Category Archives: automotive

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Aside from assorted roadkill, the things I see most often along the road while running are banana peels.

banana peelThe banana is a great snack for drivers: a piece of fruit encased in a disposable wrapper with a built in handle. It’s not a great idea to let a banana peel fester in your car, even for a few hours, so many of them go out the car window.

I think motorists who throw garbage out their car window are dirtbags, but something biodegradable? That’s not so bad — but folks, can we please try and pitch them off the pavement?

There are two reasons for this: the first and most obvious is the hazard they present to pedestrians, because everyone knows that people slip on banana peels. The other is that I suspect things like apple cores and banana peels may be attractive to critters. Could this be related to the roadkill? Very possibly.

MythBusters explored the banana peel question with mixed results:

Four Tips for Young Drivers

It’s always exciting to have a new driver in the house! Honestly, I didn’t expect it to come so soon, but it seems the road test examiner took a shine to our young man. I’m not saying she overlooked his weakness in the area of parallel parking — it’s possible she did not notice he was four feet from the curb — but either way he has his license.

That said, I offered three bits of advice:

1. If you get pulled over, be certain the reggae or Grateful Dead station is not playing on the satellite radio. This alone gives the officer probable cause to take a very close look at you and the car.

2. Do not return home if you damage my car, but if you must, do not claim that it happened while unattended in a parking lot. I was born at night, but not last night.

3. Treat every other car and driver as if they are out to kill you. Don’t trust anyone behind the wheel of another vehicle and just assume they are drunk/high/stupid/crazy/elderly or some combination of those.

4. See number 2.

How Planet Fitness Made Running Dangerous

I’ve been running for years — almost always before dawn and on the road. I’d never see many cars along my route, and when one did approach I turned on my headlamp so they would notice me. Some mornings, out along the road at 5am, you wouldn’t pass a single car.

Then everything changed.

Suddenly there was a steady stream of traffic between 5am ands 6am. I wondered where they all came from — but soon realized that it wasn’t where they came from, but where they were going: Planet Fitness.

The populist mega-gym moved from the other side of town to a grand new location — and brought with it a throng of early morning exercisers. Suddenly there was an influx of vehicles — not exactly like rush hour, but by 5am standards it felt like the Northway.

The interesting thing is that these people seem less mindful of a pedestrian on the side of the road. In the past almost every car would give me some leeway when they saw my light and reflective vest. Now? Not so much. These people on their way to exercise can’t be bothered with… someone exercising.

This is a great example of how a tiny change can alter traffic patterns. It’s just one more of a hundred things that have made where I live more crowded and hectic. I used to see deer and hear the turkeys off in the field before dawn. Now there are just more cars.

Lot Filled?

Most of you don’t lay in bed at night worried about where state employees park, nor should you. I bet if I stick my head out the window right now, I’d hear you shouting,“Screw them!”

Understandable, but bear with me.

State workers know that Downtown Albany parking is notoriously scarce — and many of them are on waiting lists for spaces with hundreds and hundreds of people in front of them. Rather than pay for a private lot or garage, lots of them take to the streets — something that’s led to Albany’s push to restrict on-street parking to residents only.

But if there are so few parking spaces available, how come this state employee lot routinely gives space to shows visiting the Times Union Center? This week, half of the Grand Street lot was blockaded so Rascal Flatts could park their trucks there.

The next day the trucks were gone and the spaces empty — except for a few bags of garbage they’d left behind in the rain. I guess that’s their way of saying, “Thanks, Albany.”

Holiday Hero 2011

Hats off to Andrew Caswell of Greece, NY! Last week the upstate man struck a deer with his car, and valiantly attempted to save the animal by packing it in his vehicle and taking it to the hospital — a people hospital.

Unfortunately, while en route, Mr. Caswell was stopped by police and arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. According to a story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Police Chief Todd Baxter said while he sympathizes with trying to save a deer during the holiday season, “driving while intoxicated will not be tolerated.”

The deer did not survive. Nobody’s perfect, but here’s to you Andrew Caswell, our Holiday Hero of 2011.

The Jesus Limo

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s seen the “Jesus limo” — and today it showed up in front of my office downtown.

The white stretch limousine belongs to the Eternity Church on Clinton Avenue in Albany — and it’s not just to get people thinking about religion. Minister Ivan Shkinder told me that while some churches have a bus or van, his uses the limo to help people get around town to jobs, appointments, or the doctor’s office.

Yes, I peeked in the back. No, Jesus was not in there — but considering how they use car, maybe he really is riding along.

Signs

Doesn’t it just figure. One day I write about religion and the next day I see the Jesus limo. I’m pretty sure your son would not have rolled in a ride like that, God, but point taken.

Spot On

Who knew that Pomplamoose could arouse such feelings in people?

The duo — best known for their quirky covers of pop songs on YouTube — were alternately praised and damned in the local blogosphere Tuesday for appearing in some car commercials. Jeff Wilkin at the Gazette said “Yay,” while Times Union man-about-town Kevin Marshall cried out “Nay.”

There’s no denying that the cutesy couple are almost annoyingly appealing — and the Huyundai spots are so cloyingly sweet that they make your teeth hurt. It’s like cotton candy dipped in maple syrup and drizzled with hot fudge.

Huyundai shrewdly hooked its wagon to an internet sensation, and regardless of the debates over its artistic merit, it will work. And by work, I mean make people pay attention to the commercials. Does “I love Pomplamoose, “ translate into “I love Huyundai?” Yes, sometimes it does.

But if you think selling a song to a car company is selling out, you’ll really hate this:

I don’t give a hoot about youth hockey or Subarus, but using that Pogues song makes me sit up and take notice. Sneaky? Sure. Playing the Pogues says owning a Subaru makes you cool and edgy, and driving it will turn every day into St. Patrick’s Day — except maybe with hockey instead of drunken carousing.

They should have snuck in a shot of Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan. Now that’s a guy with hockey teeth.

Man Van!

In Get Shorty, John Travolta’s character, loan shark Chili Palmer, ends up with a minivan at the car rental instead of the Cadillac he requested. The rental agent explains, “Oh, you got the Cadillac of minivans.” Even Chili Palmer wasn’t cool enough to make the mini-van a vehicle favored by the mob instead of the mom. Too bad. It could have given a whole new meaning to “family” transportation.

Now Chrysler is rolling out a version of its ubiquitous Dodge Caravan dubbed the “man van.” Basically it’s just a trim package, as described in the Wall Street Journal:

The vehicle will feature a slightly sportier look on the outside, possibly finished off with a black-and-gray interior trimmed with hot-colored stitching on the seats and steering wheel.

Ooooooo! Nothing says manly like hot-colored stitching.

Over the weekend, I pulled the seats out of my Honda Odyssey and hauled a load of debris to the dump. Rough and rugged stuff like the rotted sections of fence I took down. Perhaps it’s not the Cadillac of minivans, but it may be the F-150. It’s a moving van, bus, garbage truck, and movie theater all rolled into one. You can even sleep in the back of it.

On top of that, it’s the most reliable and comfortable vehicle I’ve ever owned.

How did minivans get such a bad rap? Back in the 70s, station wagons were not viewed as suburban mom assault vehicles, but cars for guys. I pity the fool who would smirk at dad’s Buick Estate Wagon.

But still, people see their automobile as something to define them. What a terrible burden. Some guy once referred to my van as “dorky.” No, it’s not as cool as your BMW or Volvo, but on the other hand, I don’t really care what the neighbors see sitting in my driveway. And let’s see you put 1200 pounds of wood flooring in the back of your car.