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There’s a great thread on ADV about the sales, including some big discounts at Bob’s BMW, Aerostitch, etc.. on just about everything. Here’s the link.

Made my usual rounds today, started with Mac’s hardware where tools were 40% off this morning, amidst the stuff I already have and the junk I scored a torx wrench set and a gear puller. Home Despot produced a set of 3 DeWalt “tough boxes” complete with gasketed top doors and a 2 wheeled carrier for $99. Northern Tool didn’t have that great a deals and the line at the cashiers was long, so I walked in and right back out. Costco yielded a waterproof “point ‘n’ shoot” camera, whose benefits you’ll soon see here on the blog… My baby SLR is suffering mechanical failure. 20% off on most everything at Bomgaar’s farm store, but most all their wood heating pellets had been ruined by some sloppy forklift handling that tore the bags followed by a rainstorm when they stored them outside. Did score some LED trailer lights though…

So happy (bargain) hunting, and please use the comments feature to share any finds!

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OK, I been sluffin’ off, probly even sleepin’ on the job… So another turkey roast is overdue. And gawd, in my absence, have these turkeys been multiplying… In this target rich environment, where do I start?

Smart phones on wheels: Back in the not so bad old days we judged a vehicle by it’s performance, comfort, and economy. Then some too clever product planner decided that we wanted to take calls from telemarketers while driving and bluetoothed our cell phones into their speakers and added a mic which makes for all sorts of future automaker snooping mischief.  It gets worse…

Just in case you refuse to connect your smartphone to your car, the automakers then proceeded to put a cheap cell phone in your car. In most cases they couldn’t resist the possibility of a continuing source of revenue and service reminders and thankfully charge to turn it on, thus mine is off. It gets even worse…

If a cell phone in the car is good, surely a touch screen tablet would be even better? Well, no, especially when you hog a square foot of dashboard turf with it. We drivers like nice big gauges in front of us with the heating controls, radio, etc. in the center with controls we can work by feel. In contrast a “touchscreen” strangely has no feel… Which means you need to take your eyes off the road during all of driving’s challenges to see what bit of the screen to touch to turn on defrost. It gets even way worse…

So here we are, veering from fog line to fog line trying to turn on defrost, and probably about to crash. The automakers solution? Automated cars! Yes, the automakers who brought us all of the above cyber stupidity will drive us, directed by the google that can’t even find my house!

Time for some 2 wheeled relief…

So you wander into the nearest motorcycle dealer, which most likely is a Harley dealer. It’s filled to the brim with what look like 1960s motorcycles and clothes and just about everything else you can fit a Harley logo on, and it’s all over priced. Harley’s best years were a century ago, then they got lucky and the boomers bought them. But the boomers are more likely shopping for wheelchairs than 2 wheelers now. So you try the next dealer, which turns out to have similar wares to Harley but for some half hidden overhead cams and maybe some forlorn Victories and a dusty crashed Slingshot waiting months for parts. ‘Merican motorcycle industry, lose the cruisers… There time was a century ago, they were dated by the ’50s, and unsalable now!

Hungry now, you stop by the truck stop for some voluminous grub. You get to taking with a young lady that’s running an aero Mack with a single drive axle that cruises at 1100 RPM and gets 9 MPG loaded, or talk to her at least when she’s not being interrupted by the guys bragging about their juiced up long nose Petes and KWs with the huge bull bars. And when they’re not bragging, they’re complaining about the 5 MPG their blunt nose trucks get and how they’re not making any money. Guys, trucking is a business… Lose your “road warrior” aerodynamic disaster area on 18 wheels.

Got my limit o’ turkeys, so the Porsche SUVs and outa warranty BMW’s will have to wait for next year. No problem, given the current rate of vehicular devolution, I’m sure we’ll have plenty more turkeys to roast next year!

 

Been seven years since I started this blog, and I’ve gotten the itch to make some changes, hopefully for the better. I read through the whole seven years of bloggin’ and IMHO it varies from good to occasionally great to “I wrote that?”. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvement…

Seven years brings a lot of change too- For example, electric vehicles are no longer a joke and will be treated as such. Media has changed too, so I’ll be giving the blog some social media exposure. And every aspect of life, even ridin’ and drivin’, has gotten way politicized- For example Donald Trump is now the greatest threat to american auto makers. But as a recovering political hack, I’ll try to keep the politics in it’s place. And while looking to the future, I’ll try to honor gearhead history of the per-internet era and answer the unanswered questions… Like, did Porsche design the Corvair for Chevy or vice versa?

Buckle up and/or get your helmet on, it’s gonna be a wild ride!

