Family Road Trips by Age

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In this first installment of our 2018 road trip series, let’s tackle the all-important question–destination.

Baby

Oyster.com recommends taking infants to Norway! Sounds crazy? Well, their point is that babies don’t really remember. This is one of the last chances you have to go somewhere you want to go. After this, your child will start factoring in more. If this is your first child it may not seem like it, but in many ways, your life is less impacted by your infant now then it’s going to be when he/she has the ability to go find trouble whenever they aren’t entertained.

rv-2788677_1920So how are you going to road trip to Norway? Well, you won’t, but the point still stands. As does Oysters next recommendation. Take the train. Lot’s of places you explore with lots of sitting and resting while you get to the next location. That’s not quite how the train works in the US, but the point is a good one. This could be a good time to try out an RV. Cruze America offers the chance to take a small RV anywhere and the added flexibility of being able to just stop when you need to could make it a good option.

GoRVing has a ton of resources and destination recommendations.

Toddler

Toddlers need to experience smells, textures and tastes to be entertained, making the beach the perfect option. There’s something about the coast. It slows you down. The rhythmic melody of the waves. The squawking of seagulls overhead. The smell of salt and fish in the air. Everywhere you turn there is something completely new for your toddler to experience.sand-166897_1920

It doesn’t have to be an ocean to have a beach. If you live farther from the coast than you want to be couped up with a two-year-old. Pick a lake or river with a sandy shoreline. Just the feel of sand between their toes is great and sand castles are a chance to create, or better, DESTROY!

Don’t forget your floaties. If the water is too cold or the waves too strong, the hotel will probably have a swimming pool and this is a great chance to learn to swim.

Elementary

Disneyland/World! It’s time for your child to make a life memory and to believe in magic. Life’s realities are going to settle in all too soon and this is your chance to take a stand for the things that can’t be proven, (but that we’re better off believing in any way.)

disneyland-105271_1920.jpgIt’s not only aimed at entertaining kids, it’s safer than many forms of vacation. For all the hype about kids being stolen at these theme parks, the reality is that they are hyper on guard for it. Your kids will also have the stamina to stand in the hot sun now.

Reputable Hotel accommodations are close by. Transportation isn’t too big a hassle with shuttles. And they can rent you things like strollers if you don’t want to lug it back and forth.

If this is a short section its because I don’t really have to really have to sell you on Disneyland. If your daughter is a princess, or your sun is Tarzan all you need to know is the best age to take them.

Middle School

This is the age when adventure really takes point. Opportunities to engage with active learning could make the difference between your child enduring school and your child falling in love with learning.

Camping can make it more affordable to pull off a series of smaller vacations, which could look like a long summer tour or one extended trip each year for four years. Either way it’s worth spending some money on proper equipment to make your experience more enjoyable. mt-rushmore-2437860_1920.jpg

The two factors that make camping a great adventure are 1) the experience of camping itself and 2) the destination you go to.

No matter where you go, camping provides a chance to learn skills like fire building, hiking/orientation, plant identification, animal observation, fishing, and so on. Middle school kids thrive when given challenges so don’t be afraid to include an element of danger or an obstacle to overcome. Of course, at the end of the day temper your efforts with the reality that this is still meant to be a vacation. Don’t exhaust your kids or turn it into a chore.

Destination ideas include…

Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, etc. etc. The list is endless.

High School

It may actually be time to buy that timeshare resort. We’ve all known people who felt burnt by there timeshare, and people who thought it was the best investment they ever did. It is true that vacations, in general, are something you’re either into or you just never quite fit them in.

pool-2128578_1920So now that the kids are only a few years from college why would you plunk down that kind of money? Well, because your vacation needs and your teen’s vacation needs are now a world apart and you want to rack up wins wherever you can. Pick the right location and your kids won’t mind hanging out with mom and dad through their first few years of college even.

Most resort packages include the ability to take friends along, giving your teen the option of a friend. (Try to steer them toward the ones that are a good influence.) This allows you to get your message while your kids are at a kids-only pool. The ability to vacation at a different pace than your teen while still combining for an excursion or meals will ease tensions for both parties.

Well, we hope this has given you some things to think about. It’s never a bad idea to have a game plan for your time off in the next dozen years. Even if you ultimately opt for something different, the goal is to be intentional about your opportunities to connect with your kids. They aren’t young for very long and it goes quickly. Up to 80% of your time with them happens before they turn 18.

If you are wondering where all this vacation money is coming from, consider how much money you can waste overpaying for vehicles, or repairing a lemon. Have your cars inspected before you buy them by a reputable inspection service that works for you like our sponsor Tire Kickers.

