Test Drive: 2017 Ford F150 Crew Cab XLT FX4 4X4

So many letters in what is ostensibly just an F150.

As noted in the Honda Ridgeline review, we’re testing a few things, and it’s been suggested to us that for a similar price to a midsize truck, or SUV, you can pretty much have a fullsize.

That’s sort of true, and sort of not.

The model we drove had an MSRP of $55,000 +/-. This is well out of our ballpark, but it was what they had on the lot – it’s a standard dealer thing, you always get to test drive the best, as people will often miraculously find features they didn’t know they couldn’t live without. And trucks are notoriously profitable on a per unit basis. That said, the sales guy was fantastic, very knowledgeable from the back seat, and extremely confident in the product he was selling (he found us an “off road” segment to play on, which was cute, even though it would have been manageable in a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria).

So, exterior first.

It’s fucking big. It just really, really is. We decided the best way not to waste the sales guys time was to go straight home, and make sure it fit in the driveway, lengthwise. It did, but only with a foot or two to spare.

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As equipped, I don’t know what the total length was[1] but “long” would be the fair statement. Four doors and a standard bed will do that. It’s actually a pretty good looking truck, too – I’m a big fan of the drop in the front window/sill. It breaks up what is a staggering amount of sheet metal, and gives it some character. Otherwise, yeah, it’s a big truck. The grill is massive, as is the tailgate, and the 20″ wheels look positively diminutive, with 65 series off-road M/S tires on them. It rides tall, it rides high, and you sit up on it. That said, it drives smaller than the visual clues imply.

Nice Segue, eh?

So, in traffic, it’s not bad. It’s big. There’s no getting around that. I got honked at taking the inside turn on a two-lane at a light, simply because the other driver assumed I was going to run wide. And I got awful close to doing so, but I got away with it, and didn’t clip the median. But it took work to do so. Did I mention it’s big? And that size is bound up in length, when you’re maneuvering it. It fills most of a lane, and when I say “fills” I mean it. You pay attention, or you wander out of the lane, there’s not a ton of margin for error in a standard lane.

Big.

It’s also tall – and I can see the attraction. There was pretty literally nothing that I couldn’t see over in traffic, it dwarfs most vehicles. Again, it’s not bad, but you gotta pay attention, especially with the extra ride-height for the FX4/4×4 package, and big wheels/tires. With all that said, it doesn’t wallow through corners the way I’d have expected. It’s not exactly car like, but it does a reasonable approximation of a car going around a corner, or an on-ramp at speed. In other words, you never feel like it’s going to fall over. And those on ramps? Super easy. The 2.7L twin-turbo V6 is a pretty killer little engine. A lot of guys will only buy the V8s in a truck this size, but unless you’re seriously working hard with your truck (and if you are, you’re probably moving up to the F250 or F350 anyway) you really don’t need it. The 2.7TT has gobs of torque down low, and plenty of power in the mid-range. I didn’t wring it out in the high end, but…. that’s not the kind of vehicle this is. Realistically though, this is a better engine for this truck than a V8 would have been ten years ago. The transmission, same thing – it’s a well-tested 6spd automatic, rather than one of the newer 8,9, or 10 speeds that are becoming available, and it felt.. fine. You could feel shifts if you were into the throttle, but it wasn’t harsh. And it was butter smooth in traffic at low throttle too. The brakes seem adequate, but I’m willing to bet they’re a wear item you replace regularly, given the weight of this behemoth.

Back inside, and the driving position is good – like I said, you sit up on it, not in it. Sight lines are remarkably good, and that’s in part because of that dip in the front doors – you can see DOWN into traffic much more easily. IN terms of looking around you, the mirrors are huge, and so are the back door windows. It’s a full size, the headroom means a lot of glass, and that glass all round makes you feel confident in seeing everything you need to. The backup camera picks up the slack just fine, as well.
Sidenote: This, I think, is more why people are gravitating from cars to trucks & SUV’s. All that glass is like the cars we used to have, that you could actually see out of. Trucks haven’t (yet) been struck by the super-high belt lines, and high-arse of the typical sedan of any size now, that you just… can’t see out of awfully well. I mean, you can, but it does take effort. A modern compact sedan has similar sight lines and blind spots to my 2-door coupe, which is ridiculous.
As with most of what we looked at, there’s blind spot warnings as well, and they’re mostly unobtrusive.
Due to those sight lines, the BSWS is probably unnecessary, too, but it’s becoming expected. But so not necessary when you can see so damn much out of the truck, in all directions.
The Sync3 system for the stereo is great, I had my phone paired in seconds. No Android Auto at the time we drove it, but it was apparently coming. The interior seemed well put together (better than the Colorado you’ll read about next), and the storage is, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. You can hide a laptop in the center console. There’s outlets for everything. For our purposes, the back seat is actually kind of amazing: it’s so big back there that we could, I think, put the seats up against the back wall of the truck, and have the dog in his crate, for safety. It’s huge back there. The only thing I can think of that has more back seat passenger space is a modern minivan.

