Dave Moulton

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« Boston Bike Share: The helmet issue | Main | Point of View »

Asleep at the wheel

It is no secret that when I left the bike business in 1993 I fell on hard times financially; it was the reason I had to give up framebuilding. People stopped buying road bikes in favor of mountain bikes.

My car reflected my financial status; it was a piece of junk, 1975 Mercury Station Wagon. Not the one pictured here; mine was in much worse condition and in need of repair. Not the kind of vehicle one would take pictures to save and show to their grandchildren.

It did however, come with certain advantages; it gave me right of way for one. On those six and eight lane freeways they have in Southern California it is necessary to make several lane changes long before your exit. People are not too good at letting you do this; you are forced to just put on your turn signal on and ease on over.

I found with a car like a beat up 1975 Mercury Station Wagon people tended to give way real quick when I started to change lanes; he who has the least to loose, has right of way, it’s an unwritten law.

A big disadvantage with my old clunker, the air conditioning didn’t work; but in Southern California I could manage without it. Although the climate is hot, the air is dry and driving with all the windows down was actually quite pleasant.

My arm resting on the top edge of the door, my hand on the rear view mirror; the breeze blowing up my shirt sleeve keeping my body’s natural cooling system, namely my armpit, working efficiently.

The only problem with this form of nature’s air conditioning is that it broke down at any time I went below speeds of thirty miles per hour, which on LA’s freeways is most of the time.

Something I find hard to understand. Everyone knows how difficult it is to sleep in a room without air conditioning on a hot summer night; you can’t sleep because you’re hot and uncomfortable.

How is it then, under the exact same circumstances, driving a car on the freeway you can’t stay awake? Aren’t you even more uncomfortable than you are in bed without air conditioning? So why does the discomfort not work for you when you most need it to stay alert?

One time the freeway I was on took a path through a steep canyon when traffic came to a standstill.

There was no exit, and I was in the fourth lane of a six lane freeway; I was stuck.

I could see traffic was stopped two or three miles ahead up a long gradient; it would be a while before we moved again.

It was late afternoon and I started to feel sleepy. I decided not to fight the urge to doze; I turned the engine off and lay down on the front bench seat. This was another advantage of these old cars; the front seat was like a sofa with no obstruction in the center. The person behind me would be sure to lay on the horn when we started moving again.

I have no idea how long I slept but I awoke to find traffic was moving by me on either side at about twenty-five or thirty miles per hour. The person behind me instead of alerting me when traffic started moving must have decided to go around me.

People following seeing no one in the driver’s seat (Because I was laying down.) assumed it was an abandoned vehicle and continued going around me.

I had just discovered another advantage of my chosen mode of transport; a person can lie down, take forty winks in the middle of a six lane freeway and people will let you rest and simply go around you.

My unusual afternoon nap had refreshed me enough that I was now fully alert as I completed the final leg of my journey. Had I brought ‘Sleeping at the Wheel’ to a whole new level?



Reader Comments (7)

I love it! Sometimes it would be great to have an ancient clunker "on the outside" with a modern drivetrain under the hood - a "sleeper" as it were. You could scare the snot out of people all the while being (relatively) good to the environment.

But sleeping in the midst of the freeway? It's perfect!

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Funny story. You're right about feeling sleepy when it's hot - it's a weirdism.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

LOL! Thanks! I needed that on a Monday morning!

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

In the 1970s I once fell asleep while waiting on a gas line. It was the early morning and I was a teenager. Sure enough, instead of waking me up, the other cars drove around me.

Finally a pedestrian knocked on my window and got me up. I had been asleep for nearly 20 minutes.

Yup, Bench seat!

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Fantastic. The old time motorist's alternative to cycling shorts tan: a darkly tanned left arm and pale right one!

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

Good laugh Dave... road privileges via clunker, but it happens for Bentleys, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, too. Got that 75 clunker cheap because of OPEC?

I too remember gas lines in the early 70's but never waited in one. I had a good laugh then too when cycling past all those angry drivers. Watching people wait up to two hours for gas convinced me that the US population had a serious carbon addiction problem.

The younger generations are trying to kick the self destructive habit:

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I drive my wife's faded and slightly dented-up 2001 Honda Odyssey with 148,000 miles on the odometer. Great for hauling my daughter and her friend to school, my greyhound to the vet, and my 1986 Ciocc San Cristobal to the bike shop/ride start out of the weather/bugs.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Whitting
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