Dancing in the driver’s seat

I mentioned yesterday that “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” by Sam Levine is likely to induce some Dixieland dancing  in the driver’s seat. We’ve all been there, right? Caught red-faced and jive-handed, and even flipping a drum stick 16 seconds in?

As an added bonus for your Monday levity, we introduce you to Crystal’s mom. You go, girl!

I love the “Busted!” look of the driver at the filming passenger just before the 1-minute mark, and the “Done now?” at the end. I don’t get that courtesy in my car. Most of the time I hear, “Dad! Stop!”

It’s only a matter of time before my kids film me in similar musical rapture. I’ve been known on a straightaway to pull both hands off the wheel and shake everything that my momma gave me in the midst of some LMFAO or Flo Rida. Hey, if I am going to be forced to listen to the kids’ playlists most of the time, I’m going to have some fun along the way.

This is much to the horrific excitement of our kids, especially if this display comes after basketball or soccer practice. Our youngest cackles maniacally while telling me to put my hands back on the steering wheel. Our oldest laughs, but I’m pretty sure there is an eye roll to go with it. Our tween? He slaps me in the gut, and is most worried that his friend’s parent driving behind us is going to think I am some kind of lunatic.

Too late, most likely.

A commuter’s identity is revealed

Photo courtesy of kendura99

Overheard from the home office: “Mom, what’s a commuter?”

My Commuter Daddy persona apparently is more of a secret in our house than I realized.

We boiled it down for Mason that a commuter is someone who has to drive regularly to work, such as we used to do when I was breezing daily to Providence and Brandy was grinding daily to Cambridge.

I asked Mason why he needed to know. He explained that for his homework he was supposed to choose a word from a Time for Kids magazine cover that he did not know, and write what he thought the word meant (“people who work on walls,” he wrote). Next, he had to summarize how it was defined in the dictionary. As I suspected, he was using us as a proxy for a dictionary.

After I urged him to use an actual dictionary, I asked if he knew what the name of my blog was.

Dow Jones Local Media Group?” he asked.

“No, that’s my day job,” I replied. “Commuter Daddy is my blog….”

“Oh, I thought your blog was Computer Daddy.”

I think it might be time for a branding campaign in my own home.

The bike is back in the commute

Putnam County Trailway
Originally uploaded by spolay

During my regular trip to New York this week, I resumed stowing the bike in the trunk. The training is officially on for at least one century ride this summer. I have my eyes on a second century, depending on how the kids’ summer calendar shakes out.

Temperatures were in the 70s in the Hudson Valley this week, and daylight lingered past 8 p.m. The weather was a far cry from what has been simultaneously experienced on Cape Cod. I actually got to sample a little bit of this thing called spring I keep hearing about. I think it was the first time this year in the Northeast that I was not wearing leggings or a jacket on my rides.

What made me happiest though, was that my two rides while on the road this week were on the first and last days of the trip. I usually don’t ride on my travel days, instead reserving the cycling for the full day that I spend in town. However, rides after work on Monday and yesterday were refreshing, and felt a little like I was stealing time back from my schedule.

The ride yesterday was a double bonus. I tried out a new path — or at least new to me: The Putnam County Trailway. The trail head was an hour into my commute back to the Cape from New York, and just slight detour from my regular driving route. It was a nice way to break up the drive home.

It also was gloriously green throughout, and the section of trail in Brewster, NY, was pristine. The only reason I turned around 10 miles into the ride was I was running out of time to make it back to my car in daylight.

The ride out from the trailhead was mostly uphill, which meant the ride back was a fantastic flying finish. I only had to slow down for a few intersections and blind corners.

We are not moving away from Cape Cod anytime soon, but an instant love affair with Brewster and Carmel, NY, was kindled yesterday. The Putnam County Trailway is sure to be a regular stop on my commute from now on.

Commuter Daddy 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards

Photo courtesy of Cory Schmitz

Welcome, readers and fans, to the third annual post dedicated to you. It’s the Commuter Daddy 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards! It’s like Christmas all over again, isn’t it?

Should you wish to revisit your 2009 favorites and 2008 choices, please do so. If for this year’s list I were to include posts made in previous years, Jelly Belly cycling jerseys (still on my wish list!), cooking in the cubicle, and germs trumping the environment all remain popular topics.

