Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Can't Drive 95

Being a very busy interstate, 95 is a highway that takes off a lot of caps, but is not an ideal place to keep stopping to pick them up one-by-one. With almost constant heavy traffic, sometimes narrow shoulders, and lots of state police patrols, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong if you keep pulling over there -- especially on a Saturday afternoon, as was the case today. (Although I typically go out on Sunday mornings when traffic is light, the weather is expected to be bad tomorrow.) Therefore, on many sections of 95, the best approach is to park on a surface street and walk it, which is how I ended up in this place today:

This was taken from between the NB and SB lanes. To get here, I had to cross a creek on stepping stones, hopscotch-style. I did manage to plant my right foot a little deeper in the water than I intended. Not a big deal, but it reminded me of a much worse situation that I once found myself in, involving capping and water, so I'll take this opportunity to tell that story now:

This took place during the winter of 2004-05, when I was in North Jersey. If you're familiar with that area, you probably know the section of I-80 near Parsippany, where the concrete sections have shifted over the years and caused a few pretty serious bumps. Driving by, I noticed a couple good caps stuck in the bushes, one of which was a desirable 16" Camry. I probably could have just stopped on 80 and grabbed them, but I know that in a place like that, there are likely to be a few more caps that aren't visible from the road. I wanted to be able to walk up there and take a leisurely stroll through the bushes.

In that particular area, Route 46 runs parallel and very close to I-80. 46 is a smaller highway with lots of commercial buildings. So, I figured, I would take an exit to 46, double back until I was in about the right spot, park safely in a lot, climb a chain-link fence (if there were an Olympic Games for hubcap dealers, the USDOT Interstate Fence Climb would be a major part of the competition), crash through the woods and come out on the side of I-80, where I could proceed to get the caps. So I got as far as climbing over the fence, when I realized I was facing a little more water than I expected. There was a drainage gully along I-80 that was something of a swamp, filled with reedy plants and nasty, oily water. With all those plants in the water, it really didn't look deep at all. I was wearing my rubber boots and I figured I could just stomp through it.


No, let me repeat that with the proper emphasis.


I got about 3 steps into the muck before I realized this was a very bad idea. My right foot was sinking fast, so I shifted my weight to my left foot, which sunk even faster. Within seconds, cold, gunky water was rushing in over the top of my boots. I grabbed a tree limb that was fortunately overhead and took the weight off my legs, which were sunk almost to the knees in this slop. I managed to ooze my way back to dry land, where I found that everything that had been underwater was coated with black oil. My boots were still full of water, or whatever it was. Not to be deterred after having come this far, I walked around until I found a fallen log across the swamp, which I was able to use to cross without touching the water. When I got to the highway I found the Camry as well as a Jetta, a Grand Marquis and a Cutlass Ciera. The drive home was disgusting -- every time I hit the brake, my slop-filled boot went, "glorp". I was wondering if my toenails would have dissolved by the time I got home, from whatever chemicals were in that stuff. It took 2 rounds through the washer to get my boot linings and jeans clean. I think I threw my socks away.

But on the other hand, that was a nice 16" Camry.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

99 Bottles Of Beer On The, Umm...Bridge?

I spotted this odd collection under the Walnut Lane overpass on Lincoln Drive, and it just seemed out of place:

The lower section of Lincoln Drive was closed to traffic today so the Streets Dept could remove some problem trees, clean storm drains and such. This made for a much more leisurely walk than I expected in that section. Lincoln Drive is an old-style narrow highway that winds through the woods of Fairmount Park. It's signed 25 MPH but that's a good joke -- it normally carries a lot of traffic that flows at more like 45 MPH. On any other day it would have been impossible to take this pic without any cars visible, and at least one of them probably would have been honking at me.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Girard Point Bridge

It's getting close to capping season, but we're still having 85-degree days in October, so I bet it won't be before the end of the month that enough of the plants and leaves die off to expose all the caps that were lost over the summer. In the meantime, I took a drive today just to scope out some places where I might want to take a walk when that time comes. I snapped a couple photos of one of my favorite bridges in the Philly area, the Girard Point Bridge. It carries 95 across the Schuylkill, and is noteworthy for its double-decker design -- the southbound lanes are stacked on top of the northbound lanes. Here is the southbound approach to the Girard Point:

And a shot taken while driving in the nothbound lanes, showing the structure of the southbound lanes above me:

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Today I was going to post a boring rant about the DOT and paving, but as it turns out, I saw the aftermath of no less than 3 accidents in less than 2 hours this morning. So here they are:

I couldn't get too close to this one to take the pic, but a Daily News van had overturned and sheared off a light pole. I drove by this just as the police were arriving on the scene and had the highway cut down to one lane.

