meeting in Winslow.

Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley said the agency’s major goal for the 2011 legislative session is to get funds for two 144-car ferries.

There was quite a bit of talk from the 15 folks who showed up about loading and unloading. One woman complained about bikes getting off first and slowing everybody else down. A guy said it’s because the motorcycles move up front and crowd out the bikes so they can only depart a couple at a time instead of like the Normandy Invasion. He suggested painting lines to keep the motorcyclists from crowding in.

If the boats get behind schedule, the drivers aren’t allowed to turn left on Alaskan Way because it makes unloading take longer, Moseley said. They hate having to turn right and then having to pull a U-turn or go all the way to King Street to spin around the right direction. That’s where getting the boat unloaded quicker comes in.

The same lady who wanted the bikes put in back griped about the boat’s two-minute rule. They stop loading two minutes before they’re scheduled to take off, even if they’re not full and cars are waiting. Moseley said they can’t delay because there are transit connections to make, especially someplace like Edmonds. I was thinking if she’d just leave a couple minutes earlier she wouldn’t have a problem. Another guy suggested printing the 2-minute warning time instead of the departure time on the schedules. That’s not a bad idea.

WSF won’t be buying ads in Sunset magazine, but it will do some marketing to try to get its ridership numbers back up. The plan is to help us locals get more visitors to come to our events. The ferries systems will work with chambers of commerce to publicize things, primarily on social media. It got $1 million for the biennium to put something together.


Commute Count: May 5

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Got kind of busy all of a sudden. The last time I was here it was still April.

Haven’t missed anything spectacular, though. The last two mornings I’ve followed tractor-trailer rigs that can’t stay off the rumble strips. I don’t know what their deal was. Maybe they were asleep. That’ll wake you up in a hurry, but they kept drifting back to them.

Notice how the mornings have been so nice and then the weather just breaks down in the afternoon. A guy on the radio described it as “unstable,” which is perfect. Speaking of unstable weather, how’d you like that little windstorm we had the other day. Didn’t end up being that bad, but the roads were pretty green with fir branches.

Reminds me of the big storm we had a few years back. I was on my way home from work when the worst of it hit. Got almost to Sedgwick Road when I came to a big tree down across the Tacoma-bound lanes. Never seen that before. Somebody cleared it pretty fast, though. Couldn’t even see who. Called the wife and kid while I was waiting. They were at home, fine, with power.

So it’s pretty dark when I get going again. Follow incredible lightning flashing every few seconds, all the way to Gig Harbor. Turned on to my little country road and it was carnage. Pitch black except for the lightning. Wove around fallen trees for about a mile, under an angled one and the power line it knocked most of the way down. Got within a few feet of my driveway and there’s a tree all the way across the road. Have to turn around, go back under the power line and tree.

Family hasn’t answered the phone for awhile. I’m thinking they must be crushed by a tree. The longer it takes me to get to them, the more worried I get. Have to go around the back way to try to get home. It’s four times as far, and through a  gorgeous trust-land forest that tunnels over the road, so I figure it’s only going to be worse than the other way.

Remarkably, I make it, 4-wheeling my Accord over branches and around trees. Get to my house. It’s black. Not a peep. Struggle in the blackness to unlock the door. Feel my way to the hall bathroom where the flashlights are. Somehow get turned around and don’t know where I am. I’ve lived here 20 years. Hollering at my wife and kid the whole while. Get my bearings back and find the bedroom door. I think I hear something. Snoring. Point the flashlight at them, totally oblivious there’s a storm and the power’s out.