 

Cool Car Series: Red ’65 Mustang Coup

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(Note: interview date 7/11/18 at brewed awakening)

Introduction:

In this installment of our series on Cool Cars and their owners, I bring you Rick Randall and his 1965 Mustang. I’m super excited for today’s cool car interview because I think Rick represents a group of classic car enthusiast we don’t run into regularly. I think as you read on, many of our readers will think to themselves, this guy’s a lot like me.

The Interview:

So Rick, how did you happen to acquire this car? My parents were out driving one day and my dad saw it at a car lot. It wasn’t in perfect condition but it was in pretty good shape for a car its age. You could tell that someone had done some work to try to restore it but not so much too much. It still felt original. So my dad bought it and had it transported to his place (in Toppenish, WA.)

So, he just felt like buying you a car?

No. He got it for himself initially. The first car he ever owned was a 65 Mustang and he fell in love with this car. He put seatbelts in it because they didn’t include those in 1965. He also changed out some cracked mirrors and when I visited we put new panels inside the doors. He left so much of it original, like the original matt for under the spare…the actual spare tire is original even.

16633Did your dad have any particular goal in mind like restoring it, or was he just being nostalgic? (Not that there’s anything wrong with wanted to own a car just to look at it.)

He did intend to drive it some. He and my mom entered a Toppenish Days Car Show in 2007, they hold it on the 4th of July…anyway it got a big blue ribbon. It’s just a great car and a lot of people, myself included, really prefer an original design even if it means living without some of the popular hotrod modifications people do. I mean this is a six-cylinder and as far as we can tell that’s probably the exact engine it came with, there are people who’d rip that out and put in a V8 so they can get more of a 280 vibe from it, but I don’t think it needs that. I actually think in a few years the six’s will be the more rare car. BUT I’m not really looking at it for investment—that’s not my driving force.

So how did it become your car?

Dad loves it but his health is his focus right now and he’s not the type to own something that sits around, so he asked if I’d like it. I ran it past my wife and she was as happy as I was. Her first car was a 65 mustang too. So we bought it, I mean we got a nice family discount but I don’t mind paying for something like this.

So your dad did some shows in on the East side of the state, have you guys done any?

Yes, my wife and I were in a parade on 82nd representing the Historic Parkrose Neighborhood, we couldn’t actually enter to win anything since we were there to represent a nonprofit, but it was neat to drive down the middle of the road and wave at folks. Then we also did Battle Ground Days.

Are you going to do more car shows then?

Well, probably not. They’re kind of fun, but then you have to be there all day. I have other things to do most of the time so about 4pm I’m ready to head out and I’m obligated to stay another three hours. It’s just not my thing for that long.

16634Now we do sometimes catch an event at PIR, (Portland International Raceway), it’s sponsored by Beaches Restaurant and they have drag races and booths and other attractions. If you drive a classic car there you get closer parking and discounted tickets. It’s totally worth it.

You but mainly I love owning this car just for the joy of it. I drive it to get gas and whatnot. Make sure the tires stay round and the fluids don’t settle too long. The engine probably needs some extra love, but we just moved and have had other places for our money and time. But I can see it on the horizon (he says with a smile), I’ll be spending some money on the engine pretty soon—it’s a fifty-year-old car.

Speaking of which, is there any culture shocks in driving it compared to your daily driver?

Oh of course. The steering wheel, well there’s no such thing as power anything in those days, so you feel it. But not only that, just going straight down the road you can move the wheel most of an inch either way and not affect your direction. And the breaks. You can feather them some, but pretty much they’re on or off.

Are you going to continue to restore it? I mean beyond getting the engine work to keep it operational?

Probably. I’m definitely keeping it original for the most part but there’s no radio at all. They make a radio that looks age appropriate for the car with manual buttons and dials, etc. but hidden inside it’s blue tooth equipped so you can push music from your phone. We’re planning on that at some point in the near future.

You going to build it a glass garage to keep it safe? ( I ask half joking.)

Nope, the new place has a three-car garage so it’s secure and I’m one of those guys who still put a cloth cover over it in a garage. That’s about as paranoid as I’ll get. I mean it’s pretty easy to scratch your paint job with keys or what not.

Speaking of paint jobs, that’s not its original color. There’s a little metal plaque in the door that tells you things like VIN and exact paint color, etc. Well, it’s supposed to be blue, but someone did a nice job on the paint so we’re leaving it red.