All in all, I liked it. We even got reasonable fuel economy, given it was brand new, with less than 70km on the clock, and a lot of that idling. We left with the gauge showing 19.7L/100km, and a romp up the highway and half an hour in city (Saturday) traffic had me down to 14.5L/100km. that says to me I was probably getting somewhere closer to 10L/100km in real time numbers. If you drive it sedately, it seems it’ll look after you at the pumps. Abuse it, and you’ll have some fun, but you will definitely pay for it. Or tow, for that matter. I can see anything approaching the ( lbs) tow limit seriously destroying your fuel economy. But it is a full size truck, so, no surprise there.

I can only imagine what it’s like with the 3.5L twin turbo/ecoboost under the hood. I really don’t see the point of the V8, these days. Unless that’s turbo’d too (it’s not).

SO, back to where we started – what can you get it for? Is it cheaper to buy a fullsize than it is to buy a mid-size?

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Not on paper, at least. There MIGHT be money on the hood, but again, Canada’s a bit different than the USA when it comes to pricing and discounts. If we waited for a sale, and took what was on the lot, yeah, we could probably get it down to equal, but I think it’s doubtful we could get this particular set-up for less than $40,000. So, best case scenario would be “same price as the Ridgeline”.

It’s not for us though. It’s just TOO BIG and TOO MUCH. It is 100% ‘murica. Bigger is better, and biggest is best, and that’s really not what we’re looking for. If we were though, I’d rather have this than the Chevy Silverado, or Dodge Ram. It’s… more adult feeling than those two (especially the RAM). Ford has really hit the “mobile office” nail on the head. And, yes, we could get into it in a spec we like, for about $10k less on the MSRP, and then whatever Ford has on the hood, plus financing. It would be workable, and yes, it would be about the same price, for about twenty-five percent more truck. I like it an awful lot more than I expected to, though. I can see how people end up commuting in them.

But at the end of the day, it’s a quarter truck we don’t need, want, or have anywhere to park.

Onto the next one!

[1]I’ll find out

Test Drive: 2017 VW Golf SportWagen 4motion

Ohhh, forgot about the test drives. Still to come, the Subaru Forester (2017) and Chevrolet Colorado (2016 w/”TrailBlazer” package) (oh, and the Ford F150 I wrote and once again forgot to post). However, we also looked at the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen TSI 4motion. And most of what I would have said is here, in The Truth About Cars review of the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen TSI 4motion: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/01/2017-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-4motion-review/ at least in terms of the mechanical. Canada (TTAC’s writer is in Ohio for this review) gets the full spread of options on the 4motion SportWagen.

I also forgot to take pictures. I’m not good at this.

What I’ll add is this:

Given the price I was quoted, I would have bought this car. The deal was spectacular, considering the feature list (Trendline, if you want to look it up on the VW.ca webpage). Better than a base Forester, and nearly $13,000 less than the currently-leading-the-pack Honda Ridgeline Sport. I may yet buy this car, a year or two down the road, as my own daily driver, as the Genesis becomes less and less a day-to-day car. I really really like it.

However, Janine doesn’t. She felt the roofline was somewhat encroaching on her. That’s due, I think, in large part, that she’s used to the 2005 Forester’s soaring roofline and nearly vertical windshield – even in the Genesis Coupe, it’s not as pronounced because you sit down into the ‘coupe, rather than onto the Golf and Forester. I think she’d get used to it, and would be fine if it was “once in a while” (ie. My daily driver, and her having something else) but the vehicle we buy now is going to be primarily hers, so she’s gotta love it. And she doesn’t.

She also noted the sideview mirrors were pretty small. Again, I didn’t notice this, but I adapt pretty quickly.

What I loved? It’s a CAR, not an SUV. But it’s got all the space. Holy god, does it ever. And, the TSI 1.8L Turbo is no slouch, especially attached to the 6spd dualclutch transmission. It’s a fantastic combination as a driver. Seating position, comfort of the seats, etc, all typically German – excellent, and driver-centric. Visibility is great, too – it’s a wagon.

Indifferent? The entertainment system does what’s on the box. It’s perfectly adequate, as is the stereo. As with all things German, it’s a sea of grey and black inside. I’d rather a manual (which the US is getting as an option, so maybe we will too?) option.

What I didn’t love? VW’s 4motion is still a haldex “slip’n’grip” unlike Subaru’s AWD. I didn’t get to test it out in slippery conditions, though, and I know people who are thoroughly happy with previous generations of the 4motion system. It’s just not the BEST option.

If you’re looking, this is a great car. It’s got tons of space (pretty equivelent to a compact SUV (think Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV, Hyundai Tucson) and is notably bigger than the hatchbacks it’ll get lumped in with (Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra GT, Chevrolet Cruze hatchback, Honda Civic Hatchback, etc), AWD, and car-handling. Skip the “Alltrack” version. At a base of $36,000cdn, all you’re really buying is some plastic bodycladding and taller springs. It starts at the top-trim level of the standard sportwagen, which is why the price is high. My advice would be to skip the alltrack, get the 4motion wagon, and maybe the midlevel trim (I can never remember if that’s comfortline or trendline). For the “arounD $33k out the door” price I saw, that’s a pretty spectacular deal on a family hauler these days, if you don’t have to show the neighbours how big your….. SUV…. Is.

