Miracle on Ice

vega in gray

I remember when I was going to college my senior year.  I had two friends that I had gone to college with both at community college and then to a University in Baltimore.  After our junior year play college athletics, the college decided to end its sports program.  This meant that we would not be able to play our final year or at least not for this college.  The good news is that we were eligible to go somewhere else and play in the fall.

My two friends joined me on the adventure to play soccer in College in North Carolina.  After the fall semester, I decided to graduate from the school in North Carolina and my friends decided to finish up at the previous University in Baltimore.

That meant I was on my own, for this 400 mile journey south.  I felt a bot lost without them and was really heading out on my own.  I remember waiting to head out, because I did not want to leave friends and family, but snow was coming.  The resources in Maryland were not the same resources that states in the Northeast have.  Not as many plows or as many salt trucks.  I remember heading out and getting on Route 95 south of Laurel and the roads seemed okay.  It looked like they had been plowed and recently salted.

Then you could see a hard white line ahead as though the snow plows and snow trucks looked at each others and realized as they looked everyone on the rod comfortably driving 55 miles per hour were going to say there prayers as the sae the sheet of ice and snow and no way to break before getting up on top of the snow. Once there a couple of things happened.  First everything seemed to move in slow motion.  A couple of seconds in which I was no longer on control of my car.  I saw my car starting to slide sideways in the rig that hauls 18 wheel trailers.  I knew that bad things were going to happen if I struck that rig.  Plan B was to counter-steer away from the truck and take my luck with what ever the alternative path would offer. I spun like a twirley bird and ran off the interstate and down an embankment,   Th blessing was that my car was cradlesd by the ravene. Neither my car or my person had any injury.  I took a could of deep breaths annd was able to drive the car our of the gally.  After about an hour sitting alongside the road Then I figure I was ready to get me trip started agaim


Missing friends, escaping death, feeling more alive and now I only have six more hours to drive to get to my empty apartment.  My chevy Vega saved my bacon a lot and was thrilled it piloted me through a couple of difficult years.

72 Chevrolet Malibu

We had our share of cars growing up, but most of them were fuel efficient four cylinder cars that did very little in terms of excitement.  This was the nineteen seventies and gas lines were quite common.  Then my father bought the 72 Chevy Malibu.  I remember how excited my dad was to drive it.  When we were in the car together and we had a straight away with no turns or traffic, he would look at me and say “let’s punch it” and then floor it.  Tires would spin as we waited for the moment that traction occurred, then like a rocket we shot down the road.  My dad would slow down after 80 miles per hour, but was it exhilarating.

That was a great experience to have with my dad, but my Mom and I had those special moments too.  She would say “hang on” and then she would floor it.  The difference is that my Mom did not look all that comfortable with that kind of raw power, but she liked it every bit as much as my dad did.  the only difference was that I felt a whole lot safer driving with dad.  But that gave me a new perspective on my mom and women in general.  I just assumed that they would not like the adrenaline rush, but when my mom chose the time and was in control, she was all in.

I remember turning 16 and getting to drive it.  of course I punched it and I was a little shocked at how the steering controls were not a good marriage with the power.  The steering was so much different then the little four cylinders. I assumed that with the power in the Malibu that it would have to have even better steering. It did not and that kept me from pushing the envelope on that car.

I also remember on more than one occasion that the steering fluid had run out. I did not know that at the time, but I could barely turn the wheel to crawl home one night.  That did teach me the importance of proper upkeep of vehicles, because neglect can ruin a great car.

The Malibu I would love to drive again, but mostly for the nostalgia of it.  it would transport back to a much younger me and that would be a fun little journey.

A Fix it Ticket

When I was traveling down to New Jersey this week, I had decided to stay well below the flow of traffic speeds.  I am not sure why, but I did.  I usually run with the crowd in the left lane.  But this time I slowed down and got into the right lane.

As I passed the state trooper in the median area, I did not even have to glance at my speed.  I was safe… Then I saw the state trooper pull out and come up right behind me and put his flashing lights on.  I could not figure out for the life of me, why he would be pulling me over.

As I pulled to the shoulder of the interstate, the state trooper came behind my left shoulder and asked for my license and registration.  I asked what I did and he informed me that one of my headlights were out.  He tried to tap on it to see if it came on, but to no avail.

