The Truth About Cars » Washington http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Washington http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Affluenza Redux: Rich Guy Gets Slap On The Wrist For Drunken High Speed Chase http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/affluenza-redux-rich-guy-gets-slap-on-the-wrist-for-drunken-high-speed-chase/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/affluenza-redux-rich-guy-gets-slap-on-the-wrist-for-drunken-high-speed-chase/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 16:03:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826282 Seattle’s TV stations are reporting that a wealthy businessman who led police on a high speed chase through the city of Olympia in his Ferrari F360 has been sentenced to just one year of work release. According to the reports, Shaun Goodman pleaded guilty to felony police evasion and DUI for the December 29 incident […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Seattle’s TV stations are reporting that a wealthy businessman who led police on a high speed chase through the city of Olympia in his Ferrari F360 has been sentenced to just one year of work release. According to the reports, Shaun Goodman pleaded guilty to felony police evasion and DUI for the December 29 incident that saw his terrified passenger leap from the moving car when he slowed at an intersection and ended only after he crashed into a parked car and then careened into the side of a house.

Blood alcohol tests showed Mr. Goodman had a BAC of 0.16, twice the legal limit in Washington State, and sentencing guidelines dictate that anyone with a BAC greater than 0.15 and two or three prior offenses receive 120 days jail time unless the judge determines that the sentence would impose a substantial risk to the offender’s physical or mental well-being. This conviction is Mr. Goodman’s seventh.

The light sentence has sparked some outcry in the local community and protesters gathered before the Thurston County Courthouse on Friday to voice their dissatisfaction. They allege that this sentence is just the latest example of the favorable treatment that Mr. Goodman has received all along from the court and point to the modest $75.000 bail, a sum the wealthy Mr. Goodman easily posted, and the fact that Mr. Goodman received the court’s permission to leave the state in order to attend the Super Bowl less than a month after his arrest as proof of their claim.

Mr. Goodman is obviously a serial offender and a menace on the roads and this judgment, just another in which wealthy defendants have used their position to obtain lighter sentences than would have been imposed upon the rest of us, is a disgrace. Protesters are right to demand answers.

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BMW Investing In A Carbon-Fiber Future Beyond i, M Brands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-investing-in-a-carbon-fiber-future-beyond-i-m-brands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-investing-in-a-carbon-fiber-future-beyond-i-m-brands/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 10:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820330 On the success of a first-year sell-out of the i8 and high demand for the i3, BMW is making an additional investment into its joint venture with SGL Group, with the intention of introducing carbon fiber into models beyond the i and M collections. Autoblog reports the automaker will inject $200 million into SGL Automotive […]

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On the success of a first-year sell-out of the i8 and high demand for the i3, BMW is making an additional investment into its joint venture with SGL Group, with the intention of introducing carbon fiber into models beyond the i and M collections.

Autoblog reports the automaker will inject $200 million into SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers in Moses Lake, Wash. — where the carbon fiber for both models of the i brand is produced — which will be used to boost production to 9,000 tons annually (from 3,000 tons currently) with the addition of four production lines to the two already in place, and bring 120 more employees for a total of 200. The expansion will make the Moses Lake facility the largest carbon fiber plant in the world when complete in early 2015.

As for where all of the carbon fiber will end up, BMW executive Dr. Klaus Draeger says the automaker will distribute the material to the rest of its overall lineup, a move that has always been in the cards according to BMW i communications manager Manuel Sattig:

Every idea, every technology, every revolution or new material that we came up with for BMW i eventually had to enable the rest of the BMW Group. Which means, yes, there is a plan to bring carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to the rest of our fleet.

