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Recession Road Trip

June is not just a month for weddings: It's also a month for heroic road trips. School's out. The highway beckons. It's a big continent that you have to see to believe. I think I've crossed the country on the road five times, including once by thumb and once by bus. Now, of course, I travel by private jet and/or subterranean pneumatic tube. (That great sucking sound you hear: That's me heading to the West Coast.)

I've got no road trips planned this year, but here's the next best thing: A new blog, Half a Tank, by writer Theresa Vargas and photographer Michael Williamson. Check out the latest post and its evocative photo of Theresa contemplating the Blue Jay motel. (I guess the Four Seasons was booked.)

This is good stuff -- head over there and post some comments!

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 8, 2009; 2:32 PM ET
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Geez, what are y'all doing? Working?

I had read a few of the Recession Road Trip pieces, although I hadn't caught on that it was a blog. Good stuff.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

That is a fun blog. I love travel writing. It gives me a chance to live vicariously through the exploits of the less rootbound.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

bc, you have something on your nose... Need an ice pack?

I can't wait until we've finally built a few ballistic tube transports so we can revive the old "Airport" franchise...

"Tube 2067 -- Lava Storm!"

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 8, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the the subterranean pneumatic tube is that travel time is constant and independent of distance. Great for going to Australia. Not so good for the Baltimore-DC commute.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 8, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I ask my Mom if we were poor, and she thinks we weren't. Yet, I remember her collecting Green Stamps to get stuff, and my Dad telling me he was surprised to learn that graduate students were ineligible for food stamps because the tuition reimbursement was "disposable income." I guess we weren't exactly poor, but we weren't fabulously well-to-do, either.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 8, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

A little action in our neighborhood a little while ago right in front of Don's shop next door to us:

Man wanted by police shoots self near Navy Yard

June 8, 2009 - 2:32pm

WASHINGTON - A man wanted by authorities shot and killed himself near the Navy Yard Monday afternoon.

D.C. Police say the man shot himself after members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force approached him in the 500 block of M Street in Southeast.

Police identified the man as 38-year-old Allan Haggins.

He was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 8, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, SciTim, EVERYBODY's mom collected green stamps and bought stuff. We were pretty solidly middle class, and my mom did it.

Posted by: slyness | June 8, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

We collected Green Stamps, too. My brother got a Del Crandall catcher's mitt that way.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 8, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

We bought most of our groceries at the base commissary, so I don't think we ever had enough purchases to make green stamps worthwhile. However, we were buying off-brands long before 'generic' in those white and black boxes became cool.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 8, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

All the gas stations gave green and yellow stamps. I have mentioned before that I was the only one in my family to actually paste the stamps into books and go to the Green Stamp Store to get things like an over night suitcase and an alarm clock. They didn't have toys or any really fun kid stuff. But it was still quite an achievement to get serious free things at the age of 12.

Posted by: Windy3 | June 8, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Okay, maybe they did have a catcher's mit but that wasn't my style.

Posted by: Windy3 | June 8, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Talk about a tough character on the bench!!

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 8, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Yep, we collected green and yellow stamps in our family, too. But for the life of me I simply cannot remember anything we redeemed them for. After we emptied mom's house, before she died but after she was moved to a nursing home, I found many, many completely filled books of S&H green stamps. Funny, that. Wonder if mom and dad kept them like that, reminding them of the ration books they must have had during WWII.

Green stamps -- a definer of a generation.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 8, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Sonia Sotomayor has true grit!

Posted by: Windy3 | June 8, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Yep, those of us who remember the S&H green stamps are marked.

Posted by: Windy3 | June 8, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I also purchased a hair dryer with our stamps--the old-fashioned kind with the plastic white tubing and hair bonnet. Oh my. That was a LONG time ago.

Posted by: Windy3 | June 8, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Somehow I doubt the ER made her wait 13 hours like it would the rest of us. Maybe all the Secret Service guys with guns had something to do with it. That and the media.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 8, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

You may not be aware, but a certain Boodler's comment to Celebritology made Liz's Comment of the Week. Here it is:

"A note to David Duchovny's fans: talking about sex addiction is like reading about music. Come back when you're serious." -- Byoolin"

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 8, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that the emergency room has usually been very responsive to me and my family. I believe the trick is to make sure to do stupid things during the off-hours, when the rush is lessened.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 8, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The very few times I've been to the emergency room, they were extremely responsive. Each time I was either bleeding copiously or running a fever at levels they don't see very often. I was also fully insured, which may help.

Posted by: bobsewell | June 8, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Um... what are the rush hours for stupidity, ScienceTim?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 8, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Reposting since I didn't realize there was a new Kit...

