Poems of the Road Contest Winners

 

“A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art.” –Henry David Thoreau

During National Poetry Month (April, for you non-word nerds), the Esurance editorial team found a way to combine our love of words with our love of cars by holding the Esurance Poems of the Road Contest. Throughout poetry month, we invited poets, travelers, and car lovers alike to wax poetic about the glories and travails of the road. And we couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic response.

After a lengthy scoring process, we narrowed the more than 1,300 submissions — sonnets, haikus, free verse poems, prose poems, limericks, and lyrics — down to 3 vastly different finalists and sent them off to Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack) from NPR’s Car Talk for final judging.

Poems of the Road winners

So, without further ado, here are the Esurance Poems of the Road winners. Congratulations to you all!

First place

My Favorite Roads, Khristian Kay

My Favorite Roads are ashen a chalky white of patched and cracked arthritic asphalt aged and bleached there is no centerline no paint no makeup just raw flesh under a midday sun no defined lines limiting access but rather following the collective observable rules of good conduct and neighborly jurisprudence specifically for the
polite travelers the vagabonds trespassing moments
these are not the shiny black roads the glistening star lights
on a sable curtain these are lifelines like varicose veins warped
and stoic and telling the Braille staccato of farm implements
and tractors of horses and bikes and children skipping couples walking over the sticky tar patches plastered like gum or pine sap in the crease of wounded trees these roads tell stories experienced and weathered of time and life of legacy and inheritance of
history whispered through the wind

Second place

Western Equinox, Lara Wilber

The road’s gray cradle rocks
summer to sleep with the dusty hum of electricity
and dreams of cowboys on black horses.

At its most beautiful, the sun spends less time here –
Sneaking off with night to hold hands
at the overgrown drive-in, where the speakers hang
from lonely aluminum outposts in the sagebrush.

The hillsides are dappled with goldenrod, ochre –
inkwells for some radical composition of marigolds,
aspen, and flame. Riots of yellow birds.

This last defiant display like the protests
of a child at bedtime. I’m not tired yet…
I’m not tired. Somewhere in the distance reclines
A boy that turned into a blue mountain while he slept.

Third place

The Road Home, Joe Carvalko

At nineteen, rebellious, blackboard jungle funk, joy
rheostat — zero. Dig-it Daddio? Cool gloom,
smog in the noggin, stumbling through soda-jerk jobs,
joined the Army. One last time, me and my Chevy,
Penelope, blue ’52, skirts, whitewalls,
’47 Caddy V-8, two glasspacks, cruised
the drag, passed the five and dime, factories, passed
the spent on Railroad Ave., the rich on Country Club
Road, landmarks memorized so like Odysseus,
I could return to the familiar and old, but
after “Nam” it took fifty years to come back by
then it’d vanished in a wake of pot-holes, fifty
gallon drums, fast food wrappers, my Penelope
stripped bare, waving Old Glory, welcoming me home.

Thanks to all our poets

A big thanks to everyone who shared a poem with us. Your words made us laugh, reflect, and ponder … and certainly made it difficult to choose just 3 winners. We hope you’ll all continue to hoist those mighty pens and, as William Wordsworth once said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Related link

The Robert Frost guide to car insurance

Greetings from Esurance: Highway 1, California

At Esurance, we work hard to be there for you whenever you need us. In fact, we offer 24/7 customer service each and every day. But even our hard-working, customer-helping superstars need the occasional vacation. And, unsurprisingly, many of our car insurance experts are drawn to the open road — especially since they know all the best safe-driving tips and tricks.

To kick off summer 2012, we asked our associates to submit photos that capture the spirit of the American road trip. It turns out we have some pretty talented photographers on our staff … and they’ve been to some pretty cool places. Throughout the summer, we’ll be posting photos from their trips, like this one from Nathan in our Rocklin office. Maybe you’ll be inspired to plan a road trip for yourself!

(Click to enlarge.)

Have a favorite road trip destination? Share it with us!

Related link

The recipe for a perfect road trip
3 summer road trip tips for better gas mileage

Prom Tips: 5 Essentials and 4 Nonessentials for Your Night

Prom. It’s a rite of passage for the American teen. For some, it’s a magical night filled with starry-eyed dreams of the future. For others, it’s all the angst and awkwardness of high school wrapped up in a rented bow tie. Either way, it’s a night most of us will never forget (I’m still trying to get images of gold lamé out of my head.)

