Off-Roading in New England

Current mood: Determined

Currently listening to: The fan

I’m on a mission.

Go google for off road trails in Massachusetts (or any other state) and you’ll find lots of hits, and you’ll even find quite a few clubs.

But there’s one thing you’ll notice as you browse them – they’re all generally “hardcore” clubs that drive on “hardcore” trails. (See my classification of trails; most of these clubs use the top 3 types.) And they all generally drive modified vehicles – they call them “rigs.” Jeeps, old Blazers and Broncos, old Toyotas and highly modified pickup trucks.

And that’s all fine & dandy, except for one thing: I don’t own such a vehicle. And frankly, nobody I know does either.

So there’s the problem. These clubs cater to the hardcore off-roaders, while people with “regular” or “stock” SUVs and trucks are left without an option. (Many of the clubs are Jeep only, and even those have requirements like big, BIG tires & whatnot.) Let’s consider the types of vehicles I’m talking about:

Subaru Forester

Mitsubishi Outlander

Toyota RAV4

Honda CR-V

Honda Element

Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy

Chevy S-10/GMC Sonoma

Chevy Trailblazer

Chevy Equinox

Chevy Tracker

Toyota Highlander

Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon

Ford Explorer

Ford Escape

Suzuki XL-7

And that’s just a sample. Almost anything with 4WD or AWD as it comes “stock” from the factory is not qualified for those “hardcore” trails, but they are still quite capable dirt-roaders. People with these kinds of vehicles have no club of their own, no place to go off-road. (The reason for this is, for example, in Massachusetts, no vehicle over 1000 lbs is permitted on any state land – i.e. state parks. There are trails for small 4-wheelers across the state, but current laws forbid any cars, trucks, or SUVs on these trails.)

My goal is to create a club – with FREE membership, mind you – so that we have someplace to go. Hopefully members will own land that we can use, and people will know of trails or old dirt roads that we can use – not “hardcore” off-road trails, but moderate trails that, while they don’t require high ground clearance, still require 4WD or AWD and some skilled driving. I mean, we’re just trying to have some fun here after all.

I really want this to become reality, if for no other reason than I want someplace to go off-roading in safety. Trying to find trails on your own is hard, you never know whether the land is public or private, and if the trail has unexpected surprises waiting for you (like big rocks or a deep, muddy stream). Those kinds of things would stop most of the vehicles I mentioned above dead in their tracks (unless you modify them by spending thousands of dollars on big tires and possibly a lift kit).

So dear readers, let’s give this a go, okay? If you know of trails, please post them here. If you drive a small truck or SUV, let me know! Let’s band together & have some fun, okay?

See y’all on the trails (hopefully)…

-Keithius

Snow & Stuff

Current mood: Caffinated

Currently listening to: Super Metroid ‘All the World in One Girl’ OC Remix

Wow. What a week it’s been since I last wrote here!

Anyway, the obvious stuff: it snowed. It snowed A LOT. I drove in the snow. It was fun! AWD is such a cool thing, there was literally NOWHERE I couldn’t go. I went up Mt. Vernon St, up all the hills I could find in fact; none of them could hold me back, even when they were compacted snow with no sand AT ALL. Ice? Whatever – I drove on. I even got to do some radical donuts down in the Civic Center – with the hand brake, whee! I think I got close to a true axial 360 – but I’m not sure. On Sunday, when the storm was over, there was a LOT of snow down in the Civic Center, and I took Amanda there to teach her the finer points of snow driving, and to have her get used to how the car feels in the snow. However, there was so much snow that it actually came up higher than the front fenders on the car! So, I drove into it anyway, and didn’t get stuck at all (although turning was a bit tough). Isn’t AWD sweet? Amanda praticed on the better-plowed portion of the lot, and then I had her go out onto the roads (which were pretty good by this point, but still slippery – and this is Fitchburg after all, which isn’t renowned for its plowing abilities). She did VERY well, I must say, which is a relief to me. All in all, the snow storm was fun, fun, and more fun. The car preformed impecably – which is what I was hoping for.

I’ve been very zombie-like lately; work is really doing a number on my conciousness. Long days of driving (snow doesn’t do much for traffic I’m afraid), and long days of support (which is down a bit, thanks to my MAD PR0GR4MM1NG SK1LLZ) followed by long nights of programming (hax0ring).

Something tells me I had a lot more on my mind this morning, but I tend to forget all of that by the time I actually have a free minute to write my thoughts down. Oh well.

-Keithius

MOST AWFUL COMMUTE EVER

Current mood: Tired

Currently listening to: Nothing

Today was the worst commute I’ve ever had.

