Memorial Day at the Kicker

Many things in America have become more about their celebration than their meaning. With Christmas, for example, we’ve heard folks complain about the crass commercialism of it for decades. Likewise many holidays have become simply a four-day weekend. Since Memorial Day is clearly about not forgetting something important, let’s take a shot at remembering what it means.

Originally celebrated May 30 regardless of the day of the week it fell on, Memorial Day is now pegged to the last Monday in May. It’s a day set aside by act of congress to honor Military service men and women who died in active duty.

Controversy

A few decades ago, historians and cultural anthropologist were almost annoyingly accepting of different cultures and different eras. They got very clinical when discussing cannibals or more violent times in the distant past of Easter and Western culture. Now days, we rush to judge those who do things in a manner other than our own. We deem it unenlightened.

This intolerance of other cultures and our own past has made many holidays “problematic.” Is there potential for controversy with Memorial Day? Sure is. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial day was born after Civil War (war between the states if you’re my grandma).

As early as 1860, people had begun to visit the graves of fallen soldiers in the spring to decorate them with flowers and say a pray over them. When the war ended in spring of 1865, it had claimed more American lives than any other conflict in US history, so it seems natural that the tradition took hold on both sides of the conflict. It was the Civil War that caused the first federal cemetery to be built.

Decoration Day

The practice of mourning solders in the spring seems to have sprung up spontaneously around the country in towns and cities of every size. Earliest recorded celebrations were in the south starting as soon as a month after the wars end. One in Charleston, South Carolina, was organized by a group of former slaves. In 1868 General John A. Logan called for a Decoration Day. There are records showing that Northern Cities embraced the practice by 1890.

Warrenton, Virginia, Savannah, Georgia, Jackson Mississippi, Columbus Georgia and Columbus Mississippi all began decorating graves in Spring around the same time in the America South. Of course Gettysburg lays some claim to the practice since Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most moving speeches of all time when he commemorated the graves there.

It was likely World War 1 and 2 that generalized the practice to include all armed services personal who died during war time and not just specific to the civil war.

In 1966, the fedral government declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo had celebrated May 5th consistently since 1866, including the modern practice of closing business for the entire day.

Recent History of Memorial Day

It didn’t become a national Holiday until 1971. Many Americans observe the holiday by visiting cemeteries or memorials, gather as families, or participating in parades.

Side Note: It’s the unofficial beginning of summer.

The official remembrance part of memorial day is at 3 PM in each time zone, often marked with a moment of silence.

Memorial Day is for remembering those fallen in battle (or at least during active war.) There is also Veterans Day on November 11, which honors those who served–living or dead. Then there is the lesser known Armed Services Day which unofficially honors those currently serving in the military.

Most years there are Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery dating back to 1868. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more often a location of ceremony on November 11th Veterans day. There are also ceremonies most years at the Vietnam War Memorial.

Memorial Day and Cars

This site exists to provide useful information to car enthusiasts and commuters, but we’ve been huge supporters of veterans since the beginning.

If we ignore the obvious Memorial Day connection to cars–the massive sales that go on that weekend–we are left with parades. You can ride a horse or march in a procession down a parade route but one of the most stylish, and easy on the feet, ways to participate in a parade is to ride in a convertible car with it’s top down.

Many parades involve floats which are motorized vehicles built onto a frame and motor. Some floats are decorated tractors, trucks or even golf carts. Most are purpose built. Most parade floats are self propelled although some are towed, usually by tractor or horse. Of course the goal of a float is to give the illusion that it’s floating on the surface street like a ship on the sea (hence the name). Therefore the vehicle is entirely covered by some kind of decoration.

Regardless of the base vehicle inside the float it must be heavily modified. For one thing, floats don’t need to go fast and do need to go very slow without stalling for long periods of time. So extra gears boxes are often required to make first gear smooth at 2.5 miles per hour. Extra radiators are added so the engine doesn’t overheat running low and slow for several hours. Finally the tires are filled with foam so they wont’ get a flat during the parade.

Many floats are large enough to require a second driver in a second cockpit to steer around blind corners. Also most floats are two level so a deck must be built by welding together steel tubing.

If there are animatronics, like arms or elevators, then hydraulics are employed to make the motion smoother. That means cylinders and pumps all driven off a second engine. You’ll also need a complex array of valves and a computer to control them. You’ll need gauges, manual controls, and of course monitors to see what the animatronics are doing.

