Self-Driving Cars: Rebuttal & Update Coming…

Andy_Self driving Car_update_Tesla

By far our most controversial post last month was our op-ed about self-driving cars. As our staff pulls together an awesome newsletter for next Friday we wanted to post a quick update to reassure the reader that we’re definitely writing a follow-up. We’ve heard from owners and fans alike and invited public comment from all. We’re currently seeking out some owners of self-driving models to interview for a rock solid, balanced article.

So if you have a vehicle that drives itself please send us a picture of it (you with it is even better), and we’ll send you some interview questions. It’s that simple.

Current list of Autonomous Cars: 
Telsa Model S,
BMW 750i,
Infiniti Q50S,
Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

Or if you worked with one of the pioneers of the technology:
Volvo –
Audi TTS – Stanford University & Volkswagen
Lexus RX 450 – Google
Daimler –

We’d also like to hear from semi-autonomous car owners, like the Subaru

We’ve also seen a couple people who didn’t think we went far enough. They’re coming at the issue the way people say we can’t so math anymore because of calculators and we can’t spell because of spell check. Heck Plato complained that writing would so degrade memory that it would damage our ability to learn. I don’t think anyone has really studied this, but it stands to reason that in an era where distracted driving is practically a hobby we might be rewarding the lazy.

At the same time, proponents argue that driving fatigue, especially in stop-and-go freeway traffic is only human and the best of drivers can zone out on a three-our commute home after an eight hour day.

Rest assured we’re working on this update, but we really want your input on this topic. Please contact us here or on our facebook page.

*Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
**Yes I know Tesla is the only really “self-driving” car since the others require you to touch the steering wheel every 3 to 12 seconds. Clearly, that feature is an attempt to comply with legal standards in the 49 states that aren’t Arizona.

Department of License: Stand Up

Greg Z_licence-plates

By Gregory E. Zschomler

Walk into your local Department of Licensing (DOL) and you have low expectations, right? Their reputations precede them. Calloused, heartless, depressed persons of the most disagreeable sort imaginable wait so enthusiastically to ‘help’ you. This is usually an experience of customer service at its worst.

Take a number and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

“Oh, let me rubber stamp that for you. Wait some more please. Pay me money. Wait again.”

Half a day later, you’re still waiting for that second rubber stamp. Generally a great experience, right?

Not long ago, I went to the Oregon State DOL in Astoria, Oregon. The dull, neutral colored building was right. The uncomfort-able plastic seating was right. The flickering fluorescents were right. And there was the number taking machine as expected. I was in the right place, but something was amiss.

Before I’d finished the simple paperwork, my number was up (no, not that way; my number appeared on the reader board) and I was greeted warmly at the counter by a jovial man.

What? What!?

“How can I help you?” he said, “I’m not saying you need any help, mind you. I mean how may I be of assistance today?” He actually had a sense of humor? I handed him the piece of paper: an application for Oregon plates.

“Oh, you’re in for the ‘pay through the nose service.’ Okay, let’s start with a rubber stamp,” he said with a wink and a grin.    “There, now let’s head out to the parking lot and get your VIN.”

We wandered outside together and he stopped, turned back and said, “I thought you said your car was in the parking lot.”

“It’s right there, “I said, pointing to our twenty-year-old Mercury Sable right in front of him.

“Oh!” he said, “you said you lived in Cannon Beach. I was expecting a Prius or Lexus.” (I guess the city’s ritzy, snooty reputation precedes it. Yes, it costs a lot to live at the seaside resort, but very few people are actually snobby. I guess outsiders see it differently.)

Back inside, things went smoothly and in no time we were all set and heading out the door in a happy, amused mood, rather than all grumpy.

I recently moved back to Washington and, once again, had to visit the DOL (you know every state wants to take some money from you). Well, surprise, another good experience, but waaaay different.

This DOL looked more like an antique store. The sitting areas, woven into little nooks and crannies, were pleasant and homey. Soft wingbacks and whimsical benches were tucked in and around an array of plants and kitsch. More than half a dozen cats dozed about the place. There were several exotic birds and a dog, too.

