The article on AC/DC is almost done, but it needs a little more polishing. In the meantime, this seems like information worth disseminating. This will be required reading for spring break teenagers at my house with a quiz to follow. Hopefully someone out there will find this as fascinating as yours truly.
Hope you are enjoying the beginning of Spring!
Hello potential Minnesota tourists! Now that we've had our first significant snowfall of the season, it is safe to officially declare the beginning of winter. As such, there might be a traveler or two out there who has Minnesota on their upcoming agenda and might be thinking, "I wonder what the driving is going to be like there?"
Wonder no more. This blog will present you with the photos and a few well-chosen words to sum up driving during the four seasons.
First off, let's set the record straight. There are actually only two seasons in Minnesota: winter and summer. Fall only lasts for a few weeks and we like to call it Indian Summer around here, as it occurs sometime in September or early October, long before any leaves have dropped and the pools probably still have water in them. Yes, we really do have pools. Every Minnesotan either has a lake or a pool. It's one of our residential rights. Then we play hockey or skate on them in the winter.
The last few years, it's been snowing in April and May, therefore, so much for Spring. The mosquitos will be biting by the time the snow melts. That means it's officially summer. Now for those pictures I promised.
Here's what you can expect driving in Minnesota in the Summer:
As soon as the last barrel is picked up, the snow starts flying. Here's what you can expect in the Winter:
Since you might be coming in Winter, it's helpful to know about "White Knuckle" steering. To keep with the times and at least appear hip, let's hereinafter refer to it as WK. It's a simple procedure, you'll be able to learn it quickly and it will come in handy right out of the rental car parking lot.
First of all, put your hands in the proper 10 and 2:00 position. Never mind what your teen's driving instructor (the paid one) is telling them about 8 and 4:00. You won't be able to achieve a proper WK doing that. Get your hands at 10-and-2. Now grip the steering wheel as tight and hard as you can, until your knuckles start to turn white. It might take awhile for them to turn white, just keep hanging on.
There you go, now you've got it. The reality is, you won't have to practice WK much at all. Once the car starts sliding out of control (what we in Minnesota like to affectionately refer to as "fish-tailing" and it's not something that happens in a boat) WK is an auto-reflex and your hands will immediately know what to do. It doesn't really help steer the car any better, but you will feel more in control knowing that you are hanging on as tight as you can. If you see a patch of ice, do not, I repeat, do not hit the brakes. Engage the WK and start praying out loud as you "glide" across the ice. Taking several deep breaths or breathing rapidly, whatever works for you, might help too. When you come out the other side of it, a small celebration will be in order.
Well, there you go. That's about everything you'll need to know about driving here. If you come in the summer, the driving will go as slow as it does in the winter, oh I'd say around 10 mph, 20 if you're lucky on account of all the cones and barrels and lane closures. There's a lot of road repair to be done here after the snowplowing and pot-hole formations (to be explained in a future blog). The road crews do not waste a second getting right to work on fixing the winter damage and coming up with new projects. The roads need to be rebuilt regularly after what they go through every year. You'll have plenty of time to find your way around going at that speed. There might be some horns blaring and fingers flying. Don't be fooled by "Minnesota Nice" and misinterpret it for waving when you are driving. We are one of the top states for Road Rage incidents, particularly in the summer. You can probably see why just looking at the pictures. There is much less road rage in the winter, probably on account of the WK we're all doing. It's best to ignore it and fast forward to the end of the blog.
The moral of the story is: leave more time than you think to get there. Double or triple the time it would take you to drive that distance in most other places. If Mapquest tells you 20 minutes, make it 60. You will impress everyone by being on time to your destination. Don't tell 'em you heard it from the Queen of IML8.
And on a final note, after all that driving, you deserve to relax. You're likely to see one of these along your route or many other alternatives. We have A LOT of liquor stores here, not like some other states. Pull an immediate right or left and take care of business. You'll thank me later!
Originally published Nov. 12, 2012
We hear about the dangers of texting and driving all the time. I can totally understand why people do it though. Driving has become way too easy for us. We are quite frankly bored. It’s only natural that we would start searching for something else to do while driving. When cars become air-born we will have to start thinking about how to operate them again. In the meantime, my prediction is that…
It won’t be long before there will be mini-kitchens in cars. Why not turn that dashboard into a griddle so we can cook up an egg or two and a couple of strips of bacon while driving to work or maybe a hamburger on the way home. I can certainly handle a little grill action while waiting at a red light. Or if they are really too worried about that, just put a microwave where the glove box is. I mean who uses a glove box anymore? Gloves? Everything but gloves goes in there. It’s like the “junk” drawer in the kitchen, but for the car. The fact is, cars have become so automatic that it won’t be long before they can drive themselves. Which actually might be the best plan. Then people can text away all they like.