They’ve been on a wild ride at Ford lately, sorta like when your teenage kid tries to come up with a clever story to explain the fresh dent and engine knock in the family car after you let them solo with it. First version of the story was that Ford was diving deep into electrification and autonomous cars to get a head start on the future. What actually happened was that Ford added diesel options for the F150 and Transit Connect and dropped the Focus electric and C-Max hybrids, then paid way too much for an abandoned train station and other dilapidated real estate in Detroit. This failed to provide the desired jump in stock value to benefit the close to retirement Ford execs with stock options, and in fact the stock has been on a slow slide downward.

So Ford top management decided that what the world really wanted was hatchbacks on tippy toes called SUVs and kicked the Focus outa their U.S. lineup and put the Fiesta and Fusion on notice… Despite the fact that buyers with late 20s median ages and six figure median incomes lined up and laid down deposits to buy every $40k Focus RS they could build. And with Ford finances hemorrhaging to pay for development of all these electric and autonomous vehicles that not much of anyone seems interested in buying, Wall Street got worried, so after buying up all that future office space Ford announces layoffs of thousands of white collar workers.

But despite top management inattention, Ford’s business of actually building vehicles has been going pretty well- Ford has best in class vehicles in many segments like pickups and full size vans and it’s new world market F-Max heavy tractor just won the International Truck of the Year Award. Ford never much mentioned these accomplishments and the F-Max is darn near a corporate secret here in North America, so the stock slide continued.

When all else fails, blame the ad agency… So Ford brought in a new agency and gave the old one a consolation prize. New agency has to do something “impressive”, so this weekend they’ll debut the new “Ford Proud” ad campaign. But in the last few days the “collaboration” being discussed between Ford and VW Group was rumored to be something more, like a merger. Unlike a lot of mergers a lot of the press thought this marriage made sense, but Ford promptly walked the merger rumor back. Here was chance to merge two great automotive and institutional traditions with complementary strengths… But Ford was too “Ford Proud” to even consider it.

 

 

 

‘Case you’ve been wondering what I been up to…

Been blogging since 2012 on auto, motorcycle, and logistics issues over at my Gearhead Grrrl blog. Cut my teach in political writing over at the old democrats.com then moved over to Kos for the Dean campaign and have been their ever since. Used to make the “rec page” regularly, but by 2016 the Bernie and Hillary camps and who knows how many troll farms and their ‘bots had hacked the system, and my upgrades to the “rec list” became rare. Since then us indy bloggers have Kos’ own growing staff of writers to compete with too. ‘Bout a year ago I started cranking out a monthly “Outreach Officers Report” about rural democrat’s issues, which succeeded in riling up some big city Democrats despite being appreciated by a few readers. Kicked outa the MN DFL party for supporting the candidate who ultimately got the most votes in the primary my writing was censored. ‘Bout that time I also figured out that I could accomplish more to elect democrats and move the country in a progressive direction from outside the democratic party than within, so I decided not to run for re-election as a party official and start this “Sassy Democrat” blog to bring my “wisdom” to a wider audience.

I had visions of invigorating coverage of the midterms followed by chasing the presidential candidates ’round Iowa and down the campaign trail to the conventions. But the reality has been different- Despite rare new content the “Gearhead Grrrl” blog usually gets more views than “Sassy Democrat”. My political writing ain’t the only one starving for lack of views- Other day a professional writer for a political blog noted the consolidation in the online news industry was about to put him out of a job. He partly blamed Facebook for this, with viral spread of their stories squelched amid Facebook’s crackdown on politics. Even political advertisers seem no longer welcome at Facebook- A friend, definitely a real live human and not a ‘bot, is having difficulty convincing Facebook that she’s a real advertiser with money to spend.

No surprise… I suspect Facebook and other social media at least tolerated politics to attract eyeballs, but now that online ads are passing TV ad spending Facebook can be choosy. And while political ad spending is outa control it”s still only about a percent or three of total ad spending every other year… Facebook can bring in more reliable revenue from car ads with less hassle than dealing with political campaigns. And I have to admit the consumers of my gearhead writings are a better audience… They can understand and appreciate a reasoned and logical discussion, while a political article usually dies if it doesn’t have the issue de jour like Kavanaugh has been for the past weeks in the title.

