Friday, November 30, 2007

NPR responds

I had e-mailed National Public Radio (NPR) back on November 14 after their broadcast of a story on the evening program "All Things Considered" about an alleged record-breaking cross-country road trip: "I don't understand why you seemingly condoned this 'outlaw' racer's speed run across the country. With more than 43,000 deaths still occurring annually on our highways, glorifying this sort of irresponsible behavior is totally inappropriate for NPR. You wouldn't cover the experiences of a driver who drinks alcohol to excess, would you?"

The following day (Thursday) when NPR airs some of the e-mails, I missed that segment of the program.

Earlier this week however, NPR responded by e-mail:

Dear Mike,

Thank you for contacting NPR's All Things Considered.

We regret that our programming has not met your expectations. We strive to offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.

We welcome praise, as well as criticism, and your thoughts will be taken into consideration.

Thank you for listening to All Things Considered, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit


NPR Services

Obviously, this was a canned response, but still it was more than I expected. The "outlaw" who was the subject of the story raced alone against the clock from New York City to Los Angeles. He made the run in less than 32 hours, supposedly breaking a record last set in 1983. He had to average something like 90 mph over the entire length of the trip. Being alone, he had to stay awake the whole time, stopping (infrequently) only for fuel and bathroom breaks.

So not only he did he risk others' lives due to his speed, but also he had to be greatly fatigued after the first half day or so, compounded by driving mostly at night and constantly on the lookout for the police. In my opinion, this is idiocy of the highest degree, but NPR made no mention of his irresponsibility.

Monday, November 26, 2007

They don't build them like this anymore! #4

This beauty is a 1955 Chevrolet 210 2-door sedan in a pleasing two-tone combination of blue and white. The 210 was the middle trim line in the Chevy lineup for that year, between the top line Bel Air and low line 150. The car was a smash hit for Chevy, marking the first model year of the what came to be called the Tri-Chevys (1955-57 models) and some of the most coveted classic cars of all time. A V8 engine was optionally available for the first time starting in 1955, but I believe this car has the tried-and-true 6-cylinder engine. The car was spotted along Main Street in Highland Falls, New York, just across the street from the visitor center and museum of the US Military Academy at West Point.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Here's a quote from "Dynamic88" commenting on this news article in The Truth About Cars:

"I don’t know what tougher licensing requirements has to do with this [getting people to drive more safely, especially in regard to controlling their speed]. People speed because they want to. If we could figure out how to do something about the stupidity factor, then we’d be making progress."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get your kicks on Route 66!

In the small town of Ash Fork, Arizona, a portion of historic US Route 66 still exits. Last spring during our trip through the southwestern US, my wife and I were traveling west on I-40, exited at milepost 146, and entered the old route that looped through the town. We immediately spotted these two old cars at a gas station. The one on the left is a 1957 Oldsmobile 4-door sedan and the other is a 1962 Buick Special 2-door sedan. Both are beyond redemption in terms of restoration, but they were still fascinating to behold. As is readily visible, cars rust differently in the arid Southwest, from the top down as the intense sun takes it toll on the paint. The sun also ravages the cars' interiors.

A little farther up the road, we came to DeSoto's Beauty and Barber Shop, complete with a 1960 DeSoto 2-door hardtop perched on the roof of what clearly had once been a service station (top photo). The last full model year for the DeSoto happened to be 1960; after a short production run of 1961 models, this storied nameplate passed into history.

We were about to re-enter the interstate at milepost 144 when we saw a sign directing us to an apparent continuation of historic Route 66 leading west out of town. Alas, after we traveled just a few hundred feet and rounded a curve, the crumbling remains of the road became visible, with a broken white line down the middle. (The US switched to broken yellow lines in passing zones of 2-lane highways starting in 1972.) Needless to say, we had to turn around and get back on the interstate.

This minor diversion of maybe 20 minutes or so provided a wealth of memories (see post below for more about supposedly "wasted" time). Get your kicks indeed!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Time, time, time is on our side...

This has to be one of the most absurd arguments I've seen in the controversy over the setting and enforcement of speed limits:

I am continously astounded that no one seems to value time while everyone is concerned about lives. LIFE IS MEASURED IN TIME! What’s the use of saving one life if you have to waste a million man years to do it? At some point, the government has a responsibility for balance. If a million people a year waste an hour along a stretch of highway because the speed limit is too low, that’s tragic. We need a balance, yet we continuously only look at the “safety” side of the equation (from a commenter on The Truth About Cars about England's speed enforcement cameras).

This is sheer lunacy. I can think of a lot of other ways that one's time is "wasted" in the course of a day: waiting in line at the grocery store check-out counter, waiting in the doctor's office at 4 pm for your 3 pm appointment, or even "wasting" time by sleeping 8 hours when maybe you could "get by" on five. Or how about spending day after day at an unproductive, tedious job?

Besides, every state in the US other than Hawaii has maximum speed limits of 65 mph or higher on its rural interstates or equivalent roads (Hawaii's maximum is 60). In the Midwest and South, limits are typically 70 mph, and west of the Mississippi River, the majority of states allow 75 mph. Texas permits 80 mph, the highest in the nation, on over 500 miles of I-10 and I-20. If you can maintain 75 mph for 6 hours, stopping only 10 minutes every two hours for a break, you can travel 450 miles in a total of 6 1/2 hours. This isn't good enough?

From earlier entries on this blog, you can see I get a lot of enjoyment from traveling the slower back roads, where I've encountered amazing, beautiful, or quirky sights that would be completely missed by hustling along the interstates. Equating such time wasted with human life lost is, to use this commenter's words, "tragic."