It would approach perfection with a manual transmission (and the accompanying $1400 price drop) and some deep bronze flake paint, and some sticky summer tires (with alternate aggressive winter tires).

Yeah, I’d buy this. I really would. And eventually, may even. If the manual option does appear, it becomes the unicorn of the car world – a manual, brown, all-wheel drive, turbo, wagon. Gives me the shivers, does that. Ooooh, Nelly.

Thoughts on The Grand Tour, Top Gear, and the state of Automotive Television

This started out as a pretty simple facebook thing, but then it got… long. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

No one? Fuck. Well, I am who I am.

Ok, so first off, here’s a bit of automotive history – Clarkson on the History of Japanese Cars:

Opening with the bombing of Hiroshima may be a tad insensitive, but it is historically accurate. So, I’ll allow it.

BUT.

This is pretty much the definition of what’s wrong with The Grand Tour. I’ve kept my mouth shut to this point – the car guys (and girls) love it so far but I’m having the same misgivings as I had with the last few seasons of TopGear under Clarkson, May, and Hammond.

And, because I am who I am, I’m going to tell you why. At length. Buckle up, buttercup.

So, did you watch that bit on youtube? Yeah, the image quality isn’t great, but he’s telling a story. Unlike the last ten years, where history has been the domain of James May – That’s fine, May’s a serious historian, and tinkerer, but Clarkson also has a huge (or had, at least) interest in histry. And that’s basically been gone for five years now. He just shouts. He’s the Trump of the automotive world. SHOUT THINGS! REACT TO PEOPLE! SHOUT MORE THINGS! LISTEN TO THE CHEERS!

And that’s the problem.

The Grand Tour isn’t thoughtful in the way TopGear has always been. They used to interview people, now, they “kill” them. They used to test cars, now they slide them. They used to have adventures. Now, they go to other countries and irritate people.

Now, they were already doing that on BBC TopGear. But the BBC was obviously keeping Clarkson in line.

But Clarkson is running the asylum now. And it’s worse for it.

The other side of things, is that the Grand Tour is fully aimed at the US market. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a different market, and it’s one that doesn’t necessarily appreciate what TopGear used to do really well – Be British.

It’s a shame. The British stoicism brought something to the show that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. Yes, Clarkson is an ass (and he really is) but he’s turned it up to eleven now, and it’s very obviously Spiderman 3 syndrome: “If one villian makes a good story, then four villians will kill them!” Except it doesn’t does it? It just irritates, and suddenly, there’s not enough time for the depth, and thoughtfulness that had TopGear appealing to a lot more than car people (My mom used to watch TopGear, because it was, actually, entertaining, beyond the cars).

At the same time, TopGear (the new one) has gotten a bad rap. Matt LeBlanc, especially, is a fantastic presenter. He’s got exactly the right tone and presence on screen for it. Chris Evans, especially, got pummelled for his style in teh first two episodes, but after that, he quieted down a lot and started to deveop his own voice, rather that shouty Clarkson imitation. I feel bad for Evans, I really do. He was set up to fail on this one, because they were going to need a scapegoat for lower ratings when TopGear came back. But the show itself, beyond the fanboi “THERE’S NO TOP GEAR WITHOUT CLARKSON” shit, has actually been pretty good. In fact, if you watch it back to back with The Grand Tour you start to see…

That Clarkson and crew really haven’t done anything different with The Grand Tour, except try to be… more irritating. Again, I think Clarkson got a lot of help, and was really kept from doing the truly stupid stuff, by the BBC. And at the same time, Clarkson (and May, and Hammond) did bring something very special to TopGear.

And the thing is, fanbois, that’s never coming back.

Ever.

In fact, it hasn’t been there for the last two or three years at TopGear, anyway.

The Grand Tour is what Clarkson wants to make. And it’s inferior. Top Gear is what BBC needs to make, because the franchise makes money for them, and, it’s currently inferior. But they’ve got a good cast and they’re playing with how they do things – they’re evolving.

Clarkson’s Grand Tour, however, is a dinosaur. I wouldn’t expect it to last long, unfortunately.

Just from what I’ve seen on social media, there was massive buzz about Episode 1, huge interest in Episode 2, and no one has said a word about Episodes 3, 4, and 5. There’s good reason for that. The show is lackluster at best. It’s a shadow of its former (Say, Top Gear Season 15 or so) glory. Now, that said, the latest episode (ep 5) has been pretty good, all in all. They got back to what they’re good at, a bit. Still fell back onto “how funny is it that we’re British and we don’t understand foreign cultures?” (ie. irritate the locals) but still, they were actually back on form.

This whole “kill the famous guests” thing has to fucking go though. It’s so old and played out, already. Just. Stop.

But all the fanboi’s care about is that things never change. And that’s a problem inherent in the automotive community, not just in terms of Top Gear: “If it’s not my way, it’s shit”.

Literally none of the fanboi’s could see that we won, overall.

Yeah, Clarkson, May, and Hammond? THey left (a stagnant) Top Gear.

But Top Gear continues.

They started Grand Tour.