The ladies at the counter were just that: ladies. Polite, eager to help, and Johnny-on-the-spot. No, Zootopia sloths here. I hear that people actually go to this DOL just for fun or to enjoy their lunch.

The question begs: Why can’t all DOL experiences be like these?

Editors Note: If you want to see more fun content please comment below with your preference. We take your feedback very seriously. You can see links to news as it pops up by liking our Facebook Page at the link here.

The Search For a Spring Road Trip Playlist

Andy_Spring RoadTrip car

By Andy Bunch

Do people still create playlists? Seriously. I’ve had my head down, raising my family; bringing home the turkey bacon for so long I didn’t realize nobody buys CDs anymore. I guess everything is streaming now. Well, my daughter’s birthday is coming up and we’re planning a road trip. This may shock the millennials among us but there are still places with road and no radio reception. Before Satellite radio, we used to burn a playlist to CD’s for the trip (ok, I also made a few mix tapes). I started searching for some songs for the trip and couldn’t make up my mind what method to follow. How do you make your road trip soundtracks?

The first method I tried was to search for songs that had anything to do with cars, roads, or travel. It yielded the following list of 41 songs.
What I liked: The variety.
What I didn’t like: There are songs on there that I never cared for.

 

  • Shut up and Drive                                          Rihanna
  • The Distance                                                    Cake
  • Mustang Sally                                                  Wilson Picket
  • Hit the Road Jack                                            Ray Charles
  • Green Onions                                                  Booker T and the MGs
  • King of the Road                                             Roger Miller
  • Jack and Diane                                                John Mellencamp
  • Everyday is a winding Road                        Cheryl Crow
  • The Golden Age                                              Beck
  • Fast Car                                                            Tracy Chapman
  • Fade into You                                                  Mazzi Star
  • I drove all Night                                             Cyndi Lauper
  • Ticket to Ride                                                  The Beatles
  • Running on Empty                                        Jackson Brown
  • The Way                                                          Fastball
  • Life is a highway                                           Tom Cochrane
  • Radar Love                                                     Golden Earring
  • Interstate Love Song                                    Stone Temple Pilots
  • Don’t Stop Believing                                     Journey
  • Born to be Wild                                             Steppenwolf
  • Running Down a Dream                              Tom Petty
  • On the Road Again                                        Willie Nelson
  • Ramblin’ Man                                                Allman Brothers Band
  • Ride like the Wind                                        Christopher Cross
  • I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)                            The Proclaimers
  • Mr. Blue Sky                                                   Electric Light Orchestra
  • Holiday Road                                                 Lindsey Buckingham
  • I’ve Been Everywhere                                 Johnny Cash
  • Going up the country                                  Canned Heat
  • Route 66                                                         Chuck Berry
  • America                                                         Simon and Garfunkel
  • Take it Easy                                                   The Eagles
  • Graceland                                                      Paul Simon
  • Road to Nowhere                                         Talking Heads
  • Truckin                                                          The Grateful Dead
  • Sweet Home Alabama                                Lynyrd Skynyd
  • Keep the Car Running                                Arcade Fire
  • Where the Streets have no Name            U2
  • Here I go again                                            White Snake
  • Little Red Corvette                                      Prince
  • Born to Run                                                  Bruce Springsteen

Andy Spring RoadTrip_woodland

I tried searching youtube and came up with playlists made by truckers.
What I like: Premade playlists full of songs I wasn’t that familiar with.
What I didn’t like: It’s almost all country!

If you’re into country music and can play youtube in your car or RV here’s a link for you.

Next I searched Google for road music. There’s a surprising number of roads in the world built to play songs. The goal is to prevent speeding because drivers find it annoying to hear songs at the wrong speed. On the downside, these roads seem to degrade and eventually play the songs wrong anyway.
What I liked: Very creative idea. The novelty alone would probably prompt me to take a detour.
What I didn’t like: They don’t have any between me and my in-laws.