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Conclusion:

Well, that was it for our interview. The thing I found refreshing about this cool car interview is that most of the people I meet at roadster shows are retired. That’s just who has the time and money to indulge this sort of hobby. But there’s also a lot of folks like Rick who appreciate the classic design and find enjoyment in it even if they lack the time to show it off. Nothing wrong with either plan, it’s just harder to find someone like Rick because they’re busy working. So from all of us at the Kicker Blog, thank you, Rick, for letting us interview you and thanks for the pictures of your sweet ride.

 

 

 

 

 

Automobile Jobs – What Might Change?

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Technology is the primary force driving changes in employment within the automotive industry. The increase of technology in cars and manufacturing is both an opportunity and a curse. As driving jobs are clearly threatened by AV’s (self-driving vehicles) new jobs are created like analytic engineers, 3D printing technicians and cybersecurity experts.

It’s a whole new game with cybersecurity since cars are getting ever more open to being hacked without physical contact. Why break to steal a car when you can hack it and tell it to drive to you. Then again, even an unsuccessful hack to a moving vehicle could prove fatal for dozens of people. The process of cybersecurity is needed to stop undesirables getting hold of self-drive cars in a process called “car hacking” where the dashboard and gearbox can be accessed from a distance. As a result, jobs are created for “white-hat” hackers who test the systems.

Engineering analysis is about applying the scientific process of analysis to work out how different forces react to the automobile. This area is also interested in remote systems. Another position that has existed but will now change radically is the drivability expert. This person used to evaluate the design for ergonomics and ease of operation. This position going forward will require experience with UXUI (user experience user interface) so that computer controls are intuitive instead of distracting.

There will also be a rise in jobs concerning electric and hybrid cars. Because they both require the need for better battery technology, this area of research is vital to improving the car driving experience.

cars-35082_1280On the assembly line, automation has been taking over for a long time. Some 800 million jobs could be affected by the change worldwide as robots begin doing the work people do now. It’s actually likely that many of these jobs will transition to part-time instead of being laid off, but it remains to be seen how unions will respond.

It seems whatever happens the Big Three companies; General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler will continue to be the biggest employers in America, also known as the Detroit Three.  Statistics are confused but it seems that 10% of American jobs (that is 14 million) will be at risk if these companies plummeted. Luckily that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.

It seems sometimes that cars must be built in Michigan. Forbes.com points to Fiat Chrysler moving a plant from Mexico back to Michigan. Although the car companies concentrate on Detroit technology is bringing in new players and we shouldn’t be surprised if they’re headquartered in Silicon Valley. Germany is also a big testing area for autonomous cars and engineers there are collaborating with designers in Canada and programmers in India to create the next wave of car for none other than Apple.inc.

It is difficult not to include politics in the discussion since tariffs are all over the news. It’s not just the tariffs on imported cars; the cost of steel has a huge impact on car makers. Although it does mean that fewer cars will be imported from abroad and international companies such as Toyota and Honda will increase the domestic manufacture of cars for the US market.

There has been an increase in the number of dealerships since 2014, which should mean there are more jobs for salesmen and lot porters, etc. (according to Staticia.com). Most gas stations went to self-pay a while ago so those job losses are mostly absorbed. So far it seems that jobs in Highway rest areas seem to be fairly stable and have been for decades; the only threat to these jobs would be high gas prices, higher freeway speeds, and affordable train or airline fares–so little threat there.

Technology is impacting jobs across the board but the simple lesson to draw here is that if you aren’t growing you’re withering. Always keep your skills up to date.

Are EV’s (Electric Vehicles) the Future?

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By Staff

At the Kicker, we’ve given a lot of attention to AV’s (Autonomous Vehicles) and touched upon EV’s (Electronic Vehicles) a little in passing because the two types of car are closely aligned in our minds.

Perhaps its time to dig into EV’s a bit deeper by themselves. Let’s start with a little clarification. In the mind of most consumers EV’s and Hybrids sort of run together, but there’s a difference and it matters.

car-engine-231213_1920.jpgHybrids use a gas engine to assist an electronic engine. This gives a sort of best of both worlds experience. When an electric engine would be adequate, ie the around town stuff, then you have that. On long trips, the gas engine kicks in to top off the batteries. The gas engine also assists when power is needed, not because you can’t get good power from an electric engine but because you don’t really need a big electric engine just for a few occasions when it’s needed and the gas engine is just sitting there.

EV’s don’t carry a way to generate power unless you count regenerative braking systems (which turn forward velocity back into power to slow the car and recapture electricity). EV’s rely on batteries to store power from a source.

