Monday, December 31, 2018

How I Spent My Winter Vacation


Did you ever have to write a report in elementary school at the start of the new year about your summer vacation? Do you remember anything about hearing any other classmate ever read theirs? Are there any top selling books based on a great summer vacation? Well, Jaws probably counts!

We loaded up the mighty Camry, fresh on a new set of brake pads, filled up the tank, loaded up the presents for relatives, and headed out to PA, OH, MI, IN, and back thru OH, PA, NJ, and NY to complete the circuit. I didn't count the miles, but it was more than 50 and bigger than a breadbox. Along the way we enjoyed scenic vistas on I-80, had a great Christmas, and had a great time. I really enjoyed the driving, with lots of cruise control interstate time to observe the driving habits of Americans in their natural state too, and if I was Santa, I'd be passing out a lot of Driver's Education Textbooks!

It's an easy concept to drive on the highway but let me just offer a few top tips to round out 2018, tips that should make every day driving safer for all of us.

1. If it's dark, raining, and/or foggy, turn your lights on! Yes, I'm talking to the dozens of folks I saw driving in rain or dusk who might have even had their daytime running lights on, but NO BRAKE LIGHTS, so it's hard to see you in reduced visibility. Hey, didja know that many states have a law that says to turn on your lights (all of them) when your windshield wipers are on? FACT!

2. If you need to exit the interstate, and we'll assume here that your exit is on the RIGHT like probably 95% of them are, then why don't you consider (I'm being polite here) moving into that right-hand exit lane well before the actual exit? I'm talking mostly to the Jeep driver somewhere in Ohio that passed me on the left and then immediately cut back in front of me to cross over to the right-hand exit. No, I wasn't impressed with your idiotic double-lane-shift at the least second, so I'm happy that I was able to get out of your way. Oh, and thanks for the nonverbal communication you sent my way after driving like an idiot!

3. Some general winter driving tips: SLOW DOWN when it's icy, clear ALL the snow off your car (not just your front window), and make sure your windshield wipers are working. Along the way on our trip we noticed our wipers were kind of doing a C- "blah" job, so we visited the AutoZone store in Clarion PA. After buying some new wipers, our friendly AutoZone guy Tyler offered to put them on the car for us. He had those blades on so fast, I'm sure he's done hundreds of them before, and we just wanted to thank him and point out what great service we got! And, the new wipers work great, and made the rest of the trip much more visible!


4. On this trip we managed to focus on visiting the family, but as you might imagine, there were some automotive highlights and trivial tidbits of driving fun too. While we didn't see a ton of billion dollar cars on the road, we spotted this truck that might have been hauling millions of dollars worth of cars!


On I-70 outside of Dayton Ohio we passed the exit for Brookville, which would be fun to visit again some day and check out the folks at Brookville Roadsters. If you need any parts for your Ford Model A, or in fact an entire A body, they can take care of you!


On the opposite (East) side of Ohio on I-80, we've always noticed the big Lordstown Ohio GM factory right along the road, and you've likely read about this and other plants in the news lately since GM is planning to halt production at several locations like Lordstown (home of the Cruze). In a way our trip around the Midwest could have focused on a lot of the USA's auto industry, since the factories and parts suppliers are all over the place. You might have  heard of a place called "Detroit" too.


Back in PA, we passed the exit for Pocono Raceway, and while we didn't get to hit the track this time, we filled up on gas at this exit and helped the local economy a little bit at least.


Just north of Indianapolis and the famous Motor Speedway, we had some awesome pizza with my brother and his family, and just as a reminder of the Indy 500 found this framed race car in the men's room. I didn't check the ladies room, but I'll guess there was a race car in there too. People in Indy love their race at the Brickyard.


On the journey home, we spotted an exit for Tallmadge Ohio, and you might recognize that name as the home of Summit Racing. If there is something that makes your car go faster, the fine folks at Summit probably have it in stock! They are also located right on the interstate in Eastern  Ohio, and while we didn't visit the retail store, we managed a quick photo.