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Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797458 Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture […]

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Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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Ford CEO Mulally To Head Boeing Or Microsoft Soon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-ceo-mulally-to-head-boeing-or-microsoft-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-ceo-mulally-to-head-boeing-or-microsoft-soon/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:06:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=627322 The rumor mill has been grinding away as of late regarding the possible return of Ford CEO Alan Mulally to helm either one of two of Seattle’s many economic engines: Microsoft and Boeing. In the face of these rumors, Mulally has opted not to dispel the rampant speculation. Reuters was  among those in attendance at an […]

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ford-ceo-alan-mulally-china-lincolnjpg-894a92e3f2c9121aThe rumor mill has been grinding away as of late regarding the possible return of Ford CEO Alan Mulally to helm either one of two of Seattle’s many economic engines: Microsoft and Boeing. In the face of these rumors, Mulally has opted not to dispel the rampant speculation.

Reuters was  among those in attendance at an automotive conference in Wuhan, China, where Mulally’s response to being asked whether he was directly or indirectly approached by either company to take the wheel was, “I love serving Ford.” He added that there were no changes to the plan laid out for Ford to find a successor to the third longest serving CEO when he steps down at the end of 2014, though Reuters did report that the auto maker may be open to an earlier departure should Mulally accept an offer elsewhere.

Since taking over Ford in 2006, Mulally helped steady the then-troubled company through his One Ford plan, which led to the sale of acquired brands — including Aston Martin and Volvo — to bring the focus back upon the Ford and Lincoln product lines. In turn, Mulally’s Ford was the only auto maker to avoid the pitfalls and bailouts experienced by Chrysler and General Motors during the Great Recession’s early days in late 2008.

With Microsoft’s market price still stagnant a decade on, and Boeing’s own woes with the 787 Dreamliner, either company could possibly benefit should the right offer approach his desk, especially if hand-delivered by his senior contacts in both companies to his home in Seattle.

Of course, when asked if he were open to a new executive post upon the end of his term at Ford, Mulally laughed and only had three words for the reporter: “I don’t know.”

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The bell tolls over Seattle, but not for most commuters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-bell-tolls-over-seattle-but-not-for-most-commuters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-bell-tolls-over-seattle-but-not-for-most-commuters/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 10:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=625873 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, […]

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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.

The tolls, ranging from $0 for late-night and early morning travelers, to $5.25 for those rush-hour commuters who prefer to pay the man by mail, have caused 9 out of 10 drivers to find another path to work and play across Lake Washington. The majority of those avoiding the toll have annual incomes of $50,000 and under, while those making $200,000 and above (and are no doubt enjoying the more open road) pay little if any mind to being tolled.

On the upside, more commuters are using mass transit due to the tolls – which were enacted as one of the five DOT demonstration projects under their $1 billion Urban Partnerships Congestion Initiative – with around 45 percent preferring to “ride the wave” than drown in a congestion pricing tsunami.

The information provided by the study will be considered by Olympia, Wash.’s best and brightest this week as they debate on whether to set tolls upon the other two floating bridges (both carrying east- and westbound traffic on I-90) over Lake Washington to help fund the construction of the 520’s replacement, set to open in 2014.

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Sunday Stories: “Turning Point” By Thomas Kreutzer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/sunday-stories-turning-point-by-thomas-kreutzer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/sunday-stories-turning-point-by-thomas-kreutzer/#comments Sun, 22 Sep 2013 13:26:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=525329 The first rays of the morning sun painted the predawn sky in glorious hues of orange and yellow as Bill stepped out of the house and took a deep breath of the cool pine scented air. He paused for a moment on his porch and took a sip of hot coffee from the large plastic […]

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The first rays of the morning sun painted the predawn sky in glorious hues of orange and yellow as Bill stepped out of the house and took a deep breath of the cool pine scented air. He paused for a moment on his porch and took a sip of hot coffee from the large plastic travel cup he habitually carried when he had to be up early and surveyed the scene. To the East the Cascades rose up high and rugged against the sky, the sun on their far side striking a line of fire upon the barren rock at their uppermost rim, their flanks clad in a sea of evergreens split by the straight line of the occasional roadway and large barren squares where the loggers had been at work harvesting the bounty of the forest. As unsightly as the scarred tracts of land looked the trees would return in time, Bill knew. The mountains were eternal.