He asked if I had any outstanding issues as it relates to my license and I said “no”.  When he came back he informed me that he was giving me a fix-it ticket.  He explained that how I needed to get it fixed, then go to a police station to validate that the work had been done and then mail it to the court house where they would dismiss the ticket.

Where all of that seems like a drag, I have to say my interaction with the state trooper was really cool.  He was a big young kid, that looked like he could have been a US Marine a few years back.  His interaction was always helpful and informative.  I was not stressed about the process to fix the headlight.  I just appreciated the way he handled it.

I continued onto New Jersey for  a sales call the next day.  On my way back home, night fell and about the same area I get pulled over again by another state trooper.  He pulled alongside and approached my right passenger side window away from the traffic.  He kindly asked if I knew why he pulled me over and I told him that my head light was out and I just got a fix it ticket yesterday.  I held it up, he quickly glanced at it and said, yeah they are a pain, but it is the only way we can make sure it gets taken care of. if the other headlight goes out, then you are in trouble.  He told me to have a great day.

Here is another huge kid, the could have been in the army a couple years back, pleasant and helpful.  State Troopers seem to me to be the best of the best when it comes to police work.  They look bad to the bone, but act like ambassadors of safety.

It took a fix it ticket and a couple of encounters to cement in my great impressions of New York State Troopers.

When I got a flat I praised God

I remember that I was doing a sales call about three hours from home.  When I am traveling I try to talk with people on the phone to help the time pass by quicker.  On one of those occasions I was speaking to my wife.  One thing that you need to know about me is that I do not multi-task well. meaning if I am talking on the phone then I am all in. That also means that everything else is on standby.  I have on many occasions when driving I would be speaking with someone in the passenger seat and as I am talking my speed starts to go down to 35 on a 55 mile an hour highway.  Once I see that my speed has dropped I stop talking until I get back at a speed that I can then set the cruise control to so that I can continue on with my conversation.

To that end I was driving and speaking to my wife for about forty five minutes.  That is what caused me to miss my turn and drive about 40 miles north of my exit. So global positioning had me going over the mountains. i went across the high peaks of Massachusetts in the western part of the state.  As I was traveling through the mountains, obviously the grade of the road change quite a bit. At the same time I had no shoulder and the road were starting to get icy.  I soldiered on because I was late for a meeting at my church so I pushed the speed as best I could, while being aware of the worsening conditions.  At this point I was pretty tired from a long day at work. It is usually a mental exhaustion after I have presented to a customer and then physical exhaustion because of the distance I have to cover in order to sell to them.

Fortunately I rolled into the meeting on time and had a great exchange with my brothers at church.  On the way out I am spent.  I get to my car to find that I had a flat tire.  The parking lot was almost a sheet of ice.  I took a breath and thanked God for getting me to the church safely. I had an entire parking lot to spread out to change the tire without having to worry about being run over on an icy mountain road with no shoulder.  I know when we see circumstances, we can look at it from a negative perspective.  When we can find time to give thanks in when circumstances seem dire, then we have a chance to be at peace and happy.  Sometimes peace and happiness seem to be out of our control.  But if we can find time to give thanks even in bad times, then I think both peace and happiness are right around the corner.

So I finished changing the tire and drove safely to my home about five miles away. So peace and happiness be with you.  If you said thank you, then I say you are welcome.

The Magic Button

I remember when I was packed up and driving down to North Carolina with my two best friends as we ventured off to college together.  We all played soccer, so we were going down for pre-season.  I will tell you that in this part of my life I had no inclination about how cars worked.  My best friend was even worse.  No one and I mean no one should have ever listed to our advice about cars. matter of fact, if your car broke down and we came by to help, you likely would have asked us to move along.

Well on our way, I was driving my 1974 Vega.  It was a less than stellar car to own.  It being my first car that I bought for $800 made it a blessing.  That was the prototype AB car.  It got me from A to B. It was a 4 cylinder piece of pure sloth power.

On this trip we got pretty close to Richmond, where we hit a rest stop.  When I got back in the car to start it, it would not turn over.  I started to panic.  my Dad was not going to drive down 3 hours to help me.  My dad loved me, but three hours was something he would not even think about doing.

