Category: Travel

By on February 13, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si Manual, Image: Austin Hartman

This is my new 1992 Honda Prelude Si five-speed, which passed 100,000 miles last week while I was driving it home from Tampa to Tucson.

The car was for sale on eBay and I was in the market for a vintage stickshift Prelude as the ultimate souvenir from my Honda days. In addition, my wife and I had always wanted to do a cross-country drive. My sister and her husband recently moved to Florida, a hundred miles south of where the car was located. My wife had never been to New Orleans. We decided, what the heck, let’s buy the car and drive it home.

Did I mention that this Prelude was the closest thing to a barn-find car I’ve ever bought? Read More >

By on November 29, 2016

UberSELECT

There are some absolutely terrible people in this world who are fools for prestige, suckers for any shiny bauble or deplorable frippery that might permit them the despicable foppery of believing themselves to be somehow better than their fellow men for the least justifiable of reasons.

I am one of those terrible people. I wear Kiton suits even though I am so breathtakingly ugly that no manner of haute couture can make any possible difference. I have a “Black Series” toothbrush. When I saw a fellow racer who happened to be a hugely wealthy fellow from Hong Kong pull out an “Infinite” series Visa card to lay down next to my “Signature” series Visa, I did not rest until I was also in possession of an “Infinite” Visa that was stamped from actual metal instead of merely molded out of plastic. When my plans to acquire a European noble title from some down-and-out distant relatives around the turn of the century foundered, I actually purchased a barony from a (very small, not quite legitimate) country.

There is no activity or purchase too ridiculous for me to undertake in the name of perceived prestige. Or so I thought … until the day I paid $78 dollars to ride in an Uber Select.

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By on June 22, 2016

Kinshasa Traffic, Image: MONUSCO Photos/Flickr

If you can describe a road surface as being home to a rock formation, you might be in Kinshasa, Congo.

Protrusions of solid rock extend several feet above the road surface, as though thrust upward by some geologic force. In fact, these shockingly large outcroppings are made possible through an unfortunate combination of poor construction, over-use, and extreme neglect. I came upon several such promontories during a recent visit to the Congolese capital. And these were not rural or back street rock climbing opportunities. These can be found on main roads across the city center.

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By on November 2, 2015

1. Ford F-150 Wrangell

Leaving Petersburg to continue on our way south requires a ferry as Petersburg’s road network only reaches 30 miles out of town and does not cross any water along the way.

Next we visit Wrangell and Ketchikan before leaving Alaska for good. As well as analysing the car park in these two tiny towns, this is an opportunity for me to try and convey to you how it feels to take the most common means of transportation in Southeastern Alaska: the ferry.

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By on October 7, 2015

IMG_0140

The Town & Country is back at home and, frankly — no pun intended — I’m exhausted.

As I had been warned, the necessary tests required an overnight stay for the van at the research facility and the two trips there and back sapped a lot of my energy. I was at the mercy of my iPhone’s navigation app — UConnect’s navigation, of course, doesn’t work in Japan — that led pell-mell all over the damn countryside without any real idea of where I was at any given moment. To make matters worse, when I wasn’t behind the wheel, there was an equally confusing three-hour train ride to deal with.

Once upon a time, I might have considered this a grand adventure. Right now, I’m just tired and in need of a beer. Read More >

By on March 25, 2015

Zimbabwe_$100_trillion_2009_Obverse

If you’ve read much of the automotive press or the mainstream media in the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt heard the latest news: Americans drove more miles in January than they’ve driven in any single month since 1970, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” shouldn’t be able to quote that number with even a modicum of statistical confidence, and indeed they have no real way to know how many miles are driven in this country. Nor should they be able to do so.

More fascinating than the factoid or the ostensible reasons behind it are the various spins put on it across the blogosphere. Autoblog notes that “nearly half of drivers are fifty years old or above”. Bloomberg turns it into a piece on the economy, touting the recovery while tactfully failing to mention the fact that a record-setting number of people in their prime earning years have given up on even looking for work. The Financial Post reprinted Bloomberg’s story verbatim but focused on the idea that “three is a magic number for the economy.”

Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis on the news, however, was performed by Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik. It’s a pleasure to read and Matt marshals his arguments in careful order towards an obvious conclusion. As fate would have it, however, I find myself forced to hoist the opposing standard.

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By on January 13, 2015

top-gear-boys_3147410b

The only part that was not scripted was James May’s broken ribs.

