Friday, March 18, 2011


Sometimes I have to go for a drive. Not a recreational, change-of-scenery drive, but from time to time my job over here requires that I get in a vehicle and pilot it to some other destination. (A few of the people in our unit are trained, qualified, and licensed to operate tactical vehicles, but I am not one of those. So unfortunately, I will not be writing a blog about driving an up-armored tactical vehicle anytime soon.) Our band typically has one or two "civilian" vehicles available, so I can drive those. The minivan we typically use is in the shop, though. (That's the vehicle in the picture above.) We recently got a small box truck, so yesterday when I had to run some errands with another supply sergeant that was our ride.

A few things about this truck: the doors in the back storage area (the "box") do not latch closed. They are supposed to, but they don't. It is a British-style truck, by which I mean the steering wheel is on what we consider the passenger's side in the US. (As is the minivan, by the way, again pictured above.) Also, the truck has manual transmission, so the driver has to be able to operate a stick-shift. I'm fine with that--my very first car was a stick-shift--but it is a bit different when you have to shift with the left hand when you're used to shifting with the right. (I felt like I adjusted pretty easily, maybe because I'm left-handed.) Also, the gear shift doesn't "slot" very well, so hitting the wrong gear is a lot easier than it should be.

So anyway, we started out. Most of the roads on KAF are not paved. Thanks to the rains last month, there are a lot of potholes in the dirt roads. As we approached our first destination, I saw something in the passenger's side mirror (remember, that's the left side of the vehicle). "Is that the back door?!" I asked. Turns out it was. The constant jarring had caused one of the doors to fling itself open. Fortunately we were about to stop anyway, so once we parked I tried to get the back doors locked. Unable to make any progress, I tried to think of something to secure the doors shut. I didn't have a roll of 550 cord handy, which is what I'd normally use. (550 cord is parachute cord; it consists of an outer tube with several inner strands that give it a great amount of strength. Supposedly one cord can hold up to 550 pounds, hence the name.) The only thing I had was the retaining strap on my sunglasses. So, I removed the strap from the earpieces and strung it through the door latch and double-knotted it. Problem solved.

On the way to our next destination, we got stuck behind a convoy of tractor trailers. They were moving very slowly over the pitted road, and eventually came to a halt. Apparently there were items being moved through a security checkpoint off to the side, so someone was directing all the traffic movement. After waiting for several minutes we finally got moving again. It's fascinating how much better it feels to move slowly when you haven't been moving at all. Still, I was glad when the trucks all turned right where we needed to turn left.

When we pulled up to our next stop, it was closed. That is, the entrance gate was blocked off. Some people waved us to keep moving, so I continued to follow the road, though both of us were a bit puzzled as to why the entrance wasn't open. The road had a nice couple of big dips in it, but fortunately I was going slow and my sunglasses retaining strap was holding the doors quite nicely. As I turned the corner, the road was totally covered in water for a ways; I was glad that it wasn't deep enough to keep the truck from moving through. Eventually we entered the yard through what was normally the exit; I don't know why but I guess that's how they're doing things now. We had to make a couple of stops inside this area, so I'm glad I had someone with me to serve as a ground guide. (The box effectively blocks the rear view, so backing up can be tricky without someone out there to direct the driver.)

After we were done there, it was time to take the truck back to the band tent. We hadn't even driven six miles, but the whole trip took about 90 minutes. Just another of the unusual things we do here at KAF.

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