Stepping off the porch and heading across the yard, Bill avoided wetting his boots in the dew soaked grass by sticking to a series of stepping stones he had laid out years earlier. The morning air was cold, he noted, a sure sign that the long lazy days of summer had come to an end. Still, the air lacked the bite it would have once the damp Pacific Northwest winter set in and, while a Washington winter would never be as bitter cold as the ones he had experienced on the plains of North Dakota when he was in the Air Force, he was already dreading the constant dampness that the next few months would bring. One of these days, he thought, he and Eileen would finally buy an RV and follow their friends in their annual southward migration to warmer climates.

The series of paving stones led Bill unfailingly across the wet yard to the door of a large steel building. The building was only a couple of years old and was a drastic improvement over the tiny garden shed it had replaced. It was, he thought as he opened the door and flicked on the lights, just the kind of place a man needed when he had retired from a lifetime of work and study he thought as he unlocked the door and flicked on the lights. Eileen called the garage his man cave, but inside with the many long fluorescent lights shining so brightly, it seemed anything but cave-like to Bill‘s eyes. One corner was of the building was dominated by spotlessly clean work benches and perfectly organized boards hung with neat rows of tools. For comfort, there was an old bar stool to sit upon while he worked and Bill had covered the smooth cement floor in that area of the shop with the remnants of the well-worn shag carpet that had once been in their living room. Home made cabinets held many fine power tools and along the far wall of the space several shelving units held the many household odds and ends that were no longer needed but which still remained too precious to throw out.

In the opposite end of the space, however, close to the roll-up garage door, was something special. Bill’s own 1908 Buick Model 10. Its flawless white paint and polished brass fittings gleamed with a jewel like intensity under the bright overhead lights and its tall, upright shape spoke of a more genteel era now long past. Teddy Roosevelt had been in the Whitehouse when the car had left the factory, the Titanic was still on the drawing boards – its keel yet to be laid – and only five short years had elapsed since the Wright brothers had shocked the world with powered flight. Once at the very cutting edge of the industrial revolution, the car had endured almost the entirety of the twentieth century and had a sense of history that spoke to Bill as he too entered his golden years. As a former History professor, he understood the need to protect such things and knew too well what might be lost if people failed to act. If the stories of the car’s original owners had been lost to time, at the very least the car still carried their spirits, along with those of the men who had designed and built it. In their memory Bill had become the car’s caretaker, rescuing it from a barn in the fields of Eastern Washington. In time, his own work and theirs would merge, and together they would endure.

Bill pulled the chain that rolled open the tall garage door and then turned to the old Buick. From beside the car he reached up and set the accelerator lever on the old car’s wooden wheel and then moved to the front of the vehicle where the starting crank hung loosely beneath the polished brass radiator. He worked the lever around until it engaged the gear and then, placing his left hand on the front spring of the old car for leverage, gave the car a hard crank. The engine chuffed once as it turned over and failed to fire. Bill engaged the crank again and gave the car another hard kick. It chuffed again, once, twice and then wheezed to a halt. Again, repeated the process and the car responded by firing just briefly, running perhaps four or five complete revolutions, before finally stopping.

Moving to the steering wheel, Bill adjusted mixture and returned to the hand crank. Once, then twice he repeated the process until the old car finally barked and struggled into an unsteady idle. He paused for just a moment to catch his breath and then went back to the side of the car where he worked the levers on the wheel as the old Buick’s engine warmed and settled at last into a fine, even idle. It positively purred as it sat there, clicking and clacking like an ancient sewing machine, its fenders shivering in anticipation of the day’s adventure.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Clambering aboard the old car, Bill adjusted the accelerator lever and feathered the pedal that engaged the car’s forward gear. The ancient Buick sputtered just for a second under the load and then bumped forward, juddering off the cement floor through the door and out onto the gravel driveway. Safely outside, Bill brought the car to a stop, set the brake and climbed down. He went back into the garage where he took an old, full length duster down from a peg, gathered up a leather helmet with goggles and a pair of gauntlets before locking up the garage and returning to the car.

