Saturday, August 22, 2009

Driving the View*

As some of you know, I am no longer employed where I was before. You also know my thoughts on it. ‘Nuf said. Now I drive to work in a different direction. These days, instead of driving into Pasadena, Texas, the largest small town in the country, I drive into Lake Jackson. It’s the complete opposite direction, in every way, and the traffic is not even an issue.

Normally, one would drive down State Highway 35 from Alvin, to FM 523 to FM 2004 and into Lake Jackson/Clute on Business 288. Now, I know that’s a lot of numbers, and to those of you on the left coast, it means absolutely nothing. Trust me when I tell you; it is some of the nicest driving on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Naturally, I wanted to see if there were other routes to get me to my destination and home again. Since I knew that FM 2004 goes pretty much straight from Lake Jackson to Alvin with naught but a single traffic light in 25 miles, and that a road behind our neighborhood leads directly down to 2004 with naught but one light that more often than not remains green, I figured that would be the way to go.

On my way home the second day, I opted for the straight 2004 (referred to around here as “two double oh four”) to 2917 route home. Just a flat, mostly gun-barrel-straight road through undeveloped coastal prairie crossing several bayous and creeks. Then the “big bridge” over Chocolate Bayou, which is a steep, high structure over the largest waterway between Galveston and Freeport. The sky is wide and the Gulf breeze that blows across the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge is fresh and strong.

I made the mistake of driving 2917 to 2004 on the morning end of the commute one day. There are petrochemical plants down that direction. You’ll see why this is important in a couple of seconds.

Can you imagine being caught in the middle of the Long Beach Grand Prix while you're riding a tricycle? This is what it feels like trying to hold at a reasonable 60 miles an hour with F-250s, Ram 2500s, Silverados and battered Nissan Sentras running up your tailpipe at an average of about 75 miles per. There is a wide shoulder, but it’s often populated by dead possums or raccoons or some other obstacle. This precludes the normal courtesy of pulling to the right while the impatient plant workers blast by with scowls of disapproval. They whip out from behind you in a cloud of diesel smoke or gasoline-produced carbon monoxide in a huff and give no time for you to even try to move over.

Having survived that, I learned my lesson: 35 in the morning, 2004 in the afternoon. With that knowledge burned into my brain, I could now enjoy the commute that I needed to make every day. It’s easier to take pleasure in a nice drive when there isn’t a ton and a half of screaming metal and diesel fuel looming in your rearview mirror like the kiss of death.

*the title is a reference to the song by the same title by Son Volt, an "alt country" group outta Missouri. Good stuff.


innominatus said...

Nice storm in that pic. 'Course to a Texan that is probably just an indicator of good kite-flyin' weather. But to a PNWesterner, that's OMG! Close the schools! We're all gonna die! This is NOT a TEST of the Emergency Broadcast System! Burn some incense to appease Gaia! kind of weather.

aA said...

Mr. I, not quite kite-flying, but not too severe. It only rained about a half an hour at my house, but the line of rain was pretty well delineated. Really cool.

And thankfully, Gaia don't live here. If she did it would likely be in a mobile home with two cars in the yard on cinder blocks. She'd have a two pack-a-day habit and a tattoo of a bluebird on the small of her back and strand of barbed wire around her ankle. And a pistol in her purse.