Hidden Dangers of Texting While Driving


There are streets in my neighborhood that have bike lanes present, which is kind of nice when you commute everywhere by bike, as I do. I’m told that if a bike lane exists bikers must use them as opposed to the sidewalk. Most of my commute is done on a sidewalk because a the road that leads to where I work doesn’t have a bike lane. Despite what good shape I am in after riding a bike everywhere I go for over a year I can’t sustain enough speed over 4.5 miles to use the actual street. The way people drive not hat road, I’d get killed for sure.

That is not to say that the sidewalk is completely safe either. You see, driver do not expect bikes to be crossing the side streets’ cross walks. I’ve actually been hit in a cross walk. Thank God it was more of a bump than anything else, but it did damage my bike and gave me a bruise. Here’s the math on that: 2500# car vs 10# bike + 230# rider = injured bike rider. Drivers don’t pay attention to motorcyclists, let along bicyclists. Anyway, I’m the one who watches out and so far I have avoiding being run down though there have been well over a dozen close calls.

The point of this blog is a hidden danger, though. You see, I’m aware of the cross walk danger and I am paying close attention to vehicles coming and going around intersections. What I cannot force is a distracted driver swerving into the bike lane from behind me – which happened the other day and resulted in a close call. The cause? Well, the lady had a smartphone in her hand and I assume she had been texting. Then, about five minutes later, I’m at a cross walk waiting for the light to change so I can proceed safely through a busy intersection. There was a duffus sitting there texting away while the light was red . It changed while he was still texting and the guys behind him honked to alert him. Having just experiencing what I did earlier with a car I wondered to myself what if he was texting and didn’t notice the light was red I was crossing with he light in the cross walk?

I have a lot of issues with people and their cell phones. Yes, I have a smart phone too. I use it on occasion, when absolutely necessary. But I refrain from using it whenever I should be paying attention to something else. I don’t know how I could use it while riding a bike although I have seen people riding along with a cell phone in one hand. Really!

What is so damned important that the text message you just received can’t wait? Do you need to answer every friggin’ message immediately? More to the point, is it worth risking your life or someone else?

There have been several studies done that indicate text messaging while driving is by far more dangerous than driving under the influence. The reason school be clear. Even a drunk is paying attention to the road and trying to keep the car between the white lines. I’d be inclined to say let fools kill themselves with their ignorance except there is potential for innocent lives to be lost int he process – other drivers, pedestrians and bikers. Yet, despite laws against texting while driving it still goes on.

I know the laws are difficult to enforce. But perhaps the penalty for being caught doing it should be elevated to make the risk of it a stronger deterrent. You see, drunk drivers can lose their licenses or go to jail. Texting while driving will get you a stiff fine.

I’m gong to sound like an old man here, and since I am turning 59 tomorrow, maybe that’s fitting. But back in the day when people didn’t have a phone with them at all times we had to leave messages on answering machines. The world didn’t end just because the caller had to wait for an hour or two to get a response. Again, I ask: what is so damned important that every message needs an immediate response?

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#texting #biking #driving  #TextingWhileDriving


Sorry, Been Busy Revising Books, Riding a Bike, and Trying to Stay Dry

It’s been a few days between posts. Sorry about that. Been busier than a plate juggler lately, between working for pay and working for pleasure (writing).

Yesterday morning I finished revising Book 3 of The Wolfcat Chronicles, titled Shattered Truce. I ran it through spell checker and laughed at some of MS Word’s suggested fixes (ignoring the most humorous ones) and then sent it off to my publisher for review. I’ll continue with my present revision of the series until I’ve completed each of the books and submitted them. I don’t know whether they will be contracted or when they might be released, but I suspect that if the publisher picks them up the first of the series may be out as early as next summer or fall. I’d like to see the books come out about a couple or three months apart, but I don’t know if that’s possible. There are other authors with books in the production pipeline, you know.


On other fronts, it’s been raining for the past couple of days here in the Sunshine State. It’s not been continuous but it has been frequent enough that I’ve gotten wet at times riding my bike here and there. I think most of you know my commute to and from work is on a bicycle. I used to live closer to work, around a mile and a third, but since I relocated to my son’s place it is about 4.5 miles each way. So, on top of working I also ride a bike 9 miles each time. I think that’s pretty good for a 58-year-old man.


