Mercifully, at least to those of us living in the Snow Belt or in the Great White North, the official start of summer is only 57 days away. You know what that means: swimming pools, grilling meat, and — for gearheads — road trips.
I’m of firm belief the journey is half the fun, especially if you’re taking the Queen Family Truckster somewhere new. The countries on either side of the 49th parallel are filled with random and bizarre roadside bric-a-brac, some of it fit for discussion on this website, some of it — as we shall see — is straight from Hugh Hefner’s imagination.
Attentive readers will have, by now, recognized that my automotive choices tend to run towards the, shall we say, flamboyant side. Our family daily is an inky-black Dodge Charger with a vanity plate which is guaranteed to enrage bumper-ogling Methodists. New, oversized rims are scheduled to be fitted the minute all this snow goes away. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 with which the Charger shares driveway space is painted Look-At-Me Red, accented garishly nicely with chrome 20-inch rims. I drove a Lincoln Mark VII with an uncorked exhaust for many years. My neighbours love me.
So what am I doing in a Prius when my tastes tilt to the extrovert end of the spectrum? Well, it’s always fun to see how the other half lives, and in this case, I wanted to see how the thing would fare on a 1,000-mile journey in the dead of winter.
Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged! But. I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA. My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual). Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) and a muffler on its last leg. Spark plugs, starter, timing belt and water pump are recent repairs/maintenance. As I type, an attempt is being made to seal the rear diff. If that is successful I am having the mechanic give the chassis a once-over.
If the inspection is clear or things are easily fixed I am planning on making the trip with this car. I figure the car is worth approx $2500 – 3000 as it sits. Am I nuts? (Read More…)
My wife and I are planning on taking a large 20 day vacation this summer where we plan on driving aver 5000 miles with our three older children. My wife drives a 2008 Ford Taurus X, which we love, but does not have enough space for a family of five for such a long journey. We were originally going to rent a minivan from the local enterprise, but a two week rental will set us back $1,300 with tax.
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.
Be forewarned: This post contains some Porsche content.
Those with a strong appreciation for the automobile often romanticize the idealized Road Trip, the Grand Tour. With rose-tinted glasses we esteem those transcontinental slogs made in cars suitable for the occasion, the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and so on that are exemplars of the (often) 12-cylinder, Gran Turismo genre. Indeed, it’s difficult to read a review of such a car and escape reference to the hypothetical playboys who only interrupt sumptous repose to flog their aristocratic motors on epic drives of endurance.
In 2013, however, a road trip encompassing thousands of miles is quite a luxury, given the pressing hustle and bustle of the modern world. It’s much quicker and easier to fly, after all. In fact, it seems like the only people electing indulgent road trips these days are well-coined automotive journalists, like my friend Doug DeMuro.
Different cars serve different purposes. Of course, you already know this. You know, for example, that people buy compact cars for fuel economy. People buy minivans to haul other people. And people buy Acuras because they’re confused.
So why do people buy station wagons? For practicality, of course. People buy wagons so they can pack up all their belongings, load them inside the cargo area, and hand the keys to a car transporter who makes constant runs between Greenwich, Connecticut, and Palm Beach.
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…)
Nobody likes to think about the passing of a parent. When it happens it leaves you with a lot of different feelings, sadness, emptiness, loneliness and even, if your parent has been effected by a long illness or a prolonged decline, an unexpected sense of relief and completion. The grieving process is different for everyone, the legal process isn’t. Within a few days of your parent’s passing, the division of assets, property and cherished mementos begins to grind relentlessly forward. If your family gets along well, who gets what is generally handled gracefully and your relationships are actually strengthened by the process. So it was with my family and, since I was the only “car guy” among my brothers and sisters, it was a foregone conclusion that I would get my father’s Oldsmobile.
Most harebrained ideas are hatched under the influence This was no different. A thousand miles removed from Canada’s largest city, two freelance automotive writers were guzzling beer and bandying about ideas for potential stories. Most of the concepts were actually elaborate ruses designed solely for gaining access to OEM press fleets.
“Let’s drive to Toronto!” Mark heartily suggested. “It’s only, what, a thousand miles?”
“That’s sixteen hundred kilometers, in Queen’s English,” I corrected him. “Why? For what purpose?”
“Well, the Canadian International Auto Show is in February. Let’s crash that party.” White out!
So the Halloween Hooptiefest 24 Hours of LeMons at New Hampshire Motors Speedway went well, with the Rust In The Wind Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX taking a very improbable overall win, and we of the LeMons HQ crew were packing up the gear on Sunday afternoon and getting ready to head home… when we heard that all of our flights out of Logan— in fact, all flights out of the northeastern United States— were canceled due to ZOMG THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING PANIC YALL!!!1! The plan had been to drive our rental Kia Sorento 70 miles or so to an airport hotel, spend the night there, and grab our flights early Monday morning. We got to the hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts, where we convened an emergency meeting of the very exhausted LeMons brain trust. (Read More…)
Back in 2004, I was doing a typical East Bay highway commute to my job writing software documentation. Ten miles each way in a Tercel (I had my choice of an ’85 wagon or a ’90 hatch), and the ever-increasing numbers of badly-driven SUVs on the Dreaded Nimitz were making me feel quite vulnerable in my little rice-burners. I needed a more substantial daily driver, and it damn sure wasn’t going to be an 8-MPG truck with 64-ouncer cup holders. What I needed, I decided, was an ex-cop Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor! (Read More…)
I’ve played many a game of Buzzword Bingo with equally bored coworkers while stuck in 19-hour PowerPoint presentations, back when I slaved as a tech writer in the software biz. Why not apply this concept to a bingo game for car freaks trapped in a boring rental car on a road trip across one of those states that’s nothing but cornfields? (Read More…)