An attempt to Google information moments ago about William Reed of Connecticut, old time Wyoming fossil hunter, led me to news I didn't want to hear--from several sources.

From a blog post yesterday:

News has come out that the University of Wyoming will close its Geological Museum in Laramie, Wyoming as part of cost-cutting measures to offset an $18 million budget deficit.

From a blog post today:

“We are dismayed to report that the University of Wyoming has decided to include the Geological Museum in the programs to be cut as a result of a decrease in funding by the state. 45 people across the University lost their jobs, including the Director of the Geological Museum Brent Breithaupt and the part-time museum secretary. This decision was made by the University administration, and in no way reflects a lack of support from the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

LL: Don't know when the geology museum doors will officially close, but I'm beginning to think my timing stinks! More info-gathering needed...

Posted by: laloomis | June 8, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Rush hours for ER? Friday and Saturday nights...seriously, don't go there unless you have to!

Posted by: slyness | June 8, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Late on Friday or Saturday nights has always seemed to be the stupid rush hours that I noticed - right around last call time at the bars.

Posted by: dmd2 | June 8, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Jinx Slyness! :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | June 8, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Personally, love a good road trip, but some folks in this Era of Instant Gratification don't have the patience for it.

So, I've been using my Mad Engineering Skillz to construct a travel Trebuchet for getting myself around the East Coast.

Don't worry, I comply with helmet laws.

I'm not completely crazy or stupid, y'know.


Posted by: -bc- | June 8, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Key word there is 'completely', bc. I rely on adverbs like that all the time.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 8, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Turns out our Navy Yard suicide wasn't a suicide after all. U.S. Marshalls were chasing the guy, and for some reason he stopped his truck right in front of the Navy Yard, and ran into parking lot across the street. Then he fired on the Marshalls, and they took him out.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | June 8, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Still sounds like a suicide, Mudge. Very sad.

Posted by: TBG- | June 8, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, yes, suicide by cop.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | June 8, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse


Must have been a busy day for everyone. I managed to backboodle and catch up before 50 new comments were posted.

So, I had a good laugh catching up on the engineering kit.

Two posts about boulders and holders and then RD starts his post with "This is a subject near and dear to my heart..." and I thought, wait a minute, RD has no boulders near his heart...


Yes, it has been a long day of standardized testing.

FTB, the Leopard tutorials are online. It is not Snow Leopard, obviously, but most of what's included is common to both versions of the OS. The videos are VERY long, but they are divided into chapters so you can skip ahead.

Posted by: abeac1 | June 8, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

geez, the comments under the sotomayor article are nasty. what is the matter with people?

Posted by: LALurker | June 8, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Comments on regular news articles are so awful. Even in polite old Seattle, they are nasty. Not sure why people do that - I suppose because they can.

Sorry about your car troubles, LALurker. At least you should get treated well when you buy something these days.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 8, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I do indeed remember my Grandmother's books of Green Stamps, and putting them in the books using the Pepsi bottle full of water with the spritzer head... though it wasn't as fun licking them ourselves.

Mmmm. Stamp glue....

And yellojkt, thanks for seeing right through me.


Posted by: -bc- | June 8, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I've crossed the continent overland, round-trip some three times, if you include moving from Georgia to Wyoming, then driving to Vancouver a few years later.

So there's pictures of me as a four-year-old at the Grand Canyon, the Arizona teepee motel, and Meteor Crater, not to mention Big Basin State Park near Santa Cruz.

Thinking of the University of Wyoming, its new addition for the library is about finished. They've got some 1.5 million volumes, 50% more than my gigantic state university (almost an order of magnitude bigger than UW) had back when. The Rocky Mountain Herbarium will remain in business.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 8, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Ah, methinks Joel's attending the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Pasadena, get the low-down on the Hubble Constant (or not-so constant, as I think of it), and x-ray ghosts around black holes (which seem to be more massive and holey-er than ever).

Just a guess, though.


Posted by: -bc- | June 8, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

I had never been west of the Mississippi (unless you count Hawaii) until a few years ago and we did three west coast vacations in a row. Then two years ago, we drove cross country and back and had a blast. It took us two weeks and we didn't see half the stuff we wanted to. This working for a living sure interferes with my travel plans.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 8, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I have had a glass of wine, but I would say that the key benefit of green stamps were preparation for tetris.

You had to have a skill to get the stamps to fill up each of the rows of the book.

Posted by: russianthistle | June 9, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

BTW, I hope no one picks on me.

Posted by: russianthistle | June 9, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Unless we are playing basketball. Then, you are smart to pick me. Pick Me! Pick Me!