It’s been about four years now since I ditched (figuratively speaking) my last car, an HHR. Although Chevy begs to differ, it had a design defect, or in the vernacular of marketing gurus tasked with explaining why engineers made certain changes, ‘an innovative feature’ . The car had to be driven at least ten miles per day in order to properly recharge the battery  What asshat thought up that, right?

Here’s the deal. For several years now car companies have undersized the batteries in vehicles that they deem necessary. They still offer the full size and high capacity batteries in work vehicles, I guess because guys who drive trucks also tend to tote guns and would take exception to their primary means of transportation, a pickup, not having the juice to crank at 2 AM on Saturday Morning in the local Honky Tonk’s parking lot.


My guess is that car companies had to cut costs to eek out a profit. So, some survey somewhere determined that, on average, people drive cars enough to keep the batteries charged even though it is much smaller in size and capacity than batteries that used to come in vehicles. Most people don’t realize there was a design change, so they get away with telling people like me that I don’t drive enough. I took that at face value. What they were telling me was that I didn’t need a friggin’ car since I was one of those fringe people who try to conserve fuel and the expense of driving by moving closer to work

Silly me. I thought we were supposed to be minimizing our carbon footprints and sparing the use of fossil fuels. I guess I forgot about the Big Oil interests in automobile companies and the federal agencies that oversee things.

Anyway, after arguing with Chevy and deciding I wasn’t about to pay for a tow, recharging my battery and reprogramming my key each time. the latter due to the stupid electronic interlock system – a theft deterrent , they say – to the tune of $140 every couple of months, I told the bank to repo the car. They warned me it would ruin my credit. Obviously they hadn’t looked at my credit before making such a statement. It was actually so bad at the time that the repo might have actually improved my score. (I’m joking, but it was pretty bad).


The next day I bought a bike and started riding it to and from work. Also I learned a lot of things along the way:

1) There are not enough bike lanes or trails designed exclusively for bikes.

2) Cars, trucks, buses and whatever else ends up rolling down the streets and highways do not pay attention to bikes in the bike lanes

3) There is a good deal of sharp debris on the sides of the road exactly where bike tires will find it.

4) Wild animals are as surprised as people and pets that anyone is using the bike lane and armadillos move a little bit faster than tortoises in getting out of the way.

Over the course of the past couple of years I have lost a lot of weight (over 60 pounds) partially due to riding a bike just about everywhere I go. Quitting drinking and not having any money to buy lots of food also helped the cause a good bit, but the bike riding has made me feel healthier. Also I find that while I ride my bike I have time to think.

Being a writer, most of what I think about is what so called normal people might consider crazy ideas, but I find it helpful in settling plots in my head before I go home to write. I have yet to stop pedaling to quickly jot something down but I do carry my smartphone with me and it does have the ability to record my vocalized thoughts as well as take dictation. Maybe a bluetooth headset would allow me to knock out a rough draft while I’m riding along. I’ll have to look into that.

#biking #HHR #writing #publishing


Biking USA – Orlando Style


Many of you know that I ride a bike to and from work. Pretty much I ride a bike everywhere that I need to go. You may also know that Orlando, where I live, is not what I’d call a biker-friendly city. Few places in America are. And the alternatives to using an automobile for commuting are few. Mass transit here exists but is largely a joke when trying to reach most places. But that’s a subject for another blog.

This time we are focusing on the experience of riding a bike in O-town. And since road rage for a biker could very easily turn into road rash I thought a more passive aggressive approach might be best for venting some of my frustrations with my commutes.