As Bill put on his coat, his wife Eileen emerged from the house wearing an ankle white length dress, a crocheted shawl and a floppy, wide brimmed hat set with roses that she had tied securely onto her head with a sheer white, silk scarf. Bill stopped to admire her as she made her way down the porch and glided angelically across the driveway, an apparition a hundred years in the making. She approached the left side of the car and he held her hand as she climbed daintily aboard and took her seat. After securing his helmet’s chin strap and putting on his gloves, Bill took the driver’s seat, worked the accelerator and set the car in motion as the sun crested the edge of the mountains and shone down on the earth below with the special golden light that seemed to be especially reserved for the finest of Autumn days.

The morning commute was beginning in earnest and Bill kept the old Buick the back roads in order to avoid the worst of the traffic. Given the fact that so many people in the Horseless Carriage Club were retired, he wondered why they always had to start out on their road rallies so early in the morning. Perhaps it was habit, he decided, people who had worked their entire lives were used to being up early. Fortunately, he thought, the old car was sophisticated enough to lope along at near 35 miles an hour and so, even if it wasn’t as fast as most of the road-ragers really wanted to run, no one could accuse him of being so slow as to present a real obstacle to their passage.

The couple worked their way down off the eastern edge of the Sammamish plateau and into the Snoqualmie valley below. It was foggy here and Bill wished he had thought to light the acetylene headlamps but with no place to safely stop on the narrow winding road, he knew he had to press on. Running ghostlike on the floor of the valley through the September fog without lights was a little disconcerting but they crossed the river and made the rendezvous without incident. Still, it was a relief when they finally pulled into the supermarket parking lot and stopped along the far edge where two or three other old cars already waited.

Bill made small talk with the other club members while Eileen and another lady went to a Starbucks coffee stand in the supermarket and brought back steaming cups of hot, bitter coffee. Then together, Bill and Eileen walked around and admired the other cars in the lot, stopping often to speak with arriving club members as more cars straggled into the lot one at a time. The sun rose higher into the sky, burning away the fog as its intensity grew and, by the time the last car arrived, it was a splendid fall morning that promised to grow into a golden day.

When the appointed time arrived, the drivers moved to the front of their cars and went through their normal start-up routines. The engines, already warm from the run to the meeting point, fired easily and the parking lot was soon filled with mechanical clatter and rich smelling exhaust smoke. As bystanders watched and waved, the cars worked their way into a loose line and headed out of the parking lot, turning North towards their intended goal still some hours away.

Despite their age, the caravan of cars moved along with little trouble. The rural roads’ low speed limits demanded that all cars, new and old alike, plod along at just 35 miles per hour so the convoy had little effect on the morning traffic. School busses were out and the motorists found themselves greeted with real gusto by the groups of children who lined the roads. An hour after they started, the group crossed over state route two and headed up into the high hills above the Snohomish Valley. Here the road dipped and turned but headed generally upward as they made their way into the Cascade foothills and, despite the low speed limit’s the drivers of the old cars noticed that people here were driving fast and hard. Everyone seemed to be in a rush and the group frequently had to pull up to allow cars to pass; their progress slowed.

By the time they reached Fitzgerald’s Storm Lake Grocery the group was exhausted from the stop and go pace. Bill and Eileen, who had arrived third at the meeting place, waited by their car while the others straggled in one at a time. It took time, and each drivers wore haggard, tired expressions as the pulled into to the parking area at the side of the store. Despite the group’s best efforts to stay out of people’s way car after car had honked horns and made dangerous passes in order to get through. Some people had even shouted unintelligible things as they had roared past. The whole county seemed to have suddenly gone nuts and the cheerful attitude that the group had started out with had all but evaporated

When the last car, a curved dash Oldsmobile, finally chuffed tiredly into the parking lot the group headed en-mass into the store. The clerk, a small Korean lady, glanced at them uncertainly as they entered the store dressed in their period costumes and then studiously ignored them as the poured their own stale coffee from the industrial size pot on the side counter. She seemed oddly reluctant to speak to them as she took their cash, preferring instead the small television that sat haphazardly upon the edge of the store counter.