So with the current level of disinterest I’ll probably let this political blog die after the election and return to writing about old motorcycles and whether anyone is actually in charge at Ford these days. But then again, you readers might change my mind…

While there was no advertised airhead presence at the recent BMWMOA national rally in Des Moines, apparently a group of local airheads didn’t get the memo and put together a pretty decent “airhead central” anyways. And as usual, they outdid the MOA, attracting some of the bands to after performance jams and inventing some new “rally games” with an airhead twist. Seems the airheads found some rolling office chairs and there was a convenient paved downhill available and “racing” ensued. Always concerned about safety, the airheads noted a dangerous curb and protected the riders from it with some “borrowed” folding tables laid on their side. This must have miffed MOA even more, so they dispatched a rent-a-cop to shut the fun down. Said rent-a-cop was later seen joining the fun. Further miffed, MOA shut “airhead central” down for the final night of the rally. MOA, given the rate you’re losing members, maybe you’d better cut the airheads a little slack…

For some time I’ve been dreamin’ of an upmarket high performance car… On my more reasonable days it the ultimate hot hatch Golf R mit darn near 300 turboed HP driving all four wheels. Good for 13 second quarter miles, 1 G cornering, and still managing 20s MPG and the hatch will swallow as much as any Golf. On my less reasonable days it’s the Golf’s platform cousin the Audi RS3, a Golf in sedan drag with another cylinder dropping the quarter mile times to around 12 flat and the MPGs down a few too. On my really crazy days I covet a Porsche 918, their mid engined like a Porsche should be price leader, a bit faster than the Golf R but my hack’d Yamaha is more suited to Costco runs.

Now when I was a poor working stiff I simply settled for a new Golf TDI every decade or so and made do. These days I look at my stock holdings with the market peaking at the end of an overextended rise and wonder “why not”? Then Trump makes an auto trade deal with the lame duck president of Mexico while threatening hefty tariffs on European made cars. I hear talk of a 25% tariff, and that’s $10k atop the Golf R’s already hefty (in my cheapskate eyes) $40k price. So if you’re cravin’ a Euro sports car or sedan, might wanna make your move soon.

Tried to get started on the hack’d Yamaha’s 48k mile service this morning and got waylayed by various writing assignments ’til noon. After my usual leisurely lengthy lunch fortunately the service went quickly, and by late afternoon I was writing again for my political blog, Sassy Democrat. It gets worse- The local USDA Rural Development office tells me I’m the only person to make it through the USDA’s new online grant application writing process… Which means I’ll probably be writing a whole bunch of applications for other small towns. Here I could be happy in my shop rebuilding old bikes and two decade old Ford Rangers, but instead I gotta suffer here in my easy chair in a climate controlled living room within reach of the fridge. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it…

The BMWMOA rally bombed again- Official attendance was 4000 odd souls, which means after deducting the thousand plus unissued and comp’d free tickets the real attendance was 3000 or so. Climate change can take some credit, as the triple digit heat indexes also dropped attendance at the Iowa Guzzi Rally 100+ miles north and a couple degrees cooler. A few days later climate change cancelled a Corvette gathering in Sioux Falls too.

But that’s just the beginning of what ails motorcycling… Let’s dig in the data a bit. Governments gather all kinds of obscure data, and democracies even make that data public. Thus our Census and Labor Department have been asking citizens what they do with their time, especially in the area of when we work for a few decades now. Just scratching the surface of that deep vein of data reveals that a third of us are working on peak rally days AKA weekends. That’s up from a quarter working weekends as recently as 15 years ago and probably even more from the heyday of motorcycle rallies in the 70s and 80s when their was no Home Depot and the lumberyard closed at noon saturday. Focus on the stats for the young riders motorcycling needs and they’re even more likely to be stuck working weekends.

It gets worse… It’s common knowledge that today’s young folks don’t make as much money as us seniors did in the 50s through the 70s. I took my data mining pick and shovel over to another vein in the Labor Department’s rich range of data and scraped up a few gems… Young folks today are spending about 5% less of their total income on transportation than we seniors did a few decades ago. So where did that 5% of their income go? Well, they’re spending 4% more of their income on education than we did a few decades ago!

While BMW will survive on the spending power of their well heeled car buyers, the motorcycle biz is suffering here with heavily discounted bikes lingering on showroom floors for years. And while the Iowa Guzzi Rally will do just fine thanks to the support of the volunteers and the good folks of Elkader, BMWMOA has gotten used to having it’s rallies in mega fairgrounds where a long weekend’s rent runs into six figures. With only 3000 or so paid admissions and many of them at early bird rates of $45 or so, there’s barely enough ticket revenue to cover the overhead. Another major revenue source, vendor fees that often run in the thousands for a decent indoor booth, will dry up as vendors figure out that 3000 or so mostly retired cheapskates ain’t worth it. BMWMOA, your about to go down the fiscal drain…

The solutions? Regional rallies spread around the country that hang around for a whole week. Less than ten buck a day admission with camping included. Free rider training with cheap “try before you buy” rentals. And instead of a throwaway beginner bike, a versatile and adaptable bike that will last a lifetime for under $10,000!

Fat chance any of that will happen. Motorcycling, please prove me wrong…