The Fish Story

Please Check My Box; Night Driving Avoidance

By Jay Mann | Mar 05, 2012

As frequenters of this column know, I’m perpetually in search of some magical, spontaneousish income source, one that would finally offer me such luxurious fiscal freedom that I could wander into the forest for unfettered stays – occasioning out after dark to leap out of the shrubbery at vehicles zipping down pitch black sections of roadway between Chatsworth and New Gretna.

“Oh my god, Norm! Was that a Sasquatch?”

“Uh, looked kinda small for a Squash, Jane. But whatever in the hell it was, those were damn nice Red Wing boots it had on. I was thinkin’ a gettin’ me a pair just like those but they’re so damn expensive.”

“Shouldn’t we call someone?!”

“No. Those Red Wings hardly ever go on sale.”

Anyway, I was doing my tax returns, using the SubMoronEZ Form, when I came to those famed check-off donation boxes. That’s all I needed to see to get the entrepreneurial juices flowing.

I’ve just applied with the state for a “Support Jay Mann” check-off box. Hey, you only assumed they were exclusively for worthy causes.

“Hey, Greta, who the hell’s Jay Mann?”

“I’m not sure, Sam, but he’s gotta box so we oughta send the guy a couple bucks.”

Thank you, Sam and Greta. Same time next year?

NIXING NIGHT DRIVING: Over the weekend, I had one of those “Huh?” moments, compliments of a brutally bright gal. While her academic luster is flawless, oozing PhDness, she seemingly stumbled in the fairly famed realm of womanly weaknesses when it comes to mechanical inclinations.

We were in the midst of a how-ya-been, catching-up conversation – during which rapid-fire blabbing precludes stopping for debatable points – so I tried my hardest to simply fly past a comment she made about avoiding coming to LBI at night because “It’s bad on gas mileage.”

Unfortunately, the lightly tethered portion of my brain that is chronically attracted to any and all things freaky, had circled back to stalk that weird “gas mileage” remark. It soon hauled the subject back to me, like a retriever, dropping it at my feet, still alive. I couldn’t resist. “Uh, about that ‘bad gas mileage at night’ thing. What’s that all about?”

Without missing a self-assured beat, she said, “Oh, you use more gas when your headlights are on.”

Somewhat oddly, I flashed back to Johnny Carson’s quasi-sincere notation, “I did not know that.”

Semi-silently chuckling, I offered, “And I’ll bet you’re worried about all the turns you have to make getting down here. Those turn signals can really eat up the petrol.”

There was no immediate response to that. Finally, pointedly offered: “Well, at least I’m not doubling the problem by driving at night and making those turns.”

Can’t argue with a doctor. Snicker. Snicker.

I’m far from a calorie counter when it comes to gas guzzling, as is apparent via my full-size GMC truck, packed with the largest engine you can feed – I mean fit – under the hood. Nonetheless, even I try to keep a conservational eye on my gas consumption, albeit a bit disingenuous when I’m racing a Toyota Tundra off the line at a traffic light. (Not true, officers, not true at all.) But gauging gas mileage down to a headlight usage drip? That sure as hell seemed to be ripe with mechanical ineptitude. Men know these things.

Or do we?

Off I flew to the Internet. And damn if I don’t run into mile-long threads, hundreds of people, eagerly discussing gas mileage as it relates to headlamp usages. Does nobody have a life any more?

Yet, where but the Internet could you read a rocket scientist explaining, “Gasoline has an energy density of 37 kWh/gallon. By WAG, let’s say that the energy is converted into electrical power at around 20% efficiency (25% for engine, 80% for alternator sounds reasonable). So your hour of headlight use burns 0.5 kWh worth of gasoline, or around .5/37 ~ 0.02 gallons (rounding upward for pessimism’s sake).”

Buddy, do I have a girl for you.

OK, so maybe I’m not as innately mechanically inclined as I thought, though dozens of online grease monkeys commented that every drip of fuel gained by not driving at night is instantly lost with as little as one single jackrabbit start. (Hey, don’t look at me. That Tundra started it. Revving his engine at the light like that. “Sayonara, sucker!”)

Fascinating factoid: A study proves that the fuel lost to a well-known gas mileage bloodsucker, the luxurious air conditioner, is all but equaled by the fuel lost to aerodynamic drag created by driving highways with windows rolled down.

Hey, come to think of it, that angle might even put me back in the mechanical aptitude driver’s seat. Driving by day in the summer almost always demands AC, right? Tell me that doesn’t blow away the gas lost to headlights at night. See, I knew men have the edge in this manly realm.

I MIGHT BECOME A DUAL-SPORTER: There are a goodly number of motorcyclists taking full-bore advantage entertaining a somewhat newfound freedom to drive the state’s forests. Truth be told, they’re motoring the outback in ever-growing numbers.

The big thing motivating cyclists into rustic runabouts is the advancement in so-called dual-sport cycles. These oft large-engined, two-wheelers can handle the good, the bad and even the ugly, with ease. From a no-sweat 65 mph on the highway and then off the road and right into mud puddles – hopefully at slightly below 65 mph.

I should mention the dual sport name is an egregious misnomer. I can easily see the “sport” in ZippityDoDahing along dusty Pinelands roads, hitting bumps and clumps. However, that highway part of the “dual” is anything but a sport for cyclists – who frequently bite the bullet and the pavement due to a lack of respect, attentiveness and reaction time on the part of motorists heavying around in road vehicles.

