Author Archives: alext9586

Driving In The Parking Lane

Driving in the parking lane

Driving in the parking lane

It’s such a problem that Google even caught it on Street View! It doesn’t matter how much signage or how thick the lines are, someone will think the parking lane is valid to drive in. It’s acceptable to use the parking lane to overtake a car that’s stopped to make a left turn (if it’s clear), but it’s not cool to be driving there. What if someone is riding their bike or pulling out from a side street with an obstructed view? Yeah, that’s real smart. Don’t drive in the parking lane.

360 NB to MoPac NB

360 to MoPac On-ramp

360 to MoPac On-ramp

When heading north on 360 and connecting to MoPac northbound, you head downhill and hit the bottom near the MoPac overpass. Then you have to drive uphill to get onto MoPac. This hill isn’t a challenge. If I can get up to highway speed in a 22-year-old sedan with a 114 HP 4-cylinder, then your V8 pickups and POS Corollas are more than capable of getting there (maybe if you have one of those 70 HP Smart cars, then you have an excuse). I mean, seriously, you need to be AT highway speed at the end of the on-ramp! It does give me a good excuse to blow out the carbon though. It is quite satisfying to floor it up the hill in third gear while flying past them while still way under the speed limit once we’re all on MoPac (because these idiots are going 40 MPH once they get on the highway). These slowpokes have no business driving.

US290 to RM2222

Sign 1: RM2222, Airport Blvd, and I-35 NB

Sign 1: RM2222, Airport Blvd, and I-35 NB

US 290 becomes RM2222 at I-35. The first sign you’ll see tells you what lane you want to be in. This is far more descriptive than most of the road signs in Austin already, but the logic is still flawed. Go up a little and the I-35 northbound ramp branches off, but that particular lane continues. The next sign comes up.

Sign 2: Airport Blvd

Sign 2: Airport Blvd

Oh snap! If you were in the middle lane and you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed your exit. The middle lane was clearly not an “Exit Only” lane. The left two lanes actually continue to RM2222 which after the interchange becomes a 4-lane city street called Koenig (pronounced KAY-nig) Lane. If you missed the Airport Blvd exit, you will have a helluva time getting back unless you pull a U-Turn when the road becomes undivided. An overhead view shows that there is a rail line that runs parallel to Airport Blvd and there’s no way to cross it until you get to a major street. Good job, guys!

Bird Poop

Two hours under a tree

Two hours under a tree at midnight.

Birds are the enemy. They sit on their perch looking for clean cars and then once they observe the owner walking away it’s time to make it rain (not in a good way). Pray to your favorite deity that you didn’t park near a Tex-Mex restaurant because your car would be covered in red and black splotches instead of white. It doesn’t matter the time of day, these birds will poop on your car. I parked in downtown Austin for two hours between 10:00 PM and midnight on a freezing Friday night. It had to have been around 40 degree Fahrenheit. You’d think that given the weather and time of day that these birds would probably rather be in Florida or sleeping, but nope! They’re just as alive as Sixth Street on a Friday night! I come back with my car covered with bird poop. Oh how I wish I had a gun so I could shoot these birds, but given my aim, people should be thankful I don’t own a gun. This called for an emergency car wash! I have not had to do an emergency car wash in the middle of the night in years. Thank goodness for 24-hour DIY car washes! Popped some quarters in and some brushing and rinsing later, it’s good as new!

I swear birds are just waiting to poop on cars. Especially at Wal-Mart. I saw a poor Chevy Lumina covered with birds and bird poop. The driver had parked away from the store in the area where nice cars park (you know, towards the end of the parking isle). It was the only car parked within a 100 foot radius. It was like an island of birds and poop within 20 feet of the car. Yeah, they know they’ve struck satisfaction against the man. I’m sure they don’t just have a hatred against Chevy Luminas like man. The birds don’t discriminate against make. They’re just dicks. Damn, I hate birds.


Headlights are better on new cars.

Headlights are better on new cars.

It’s amazing how headlight technology has improved over the last 20 years. The biggest improvement seems to be with the lenses themselves. Sure HID and LED headlights are super cool these days, but they are still pricey to replace and aren’t quite in every car yet. Both cars in the image above use regular old halogen bulbs. The car on the left has factory bulbs, which are supposed to be long-life (ie- cheap, low output bulbs). The car on the right has aftermarket Sylvania Xtravisions, which are 25% brighter than the standard bottom-barrel bulbs. The difference is the car on the left uses reflector optics (clear lens with disco ball reflectors) and the car on the right uses lens optics (prismatic lens with curved reflector).

What does the techno-mumbo-jumbo mean? It means the car on the left has better light output with cheaper bulbs because of the clear lenses and mini-mirror reflectors bouncing light exactly where it needs to go. The light diffuses better to show a brighter pool of light. The prismatic lenses on the car on the right will concentrate the light into a straighter beam and also block some of the light since it has to pass through a lens of varying thickness. The more premium light bulbs can only do so much with light output. It still better than the cheap bulbs that were in there before being swapped out.