And if you want the road itself to play you music here’s an option.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLNfN6-eA0g or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3fB4iBAxaU

I tried to do it the modern way. I think this is a link to my Spotify playlist?( https://open.spotify.com/user/224dbayf6naccd4b5qmwajpcq/playlist/3IfePIiQp241mgSzfHV4S6) I don’t really know what I’m doing so…

Andy Spring RoadTrip_road

I finally broke down and did it the hard way. I asked everyone I know for recommendations.
What I liked: Pretty good results. My friends and associates have good taste.
What I didn’t like: It’s a lot of work. I can’t believe I used to have time for stuff like this (ok I actually enjoyed stuff like this.)

Some of these won’t make my final playlist, but I listed all the songs here as a resource to you. I tried to sort them by decade but if I’m wrong, be gracious.

80’s

  • Shout                                    Tears for Fears
  • Song 2                                   Blur
  • Panama                                Van Halen
  • Hot in the City                     Billy Idol
  • Take on Me                          Aha
  • Pour Some Sugar on Me   Def Lepard (Hysteria)
  • Call Me                                 Blondi
  • Faith                                      George Michael
  • Don’t You                              Simple Minds
  • You Spin Me Round            Dead or Alive
  • Tainted Love                        Soft Cell
  • Hip to Be Square                 Huey Lewis
  • Jessie’s Girl                           Rick Springfield
  • Sweet Dreams                     Eurythmics
  • Turn Me Loose                   Loverboy
  • Addicted to Love               Robert Palmer
  • Under Pressure                 Queen
  • Woman in Chains             Tears for Fears (Everybody Wants to Rule the World)
  • Zombie                                The Cranberries

90’s

  • Semi-charmed Life           Third Eye Blind
  • Good                                    Better than Ezra
  • If you could only see        Tonic
  • You Get What you Give   New Radicals
  • Someday                             Sugar Ray
  • All I want                           Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Remedy                              Abandoned Pools
  • Flagpole Sitta                    Harvey Danger
  • My Own Worst Enemy    Lit
  • 3 AM                                   Matchbox 20
  • Name                                  Goo Goo Dolls
  • Everything you Want      Vertical Horizon
  • Wonderwall                      Oasis
  • Jeremy                               Pearl Jam
  • No Excuses                        Alice in Chains
  • Wicked Garden                Stone Temple Pilots
  • Epic                                    Faith No More
  • Enter Sandman               Metalica
  • Outshined                         Sound Garden
  • High and Dry                   Radio head
  • Tomorrow                        Silverchair
  • Possum Kingdom            Toddies

Regardless of what type of method you use to select your Spring Road Trip Playlist, you won’t regret prepping some music before you head out. Let us know if we’ve forgotten anything. You can contact us here or at our Facebook page.

Building a Basic Bug-Out Bag for Your Car

Pam No 1 Bug out Bag

by J. P. Cowan

So, you’d like to build a basic bug-out bag for your car. First, don’t confuse a bug-out bag with an emergency car kit. They both may have a flashlight and duct tape but the latter may also contain flares and kitty litter to help you get back on the road, the main purpose of an emergency car kit.

A bug-out bag is for when you have to leave your car, or live in your car, and will help you survive in relative comfort and safety for up to 72 hours. The contents of this particular bag will do that, but not much more.

For instance, there is no suggestion that you carry wire for snares or fishing hooks and line, because the idea is that there will be enough food for you to make three meals a day for three days.

If you’re interested in having a more robust bag you can use the list below as a starting place. For now, let’s concentrate on a light-weight bag that will help you take on whatever  disaster you might encounter out there on the road, be it a break down in a remote area, or an emergency evacuation after a fire or earthquake.

BASIC CONCEPTS

  • WEIGHT: Don’t pack more than you need. 25 pounds is a good limit to set.
  • Location: Keep your bag in your car. More than one car? Make a bag for each. You’ll want your family members to have access to one. Also, if you rent or borrow a car remember to toss your bag in.
  • ROTATION: You’ll want to rotate some of the contents regularly. Your pack is only as good as what’s in it and if what’s in it is stale water, spoiled food and medication that no longer works you’re not going to be healthy or happy.
  • COST: You shouldn’t wait until you have the money for everything you want. You can start now by using thing you’ve already got. A used backpack from a second hand store will work fine. Garbage bags are great as ponchos or ground cover. A tarp makes a good tent. You get the idea. Start by gathering things you already have around the house, buy the best you can afford of the most important elements, and then add and upgrade as you can.
  • BREAKAGE: According to travel expert Rick Steves, “You should be able to put your pack on the ground and kick it like a football. If you’re worried about breaking something then get it out of there and replace it with something that won’t.”