Floats are considered moving sculptures and receive permits to use roadways that are event by event specific. Floats must gather in a location near the beginning and end of the route which takes a lot of logistics. Most parade organizers hire professionals to inspect floats prior to their use to avoid injuring an operator, passenger or observer along the route. Of course almost as bad as injury is a breakdown that causes a delay mid route.

As a rule, parade floats aren’t used more than once, although parts are salvaged and reused in future designs. Often floats are viewed before and after the parade in special display locations, before being towed back to the place they were built so they may be dismantled.

There is a National Memorial Day Parade that takes place along Constitution Ave.

The Worst Disaster in Racing History

June 11, 1955…Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France…

Context

Shown above is the modern track, not the 1955 track.

Le Mans is a famous endurance race that takes place over 24 straight hours. It began in 1923 and is the world’s oldest active endurance racing event. This years event will begin Saturday, June 11th and end Sunday, June 12th.

Most races are fixed distance and the car that arrives first wins. In endurance racing the time is set and the car that drives the longest distance in that time is the winner. The Triple Crown of Motorsports is comprised of the La Mans, the Indie 500, and the Monaco Grand Prix. Unlike the pure speed priority of most races, endurance racing calls on teams to consider both speed and a strategy that avoids mechanical breakdown.

The Background of the 55′ Disaster

Since the Le Mans began in 1923 the track had been shortened a bit and widened a bit, and they’d resurfaced it after WWII. The grandstands and pits had been rebuilt and they’d added a 4 foot wide earthen bank between the track and the stands. That was it. In 1923 the top speed of race cars was 60 MPH. In 1955 it was 170 MPH.

Ferrari, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz had all won before and all brought new cars specially designed for this race. The teams also brought the best drivers of the time, including Pierre Levegh a Frenchman who’d tried to do the Le Mans solo in 52′ but failed in hour 23. Also in the field were Eugenio Castellotti for Ferrari, Mike Hawthorn for Jaguar, and Juan Manuel Fangio for for Mercedes-Benz.

The race began at 4 pm local time with the three favorites building a quick lead while the rest of the teams played more conservatively to preserve their cars. By 5pm Castellotti had dropped back a bit to let team Jag and Merc battle each other for lead–setting new lap records each time around. By lap 35 it was time for the lead cars to take their first pit stop.

The First 3 Things to Go Wrong

If the first problem is that the racers are highly competitive and willing to take risks. This is also what makes racing exciting and is inherent to the nature of the sport. What can be done is making the sport as safe as possible without making it lose its excitement. The only reason to mention it as the first thing to go wrong is that these drivers were particularly keyed up and actively battling for lead.

This matters because one might expect things like driver error late in a 24 hour race when fatigue impairs judgement, but this accident happened early when focus was high–aside from needed to win.

The second issue, as mentioned is that track wasn’t modernized to handle the current speed of racing. The third issue, which is somewhat inseparable from a race like this is advanced technology on cars. Usually tech advantages cause problems like part failure causing a team to lose the race. In this case advanced disc brakes on the Jaguar worked a bit too well.

As Hawthorn rounded the last big corner before the pit he lapped two competitors in rapid succession, Levegh in his Merc and Lance Macklin in his Austin Healey. Macklin moved over to let Hawthorn by putting him directly behind where Hawthorn needed to go to make the pit row.

Problem #4

As Hawthorn jammed in front of Macklin to exit he applied his disk breaks. There wasn’t a designated deceleration lane prior to the pit, in fact their was a bit of a right-hand kink. Hawthorn had to brake hard, Macklin dodged left while braking hard.

Meanwhile Fangio was in process of lapping Levegh. Macklins dodge left connected with Levegh’s front right panel causing both cars to break loose of their tires grip on the road. Levegh, being a veteran of the sport was able to throw his arm up in warning to Fangio, before his car ran up on the back of Macklins car, launching it into the air. Fangio closed his eyes and sailed through the carnage unscathed.

Problem #5

None of the drivers at the time wore seat belts, believing they’d rather be thrown clear of an accident than be burned alive inside should the unthinkable happen. Levegh was thrown clear of the car as it flipped end over end, 260 feet toward and over the crowd. Levegh’s skull was crushed on impact. The car crashed into the stairs for the grandstand and blew apart sending debris out like shrapnel into the stands.

