When my day turned into a country song.

All these things happened last Thursday.  The first part happened to me, the rest happened to my coworkers..

 

Stranded by the side of the road

No luck with repairs

Shut the hood, a long walk awaits

No phone service here

Pull up along side

Told him not to give up hope

It’s an easy tow into town

As I pull out a rope

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

But give a stranger a chance

Be rewarded in faith

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Ground’s washed out at the river’s bank

A victim of summer’s rain

Not to worry, a little bit of work

And he’ll bring it back again

Drive the tractor up to the edge

Watch a heron fly

Hit the gas instead of the brake

Think that he’s gonna die

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Hit reverse in a panic

Keep backing up till you feel safe

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Cleaning up around the bend

Picking up debris

The boy sees large weathered log

Must’ve been a strange looking tree

Imagine his surprise

Reaching out for the branch

Came a whip from a tail

Followed by a violent splash

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Keep focus on what you’re doing

Don’t become gator bait

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

A Perfect Fit

90white

It was a long time in coming.  Possibly it should have happened sooner, but at that moment everything was in sync so I went for it.  The tan color went with everything, the brim was crisp, the size was right.  A perfect fit. I turned to my wife to show off the quintessential British driving hat.

“Is that to go with the Miata you bright home” She asked in reply.

I stopped dead in shock.  “You remember the Miata?”

“I remember everything about it.”  She answered.  “It was white, with a black interior and top.  It had a manual transmission and pop-up headlights.”

I couldn’t believe that she remembered that car so well. It was over eighteen years ago and I had the car for a total of twenty-five minutes.  Five of those were spent in the driveway.

“I remember the look of fear when you saw me behind the wheel.” I chuckled at the memory.

“It fit you too well.  A perfect fit.”

This wasn’t the only time a sporty, little, two seat, siren sang out.  Years later, two co-workers rushed to me, rapidly talking about some sports car.

“You gotta see it, Gene!  It’s so you!” They cried with such enthusiasm, they were almost shouting.

“Ok! Ok! I’ll check it out.”  I said, curious as to what was causing such a commotion.

When I reached my destination, an Austin “bug-eye” Sprite greeted me in all its crimson splendor.

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Another time, a friend, Jason, told me about two cars some guy had for sale.  One was a late 60’s Camaro while the other was, “Some British car”.

“You should buy it.” Jason said to me.  “He’s only asking $2,500 and it fits you.”

I didn’t have the funds for a second car and the insurance that goes with it, but I figured I’d check it out.  The “British Car” turned out to be a restored MGB decked out in Cobra Blue with white racing stripes.

MG MGB MkIII

I would be lying if I said I was never tempted.  Who wouldn’t want the romance of a private dance with one of these cars as your partner?  Their power isn’t high, so you can flirt at speed without being (too) illegal.  Their skinny tires and manual transmissions bring an intimacy that most have forgotten.  A decreasing radius curve up ahead? Heel, toe shift.  Heel, toe, shift.  Car and driver together in sounds and motion.  Untied in an intimate road dance.

A car like that would be fun, but I’d miss out on so many other moments that I’ve had with my trucks.

Such as all the animals I’ve brought to the wildlife rescue, or the camping I have done.  Fountains, flower beds, and furniture would not have found their way if not for the trucks I’ve owned.  I would’ve never made it to work during the Tropical Storms and aftermaths of Hurricanes without the clearance a pickup provides. Twenty three hours on the road would not have been as comfortable in either a Miata or MG as they were in the Silverado.  Thirty bags of mulch won’t fit into their trunks as they do in the bed of a Ranger.

Sports cars offer the love of machine and person; pickup trucks offer the ability to share the love with fried and family.

For me, that’s a perfect fit.

A year in my shoes.

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This was supposed to be easy.  Throw a picture up, toss out some words and poof!  Instant post.  Instead it’s over four days past my plan of posting and I’m still struggling.

I fell into the trap of overthinking. I needed new work boots and wanted to explain why I picked those originally and why I switched to something else.  The idea was good, but the words that came were so sterile and analytical.  Completely uninspiring and off-putting for me. I wanted something else, something better.

Kinda like my boots.

The boots I had were so disappointing this time.  They were Wolverines.  I’ve owned four pair of Wolverines in my life and three of them were this style. This pair just did not work.

You see the toes?  It took just one day for the leather covering the steel safety caps to wear off.  I was weeding and the shuffling of my feet against the asphalt wore the leather off by the time I was done.  The boots were one week old at that time.  I’ve had that happen with $30 boots, but never Wolverines.  There was no way I could explain this as normal wear and tear either, so I didn’t bother to call or write about warranty work.

