driving

Gas Prices

Texas gas prices are actually down quite a bit from the record high price (not counting inflation) set last month. AAA Texas reports the statewide average is $3.70 for a gallon of regular unleaded. But the cost of filling up is still challenging for many. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Navigator App

On Google Maps you can get navigator voices in English with either an American, British, Indian, or Canadian accent. Commentator W.F. Strong thinks they should offer a Texas navigator accent – one that also offers Texas expressions and colloquialisms.

Things ‘Redneck Dave’ Said to Me on the Drive Across Texas

By W. F. Strong

A while back I had occasion to travel across 400 miles of Texas, about half the state, with my older brother, Redneck Dave. We call him that out of admiration for his unbending and unapologetic devotion to life as he sees it. He loves his nickname, by the way. Wears it proudly.

He is one who is not particularly talkative on long drives, but does share a few observations between long silences. In fact, he’s not very talkative anywhere. Even if six or seven guys are sitting around at the house shootin’ the bull, he’s not likely to say much. He’ll just be in the corner quietly whittling a stick. He doesn’t carve it into anything, he mostly whittles big sticks into little ones and then starts on another stick. Once in a while he’ll look up and share a thought or correct someone on something, and it is then that people pay attention because he’s got a tiny bit of Confucious in him, a tendency to nail down the truth in a way that sticks with you.

When I travel with him, which is rare because he doesn’t much care to travel, he is different from most riders because he doesn’t have a phone to distract him. He just looks out the window and watches the world go by, seeing things the average person would miss–because they’d be scrolling through their phone–or because the things that fascinate him wouldn’t even register in most of our minds. It’s like having your personal color commentator along for the ride.

So I made a note of a few things Redneck Dave said on our drive across Texas. They are these:

“Let’s take the FM roads as much as we can. Stay off the Interstates. I don’t want to be looking at the butt-ends of 18 wheelers all the way.”

“I’d like to meet the guy that built that fence. Always liked a man who could build a good fence. We’d get along, him and me. Look at that. He’s got eight inch round posts ever’ forty feet set in Quickrete and t-posts every ten foot in between. King Ranch fencing.  Straight as a West Texas highway and tight as a banker. That wudn’t stretched with a come-along, I’ll tell you that for sure. That was done with a tractor. Can’t get a fence like that that tight with just a come-along.”

“They built all these expressway bypasses around these little towns. Terrible thing. A bypass will save a man with a bad heart, but it’ll kill a town. Sad to see it come to this. These little towns is what made Texas Texas. Hell, where do you think the talent and know how in them big cities come from? It came from these little towns. They’re killin’ off the farm teams.”

“You’re drivin.’ You can’t look, but there’s a beautiful Brahman Bull back there about 200 yards in that pasture. Must be a trouble-maker. Appears to be pastured all alone,  separated from the herd.”

“That’s hell of a big pothole you just hit. I think you had to aim for half a mile to get lined up right.”

“These big ole windmills they have. What’s that? Turbines they call ‘em? Yeah. Well, to me they’re just windmills on steroids. I’m not against ‘em for what they do, but they sure do ugly up the place. Do they need so many? Looks like greed won out over pretty.”

“Heads up. You got a big freight truck comin’ up behind you doin’ 90. Ever notice that as you get close to a big city, about 40 miles out, everybody drives faster? The closer to your destination, faster you drive. Not true for old people though. They’re all closer to their final destination in life, and they drive slower. You’d think teenagers would drive slow, given all the time they have, and old people would be in a hurry, but it’s the opposite.”

“That was a good lunch. Used to they’d give you a glass of ice water before you sat down. Now you have to buy it–for three bucks. Not even Texas water. Comes from Japan or one of them snowy countries in Europe. ”

“I’m gonna have to see a man about a horse pretty soon. No, I don’t want to go to no rest stop. Eight-hundred people in those places. Might as well take a number. Just pull over there by that fence. I prefer the rancho grande. No line, no waiting. And I always go on the road side of the fence. Government land.”

“You need to lose weight. Here’s my diet for you. Work more than you sit. Don’t eat if you ain’t hungry. Big meal at noon. No second helpings. No eating after supper, which is at 7.”

“Thanks for the ride, brother. I’ll get on down there to see you soon. Just have to wait a while. DPS ain’t real happy with me right now. Supposedly I owe them some money. Best I’m not out on the public highways just now and sadly there ain’t enough dirt roads to reach you. When they settle down I’ll come see ya.”

Redneck Dave is always a delight. I’m sure most Texas families have one of their own, or wish they did.

Texas Roadkill

No matter how careful you are, it can be an inevitability on Texas roads. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas As A Unit Of Measure

By W. F. Strong

Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away” was stranded all alone on a deserted pacific island. He was the lone survivor of a plane crash. The seriousness of his situation sunk in as he did the math in his head. He explained radial geometry to Wilson (his Volleyball friend) as he illustrated their predicament on a stone wall. He concluded, impressively, that since they went 400 miles out of their way to circumvent the storm the search area would be (400 miles squared x pi) 500,000 square miles. And he thought a moment and added, dejectedly, “it’s twice the size of Texas!”