Posted by: russianthistle | June 9, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

I was at the bank this morning and spotted a bank employee who had his hair done up very nicely like our infamous spiky durian fruit. He must used up a whole tube of gel. Wonder how long he spent spiking his hair this morning.

Posted by: rainforest1 | June 9, 2009 3:17 AM | Report abuse

As long as he didn't smell like a durian.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 5:43 AM | Report abuse

I had to go to Vietnam to eat a durian. My wife won't let me buy any at the local Asian markets.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 5:45 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Not much to report. Just checked my tomato plants. One had no less than six tomatoes on it, the next one of the same type has three. All 9 are in clusters of three, for some reason. The other four plants are doing well, and some have blooms, but no 'maters yet.

June 9, 1768: When a customs inspector boards Boston merchant John Hancock’s ship Liberty, he interrupts the crew unloading a shipment of madeira wine without paying the import tax (a.k.a. “smuggling,” such an unflattering word). The inspector is unceremoniously locked in a cabin until the offloading is completed. The next day the ship is seized by customs officials, starting a major incident and protest of British tax policies in the colonies.
1772: British customs schooner HMS Gaspee runs aground in Narragansett Bay while chasing a smuggler. Rhode Islander John Brown and eight boats full of angry colonists attack and burn the stranded Gaspee after putting her wounded skipper, Lt. William Duddington, and his crew ashore.
1959: The Navy’s first ballistic-missile-launching nuclear submarine, USS George Washington (SSBN 598), is launched by the Electric Boat Co. at Groton, Conn.

I smell coffee perking in the Ready Room. Anybody know what's on the menu?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | June 9, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Country ham biscuits this morning, Mudge. I was up late and don't have the energy to do anything more complicated than that. So Enjoy!

Big deacons meeting last night. We brought our report on restructuring the church to a vote and got the supermajority we needed: 41 votes for, 4 votes against. So I really had to decompress when I got home. Now we take it to the congregation, and then we get to the fun part: implementing it.

Posted by: slyness | June 9, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

I think our Canadian Labs are getting ready for their mission, seems the Queen herself has donated a leader to the RCMP - look out :-).

Posted by: dmd2 | June 9, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Weather report from the flight line: It's gonna be an ugly one today. I got sprinkled on for the last two miles of my bike ride. And it only looks like it's gonna get worse.

What's that old sailor's chanty about 'red sky in morning'? I keep getting it mixed up.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I have more of a Fixx tune cootie now, yello...

And yes, surprising to see lightning about 12 hours ahead of schedule. Bodes not well for the Afternoon Patrol, methinks.

*grabbing-a-ham-biscuit-on-the-way-to-the-Diet-Pepsi-machine Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Check out the last line in this article..

*barricading the door* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Fortunately Scotty, HUAR is on the job:

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

And make sure you have this book on hand:

Hardcopy only. Methinks the Kindle copy would get 'accidentally' deleted on R-Day.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone!

abeac - loved your post last night. I tried to come up with several clever twists on that concept but gave up. Which is doubtless just as well.

Ain't natural to have lightening in the morning is it?

Fear not, ScottyNuke, Synthetic People are our friends. They are here to help.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

And just how will semi-sentient trees help, yello?

Oh, wait...

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning, Boodle!

All quiet in the southern front.

Posted by: Braguine | June 9, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

This is a day late, as it talks about the virtues of practical engineering, but I thought it well worth a look:

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. Hey, Cassandra.

All quiet on the Western Front.

Another gorgeous day here; I think the stars must be perfectly aligned, or summat.

Back to work after 6 days off -- horrors!

Have a great day everyone.

Posted by: Yoki | June 9, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

In the road trip department, I got to see the massive new ash blanket from Mt. St. Helens in July 1980, toured the empty and magnificent Mt. Rainier, then the Olympic Peninsula, then attended the first presentations of the ecological questions at a big international ecology and evolution meeting in Vancouver (where I had dinner with John Maynard Smith, astonishingly).

On the way back, I stayed the night at Quake Lake, Montana (formed in 1959) then drove through Yellowstone, which was suddenly a different place. It had, a couple of times, made St. Helens look like a minor event. Then back to measuring growing grass.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 9, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Love this line from Milbank's column re: the GOP dinner Palin attended: "In a burst of optimism, organizers allowed two knives to be placed at each of the 2,000 place settings -- one, apparently, to stick in the food and one to use on fellow Republicans."

And better detail on the shooting across the street. Turns out the Marshalls shot him AND he shot himself, too.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Jeepers DoftC, in July 1980 you should have dropped by the McDonald's in Puyallup (which you drove by) and met the curiously verbose young swing manager.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

On-Kit about recession road trips:

I have a friend in Madera, Calif., who is a pharmacist. Like my lawyer friend on the East Coast who was in the Pepperdine Law School London program with Rod Blagojevich, Bob was in the same junior and senior high school classes in Bakersfield.

