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FF Sparks (Casual)

Traffic Uruk'hai

I've heard a few questions about my usage of the term 'Traffic Uruk'hai', so let me explain.

See, I hate SUVs. For those who are fortunate enough (i.e. European) not to have this phenomenom have completely inundated your highways, SUVs are sport utility vehicles. They are hideously fuel-inefficient and create a lot of pollution, they are larger than any vehicle has a right to be, and they tend to have a higher number of fatalities in accidents involving them than many other kinds of vehicles. SUVs are basically a cross between an off-road Jeep and a high-end luxury car (and indeed, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the first SUVs).

Now, I can see having an SUV if you lived in a rural area; they /are/ theoretically off-road vehicles, and if you're going to be driving around from your rural farming area on gravel roads to whatever the long commute into the city is, you want something comfortable. But the purpose of having an SUV in the city completely and totally eludes me. They're big, so you can't fit them into nice small parking spaces. They are hideously fuel inefficient; a good SUV gets about 8 miles to the gallon. (In comparison, my Beetle gets ~30 miles to the gallon.)

So, what benefit /is/ there to owning an SUV in the city? Is it the Magic of Untamed Wilderness that seems so commonly used in SUV commercials, where you see these things driving around in great forests with no one to observe them (except, evidently, a camera crew)? Do people believe that someday, they'll see a pathway into unexplored, untamed virgin forest open up to the side of the freeway, and that if they own an SUV they can jerk the wheel to one side (leaving a trail of trampled cars in their wake) and drive off into wilderness bliss, still sipping their lattes and sitting on leather seats as they see the world go past (and under) outside, right up until their SUV runs out of gas and they get to discover the Magic of Being Eaten By Rabid Wolves While Following Tire Tracks Back To Civilization In Search Of Another Latte?

So it came to me while stuck on the freeway with SUVs towering over my little Beetle, that these big, tough vehicles destroy the environment by their very existence (being obscenely fuel inefficient and wasteful) and anything which gets in their way or argues with them will be trampled or destroyed. They have infested the roadways of the nation, especially the Seattle area, and are visible almost like swarms when you gaze down on the freeway from a skyscraper. Hence my realization: the sport utility vehicle is the modern answer to Saruman's Uruk'hai warriors of Middle Earth. And so the term 'traffic Uruk'hai' was born.

I suppose that makes my little Beetle a Hobbit. Honk if you hate Uruk'hai!


I'm less than enthusiastic about people owning SUVs for the sake of owning SUVs, myself. Being the owner of a full-sized pickup truck that is used as a workhorse, it makes me twitch every time I see a shiny macho, polluting, gas-guzzling toy drive by.

That being said, I have to admit that some people need to use SUVs for transportation simply because nothing else is available. A friend of mine had to buy a Ford Explorer after discovering it was the only thing available which could handle nine passengers - himself, his wife, and their seven kids. In fact, he had to special-order a bench seat in front rather than bucket seats.

Doesn't hurt to have a 4x4 given he lives in an extremely hilly country and his house is out in the boonies, either!
Like I said, I can see occasional reasons for it. I just don't see it in the city proper. :)


I won't say this is everyone's reason but c'mon, big is better in the grand ol' US of A and it's a biiig vehicle. :) Hell, it seems a lot of women get a power trip off of driving something that big. I used to work with a woman who could barely scramble into her humongous pickup truck. If she was an inch shorter, she'd have needed a step ladder and I thought that was kind of goofy but she loved it.
An SUV is basically a station wagon for people who don't want to admit that they're old enough to drive a station wagon. ;)

Re: SUVs

I see the points made and as has been stated some people need them most I think that do though however do so for the 4 wheel drive capability of them. I also note that not all are the big types either :) take the Chevy S-10 Blazer which is considered an SUV they sit relatively low or at least some do. They are problems in traffic and such but in reality they've been around /much/ longer than it seems really the Cherokee may be the first officially named SUV but the older Ford Broncos, and such really were SUVs as well, even if the term wasn't used then. I can't say about drivers who have them as I don't/can't drive but if I had my choice of being between a line of SUVs or line of Semis I'd choose the SUVs :). as far as fuel economy... if everything could get 50 miles to the gallon like some do there would still be someone who would be wanting more effeciency. :)

A quote from the master seems apropos...

