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Lane Ranger

MacDill sightseers and missing cow convoys

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

During these times of tumult and turmoil, there are probably a lot of people around the world who'd love to sneak a peek into MacDill Air Force Base.

Shame they don't live in Brandon. They could just hop on the bus.

HARTline has an express route that makes two trips each day from South Brandon, where two-thirds of MacDill's employees and active duty personnel live, to Central Command. The buses on the 25X route leave at 5:50 a.m. and 6:20 a.m. and arrive at 6:55 a.m. and 7:25 a.m., respectively. In the evening, they leave at 4:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. and arrive back in Brandon at 5:50 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.

The route makes two stops in Brandon -- one at the corner of Bell Shoals Road and Glen Haven Drive and another at Handley Park near S Kings Avenue and Bloomingdale Avenue. At MacDill, the bus stops at CentCom, Special Operations Command and the base hospital.

Cost of the trip: $1.50 each way.

Six quarters get you to CentCom, and another six get you home. For all the heightened security measures in place around the country, you'd think it'd be a little tougher to crack the gates.

But it's not quite that simple, you see.

Base spokeswoman Lt. Michal Kloeffler said Security Forces on base check each passenger's base ID pass.

"The only people that can get on base have military IDs," she said. "If you don't have one, you'll be asked to get off the bus and wait for the bus to come back."

The bus drivers go through a rigid background check -- by both HARTline and MacDill's Security Forces Squadron -- before being issued MacDill ID's, Kloeffler said.

HARTline spokesman Ed Crawford said there's another easy way to keep track of who's coming and going. Most of the military personnel who commute from Brandon to MacDill recognize each other's faces. If they see someone on the bus one morning who doesn't belong, they keep an eye on the person.

Regardless, it's not like the bus stops at Tommy Franks' doorstep. You can't just roll off the bus and into the war room.

"They're not going to secured areas of the base," Crawford said.

The bottom line: Spend your $1.50 on a king-size Zagnut and skip the MacDill sightseeing tour. The place is a fortress, even if you have a bus pass.

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1 of the Florida Department of Transportation's District 7 Community Traffic Safety Team's monthly newsletter has hit the stands.

And while it is a fine publication, replete with color photographs and handy statistics -- did you know about 6,500 pedestrians are killed in car crashes every year? -- it's still a work in progress.

The newsletter's current title is "Community Traffic Safety Team," which ranks second to "Rheem Air Conditioner Rebate Information" in the category of World's Most Boring Pamphlet Titles.

FDOT acknowledges this. On the front page is the following notice, headlined "Name the newsletter contest":

"The 'CTST' newsletter just doesn't cut it. We are looking for a new name, something catchy!

"That's where YOU come in. Think of a catchy name for the newsletter and you could be the winner of a $25 gift certificate to the Red Lobster."

Being a crab-stuffed flounder aficionado with an English degree, I could not help but wonder. What would I title a traffic-oriented literary masterwork?

"Truck Finn" and "The Hatchback of Notre Dame" didn't really ring true. Neither did "The Old Man and the C-Class" or "Chrysler in the Rye."

"Robinson's PT Cruiser?" "The Rime of the Ancient Malibu?" "Pride and Previas?" "Geo-wulf?" "The Picture of DeLorean Gray?"

I know you readers can do much better. So I'm asking you to send me your suggested titles for FDOT's newsletter. I may include them in an upcoming edition of Lane Ranger, along with the real winner. My e-mail address is below.

Hit me with your best shots, and save us from my best offering:

"Ford of the Rings."

WHEN IT COMES TO THE AXIES, it's tough to beat a good cow caper. Here's one from April 6.

It's a dark night in Riverview, and you're driving west on Rhodine Road. Suddenly, you come to a convoy of cattle heading north across the road.

As Emeril might say: BAM! You nail one of the cows square in the brisket. But before you can get an ear tag number, the chameleon-like cattle have scampered off into the night.

"The cows left the roadway," reads the report, "and were last seen heading north into the woods."

The case is now closed, states the report, "unless any leads develop." If you have any information leading to the arrest and corralling of these bovine bandits, I encourage you to contact your neighborhood rodeo clown.

With your help, we can wipe out drive-by mooings in our lifetime.

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