At 5:30am, it started to snow. No big deal, right? “Just a flurry” I thought to myself. But lo and behold, when I went out to the car a few minutes later (6am), there was nearly a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground. ARGH. So, being lazy (and late) I just started the car and let the snow blow off – which was fine, it was just that light, dusty stuff. Well, apparently it snowed all over the place, very quickly and very suddenly, because all the roads were covered in a thin layer of snow-turned-ice, and since nobody expected it, there was no sand or salt on the roads at all. Which means that they were like ice. No big deal for my AWD Keithmobile, but for many other people (most other people, really) it was hell.

Route 2, just in Leominster: big accident, traffic is crawling along at 5mph. A Toyota Tacoma had crashed head-on (well, almost) into the barrier on the left of the highway. Police, ambulance, etc. After getting by that, things smoothed out. 190 was a breeze – but then I got into Worcester.

Route 290, in Worcester: spin-outs galore. One happened just feet before my exit. Crawled off the highway nearly a half-hour behind my normal schedule. My mood was NOT GOOD at this point. But, I was pleased with my driving so far, so I did some experiments on the freshly-iced (yes, iced, the snow was fresh in Worcester and had only been packed down a bit by passing cars, it was like driving on sheer ice) roads; fish-tailed almost out of control, but recovered easily thanks to AWD. Locked up my brakes (the only down side to my new car, no ABS :-( what an oversight, Mitsubishi… tsk tsk tsk) and slid around a bit, but nothing too bad. I’m actually glad I had the time to get to know the new car’s handling in snow – goodness knows I’ll need it soon.

ANYWAY… moving along a bit in time in my story, I hear that 290 and 495 are messed up and traffic is at a standstill. So, I try the back-roads. BIG MISTAKE. 122 through Worcester is GRIDLOCKED. It took me over an hour to get just a few miles to the pike. I’m never going that way again (it didn’t help that there were like 3 different schools along that road).

Route 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike in Milbury/Worcester: moved along quite nicely for a bit, even got past 495… but then, the gridlock began. For the next 3 hours I sat on the pike, moving a little bit here and there, trying to keep sane. My leg was sore from braking & accelerating … mostly braking, because we were moving so slow that even the engine’s idle speed was too fast for traffic. I arrived at the Natick rest area to stretch my legs, take a piss and get some breakfast, hoping that the worst traffic might move along while I was inside (hey, it’s happened before!). No such luck though; things were just as bad when I got out. Thankfully, just after the on-ramp for 128 in Weston, the pike suddenly cleared up (everyone must’ve been going onto 128) and I made it the rest of the way without incident. Of course, by this point it was 11am, and I’m usually home by that time. Overall, it took me 4 1/2 hours to get into Boston from Worcester today. My average speed was 6 MPH, along a distance of 44 miles. Apparently, it was the same story on EVERY road leading into or out of Boston today; 95, 93, 128, etc. At one point, the Pike was apparently backed up ALL THE WAY TO ROUTE 84.

I think everyone here has just forgotten how to drive in the snow. From the radio reports, there were accidents literally everywhere – in a 10 mile stretch of highway (which might take you over an hour to pass) one reporter saw 10 accidents – one every mile. Spinouts, jack-knifed trailers, roll-overs, the works. I mean, PLEASE people, remember how to drive!!! And it wasn’t even a lot of snow or anything, just a little dusting, but since it came so suddenly, and since there was no sand on the road, you’d expect people to be a little careful – but NO… that’s asking too much from your average commuter, it seems.

So, I arrived home at around 2:30pm today, in a very “homicidal” mood… and of course had my work cut out for me. Not as bad as some days, though. Thankfully, I’m good at what I do (hey, I wrote the program I should know how it works) so I answered 6 support voice mail messages in under an hour, taking care of the entire backlog for the day. Ahhh, peace at last.

On another topic, my PHP sticker arrived over Thanksgiving, and is now proudly attached to my new car, so that anyone can know:

1) That I use PHP

2) That they are seeing my car

3) That I am a geek

Unfortunately, I cannot say (as I did with my old C++ sticker, which is no longer available for ordering, alas!) that my car is the only car in New England with a PHP sticker. Just a day or two before I got my sticker, I saw a Jeep Wrangler at the Framingham rest area on the Mass Pike with a PHP sticker on it’s bumper. *sigh* Well, I CAN say that I’m probably the only SUV (a Wrangler is NOT an SUV; it’s a Jeep… end of story) with a PHP sticker on the back. And besides, the Outlander is so… distinctive… that if you see it, and the PHP sticker, you’ll know it’s me. Here’s a picture!

My New Sticker!

So, now you know how to find me. Honk if you see me!!

Okay, I think that’s all for now. I’ll try to keep this blog updated a bit more often this month, I know I’ve been falling behind.

Peace out, y’all.