THE LIST

  • WATER: 1 gallon per day for drinking and cleanliness. Because water is so important to survival a supply of water purification pills or a Lifestraw (a straw that filters water as you draw it through the straw) is also recommended.
  • FOOD & COOKING: Choose a solid fuel, propane or alcohol burning stove that takes up little space. Some weigh as little as 7 oz. Pack dehydrated backpack meals and energy bars which last a long time. At minimum pack a small pot to boil water and a cup to eat or drink from. Add a fork and spoon. Toss in a scrap of leather to use as a potholder and a couple of dishcloths for cleanup. Disinfecting cloths are easy to come by and make good, spill proof substitutes for cleaning solution. They also save using precious water.
  • FIRE: To start a fire you should carry at least three methods: watePam No1 BoB 2rproof matches, a windproof lighter and a firesteel and scraper. This is a modern version of the old flint and steel. For something to burn in your fire you’ll need to cut firewood and kindling so you’ll want a wire saw, small hatchet and/or fixed blade survival knife.
  • CLOTHING: A pair of shoes or boots and socks comfortable for walking is essential. Also pack rain gear such as a poncho or rain jacket, a warm knit cap, and good work gloves.
  • SHELTER/WARMTH: A tent, or tarp and rope to serve as a tent. A sleeping bag and ground cloth. Remember, staying dry is essential to staying warm.
  • FIRST AID: There are plenty of first aid kits available. Buy one and add whatever you think might be useful, such as elastic bandages to wrap a strained ankle, or mole skin to place over blisters.
  • MORE ESSENTIAL GEAR:
    • Duct tape can repair tears in your tent or even your skin.
    • Rope of two types. One, duty rated for climbing and one for hanging your bag in a tree, building a shelter, and many other uses. For this, paracord is great, but even cheap clothesline will work.
    • Pin one or two on your bag. Be a shame to survive a hike only to get run over on the highway. I don’t recommend tape as pin on type can be removed if you need to stay in the shadows.
    • Trash bags of the heavy duty lawn variety can be used as a rain cover for your backpack, to keep your shoes dry, to act as a water carrier, to be blown up and used as a pillow and for many other purposes.
    • Plastic bags serve much the same way, keeping items such as matches and maps dry and contained.
    • Multi-tools save you needed space by providing a small knife, screwdriver, can opener, plant digger, splinter puller, rope slicer or you name it.
    • Two flashlights, preferably one crank operated handheld and one headlamp for hands free operation.
    • Safety whistle with compass. Make sure its loud. Mirror. Both items can draw needed attention from rescue.
    • A three-day supply of prescription meds and a list of health conditions and alerts.
    • Toothbrush and paste to keep you feeling civilized.
    • Handy wipes, TP and feminine hygiene.
    • Your disaster plan. Who do you contact? Friends and family’s phone numbers and addresses. Remember, your cell phone may not work in an emergency so stored numbers may not be accessible.

 

Remember, this is only a basic bug-out bag. You should modify it to fit the regions you live and travel in. You may also be considering packing a gun for personal defense. Remember, weight is a huge issue when hiking any distances so, as survival author John Boch says, “Unless you expect to have to fight your way through Little Mogadishu on your way home, a sidearm and a reload or two will probably suffice for 99.99% of likely contingencies.”

Editors Note: If you are enjoying the content this year, please contact us and let us know. Reach us through the site or at our Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/tirekickers4u/.

Self-Driving Cars: 5 Reasons They’re All Hype

Andy_Self Driving_black-white

Op Ed by editor

Self-driving cars are all over the news today and it’s no wonder, they’re crashing all over the place. Well it would seem like it from the news coverage. Of course the novelty of the technology makes it newsworthy so it’s going to get over reported. While I’ve never seen the statistics of self-driving cars in accidents vs human operated vehicles so it’s hard to say how they actually compare, my question is why are self-driving cars such a “thing” to begin with?