Then my friend who knows less about cars than I do got under the hood poking around.  This scared me like crazy.  It was like have someone with seizure performing brain surgery.  So as I am on a pay phone trying to see if he can assist me over the phone I see my friend still poking around my engine.  I ask my dad to hang on for a moment and I yell to my friend to leave the car alone.  I do not want to make it worse.  I still had hopes that my dad could walk me through a solution.  Well my dad and I were not communicating well and I started to feel a  sense of panic.  i did not have emergency money.  my dad certainly did not have time or money to help us.  I was starting to dread what our options actually were.

Then I see my friend get behind the driver’s wheel of my car.  My frustration with my friend started to peak as I saw our options dwindling fast.  MY friend then starts the car and throws me a thumbs up sign.  I was thinking, “you have got to be crazy”.  How in the world did you fix the car.

His response was that he was looking for a button to push.  I guess like some form of a reset button.  He hit the only button that could be found under the hood and it actually worked.  The car was a gem and got us to the college and was reliable transportation for my time there.

Here was what made me mad.  I realized that I was the dumbest person on the planet as it related to cars.  I took some pride for a couple years that I may be bad but I am not as bad as my friend. What this showed was that indeed I was not as talented as my friend who thought to push a magic button so that the car would work.  It actually happened.

On a side note.  This is my same friend that at a pool party did a trick with bee that amazed everyone.  While we were at the pool, a bumble started to dive bomb us.  My friend put out his finger like he was expecting a bird to perch on it. Within ten seconds the Bumble Bee landed on his finger and after about 30 seconds it flew away. That day I knew he had mystical powers.  Who can speak to Bees and Vegas with such ease.  that is my friend who can do that.  How I covet his talents.

Hyundai in The Potomac River

I remember when I was maybe 19 years old.  I was attending a community college and still staying home with my parents.  I remember my Dad asking me if I wanted to fish on the Potomac River.  I said, Absolutely.  The idea was to take Cars to a pick up point down river and then take other cars with the Canoes up river to start a downstream fishing excursion.  Most of the folks had battery operated motors for trolling.  The part of the Potomac River was not too far outside of Washington DC.  I shared a Canoe with my Dad and we left my Hundai down stream.  It would be the car we put the canoe on at the end of the trip and drive back to get the cars used for our drop off.

The great challenge is that anchoring was tough with the strength of the current. So we would float an inevitably get stuck on Rocks.  The River was between four and six foot deep.  The Canoe we were in felt like we were going to tip over at any moment so I was on edge the entire time.  I think we may have caught seven to eight small mouth bass a piece.  The interesting thing about the Small mouth bass in that part of the river is how much fight they would give you.  The small mouth were no more than 12 or 13 inches, but the fought and broke water to add to the overall excitement.  Using four or six pound test mad it that much more exhilarating.  Eventually nightfall was upon us and we were making it down to where we had parked the cars. By the time we pulled the Canoes on shore it was pitch black.


Their were no lights, no streetlights, just dark and just river.  I remember back my car down the steep ramp towards the dark and erie river without being able to see a thing.  I had no idea how close to the water i actually was.  This was a fun time being out like one of the guys with my Dad’s work buddies.  I had  a stick shift that I was okay on, but not on steep inclines.  As I put the car into first I was actually trying to move further away from the river that I assumed was really close.  What happened is that I gave gas, but not enough cluth and I just started flying bling backwards to the river. Once I realized what was happening, I threw on the brakes and put the car in park and with beat red cheeks I asked my dad to drive my car up the ramp so that I did not lose it in the potomac river that day.  My dad kindly grabbed the keys, drove it up the ramp no problem and emergency averted. thanks Dad.  This story is just a back story for my when I sunk the canoe in the Lake.  It was adult swim.  More to come on that story.

Diesel Hybrids?

With some fanatical followers of VW’s diesel engines with gas mileage around 50 miles per Gallon, the question is frequently asked, why not a hybrid and get 100 miles per gallon?

There are a couple of drawbacks that keep this from being a no-brainer.  The first drawback is price.  The cost to manufacturer a diesel engine is about 15% higher than a standard gas engine with similar output specs.  The other problem in the American market is that gas is just too cheap.  The economics makes sense more so in Europe when the gas price was flirting with $10 per gallon.  The gas in the United States is hovering t $2 per gallon.

