Saturday, November 17, 2007

After being woken up so early yesterday, I wound up staying up instead of going back to sleep. I had a plan to deal with the packrats, so I decided to put it in effect - I patched all the holes they'd already chewed in the cable, and then wrapped the entire cable in duct tape.

The theory here is that duct tape has crossed fibers, so it's relatively difficult to chew, but do-able. The glue smells bad. So my theory is that it's an attractive nuisance to a packrat - the rat will want to get the duct tape, and hopefully will ignore the insulation under the duct tape. And maybe be less inclined to chew on it anyway because of the smell. Anyway, that's the theory. We'll see when we get back how well it worked - if the power is still on, I guess it worked.

I'd been planning to drive out to Austin, but had thought to do it starting late on Friday so that I could stake out the foundation and do some work. But the sky was overcast, so I didn't have any confidence of being able to find solar south, so I decided to just go. What with all the fussing with the duct tape, I didn't actually leave the property until 9:30. And then I remembered that the gas was on and went back and turned it off. Sigh.

Then it turned out that there was a warning light for low tire pressure, so I spent some time down in Bowie at the 31 flavors figuring that out, and didn't actually hit the highway until about 10:30.

There's not much to say about road trips. They do their work on you, or they don't. I'm a big fan of road trips, but I was feeling pretty out of sorts when I left. I'm not sure when the trip began doing its work, but somehow it felt like it did - certainly by the time I was through El Paso, I was feeling pretty happy, but I think it started before that.

I tend to not stop much on road trips; this one was no exception. I stopped for gas and a (bad) cup of *$$ and a snack, and didn't stop again until Sonora, about 400 miles later, after dark. Oh, well, there was an unscheduled stop just before Ozona. Texas has this weird thing where the speed limit is different at night than during the day, so during the day you can go as fast as you want (or at least I can) without worrying about getting pulled over.

But at night, the speed limit drops by fifteen miles per hour, and my speed of choice drops by about five. So I'm cruising along at 75mph, and I notice a slow-moving car up ahead. It dawns on me that it's a cop about ten or twenty carlengths back, and so I pop off the cruise control, but it's too late - I drift by the guy at 65 (the speed limit) and his lights come on. Fortunately, he let me off with a warning.

I guess one of the advantages of age is that I no longer see cops as the enemy. When I was in my twenties I definitely did - the only time I ever encountered cops was on my bicycle, where they harassed me, or on my motorcycle, where they ticketed me. But maybe since the National Motor Speed Law got gutted, it just hasn't been the same. They have a job, and a mindset, and if you're pleasant to them, they tend to be pleasant back. Plus I was actually kind of happy to see someone. So there was no adrenaline surge, and no feeling of adversarial antagonism, and the whole thing took maybe five minutes.

It's frightening to consider what we're doing to ourselves when we travel, and what we have done as a society by being so mobile. Mobility is great - it expands the mind. But when you drive from Bowie to Austin at 80mph, it takes a day. It would probably take three to six months to travel that same distance on foot. And you'd probably starve to death on the way, or die of exposure, or god knows what. Andrea is in Chicago. I'm in Austin. My parents are in Warwick. Her parents are in Chicago. My friends are in California, Arizona, New York, Singapore, Chicago, and god knows where else. What would it be like if we stopped being able to travel like this? It would make for a good story, no doubt, but it wouldn't be fun.

But it would take a really major shift in how things are in the world for that to stop. If you look at a map of flights in the air over the U.S., it looks like a swarm. If you consider how many vehicles are moving at any one moment on all the roads in America, it's staggering. I don't think we are going to stop, even if it kills us. So I hope we can find a way to do it that won't kill us.


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