Back in the day, driving required a lot more thought and concentration. If you wanted to roll the window down, you had to use the hand roller to do it. It was almost like patting your head while rubbing your tummy. Your brain actually had to pay attention to move the steering wheel left to right while you turned the window crank from top to bottom. Need the side mirror adjusted? No buttons here. Step one: the window has to be rolled down and step 2: your hand goes out the window to try to crank it back into place. You might have to put a hold on the conversation in the car so you could git r done. Probably the car was a manual transmission too. Now those people really had to focus.
Despite what my kids think, I’m not actually so old that I rode in a wagon, I did have a real car when I was younger. I tried to find the one picture I have of it, but since it came out of a film camera it’s not in my hard drive so who knows where it is. I’ll just have to describe it instead.
The car I had in high school was really the ultimate in “you have to pay attention” to drive this car. For starters, the dashboard wasn’t properly attached so when I stepped on the gas it flew forward, requiring it to be pushed back into place where it would stay until the next red light or stop sign when it flew forward again. I don’t think I was gassing it that bad, but hey I was a teenager, so maybe. Additionally, the driver’s door wouldn’t stay shut. This meant I had to drive with my left hand and use my right hand to hold the door shut while I drove. I had to use my right hand because it was a heavy door and required a lot of force to be held in place. My left hand couldn’t exert enough pull being so close to the door. To complicate matters, the front seat flew backwards when I hit the gas. Now this wasn’t a bucket seat, it was one of the seats that was like a bench seat or something. So when it flew back, let me tell you, you had better hang on and try to sit back up straight because you had to put the dash back in place and try to keep the door from opening. Sometimes my foot came off the gas pedal when it all happened, which was probably a good thing. How could I possibly have texted anyone or even talked on the phone with all that going on?
I’m thinking they should start making cars like that again to get people back into the adventures of real driving and put their phones down.
Amazingly, I sold that car for a couple hundred dollars when I left for college. To a guy. He probably fixed everything.
The reason I started thinking about all this was because I found myself daydreaming at the first of about a billion red lights I will sit at today. Ho-hum! When will they come up with a little buzzer/light that goes off when the light turns green or red, one of my favorite ideas for an invention. I mean, really? Do they really expect us to continue to pay attention to these lights with our advanced intellectual capacity and overworked, multitasking minds? Despite its importance, I have a million things to think about besides when that light is going to turn green. When I snapped back to reality though and looked up, thankfully the light was still red, but the old lady in the rear view mirror, with her hands at 10 and 2, had barely blinked and was staring straight ahead at old red. She should have been first in line.
Which lead me to my next thought. Who pays better attention at a red light, the first driver or the second driver? Of course, everyone in line is relying on the leader to be paying attention. The worst is when you get honked at for the light turning green. If you get honked at in Minnesota it is really the ultimate in insults. Not only were you insulted but everyone around you just heard it too so they all know what an idiot you are as well. At least the light turned green so you can gas it and get out of there.
Well, I better go. I’m thinking my best plan is to go buy a lottery ticket so I can get a chauffeur to drive me around. Then I can finally operate my camera properly while being driven in the car. In the meantime…
“Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel”
as Jim Morrison said and have a great Monday!
Originally published Oct. 1, 2012
Southern Minnesota is quite beautiful at this time of year. Much of the land consists of farm fields populated with corn and soybeans. The harvest stage of these plants is to turn a dark yellow, maybe even golden in color while some are the color of straw. Set this against the periwinkle blue sky, sprinkle in some clouds, and driving through those farm fields in September is very lovely indeed.
As a child I felt differently and quite detested these flat fields that seemed to go on as far as the eye could see. It would have been so much more interesting to view mountains or oceans than corn and soybeans. So I’m not sure at what point I turned over a leaf and had a change of heart about this part of the world I grew up in. Now instead of ignoring it, I wanted to photograph it.
How many of you see something while you are driving and you want to take a picture of it? This happens to me all the time. Usually I think “I’ll come back and photograph that later.” On long trips though, the opportunity might only present itself once. Maybe next time you come back it will have changed somehow.
Then, if you decide to stop and do it, you might find yourself thinking “that wasn’t so bad” and you might find another spot just a mile or two down the road, and then maybe another. It becomes impractical to keep stopping the car, especially if there are other passengers. It’s also fairly dangerous to be standing on the side of the highway. One time when I decided to pull the car over and get out (I was even on a gravel road meaning a lot less traffic), a farmer and his wife hurried out in their car to see what I was doing. It was a little more attention than I wanted – I was only photographing some hay bales. Now I wonder if they kept their gold bars in there or maybe something else?
Anyway, sometimes it seems easier if I could just operate the camera while driving. I know, this is a terrible idea. I really should have someone else driving the car but my 11 year old can’t reach the peddles yet. I’ve tried looking through the view finder while driving the car. Even though I’m still looking at the road, the perspective is different and it’s just plain dangerous. Sometimes you want to stop but there is nowhere to park the car.
This is when you must get creative. This time I did the shooting somewhat randomly by not looking through the viewfinder but trying to do the best I can to frame the image while keeping on my side of the road and clear of the ditch. I shot at a very high shutter speed since I was traveling at 55 MPH.
I’d love to hear how any of you manage to photograph things you see while traveling down a road or highway.
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.