The rest of the boot was fine.  They still were comfortable and supportive.  Together, we dug, moved, pushed, hiked, crawled, and even kicked through our work time.  I had noticed that this set of boots wasn’t as flexible as the earlier ones.  It took more effort to flex on the balls of my feet.  Still they did their work, but the stress was showing.

Then the rains hit.

Florida is known for its torrential rains, but this one was impressive.  It wasn’t tropical in nature, but the results were the same.  Roads closed, traffic diverted, trees fallen, electrics under water, and hundreds of fire-ants huddled together in a ball, just waiting for some poor soul to latch on to.   The last time I saw flooding like this was after tropical storm Gabriel.  The water was so high that the utility vehicles stalled from the strain.  I pushed mine off to the side.  It took three days for my boots to dry completely.  The leather never fully recovered.

The final straw came when the left sole split completely through.  I hadn’t noticed it until the day I had to clean brush out of a drained canal.  The area was drained, but not dry.  Its mud was slick and water seeped up with every step.  My soaked sock alerted me to the crack the boot’s sole.

It was time for a change.

But to what?  I sifted the search engines, read articles, and waded through the horribly arranged Amazon filters.  (It was easier pushing the utility vehicle through the flood than it was trying to find decent work boots with specific requirements on Amazon.)  Given the events of the year, I came up with an unusual result.  Jungle boots.  What other style would handle the abundance of water, humidity, and mud?

Jungle boots are not the easiest things to find.  Rack Room Shoes, Sears, and all the other usual stores were out and while I will buy some things online, boots aren’t one of them.  You have to go to an army surplus store.

Army surplus stores are very interesting to visit.  Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, they can be as bright and organized as Dick’s Sporting goods, or as dark and cluttered as a Hollister’s run by teenage boys.  The store I found was a mix of both.  The lights were low, but everything was organized.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jungle boots.  They did have other choices.  Desert boots, training boots, combat boots, parade boots, boots for almost anything.  I had no idea what to look for at this point.

So I asked for help.

The lady listened to what I wanted as well as the price I was willing to pay.  She offered a pair that is light, flexible, durable, and well-constructed.  They aren’t water proof, but they are good against high humidity and dry quickly.  They also are bought by police and fire fighters who are used to standing in their boots for long hours at a time.

I’ve had them for a week and they have handled having the toes scraped against the concrete, heavy mud, miles of walking and flexing of the soles.  So far I’m impressed.  Only time will tell if they last they year.  A future review will be coming.

In the end, this article is similar to my journey into new boots.  I struggled with it at the beginning and took many unexpected turns along the way before ending in an upnote.

With the creative damn broke, I look forward to the journey ahead.

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Dreams under the tree

Truimph Brown 2

Two cars sit unwanted.  One in the garage, one on the driveway.  Memories of times gone by shone through the wear.  Jaunty stripes, dual pipes, and a wooden wheel recall the carefree days of the sixties while the awkward bumpers, overly large side markers, and plastic wheel are scars born from the imposed commands of the late seventies.

Triumph Blue 1

Triumph Brown 1

Through the age, past the wear, both peer out on the road as an elderly dog in the kennel; silently yearning for someone to take them home and give them a chance to run just one more time.

The roads are full of younger pups now.  Fashion and culture dictate a new king and the Miata is it.  His reign has lasted decades and seemingly will last forever.

The old cars can’t compete.  There times, even when new, were more than double those of the Miata.  Even a Honda Fit would leave them in the dust.  The braking isn’t that much better.  Drums against disks.  Pedal modulation vs. Antilock Systems.  Dark ages against modern times.

Triumph Blue 2

But the gems still shine from underneath.  There are rewards to be had.  Two cars from a time when owning meant more than just driving.  It was a time of familiarity, of courtships and relations.  Understanding the car, knowing what it can do, what it needs, how to take care of it.  A perfect primer for getting married and raising children.  Patience, loyalty, and sometimes, even hardships, would be rewarded with joy, thrills, accomplishment, contentment, and even serenity.  They’ll never be as fast as the newer cars, but no new car will ever be as intimate as these two.

There is soul buried deep within these sheets of metal.

Will someone try to find it?

Mascots

A yellow car sits parked at the edge of a precipice.  Worn mountains cross the horizon as a thin ribbon of green meanders across the desolate field surrounding it.  At first glance, you could easily mistake the scene for a commercial, but you soon realize that the car is a toy and the scene is another achievement for a mascot.

Torchbug from Jalopnik

Mascots seem to have a curious life in the United States. Their popularity rises and falls like the tides of the ocean.