Texas is often used as a unit of measure like that – in movies and in the real world. Exactly 30 years ago this week, Texas Congressman Mickey Leland’s plane disappeared over Ethiopia. It took a week for a massive search to find the crash site. During that week people around the world couldn’t believe that they couldn’t find the plane, despite dozens of aircraft looking for it. A frustrated Search Commander explained to the media, “We are looking for a needle in a haystack. The haystack is half the size of Texas.”

More recently many a news report warned about the growing environmental disaster of a floating island of plastic trash out in the Pacific, which is twice the size of Texas. And this is not just for U.S. consumption. Worldwide it seems to be a comparison that provides clarity for people because most people around the world know at least one thing about Texas – it’s BIG.

Even Alaska uses Texas to explain its size. “We’re more than twice the size of Texas,” they say. Of course one of those Texases is mostly snow and ice.  Just kidding Alaska. As far as states go, we’re brothers. BFFs.

People have a good deal of fun on the Internet laying Texas over other countries and regions of the world. It’s bigger than Spain, bigger than France, bigger than Germany, twice the size of England and bigger than Japan.

Texas was even used as a unit of measure in relation to Pluto. When Pluto was kicked out of the Solar System (as a planet anyway) and demoted to a dwarf planet, there were people who said, as justification,  “It’s smaller than Texas!” That was truly an exaggeration. As the Austin American-Statesman pointed out in 2015, Pluto is has almost twice the diameter of Texas, if you use the state’s widest point, which is north to south, and Pluto is 24 times larger than Texas by land area. Still, interesting that was used as a unit of measure even way there in space, or 4.6 billion Texases away.

Even we Texans like to use Texas distances to illustrate things and amuse ourselves. We enjoy noting that El Paso is closer to the Pacific Ocean beaches of San Diego than it is to Beaumont. Brownsville is closer to Mexico City than it is to Dallas. Reminds me that a friend from Chicago once had a conference in El Paso to attend. He decided to take that chance to get a good look at Texas. He flew into Dallas, rented a car and enthusiastically started driving to El Paso. He said I knew it would be long drive,” but after driving about 3 hours I got to Abilene and was immediately depressed by the sign I saw there: El Paso 444 miles.”

We Texans know that the first day of a driving vacation to anyplace outside of Texas will be devoted to getting out of Texas. Maybe our version of the Chinese saying should be, “A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a long drive to the border.”

We do have fun finding all the ways that border cities are closer to Chicago or Denver or Nashville than they are to other parts of the state, which is why we measure distance in hours more often than miles. And most Texans think we are closer to heaven than most anywhere else – we’re God’s Country, they say. This time of year, though, it often feels like we are closer to – Well I’m out of time. Gotta run. I’m W.F. Strong and these are stories from Texas. Some of them are true.

Distracting Springtime Roads

In Texas, it’s that time of year when everything is blooming and it’s pretty hard to drive right by without stopping. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: January 3, 2018

North Korea wants to re-open communication with South Korea, and protests in Iran raise tensions. We’ll explore how the U-S might balance these dual crises. Also, the flu is going around. Doctors say wash your hands, stay home when you’re sick and, yes, get the flu shot – even though it might not protect you. Plus, if you’ve been on the roads at all this holiday season you might have this question: why do Texans speed so much? We’ll try to answer it. And a question for you: hows that New Year’s Resolution going? Feel like you’re about to burn through your self-control already? Some advice from Texas researchers about to keep your motivation battery running. Those stories and a whole lot more on todays Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: September 27, 2017

A decades old backlog of evidence gathered after sexual assaults and the Houston lawsuit that could shake things up, we’ll have the story. Plus our question of the day: can a former punk rocker from El Paso stage a Texas sized political upset? The ballad of Beto vs. Ted, and the battle for the US senate. Also, a harvey-sized hit to Texas hospitality? Why there’s no room at the inns. And a little known defense department program has been discovered at a major Texas installation: what is the mission of Starbase Kelly? And why is everyone so small? Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Tollways

Many Texans likely find themselves traveling on Texas Tollways this summer vacation season. These roads are the subject of this week’s Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Statewide Ban

The Texas legislature is considering a statewide ban on texting while driving. That was the inspiration for this week’s Typewriter Rodeo poem for the Texas Standard.

Texas Highways

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including our highways. Summer is on its way and that means planning a road trip across one of these concrete titans. That was the inspiration for Typewriter Rodeo’s David Fruchter as he wrote this week’s poem.

What’s the Story Behind the ‘Fair Sailing Tall Boy’ Memorial?

You’ve probably seen this memorial if you’ve ever driven on Lamar Blvd in Austin. It’s right there, on the pillar holding up the train bridge where Third Street crosses Lamar. It says: “Fair Sailing Tall Boy. Ivan Garth Johnson. Not forgotten. 1971 – 1989. Don’t Drink and Drive, You Might Kill Someone’s Kid.”

Texas Winter Drivers

Texas dealt with another round of winter weather this week. Some of it in North Texas was genuinely serious. Some of it in Central Texas – not so much.

Sean Petrie with Austin’s Typewriter Rodeo writes this week about how the average Texan doesn’t have that much experience with icy roads.