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Show me the Waze.

29 Jun

Call me a luddite. I like maps. To get to a new friend’s house yesterday, I mapped possible routes in advance on (okay, so I like paper maps, but I’m advanced enough technologically that I can see the advantage of google maps.) and then, pen in hand, wrote this information on a piece of paper.


I pride myself in my sense of direction. Especially when it’s sunny out.

Once off the highway, our destination proved madly elusive.


I make a phone call.

Our host: Are you using gps? Sometimes, gps sends people the wrong way.

Me: No, I used a map.

Our host: [deafening silence]

Me: Hello?

Our host: You mean, a paper map of Connecticut?

Me: I mean, I used google maps.

Our host: Oh, well then. Tell me what it said to do.

Me: It said go left on West.

Our host: Left?

Me: On West.

Our host: West?

Me: Who is on first?

After some miles, and “sightseeing”, we found our way there. Late.


We actually had a very nice dinner, and it was even at dinner time.

So before we left, I asked for directions. I “knew” what our host was describing, because we had taken those very steps about three times incorrectly on the way to their house. But whatever. Tom drove. We eventually got back to a highway onramp, which I could see from the bridge overhead, was stopped traffic.

“We can’t go on I-95. We have to go back to 395.” I said.

“Well, no, we have to cross the river, so we have to get on 95. What are you going to do? It’s traffic. It won’t last too long.”

I thought a moment. I have this thing in my bag, it’s a phone. It’s even one of those new fangled SMART PHONES. I remembered that I had, out of curiosity, installed an “app” called Waze. I had never used it. The icon was cute – I think that was what made me download it. That and “free.” I had taken the time to set it up (easy) a few months prior, but never took the time to learn it.


So, I turned it on.

It took a moment to load my location.

And then, all hell broke loose.

“Hey! It’s showing us on I-95! There we are!!! Look!”

“I can’t look. I’m driving.”

“Hey! There are like, twenty other Waze users stuck on this very bridge!!!

“I’m sure there are.”

“Holy shit. This is so cool. This guys says we’re going 10 mph. Are we going 10? Confirm.”


“Now we’re going less than 20 mph, but more than 10. Construction. Hey, there’s construction, see this little hardhat guy? We should be coming up on construction in 5, 4, 3, 2…”

“there’s the construction.”

“Is there a cop? It says there a cop. Confirm? Thumbs up?”

“I don’t see a cop.”

“Okay, keep looking.”

“There’s usually a cop further up on the left…”



“Yes, Thumbs Up! there is a cop there. Are we going 40 mph now?”

“We’re going 50.”

“Oh, now it says 50. Isn’t that incredible?”


“There’s like, twenty other Waze users in my immediate vicinity. Probably that guy, and that guy…”

“They do this while they’re driving?”

“Well, no, it’s probably the passenger.”

“Yeah. Right.”

“Oh there’s a car broken down in Stonington. I know that’s like ten miles but I want you to be prepared.”

“Uh huh.”


“No, I’m driving.”

“He’s coming up on our rear! He’s going to pass us!”

(A car zooms by on left. I wave hi across Tom’s field of vision.)

“He waved back. Huh.”

“NO WAY!!! This is incredible! So like, he WAVED on HERE, and it meant, WAVE! Like, for REAL wave! This is so exciting!”

It had been five minutes.

I was completely and utterly transmorgaphied.


“This thing is eating my battery!”

“There’s a charge plug right there.”

“[silence, because on Waze]”

“[silence, because his wife has been overtaken by Waze.]

“I have to stop.”


“Okay. So I am turning this off.”


“Do you know that they probably can collect this data, and then over a period of time, say you have like, I don’t know, 21 users per minute pass by a certain spot, they could compile the statistics from this and sell this data to the DOT and the DOT can then take this data and use it to make improvements or efficiencies or plan construction or, like, anything.”

“Uh huh.”

I looked over at Tom. Why wasn’t he excited? This was very exciting!

“Aren’t you excited???”

And then, I realized what I had become.

In five minutes, I had gone from new user to acolyte to all,

heart-iconPraise Waze, we have all been saved!!! heart-icon

Real time social collective, onscreen. While it was happening right in front of the windshield. I recalled the days of radar detectors and CB radio. I remember thinking how cool it was that there were people out there, talking to other people, long into the night.


And do you remember when the internet came into our lives? I remember Prodigy. Typing into the night, “Hello? Is anyone out there?”


They’re out there. And they are waving at us! Really!


The Portland Marathon 2014: trip and race report – Part I

8 Oct

Part I: Getting to Portlandia

While it is still fresh in my mind, I want to talk about my recent trip to Portland, OR. We got back earlier this afternoon, after a red-eye flight with connection in Atlanta, so I feel like a drunk simian with eyelids like sticky, cheap venetian blinds. The flights themselves were uneventful, except the Portland to Atlanta featured a full eclipse of the moon, which was pretty darned cool. Especially delightful was when, somewhere over the middle part of the West, I looked down and saw, reflected in a large body of still water, the half-eclipsing moon, and the lights from our plane. And nothing else. Because of this event, and because I watched American Hustle on one of Delta’s headrest screens, I did not sleep. This is the first time in many years I have gone without sleep for so long.


