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IMG_5080There were too many close calls on my freeway commute this afternoon.  Each time a wild and crazy moment verged on turning into an emergency, my knuckles were white while my hands strangled the steering wheel.  I ripped one hand off the wheel to hit the horn.

While I was driving just under posted speeds, I noticed that the traffic up ahead was lighting up their brake lights.   I came up to the car in front of me just as it dramatically weaved to its right on to the shoulder of the interstate.  Appearing right in front of me and taking the entire lane was a riding zero-turn-radius mower.  My brakes groaned vigorously.  Thankfully, I dodged the blockage with a jump to the freeway shoulder.

Someone is going to be very surprised when they get to their destination and look into the back of their trailer.  While most of us who deftly sidestepped the obstacle found that thought humorous, I am sure that someone is going to be very sad.  At least that light thought made me regain my composure, return my blood pressure to normal and clear my head for the rest of my long drive back to my office.

The freeway split ahead with a gentle and wide opening for destinations north and south.  Good signage gave traffic plenty of time for merging into the correct lanes.  But, well-designed traffic patterns do not make up for distracted drivers who make decisions at the last-minute.

A pickup truck heavily laden with a bed full of construction equipment was lumbering along slowly, well below the posted speeds.  No doubt its slow speed was complicated by its payload. Just as I was approaching its driver abruptly pulled into my lane while his truck bobbed and weaved under it strained suspension.

I had to braked vigorously to keep from rear-ending him.  Traffic to my left was heavy preventing any quick lane change.  My horn was sounding the alarm of both an emergency situation and a very irritated driver.  When it was safe to pass him, he was hiding his face in embarrassment.  I was just trying to catch my breath and push my heart back into my chest.

Can you imagine how many close calls fill up all of our lives?  What do you think your guardian angel would say to you when recounting how many times we were protected on any given day?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4434There is a recognizable and unmistakable morning sound that disrupts the deepest slumber.  Each one of us has customized that sound with the advent of cellphones and programmable sounds.  Nevertheless, we all know the wake-up call of our personal alarm clocks.

Mine sounds loudly at 5:00AM in the morning.  Admittedly, there are times when I am awake, waiting for the sound to start my day.  But, there are just as many days when the sleep spoiler jars the most peaceful moments of a deep repose.

Now, the fast-paced routine begins.  My shower, shave and clean-up climax with my wardrobe selection for the day.  Breakfast and lunch are checked off and it is time to climb into our commuter machine.

My bride and I have been  alone since we climbed out of bed.  Now, we enter the road system at 5.55AM and we are no longer the lonesome duo.  Instead, we are mixed into the masses on their way to work into Houston.

Seriously, there are thousands of vehicles merging on to the freeway system.  The sky is still dark. Even the sun does not want to rise this early.

Headlights illuminate the black asphalt.  Reflectors built into the roads and strategically call attention to road signs.  Mostly, it is dark outside, very dark.

Stop-and-go is the best description of the daily commute.  Some drivers have their radios blaring.  One guy with his custom exhaust system loves to fall back then accelerate quickly so that everyone else can hear the rumble of  his loud pipes.

I have a different practice.  My bride and I carpool together.  We have wonderful conversations on the way into work.

Sometimes we laugh. Other times we discuss an important national or world issue.  Many times we are discussing the meaning behind a particularly interesting passage of Scripture.

Of course we have a running commentary on the driving habits of those who are around us.  We like the majority of drivers who obey the law and are courteous to others.  There is also our common dislike for the impatient driver who is zig zagging in and out of traffic because they are in a rush.

Perhaps the best part of all is the traffic lightens up for us after a brief two mile stretch.  That is when we are allowed to enter the HOV lane and dispense with the traffic jam and reach nearly posted speeds all of the way into work.  It is more than a small blessing and we are grateful.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4382Tuesday night there was more than thunder rumbling through my adopted city of Houston, Texas.  Michigan buddies rode their motorcycles into town for a visit.  That is over 1,000 miles of road warrior travel just for the sake of the ride and good memories.

These residents of the Motor City were introduced to a metroplex with a penchant for individual vehicle transportation.  Everyone drives in Houston.  You cannot live here very easily without a vehicle, preferably a pickup truck.

Some have even assessed our city culture and suggest that a vehicle equals or in many cases surpasses the choice of a place to live.  Is that extreme?  Most of us who live here would at least suggest that there is some merit to that assumption.

My motorcycle buddies at least have that thought planted in their minds.  They were introduced to Houston traffic after a long day of riding.  Add to the stop and go traffic of I-610 a major thunder-storm and it really gets dodgy.

IMG_4380Not only was the rush hour traffic horrendous and the thunderstorm unpleasant but construction with narrow lanes and debris added to the tricky negotiations of motorcycle riding.  Of course those occasional out-of-state transplants who speed and cut annoy everyone.  Too many in traffic jams are on their phones texting and drift over their lane lines and squeeze a motorcyclist.

Aside from the hazards of riding our fellowship was amazingly fun!  The rain kept pouring down so we parked the bikes under the hotel eave and piled into my pickup truck for a tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center.  It was a perfect day to visit.

Schools were not bringing in bus loads of children and the tourist season had already ended.  Without the crowds we could see everything and did not wait in lines.  The displays  and historic moments were easy to enjoy and take in for our easy riders.

IMG_4407Standing next to the massive 747 and Shuttle we felt our diminutive size but also sensed our enormous pride in what our nation has able to do.  Our smart phones have capacities that old computers in the past could not do.  Yet, our nation launched men into space, landed them on the moon and brought them safely home.

Our little band of bikers took in the size and sights of NASA’s greatest accomplishments.  Mostly, our time was about our journey through life, friendship, past rides and fun adventures.   Ron, Richard and Scott are great friends and even greater buddies with shared memories.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4361Houston, Texas is my home.  This is America’s fastest growing city.  More than 2500 people move here and call this city their home every week.

