Posts Tagged ‘ Driving ’

Texas Tradition…a drive in the wildflowers

I am from Texas, born and raised….yet in my thirty (cough cough) years…I had never heard of the tradition of going and taking pictures in the seasonal wildflowers of Texas. Especially with the state flower, the Bluebonnets. Last year I was introduced to this as my wife and I took our 5 month old daughter to a pristine little patch of Bluebonnets on her parents ranch. On the drive there I saw people pulled along the side of the road, with their children and loved ones, taking pictures in the patches of wildflowers along the side of the road. Luckily for us, our little patch was untrampled and we got a few nice pictures, given that our 5 month old wasnt feeling it. It was also special because she was wearing a dress her mommy wore when she was a baby as well.

This year we revisited the tradition, this time our daughter wasnt feeling standing still long enough to get too many pictures of her, but at least we got some smiles.

Daughter in the Bluebonnets

I recorded our trip up there to show you some of the people parked alongside the road, out there taking pictures.

Info from Chron.com:

For the latest on blooms, check TxDOT’s wildflower hot line, 800-452-9292 or visit www.txdot.gov.
Report your sightings to HoustonGrows’ online database.

Please don’t pick

It’s not illegal to pick wildflowers along public roads, but the Texas Department of Transportation asks that we not remove or trample the blooms. Those who pick or crush bluebonnets and other wildflowers leave fewer for others to enjoy. And when flowers aren’t allowed to go to seed, there are less flowers the following spring…..

About the bluebonnet

Texas’ floral trademark, our beloved bluebonnet, belongs to the large Lupine genus. Most are annuals and perennials, including the five cold-hardy annual species native to Texas.

All five share the honor of our state flower.

Lupinus subcarnosus beat out the cotton boll and the prickly pear cactus bloom to become Texas’ state flower in 1901. But many felt the common L. texensis the most attractive of the five native bluebonnet species. So in 1971, lawmakers ended the squabble by recognizing all five as the state flower.

The bluebonnet, so named because of its color and shape, has more than one common name. It’s been called buffalo clover and el conejo (the rabbit), which refers to its white, cottonntail-like top. Once, it was known as wolf flower (Lupus means wolf) because it was believed the plant robbed the earth of nutrients. But we now know bluebonnets, which belong to the legume family, add nitrogen to the soil.

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Camera Mount update….

So far the initial camera mount was a Phone/MP3 player holder I got for $8 at Walmart. It had a long flexible neck that bounced around too much to make any video useable. Next I tried rigging that one by cutting the flexible neck and super gluing it. Except I cut it too short and you could see the suction cup in the shot. That was the old mount which you can see a video clip of below.

So I then ordered a PanaVise mount for about $26 on Amazon.com and received what’s pictured as the “new mount”…except its setup in conjunction with the Flip’s bottom mount left me unable to use it with camera as is. I wanted to use the phone holder anyway because of its quick release setup instead of having to screw the flip on and off the PanaVise mount. Somewhere in the setup there is a weak point because it still vibrates, yet not as much bouncing around as in the old mount. Soon I will figure out how to reduce the vibrations even further. Of course the stiffer suspension of my “SUV” might also be a contributor to the bumps and shakes. Look at the video clip below for a clip of footage from the new mount and compare against the clip of the old mount above.

I know I am not done yet, but so far do you think there has been a great improvement?

Tuesdays: Unspoken Etiquette

Here we are again….sharing some information with our fellow drivers that I used to think was an obvious, however some people just dont get it. Have you ever come up to make a left hand turn and you are coming up to the turn in the median and the other idiot is in “your lane”?! Or you ever gotten in the correct area and the other oncoming driver is perturbed and gives you a menacing look or even yells obsenities? I have experienced that. So to fill in the uninformed drivers I am here to explain how and WHY a left had turn is the way it is.

Here in Houston we do have some of the WRONG setups for making a left hand turn, typically across oncoming traffic. A turn like this one typically puts you to where you can’t see the oncoming traffic and neither can the other driver in front of you trying to make their own left hand turn.

Why the turns are setup this way I have no clue. Maybe the city of Houston wants you to get into an accident, how else do tow truck drivers, insurance companies, lawyers, the court system or anyone else that would be involved in a collision case make any money?