I received several e-mails from him this past weekend. He admits that he's paranoid about the situation in Califonia since the five state Prop.s recently were defeated. Typically he takes a two weeks for a family vacation in summer, two weeks in the fall, and two weeks in the winter. He's taking no vacations this year--just a couple of four-day weekends and working as many overtime hours as possible.

From various reporting I learned last night that it was Thursday when Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal announced wide-ranging budget cuts to funding for government programs, jobs across the state (including at Wyoming University), and low-income health care.

I learned in a phone call that I made to the president's office (I spoke with the president's secretary) at the university minutes before it closed last night that the doors to the Geology Museum on campus closed Thursday evening.

It was just a week ago today that I received an email from the museum's head, curator Breit Breithaupt--before he was off to do some field work, who provided me information about the museum's summer hours.

The funding cuts and loss of staff positions at the Wyoming Archives in Cheyenne is just as bad, as I discovered yesterday morning after a phone call and exchange of email.

Posted by: laloomis | June 9, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

"Red sky at night, sailors' delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning."

Not a chanty, though; just a saying. Pretty accurate, meteorologically speaking, though. It has its roots in Matthew XVI: 2-3, when Jesus says, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”

Then Big Will picked it up, in "Venus and Adonis":

"Like a red morn that ever yet betokened,
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,
Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds,
Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds."

Of course, I had to explain the nautical parts to him. I did a lot of nautical consultation on Will's stuff back then. Man worked my butt off during the writing of "The Tempest," I tell ya. And the Rosencranz/Guildenstern scene, of course.

Will came up with "Blow, winds, blow! and crack, cracked cheeks!" himself, of course, before Firesign Theater stole it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Or there's always what Sue Ann Niven (Betty White's character on Mary Tyler Moore)said...

"Bride dressed in white: sailor's delight!"

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

So the feds aren't naming the 10 banks that will be allowed to repay TARP funds? Doesn't want the public to form a perception of good bank, bad bank? Transparency apparently has no meaning.

Posted by: laloomis | June 9, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

More at the NYT:

Although the Treasury did not identify the banks, people briefed on the situation said they include American Express, Bank of New York Mellon, the BB&T Corporation, Capital One Financial, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, the State Street Corporation and US Bancorp. All passed the stress test and applied to return their TARP funds. Another bank, Morgan Stanley, which needed to raise $1.8 billion after the stress test, was also said to have received permission, as was Northern Trust, a large custodial bank that did not undergo the stress test.

Posted by: laloomis | June 9, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I think I need some boodle mojo. My friends in Budget are trying to convince me that 453 minus 66 equals 384. "Please Lord, help me useth my hands for doing good works, not for the flipping of birds or the choking of my fellow man. Amen."

Posted by: Raysmom | June 9, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I'd side with you Raysmom, but tricky answers like that depend on time of day and windspeed. And perhaps whether it's a European or African swallow.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I could fax the good folks in Budget some new batteries for their calculators, Raysmom...

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

If you wish it hard enough it will equal 384.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

N.B.: Chantey (not chanty), also shantey, etc., from the French, "chanter," to sing, from which we also get chanteuse, chant, chanticleer (a male vocal ensemble) leading to the name Chanticleer, etc. I don't know any French etymology so can't say if chanter has anything to do with Chantilly, although there is a Chantilly codex, which is a collection of early French music.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Is that 453 minus 66 minus tax, really?

May you make the people in Budget see the error of their ways, Lord....

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Some pretty funny stuff here...

Colbert Report in Iraq.

Posted by: russianthistle | June 9, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Sound like some faith-based armithmetic leftover from the last administration, Raysmom.

Although as a means of budget reduction, it has a lot to recommend it. Pay raises, not so much.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

453 minus 66?

*closes door*

What number do you want it to be?

[old accountant joke]

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Public Service Announcement for our Virginia residents... today is the Democratic Primary!

Here's some info for those of you in Fairfax...

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Raysmom, I feel for you. The whole purpose of Budget is to drive operations folks crazy.

Posted by: slyness | June 9, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Laughing, engelmann.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Gene Robinson has an excellent column this morning, BTW:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

i've driven cross country twice, by myself. i will NOT be repeating THAT adventure! somewhere between colorado and kansas i thought i was going to lose my mind! those prairie lands can bore you to tears!

i LOVED the storm this am! i was still asleep and i love sleeping during tstorms... the sound of the rain... ah... like a lullaby!


Posted by: mortii | June 9, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

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