  1. Shards of glass from broken bottles. I’m not certain why it is necessary for some people to break bottles on the sidewalk but it is enough of a problem that there are at least a couple of mine fields I have to navigate in my commute. A few times I have halted and brushed the glass into the grass , which I’m sure presents an entirely different hazard for someone or something walking along the side of the walkways.
  2. Wild animal obstacles such as deer, armadillos, tortoises, cranes and – my personal favoraite, – kamakazi geckos. Unlike the cute little guy in the Geico commercials, these are small lizards that regardless which side of sidewalk Ithey happen to be on and whichever side of the sidewalk I am riding my bike, they will invariably make a mad dash to the side furthest from them thus exposing them to the great probability of being run over. I really try to avoid them as I do not like harming any living thing but sometimes its unavoidable and the carcass becomes a feast for the ants that I see the next day as I ride through. Yet, undaunted other geckos play their version of frogger, which we will call Lizzer, with my bike tires.
  3. No matter the direction iI raide it is always into the wind. Yes, I get it that if I am doing twenty miles per hour that means that even on a calm day that is at least a twenty mile-per-hour headwind. But it always seems the wind is actually blowing in my face even when I stop the bike.
  4. Pedestrians sharing the sidewalk tend to be text messaging or wearing earbuds – sometimes both – and not paying ay attention to my calling for their attention so that I can safely pass by them. Then they seem upset that I scared them or that I would dare use the same sidewalk they walk on for riding a bike. Well, you talk to the city about putting in bike lanes. I’ve tried. They claim they need to have enough biker demand in an area to justify it but I feel it is more a matter that if they built the lane more people might use bikes for short trips. Heaven forbid that a city might be laid out with some intelligence for that the people who live in it are not totally dependent on automobiles. Again, that’s a subject for another blog.
  5. Spider webs in the dark are a periodic hazard that allows me to demonstrate my superior no-hand bike pedaling ninja skills. Unfortunately it is also dark and very few people have ever witnessed the spectacle. It is quite impressive though.
  6. Trees branches overhanging the sidewalk are largely invisible in the dark, even with a bike light. They are just low enough for me to run my head into because the people who maintain the landscape trim the trees to accommodate those on foot and people who are not basketball players.
  7. Other bikers and/or joggers coming the opposite direction are also a problem, especially if the sidewalk is narrow. It’s hard to judge distance and whether there is enough room, so usually one, the other of both take to the grass and hope that there isn’t any of the aforementioned shards of broken glass hidden.
  8. School Crossing guards with school kids in the queue present one of those strange situations. If you wait to cross with the kids the drivers who are waiting look at you funny. What’s a fifty-something man doing going to school anyway?
  9. The busier intersections having walk lights that cycle whenever the oncoming traffic is halted. And then the countdown starts when you are in the middle of the intersections as if to subtly say hurry up your slow ass. Cars wanting to make a right turn on red think the biker is waiting to cross in front of them so they sit miffed that I’m not going with the light – in the other direction – before it occurs to them that I am waiting..
  10. And my favorite, the 9:30 PM pup chase. You see, my neighbor lets his two dogs out to do their business and if I happen to come home around that time, both dogs give chase. They have ambitions of catching me, though I’m not sure they would know what to do with me. Refer back to my ninja skills. One of the dogs has long enough legs to give a decent pursuit provided he was in better shape. The other’s legs are shorter than his grand ambitions of catching me.

There you have it., the ten things I least like bout riding my bike to and from work.

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#biking #commute #humor #alternativetransportation


Another Monday: Uphill And Into The Wind

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This morning I had an objective – or more like a challenge of a personal sort. I rode my bike nine miles just to see if I could do it. Obviously I succeeded, since I’m writing this. I guess you just have to take my word for it that I actually did it. This who know me well know I usually don’t lie…but I am prone to exaggerating a bit every now and then. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s what we do.

Anyway, the reason or the personal challenge is two fold. I ride a bike to and from work, so being in shape is important. And since I nixed my car as transportation about four years ago it has been my primary means of transportation – other than hoofing it everywhere. I’ve done a considerable amount of that as well.

Now, you may be asking how I ended up not having a car? Well, it’s one of those long stories but I’ll tell you anyway. In 2008, while I was commuting from Satellite Beach to Kissimmee on a regular basis, my 2002 Chevy S10 died. Fortunately, I was close to home when it happened. I drove a rental car for a couple of days – a Chrysler Sebring convertible that got terrible gas mileage in my estimation, though it was fun riding around withe the top down and the wind in my hair even if it was late March and a little on the chilly side. I recall driving my youngest, Sarah, down to Melbourne Beach with the top down one of those nights – satellite radio blaring – just to get some ice cream. I remember telling her I could get used to driving a convertible.


Having been in car sales a short six months before that I looked up a guy I used to work with and we worked up a deal for a silver 2006 Chevy HHR. Sarah and my other daughter Amanda christened it ‘The Rhino’ dues to its overall look. And for over two years that was my car. Sarah finished high school that year so the reason for staying in Satellite Beach was gone. Amanda was starting her junior year at The University of South Florida near Tampa. I had just helped my son move to Claremont to attend a branch campus of the University of Central Florida. My ex and I were on the verge of getting a divorce and bankruptcy. So Sarah and I moved to an apartment in Kissimmee, which was about a half mile from where I worked. Shortly thereafter I started having a continuing problem with the HHR.