Now we come to a regular u-turn or left hand turn median setup. Ok now in the USA, we drive on the right hand side of the road. So you would think that in logic, when turning you would go past and make your left handed turn from the right side of the turn intersection. Instead, alot of people want to turn as soon as possible and end up on the narrow side of the turn, with the oncoming car forced to do the same, now you have two foolish drivers craning their necks around in an attempt to look through the car in front of them to see if any traffic is coming. WRONG.

When making a turn like this, you go past and turn on the right side, each driver has a clear view of the oncoming traffic and can safely make their turn. If only everyone would somehow be informed of this, you wouldnt have me yelling obsenities at the idiots who dont follow this practice when making a left turn.


Its all about being safe. So please share the roads responsibly, be courteous and drive like you have some friggin common sense!!

AJD

Car Mounted Flip UltraHD


My crude initial setup

Well I had a dry run of it yesterday, however the “universal” phone/mp3 holder windshield mount I picked up for $8 at Walmart has a flexible neck…which in a bumpy ride makes for very shaky video footage. I even tried shortening the flexible neck but now my camera has the suction cup glass mount in the shot. I guess I shortened it too much. I am now opting for a different one I saw on Amazon after reading a little here and there. This one may or may not work for me either. If it doesnt, well I at least have a Flip UltraHD for some home movies. If it does, I will have some traffic video to share with everyone.

The “Panavise 809 Camera Window Suction Cup Mount” sold by Amazon.com

It will arrive sometime in the middle of next week, so You will have to hold your collective breaths until then.

AJD

Tuesdays: Unspoken Etiquette

For the most part, most of city dwellers are familiar with the rules of the road….as they apply in city driving. Essentially drive as fast as you can, get there before the driver in the lane next to you, honk alot, there’s an orange signal between yellow and red, so on and so forth. Every once in a while some of us venture out of our cityscapes, past the suburbs and rural areas out into the country. Traveling from one city to the next. In places where roads are 1 lane in each direction and the lane dividers alternate between dashed yellow lines, double solid lines, and dashed with solid on your side or oncoming traffic’s side. On these ventures there is a technique whose practice helps making driving safe when passing someone, but both parties need to be aware.

Flashing. Your lights that is. I have travelled many a times where it was night time and I needed to pass the slow driver, so I flashed my lights. TYPICALLY the driver in front being passed understands this gesture and eases over into the shoulder (when available) and allows the driver behind him to pass. Apparently some people dont understand this dynamic of a relationship and do not ease over. In these cases you take advantage of the dashed yellow line, meaning it is safe to jump over and pass via the oncoming traffic lane. Obviously if there is no oncoming traffic!! The other version of the dashed yellow line is accompanied by a solid yellow line. This line jumps from one side to the other. If the solid line is on your side, it means YOU can NOT pass but someone in the oncoming lane can pass a slow driver on that side of the road. Obviously given that you aren’t coming at them in your lane!

This all would be so much easier if the slow driver in front of you just eased over allowing you to pass. A courtesy extended and initiated by a simple flash of your high beams. I also usually flash my emergency blinkers a couple times after passing as a thank you to the driver for easing over.

Flashing your headlights can be helpful for many other things….I usually use them for flashing fools at night in oncoming traffic that have their highbeams on blinding all of us headed in their direction. Also, I flash oncoming traffic to alert them of a speed trap up ahead. For you, is the flashing of the highbeams useful at all?

From Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlight_flashing

“Historically, law enforcement officers give citations for headlight flashing under three types of laws: (1) laws prohibiting a person from obstructing a police investigation, (2) laws prohibiting a person from having flashing lights on their vehicle, and (3) laws prohibiting shining a vehicle’s high beams at oncoming traffic. The specific language of each law varies by state along with courts’ holdings on whether their respective laws prohibit headlight flashing. Additionally, although not legally binding, the state driver’s manual of some states suggests flashing high beams under specific scenarios (e.g. if an oncoming vehicle is using its high beams, driver’s manuals suggest a motorist flash his or her high beams).” for example “In Tennessee, flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a police car ahead is protected free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” where as “In Washington, high beam flashing is illegal. Washington law prohibits flashing one’s high beams within 400 feet of another vehicle, including using them to signal for any reason.”

A night at the Drive-In Theater

Friday night was our night at the Drive-In Theater. A fun activity that involves sitting in your car and watching a movie. No more hanging speakers from your window. You just tune your radio to the broadcast for the screen you are watching and enjoy the movie.

My wife and I hadnt been to one before our time last summer to see Terminator:salvation and Angels & Demons in one night. Friday we went to see Alice in Wonderland but didnt stick around for the second feature, When in Rome. The movie itself was good, at least the parts we were able to watch. Since this isnt a movie review blog I wont get into the details of plot and what I thought of the movie. I will say though, for some reason I kept expecting it to be the movie version of the Disney cartoon, yet it actually is the SEQUEL to the original story. I guess it should have been called something like Alice: Return to Wonderland.

Of course our daughter chose this nite to learn to use her outdoor voice, as she would stick her head out of the back window of the Escape and talk, babble and yell during the movie. Yes, we became THOSE people, the ones with the kid that talks during movies. It would be ok since its a “drive-in” since you assume most people are inside their cars, but some people, ESPECIALLY our neighbors next to us, are sitting around their vehicles in lawn chairs. As the night progressed, the talking became more like whining and crying and she got more tired and refused to go to sleep.

Alot of people asked us on Facebook where the drive in is located. I believe there are at least 2 or 3 around the outskirts of Houston. This one is called The Showboat Drive-In and is off of 2920 out in Hockley TX. Not very far from us in Katy, but for my friends and family in Southeast Houston it might be quite the drive just to see a movie. Showboat Drive-in has 2 screens, each with double features. They update the movie listings on Tuesdays for the coming weekend. Visit their website for more details.

The Showboat Drive-In
22422 Waller-Tomball Road
Hockley, TX 77447
(281) 351-5224
The Map

We had a blast and hope to return as our daughter begins to be able to sit through movies and when they have movies we want to see. Here are some pictures of our adventure.

The big Screen

Funny sign but oh so TRUE!!

Before, I used to not mind it so much. Heck, I used to be just as guilty as the people I swear at under my breath nowadays. My perception has changed only recently, since I’ve become a father. I love my daughter very much. The way I see it, anyone being careless on the road driving and talking on their cellphone is potentially putting my daughter’s safety at risk. Hence you are my enemy. Now I understand sometimes its necessary or even an emergency. I myself will jump on for a quick minute, however with the Ford Escape having Microsoft Sync, I dont have to use one hand to hold my phone. Unfortunately, not only does talking on your mobile occupy one of your steering hands, it occupies your attention. I have driven next to some people that are so animated and involved in their conversation, they are driving slower than traffic. While speeding is illegal and dangerous, driving too slow can be equally as dangerous. Others are conducting business from their mobile offices, also known as their automobiles. Composing emails, drafting letters, updating their facebook status, tweeting and texting ON TOP of the phone calls. I have followed people for miles while they conversed on their phones or typed away. They must have had something really important to say.

I have often wished I had one of those LED signs with programmable messages that I could program messages like “Hang up and Drive” or “Pay attention I’m about to hit the brakes on your ass!!” At one point in time I wanted to purchase a Cell phone signal jammer to disconnect calls of those around me while driving. However that would leave myself without a means of being reached and the legalities* behind it are something I’d rather not deal with.

For the time being, a sign like this one, available at Prank Place will have to suffice. Getting the message out about how I feel about people who insist on bullsh!tting around on their cell phones on unnecessary calls. ESPECIALLY around me when my daughter is in my car with me.

Prank Sign

*In the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries, blocking cell-phone services (as well as any other electronic transmissions) is against the law. In the United States, cell-phone jamming is covered under the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits people from “willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized” to operate. In fact, the “manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited” as well.

Jamming is seen as property theft, because a private company has purchased the rights to the radio spectrum, and jamming the spectrum is akin to stealing the property the company has purchased. It also represents a safety hazard because jamming blocks all calls in the area, not just the annoying ones. Jamming a signal could block the call of a babysitter frantically trying to contact a parent or a someone trying to call for an ambulance.

The Federal Communications Commission is charged with enforcing jamming laws. However, the agency has not yet prosecuted anyone for cell-phone jamming. Under the U.S. rules, fines for a first offense ca­n range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the government. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-jammer5.htm)