But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.

-- Tolkien, Return of the King, Appendix F, p. 412

Re: A quote from the master seems apropos...

Mith, my friend...you scare me. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

So, we still on for a group viewing of Two Towers on opening day? ;)

Re: A quote from the master seems apropos...

God, I wish I could. :( Unfortunately, I'm slated to visit my parents in Tucson from the 11th to the 29th...
I drive an SUV. It's a great big one, in fact; I have a Ford Behemoth Excursion.

It's the only SUV except the Hummer being made with a diesel engine. That's one reason I got it. Another is that it was built on a true truck frame, not a car frame. It gets an average of 16.3 miles per gallon, combining both highway and in-town driving. Most SUVs get anywhere from 11 to 20 miles per gallon of gas; the larger the SUV, the less the fuel efficiency. That's part of why I got a diesel. The other part, and more important to me, is to be able to eventually reduce or eliminate my dependence on fossil fuels. When biodiesel becomes available around here, I'll seek it out and use it. I may even be able to make my own fuel at some point; I understand that the byproduct of producing diesel fuel from biomatter is lye soap.

I need ground clearance. I do drive in the country, a lot, including on cowpaths with potholes that would engulf your Beetle. I also live in the country (more or less). I drive into Seattle quite often. I have one of those SUVs you see on the highway. Not all the SUVs you see on I-5 are driven by city dwellers.

Yes, it's a great big huge vehicle, no doubt. It has as much interior room behind the front seats as an 8-foot truck bed. I traded in a truck with an 8-foot bed for this thing. I like it. I wanted all the interior room for:
* hauling dogs around (especially into and out of muddy fields, something I do a LOT)
* my family (4 adults in the immediate family, 7 adults in the extended family, kids planned - we need more than just this vehicle)
* hauling firewood, hauling trees (live ones for planting), moving (and helping friends move), etc.
* hauling dogs and their crates back and forth to shows
* and more.

I also like to camp in my vehicle, especially in the rain. I can do that with Moss.

I agree that large SUVs are not needed by city dwellers. They are, however, needed by people like me.

If my SUV is an Uruk'hai, I guess that makes your Beetle an Orc. After all, you're destroying the environment (you *do* use fossil fuel, don't you?), taking up room (even if it's less room) and adding to the general congestion on Seattle roads.

Your Beetle isn't a Hobbit. The moral equivalent of a Hobbit would be a bicycle.
Ah, but a diesel SUV (I actually was not aware those were made, honestly, and it's nice to know they are) is a bit of a different beast. I'm specifically talking about folks like, say, my friend John. I like John. He's a nice guy. But he cannot justify the fact that he has this honking huge vehicle that gets 7 miles to the gallon(!) and tends to, of necessity, take up two parking spaces.

Fossil fuel Beetles get about 30mpg, and the Beetle is available in diesel as well. It's not a hybrid like the Prius or Insight, no, but still. And I can fit into compact parking spaces, as well. Rar. ;)

As I said, there are situations where an SUV can be justified; rural areas like you describe are definitely one. I just honestly cannot see a justification for it in the city, /especially/ where your mileage will go down as it is in stop-and-go traffic. I see these giant monstrosities that don't fit into parking spaces, don't get anything remotely approaching fuel efficiency, are responsible for a depressing number of freeway traffic accidents...and I wonder if anyone can rationally justify buying an SUV if they only drive it in the city. :)

The Hobbit comparison was more a size joke added in, additionally. If I wanted truly complete moral high ground, I'd need to get a diesel hybrid when one's available, to get the benefits of both those fuel systems. But as it is, comedic comparisons aside, I consider my Beetle far more suited to city traffic here in Seattle than John's giant fuel-sucking monster...and I stand by that statement.