Driving and Biking in the Big City

Commuting with George Jetson

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My new commute

My new commute

My life is changed forever. That is, my commuting life is changed. The HOV lane on Texas 59 has been opened to lone drivers, like me, for a toll. I’m all in. So, after 15 years of this same ol’ same ol’ commute with its typical bottlenecks at the 610 Loop and downtown Houston as well as arbitrary tie-ups for wrecks and terrible driving in the rain, I’ve been freed. Now, I ride in on Clarence, the Rogue hovercraft in a lane far above and removed from the terrible riffraff of the humble masses. Picture George Jetson, airborne above the city on his traffic lane in the sky. That’s me.

Now I can fall in line at 65 m.p.h. for $4.50 each way and cheaper if I get there earlier or later. I breeze in the 20 or so miles on 59 with nary a care. And, in fact, because I don’t slow down or speed up, can’t pass or juggle lanes, I find myself peacefully driving in — far calmer than ever and almost worry free, considering the hectic Houston traffic. It is so relaxing that I’m tempted to break other rules of the road – like texting or watching TV or playing video games. But, of course, I won’t do that. Instead, I have to up the quality of my books on tape so that my mind remains actively engaged in driving.

Even in the rain, my commute is pretty much the same. Interesting, because I’ve always dreaded rainy days in Houston. The drive in can be 90 minutes or longer when it’s raining or after a terrible wreck. And, on just regular days in the past, I typically tried to hop in my car before 5 p.m. to beat the traffic bubble that happens most days. Now, I know that my drive will be pretty much the same day — in and day out, on my way to work and on my way home.

This doesn’t help the bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way out of Kingwood or the crazy-making dodging of red lights and homeless folks down Fannin but otherwise it’s clear sailing. I have to work on my entry and exit into Commuter Ville.

Is it worth the toll, you ask? Of course it is. I believe I’m getting back 45 minutes to an hour every day. That’s a solid hound walk or a nice bike ride, even when Daylight Savings Time sets in. I won’t even mention that extra load of laundry, a kitchen cleanup or some supper cooking that I now have time to handle.

But I will mention the change in scenery. I always say that my old ride in to work down Texas 59 is as eclectic as the City of Houston itself, and it is. Weirdness and mayhem appear daily in Houston drive time. That includes a near brush with death when a huge ladder fell in front of my car and when a trailer sans vehicle to tow it pulled up in the lane beside me. Then, there’s the fun stuff – art cars, truck full of Madonnas, super hilarious bumper stickers and vehicle decorations, etc.

Emerald City, better known as Houston

Emerald City, better known as Houston

But, in those days, I was still on the same highway every day and it gets monotonous even if the sideline players change. My new toll route actually diverts into some new areas that were formerly only seen by the HOV crowd, now also toll lane traffic. Mainly, I’ve got a beautiful view of the city as I approach. The lane stretches up higher than Texas 59, like a bit of a skyway, and I feel like I’m approaching the Skyline District of Houston like George Jetson pulls into Spacely Sprockets. Just like I see the granular nastiness at street level, in my toll lane I see the magnificent concrete city of Houston. From a distance, all looks, clean, modern and peaceful.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

October 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

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