Halogen bulbs are cheap safety upgrades. Buy a nice set of premium bulbs, aim them correctly, and your night drives will be fun without blinding anyone.

Google’s logo for the 2014 Winter Olympics

Google's doodle and Fiat's old logo

Google’s doodle and Fiat’s old logo

Is it weird that the first thing I saw from Google’s 2014 Winter Olympics logo was that it looked like the old Fiat logo? I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The winter olympics is being held in Sochi, which is in Russia. One of the most famous cars to come from Russia is the Lada. Ladas were a cheap, small car built to last in the harsh Russian weather and landscape. The funny thing about the Lada was it was really a rebadged Fiat 124. The world has come a full circle.

A car with a story

She had a wonderful life.

She had a wonderful life.

I was reading this Road and Track article about how the author was interested in these humble, modest cars because the cars probably had a cool backstory to them. I feel the same way about every used car I’ve owned. All the used cars I’ve owned probably had the typical story of being owned by someone elderly and driven pretty softly (until I got my hands on them).

The two Fords I’ve owned started dying on my watch, and after they were traded in they ended up in the junkyard within six months. I was pretty distraught the first time since it was my first car, but the second time I didn’t care too much since I had already dealt with the emotion of losing the first car. The first car brought me through my formative years of high school and into college and introduced me to working on cars as a hobby. The second car took me through college with wild road trips to Vegas and starting the next chapter of my life in Austin, which has a bigger impact on my life, but I wasn’t as emotionally attached to it probably because it wasn’t as modifiable (less easily repairable) as the first car thus pushing it into the “appliance” realm. I guess the saying “You never forget your first” is true.

Now the Volvo probably has a more interesting story. It has complete records from the first ten years of ownership. The first owners who were a couple from Houston. Then the next ten years had no records until the the last two years from the second to last previous owner (which I have the history from the last owner). I can only imagine that during that ten year blank spot the Volvo was probably used for some Hollywood-style espionage story due to its unassuming appearance or it was used by some stoic blue-collar worker who used to get to a job he tolerates everyday or maybe it was some kid’s first car that was a hand-me-down and had some good times with buds. No one knows except the car and the car can’t talk. It’s unfortunate.

If you’re a gearhead, you’ll get the feels when you watch Susie the Little Blue Coupe which chronicles the life of a car. I’ll just leave this here just to remind you every car has a story to tell.

Barton Springs Road

Barton Springs Road is a thoroughfare that runs through Zilker Park. On very nice days, everyone and their dogs can be found at Zilker Park. Unfortunately, everyone is driving there due to the poor public transit which means Barton Springs Road is a major fustercluck, especially at Stratford Drive which branches off into several parking areas. If you’re trying to make a left turn out of the park at Stratford Drive onto Barton Springs Road, good luck to you! You’ll have to deal with those super-cautious and afraid-to-drive motorists who shouldn’t be driving that will block traffic for twenty minutes because their Prius isn’t powerful enough to play Frogger! If you give up, make a U-turn, and try and go around MoPac on Stratford you’ll just end up lost in the hills because it doesn’t go around MoPac at all. Barton Springs Road would really benefit from having roundabouts installed in Zilker Park since there’s so much traffic coming and going at a constant rate.

Turn on your lights in bad weather

Use your lights

Use your lights

Since people aren’t turning on their lights at night, they also don’t turn on their lights in inclement weather. A neutral colored car in the fog or pouring rain is going to blend right in. Maybe if the car was a wild color such as ruby red or emerald green then it’d probably stand out. But using your headlights when it’s foggy, raining, or snowing makes you more visible to other motorists. Yeah, turn on the lights manually so the taillights are lit, too. I’ve come into some close encounters with some of these morons that aren’t turning on their lights. Automatic headlights should be a standard feature since it’s starting to become common in most cars. Since the lights are computer controlled, it can also be turned on with the wipers. Brilliant! Until then, flash your lights at these motorists that aren’t using common sense.

The Volvo You Know

Volvo’s new ad campaign for the S60 features a comparison with the classic 240 as shown in the clips below.

I like the ad, but the S60 just doesn’t compare to the 240. The 240 is a classic because it’s a simple, stoic sedan. The S60 is a sexy-looking computer on wheels. The two cars are on opposite sides of the spectrum which appeals to two different types of people. The ones that are attracted to the 240 aren’t going to be cross shopping with the S60 and vice versa because there are different ideals with the two demographics. The 240 has an audience that values modestly-priced solid transportation while the S60 has an audience that values safety at any cost. The S60 isn’t a terrible car, but I find that Volvo has priced themselves out of the market they should be aiming for. The 240 must be the best car Volvo ever built if they’re using it as the benchmark to compare their latest offerings. Volvo needs to bring to market a car that has the same philosophy the 240 had: modestly priced, solidly built, and angular aesthetics. They don’t need to bring back the 240 as it has never left in the first place.