On the final leg of our trip we were just a few miles from  home, had just survived the George Washington Bridge, and then we spotted this car. I think it's a sign that I need to buy a Porsche! Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2019!


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Update From the George Washington Bridge

Earlier this fall I had a little "incident" of speeding through a toll gate at the George Washington Bridge, and believe it or not, the GWB was in the news again recently! This time it wasn't me, but it seems that someone famous was spotted there not speeding, but for driving thru a booth without a license plate in his McLaren!  

Yeah, me and Ice-T have a LOT in common with this George Washington Bridge thing! We both have McLaren cars, (except me), and of course we are both famous musician/movie stars (again, except me). Ice-T was stopped and cited for not paying the toll, but also for not having a license plate on his car. You may or may not know that the GWB toll booths don't have any people in them, and they just take pictures of your car's license plate and bill you that way. If you have the EZ-Pass, then the electronic gizmos read the EZ-Pass on your car and collect money that way. 

Another bit of trivia about the EZ-Pass is that for the tolls in New York, an EZ-Pass FROM NY pays a cheaper rate than ones from other states. We discovered this after moving to NY with our Virginia EZ-Pass, and noticing the different prices. Man, I'm putting this on my list of things to do when I'm EMPEROR OF THE WORLD, and making all tolls cost the same for everyone! Then the next day I'll just do away with all the tolls!

Here's the Jalopnik article on Ice-T: JALOPNIK ARTICLE

Saturday, December 15, 2018

ICYMI: Formula E Just Started a New Season!

gen2 formula e car drifts around berlin

Just today in Saudi Arabia the Formula E season for 18-19 started, and In Case You Missed It, you can watch the race on the Fox Sports app. I keep trying to kind of follow Formula E, so I watched the race this morning, and here's some random thoughts. FORMULA E

This is about the 5th year of these all electric cars racing, and they've now updated the cars and electric power systems so that the cars can run the entire 45 minute race on one charge. This might not sound like much, but you have to realize that up to now they've had a unique pit stop halfway through the race where the drivers parked in their garage, hopped out of the car and jumped into a 2nd car, because the batteries didn't have enough power for the full race. OK, so I guess they continue to improve on battery technology.

The carbon fiber cars look pretty cool, with unique "wings" over the rear wheels instead of a big spoiler in the back. Along with this they now have the world's largest diffusers in the rear too, so if nothing else you won't confuse these cars with Formula 1, Indy Car, or anything else.

The series continues to attract big names in the industry, with Audi, Nissan, BMW, Jaguar, Indian car maker Mahindra, and French auto brand DS. With 11 teams and 22 drivers, it looks like other racing you might have seen, but I'll admit it sounds different! There is a kind of high screeching electrical sound from the cars, but you will not mistake it for any gasoline powered car you've ever heard. With the backing of international governing body the FIA, and the continued interest in electric vehicles, I'd guess that Formula E will be around for a while whether we watch it or not.

Racing wise, there are some unique things to look out for too. First off, they have a "Fanboost" feature, where fans like us can vote online for our favorite drivers, and the drivers with the most votes get an increase of power for 5 seconds at the time of their choosing during the race. Hey, at least that's a way to get involved with the sport in an effort to make it interactive. FANBOOST

Similar to the Fanboost is another way that drivers can get an increase in electrical power during the race. With a specified activation zone on the track, the driver can go off the racing line and activate his boost  during the race, and boost his power a few minutes. From what I saw in the first race, boosting for that long seems to be worth a few places on track, and of course the tactics of when to use it is up to the driver. ATTACK MODE

Other than the teams and the cool technology, you might get interested in the drivers. With former F1 competitors like Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, and others, it's nice to know a few familiar names anyway!

Another way that Formula E is trying to attract fans is to power pack the entire race, practice, and qualifying into just one day. Compared to NASCAR, INDY, or other races where you could spend a 3 day weekend to watch the average race, this schedule might appeal to fans that can't get away for more than a day. While that's good for the fans, I imagine the drivers and mechanics would like a bit more time to practice and set up their cars, but I guess you can't have everything. When the series wraps up this season in July 2019 in New York (Brooklyn), they'll go out in style with two races in two days. If  I'm still interested in Formula E by then maybe I'll ride the train and journey the 23 miles or so and see it live.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Team Coronautski in LEMONS Video Highlights!