But this post is dedicated to the new content. The only eligibility requirement of the Commuter Daddy Readers’ Choice awards is the post had to have been published in the current year. So without further fanfare, here are the top 10 items we wrote and you read in 2010.

  1. Google adds biking directions — but cycle cautiously
    I’m happy to report that Google’s biking directions no longer guide the would-be Sandwich-to-Woods Hole cyclist through the Massachusetts Military Reservation. It recommends much more law-abiding primary and secondary routes. Your welcome for pointing out the original folly.
  2. Will blog for coffee
    Thank you, fellow New England Bloggers, for helping this reach number 2 on the hit parade. I still blog for coffee. Beer too, in case you were wondering.
  3. Commuter Daddy… mommy blogger?
    I’m still listed, and boston.com drove 13.5 percent of my page views this year. Thanks and welcome, boston.com readers!
  4. More on Acela Wi-Fi via the iPad and No streaming media while riding the rails
    I’ve already linked to these items from yesterday’s New Year’s resolution report card and last week’s wish for Wi-Fi zones of silence in our busy lives. Linking to items about Acela and Wi-Fi three times in eight days ought to keep these popular for next year, too.
  5. No passing on the right
    Ms. SBT is still not allowed to be my chauffeur. She understands.
  6. Age is all about perception
    Speaking of age, Benjamin, our youngest, was surprise to learn at lunch yesterday that I am younger than his mom. “I thought you were older,” he said. “Because you’re bigger.” A double stab at my ego and appearance! Later he told his mom he thought I was going to be turning 50 when my birthday rolls around. Sorry to disappoint, kid. I’ll only be 40, though he is rapidly making me feel as if I am 50.
  7. Crazy airports
    After the frigid weather we have had over the past week, I am ready to risk a Culebra landing again.
  8. Breakfast variety does not spice our children’s lives
    This might be true of lunch now, too. When I asked Mason and Benjamin where they wanted to go for lunch yesterday after we had finished touring the Prudential Skywalk Observatory, they and Mason’s friend who was with us unanimously voted for Dunkin’ Donuts. Not that there is anything wrong with donuts for lunch, but for the record I had a flatbread sandwich. No one followed my example, though Benjamin came close with his sausage croissant — hold the egg and cheese and hand off the croissant to Dad.
  9. Dear, Chrysler: Give me gadgets with my Man Van. Hold the stitching.
    I would like to add another feature proposal for my ideal Man Van: Perpetual new-car smell. I got my Volkswagen serviced and cleaned yesterday while we were in Boston, and apparently the cleaning included a deodorizing spritz that makes the car smell new again. I like it, and would like to put that deodorant on a timer. Let’s also make it sensitive to whenever Mason pulls off his soccer cleats in my car. Two doses should be immediately applied in that case.
  10. And you think your commute is bad
    I still shudder at the thought of weekly West Coast trips. May I never require that much travel.

All the news that fits — and the blogger too

Spied via Mediabistro’s Facebook feed, who found it on Engadget: The ultimate bloggermobile. My VW is worried.

The “bufalino” contains bedding, refrigerator, cooktop, basin, water tank, and storage bins. The back doors can even function as a clothesline — especially handy for beverage mishaps.

A commode is apparently not an option, but road warriors are used to having to pull over for nature’s call, so I don’t see that as a deal breaker. Plus pulling over and moving around helps stave off thrombosis.

There was no such thing as blogging when I drove cross-country from California to Massachusetts after college, but I still could have used a vehicle like this. I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room at every stopping point, so there was at least one night somewhere near Flagstaff that I slept in the front seat while parked at a Denny’s. My Isuzu Trooper was so tightly packed that I could not recline the seat. The bufalino bed looks quite comfortable in contrast to that memory.

Still, the VW is safe. With the rear seat folded down, I can fit my bike and my golf clubs in the back. Not sure that would be the case in the bufalino. A bike rack might make that thing pop wheelies.

