Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sifoddling Along


Transportation Stories

My family seems to love transportation. It starts with my grandfather Bunch’s love of fast horses. He was apparently quite good at it and won some silver pieces as prizes.

My dad loved trains. He wanted to be an engineer, but polio put that dream out of reach. He was very clever and invented a way to drive a car using only his hands when he was 16. It was a lever with springs connected to the gas pedal controlled by the left hand and a twisted rod that was inserted in the brake pedal on the right. A local blacksmith constructed it from his instructions. The only permanent change to the car was a dime-sized hole in the brake pedal. The rod could be removed so that other drivers could use the car conventionally. He should have patented the system.

My siblings and cousins also loved speed, but of different kinds. One cousin was a superb horseman, another raced cars and his brother owned a trucking company. My brother didn’t race, but he did love a fast car or truck. My sister was (and is) in love with airplanes. I remember in 1951 when she was getting ready to go to her wedding, she could hardly stay in the house to get dressed as wave after wave of B-36 bombers flew overhead. They were being relocated to another base and it seems like hundreds of them kept perfect formation as they went to their new home.

I have a more checkered relationship with transportation. I like good cars but could never afford the little Mercedes coupe of my dreams. My first commercial flight was on a converted C-47 for civilian use. It was about 1960. Later my business career led to many flights. For one year I commuted weekly from Minneapolis to Omaha to teach a class. I managed to visit most states with the exceptions of Alaska and Maine. I hope to see them sometime. They are on my bucket list.

This familiarity with planes led to me a less than stellar courter. I met Al Williams when we both worked at Campbell’s Soup in New Jersey. He asked me out to dinner at a nearby restaurant and on our return walk a plane flew over destined for the Philadelphia airport. He said, “Look, there goes a 747.” I promptly said, “No, it is a L-1011. I’m surprised he asked me out a second time.

When I lived on the East Coast I fell in love with trains. It was so convenient to go to work, take day trips to New York or Washington, D.C. Now I live in a Minneapolis suburb and a light rail system is under construction and will have a stop nearby.

Meanwhile, I scooter about in my 2nd bright red Prius. It may not be a race car, but it makes me feel good to think I am helping the environment a teeny bit.

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