Lemons Screen Shot, Team Coronautski Car #155

One more thing about the Lemons race in November, the 24 Hours of Lemons guys have just released their wrap-up video, and it features some nice footage and mention of Team Coronautski, which as you remember was Brian Nixon's Class C winning car along with his team mates. Hey, don't take my word for it, head to YouTube and check it out now! As the Lemons guys above state, Team Coronautski is "Hellasweet!"


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

An Exciting Camry Update: Brakes!

Thanks for helping in the shop!

Hey, did ya notice I used the words "exciting" and "Camry" in the same headline today? Hah! You can't find super high quality creative journalism like that anywhere else! As much as I make fun of the Camry, the Toyota cars are just about indestructible from our experience. In other words, like you've probably read about the danger of buying a fancy bird as a pet is that they might outlive you, so I'm thinking that Toyotas should come with the same warning. "WARNING: Before you buy this fine Toyota product, be sure you are in good health, and will be able to take care of your Toyota, take it for walks, and perform regular maintenance so this thing will outlast you!"

Brakes, however, are a normal wear and tear item, so replacing them when needed is literally a lifesaver! The Camry brakes have felt a little soft to me, and with over 120,000 miles in 8 years, I figure the safe thing to do is to check the brakes and replace anything that looks like it needs it, and besides, I need more fun car stuff to work on once in a while too.

Brake Pads Delivered from ROCKAUTO.COM

Like a lot of auto parts, we've had good experience ordering on line from RockAuto, and can recommend that whenever you spend money on parts that you at least price compare with I'd like to say that they just gave me twenty pounds of 100 dollar bills for that endorsement, but to be honest, well, I don't think anyone has ever given me any money for endorsing anything. We are willing to try it though!

One other fun part of getting parts on line is hitting that FEDEX tracking number and seeing where in the world your package is at any given time, so as you might guess I'm easily amused too. Imagine what a ball of yarn would do for my recess time! Once the brakes arrived I just needed a day to put the car on the lift and get the work done. I figured one of the upcoming Saturday's would be good, since I'd be off work, and I could get this done before driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for Christmas.

Well, I'd like to recognize and thanks President George H. W. Bush for his service to our country, and thanks to today being a federal holiday, I had the day off and headed to the shop.

Front brake pads replaced, rotors looked good. Once I had the car on the lift and the right tools available, this was not too hard. Plus, amazingly enough, the 2nd wheel I did was easier than the 1st once I got the hang of it. Imagine that!

Rear pads weren't worn as much, and probably would have lasted another 80,000 miles by the looks of things. While this might be amazing after seeing my FIAT go through the original pads in about 55,000 miles, the difference is that the Camry gets driven much more gently, no autocross, no track days, no laps at Martinsville, VIR, CMP, or Charlotte Motor Speedway. In other words, your average Toyota with stock brakes will probably out live you! Regardless, since we were there and had the wheels off, we replaced the rear pads too, kept the original rotors on as well.

Special thanks to the two guys in the shop that offered to help, and did the rear wheels in the time it took Julie and I to do the 2nd one up front. I might point out that they are younger and smarter than me, and that they used the air gun instead of the old fashioned breaker bar on the lug nuts like the front end team, but, nah, they were awesome. Thanks!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Road Atlanta Report

NMS-South just reported that there was rain in Atlanta today, so the track day at Road Atlanta is even more fun then normal! The Miata driver shown above states that the mighty 99 Miata is getting tons of point-byes from other drivers all over the track, so once again we will remind you that no matter what the question (about what kind of car to get), the answer is always: MIATA!

4 Extra Tires? No Problem!

OK, Friday Night Was Dry. 

Miatas As Far As The Eye Can See.

NMS Miata, With The Original CONEVORE On The Hood.