Much has been written about Top Gear’s Patagonia Special, which aired in Britain over the holidays. The show premiers on BBC America this week. Bloggers and journalists wrote, ad nauseam, about the authenticity of the inflammatory license plate and the barbarity of the Argentines. Nuanced discourse? Not so much. Let’s delve deeper. Read More >

By on August 19, 2014

securedownload-5

Traveling by bus is the preferred mode for the growing middle class throughout Latin America. White collar workers, government employees, and students take long-distance buses for many reasons. First, it is much less expensive than flying. Second, buses reach a lot more destinations than planes. Finally, even those who own cars prefer to let a professional do the driving, thus minimizing wear and tear to their own cars and the stress of dodging out-of-control big rigs and stray animals for hundreds of miles.

The stereotype, of course, is that all buses South of the Border are chicken buses– second-hand American school buses with psychedelic paint schemes, tinted windows, and chrome galore. In fact, luxury buses– built in Brazil and Europe– are very common and often have more amenities than commercial airliners. Make the jump to learn more about them. Read More >

By on October 17, 2013

520 Floating Bridge Circa Christmas 2008

It would appear as though the price of admission to traverse the longest floating bridge in the world on a daily basis has had quite the impact on commuting patterns in Seattle. A study to be issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week – barring another tragicomic display by the powers that be, of course – has uncovered that use of the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge – Evergreen Point (colloquially known as the 520 floating bridge) has gone down by half since tolling began near the end of 2011.

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By on September 20, 2013

In the next couple of days Autumn will officially begin. For most of us, however, Summer ended back on Labor Day, that final day of freedom before kids all over the country had to get up early, stuff their new school supplies into their backpacks and board those big yellow nuisances to all of us who have a daily commute. Anyone with kids, kids, kids is tied to home so, for all but a privileged few, the season of great cross country road trips is at an end.

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By on September 4, 2013

watching you uncle sam poster Big Brother 1984 Orwellian

Wired.com is reporting that the state of California has abruptly tabled legislation that might have allowed RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips to be embedded into the state’s drivers’ licenses. Privacy activists are hailing the suspension of this plan as a victory against government intrusion in people’s lives and believe that these chips, which are actually tiny radio transceivers that can be accessed over the open airwaves without the consent of the person carrying the document, will eventually be used to track people’s movements without their knowledge. Currently, three states, Michigan, Vermont and Washington, already have RFID chips in their licenses and are already sharing information collected by the DMV, including basic identity data and photos, with the Department of Homeland Security via a national database. Scary, right? Read More >

By on July 5, 2013
1978 Ford Freestar

2005 Ford Freestar

Sometime in the predawn hours of a day in early August 1974, my father loaded his wife and five children into his recently purchased Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup truck, the adults isolated safely in the cab while we kids were locked like monkeys in a cage under a canopy in the back, and left Snohomish, WA for Horton, KS. It was a trip we made several times during my childhood and I have vivid memories of waking up in the predawn hours when the air was still cold and first rays of the sun were just beginning to paint the sky in the East. In the decades since, my road trips have always begun that same way and so now, having just completed their first big road trip from Buffalo, NY to Washington D.C. my children will share those memories as well. Read More >

By on March 25, 2013

The Lake Michigan Car Ferry website is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the operators of the Lake Michigan car ferry, the SS Badger, which runs between Ludington MI and Manitowoc, WI, have reached and agreement that will allow the historic steamship to continue operating. The Badger is one of the last coal fired vessels operating commercially on the great lakes and its continued operation means millions of trade and tourist dollars for the region it serves. During the summer months, the 6650 ton vessel makes two round trip crossings per day and can carry 600 passengers and up to 180 automobiles.

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By on March 4, 2013

My 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man. Despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. When seats are limited I will stand so my elders can sit. I always hold the door open for ladies, and I keep plugging away no matter how hopeless the situation might seem. There are a few things here and there that can cause problems once in a while, too. For example, I won’t be deliberately insulted, I need my personal space and, of course, I feel like I am loser if I don’t have my own set of wheels.

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By on February 24, 2013

They can cuff me anytime.

Hot girls in short skirts are the first things that leap into my mind whenever anyone says anything about the Japanese. The internet has not helped to change that, in fact it may have made things worse. If you add the word “Japanese” to any noun that describes a group of people and enter it into your favorite search engine, pictures of hot young girls will always appear near the top of the results. Look for Japanese tour guides, Japanese students, Japanese beach volleyball players or Japanese anything and you will see I am right. Try it, I’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, did you look for Japanese Police? I did, and despite my prior confession I was surprised at what I found. Read More >

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