Do you remember Stanley?  You know, the little guy who usually wore a striped shirt and blue pants.  Someone would ship him in the mail to you and ask you to take a picture of him in some scenic place before shipping him out onto the next random person?  Well Stanley is one paper link on the long chain of mascots that have traveled abroad.

Flat-Stanley-St-Peters-Sq

Either before him, or around the same time, was the wandering gnome.  Unlike Stanley, the gnome was kidnapped.  Cruelly taken from his owners.  Then, after a ransom letter containing a picture of the beloved creature, the gnome was whisked across the globe. Pictures were sent back to the owners of their gnome skiing in Amsterdam, tanning on the beaches of the Caribbean, having coffee in Italy, and parachuting out of airplanes.  It ended well for the family as the gnome retuned one day with a peep or clue from his kidnappers.

Woody_London

The rule of the mascot is simple:  Send it to an interested person; Have that person take a picture or pictures of the mascot in an interesting place; Ship the mascot off to the next person.

The rules for the mascot are unspoken and more involved:

1.)  The mascot must be cute, quirky, or friendly in personality.  The mascot needs to make friends quickly with each new person it encounters if the trip is going to happen.  Otherwise the mascot will be quickly thrown into the trash and forgotten.  This is why little bears, gnomes, paper children, and “cute” cars are used frequently. A spoon, not so much.

2.)  The mascot must be small.  Shipping costs money and if the mascot is too big or heavy, the cost to ship it will severely reduces its chances of meeting the next person. (This is why even teddy bear mascots are usually six inches or less.)  Flat Stanley is the gold standard here.  Being made of paper, he could be folded up, shoved in a regular envelope, and mailed off anywhere for less than the price of a candy bar.

3.)  The mascot must be durable.  Think you last flight in coach was bad?  Imagine being squished through rollers, tossed into bins, having other boxes staked on you, traveling with no heat or air conditioning, getting tossed again by strangers, and finally being shoved into a mailbox until the recipient finds you.  Now imagine doing this over and over again.  Mail carriers take care of their deliveries, but people are people and mistakes happen.  The mascot has to be tough to handle these situations.

4.)  The mascot must be affordable.  Whenever one of these journeys starts, the owner of the mascot will be faced with the fact that they might never see their mascot again once it is dropped in the mail.  It may never even make it to its first destination.  With this thought burning in the owner’s mind, they are not going to invest heavily into the mascot.  Usually the mascot will cost ten dollars or less.  (Again, Flat Stanley was king in this area.)  You might find the rare person who will spend a bit more for sentimental reasons, but usually the mascot will be low cost.

Mascots are a great way to physically connect with your friends in a way that facebook, e-mails, and phone calls can’t.  It’s a way to share fun and happiness when you can’t be there in person.  It’s an act of faith while also an adventure on the cheap.  I see the ebb and flow of their popularity traveling forever.

Go mascot.

Sheep

 

Daniel’s Lion

Image from nps.gov

The wind tore through Daniel’s hair as his hat pulled violently at its stampede string around stretched around Daniel’s neck. No cries of joy escaped his mouth as his steed flew down the trail. The sting of heavy rain pelting his face and streaming down his collar drained any hint of happiness before his first whip of the reigns. The Mochilla he sat on repelled the rains onslaught with a mix of oil and beeswax rubbed heavily into its fabric.  The hard leather pouches sewn fore and aft of the rider protected the treasures inside. Daniel squinted his eyes tighter, trying to squeeze the rain out as he charged his horse forward.  The mail must go through.

Lightning flashed followed by the roar of thunder close by.  The horse cried in protest.

“Keep goin’ you nag!” Daniel yelled to the horse.  “I don’t want to be out here just as much as you!”

Daniel kicked his heels into the horse to emphasis the thought.  The horse snorted its protest in response.

“Yeah. Yeah.”  Daniel agreed as he tried to sink his head further into his coat. “Damn Desert!”

Spring in Utah brought with it not only the melt of the mountain snows, but the icy rains along with it.  This combination along with the narrow path brought to Daniel’s mind the bad luck his fellow rider George had.

It was in this very stretch between Wheaton Springs and Mountain Dale where George had lost his horse.  It had been winter and a storm came up so strong and heavy that George’s horse pulled up lame.  George knew that breaking trail in those conditions would be tough, but he overestimated the strength of the mustang.  He had been reduced to cutting the pouches open with his pocket knife and stuffing the mail in his coat before trudging his way through the deep snow to the station at Mountain Dale.

Daniel vowed not to make the same mistake.