EV’s comes with some advantages and some disadvantages. One potential advantage is that electric power can be generated by multiple fuel sources, which in theory allows each area to use the most cost-effective source to power your car. It’s certainly true that most electricity is created locally, unlike oil which is bought as crude, often from nations that don’t align perfectly with US ideology. However, the fact remains that some source of power is required and you can’t really find a generation source that’s truly free of controversy.

Another advantage to EV’s is that without gallons of flammable, even combustible, fuel on board, the risk of fire and explosion is cut way down. Making them safer to operate and cheaper to insure.

electric-car-734573_1920Another controversy is the batteries themselves which are hazardous to dispose of and rely on material that’s mined in places that don’t really align with US ideology.

For whatever reason, consumers haven’t taken to EV’s as enthusiastically as manufacturers and environmentalists had hoped. Laws are coming soon to force the issue, essentially banning new car sales of petroleum powered vehicles. This would include hybrids depending on which version of which countries bill you’re referring to.

This article by DriveTribe identifies potential sources of consumer resistance:

Range Anxiety – EV’s top out at or below 300 miles, which wouldn’t be a big deal if you could charge them as quickly as you can fill up at a gas station.

Investment Anxiety – As with any new technology we’ve yet to see if EV’s are more or less reliable mechanically, but we’re pretty sure they will cost more to fix. We do know how long we can use a cell phone before we need to trade it in or buy a new battery…about a year…and most of us don’t want to get caught up in that racket with something a pricey as a car.

Just Not A Proper Vehicle – Which doesn’t seem quite rational because anything that gets you around is a vehicle. If we stop to think about it, nuclear subs are pretty cool and they don’t run on gas. But as we’ve mentioned many times at the Kicker, there is a certain romance around cars, which is fading, but not as quickly as many folks expected.

Side Note about the fading romance with cars: For much of the car’s existence it represented freedom. Cars expanded our range the way horses let the Tartars build a vast empire. A teenager couldn’t wait to get a vehicle because it uncoupled him/her from their parents. However, clogged freeways, mass transit, online shopping, social media and cheap rideshare companies have eroded our desire to sit many hours a day in a car.

So what would overcome these concerns, and the others too numerous to list here?

Well, not all disadvantages are created equal. One key is going to be infrastructure. We will need enough charging stations to meet our anxiety level and we’ll need them to charge in about the same time frame we can refuel. This isn’t too far away, at least in the U.K. where shell and the National Grid have invested in creating dozens of charge stations capable of fast charging your car in as little as ten minutes. electric-car-2728143_1920

Cost is another huge factor. The reality for most Americans is that we lack the money to invest. Assuming an EV’s low of fuel costs are enough to make them overall cheaper to operate than fuel engines, then you’re exchanging a higher upfront cost in the hopes of making it up over the lifetime you own the vehicle. This may not be a reality until we start seeing more EV’s on the used car market.

The final ingredient that might nudge the American consumer sentiment towards EV’s is to conquer the range issue. A range over 400 miles would be more needed in a place like America than it is in the UK or Europe due simply to the amount to road and sprawl we have and the lack of an alternative transportation in the 400-mile to 800-mile range. Unless you get a smoke’n deal from an airline it’s cheaper and easier to drive your personal vehicle to the in-laws (and the train is just as expensive but the slowest option of all).

One hopes that a market solution is used to push consumers toward EV’s, if in fact, they are cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly. The laws banning new combustion engine sales prior to fixing the issues listed above seems like the kind of laws that work some places and not others.

How New Are The New Years Features?

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Ever notice that every year we get a new model of the same line each automaker made the year before? Well, it’s not a coincidence. When car designers and marketers collaborate to create the new models of car for sale they often start with the features in the last model to see what might be incorporated in a new design.

Why Not Start From Scratch?

While an automaker may decide they have identified a market segment they haven’t yet exploited which requires a whole new model of car, there’s a reason you generally just get a new year’s version of last year’s model. The reason is they’ve sunk a lot of money into establishing that model, creating name/style recognition and reputation, for that model and a certain number of people will buy it simply because they’re looking to replace their old version of that same vehicle.

20180725_111838It’s a big decision to discontinue a model line and it’s not always replaced with a new model in that category. Sometimes it signals a retreat from that category entirely. One example would be when, in 2008, Ford announced that they would no longer continue to produce minivans for sale in the US market. The Aerostar line seemed plagued with reliability issues and sales were lukewarm compared to competitors. Ford needed to start from scratch and that included letting the consumer forget the bad taste in their mouths around the failed minivan.