Gird your Cape Cod traffic loins for gridlock

We’ve seen the rumblings over the last couple of weeks, but today it is official via CapeCodOnline: Restricted Sagmore Bridge travel begins Monday

Sing it with me: Happy, happy, joy, joy…. (video comes complete with lyrics, in case you need them):

With that song now firmly etched in your brain, there’s more good news. At some point the Bourne Bridge will receive repaving this spring too.

If the weather cooperates, construction crews could complete the Sagamore Bridge project, along with some re-pavement work on the Bourne Bridge, before the onset of the summer tourist season during Memorial Day weekend, Army Corps officials have said.

That’s right, folks. We get work on both bridges this spring. Brilliant!

Memo to all Cape Cod-based Commuter Kids: Expect your Commuter Mommies and Commuter Daddies to be arriving home for dinner a little more tardy and a lot more cranky than usual.

Happy, happy, joy, joy indeed.

Mileage tax for highway funds? What’s the real motivation?

Introduce a mileage tax to make up for lost revenue caused by fuel-efficient drivers paying less in gas taxes? Your tax dollars are hard at work as state and federal officials ponder that very issue, according to today’s Washington Post.

The article outlines a few of the debates that will rage at our — quite literal — expense:

  • Invasion of privacy (not that any of us with E-Z Pay or similar transponders have paid much attention to that until now)
  • More taxes in general (do we really think the gas tax will be supplanted?)
  • Should more efficient vehicles get a tax break (or the reverse, i.e. The Hummer Tax)?

My personal objection, though, is rooted in the double-speak regarding the motivation. What is guiding our transportation policy these days? Are we striving to reduce greenhouse gases, or are we motivated merely by the shortfall in federal highway system’s maintenance budget?

One of the points made in the article is fewer people are driving these days, and the drivers that remain drive more fuel efficient cars. Car makers, albeit influenced by government regulation, are in turn striving to build and sell more fuel efficient cars — some that could reach 100- and 200-miles per gallon efficiency.

So we will have the ability to drive farther and more efficiently, but will get penalized for that distance with a mileage tax?

Here’s an idea. Want to keep us off the road? Let the highway system go to seed.

Don’t use proceeds from a mileage tax for highway upkeep. Use the money to fund more mass transit projects, like the Urban Ring or connecting North and South stations. Extend commuter rail to more destinations. Build more bikeways. Motivate people to stay off the roads.

Granted, I’m the last one to heed in this debate. I commute 600 miles round trip twice a month, and there’s very little that could be done in the near future to provide an alternative or prevent the trip altogether. But if there’s going to be a mileage tax, I’d feel a lot better supporting it if I knew it was improving long-term transportation options.

Commuter Daddy? Make that Commuter Dud.

My oldest son, Sam, recently placed second in his school’s geography bee, among several other accomplishments in the month of January. One of the stepping stones to his geographic success was knowing which state’s residents have an average commute longer than 28 minutes:

I’d never have guessed that one corrrectly. Commuter Son #1 knows more than Commuter Daddy! To be fair to my commuter knowledge, this question came during a map-aided, visual-clue portion of the program. Still, you have to like that the apple is not falling that far from the commuter tree.

I know all this thanks to Brandy capturing some of the key moments on video. I completely missed out on attending the geography bee in person. I was smack dab in the middle of a training session that I could not reschedule, given some pressing deadlines at the time. The irony was I was 20 minutes down the road, and not the usual 300 miles away on one of my regular excursions. My proximity made the miss all the more excruciating.

One of the benefits of my half-home-office, half-on-the-road work situation is a predominant ability to arrange my schedule so I can attend these sorts of events in person. Sometimes, when work is at its most stressful, being able to attend the kids’ special moments in school and elsewhere keeps me motivated — and frankly working harder. An hour missed during the normal business hours usually translates to two hours or more worked after the kids go to bed.

Missing the geography bee made me 0-for-3 over the course of a few weeks, though. Just before Christmas, I had also arrived late to both Mason’s and Benjamin’s holiday performances on separate days.

Thankfully, with a major launch out of the way at work, I’ve rejoined the family. Over the last few weeks, I’ve attended two band concerts, taken Mason to a previously unscheduled basketball game, and even found time to walk with Mason and our dog, Ruby, to school on a couple of mornings.

Hopefully, I’ll continue to keep my inner Dud at bay for a while.