The heavier parts like the engine, radiator, and front suspension continued forward another 330 feet crushing all in the path. The hood spun forward decapitating tightly packed spectators before they could flinch.

Problem #7

What remained of the Levegh’s car landed on the embankment upside down and the gas tank burst into flames. The heat from the fire ignited the composite alloy of the car’s body–which had a high magnesium content. The resulting explosion showered the audience and the track with flaming magnesium which can’t be put out by water. Unfortunately early responders didn’t know that, and the car burned as a fireball for many more hours before it could be put out.

Macklins car, rebounded off the left side wall of the track and veered back across the track and through the pit lane wall, almost scraping down the side of every car and crew that was already in the pit. It did hit a police man, a photographer and two race officials seriously injuring all.

The Fallout

Hawthorn overshot his pit so he stopped his Jag and got out, his crew demanded he get back in for another lap, trying to get him away from the chaos. When he pulled in on the next lap he was devastated and taking responsibility. Although track layout was ultimately blamed for the disaster.

John Michael Hawthorn

American driver John Fitch was suited up and ready to take Levegh’s place when they pitted in, he watched the accident with Levegh’s wife. After half an hour he realized he should call his family to tell them he wasn’t one of 84 dead or 120 injured.

They Kept Racing

Surprisingly they continued the race. Director Charles Faroux didn’t stop the race. He later justified his decision saying that the crowds leaving all at once would only clog up roads needed for emergency vehicles. He also didn’t want to get sued by every major car company involved for breach of contract. Sadly, there was reason to believe that might happen based on similar tragedies.

Team Mercedes-Benz fought to pull out of the race, but it took until midnight to get team owners in Germany to agree to it. At 1:45 AM they quietly pulled their cars into the pit, and packed up. The were running 1st and 3rd.

With the Merc’s out of the race and the Ferrari’s all destroyed of broken, team Jag won by five laps. There was no victory celebration, partly due to rain, but they got a picture of Hawthorn on his car sipping his victory Champaign. That didn’t play well in the French press. Although it should be noted that when several countries suspended Motorsports, including France, the lifted the ban prior to the next running of Le Mans.

Enough countries did’t ban motorsports, (America for one) or lifted the ban later in the year, that the world sportscar championship season could finish and crown Mercedes-Benz ultimate victor. Merc then withdrew from racing until the 80’s. A number of drivers retired as well, some at the end of the season. Macklin after another fatal crash later that year.

Modern Pits in daylight

Hawthorn took a lot of blame from the press, claiming he’d cut in front of Macklin and slammed on his brakes. Team Jag tried to question Levegh and Macklin’s reflexes. It took until 1975 for Road & Track Magazine and Paul Fre’re (second place finisher at the 55 Le Mans) to clear up what had happened. By converting still pics of the carnage into video it was clear that the last minute jog in the track before the straight away lined the drivers up with the stands and gave little room to exit to the pit lane at 120 plus miles per hour. Hawthorn would have had to wait to lap any of the cars well before the pits were visible in order to go slow enough to exit without hard breaking. He knew what his car could do, but not what the other cars could do in response.

As it turns out the government inquiry cleared all the drivers, and the teams, but found that the track design caused the spectator death.

A Sad Footnote

In publishing his autobiography, Challenge Me the Race, Hawthorn took no responsibility for the accident on himself or his equipment, leaving Macklin feeling blamed as the only other principle involved. He sued for libel. The action went unresolved when Macklin died in a non-racing car accident on the Guildford bypass (1959) while overtaking a Merc in his Jag.

The Track, who’s problems had been pointed out by drivers since 1953, was fixed.

What’s News: Indy 500, 2022 is almost here

Here’s a quick reminder that one of the biggie races will take place this Sunday, May 29th. We didn’t forget about our race fans. Here’s a link to the schedule.

Six-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon secured the pole position for Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway out of 33 total cars in the field. Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay will complete the front row.

Helio Castroneves won last year’s event.  but will start in Row 9 this year (with Colton Herta and Scott McLaughlin.) Herta is up and coming, one of the youngest drivers currently on the circuit. The last 5 Indy winners were in their 30s or 40s.

