Car & driver

Big sky country

This morning while doing my morning kitchen chores, I heard part of an NPR story about women long-haul truck drivers. Several of the women who were interviewed had become truck drivers in midlife, after escaping other jobs or abusive relationships. Although life on the road is lonely for women truckers, the story explained, these particular women found clarity and solace in a job that gives them lots of uninterrupted time to think.

“Windshield time” is the term the story used for the solitude drivers experience on the road. While driving for long distances, the women in the story had time to reflect upon their lives and decide their next steps. Steering a truck was a way for them to take control of their own lives: instead of asking Jesus to take the wheel, these women found agency and clarity in an occupation they never intended to pursue.

Early tomorrow morning I’m driving to visit my Mom in Ohio: my usual summer visit. In the years leading up to the pandemic, I’d fly to and from Ohio, but last year I decided to avoid angry people on planes and the threat of flight cancellations by driving my own car to Ohio and back: something I regularly did when I was younger.

I enjoy driving, especially after the hectic preparation leading up to any trip. For the past week or so, I’ve distracted myself with packing lists, to-do lists, and all the loose ends I need to tie up before being gone for almost a week. Tomorrow morning when I pull out of my driveway, however, all the planning will be done: anything I forgot to do before leaving will somehow wait until I return.

In the meantime, I’ll have approximately twelve hours of windshield time to scan for good radio stations, listen to audiobooks, and watch the land gradually flatten beneath a widening sky.

Trudy in autumn

Last night I took my 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, Trudy, to the dealership for a routine oil change and tire rotation. (Yes, I name my cars. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve owned three Subarus: Little Tank, Miss Bling, and now Trudy “True Blue” Subaru.)

Since I planned to wait at the dealership, I packed a bag with my iPad, a book (Richard Power’s Bewilderment), a notebook, and a packet of letters and blank notecards. I sat in the quiet waiting room, which has three desks, a handful of lounge chairs, and wifi but no TV. An older man sat in one of the lounge chairs, and a middle-aged woman with mid-length, graying hair sat at one of the desks, shuffling papers and folders into and out of a small tote bag.

As I claimed a lounge chair in the corner, I chuckled to myself. “That’s me without glasses,” I said to myself, remembering the ongoing joke J and I have about the stereotypical Subaru owner: middle-aged and female, possibly lesbian or at least tomboyish, with sensible shoes, no makeup, and at least one dog. The anonymous woman in the waiting room appeared to check all the boxes, as I do.

After I’d settled in to write the day’s journal pages in the notebook I’d brought, a service advisor walked into the room and approached the older man to update him on the status of his car. Observing proper waiting room protocol, the woman and I tried not to eavesdrop on the conversation. After the service advisor left, the woman packed up her folders and moved to one of the lounge chairs, where she busied herself on her phone.

Not long later, the same service advisor came into the lounge and walked up to me. “That’s weird,” I thought, “How does he know who I am since he wasn’t the one who checked me in?” The service advisor told me my car looked good, they were replacing the gear shift, but they didn’t have to replace the recalled airbags since that had already been done. They’d discovered a broken tail light, though, and he asked me if I wanted to replace it.

I said yes to the tail light but silently wondered why they had to replace the gear shift on a nearly-new car. Only after the service advisor left did I realize he’d mistaken me for the only other woman in the room, and I’d authorized service for her car.

Black Russian

On our way to lunch in Newton Centre today, J and I were stopped short by this vintage Russian car parked nonchalantly in a lot filled with Hondas and Subarus. We weren’t the only ones to do a double-take: soon J was joined by another man, both of them circling the car, searching for a name or identifying feature, and peering in the windows to check out the dash. “Even the radio dial is in Russian,” J remarked, and the other man nodded. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Leaping deer hood ornament

Back at home, I did some Googling, and I think what we saw was a late-’50s era GAZ Volga “Shark”. “GAZ” stands for Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Gorky Automobile Plant, and this Volga is apparently a late enough model to feature the toothy vertical grille that debuted in 1958, but early enough to still feature the iconic leaping-deer hood ornament, which was phased out in 1961.

I don’t know much about cars, but I know enough to gawk and take pictures when a relic from Cold War Russia pulls up and parks in the neighborhood.

This is my Day Nine contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

There's a Subaru under there, somewhere

I’m sure we’ve all heard the proverbial advice about how to carve a statue. Start with a block of stone, then chisel away everything that isn’t what you’re trying to carve. That makes stone-carving sound easy enough, and it pretty much applies to digging out a car covered in two feet of snow. Just start chiseling, and stop when you hit anything “car.”