I don’t get the hype. So here’s my reasons they won’t catch on for at least another five years, and then only in certain markets.

1) The Fahrvergnügen Factor (People like driving)

Look it’s fun to drive. Millennials seem less excited about owning a car as a status symbol because it’s not a means of staying connected with social groups…they have cell phones for that. None the less, there’s still a few generations that came before, mine included, that simply like to drive. A couple generations before mine actually went on Sunday drives with kids in the car. For a writer/editor like me it’s the second most creative time I get in the day (2nd to taking a shower). I don’t see us running out of people who love to drive quickly unless there’s some kind of cultural mega shift or legislative mandate.

Andy_Self Driving_car

2) The Control Conundrum (People are control freaks)

There are not a small number of people who don’t like to be passengers if they can help it. Maybe they’ll make an exception to ride in back of a limo, but otherwise they’d rather be behind the wheel and in control. I drive my family 588 miles each way to visit in-laws for holidays and I don’t even use cruise control. I want to feel the road, the feedback on the controls. I don’t like it when I see something coming long before the person driving. Especially if it’s my wife. My wife prefers that I drive, so that helps.

adult-1869397_1920

3) A solution in search of problem

I don’t know anyone who hates driving and if they do its cheaper to take the public transit. Frankly most people buy a vehicle because they find owning their own to be convenient. Those people don’t mind driving themselves. If you’re going to go to the expense of owning your own vehicle, learning how to operate it for yourself isn’t a big burden. To be fair I understand that having a kitchen doesn’t stop you from eating out, but get real, there’s a time/effort/quality difference between cooking my own dinner and what I’d get from a professional. If I drive myself or my car drives me, it takes roughly the same time and effort.

Andy_Self Driving_do-not-enter

4) DWI (Driving While an Idiot)

The elephant in the room is impaired driving. Lot’s of people drive under the influence of some kind of chemical. More drive when tired or distracted. Even otherwise safe drivers can have a bad day. Wouldn’t it be better to let a robot drive you home after you get fired or your wife serves you divorce papers, or April 15th …or lets face it Wednesday? I can’t be the only one angry at the idiots on hump day. Well let’s face it, if you shouldn’t be operating your vehicle there’s already options. Taxi’s, ride share companies, mass transit, and so on exist. If you have enough judgement to recognize that you shouldn’t drive you aren’t without options. Get a hotel room. Call a friend. I maintain that very few people would be more likely to use a robot than a rideshare service even though it’s at their fingertips.

5) The Cost Benefit Analysis

It’s not safe unless everyone does it for all the reasons above. As we see with the BostonGlobe.com article title, “Uber resumes self-driving car program after brief suspension,” or “Tesla ‘autopilot’ car hits Phoenix police motorcycle” by Megan Cassidy of the Arizona Republic, developers are quick to point out that it wasn’t their robots fault. Oh good, as long as the robot didn’t cause the accident I don’t mind the whiplash so much.

I think we’re further away from self-driving cars than the experts like to think. I think programmers underestimate some of the subtleties of simple tasks more often than not. Look at walking androids. They’ve come a long way recently, but it’s taken decades to conquer the simple act of balancing on two feet—something toddlers do pretty well in a few months. Why do you have to get uninsured motorist insurance when by law, everyone must have insurance? Because sometimes people don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Even if your robot car can navigate the map from point A to point B without striking an object or running a red light can it truly avoid being crashed into? Well naturally that’s part of the testing and a goal of every developer, but some accidents are unavoidable. What will the car do when fatal impact is inevitable? More to the point, who’s going to buy it when they find out the robot will let you die if it saves more people in the other car?