Then in 2010, Ford returned to the minivan market with their Transit Connect Eurostyle model of delivery van. Given the trend of a family vehicle from Station Wagon to Minivan to SUV, the gamble y Ford to return to minivans seemed a bit crazy. But their strategy included manufacturing the vans as cargo vehicles outside the US and then importing them to be retrofitted as passenger vehicles domestically. This lets them tip their toes back into the minivan market without a full-blown commitment. It also gave them a way to introduce a vehicle that looked so different from it’s predecessor that it didn’t bring the failed Aerostar back to mind. The gamble seems to have paid off.

The Goal is Reinvention:

Selling a car is a strange type of alchemy, as with anything else, it’s impossible to know whether a new style of car or even a new brand will sell. Usually, it’s safer to simply update and add features while staying within the same price point and target market.

car-2220039_1920There’s always something that can be tweaked, for instance, color. Can we upgrade the suspension and add a roof rack and call it a sports package? Silver is currently the most popular color for cars, but that changes decade by decade. It’s quite tricky to know when tastes in car color will change.

However, the most frequent type of big change is to reinvent the existing line. When creating a new car it’s all about the little improvements, can a two-door work as a four-door? Can a gas car work as a diesel, or maybe as a hybrid? The cars may have similarities to what has gone before, but the small differences make the car.

The First Thing to Look at is the Consumers Need:

Consumer need and desires will change over time. What sells now will not be what sells in a decade’s time, or even in five or six years. This is why new models need to be designed. Even bigger shifts occur though when the actual consumer make up changes.

In the 1980’s it was all about bigger audacious cars, perhaps because automakers were still targeting predominately the male, young-urban-professional. Even though women had been entering the workforce in droves the car industry still perceived that men made the car purchase decisions for families. Cars targeted at women were sporty for single women or second vehicles. This has now changed.

Nowadays, with mass transit, we aren’t so interested in people who live in the bigger cities, though we are still interested in those who work for the big companies. Fuel economy is a winning consideration regardless of gender but the primary family vehicle needs to appeal to women regardless of who actually ends up driving it. The second vehicle is often a truck which may still need to have room for four or five passengers.

In other words, the best sellers are going to be gender neutral small, easily parked cars, or big max passenger vehicles cars, but either way with the best gas mileage possible.

It’s Not All About Size:

The biggest changes may be on the inside. The general trend from year to year is making the car easier to operate. To make it interesting let’s go way back to the earliest Ford’s.

When Ford went from the Model “T” to the Model “A” the outside differences were mainly:

  1. The Model T has a straight line across the top of the radiator core; the A has a double curve dipping in the middle that looks somewhat like the top of a valentine heart.
  2. The vertical sides of the T radiator shell are perpendicular and parallel; those of the A slant outwards going down and are not parallel.
  3. The A has a gas cap in the middle of the cowl; the T has a rectangular vent door there.
  4. The A has smoother, rounder front fenders.
  5. The T headlights are painted; the A headlights are shiny metallic.
  6. The A usually has a black horn immediately below the left headlight.

And so one…pretty small stuff really.

ford-164406_1280On the inside, however, the car went from having a pedal for every gear including “reverse” and “reverse slow,” to having a transmission and stick shift. The ease of drive move didn’t reduce the cost to build the car, this was a direct result of the consumer base expanding when the car became easier to operate.

Of course, the 1927 “T” and the 1928 “A” were more alike than the 1928 “A” was to many of the later “Model A’s.” The Model “A” Ford had so many different styles that it wouldn’t be considered now one make of car. Some versions had two doors, some had four doors, some were a sedan (that is, had an obvious trunk area). Because the car had so many different functions (mail car, taxi cab, etc.) it wasn’t practical to make all the cars the same.

My How Things Change:

traffic-3404254_1920Compare those early models to the current successful model is eye-opening. The most popular car in 2018 was the Honda CR-V, which according to carandriver.com, is a compact car which uses some of the features of a hatchback. Described like that, it’s clear Honda’s not trying to break new ground when they could just give the American public what they like at the moment.

Although what is in vogue in car design changes all the time the Honda CR-V went on the market in 1997 so that’s a good deal of staying. It only really caught on in the American market in 2007, whereas people in Japan or the UK have begun looking for a different make of car. A car maker that can ride a successful design from one country to another without making a significant redesign is a company that’s making money hand over fist.

One Trend Above All:

How does the Honda CR-V and the Model A compare to drive? Well both need gas and oil and new tires once in a while. But the Model A has strange arrangements of levers and rods (such as the choke rod), as with all modern cars, with the Honda it’s mirror, signal, maneuver and then put the key in the ignition. So an automaker is never wrong to focus on easier driving in new year models.

Over ninety or so years many things have changed about a car but they are still about getting from point A to point B in relative comfort and quickly. What never changes is the need to new your customer.