An old Nova left on Wissahickon Ave. This was a pretty clean car before it was wrecked; somebody could probably fix it if they wanted to.

For some reason I couldn't get a clear photo of this one. It's an Acura that was left under the Twin Bridges with both airbags deployed and various body parts torn off.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

No Traffic

Today I took an early-morning trip up the Roosevelt Expressway, to beat the traffic and get some caps in tight spots. Today I found 23 caps, in conditions ranging from very good to unusable (but with good parts to salvage and use on other caps). And it took a lot less time than last week's trip, where I found only 2 caps. The highway system works in mysterious ways.

Here I am under the Twin Bridges at Ridge Ave. It's about 6:15 AM on Sunday, which is why nobody is on the roads.

Taken from the median of the Expressway, facing toward the decks of the Twin Bridges. The small bridge running across the shot is a pedestrian walkway. This highway may be empty now, but during weekday rush hours, it's packed.

A Chevy Malibu wheel cover in its natural habitat.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bupkus. Zippo.

Well, actually that's a slight exaggeration. I found 2 hubcaps today. This is normal for the summer months -- my time is better spent working on caps that are waiting to be reconditioned, rather than out on the highway not finding anything. But, I'm still exploring the Philly area. I moved here from North Jersey 2 years ago, and spent the first year-and-a-half moving hubcaps from my old place and getting my business set up. So I really don't know the roads here as well as I should. I'll be taking some drives this summer to get to know my way around and scope out spots that look good, so I'll be ready for winter. Some photos from today:

The Schuylkill is probably the only major highway in existence that routinely grinds to a halt on Sunday mornings. That should be some kind of test for highway engineers. If your road can't even keep moving on Sundays, you should find another occupation.

Going over the Ben Franklin toward Camden, NJ.

Here you can see the Divine Lorraine Hotel on Broad Street. This was the headquarters of some kind of cultish religious organization for a long time. Now it's empty. There's been talk of renovating it and converting it into condos for several years, but as you can see here, it doesn't look like anything is happening yet. I just hope it doesn't get torn down; it's a really neat-looking building.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I guess it's a good thing Paul Simon didn't decide to write his song about cameras today. He'd probably have a hard time fitting "charge coupled device" into the rhyme scheme...

So I got my new digital camera, a Fujifilm Finepix V10. My old camera is an HP C200 that I've had since 1999. It's fine for close-up shots where I can control the lighting, but not for long-distance outdoor stuff. Now that I can take pictures, maybe I'll have something to post here.

Also, today I saw a 1984 Renault Alliance convertible. As if that's not odd enough, it was on a trailer with two late-model BMWs, pulling into the BMW dealership near Bala Ave and Montgomery Ave. I'm wondering if it was going for like $25 at auction, and they just couldn't pass it up.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

By way of introduction

I'm a hubcap dealer living in Philadelphia. I spend a lot of time plying the highways of PA and NJ in my Buick station wagon, gathering up the caps that fly off the millions of cars that traverse our roads every day. This blog will cover my stories and photos of weird things I see, find and experience on the roads: accidents, construction, potholes, and many things that I'd never guess I would see -- until I do see them, at which point I will post about them here. That, along with a good helping of general ranting and raving about roads, driving, cars, the hubcap business, and whatever else I see fit to discuss.

It'll probably be a few months before much of interest appears here, because I need to get a better camera, and "capping" season starts in the fall, when the weeds die and the caps lying in the underbrush become visible.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this blog to Joe DeMarco and Ken Sitarik, who many years ago reassured me that there's nothing wrong with living off other people's junk. Without them, I might not be who I am today.