At the same time, in the interim, we got a revival of Fifth Gear online, and we saw a huge growth in really solid youtubers doing good things with cars – Matt Farah and the Smoking Tire, Chris Harris, Might Car Mods, Roadkill, Petrolicious, /Drive, Regular Car Reviews, and the list goes on.

And these guys, they all have something going on? Why? Because they’re doing something different, something new, and it’s interesting.

As an aggregate? We totally won. I mean, we REALLY won. We went from one real car/lifestyle show, to dozens, in any style you might like. And that’s awesome.

But no.

The Fanboi’s only want TopGear, circa season 21. Forever. And Ever. Because change is scary and they are scared, scared little menboys.

Which means we’re more likely to just get more of the same, than what the boys are really good at, which is telling interesting stories around cars, not just around tire smoke. And that’s a shame. But it does keep the dollars coming in, and the cameras rolling. So, I’m torn. But I don’t look forward to The Grand Tour. I watch it because it’s there. I used to really look forward to Top Gear (and I am looking forward to seeing where the next season of new Top Gear goes, as well, with LeBlanc at the helm).

Embrace the new. It’s pretty awesome. And you still have your thing.

Test Drive : 2017 Honda Ridgeline

So, this is a thing I’m gonna play with – Test Drives. We’re currently shopping for a replacement for the Lil’ Beast, a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5XS. We bought it cheap from my folks, and it was only supposed to last a year or two. But, it’s been just shy of five years now, and it’s still kicking. But only barely. At this point, it needs rear (drum) brakes (ugh, my most loathed of brake jobs), endlinks, shocks, springs, emissions work (a regular P0457 – major evaporative leak keeps popping the check engine light) which could mean a new gas tank, charcoal canister, and/or vacuum lines. Probably needs new plugs & wires, too, and the engine has recently developed a mild knock, and oil leak.

That’s more than is worth fixing, on an 11 year old car, with 120,000 miles/200,000km + on it. The parts alone are more than the car is worth at this point, and that’s without any labour I can’t do myself.

So, test driving.

The spectrum is pretty wide – primarily because, no one will sell me what I really want: A midsize or fullsize wagon. Don’t really care for SUV’s additional ride-height, I don’t generally find it necessary. I’d rather have the space of an SUV, and the handling of a car.

But that’s a complaint for another time.

First on the list is… a truck?

I guess I should go over the list: I’ve kept it broad (for features and use) and tried not to exclude anything based on preconceptions. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep the cars interesting as well as utilitarian. Hey, I’m a car guy, and some kind of character to the vehicle is important.

So, the list is:

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline
  • 2017 Ford F150 4×4 Crew XLT
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4
  • 2017 Subaru Forester
  • 2017 Toyota Rav4 hybrid eAWD

    For the moment, that’s it, but it’s subject to change/addition. Might throw the Ford Explorer in, and maybe the Subaru Outback, as well.

    So, back to the first on the list. A truck. A unibody, car-based truck at that.

    Thing is, @pingoderp (who this will also be partly/largely for) hates the Ridgeline. No, not kidding. She’s not a car person at all – she’s a home design person, I’m the car guy. But something about the 2006-2015 Ridgeline makes her literally apoplectic with rage when she sees one. It seems to be the flying buttress behind the cab – there’s something about the proportions that are thrown off in the design, well, look for yourself:

    So, when the generation two Ridgeline started making the show/review circuit, it was tough to bring it forward to her as an option. I mean, she REALLY hated the old one.

    But it really pushes all the utility buttons, so, we went to look.

    First off, a message to dealers. Telling me to pay a $500 deposit to bring a model in for me to test drive in a few weeks? Yeah, no. It may not be illegal, but it’s seriously immoral. And, it guarantees that I’m not going to do business with you. Civic Motors, Ottawa, I’m looking at you.

    So, second Honda dealership was much more accommodating. Walked in, asked about the truck, and was immediately offered a test drive.

    From this review out, I think I took pictures of the vehicles as we drove them, but I forgot for the Ridgeline.

    First off, the exterior is much less… controversial. It’s obviously a truck, but it’s a truck based on the same platform as the Honda Pilot – basically, from the B pillar forward, it IS a Honda Pilot.

    I’ve only got two complaints about the exterior. First, visually, it still does look very slightly “off” – the bed is slightly too short and it throws the visual balance off, for me. It’s not bad at all, though, just something I’ve noticed seeing a few “in the wild”. Second, however, is corporate bullshittery: You can’t get a color choice (ie. something other than black, white, or grey) until you spend up to the 2nd highest trim level, $10k over base price. That’s fucking bullshit. Color should never be trapped to trim level, and I’m truly tired of parking lots that are a sea of black and white. It’s boring as hell, and they can do better. This doesn’t help. That said, it can always be wrapped, but yeah. Full paint choices, from base on up.

    Ok, so, it looks good. Hows the interior?

    It’s very open. It is, in fact, big. For all intents and purposes, the “mid size” trucks of today are the fullsize trucks of yesterday. Well, about fifteen years ago. What that means is, with modern packaging as well, you can get a lot of space inside. With the Ridgeline, you get the added bonus of the base frame being an SUV. Technically, the Pilot (and Ridgeline) are front wheel drive (although the Ridgeline only comes as AWD in Canada) This really improves the interior packaging in a way that only a FWD base can do. There’s a ton of storage inside, and a good feature set, if you’re willing to spend the money. One of the big things for us is the ability to have a flat storage space inside. THere’s a 90lb Labrador retriever who currently lives in the back of the Subaru:

    Who needs somewhere comfortable. With a flat floor like the Ridgeline has, we can fold half the seat up, and give him a good spot to crash out, and again, with it being FWD/unibody, not body-on-frame, the entry point is lower for him too.

    I’m also pretty impressed with the seats. It’s tough to tell with only twenty minutes behind the wheel, but they feel good, and Honda has always done seats well (reference – 2003 RSX, and 1997 Integra) in my experience. Controls are logical and well organized, again, a Honda standard, and the infotainment seems good too – it was easy to pair my phone with it, and I was able to play music immediately. I don’t think it was Android Auto / Apple Car Play, at the time, but I believe that was an upgrade that was coming. It’ll be something we check on when we go back for a second test drive.

    I still have real problems with backup cameras. They’re helpful, there’s no doubt about it, and the Ridgeline’s is set up so that you can use it to align yourself with a trailer hitch (there’s an additional camera pointing downwards). Everything turns and twists with the vehicle, too, so it gives you a really, really good idea of where you are. It’s just really disconcerting to stare at that dash while you back up, instead of over your shoulder.

    At speed, wind noise is minimal, and that’s on the FWD/car/SUV based aero, rather than truck. And I think that’s part of the slightly off look of the vehicle – the droop on the nose makes it look less truck-like, and you get proportions you don’t expect from a truck. It’s not ugly, to my mind, but it’s “not truck” and that throws some people.

    There’s a ton of power. Honestly, a lot of guys swear that a truck isn’t a truck without a V8, but especially in this class, a nearly-300hp v6 is more than enough. It hammers down on ramps and merges seamlessly. The blind-spot warning is visible, but not intrusive – I actually quite liked it, and if it’s on, just hammer that go-pedal, and you’ll be clear in no time. Cruising on the highway at 115-120km/h, and it’s effectively silent in the cab. You can have a proper conversation with someone in the back seat without yelling at them. It’s really nice. Again, that’s that SUV/car DNA at work. There are real advantages to it. Getting back to the power, the tow rating is 5000lbs, and somewhere around a 1600lb bed load rating. Again, I don’t see this engine and (6 speed automatic) transmission combination having any trouble at all with those numbers. As you can imagine, it cuts the difference between SUV and truck in terms of (on paper) mileage. It’s a Honda, mileage will be good, but limited by the sheer mass of the vehicle. Throttle is progressive and does what it’s told (something that’s becoming rarer, thanks to throttle-by-wire). The steering has a remarkable amount of road feel, as well, despite being electrically boosted, not hydraulic.

    There’s a ton of trinkets and doodads we’re also not going to bother with – if you step up to the 2nd highest trim, the box doubles as a speaker for your tailgate parties. It’s a neat party trick, but that’s about all it is. It’s a shame you can’t get the auxiliary power outlets in the bed without this feature. The upside is, you get the super-hard bedliner and trunk at all trim levels.

    And that’s a major sell for us, as urban users. Lets face it, most of the “truck” use for us will be buying/moving furniture, and the home depot run. And the Ridgeline is the only truck with a trunk. At the back of the bed, under neath it, is a huge, lockable, weather proof storage area – a trunk. That is incredibly useful, and I can see other manufacturers copying it. It’s brilliant. Access to it is easy as well, as the gate on the bed opens to the side, and drops down traditionally, so easy to reach into.

    So, that’s first thoughts and a literal test-drive review. I’m going to do this for everything we drive/have driven. It helps me organize my thoughts, and it might even be interesting for you. They should be shorter from here out, too, as I’ve dealt with the preamble already.

    Of note. When we test drove, the price for the Sport was $39,999 CDN. According to Honda.ca, it’s now $41,488. Honda, what are you playing at? Oh, I see, Ok. Good job, Honda. They’re including freight/PDI in the MSRP, rather than hiding that $1500. That’s actually appreciated. I still think the freight/PDI costs Canadians pay are exorbitant, but that’s a different post.

    If any owners happen to read this? Let me know what your thoughts on ownership are! I’m interested if you’ve discovered any quirks and foibles with the truck.

  • ExtraLife Gameathon 2016 – Team Bombshelter

    Well, first off, the final numbers aren’t in yet but:

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    Yeah. Given that we’re a Canadian team, and that’s in US Dollars? I’m incredibly happy, and proud of my team. Seriously, they all come together at the last minute, and it just works. And they’re brutally generous with both their time and money.

    That’s also not the end of the story, either. I’m currently sitting on about $325 Canadian in cash donations from the day-of (we keep a donation bucket).

    And finally, if you’re so inclined, you can donate until December 31st, 2016. Just click right about here, and we thank you. Please, remember that this is in aid of CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), so,if you’re Ottawa, Kingston, that kind of area, and have, or know kids, chances are, someone you know will make use of CHEO’s services at some time. It’s a great cause, and we’re always happy to try to help them out in some small way.

    So, the event itself!

    I must admit, I had some trepidation going into it. It’s been … All round it’s been a rough year – I’ve had a lot going on at work, and personally, and I’m exhausted. So, it was tough to organize this year, and I almost didn’t bother. Almost. But, I had some concerns that we were going to get a super small turn out (we didn’t) that donations were gonna be tough (they weren’t) and that maybe the events time had passed for us (it hasn’t).

    Call it a minor crisis of faith.

    Well, I did the traditional lessons learned – We sold our pool table (that came with the house when we bought it) last winter, so that opened up a ton of space in the basement. That really made the PC gamers a lot more comfortable (And a lot more comfortable than they deserve! Basement trolls, every one of them). I picked up a couple of sets of folding table LEGS, and built two more “door tables” to provide as much space as I could, and that left us with an extra tabletop space surrounded by bookcases (which was actually really nice, the ambience was pretty great!) The network was strung from the ceiling like a spiderweb (main connection to gigabit switch, out to a gigabit switch on each set of two tables). I actually planned the layout of the house for the event on paper this year, and had myself an honest-to-god checklist, rather than just doing it all in my head. And, it all appears to have worked out fairly well.

    So, speaking of that house layout, this is what we had:

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    The living room – aka “Xbox Alley”. All consoles, all the time. Three years ago, this would have been the primary hub of activity, this year, not so much. We did have some bodies out sick, though, which made a big difference. Even so, our console division dropped off, which is interesting to note (also, smaller screens showing up this year, with the exception of my own, more on that later).

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    Like I said, my own TV was the exception. In the dining room, I took over: That’s 65″ of 4k love – It’s my house, dammit, I’ll play the way I want to. I also knew I was going to have a huge set-up, anyway, because of my racing rig. What you see in front of you was: Xbox360, Xbox:One, Logitech G920 racing wheel/pedals/shifter, LED backlighting on the TV from the powerbar (those are AWESOME), and my Republic of Gamers G571 laptop. I was all set to play pretty much anything. Next to it was @pingoderp’s Xbox360, which basically got used for Portal.

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    Family room was a general congregation area, and Rockband/DJ Hero. I was surprised at the turnout for the Rockbanding. Very good though. And the SumoSac’s were, as always, well loved by the kids for flopping out and spending time on mobile gaming, and Nintendo DS.

    Basement. I wasn’t kidding. This is where the PC Master Race is shunned… I mean, situated.

    Tabletop room 1!


    Tabletop room 2!

    I ended up not involved (for obvious reasons) but for a number of reasons, we tried a “PokeWalk” – a couple of the parents (primarily organized by @Yumi Kiddo) took a number of the kids to Carleton University to do a few hours of Pokemon Go. It does sound like it went well, and definitely helped us at the house, because it lowered the crush of kids running around for the afternoon (our highest volume of bodies is about noon to 9pm, and it can be a distinct “crush” of people in a relatively small space). I get the impression this went very well, but may have been a horde of babbling kids tearing at the nerves of a couple of parents *grin*

    Lessons learned? Always.

  • the couch in the family room can’t be on the west wall – kids would jump onto it, and bump the wall-socket network cable, taking everyone out down in the basement
  • Rockband, even on a smaller scale, is still a success – IF it’s separated from all the other gaming, because it’s loud, and not everyone wants to listen to it
  • upgrading the connection (from 27/3 to 60/10 made a huge difference, and no one had any issues beyond the bumping from the couch).
  • consoles have dropped off, tabletop has grown hugely, and PC gaming staged a notable increase
  • it remains a huge amount of work to set up. Like…. a lot.

    How much? Well, take a look at the pictures, and you see what goes into the rooms. We move furniture around. the networking consists of eight gigabit switches, and somewhere around 700 feet of Cat5e. Four of those switches were new this year. We upgraded the connection, as noted, and that costs money. Ok, sure, I wanted that too but. There’s the hydro – November is our biggest month of the year for obvious reasons. It’s about an extra fifty percent of our monthly bill, for that weekend. Food, that we lay in, beyond what other people generously provide.

    And mostly… time. It takes A LOT of time to set up, tear down, organize, lead, and fundraise for. Probably 130 hours of pure, physical set-up and tear-down, plus time talking to people about the event, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.

    This is the thing. We’ve now done this for five years. And it IS a lot of work. And early on this year, it was somewhat disenchanting to see the… lack of enthusiasm. And I know, times get tough and get better and we have good years and bad years.

    But, what I know at this point is, to turn the house into a charity fun-house (which is really what we do) for about eighty people coming and going (which is about what we have) costs me. Well, us. It costs money – I spend about $200/year now – it was more three years ago, but now we’re down to just replacing broken/obsolete things, and any hardware needed. It costs time as noted.

    But you know what?

    It’s still worth it. It really is. The event comes together, it’s really fun, we have a great time, there are some great moments, and once we’re doing it, I’m reminded of just how awesome the people I’ve surrounded myself with, are. I’m incredibly fortunate. And that good fortune is one of the reasons we still do it, despite the work, the frustration, and the inconvenience. Because we can, and it is just work, frustration, and inconvenience, and we can deal with that.

    Because at the end of the day, we do something good, and that’s really worth it. Especially right now.

    So, will we do it again?

    Well, at five years? Yeah, we’re totally going to. I’m not completely sure what form it’ll take. We may have some other options for a location coming up. Something that would really take the pressure off us in terms of the intrusion of the event into our home for weeks. I’d miss having the event at home, for sure, but it’s grown to a point now that it may really not be viable to keep doing it at home. However, a bunch of other stuff will have to come together for that to work, too.

    Cryptic much? 😀

    At the end of the day, we do it for CHEO, and I think we do an amazing job. I haven’t heard what the numbers are for fundraisers for Ottawa, for CHEO specifically, but we are regularly near the top. Which means we really are doing something good for the world, and for our community.

    Pretty much every parent we know has made use of CHEO’s facilities at some point or another, and those that haven’t? Likely will. It’s that kind of facility.

    So, one more time, with feeling, if you want to drop a few bucks, it would be hugely appreciated. Just click that link up there at the top. You know the one. Go on. Click it. You know you wanna. Makes you feel good. Doooo iiit.

    Seriously, if you’d thought about it, but didn’t get around to it, now’s the time! so, please do, if you can.

    And yeah, we’ll probably be back next year.

    But for the moment, I’ll leave it with this. I’m wicked proud of my team. Players, fund raisers, donators, all. All amazing. Thank you again Team Bombshelter, you’re awesome, and I don’t do this by myself.

  • Slouching Onwards to Automotive… Somthing or other.

    It’s been that kind of summer. Between finally getting to the track and some general meandering around the province, I’ve put about 9000km on the ‘coupe this summer. That’s actually a big deal for me, as I commute to work by bike, so during the week, it’s not unusual for me to not even start the car for four or five days. Basically, all that mileage is cottage runs, and cruises.

    The track wasn’t high mileage (obviously) but 90 minutes at basically wide-open throttle (I kid you not, I could WATCH the gas gauge drop) is hard mileage. So, I’ve ended up with a few more oil changes than usual during the summer too.

    There’s just time for two more, as well – Right now, I need an oil change and then I’ll need one again next month.

    Next month, you say? That’s crazy talk, three months for oil changes is the norm.

    Except.

    September27th, I leave for Tail of the Dragon.

    It is 1686km one way. Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap) is in Tennessee. I’ve no idea how much mileage I’ll do there, but then it’s 1686km home, as well. I figure that the bare minimum I’ll do in those five or six days is 4000km.

    Now, THAT’S a driving vacation.

    And right now, a bunch of you are muttering to yourselves that I’m nuts. And I’m not sure you’re wrong. But, with the help of someone who’s done it before, I’ve got a route that, while slightly longer, runs through some very scenic country that isn’t downtown Detroit.

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    That should be some pretty glorious driving, even if it is fifteen hours worth. Each way.

    Before that, though, I’ve gotta I had to deal with the car. (Had to – Ummm, I was gonna post this Friday afternoon, and it’s now Monday morning. Whattayagonnado?)

    Like I said, oil change. that’s actually scheduled for 2pm Friday – Finally, I’ve hit my last “included” oil-change (20 of them at time of purchase, 7.5 years ago). Once that’s done, it sounds like Friday tonight was going to be burgers’n’shakes (and it was), our weekly car crew get-together. Saturday morning, I was up at 7am, and in the garage.

    What’s on the agenda?

    First, brakes. You’ve all read by now the Post-trackday work I had with the brakes. And through the awesomeness of friends, that got me back to “driveable”. I want better than that for the Dragon, though. So, I ordered up some EBC YellowStuff pads:

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    I’ve also got OEM rotors for the back brakes, that are fresh(er than my R1 Concepts ones), and that combination should be prettty good.

    once that’s done, I definitely have to change the brake fluid. It would have been nice to do steel lines, but that’s going to be part of the winter upgrade – I don’t have the cash or time right now.

    I hate bleeding brakes. Passionately. So, I’m kinda hoping I’ll have some help for it. We’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty sure I can manage, I won’t be trying to get bubbles out of the system, just trying to clear the old and refill with new, so I don’t REALLY anticipate any problems.

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    It’s not rocket surgery, after all. Also, found a “one man bleeder kit” at Canadian Tire, and that was $8 well spent, as far as I’m concerned. No bubbles from what I could see, and all the fluid was coming out clear, and clean…. after a few good pumps. #notaeuphemism.

    After that, the car is basically good to go. If I have time, I’ll probably pull the AEM DryFilter, and wash it, along with the hydroshield. I have to remove the front bumper for that. While the bumper’s off, I want to tighten up the lip as well – since I realigned it, it seems to move around some. I’m not really worried about it falling off, but I’d like it not to scratch what’s left of my paint. So, if I get time for that, that’s on the agenda too.

    Tire pressures will be set. To factory. Because that’s what you do.

    After all that, interior cleaning and set-up. I’m going to have a ton of electronics charging in the car – multiple (GPS, four… maybe? Five? go-pros, a pair of Uniden walkie-talkies, my phone, oh, and my regular-issue dashcam.

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    How to run all that?