You see, in the corporate wisdom of General Motors, they cut corners on some things like battery size in the newer cars. It doesn’t affect most people, so they are fine with taking the hit from the rest of the people who are dissatisfied, I guess. Being fair, I’m sure its not just a GM thing. Everyone does it. But here’s what happens when you drive a car like the 2006 Chevy HHR a half mile each way everyday. The battery dies. Why? It’s a design flaw in my estimation. You see, you need to drive it at least ten miles a day for the undersized battery to fully recharge. Otherwise you must deep charge the battery for fifteen to twenty hours at least once a month. I learned this after researching the issue on The Internet upon the second instance of my battery dying and having the service department at my local dealership swear that the battery and the electrical system on the car was fine. Because of the antitheft system on the car, the key had to be reprogrammed each time plus the towing charge. So, it cost me $170 each time it happened. I was not happy.

I called the owner of the dealership. I called Chevrolet. Both told me not to believe everything I read only The Internet. Well, is that why there were over 5000 reported instances of the same thing happening to people? What Einstein automotive engineer determined that, on the average, people will drive a car at least ten miles a day? Seriously, they designed a car to need to be driven that much instead of conserving energy, etc. No wonder the company went into bankruptcy and the local dealership, by the way, was one of many GM forced to close its doors forever.

Since my own bankruptcy was final by then and under the terms of that settlement as long as I kept up with the payments I could continue to drive my car, I had a decision to make. Did I really need the car? Sarah had driven it to work in Orlando until the car’s dead battery ‘feature’ caused her to lose her job. Yes, because she didn’t drive it everyday even driving it 12 miles to Orlando every couple of days a week wasn’t good enough to charge the battery. So, I called the bank and told them to intervene with GM about the car’s electrical problem or I wasn’t going to continue making payments. They told me it wasn’t their responsibility to fight with the manufacturer over car defects and if I stopped making car payments they would repo the car.

“Fine, repo it.”

“Well sir, it will ruin your credit.” That is always a good threat when someone has good credit, isn’t it?

“Look, my credit is so bad that, at this point, if you make any entry at all into my file it will probably improve my score.” Yeah, I was being facetious but my credit really was bad.

And so, I bought a bike on closeout from where I worked, a nice one for about 1/3 of the normal price. I began riding to and from work.

Sarah and Amanda moved to Illinois to share a place there together. I remained living and working in Kissimmee, Florida, riding a bike and waiting for the car to be repossessed. I waited and waited and waited.

I wasn’t able to drive it. The battery was dead. So I cancelled my insurance. The State of Florida threatened to fine me if I didn’t maintain insurance on a registered vehicle. So I turned in my license plate. Not that I really ‘saved’ the money but I had a whole lot more disposable income after not making payments on a car, paying insurance or being gasoline. Such a radical I am! Why it’s almost un-American not to have a car, right?

While Sarah still lived with me we rode the bus a lot of places. The service wasn’t great but it got us where we needed to go even if it took all day to get across town and back. Other times my son who had moved closer to the main campus at UCF and started graduate school was able to drive me some places in a pinch.

The bank that owned the car loan was bought out by a larger bank and apparently my particular case file was misplaced. So it took the acquiring bank over a year to finally decide to repo The Rhino. By then they assumed I had flown the coop and hired a private detective to find me. I’m not exaggerating, this folks. As vivid as my imagination may be, I couldn’t make something like this up.

It wasn’t like I had tried to hide my address or phone number. They were still the same as when I last changed them on my account. But the PI assumed I had relocated again. So he tracked down my relatives, and ended up calling my son. He didn’t give any information, because he assumed it was someone form the bankruptcy trying to scheme a way back into my life. But he took the guy’s number and called me. I assumed it was about the car that was still sitting in my driveway. So I called, told him to pick it up, the sooner the better. Probably the easiest repo ever.

So that’s how I ended up not having a car, riding a bike or walking everywhere.

Granted, my current situation of commuting a mile and a half each way has only been since May. But since starting this job I have lost a lot of weight between riding the bike and working a job that requires a lot of physical effort and manual labor. It’s a good change up from sitting and writing or editing. It’s a huge change from being a manager. I’ve lost some weight – about 60 pounds in the past year, half of it just since May.

And today I rode nine miles. Toward the end it felt like it was all uphill and against the wind. Still, I made it.


#biking #walking #cars #repo #exercise #ChevyHHR #DeadBattery #DesignFlaws #defects