Here’s the full grid

  • Row 1: Scott Dixon (pole), Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay
  • Row 2: Ed Carpenter, Marcus Ericsson, Tony Kanaan
  • Row 3: Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Romain Grosjean
  • Row 4: Takuma Sato, Will Power, Jimmie Johnson
  • Row 5: David Makulas, Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci
  • Row 6: Simon Pagenaud, JR Hildebrand, Conor Daly
  • Row 7: Callum Ilott, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal
  • Row 8: Sage Karam, Marco Andretti, Devlin DeFrancesco
  • Row 9: Colton Herta, Scott McLaughlin, Helio Castroneves
  • Row 10: Kyle Kirkwood, Dalton Kellett, Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Row 11: Christian Lundgaard, Jack Harvey, Stefan Wilson

The last five Indy Winners started in the first three rows–including Takuma Sato who won from the first two rows twice (2017 & 2020). Historically, American teams have won at the Indianapolis Speedway, but recently foreign drivers have dominated.

Formerly known as the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, takes place the last weekend of May. What sets it apart from other races is the open-cockpit formula style cars, which this year will top 233 MHP.

This is the top level of American Championship Car racing, and the event is often billed as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It is also part of the Tripple Crown of Motorsports alongside the Monoco Grand Prix and Le Mans.

The first ever Indy 500 was won by Ray Harroun in 1911. The most successful drivers are A. J. FoytAl Unser Sr.Rick Mears and Hélio Castroneves, each with four wins. Obviously Helio would like to get a fifth win before he retires.

Most unique among the racing traditions here is that the winner is handed a giant bottle of milk in Victory Lane.

Marcus Ericsson

Update:

Congratulations to this years winners:

Winner Marcus Ericsson

Total time: 2:51:00.6432
Chip Ganassi Racing

Runner-up

Pato O’Ward
Total time: 2:51:02.4361
Arrow McLaren SP

Auto Makers: Japan (Part 2A)

When you think about car makers the US, UK, Germany, Italy, & Japan are the big names that come to mind. Of course the actual manufacturing is done all over the world no matter what parent company name goes on the final product or where it is ultimately sold.

It’s also true that a ton of cars are made by manufacturers other than the big 5 listed above. Many are even sold in large markets like the US but some of them are not sold outside there own borders. This series starts with the big auto countries but it won’t stop until we’ve covered every country that makes a car for sale to the public.

We started in Germany last month. Today we continue our dive the big 5 today with The automakers of Japan.

Japanese Car Making: A Brief History

To understand cars in Japan we must examine technology in the Japanese culture. Since the Royal Family of Japan determined culture Japan went through a long period of isolation where innovation was shunned and tradition was prized over all. Of course the rate at which technology changes increases exponentially so a visit from American Commodore Perry in 1853 jarred the Japanese with the realization of just how far behind they’d fallen. The next few decades of rapid modernization were challenging and the unspoken motto of it was, “we must catch up with the Americans.”

Even though we were on opposite sides of WWII the Japanese mindset around technology is inspired by American innovative ideas. Could Japan beat America at their own game. Many believe that it happened in 1970’s. The Clean Air Act (starting in the 60s) created the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which was charged with minimizing pollution from things like factories and engines. A standard to hit by a deadline was set and the price for not meeting that standard was losing the ability to sell your car in the US market.

The standards set by the EPA were so strict US auto makers went back to congress and begged for more time to create an engine that ran that clean. Japanese Automaker Honda was able to produce a car that met the standard by the deadline, and very nearly became the only car available to purchase in the US. Realizing the implication of this, Congress amended their legislation and gave US automakers more time.

Long Established Companies

One thing you will notice about the Japanese auto makers is how old they are. The combination of the long feudal/cast system with the rapid modernization movement forced companies in Japan to learn how to pivot to a new product very successfully. Many Japanese automakers were established long before anyone thought about replacing a horse with an engine.

Another interesting aspect of this is that Japan went from barely any production to large scale exporting of cars. The cause war broke out in Korea. America needed cars but was making tanks etc.  Toyota, Nissan, and Isuzu, became some of the biggest companies in Japan in one day, June 26, 1950. The result is that, while most countries count on domestic sales for a large part of their revenue, Japanese auto sales far exceed what they could ever sell locally. Not that the Japanese population is small, but their society is compact which makes individual car ownership a luxury unlike countries like the US with larger territory to cover.

