Category Archives: Commute Count

Commute Count: July 14

There hasn’t been much new happening on the ol’ drive into work, but I saw something cool today. Near the Sedgwick interchange, there was a hawk flying with a snake dangling from its talons and another hawk trying to take it away from him in mid-air.

Then, after I got through Gorst, two herons flew right over the top of me, like they were in formation. Those are some pretty neat birds. They remind me of dinosaurs for some reason.

One annoying thing about the commute is my radio statics out through Gorst and again on Warren Avenue. Can’t understand a word they’re saying. I think it’s all the wires in those areas. I have the same problem when I cover something at Bangor, where there are no wires. I always imagine that they’re jamming my signals.

Commute Count: May 18

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?

Commute Count: May 10

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.

Commute Count: May 7

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

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.

Commute Count: May 5

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.

Commute Count: April 28

Had to take the kid to the orthodontist so came in late this morning. Was a totally uneventful drive until I hit the Sedgwick Road interchange, where traffic was stopped. DOT is replacing smashed guardrails on the top of the hill going down into Gorst. With good reason. Those things have taken a beating. So have those green slats on top of the jersey barriers that screen your vision. I heard it was that nut who crashed his nitro-powered Mustang in a high-speed chase, but he couldn’t have done all this damage by himself, on both sides of the highway.

The traffic jam looked worse than it was. Once the cars merged in from Sedgwick, DOT narrowed the highway down to one lane and then you had to deal with the Tremont folks. At that point, even though it was still a long ways from the work, it was smooth sailing.

I wonder if you’d have to change those guardrails so often if you made them out of rubber. You hit them and they spring back into place. And the car bounces back into the road. That might not be a good thing.

In these merging situations, do you think you should move over as soon as the signs say a lane is closed ahead, or go as far as you can before merging in. I get over right away and stew because everybody’s going past me. One cool thing today, though. I let a guy merge in front of me and he flashed me a peace sign. Hadn’t seen one of those for awhile.

By the way. The eagles are back. There were a bunch of them hanging out in the mudflats today.

Commute Count: Tuesday

Motorcycle-cop speed trap on 16 between Burley-Olalla and Mullenix. Looked liked they had plenty of business. Another trooper in the median at Gorst. Two ambulances with emergency lights, one going each direction. No wrecks. No baristas.

Wildlife has been pretty scarce. One Canada goose. One hawk soaring, not sitting on a light pole. I like to brag about seeing a bald eagle every day on my way to work. Hasn’t been one in a week. Where’d they  go? This paucity of animals has forced me to  notice plants. Like why do Himalayan blackberries and Scotch broom, which aren’t even supposed to be here, outgrow everything else? We need to find some way to pit them against each other in some sort of invading plant showdown. Who do you think would win? I’d put my money on the blackberries. They can really slice you up. Scotch broom can’t hurt you much if you don’t have allergies. If the prisons wanted to go green, they could grow a 20-foot swatch of those blackberries around the joints. There’s no way you can get through that stuff.

Commute Count: Monday

There was three times as much to see than a normal day. I got all the way to work, opened the car door, grabbed for my laptop and it wasn’t there. Just friggin’ great. So I go all the way back home to find the garbage can knocked over and junk all over the place, grab the computer and drive back to work. An hour and a half of driving to kick off the week.

I had put my computer where I couldn’t miss it. It was leaning half on the door and half on the door frame. I missed it. I’ve forgotten it before but never gotten all the way into work. Unfortunately, I can’t blame anybody but myself. Wait, maybe the dog. As I went out the door she had to go outside, too. I bet she blocked my view. And if she’s the one that got into the garbage, she’s really going to get it. No sleeping on the bed for at least a night.

With all the driving back and forth, didn’t see too much. There was one cop who had somebody pulled over and his lights going. No wrecks. One real jerk of a driver. I was going between 60 and 65 and these two vans go past me in the left lane. Not flying, but maybe 70 or more. A blue-green van was about half a car length behind a maroon van and wouldn’t get off his butt. Had to keep stepping on his brakes so he didn’t hit him. I don’t know what his problem was. Don’t know if the guy in the maroon car was staying in front of him in spite, or just because he couldn’t get over. There were lots of cars in the slow lane. What’s the point of that?

It love the rare occasion when I catch up with people like that and the cops have them pulled over. I just honk and wave.

Commute Count: Friday

One dead squirrel. Shoulda zigged instead of zagged. Barry Sanders had his problems with that too. He’d get nailed behind the line three or four times in a row, then boom, he’d break one into the open and make defenders look silly grabbing at air.

Also one dead possum. 1 cool kingfisher. Alive. 2 Canada geese. One was in a depression, physically, and all you could see was this long, windy black and white neck sticking up. It looked like a snake. I hate snakes. Kinda feeling sorry for crows and seagulls. I see them every day but they never get mentioned here.

No cops. No wrecks. One broken-down semi truck. 2 hubcaps. Remembering this stuff seems to be helping my premature dementia. Tons of truck tire rubber. I have a theory that when conditions are just right, like the temperature, dewpoint, atmospheric pressure, humidity and Neptune being in Capricorn, the glue just melts on truck tire rubber and it falls all over the highway. It must be really expensive to buy those huge tires, so I’m thinking truck owners just get them recapped with fresh tread.

Was driving home after working sports years and years ago, about 1 or 2 in the morning. Pitch black. Had the highway to myself. Just spacing along in the beater Toyota pickup, listing to Art Bell and, BAM, slammed into a complete recap in the middle of the road. Woke me up. A cargo truck was sitting on the shoulder, so I got the company name and called them the next morning. They owned up to it and paid for the parts to fix my smashed-up front end. Made me pay for the labor, though.