Posts Tagged ‘automobile’

General notes on East Coast road trips, or: More morning motivation

June 17, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 17, 2017

I recently made one of a number of hometown pilgrimages that I undertake each year. On Wednesday, the eve before my return to North Carolina, my Parental Unit and I were discussing what time on Thursday I planned to depart. (I’d asked to be awoken by 9 if I wasn’t already up and about.)

P.U. then asked if I was trying to get back to the Old North State for any particular event. “Nope,” I responded flippantly.

Actually, this answer was in the nebulous realm between truth and untruth. I typically play free bar-league poker in Raleigh on Thursday evenings, and I prefer to arrive in time to participate in the early game, which begins at 7 p.m. (There’s a 20-minute grace period for late arrivals.) So there was that incentive for returning to Carolina by a particular time.

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A three minute journey into the conservative id

February 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 27, 2016

Every four years or so, as America prepares to select a president, I become morbidly fascinated with Rush Limbaugh. Despite a reported decline in Limbaugh’s audience, he still has the largest listenership of any talk-radio program, and he’s topped an industry magazine’s list of the most influential hosts for nine years running.

Perhaps more than any other individual, Limbaugh is responsible for shaping the modern political zeitgeist, in which “bipartisan” is regarded as a dirty word and the act of compromising is roughly on par with knifing an ally in the back.

I think El Rushbo is despicable, but I nonetheless recognize why he has been so influential. He’s intelligent, he has a great voice, he’s personable, he has a natural instinct for investing mundane acts of governance and news reporting with great drama, and he’s willing to say virtually anything to get his audience’s blood pumping.

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The saga of the car stereo

January 22, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 22, 2016

One day last week, I got into my car and turned the key. The engine started but my radio didn’t.

I think I noticed the radio’s silence only after I’d been driving for a few minutes. I fiddled with the dials and pressed different buttons, but nothing had any effect. I plugged in my smart phone — it connects to the car stereo through one of those cassette adaptors people started using when portable compact-disc players began becoming popular — and cranked up a podcast. I heard the audio, but very very faintly; none of the words were comprehensible.

I was going into a busy weekend with the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, so I knew I’d have to suffer without a radio for a few days. I tried playing a podcast just with my smart phone speaker, but it wasn’t loud enough once I got on the freeway. Sad Matthew face!

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178 – car theft – add title-category-keywords-text

December 24, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 10, 2013

I grew up outside of New York City, the progeny of two honest-to-goodness city kids. Not only was I raised near what seemed to be one of the most dangerous places in America, it coincided with perhaps the most crime-ridden periods in the history of our nation. So when I say that I was instilled with a certain paranoia, I really mean it.

What habits did my parents teach me? In no particular order, here’s a list of things (not all of which relate to crime): Always wear your seatbelt. Always look both ways before crossing the street. Avoid showing or handling money on the street unless it’s absolutely necessary. Always read the fine print before signing. Always get, and keep, a receipt. Never ever ever leave your belongings unattended. Always keep a small emergency cash stash. Never leave anything of value — or, ideally, anything even remotely interesting — in plain sight in an unattended car.

These strictures have guided me through much of my life, although in certain cases, I’ve learned to relax them when appropriate. For example, if I’m repositioning my car — just moving it in or out of a driveway, say — I won’t always fasten my seatbelt. (I still typically feel guilty about this minor infraction, alas.) Also, I’ve become comfortable stepping away from my laptop computer if I’m at a coffee shop here in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and I need to use the bathroom or speak on the phone. (I rarely leave my smartphone unattended, however — both because it’s easier to walk away with one surreptitiously than with a laptop and because, um, uh, oh — because sometimes I need to look up stock quotes at a moment’s notice!)

Unfortunately, I paid insufficient attention to one of the rules last week, and I ended up paying a price for it.

On the day after Thanksgiving, after having breakfast with my parent in New York, I got in my 2000 Honda Civic (please form a line, ladies!) and set off for the return drive to Durham, North Carolina.

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Our odyssey: How one man, one parent and one dog made a drive that normally takes nine-ish hours in half a day

December 17, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 17, 2013

Sing, O muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after a sojourn in the cradle of Big Tobacco and Duke University. Many roads did he navigate, and many were the highways with whose intersections and traffic he was acquainted. Moreover, he suffered much by the weather while trying to speed his own way and bring his carmates safely home.

I live in Durham, North Carolina, but I grew up in the exurbs of New York City; my parent and the family dog still live in the house where I was raised. Last month, I drove down Parental Unit and Lucky the dog for a week-long visit.

The SUV was packed and loaded and rolling out of my driveway for our northbound return trip around 9 a.m. on Nov. 26, two days before Thanksgiving. I am accustomed to completing the drive between one home and the other — a journey I tend to make at least four or five times a year — in nine or 10 hours. Little did I know that it would be roughly 9 p.m. before we would reach our destination…

The weather was supposed to be rainy all day, and indeed we had not been traveling northeast on Interstate 85 for very long before I had to turn on the windshield wipers.

Our initial bit of drama, however, derived not from the skies but from the game of chicken that I began playing with the fuel gauge on the dashboard. We were about midway between the North Carolina–Virginia line and the I-85/I-95 merge in Petersburg, Va., when I noticed that the indicator was edging toward empty.

My parent noticed it too and called it to my attention. When were we going to stop for gas? I was asked. Um… Up ahead, I replied.

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