In 1970, Japan took over the number one position when it comes to exporting cars–a position previously held by Germany. Japan has never come in less than first since. There is a threat to there position at the top. The Japanese Yen has been very strong against the US dollar, which makes their cars more expensive in their chief market, a market that has a strong ability to produce domestically in a pinch.

Toyota

Today, Toyota is regarded as one of the top auto manufacturers in the world, but they started out making weaving looms in 1890. They’re regarded as top in quality and safety, although they had a scandal over their breaking system in 2009 when the shipped out thousands of cars with a known issue in the brakes. In 2014 they were forces to pay out $1.2 billion not for the mistake, but for having covered it up. Still Toyota is the biggest deal in Japanese cars and that’s a big market to be the big fish in.

Lexus

Every manufacturer reaches a stage when they must make a strategic decision in regards to their target market. If they are performing well in their current market position, do they mess around with their current brand trying to get a larger slice of the pie, or do they start a new brand and go after a higher or lower price point. Toyota decided to create a luxury brand, Lexus in 1989, which has sold well in the US. The key was to target buyers of Honda’s Acura which had been outselling Toyota. The L400 did just that.

Suzuki

Founded in 1909 to make looms, Suzuki switched to Vehicles in 1952. Perhaps better known for their motorcycles, Suzuki makes several cars, which they export, ranking tenth overall in the world in 2011. Whether its because they seek to be a bit more diversified than Toyota or because they started out with a focus on small engines, Suzuki also produces ATV’s and outboard marine engines.

Mazda

Founded in 1920, Mazda began producing cars in 1940. There success in the US and around the world is in part due to a close collaboration with Ford. In addition to making cars under their parent brands, Mazda and Ford created the Autozam, the Efini, the Eunos, and the Xedos devisions–which you have no doubt never heard of. We’ll dig more into them in an upcoming post. Mazda may create luxury cars and family cars but what comes to the mind of most car enthusiasts when you say Mazda is “sports car.”

Honda

Founded in 1946, Honda is relatively young for a Japanese company. Like Suzuki, they cut their teeth on motorcycles. In 1969, while the US and Russia were battling for space, Honda made the jump to car making and has skyrocketed into the number 2 spot in the world. Though the battle for number two is pretty hot most years. Honda now makes about 20 models, but Accord, CR-V and SUV are their flagships.

Acura

As Lexus is to Toyota, so it is that Honda birthed Acura to go after luxury sport market without risking their mane brand. This division was born in 1986. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of Acuras are sold outside Japan. It may well be that Japanese who can afford to buy luxury connote foreign with luxury sport so they buy German.

Mitsubishi

Another more recent entry into the Japanese Auto Manufacture pantheon is Mitsubishi. Born in 1970, this company has grown into one of the world’s largest due in part to their collaboration with Daimler-Chrysler in the 2000’s. While Outlander and Lancer are their flagship cars inside the US, internationally their Pajero is one of the most recognized SUV’s.

Nissan

Founded in 1933, Nissan is a much larger car maker than most Americans might think. While they sell well in the us under the name Nissan, they’re part of the Renault-Nissan selling cars primarily in Russia and China. Nissan is known as an innovative manufacturer.

Infiniti

Just like Lexus and Acura, in 1989 Nissan decided to go after a higher market placement with a new brand. Innitially selling well in the US, Infiniti has grown to top sales in 15 countries. Nissan are not inexpensive cars to begin with, it’s hard to imagine they needed a top range offering, but it’s worked well for the company.

Subaru

Founded in 1953, Subaru joins Mazda and Mitsubishi as one of the newer Japanese car makers that wasn’t founded as a division of a previously well established Japanese car maker. Unlike Mazda and Mitsubishi who grew in large part due to strategic partnerships, Subaru has clawed it’s way to a large market share in the US the old fashioned way–by innovation and targeting a narrow niche. Subaru is best known for their boxer engine design, their symmetrical all-wheel drive, their rally cars and their turbo passenger cars. If you want the functionality of a truck, but don’t want to feel like a redneck, you’ll probably buy a Subaru.

Isuzu

Isuzu is the last car we’ll cover in the major Japanese car maker category, and in truth it’s total sales don’t rank it near enough to the top to cover it yet. However, it’s more of a household name in the US than several of those that outsell it internationally. It also deserves mentioning here as it’s unique.