Side mirror "wings"

In the past when I’ve had to dig out my car from a massive snowstorm, a broom has done the trick: just sweep away the bulk of accumulation, then use a snow-scraper to remove the rest. (That’s what I did in this post from eons ago, when I lived on my own in New Hampshire and Reggie was still alive and young.) When you’re removing two feet of snow, however, a broom just doesn’t cut it.

Chisel away everything that isn't "Subaru"

Yesterday I tried a regular broom then a push-broom to remove a few inches of snow from my car before settling on a compact plastic shovel, one I’d bought years ago to keep in my car for emergencies. Luckily, that shovel now lives in the garage, so I was able to use it on the snow-pile where my car had previously been.


When you’re shoveling out a buried car, you aren’t trying to create something pretty. Instead, you’re aiming to uncover the rough contours of the vehicle: here a tail-light, there a door.

Almost a driver's side door

Once you’ve uncovered enough of the hood, grille, and tailpipe to make it safe to start your engine, you can concentrate on digging out the driver’s side door. Why? Once you’ve turned the car on, you can run the heater at full blast through the vents, melting the windshield from within.

Melting windshield

Once you’ve cleared most of the snow from the roof, hood, and windows, you can move your mostly-clean car into a spot where you know it will eventually be sunny. If you carve out the rough outlines, the sun will do the rest.

Ready to roll


In response to today’s Photo Friday theme, Cars, here’s an image from my archives, from a day-trip to New York J and I took in October, 2009.


Classes at Keene State started this week, so I spent a lot of time in my car this commuting between Newton and Keene…and for the first time in the 10 years I’ve taught at KSC, I actually parked on campus rather than walking from a nearby apartment. Keene State doesn’t stack ‘n’ pack commuters’ cars, but maybe they should, given how a free parking space can be a precious commodity on a bustling campus.

Safety glass

Sparkling in diamond-sharp light, the detritus of someone else’s car crash crunches underfoot, shining shards of safety smashed.

This is my Day Five submission to a river of stones, a month-long challenge to notice (and record) just one thing every day. I’ll be posting my “stones” both here and on Twitter, where submissions are tagged as #aros.

Care to join us at any time during the month of January? Click here for more information. Enjoy!


It’s been a few years since I posted a picture of a dog patiently waiting for his owner outside the local laundromat, during which time, several stuffed dogs have done their own stints as Laundromat Dogs. Here’s the latest dog to serve as car-guardian outside the local laundromat. Judging from his expression, this isn’t the first time he’s been left to lounge while his owner washed and dried a few loads.


Given the fact that I have both a Flickr tag and blog category devoted to cars and trucks, it took me a while to decide what photo to post for today’s Photo Friday theme, Vehicle. With so many options to choose from, I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches.

4x4 bumper with reflected leaves

Rather than recycle an old joke, I decided to share two never-before-blogged photos from earlier this month, both of which feature the leaf-on-vehicle motif. Cars can be shiny status symbols, but they are also ubiquitous, an essential part of the visual backdrop of our lives. Walking down an ordinary street, only automotive aficionados notice parked cars, and then only if those cars are noteworthy collectibles. But our cars say a lot about our selves, considering the amount of time some of us spend in them. They bear our bumper stickers, carry our toys both cute and creepy, and sometimes end up junked in our yards. An image of a windshield covered in fallen leaves or a back bumper reflecting a row of raked ones transports to a place called “autumn” just as surely as a set of wheels can.

This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Vehicle.


Leave it to a parking lot in SoHo to figure out the best way to pack as many cars (and graffiti) into a small space as possible.


J and I took a whirlwind day-trip to Manhattan on Saturday, arriving by train at Penn Station just in time to walk to SoHo, check out Greg Lauren‘s latest art show, grab lunch in Little Italy, and then walk back for our return train. Although we were in Manhattan for only about five intermittently rainy hours, we each took hundreds of pictures, New York being the kind of place where you can completely submerge yourself in sensory stimulation. Even in five hours–only about 300 New York minutes–you can absorb a month’s worth of color, movement, and shape: sights to savor on a quiet day.

I’ll have more photos to share, along with impressions of Greg Lauren’s show, later in the week. In the meantime, I have several stacks of papers (and the usual schedule of classes) between me and a Tuesday night grading deadline. I’ll see you on the other side, after I’ve (metaphorically) unpacked.

Beat NY

In Boston, sports fans don’t just wear their team affinities on their sleeve; the super-devoted announce their loyalties (and their rivalries) on their cars as well.

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