Wondering what could be so important, Bill leaned over to look at the television and caught the image of a jet airliner smashing into a skyscraper as it flashed onto the screen. Close by, the building’s twin billowed a dark, greasy cloud of smoke while torrents of loose papers swirled about on the morning breeze. At the bottom of the television screen, a rolling ticker displayed the events of the morning in horrible detail while the newscasters struggled to describe the scene and speculated wildly about who must be behind it. The members of the group stood in stunned silence and watched as the scene unfolded again and again through the power of the instant replay. First one plane, then the next. The camera panned around to show fire trucks and once again focused on the twin tower as one of them crumbled slowly to the earth in a cloud of soot and debris. The announcer said something about the Pentagon and possibly another plane down somewhere in Pennsylvania. This could be no accident. America was under attack.

Bill’s blood ran cold. As a history professor he had studied these things, had spoken to people about where they had been on the 7th of December and remembered vividly where he was when they announced that President Kennedy had been shot. History was unfolding yet again and the events of this day too would demand that he remember where he was and what he was doing when he received the news. America had been attacked and he knew with absolute certainty that his country would strike back violently against those who were responsible. The nation would go mad. Blood demanded blood.

He turned quietly and stepped out onto the porch of the general store. Close by was a graffiti covered wooden bench and he sat on it and pondered the scope of what must surely come next. Lost in thought, he hardly registered Eileen’s arrival and they sat together, taking comfort from one another’s presence as they had so often before even as they were each lost to their own silent thoughts. One by one the other members of the group exited the store, fear or rage plain upon their faces, They went to their vehicles and, without waiting for the others, started their cars and headed without fail toward the South and their homes. The outing was obviously over and, as the final car departed Bill and Eileen finally stood and crossed the parking lot to where their own ancient, white Buick set gleaming in the morning sun.

Bill regarded the car as Eileen climbed aboard and waited for him to join her. The new century would be no different from the last, he thought sullenly and the car, he realized, had seen it all. It had plied the roads as Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been murdered and it had endured even as untold thousands died in the cold and mud of the trenches of World War One. The car had struggled through the Great Depression, witnessed ascent of Hitler and was hopelessly old when Japanese bombs had rained down on Pearl Harbor. It had sat alone and forgotten in a barn through the end of the war, through the dawn of the nuclear age, the Korean war, Vietnam and the even the moon landing. Its owners had spoken familiarly of Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and now of George W Bush. Today, thought Bill, the old Buick had endured yet another of those moments.

The car started easily and Bill noted the worried expression on Eileen‘s face as he climbed aboard. Even as they sat there together, people were dying and the world was at the brink. Whoever was behind this would pay with their lives, he knew. Nations would fall, people would suffer untold hardship and the world would tear itself apart in an orgy of violence. The events of the day would live large in the memories of an entire generation.

He put the car in gear moved up to the roadway. In one direction, the road led South, back down from the mountains where home would be waiting and where the television would be running an endless loop of the day’s tragedy. In the other direction was the forest and the peace of eternal mountains. Beneath the hood, the engine of the old Buick beat steadily and the old car’s spirit spoke to him. History would happen, he realized, whether or not he watched. Reassured, he made his choice and set off.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Slip Slidin’ Away: How I Crashed a Geo Metro and Lived to Tell the Tale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/slip-slidin-away-how-i-crashed-a-geo-metro-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/slip-slidin-away-how-i-crashed-a-geo-metro-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:57:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478738 A few miles East of Ellensburg, WA, on the long winding descent into the Columbia river gorge, the little car, too small to run smoothly in both sets of the deep ruts that the semi trucks had worn into the pavement of Interstate 90, rolled from groove it had been following on the left side […]

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Photo courtesy of www.asphaltwa.com

Descent into the Columbia river gorge on I 90 during summer

A few miles East of Ellensburg, WA, on the long winding descent into the Columbia river gorge, the little car, too small to run smoothly in both sets of the deep ruts that the semi trucks had worn into the pavement of Interstate 90, rolled from groove it had been following on the left side of the lane and dropped abruptly into the groove on the right. The lateral movement of the car within the lane was not great, maybe a foot or two, and I accounted for the motion with a simple counter of the steering wheel as I speed steadily along through the dark winter night.