There becomes a law of diminishing returns.  If the cost to manufacturer is significantly more and the price of gas is so cheap, what are the economics that make this a wise investment.  You can play on the culturally aware, eco-friendly card.  But like Solar Electricity has been, the benefit is not justified by the cost.

Another factor is determining whether the diesel and electric motors are on the same powertrain or separate powertrains.  Only Mercedes has a version on the same powertrain.  The Peugot and Citreon have separate powertrains.  this allows the electric to handle the load at lower speeds, while diesel takes over at the higher speed.  All of these cars are available in Europe, again because the price of gas is dramatically different then the price of gas in the United States.

The market will ultimately tell us whether diesel hybrids can be financially justified.  The markets will also be dictated by the cost of gas in any given country at any given time.  World events and a disruption in gas supply could change the calculus, but right now the investment does not seem to make sense for diesel hybrids to be sold in mass in the US.

Datsun 1979 280zx

The Datsun 280zx is my all-time favorite car.  I remember trying out for a under 16 soccer traveling team and the coach rolled up in t silver and blue two tone Datsun 280zx.  I had never seen a car just say “cool” like this one.  The sleek design and the power that the car had just screamed for me to own one.  Now I would inherit a Vega as my first car, so it only made me want a car of this caliber all the more.  The car just made me feel good to just be around it.  the only other interesting designs of the day from my perspective were the Camaro, Transam or the Corvette.  All had sleek lines, but this design was so unique to anything else out on the market.  I almost cried when I saw the 300zx looking like a Porsche instead of keeping the unique design that was absolutely amazing.  To this day I am looking for the opportunity to own one on my own terms.  My wife may not understand it, but it is just on the bucket list of things I need to own.  I would wager that everyone has that one car that they want above all others and left an imprint on you.  I remember weekend after weekend going on these soccer caravans to travel to soccer games or tournaments following that lead car. That sleek derby looking car that called to me.  I wish you all the one car that takes you back to a ,magical time in your youth.  Own not for how well it runs today, but rather for triggering that memory of how cool it was.

Back to the Future

Is time travel possible in a car given a Delorean can be rebuilt and we can find a flux capacitor or some other equally compelling technology? Every time you get close enough to those investigating alien visitation, then we are dealing with either developing technology to combat an alien threat or backward engineering captured technology.  if that premise has got you to stop reading, then anything is possible.  It only takes a little Google search to speak with people that have stated that they have participated in time travel.   One of the programs was labeled the Pegasus Project.  So the question is quite simple, which car would be best suited for time travel.  When I say time travel and I am talking more about portals of going from one location to the next instantly.  The question is not whether this exists or not, but rather would cool ride do we want to take on this trip.  If this is at all true, I want to go in a Suburban that would allow me to bring whatever cool things could be needed at the end destination as well as all of my friends. If I go to the California Coast, I will bring a surf board and scuba diving gear.  If I go to Alaska, then winter clothing and a big old gun.  If Florida, then just my childhood fantasies of going to Disney World.

Driverless Cars

Well ten years ago we attained driverless car capabilitiy as seen in the movies, specifically iRobot.  The technology works, and there are some glitches, but it seems to be more of a political discussion rather than a technology discussion.  The technology exists.  The technology exists with electric cars.  While this can seem super cool, some kinks still need to be worked out in both drawbacks in having an electric car and using the driverless technology.

If your closest service center or fueling location is a long distance away, then it can make a choice for electric seem like a pain more times than not.  If that is not an issue, than little things like the car’s technology can interpret commands from a Policeman directing traffic.  It cannot take inputs from a temporary street signal.  The car also cannot determine harmless debris in the road, causing the vehicle to swerve to avoid potentially harmless thinks in the rod.  New roads, the car will go excessively slow if it does not have all necessary data.

The question becomes whether this is a need or not.  I think with elderly folks or impaired drivers, this could provide an amazing benefit.  But if the idea is to catch a few winks while the software is driving the car, that not to smart.  If something goes awry, you want to be able to take over controls manually.

We are in a brave new world where change has come. Whether all change is good is yet to be seen.