Friday, May 30, 2008

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s your tax dollars at work!

Free roads aren’t free because highway users foot the bill. The same could be said for “free” coloring books the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is giving away.

Don’t forget to pick one up for the kids next time through. It comes with crayons.

In it, you’ll find Captain Tollway, the authority’s own superhero mascot promoting the authority’s new “Know Before You Go!” campaign. His job is to tell you where the construction is so you can plan your route accordingly. And he has a cape.

“Iron Man, Batman, the Hulk might have swell super powers or nifty crime-fighting gadgets. But when it comes to bringing Congestion Relief to drivers on the Illinois Tollway, there’s only one superhero delivering the message to ‘Know Before You Go!’ this summer travel season – Captain Tollway,” toll authority officials state on their Web site.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Toll Road unveiled its mascot by the name of i-Zoom Girl. She has appeared in ads with her red hair and flashy boots to market the i-Zoom electronic tolling system.

You likely remember “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” from “Schoolhouse Rock.” This latest promotion could be “Tollhouse Rock.”

Can’t you picture Captain Tollway and i-Zoom Girl breaking into song? How about “Malfunction Junction, what’s your function?”

Tune in next week – same toll time, same toll channel – to see if Captain Tollway and i-Zoom Girl can leap tall toll plazas in a single bound or at least liberate a buck or two from your electronic toll account.

Tolls: Up, up and away.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day is about remembering

As many of you were, I was fortunate to be at home for Memorial Day, but only after some finely tuned dispatching, hustling and customer skills. It paid off.

Some goodtime BBQ’ing was in the works, a short ride to St. George Island for a dip in the Gulf waters, a stop at the Blue Parrot for conch fritters. And later, some cold adult beverages of choice (at home), allowed me to catch up on some much needed R&R.

But the real reason for the holiday is not far from my mind.

Nov. 11, 1969, I enlisted in the U.S. Army at the young age of 17, along with a few high school friends.

Scott Schettig was a close bud with whom I shared the dream of being a helicopter pilot. I did not pass the eye exam. Scott did, and after basic training he went off to Fort Rucker, AL, to master the Huey. I chose Signal School to learn motion picture photography. Less than two weeks before I was to report, the school burned down, and I had to choose another job qualification. Big trucks and track vehicles. Smart choice, huh?

Chip Williams, another high school bud, also joined and he went off to be a door gunner and crew chief on helicopters. He proved to be as good with a belt-fed M60 as he was with a wrench.

My neighbor and bud, Ritchie Bowman joined, also. Straight leg infantry, Ritchie was good at what he did. We started out as the Four Amigos, out to save the world, but we became set on different paths. It was 1970 and it was a brutal year to be in the Army overseas.

Scott Schettig was shot down and killed, along with his crew.

Ritchie Bowman and his squad, on a long range patrol, was involved in a firefight and he was killed by small arms fire and a grenade.

Chip Williams is a teacher in our old hometown, has a great family and never talks about his adventures.

Dave Sweetman is, well ... you know the answer to that.

To say that I am fortunate, lucky, blessed, protected by angels, all would be quite true. I never forget that, not even for even one day. I also take great pride in remembering my buds, those I served with, those I never knew who wore the uniform and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In my heart, the phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I” has more meaning than I can explain. Those who served need no explanation.

That is the meaning of Memorial Day to me. Not BBQs, campers or trips to the beach.