Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"The Commute"

I've been thinking about this for a bit, and wanted to share some commuting reflections as well as comments about what I get to see every day on my way to work.

My current commute (each way) is longer than all of my prior commutes combined. One way it is double what my two longest commutes were. I drive almost exactly 80 miles each way. That's 160 miles a day, or 800 miles a week. I've been tracking my mileage (and MPG). In 2009, I drove over 35,000 miles with an average MPG of just about 28.

People wonder how I can do it. Well, I can tell you that part of the reason this commute is not such a killer is that it is predictable. It is about the same time each day, with predictable trouble spots, and it predictably longer (in time) going home than coming in. For 9 years I drove a route where I never knew how long it would take. Some days it was 30 minutes (for the 20 mile drive). Other days it was an hour or more. There was lots of traffic, and an accident on one roadway would result in tie-ups on the others. It was not predictable, and it was tough.

So, reflections on this commute include: the sun, the route, scenery, roadside "events," highlights.

In this winter season, I get to see the sunrise in my rear view mirror, and I get to see the sunset in that same mirror. Some of them are pretty spectacular. What I have noticed recently is that frequently even the clouds in the opposite direction can be as beautiful and colorful as the ones around the sun. Tuesday (1/12) was a perfect example. The low, scattered clouds in the east took on the pinks and purples of the setting sun, and created a great view as I trekked home. Eventually, I will get to do the drive in full sunlight, and I do look forward to that.

Each morning, I head out on Carrollton Ave, along side the streetcar line. I go past the end/beginning of the line the mile and a half to I-10, passing the Archdiocese of New Orleans Seminary, and a cluster of stores and restaurants between Earhart and the Interstate. The trip on the Interstate is what folks see coming into town from the airport. Cemeteries, the malls, etc. line the road. Just after the airport exit, the highway passes the end of the runway. It is not unusual to see planes taking off or landing immediately overhead. (It is kind of cool, if somewhat close.)

Then, after the rest of Kenner, it is across swampland to the lake. In the area of the interchange with I-310 are a bunch of trees (lakeside) where there are often a large number of egrets roosting for the night. They sit on the branches with their heads tucked under the wings. Big white spots on the trees. Just past, on the other side, are some cypress trees, and in the top of one of them is a large nest. Last summer I would have sworn I saw a bald eagle nesting there.

Then it is on the to the end of Lake Pontchartrain and the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The lake is fairly shallow, and with winds from the East or Northeast, there can be waves which seem to raise the water level. However, with no wind, or winds from West/Southwest and a low tide, the lake can seem rather low. (However that is a difference of only about 2 feet...not really tidal in my mind.) The bridge from the St. Charles Parish border to the I-55 interchange is about 12 miles. (If you go north on I-55, there is another 20+ continuous miles of bridges.) On I-10, you hit solid ground for the weigh station (usually open) and two exits for Laplace. Then it is another 4 - 5 miles of bridge across swamp to solid ground.

The next stretch is where I see more cars along side the road. From the end of the bridge to US-61 is about 15 miles of nothing but swamp. There are some areas which are "DMAP Posted No Trespassing." There are only one or two exits, and no visible buildings. At night (going home in winter) it can seem desolate. There is more swamp after US-61 before hitting the edges of the Baton Rouge metro area. Exit 177 has a large outlet mall and a very large Cabela's store.

It is usually somewhere after there that I hit traffic going in, and lose it going home. There is construction going on from Exit 166 past Exit 160 to the I-12 interchange. I just hope it is a widening of the road, because it seems like a choke point. After I-12 merges in, what you see is malls and urban area. The last stretch, I-110 to the exit, can be tense with folks merging in from I-10 on the left and then a series of three left exits. But by then I am home free -- or standing in traffic on my way home.

Once (just before Christmas), I did see a couple of deer standing along side the road. However, I have not seen a dead deer (road kill) in the more than a year. There is the occasional racoon or nutria. More often than not, the northern equivalent of "roadkill" is the dead vehicle. Sometimes the vehicle is there for a day and gone, and at other times it seems like a week or more.

At this time of year, there are not only the "road kill vehicles" but, further off the road, closer to the "swamp/forest" are the big pick-up trucks. These are clearly hunters. A couple of times I have seen them pulling on waders, and/or getting ready for hunting. There are also sometimes fishermen (sometimes with boats and trailers). There is no fence between the highway and the natural lots of access!

Anyway...that is my daily commute.

No comments:

Post a Comment