I had not owned the Geo Metro long, just a few weeks, and so far it had been a positive experience. It was a cheap, tinny little car and to be sure it was no power machine, but with my lead foot and the car’s slick 5 speed transmission it could be speedy enough. Even now it was moving along effortlessly above the posted speed limit.

Another corner approached, this one a wide sweeping right hander and I turned the car in as smoothly as possible. The car responded a little sluggishly and, again, rolled up out of the groove in which I had been running and jerked into the parallel rut. With a sudden jolt the back tires broke traction and rear of the car swung wide. Surprised at the car’s motion, I responded with an equally sudden counter steer. The back end of the car snapped back, but again failed to find the groove and went wide right. Again I corrected with the steering wheel and the car responded at once, snapping back again to the left even more violently and demanding even greater correction with the wheel.

Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, the car was fishtailing wildly now and the back and forth cycle was growing ever more violent with each change of direction. I took my right foot from the gas to cover the brake but held it over the pedal without pressing down, brakes wouldn’t help I knew, they were the last resort. The car pitched again to the right, now fully 90 degrees to the lane of travel and I knew the next swing back to the left would be the most violent yet. When the car swung left, I corrected naturally but to no effect. The front wheels finally broke traction and the front of the car swung around and entered a full spin. I knew it was a lost cause and hammered the brakes as I threw an arm across my girlfriend, still asleep in the passenger seat and fully unaware of what was about to happen.

Image courtesy of www.greencarreports.com

Geo Metro

I had purchased the little Metro for the same reasons that everyone purchases small, fuel efficient cars and safety was not at the top of my list. In the fall of 1995 I pretty much had it all, a decent job, a beautiful girlfriend and I was even making slow but steady process towards my college degree. I had graduated from community college and enrolled in a teaching certification program being offered in the evenings by Western Washington University through Seattle Central Community College.

Since I lived a good distance outside of Seattle, the Geo Metro fit the bill perfectly. Its tiny three cylinder engine would sip gas and save me money. Even better, the buy-in price for the base model with no options was ludicrously low. A test drive confirmed the car was exactly the no frills transportation I needed and soon the little car and I were cutting our way through the traffic to Seattle and back three rainy nights each week.

Sometime in January, my girlfriend who was a year behind me in Community College, announced that she was thinking about finishing her four year degree at Washington State University. WSU, however, was almost 300 miles away on the extreme eastern edge of the state and if we were going to stay together it was going to mean frequent road trips. Still, I supported her decision and when she said she wanted to take a trip to see the college I volunteered to take her.

Photo courtesy of Washington State DOT: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov

Trucks stopped for avalanche control

It was late when we rolled through Ellensburg but, with minimal traffic on the interstate, I pressed on in the hopes of getting just a little farther before stopping for the night. As we headed up, Ryegrass Summit, the last hump before the road dropped into a long, winding descent into the Columbia river gorge, I gradually wicked up the speed to around 70mph. The fact that there was black ice on the road never occurred to me.

The car was now fully out of control, spinning and pirouetting like figure skater as we slid across the ice. I fought for control, but it was a futile gesture and we were still doing around 50 MPH when we left the road. The right rear tire bit into the soft shoulder first and I heard the roar of pebbles as the car snapped violently around to the right. A fraction of a second later we were stopped, my headlights shining up through the branches of a leafless bush, their brightness lost in the starry sky overhead.

As adrenaline poured into my system, time slowed to a crawl and I took in the situation in an oddly calm and orderly way. The engine was silent but heater fan hummed steadily along and the radio still put forth its stream of tinny AM talk. My girlfriend sat beside me, silent but as wide awake and focused as I was. Thank God she was OK. We both were. Then I noticed that the airbag had not deployed.