So for all you soon-to-be-grads, we’ve compiled a list of 2012 prom tips to make sure you know what you need (and don’t need) to make your night special.

Prom essentials

  • Righteous wheels. Getting to prom in style is key. If you can afford a limo, more power to you. It’s a reliable and classy way to get around on the big night. More important, it could help keep you safe. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study (PDF) found that the risk of fatality for teen drivers quadruples when they have multiple passengers under the age of 21 in their car. So leave the driving responsibility to a professional if you can.If you’re allowance doesn’t cover such extravagances, do your best to limit driving distractions like loud music, rowdy friends, texting, and getting dressed behind the wheel. And to class things up, try giving mom’s minivan a makeover. A few small touches, like flowers or tulle, will do the trick. But if nothing else at least get a carwash.
  • A memorable soundtrack. The days of mix tapes may be long gone, but making a prom playlist is essential to set the mood. Think about the songs that mean the most to you, your date, and your friends and play them on the ride to and from the prom.
  • A plan. Let’s rephrase that: a solid plan. Don’t just assume your buddy is going to pick you up on his way to the dance. Have clear arrangements for getting to and from the prom before the big night arrives. If you’re going to an after-party make sure you have a reliable ride home or the number of a cab company.
  • Pictures. You’ll appreciate them later.
  • Comfy shoes. This one’s more for the ladies. If you’re going to be dancing all night, bring along a pair of flats, or even socks, to relieve your feet from the pain of high heels.

Prom nonessentials

  • A date. Believe it or not, you can have a lot of fun going stag. Especially if your friends are going stag too. You’ll save money (corsages/boutonnières aren’t cheap), and with no date to impress, you can spend more time scoping out the hotties and showing off your swagger.
  • Drama. Your best friend is going with the person you wanted to go with. Your date was late. Your frenemy is (gasp!) wearing the same dress as you. You can spend all night seething or let it go and enjoy yourself. Your choice.
  • Breaking the bank. Sure, you want to impress your date with all the amenities. But you’re young. You shouldn’t be expected to spend all your money on one night. Thought and creativity can go a long way. A handmade corsage/boutonnière, a decked out minivan, or a homemade dinner or picnic will tell your date you put time and thought into the evening (and will save you some cash).
  • Booze (and drugs). You’re too young to drink, but we’ve all seen the after-school specials. The cool kid sneaks booze into the prom. You’re caught between your morals and the desire to fit in. What do you do? We say, avoid it like the plague. For starters, most schools have a zero tolerance policy, so if you’re caught with alcohol you could end up in some serious trouble (and right before graduation). Not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law (and your parents).Plus, it’s probably no coincidence that May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month. Statistics show that one-third of alcohol-related teenage driving deaths occur in April, May, and June — very possibly due to the parties and excitement surrounding prom and graduation.

Don’t be a statistic. Take care of yourself and stay safe. But, of course, most of all have fun!

Sweet ride or eyesore — what kind of car are you taking (or did you take) to prom? Tell us!

Related link

6 safety tips for teen drivers

History of the Bike: A National Bike to Work Day Salute

Photo by Ian Wilkes

It’s National Bike to Work Day, which means you’re likely to see more bikes than usual on the road today. But for many, cycling to work is just part of the daily routine. In fact, an estimated 3.2 million people in the U.S. bike to work at least once a week.

Cycling has gone through many highs and lows over the years, so in honor of National Bike to Work Day, we thought we’d take a look at the history of the bike — from its early inception through today. (History buffs take note: though we did our best to verify these dates, early records conflict somewhat.)

History of the bike

3500 B.C. (or so)
The wheel is invented in Mesopotamia. People line up for days to be one of the first to own one but then feel duped when the sleeker second-generation model comes out a year later. (Or so we suspect.)

1790 (ish)
Comte de Sivrac puts 2 wheels together to form the célérifère, a wooden, bike-like contraption with no pedals or steering ability. To change direction, the rider would have to lift, drag, or jump the front wheel to one side. And fixed-gear riders thought they were hard-core!