Face it, 250-pound cycles don’t fare overly well when going tête-à-tête with a veritable tsunami of increasingly super-sized SUVs, vans and trucks. Even an accidental meet-up between a Mini Cooper and a cycle doesn’t leave much survival room for the biker. There’s no “sport” in highway cycling.

But back to the relatively new insertion of large numbers of dual-sport cycles into the Pines, including its deepest recesses.

There are many Pinelands aficionados thoroughly displeased with sharing hiking space with often high-speed, backroad warriors. The noise factor alone is an intolerable infiltration into the forest’s elected quietude, per hikers and strollers.

I’m kinda smack dab in the middle on the subject. I always enjoy folks enjoying the Pinelands scenery and such. The more folks who worship the outback, the better the chances of keeping the diabolical fiends of build-out from cancering into the state’s last remaining wildernesses.

(And lest someone snidely asks, “What wilderness?,” I will gladly take such doubters so deeply into the middle of nowhere they’ll eat their words – and squeal like piggies at the sound of something busting through the nearby underbrush wearing comely Red Wing boots.)

But back to the Pinelands bikers. The sand devil is in the details.

While legal cyclists and their transport are now fully welcome to the woods, per an enforcement officer I talked with over the weekend, laws command they follow established roadways. They are allegedly banned from overgrown single-track trails and unkempt former roads, often called fire roads. Fat chance of even legal dual sporters will be following the straight and non-narrow.

As for the speed limit, even I don’t really expect legal cyclists to adhere too closely to nonposted off road speed limits. Of course, that means a sudden meet-up between a high-speed 650 Kawasaki cyclist and a flock of gently strolling senior citizens could be painful. Remains to seen.

I’m going to toss the dual sportists a compliment by noting that virtually every legal cyclist (and illegal dirt biker) who passes me in the woods – many time quite deep in the woods – slows down and offers either a friendly and/or respectful wave. Good job, guys. Appropriate PR helps clear the dust in some ways. Such friendlyish hand gestures help me ignore the fact that, once past me, each and every rider indubitably accelerates to warp speed, disappearing into a galaxy of dust, a bit like starship battle cruisers heading into hyperspace.

Personally, I still believe there is such a thing as quietly cruising atop a cycle, taking in the sights instead of stirring up the scene. And if it sounds like I might be posturing toward a dual-sport cycle for my very own, you might not be far off. It’s one of those fight’em/join’em things.

HOLGATE HAPPENING: A potentially cool bit of interplay between the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge and mobile anglers is scheduled to take place on March 17 starting at 8 a.m. It’s an early Earth Day clean-up, of sorts.

The New Jersey Beach Buggy Association has teamed with Forsythe Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig to make a power move on the wrack lines of winter trash, which annually accumulate along oceanside and bayside Holgate. In a meeting earlier in the winter, NJBBA had offered the refuge its services.

Truth be told, this is just what the relationship doctor ordered. If Holgate has any chance of surviving its descent into the sea, there needs to be channels of communication twixt the refuge and the Holgaters. A team effort might evoke a rallying response to the re-beaching of Holgate before all is lost.

As I’ve noted herein before, there is enough excess sand on the Little Egg shoals and accumulated inside the Little Egg Harbor Intracoastal Waterway to rebuild ten Holgates – and have enough sand left over to build a “World Archipelago” to embarrass that puny global thing they got going over in Dubai.

Anyway, this Holgate cleanup event is also a perfect time to get independent buggyists from our area to seriously consider aligning with the truly fine folks at NJBBA. Membership info will be available on the day of the clean-up.

Chatting with the refuge manager, it now becomes a bit of a waiting game to make certain the famed disappearing access ramp is ramped up for what could be a significant buggy flow. Although a new ramp design has helped the keep-open cause, we have had closures and are now in line for a full-moon session that could do some ramp munching only a week before the event.

Paul Harris, head honcho with NJBBA, told me that the association eagerly invites outsiders to pitch in.

As we talked about the incidentals of the event, Paul harkened back to bygone days when he’d hit Holgate in “real” beach buggies in the sense of the word – old jalopies. I even rode one in the early ’60s, driven by old “Spraguey.” That crazy-wonderful clammer seemed super old even back then – but damn if he wasn’t still almost-successfully driving along the Boulevard into the mid-1980s – at over 90 years old.

But I digress.

I’m trying to help the organizers clear the way for beach buggy permit amnesty during the cleanup. A lot falls on Long Beach Township. There’s also a pressing need to get the support of our buddies at public works. They got some big trucks capable of holding tons of trash.

While buggy folks just showing up to the event can register at the road’s end parking lot, it will sure help to let NJBBA know you want to be a participant. Just ’puter over to njbba.org for more info.

The association will be offering some goodies before and after the cleanup.

A note on my part: I’ve taken part in cleanups around the planet, literally. I always seem to be where the trash is. I want to emphasize the need to wear thick working gloves, eye protection (sunglasses work fine) and serious boots (Squatch-approved Red Wings would shine). I’m not playing jinxer here but I’ve seen some freaky injuries during serious cleanups, including a near-fatal pigmy rattlesnake bite to a picker-upper near Mexico City.

If the Holgate cleanup moves to the bayside flats and meadows, the flotsam junk that has gathered there is close to industrial grade: sheets of splintering plywood, fatally-fractured plastic 55-gallon trash cans, broken porch decking with bared fang-like nails, fishing rigs swinging rusty hooks, and even assorted body parts – from dolls, that is.

I’ll have more on this cleanup next column, as plans are finalized.

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