Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Schools out this week...

Schools out this week, and that means less traffic. Of course, it didn't stop me from sitting in the 45 minutes of stopped traffic on the CBX this morning for the 4 car pileup. The car in front seemed to demonstrate why you don't slam on your brakes when the car behind you is doing 60 mph. Expect it to be light all week.

I'll be out west for about the next two weeks or so, making the LA freeways my home for a little while. But I rented a really big Chevy Tahoe, one of my personal favorite cars. Really, I love this thing. I try to always get one when I travel, because you can fit everyone and everything. It isn't too big to park, yet its big enough I can muscle my way though midtown Manhattan traffic. The ride is nice, and the gas really isn't that bad. If i had a ton of money laying around, which I don't, I would totally pick one of these things up. It also has a monster V8 that delivers adequate power for something this big. I once accidentally smoked em'  in reverse with this thing because of the torque needed to move this mass. Since I'll get a 2010, I'll write a review on it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowplowing and snow driving are not rocket surgery

I find myself ranting yet again. This time about snow, and Long Island. I grew up in the great white north, where winter driving was a necessity, and if you didn’t know how to do it, you were stuck in your house for 4 months out of the year.  While drivers outside of Long Island have the knowledge to drive in the snow and the patience, it is also worth noting that they, and everywhere else in the world does a better job at snow clearing than Nassau and Suffolk County. I am pretty sure that the nations that compromise the Sahara desert do a better job of clearing snow.

So here’s the deal with Long island. You have many, many side streets, all interested by a grid of parkways and the LIE. Going East West, you got the LIE, Northern State and Southern State. North to South, you got the Meadowbrook, Wantagh, Bethpage, 135, etc... All you need to do is throw three parallel plows out every 2 hours to swipe the length of the road. That’s it. It’s not rocket science. Now, I would love to say that these plows are busy elsewhere, but where is that elsewhere? Everything else is snowed in too. The frightening part is it’s not a lot of snow. It was like five inches. I call that a dusting. Down here, they call that the Great Blizzard of 2010.

So one might assume that resources would be dedicated to these main thoroughfares to ease congestion.  Not so much.   Yesterday, the streets were impassible, and today there were still some trouble spots. The Southern state had insane icing in the middle lane, with big patches of black ice. The car in front of me lost it’s ass, and then I realized what I was riding on. The Wantagh was fine for the most part, except for the shoulders. Oh, but there was an accident in the southbound lane, which all of the E-Signs on the Southern State decided to embrace the singularity early, and label this as Northbound.

Northern State though was a different story, this road was a mess throughout Nassau. The middle lane had a few inches of packed snow up until about the Queens line. Spinouts everywhere and a few really good ones.

Clearview, CBX, Jersey? Perfectly fine.

But the drivers… This is the view from part of the northern State.  Please note the asshole with a foot of snow on top of his car cruising in the left lane.

People, driving in snow and ice is not that hard. Here are my tips for you.

  1. Get off my ass. Stopping distances are decreased. This is why you spin out when you tap your brakes.

  2. Clean off your damn car, and watch out for people that don’t.

  3. AWD and 4WD are really useless here unless you need to get out of a snow bank. Here is the fact that might startle some people – THERE ARE NO DAMN HILLS IN LONG ISLAND. YOUR AWD IS USELESS. When your car decides to slide, and it will, AWD is only nominally better in recovering this slide, but recovery still requires space (which based on the excessive speed you’re probably doing, will not be enough to avoid the snow bank or another car). So ditch the confidence, and drive within the limits of your vehicle and your ability.

  4. Know your tires. Summer tires do two things well in the snow: Jack and shit.

  5. Anything that throws off your centrifugal force is going to pose a hazard, including, steering, passing, ramps, and even a heavy downshift.

  6. Snow accumulates between lanes. Avoid lane changes until clear.

  7. Find a parking lot, have fun sliding and learn recovery techniques and your limits.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Electronic signs and the impatient commuter

Isn’t technology wonderful? It seems just a few years ago, we actually had to guess how long it would take us to go from point A to point B, and now we have these nifty electronic signs to tell us the approximate time to our destination – and sometimes they even work.

This entry is inspired by a road sign that I have been eagerly anticipating - the “average travel time to the Throgs Neck Bridge” (TNB) sign on the Grand Central parkway. This sign finally came on line at the beginning of this week, and to tell you the truth, I have mixed emotions.

On one hand, I am happy to have this reference just in case the Clearview (295) is totally backed up /flooded/on fire/closed/f. Everyone knows the Cross Island Parkway typically sucks, especially since the TNB caught on fire and the lanes were reduced, causing a daily clusterfuck of traffic for about 2 miles before the on ramp.

But then, I am angry that this sign is sharing my secret. The Clearview is an excellent road, and it’s typically the fastest way to the bridge because no one really wants to take it. Also, the CIP is about a mile beforehand, and drivers will typically encounter a wall of traffic between the two. But after seeing the sign, I think more drivers will move over to the Clearview because it’s shorter. I don’t want more cars on this road, and I hope they stay on the CIP. Here’s a sign I really would like to see.

I also found out an interesting thing today – this sign is accurate, and it is calculating distance from the sign, not from the start of the Clearview. So this sign actually takes into account the traffic beforehand. In order to do this though, it is important to note how these signs work- They respond to EZ pass tags or drivers, and then take an average. I am also pretty sure they have a minimum setting to confirm to speed limits. These “average travel time to…” signs are much more accurate than the old style of “traffic moving well to…” signs, that I have found myself sitting under at a complete stop more than one times.

But, like the red headed step child of New York it is, Jersey has to come out and screw it all up. They have one important sign. Just one – and that’s the one that says the average travel times for the different levels of the GWB. I have seen this sign working maybe twice in the past 8 months. And I know it works, so why isn’t it on? I mean, it was grossly inaccurate by at least 20 minutes in rush hour, but at least it was a good indicator of where you could waster more of your life sitting on that bridge.

Lots o’cars Broken Down since last post:  2001 Dodge Caravan, 2001 Nissan Altima, ~1997 Nissan Sentra, ~1997 Toyota Tacoma, 1999 ford Focus, 1994 Accord, mid 90’s Buick LeSabre

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wish I had a Camera on me...

Here's the lesson I learned today - Always carry a camera with me. If I had one on me, I would be sharing images of the Landau-top RX-7 with custom plates from this morning's drive. Thats right.

Laundau top. RX-7. Let that sink in.

On a totally separate note, I spent a good chunk of Sunday under the hood of my wife's Honda. Not because the maintenance tasks were difficult, but I am pretty sure that Honda only employs technicians to work on their cars who have hands the size of toddlers. Seriously, who has hands that small to fit into this engine bay?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get a New View

So according to the news, the great blizzard of the century was once again upon the tri-state area, and I braced for a horrible commute. Of course, with all the schools on a two hour delay, I made it into work with an hour to spare. Let us hope for the same luck on the way home. But I actually wanted to share a very useful article I just read…

I tried something new today which went against everything I was taught when learning how to drive. I read in the latest Car & Driver that the NHTSA or one of those Government agencies has new guidelines for side view mirror placement. Apparently, what I had been taught about being able to see the edges of my rear flanks was wrong. The side view mirrors should be extended outward so that the view just slightly overlaps what you see in the center rearview. This is actually a pretty major adjustment to your viewing angle.

I tried it on this morning’s snowy commute, and I must say it is quite effective, but it does take some getting used to. Try it, and it eliminates the need for a blind spot mirror in most instances.

Broken Down since last post…

2001 Chevy Blazer, 1994 Toyota Camry, early 00’s Lincoln Town Car, 1999 Honda Accord