1. I must confess that it was late in life that I learned what is “half” about a semi; or more generally what the distinction is between a semi and a (full) tractor+trailer. Unfortunately the entries at Wikipedia and some dictionaries are confusing because they try too hard to take in special cases. Also it doesn’t help much to talk about “eighteen-wheelers” because that separately counts the individual wheels within a cluster, when what matters is more the number and placement of the clusters taken as units, or the wheeled support points.

    For a tractor+trailer, the tractor (“cab” part) has four wheeled support points, and so does the trailer. When hitched, the tractor pulls the trailer along the highway, but does not support it. The trailer is supported on its own, by its four support points (wheel clusters), at roughly the four corners of its rectangular shape. When unhitched, the trailer still stands on its own, on the same wheels / tires it uses on the highway, and can be towed around and repositioned in the yard either by a regular tractor part or by a smaller utility vehicle custom designed for that purpose.

    For a semi+trailer, the hitch at the rear of the tractor extends well beyond the cab, and has a large flat circular plate, above its rear wheel clusters, where the front portion of the trailer rests, and is pulled and can rotate for turns. The trailer has wheel clusters only at the rear. At the front, it does not have regular wheel clusters, but has its weight at the front supported by the hitch plate and wheels of the tractor. (The trailer has two “legs” at the front, collapsible but can be extended down to the ground, so that the trailer can stand on its own when unhitched. The legs may have small hard wheels, allowing for a little motion so the trailer can be repositioned in the yard.)

    Finally! … is the truck at the right foreground in the cartoon really a semi?

  2. Thank you, Danny, I never knew. And thank you, Dana, I didn’t know the punchline to that one.

    Is Tex-Mex a term known across the country? As a Texan I thought it was just a term used here, mainly to emphasize the fact that our spicier Mexican food is different from that sweeter stuff Californians call Mexican food.

  3. We know about Tex-Mex even up here in New England. You have to look around to find Tex-Mex and you have to really know what you are looking for. We also have plenty of chain restaurants that call themselves “Tex-Mex” so Bostonians can pretend they are eating the real thing without feeling the pain.

    Concerning tractor-trailers, how does the trailer take corners? Do the front wheels swivel or do they just drag sideways?

  4. @ Dana – Ditto on Becky’s comment: after half a minute, I gave up on the identity of the composer, and figured that I would have to ask here.

  5. James May, who used to be part of the UK show Top Gear, does occasional videos where he makes sandwiches. Sometimes the video will feature some comparison with American versions, which will generally demonstrate his profound ignorance of American food culture.

    A recent one was to compare grilled cheese. The British sandwich featured cheddar (reasonably). For the American, James presented the quintessential American cheese, the one that if order something “with cheese” in the US you will get – Monterey Jack. To which the comments exploded with variations on “what are you talking about?!!!” Also a number of arguments about both American cheese and American Cheese.

    I thought of this from the mention of Tex-Mex, which is one sub-cuisine that does feature Monterey Jack with some frequency.

  6. @Becky, in my understanding “Tex-Mex” is distinguished from “food prepared/eaten in actual Mexico”, which is generally very different. I have never encountered mole chicken in a Tex-Mex joint.

  7. Monterey Jack is a distinguished and perfectly enjoyable cheese (especially in comparison with processed “American” cheese slices and other abominations). In a recent edition of the German cooking show that I described in the Topkapi thread, the original recipe for “mac & cheese” (from a prestigious Kansas grill restaurant) was revealed to contain five cheeses, including (of course) Cheddar and (surprise!) Parmesean, but also (heaven forbid!) Velveeta, which I would classify as a “non-food item”. The stuff isn’t even refrigerated in many supermarkets.

  8. Carl, yes, there is that, the fact that Tex-Mex isn’t real Mexican food. It’s just the average Anglo in Texas has more likely eaten in California than in Mexico. Here in Mexican food restaurants, the cheese is very likely queso fresco, though topped with Jack.

  9. Here in Boston you can go to the supermarket and buy “quesadilla queso cheese” as the label says, which is basically “cheese sandwich cheese cheese.”

    Yes, I want cheese in my cheese-in-a-folded-over-tortilla, and it had better be cheese cheese.

  10. Straight truck: Long heavy-duty truck with freight body mounted to frame. Can pull a Full Trailer.

    Tractor (truck): Short heavy-duty truck with fifth-wheel hitch mounted on rear of frame to pull Semitrailers.

    Full Trailer: Has a solid rear axle and pivoting front axle and connects with its truck via a drawbar.

    Semitrailer: Has a solid rear axle but no built-in front axle. Must be coupled to a tractor truck with its fifth-wheel hitch to support the front end. A semitrailer is supported at the front end by its retractable “landing gear” when parked with the tractor uncoupled. A tractor with an attached semitrailer (tractor-trailer unit) may tow one or more semitrailers using “converter dollies” (pivoting axle assembly with drawbar, supporting front end with a fifth-wheel hitch ) to make a full trailer.

    More often then not these days, trucks employ dual wheels, the “clusters” mentioned above.

    I did get the “Semi Retirement” pun, but only from the sign and not the artwork. At first I thought those were delivery trucks or food trucks owned by the semi-retired residents of the home (not fully retired, so you gotta pay the bills, ya know). The figure entering the building didn’t help either. The artwork felt muddied to me and I just happened to make the pun on my own, because I’m into trucks! 🙂

  11. I grew up on Velveeta, but I haven’t had it in a long time. The addition of some processed cheese to mac and cheese can be useful as it helps prevent the other cheeses from separating and becoming grainy. You can use a bechamel to achieve that as well.

  12. I would figure that a semi and trailer have to turn (and otherwise move) somewhat as a larger version of a car which is towing a trailer behind it. This is something we have only done a couple of times and it took both us in the car to deal with it.

    We pulled our reenactment unit’s trailer with one of our Astro vans to events – luckily some of the other fellows are much better at this and they pull it instead. I will say not to bring a child with a sense of humor along in the car. We had his niece when she was young going to an event with us and she kept saying that we had lost the trailer.

  13. Something that has apparently been a thing for a while is Figure Eight Trailer Racing. It’s just what it sounds like. Contestants each have a truck pulling a camper trailer. They race around and around on a figure-eight track. Fun things happen in the intersection. https://youtu.be/msWpkaCnWHY

  14. @ MiB – I guess that means that the demolition derby in “Cars 3” was more of a re-enactment than parody.

  15. Thanks Mitch ! I have a great
    time drawing these and it’s a nice change when I can switch
    over from political cartoons.
    I appreciate everyone’s comments. They’re a lot of fun to read !

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