1817
Baron von Drais invents the Draisine. Though not the first 2-wheeler on the market, the Draisine — also referred to as the “swiftwalker” or “hobby horse” — includes a handlebar, which gives the operator the ability to steer (brilliant!). However, its lack of pedals means riders have to use their feet to propel themselves Flintstone-style.

Mid 1800s
Pedals are added to the front axle of what is now referred to as the vélocipède (French for “fast feet”). The uncomfortable friction created by the wood and metal wheels rolling over cobblestone streets, however, leads to the not-so-endearing nickname “boneshaker.”

1868
The vélocipède makes its way to the U.S. where it takes off in a big way — and then quickly loses steam once people realize how cumbersome it is.

Early 1870s
The high-front-wheeled Ordinary bike (also known as the “penny farthing”) makes its debut, as does the word “bicycle.” The large front wheel improves comfort and speed, but, with its awkward center of gravity, does little for safety.

1880s
After one too many “headers” (incidences of people flying over their handlebars of their Ordinaries when they braked), the Safety bike — a bike with same-sized wheels and hollow tubing — is created.

1889
Pneumatic (inflatable) rubber tires are invented and added to the Safety bike. Woohoo! No more bone shaking! Brakes are also improved (since stopping’s kinda cool). Bicycling regains popularity in the U.S and has a surprising effect on women’s liberation. Susan B. Anthony says, “I think [bicycling] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

Early 1900s
It was too good to last. Bicycling’s popularity once again wanes as cars bust onto the scene and other forms of recreation carry the day.

1956
The League of American Bicyclists deems May National Bike to Work Month.

1960s
Due to an increasing concern over pollution and thanks to its affordability, the bike once again makes a comeback.

1972
Partially due to astronomical gas prices (sound familiar?) bicycles outsell cars in the United States.

2012 
Mountain bikes, road bikes, fixed-gear bikes, and foldable bikes … we’re a society that’s just gotta ride (the latest U.S. Census reports that 38 million people enjoy riding their bikes). And why not? Whether for recreation or transportation, biking has a lot to offer (like saving on gas and getting exercise).

So for all you 2-wheeled road warriors who biked to work today (or any day), we salute you.

Related links

5.5 steps for participating in Bike to Work Day
Tips for sharing the roads with bikes
Finding the perfect bike rack

Esurance Poems of the Road Finalists

reading 1,300 poems

Our Esurance Poems of the Road winners have been announced. Read their poems.

During the month of April — known by word nerds everywhere as National Poetry Month — we held the Esurance Poems of the Road Contest. We expected to get several hundred submissions from die-hards poets and travelers alike. And we expected it to be a whole lot of fun.

What we didn’t expect was the veritable onslaught of vast and varied poems we received over the course of the month. There were sonnets, haikus, free verse poems, prose poems, limericks, and lyrics. There were sad poems, funny poems, beautifully narrative poems, abstract poems, experimental poems, and poems that weren’t really poems at all.

The submissions extolled the many wonders, cruelties, and mysteries of the road and some even lauded the virtues of Esurance (thanks!). All told we received more than 1,300 submissions and were happily impressed by the amount of enthusiasm and spirit that went into each.

Poems of the Road finalists

Narrowing the field to 3 was no easy task, but after much reading, discussing, scoring, debating, and tallying, we have our finalists. And here they are (in no particular order):

“Favorite Roads” by Khristian Kay
“Western Equinox” by Lara Wilber
“The Road Home” by Joe Carvalko

These 3 poems are now with Tom and Ray Magliozzi of NPR’s Car Talk. Click and Clack, as they’re more commonly known, will rank them in order of first, second, and third, and winners will be announced next week. Stay tuned!

Honorable mention

Though his poem didn’t make our final selection, honorable mention goes to Rich Follett for “Rhythm of the Road,” which garnered an impressive 1,825 votes. Many poems received a significant number of votes, but “Rhythm of the Road” led the way and more than earned its unofficial place as People’s Choice winner. (Thanks, Rich!)

We also want to thank everyone who voted for their favorite poems and give a very special shout out to all the poets who shared a poem (you guys rock!). We enjoyed reading so many astonishing poems and traveling down so many different roads.

So thanks again, poets, travelers, wordsmiths, and wanderers. And wherever the road takes you next, remember Baudelaire’s advice to “always be a poet, even in prose.”