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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Commuting Sucks - But Mine Sucks Less

In 2008 I left my job in the Navy to build new nuclear reactors in Mississippi at Entergy. Beyond all of the great reasons to transition back to my home and work on an awesome project, there was a MAJOR tangible benefit - time. In Jackson, I would have ~10-15 minute commute, leaving me an additional hour and a half EVERY DAY with my wife and kids. PRIMO! For many reasons, we cooled our jets on that project and I shifted to the Extended Power Uprate program office. Shortly thereafter I was deployed to Central America on an active duty individual augmentation assignment with the Navy. On my return, I was offered the opportunity to jump into the meat of an ongoing extended power uprate project at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. This was a good move career-wise, but it certainly brought back a lot of the cons that we took off the list by leaving DC. Namely, my commute sucks. While it is longer than my DC commute was by about 20% and longer than my initial commute in Mississippi by about 700%, it has some upsides. Here are the stats:
DC:
10 miles, 1 hour, 1 National Park visited

Jackson, MS (where I was recruited):
8 miles, 10 minutes (15 with heavy traffic), 1 National Park visited

Port Gibson, MS (where I'm temporarily stationed, they actually have a website...):
75 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes, 1 National Park visited

Why, oh why, would I say that a longer distance and duration commute to approximately the middle of nowhere has upsides? Well, it is less than pleasant averaging 10 mph on the George Washington Parkway (The "G.W.") staring at a bunch of other cattle lining up for the morning cattle drive through the chute (the 14th St Bridge) into one of our country's least productive corrals (Downtown DC). It is way more pleasant to be out the door of the house and in the door of the office and vice versa in 10-15 minutes. Commute #2 was via the Natchez Trace Parkway. But I only hit a 3-mile stretch of it filled with Mississippian cattle vice beltway cattle. Now I will not say that it is super fun to drive 3 hours round trip each day, but I will certainly say that getting south of Mile Marker 85 (Clinton/Raymond) takes you into an area that reminds you how this country became what it was at it's greatest. There are farms with livestock; crops like corn, cotton, beans; historic sites that consist of country churches or the stories of battles fought and lessons learned; and wilderness - at least the first couple of layers of it after you get out to rural america. The people that live here work hard for what they have and they provide a lot of the things that I have and don't even know it. By the time I get to around Mile Marker 80, I stop counting the minutes and start counting the deer, turkey, hawk, owl, fox, raccoon, opossum, and armadillo. I even saw a Florida panther one night - Wildlife & Fisheries doesn't acknowledge them, so are offering a $15,000 reward for verifiable evidence their territory now includes MS. Bottom line, the word commute brings ugly visions of gridlock into many folks' imagination. I'm on the road a bunch, but you do have to appreciate the good parts of something that isn't all that good on its face.

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