6) The Paranoid Reasoning

If I get another email requiring me to select a stronger password because a company got hacked I’ll go out of my gourd. Especially when they’ve convinced me that it’ll be convenient for me to store my credit card information on their “secure” server. There’s no such thing as unhackable. How long after we have self-driving cars before terrorists start uploading viruses to cause 500 car pile ups in a major city? How long after that before law enforcement simply locks the doors shut on your car and remotely drives it to a police station when they want to talk to you? I know it’s paranoid, but it’s a different world than the one I grew up in. Let’s face it, the fact that there’s people more willing to trust technology than a random person tells us that we’ve turned a corner in our ability to accept that the real world comes with an acceptable element of risk.

We’ll I think we’re still at least five years away from achieving the technology and at least that long from it becoming socially desirable. People like me will thump our tubs and proclaim that the amount of personal autonomy we have to sacrifice to gain a tiny margin of safety just isn’t a fair trade. What do you think? Please comment below.

Driving Safety: Spring Weather & Road Conditions

Andy_Spring Hazard_risk

By Andy Bunch

This is the first in a series of articles dedicated to safety on the roads. Most people aren’t very focused on road and weather conditions in the Spring. They think of it more as a winter issue, but the truth is that each new season carries it’s own unique challenges. Spring is no exception.

#1 Distracted Drivers:

I see lots of people in the ditch during winter, but in the last three weeks I’ve seen no less than three cars on their sides. That’s from going too fast and not paying attention. The first few warm days hit and our brain chemistry changes. It’s a factor of nature. Hibernating animals wake, trees and flowers bloom, and layers of clothing come off the pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. A sort of internal distraction rises from within and there’s no shortage of shiny things to catch our eyes as we commute.

Andy_Spring Hazard_jogger

Of course, the mother of all distractions is the time change. Spring forward means your internal clock is going to take a week or even a month or two to adjust. You can’t help but drive tired. You don’t really know when exhaustion is going to hit. Even if you’re careful the other drivers are all jet lagged too.

#2 New Drivers:

A lot of people are born in the spring and graduation looms in the near future. As soon as the bad weather passes, teenagers begin their quest for driving lessons. It’s a rite of passage. Spring is the time when there are more inexperienced drivers on the road than any other time of year. If you are one, take it from me, don’t wreck your parents’ car. It’s not good. According to the CDC, “Crash risk is highest in the first year a teen has their license.”

#3 Seasoned Drivers:Andy_Spring Hazard_duck-and-turtle

There are those seasoned drivers among us who have reached an age where they just don’t need to go anywhere bad enough to venture out in bad weather. When the roads improve they may find that their vehicle sat all winter and needs a checkup. They may also find their own skills a bit rusty. Traffic revisions can be confusing when you didn’t witness any of the construction. Suddenly there’s a new intersection on your road. Or they made your favorite shortcut a one-way road. Beware of drivers going too slow.

#4 Turbulent Transitions:

Frankly, the weather in spring comes and goes. One day it’s sunny and you’re searching your gaAndy_Spring Harazrd_roadrage for long lost sunglasses. Just when you get so sick of squinting you decide to buy a new pair, it rains and you have patches of ice where there is all day shade from a tree. Another challenge brought by the change of season, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is falling trees. Winter rains soften the soil and spring winds push trees over onto power lines and roads. So don’t anticipate that the road you traveled home last night will be exactly the same when you travel out to work this morning.

So what do you do about it?

  • Be aware of yourself. Always make sure you’re in the best shape to drive before getting behind the wheel, because even if your loved ones aren’t with you, the driver next to you might have his/hers along.
  • Be aware of the world around you. This is a healthy practice even when you aren’t driving. Seriously, notice things. Are drivers around you really young, talking on a cell phone, fighting with kids or a passenger? How are the roads? This might seem picky but the reason I mention it is that you can actually get more out of life by taking your blinders off and looking around. Is your spouse rubbing a sore neck? Is your neighbor struggling to get their garbage can back from the curb? Just notice things and be a part of what’s going on.
  • Be aware of your vehicle. I used to joke that when my car made a funny noise I’d turn up the radio, car problem solved. It’s costly to ignore things. This is a leading cause of death and injury in America. Keep your car in good mechanical working order.
  • The CDC provides a parent-teen-agreement that can help clarify your expectations with your teen where driving is concerned. It can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html

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