I turned the ignition key and the engine scratched to life. I slipped the gearshift into reverse and noted the sound of crunching gravel as I backed the little car up a small slope onto the hard shoulder of the interstate. Leaving the engine running, I slipped the car into neutral, shot the parking brake and got out to assess the damage.

Outside, I could feel the isolation of the place. The canyon walls towered up on either side of me, the face of a cliff just two lanes away across the eastbound lanes of the interstate. On the far side of the canyon, perhaps a half mile away, the westbound lanes of the interstate worked their way up and out of the valley and between the two roadbeds flowed a small creek. Over the centuries, this creek had eroded away the surrounding rock walls, widening the canyon and creating a flat, sandy plain. That sand was our salvation.

A slow hissing sound drew my attention to Metro’s front tire. In the car’s final spin, some small pebbles had forced their way between the tire and the rim and their presence was enough to cause a slow leak. Otherwise, my car appeared to be absolutely unscathed.

Noting the twinkling of lights down the valley, I resumed my place behind the wheel and headed for civilization. As I ran up to a much more cautious 40 mph, I heard the rattle of pebbles being flung from the bead of the tire and I realized the leak was sealing itself. Slowly, we made our way to the closest town and, with no gas stations open, checked into a hotel.

Photo courtesy of www.goodfon.com

The desert at night

We continued our journey the next day without incident. Two days later, as we headed west through the gorge on the homeward leg of our journey, I strained to see the place where we had left the road. There were no tracks, but the place itself was obvious. A small single oasis of sand in a place where the slope flattened just enough to allow the small stream to slow and meander. A hundred feet in either direction there was nothing but steel guardrails and the hard, exposed rock of the canyon wall.

Somewhere, further up the slope during our eastbound descent, the rear wheels of my little Metro had broken loose and I had begun a struggle for control. I can’t say how far that we traveled during that fight, but by the time that physics had won we were in the only place for miles where we could have emerged unscathed. To this day, I can’t explain how that happened. Perhaps it was just incredible luck, I don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, it was the guiding hand of God. As a person of faith, I would like to think so.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself

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Outrage! NHTSA, Republicans And Gore Family Revealed As Closet Prius Drivers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/outrage-nhtsa-republicans-and-gore-family-revealed-as-closet-prius-drivers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/outrage-nhtsa-republicans-and-gore-family-revealed-as-closet-prius-drivers/#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2010 10:06:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=345930 Everybody promised this would not be a repeat of the Japan bashing of the 80s. But when the DetN starts outing lawmakers and administrators in DC for driving Toyotas, then it’s open season. Let them dawgs out … “The vaunted Toyota Prius is everywhere in Washington,” reports the breathless Detroit News after exhaustive traffic analysis. […]

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Everybody promised this would not be a repeat of the Japan bashing of the 80s. But when the DetN starts outing lawmakers and administrators in DC for driving Toyotas, then it’s open season. Let them dawgs out …

“The vaunted Toyota Prius is everywhere in Washington,” reports the breathless Detroit News after exhaustive traffic analysis.

The DetN found EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson guilty of owning a 2008 Prius. The investigation revealed NHTSA chief David Strickland being in possession of a “very babied” 2005 Prius, with intent to drive.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., one of Toyota’s harshest critics, was found with a veritable cache of four Prius cars. John McCain, was caught having bought a Prius for his daughter. At this point, the DetN stopped counting, adding that “many other senators drive the Prius, including Richard Lugar, R-Ind.” See? Republicans are consorting with the enemy, and no wonder that NHTSA was dragging their heels, just look at what they drive.

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, the DetN pointed out that “former Vice President Al Gore’s son was arrested in July 2007 on drug charges after getting stopped going more than 100 mph in his blue Prius. Perhaps his car’s accelerator was stuck.” Gore may be a Dem, but he’s also against global warming and the ozone hole, so let’s smear him while we are at it. At least, the DetN didn’t make the same “mistake” Fox News had made …  Ah, come on, the bad apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The post Outrage! NHTSA, Republicans And Gore Family Revealed As Closet Prius Drivers appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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