To keep up with the bulging population of 6 million people the roads and elevated freeways define our city.  We are on the road constantly.  That means that we define our days by where our travels take us.

It is not about the journey here in Houston; it is about the destination.

My bride and I were on a standard 23 mile journey.  Our conversation was at the focal point of our time together on the road.  Suddenly, a flash of lightning made us both look skyward.

Dark foreboding clouds, pregnant with massive amounts of moisture, threatened all of the earthbound creatures with a torrent.  The heavens burst open and we were caught in a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions.  Traffic slowed to a crawl.  No one could see beyond 50 feet.

Just as quickly the rain stopped.  Texas-sized rains unleash themselves and then the world returns to normal.  That is when the experience becomes memorable.

My wife describes the aftermath of a storm with enthusiasm.  I am watching the busy traffic that we are in.  But, she is going on about the sky, the clouds and most importantly the rainbow.

Jokingly she says that I can pull over any time so she can capture a picture of the vivid rainbow splashed across the Houston sky. I laugh.  We have not yet reached our destination.

Yet, the temptation is too great.  With a couple of turns behind us, I capture just a glimpse of the multicolored phenomenon in the sky.  It is stunning.

On a quiet street, I spot a chance.  We pull over to the side of the road and stop before we arrive at our journey’s goal.  It is an unscheduled stop, unheard of in the lives of busy people.

There in front of us on the canvas of thunder head above our city is a rainbow.  It is beautiful.  Both of us focus our cellphone cameras and snap a shot.

By the time we boot up our cameras, the bow in the sky has already passed its prime.  It entered into its fade mode.  The colors were once rich and vibrant.

Even in its farewell phase, this portrait in the sky is a reminder of the Creator’s promise.  He will never destroy the whole earth by Flood again.  Noah heard it and the Bible recorded it for all of us to hear as well.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_2779My computer whirred to life.  I was watching my time for a long commute but before I launched I wanted to check the traffic report.  My destination would require some creative routes to avoid traffic tie-ups.

The Houston traffic report popped up on a map.  Every route to my destination was either color-coded in yellow, orange  or red.  Everyone seemed to headed in the same direction as me.

A major traffic jam blocked the secondary route.  Yet, that computer marked that plan as the quickest  among the three that were available.  At least I had allowed twice the amount of time that I needed to make the journey.

Once on the freeway I took the toll road.  It was clear for now.  However, the DJ on the local Christian radio station warned us all to avoid that thoroughfare.  She was right.

Up ahead, the tollway looked like a modern Christmas tree with a string of red lights lit up as far as the eye could see.  Slowly I crept up and took my place in line.  Like hundreds of others I was waiting in line and paying for the privilege to do it.  That was weird thought.

IMG_2781Then, it started to rain.  Typical of Texas rain, it came down in massive torrents.  That made driving even more difficult.

Massive puddles formed on the road way.  People drove around these water hazards.  Most people drove around them.  A few splashed right through these temporary lakes and sent a spray of rooster tail proportions over their neighboring car.  At least it was entertaining while we crept along at single digit speeds.

Often I would glance at my clock.  I smiled.  There was plenty of time.  My obligations were still over an hour away.  Even a walking pace I would arrive on time.

There is something pleasant about Southern culture that makes these difficult moments manageable.  There were no horns blaring.  Most drivers were keeping a courteous distance in these tight quarters.

A few were aggressively trying to cheat.  One used the shoulder to move ahead of others.  But, by far that majority of drivers were patient and deferring the right of way to the minority exceptions who took advantage of the polite majority.

I like living in Texas for moments like these.  Traffic jams are in every part of the country.  Road hogs and road rage drivers are in every state.  Here, however, there is a greater calm.  I have stop writing, now.  Traffic is loosening up.  It is time to go.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Houston is my home.  We are the fourth largest city in the good ol’ USA.  That means that there are a lot of people here.

New York leads the nation as the largest city with 8 million people buzzing around the Big Apple.  Los Angeles is second with a 4 million population.  Chicago is third with 3 million.  Houston takes the fourth largest census with 2.1 million people.

While our city is large in numbers it is also large in square miles.  Our numerous Houstonians are spread out over 8,774 square miles. That is a lot of real estate for a single metropolitan area.

My life is severely impacted by this massive concentration of humanity.  It is called traffic.  Cars crowd our roadways in huge numbers, people busily trying to get to their destination.

The night before I am mentally plotting my moves.  If I can avoid the rush hour I will do so.  That congestion danger zone starts just after 6 AM and continues until 9 AM.

Isn’t the solution simple? Go early.  Why not?

It’s not really too tough.  I shower in the dark, dress in the dark and then leave the house sleepy and visually limited.  Sure, I stumble here and there and mismatch my clothes however, people who know me assume that is normal not because I got to work early.

An early arrival gives me a chance to strategize my commute home.  This is a larger challenge than coming to work.  For some reason there are more cars going home than those who came to work on that same day.

Whining only makes the problem deepen.  Instead, I choose to accept the reality of the situation.  Several options are at my disposal.  Each one has come in handy.

First, there is my radio.  It has six presets on my satellite radio.  Each of those presets have several options on them as well.  Thirty-one choice of listening genre are at my fingertips.

Second, one of my favorite choices is the Bible on CD’s.  For as long as 45 minutes I listen to Scripture and meditate on its meaning in my life.  It’s tough to get grumpy with other drivers when you are listening to God’s Word.

Third, I have my cellphone.  Don’t worry, my vehicle is set up with Blue Tooth so I can talk hands free.  Everything can be done by voice command.  I am a mobile office taking advantage of the long commute.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography