Thursday, December 14, 2017

Northern California Chinese Supercar Club meet

This took place in Atherton, one of the toniest towns in all of the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley. I had thought this ostentatious show of wealth was relegated to Southern California. I was mistaken.

Bus trip: Good news and bad news

First, the good news. Colombia's biggest criminal gang, the Gulf Clan, has just declared a unilateral ceasefire. This is the gang that was busted recently for the biggest haul of cocaine ever seized in the universe. The leader is turning himself in and his lieutenants have all been neutralized.

Now, the bad news. My plan had been to take a Cruz del Sur bus on a Sunday from Lima, ride non-stop for 2.5 days, cross two borders, and arrive in Cali, Colombia. For some reason, the Sunday bus service has been canceled. And I cannot take the other Cruz del Sur service, which leaves on a Wednesday. I think I can take an Ormeno Sunday bus, but I cannot buy or reserve a ticket online. I have to show up in person. Let's hope it's not sold out when I get to Lima on a Saturday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cost of grocery items in Barrow, Alaska

H/t to Peter S.

Barrow is not accessible by road. Everything is shipped by sea or air. Hence the high prices.

2017 highlights

Best year ever. Thanks for following along!

January: Tried Nicaraguan food.

February: Babymoon in Laguna Beach.

March: Got an i3.

April: Got a baby boy.

May: Checked out a Lexus Land Cruiser.

June: The first Radwood.

July: Reconnected with autonomous cars I saw in the 1990s.

August: Baby sees Pacific in Mendocino.

September: Trip to Lake Superior.

October: Drove a Century in Virginia.

November (technically December 2): Met up with friends at Radwood 2 in SoCal.

December: Baby meets Santa on Maui.

Alabama in 2016 (left) versus 2017 (right)

What a difference a year makes. And a creepy gun-toting candidate.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Gone whale watching

I will be blogging again on December 12. In the meantime, I'll be tweeting and posting on Instagram.

Radwood 2 debrief

Radwood is more than a car show. It is a social phenomenon.

Yesterday's show in Southern California was Radwood's second. It was exponentially larger than the first. There were more cars, more people, more of everything. It was at an expansive German beer garden, so there were plenty of picnic tables for people to enjoy beers and brats throughout the day. There was a DJ playing 80s music and there was even a BMX bike demonstration. It's not yet commercialized, as the only corporate presence consisted of Bring A Trailer and a car restoration company that brought a couple of very 80s modified Benzes.

So let's start from the beginning. This was going to be a day trip, so I woke up at 4:30am, picked up rchen, and headed to the airport. Rchen dressed up for the show and brought old cell phones and other props. Going through airport security with him was "exciting", shall we say.

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Because we didn't have a rental car, slirt was kind enough to pick us up at LAX in his beautiful and peppy cabriolet. The weather was in the mid-70s so it was perfect as we crisscrossed the concrete jungle.

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Once there, we saw quite a few amazing cars. But as we nerdishly went over all the 80s and 90s cars that were missing-- Merkurs, Dustbuster minivans, etc.-- I realized that just hanging with obsessively knowledgable car freaks on a sunny Southern California day in a relaxed atmosphere full of kitsch was what made Radwood so nostalgically perfect.

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A lot of people I have connected with over the years online were there, and they got to meet each other. People in the "industry", like the new Wheeler Dealer team, Matt Farah aka The Smoking Tire (with all four of his cars, including the Million Mile Lexus), and the Hooniverse duo of Jeff Glucker and Blake Z. Rong, were all in attendance. The show had everything. The owner of three MotoCompos were even letting random people ride them.

If Radwood comes to your state or even time zone, make sure you go.

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Gifts from Radwood trip

First up, a couple of gifts from rchen from his trip to the Tokyo Auto Show.

A Tomica Lotus Europa! I'm going to open it with Junior when he's old enough.

If I remember correctly, this is a CD of Isuzu truck music. I'll have to find a computer that will play this.

I got this Honda CRX from slirt. A great find from an LA-area Target.

Thanks for the loot, gentlemen!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trumpy Bear

Michigan attorney general election ad

Alas, we have come to this.

(Turn the volume down if you're playing this at work.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Putin daughter doing the boogie-woogie

For some reason, the YouTube video can't be embedded. Not only is she a dancer, she is also in charge of a $1.7 billion project to build a science center at Moscow State University. So, she is very talented.

The end of the Great Wall of China

Bosnian Croat general poisons self in The Hague

America is so messed up, this was literally the 6th biggest news story this morning.

Here is some background on the man.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Was the Pope riding in an old Toyota Camry in Burma?

The Pope of the People(tm) was seen riding in this. At first, I thought it was a Thai-spec Camry, but what is that badge up front?

ETA: Raphael says it's a Toyota Mark II.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Finishing the trip in Colombia

This will be the trickiest part of my bus trip. I am not worried about kidnapping or violence by FARC or ELN anymore. FARC laid down its arms and disbanded. ELN wants to do the same and has been bending over backwards to prove to the government that it doesn't want to make trouble any longer.

But there are still...issues. The segment of the Pan-American Highway between Pasto and Popayan is particularly problematic at night with buses getting robbed. And that's when I'll be there. Apparently, the police leads convoys of three to four buses at a time and drive together through that area.

I should arrive in Cali at 5am. This will be the end of my 2.5 day ride on a double decker Cruz del Sur bus from Lima.

At the Cali Terminal, I then immediately hop on a bus for a nine hour ride to Medellin. I am staying at Hotel Dann Carlton, which is a part of an upscale national chain. I am living it up because I need a little bit of luxury after three days on a bus without a shower. Apparently, the provincial beauty pageant was recently held at the hotel.

After a well-deserved night's sleep, I have an entire day free. No buses!

I have made a decision. I will forego any and all tourism related to Pablo Escobar. There is more to Colombia than a 1980s drug dealer who destroyed so many lives. I am going to enjoy what Colombia has to offer, TODAY.

For dinner, I am meeting up with an internet friend. He and his husband are retired and recently moved to Medellin (from Virginia). I'm letting him pick the restaurant.

Early the following morning, like 5am early, I will take my final bus. It is nine hours to Turbo, the end of the Pan-American Highway. Once I get there, I'll find a cab driver and ask him to take a picture of me and then I will ask him to drive me to the Apartado airport 31 km away, where I have a flight to catch to Bogota. By flying rather than riding the bus again, I give myself an extra day to explore Bogota.

In Bogota, I want to visit the Gold Museum:

...and will really splurge and celebrate the end of my decade-long journey with a stay at the Four Seasons. That bed and those sheets will look like heaven.


Largest "private" employers by state

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Ecuador segment of my bus trip

There will be no stops, except for fuel. From Huaquillas along the Peruvian border, it will take the bus 11 hours to get to Quito. And from Quito, it's another five hour bus ride to Tulcan along the Colombian border. The border crossing there looks like this:

Citroen Conservatoire auction catalog

The Conservatoire is auctioning off around 65 cars. Here is the catalog, which is a work of art in and of itself.

North Korean defector crosses DMZ

This is straight out of an action movie.

Crop to cup: Where does all the coffee go

Internet use throughout the day

Freddie Mercury with his mother, 1947

He was an ethnic Indian born in Zanzibar.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Replace the BMW i3 with a Chevy SS?

The i3 is being recalled again.

As you may remember, I had a hard time getting the i3 in March because there was a worldwide recall/stop sale. Apparently, the fuel line got loose and was at risk of catching fire.

Now, the i3 is being recalled again, and no new i3s can be sold in America. This time, it's because the i3 failed the frontal crash test for unbelted front female passengers in the 5th percentile (5' tall, 100-110 pounds in weight). I can't imagine how BMW is going to fix this.

So there's a slight possibility that BMW might buy back my leased i3. I love my i3, but it's small and not very family friendly. I've had my fun with an electric. It's time for a thirsty (14 city/22 highway) V8 sedan.

The Chevy/Holden SS has a 6.2 liter LS3 engine and magnetic ride control. 2017 is the final year for the car, and sales have been terrible. Chevy is cutting the price by 20% from $50,000 new to $40,000 new. There is even a manual one for sale somewhere in Ohio.

This video had me drooling: 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What to do in Peru

After an evening with Lonely Planet Peru, I have figured out what I am going to do in Peru. On the first two days, I will be in Lima, getting acclimated (time zone-wise, weather-wise, language-wise).

I will visit Lugar de la Memoria. It is a museum dedicated to the violent 1980s and 1990s when the Shining Path terrorized the country.

Then, the Museo Larco (pre-Columbian artifacts).

As for food, I'm going to try beef heart anticuchos at Panchita.

And, if I can get a table, ceviche at Chez Wong.

I will then leave Lima for a 16- to 18-hour bus trip north... the border town of Tumbes, where I will have to cross between the border posts by foot.

Hot Wheels Embosser embosses Hot Wheels logo!

I just noticed this feature.

More Hot Wheels purchases

I was in a different town and went to their Target to see if their inventory was different than our local Target's inventory. It was!

The first car I picked wasn't even a Hot Wheels; it was this Matchbox. I knew about the regular Transporter that Matchbox made, but I didn't know there was a Color Changer version. 

I wasn't too crazy about the livery of this C4 Corvette, but C4 Corvette!

Same with this Camaro. I saw this for sale a year ago and was not impressed with the blue stripes. But I got it anyways yesterday because this is my favorite Camaro.

I am not a fan of fictitious vehicles, but I figured the boy will need a few "work vehicles" like tow trucks, dump trucks, and fire trucks. This reminds me of the race car transporters I once saw at Laguna Seca.

And here is a Ford Fiesta. I'm not a fan of new cars, but I figure the boy can't just play with 70s-80s cars of my childhood.

And finally, I got this Mobile Tune-Up van because it reminded me of the U.S. Mail van I had as a kid.

In fact, I think it's the same casting.

The weird thing about the van is that it's called a "Combat Medic". Did someone at Mattel not proofread the packaging?

Autonomous vehicle research in my county

I live and work in a suburban county an hour away from Silicon Valley. To outsiders in the San Francisco Bay Area, Contra Costa County is just known for its gigantic oil refineries in Richmond and Martinez.

Recently, I found out that a large office park in San Ramon has an autonomous shuttle program running between parking lots. It's the first in the country. I tried to check it out yesterday, but I don't think it runs on weekends. Apparently, there are two buses and they were built by a French company.

But there's more! I knew that my office in Walnut Creek is next to the county transit agency. That's why I get to plug in for free-- the county transit agency installed four free Level 2 chargers in the parking garage we share. 

I did not know until this week that the county transit authority apparently converted the defunct Concord Naval Weapons Station (which was shut down after the Cold War ended*) into an autonomous vehicle testing facility! This is such a great idea.

*In the movie The Rock, the VX warheads were stolen from the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Have you seen an Evoque convertible in real life?

I had no idea they had been out since 2016. I just saw my first one yesterday.

Welcome to the Jungle

The boy was jumping in his jungle and this song popped up in my head.

Heart attacks (red), Waffle Houses (yellow)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another Hot Wheels purchase

I found this at a local drug store. I know nothing about the 934.5.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Now I have to worry about the Gulf Clan

Last week, the Colombian military seized 12 tons of cocaine worth $360,000,000-- the largest seizure in history.

The cocaine belonged to the Gulf Clan, a crime syndicate descended from right-wing paramilitaries. The cocaine was found in the area between Chigorodo and Carepa, right on my bus route from Medellin to Turbo. In fact, I'll be flying out of Apartado airport, which has been used by the Gulf Clan for some of its shady business. Neat!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My new car mugs

More carspotting from China

Quick, Ramon, what's the second car?