    Mount a 12V splitter – I have a stack of 12v dual-2.1a-USB sockets, which are perfect for charging pretty much anything, I just need enough 12v sockets to plug everything in. the only trick will be “where to mount the splitter”. So, I guess THAT’S on the agenda, too.

    Actually, ended up being fairly easy:

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    At the same time, I ran my longest USB cable under the console, and out the back, into the back seat. I want to do a video of the entire drive down, then speed it up, and set it to music – 1700km in 6 minutes or so. We’ll see how that works out. But I’m mounting it way in the back, rather than just in the windshield, so that, hopefully, it’s a little more interesting and personal. I think Andyman is going to do an exterior camera for this, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences.

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    Roadtrips. They’re just the same and very different from what they used to be. All I used to take was a couple of big, spiral-ring map-books. And most people thought that was too much, too. Apparently, wifi/connectivity is hard to come by once we actually GET to TotD, but I’ll be posting as I go/when we stop. If you’ve any interest in the along-the-way antics and any updates I can do from Fontanta Village itself, feel free to follow me on @boozysmurf on Twitter, and/or @b00zysmurf on Instagram.

    Totally Awesome Thing About Car Culture

    There’s a reason I refer to myself and my fellow car nerds as nerds. We are. Seriously. Bordering on car hipsters, to be honest. I’m not going to get into what I drive: If you’ve read here before, you already know, ad neauseum, about my car. And, honestly, I’m a little run down. THere’s a “parts going in” update coming… eventually. In the meantime, I’ve been avoiding events, especially “offical” events, because, yeah, I just don’t have the energy, and my car’s not in the shape I’d like it to be for those events, and I don’t have the energy to get it there, right now.

    Onwards!

    So, Thursday night, there was a show. The Ottawa area has a lot of these weekly shows: there’s a Tuesday night in Kanata, there’s a couple of different Friday night ones, there’s Wednesday night at the Casino. They all have something in common: they are nearly universally classic, hotrod, and muscle shows. I like these shows: they tend not to have the sheer idiocy that comes with eighteen year-olds in civics (I know whereof I speak: I was that kid. But I didn’t have a civic, I had an ’88 Ford Tempo).

    The Thursday night show, no different, just at Fallingbrook shopping center, in Orleans.

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    So, what you see there is a sea of gleaming muscle, painstakingly restored classics, expensive modern insanity (2015 C7 Corvette, I’m looking at you), waxed and polished so hard the chrome almost comes off. I love all this: I love seeing the restorations, the resto-mods, and the cars of yester-year. And as usual, all the owners are milling around, looking at the same cars they see every week, talking to their buddies, and wondering what seven KDM, one Honda, and one VW are doing there.

    And then.

    And then this guy rolls in.

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    And I wouldn’t say the record scratched as the lot went quiet. Hell, it didn’t REALLY go quiet. But he rolled in, backed into a parking spot, and got out.

    The valves (open to the world) were smoking. The exhaust was clattering. The lights were… ineffective.

    But all of a sudden, there was a crowd: the biggest crowd of the night. And EVERYONE wanted a word, an explanation, and a picture.

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    Two minutes later?

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    What you can’t see is ’em standing three-deep behind me, as I took that (and some other) pictures. Basically lining up to take a good, clean picture from the front.

    The vehicle in question isn’t even a car. It’s a reverse-trike: specifically, a 1939 Morgan Three-Wheeler. It’s also, according to the owner, a bit of a bastard: it’s an “SS” model, which in this case doesn’t mean “Super Sport”, but rather, “Stainless Steel”. The frame is steel, not wood, so, you only have to worry about rust and British electrical systems, not termites and wood rot. Which is nice.

    And yeah, everyone wanted to to know about it. There were the few regulars who had “opinions” and “knowledge” (Spoiler: they didn’t know much about it, but talked a lot like they did). The guy who owned it was saying that he’d actually just got it on the road: 2.1Km from home to the show was its maiden voyage, after he got it: turns out, his Uncle had had it in a barn in BC and kinda said “If you’re going to drive it, it’s yours, free. If you’re not going to, i’ll sell it to someone who will” So the new owner is going to drive it, everywhere he can.

    It really was the coolest thing there. And that brings me back to the car-nerd thing. All the guys, and girls there were, well, classic North ‘Murican car-types: big, V8, detroit iron (which you can see in the pics above) but everyone went ga-ga over this little British three-wheeler. Because it’s different and weird, and they want to know. Not only that, they want to know the guy who’s doing something different, who’s being something different. I never did get the spec on the engine, but according to wikipedia, it’s the last year of the V-twin three-wheelers, and this was definitely an air-cooled model. Finding specs on these things is crazy tough, too.

    All in all, just a very cool, very cramped little thing. And apparently, the brake- and turn-signal lights don’t work. So, it’s hand-signals all the way (the lights are aftermarket add-ons, and maybe aren’t as good as they could be). And it’s classed as a motorcycle. So, helmet and goggles? Yeah, I’m all over that! I’ll admit it. I kinda want one. I’d totally commute in that in the summer.

    And totally not… normal. And, for all you hang out with your own crew? When that “not normal” rolls through? You gotta check it out.