There was also a lady barfing in front of us, and a man who put his hands up over the back of his seat, continually blocking my movie screen, which was on the back of his seat, so technically, I guess, belonged to him. I would occasionally poke his hand to make him move it. He was usually asleep. Lucky him. Anyhow, I did not sleep well at all this week, and it is not for lack of a good comfy bed. We stayed in an Airbnb in Northeast Portland in the Albina Arts district with my two friends, Tobi and Megan, also doing the marathon (Megan her first.) My better half was doing the half (and despite being stopped mid-race by a train got a 1:38 and 6th in his age group…) My sister Liz did the Family 10K walk, also her first event. And my brother Pete spent the day Sunday making us a smoked pork shoulder.  More reason not to sleep. Because Portland is an eating town.

I also didn’t sleep well because I am worried about my Dad. More specifically, I worry about my Mom becoming tired and overwrought caring for my Dad. And in worrying or having anxiety about it, I also become tired and overwrought, but the kind of tired where sleep is elusive, and it is easier to do and distract.

So here goes. After not sleeping, I will attempt a trip report.

We arrived in Portland after flying all morning and passing the beautiful Mt. Hood from the air. This is not my shot but this is pretty much exactly how it looked from our plane:


We were to see this magnificent peak, and a few sisters and brothers, over the next week. But this was a first for me, and I was astonished.

The weather in Portland was an unseasonably warm 75 degrees and sunny, and dry, and stayed that way all week, and in fact, got a little warmer for the marathon. But on that first day, it was nice to see Portland in the sun. From the airport, we took the train downtown, picked up a bus heading back over the Willamette to the Division neighborhood, where my brother and sister-in-law live. They have a tiny little magical cottage called The Spider’s Knee. Tom and I found it with no problems, especially after viewing this sign, I knew it was their place:

courtesy P. Janes

We dropped our bags and went out to find some supper. Up on Division, we found Pok Pok, or it found us. Trust me, if you ever feel like killing a weekend and spending 350 bucks on a plane ticket, fly to Portland and eat at Pok Pok. Tom had the shoulder of boar and I had chicken skewers and let me tell you… Actually, no, let their website tell you. We didn’t know they were famous, only heard the clanking of forks upon dishes. That’s a sign. We were not disappointed. After dinner, we dog- -and-people-and-bike-watched from a coffee shop. We met the nicest folks, the nicest dogs. People are good in Portland.

On Thursday, Pete took us for a hike up Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls on the base of Mt. Hood. Enormous salmon flapped and flipped their exhausted selves up the rocky, near-dry river bed, many to a certain end. I have never seen fish that big or desperate. And the trees. Trees cartoonishly big.

We drove back through Hood River and over the Columbia into Washington, where the road twisted and turned. Surely Bigfoot lurked in the shadows ready to jump out and thumb a ride in Pete’s big red truck. The sun continued to shine on this day, making it hard to believe it ever gets dreary and damp. We came up alongside Bonneville Dam, and Beacon rock, and the enormity of these features along with the distant Mt. Hood reminded me that the Pacific Northwest is far different from our older, more rounded northeast geography.

On Thursday night, we checked in to our house, shopped at New Seasons and waited for Megan to get in from Indiana. This would be her first marathon.

We settled in, but I couldn’t sleep. Too much in my monkey brain. All those sights, I couldn’t decompress.

The next day, my sister Liz and later, my friend Tobi arrived. We met my sister downtown for Voodoo Donuts (the magic is in the hole.) I had the one with a dirty name that has oreos and peanut butter. Yum. This is my arm raising it in triumph.


courtesy M. McCulloch

It just kept getting better.

We took the train up to the airport to get a rental car and pick up Tobi. We ended up with Sparky the Unicorn, a teensy tiny Chevy in baby blue that ended up being a great choice (kind of like riding a quadracycle with a tin roof). Tobi loaded her bags in the miniscule trunk and we went back downtown to pick up our bibs at the marathon expo. We somehow managed to find my sister, got ourselves oriented for Sunday, and drove back to the airbnb house. That night, finally all together, we all seven of us ate out at the Kennedy School. Again, click the link. I can’t even begin to describe this place. Just imagine what would happen if someone took your old elementary school and turned it into a restaurants  / bar / movie theatre / gallery / event space. Yes.

Got up early on Saturday to tackle Mt. Hood. Are you starting to get the feeling that we are never going to rest up for the big marathon? You would be right. I was still waking up at East Coast four thirty, after going to bed at West Coast nine thirty, which meant I wasn’t really sleeping at all. But off we went, driving up Powell Avenue (Girls Girls Girls and oh, Home Depot, too!) until it became bucolic country and eventually led us to Mt. Hood. And up and up we went on the access road to Timberline Lodge. Once again, I will not spoil this for you, because I know you are already planning your trip to Portland, so make sure to add this destination to your itinerary. Sitting on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, built by the Conservation corps in 1938 and used as the exterior opening shot in the Shining, this place gave me the shivers and the awes. Poor Megan was ready to join the handful of snowboarders heading up the lift to sketch out a little of Mt. Hood. It was very scenic and at 6,000 feet, a good opportunity for inspiring long views of the cascades. Definitely a winner. We would have hiked, but the next day was race day, so we basically picnicked, got back in the car, and drove and drove some more along the fruit orchard area of Mt. Hood. Quite beautiful.

That night, we cooked spaghetti (gluten free for Tobi) and got ready for our big day the next day. I planned and plotted parking, logistics, and pinned my bib to my Narragansett Running Club top. We all went to bed early in order to get up early. Once in bed, I read, hoping to sleep. But I stayed wide awake til long past two.

*Part Two: The actual marathon, Monkey Logistics gone awry, and Recovery??? coming in the next few days…

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