Modern Isuzu was founded as a car company in 1934, well ahead of the 1950 Korean war boon, making it the oldest Japanese car company by two years. But of course the company predates that. They weren’t making looms. The original company, Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Ltd., became interested in producing cars way before they reformed to do so. Their first car wsa built in 1916 and they began producing them commercially in 1922 (a collaboration with Wolseley Motor Ltd. of the UK) They were the first company to use diesel in a commercial car. The re-brand to Isuzu Motors Limited came in 1949.

In Conclusion

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part be part B when we dive into some of the lesser known Japanese car manufacturers.

DIY Detail vs. Paying a Professional

Second to purchasing an entirely different or new car, there is not much that can replace a detailed cleaning to reinvigorate the bond with your car. Above just driving through an automatic carwash and simple vacuum, a detail will have your car looking just about as clean as when it rolled off the assembly line.

But whether to do it yourself is a decision that you will have to make. Both certainly have their pros and cons. Depending on how much time you have and what specifically you are looking for the detail may sway your decision one way or the other.

Here are some areas to consider when deciding whether to do a DIY detail or have it done by a professional service.

Cost

This is likely one of the major areas most people think of when deciding whether or not to get a professional detail. There might be a bit of a sticker shock when you are quoted for a detail by a professional company. This is especially true with either a larger vehicle or a deeper overall cleaning.

However, when you consider the specialized cleaning solutions and tools you would need to buy to achieve similar results, may make the professional detailing more appealing. That said, if you plan on detailing your car often, the initial cost of the supplies and cleaning solutions can be considered an investment.

There is a chance the initial costs could be made up for, but it would take several cleanings.

Winner: Professional (initially)

Time

Along with the high cost of a quality detail, a good one will also take more time. Professional companies often charge a premium for their services as their experienced employees know how to efficiently flow through the interior and exterior of a car, as well as what order things they should clean in.

Even if you are a “seasoned vet” with cleaning your car and know it like the back of your hand, nothing can match the teamwork and experience of a professional detailing crew.

If you enjoy the work and you get a sense of pride looking at the results of your own hard work, you might consider a DIY detail.

Winner: Professional

Convenience

This is very similar to time but belongs almost on its own. The time actually spent on detailing your car might be significantly less than if you did it yourself. However, if you factor in getting to and from the detailing location, as well as any other transportation while the car is being cleaned, the total time might be closer. It is the ability to find an opening in the schedule, as well as coordinate supporting rides that make the convenience of the DIY detail edge out.

Winner: DIY

How Dirty the Car is

There is only so much, even a professional detailing crew can accomplish and clean in a certain amount of time. If your car is incredibly dirty or filled with odds and ends from a recent car trip, it might be worth taking some time to remove all of the straw wrappers, empty water bottles or anything else that might make whoever will do the detailing easier.

Not unlike giving food-covered dishes a quick rinse before adding them to the dishwasher, this initial cleaning will only help in the end.

It is the specific type of dirt and grime you are trying to get up that may move your decision to a professional service, vs. DIY. If it will take just throwing away any refuse that has built up with little grime left over, it might not make sense to pay for someone else to do that.

However, if you are looking to clean up spills or remove built-up pet hair, a professional service can save a lot of money, time, and frustration.

Winner: DIY (for the most part)

What’s News: 100% Drop in Cars Sold in Shanghai

The word is out, Covid has killed the car economy in China, at least temporarily. In Shanghai, no small town, there were no cars sold–Zero! For the month of April. That’s big news.

This story comes to us from several sources but I’ll link to a couple that typify the coverage. Like this one from CNN.

No cars were sold in Shanghai in April as zero-Covid policy hammers activity

“The biggest metropolitan area in China, home to 25 million residents, has been under a strict lockdown for seven weeks. Authorities have ordered people to stay at home and shut down many businesses, as they try to stamp out the city’s worst ever Covid outbreak.Although authorities announced Monday that they will allow “low levels of activity” in some areas, numerous residents told CNN that they had not been allowed to go outside their residential complexes.

The Covid restrictions had a severe impact on the city’s car market — almost all dealers were closed, and no sales were recorded at all, according to a statement from the Shanghai Automobile Sales Trade Association released on Monday.”

The city ranks No. 1 in overall car sales — about 736,700 new vehicles were sold in Shanghai last year, the most among all Chinese cities, according to statistics from the country’s main insurance regulator.It’s also a major manufacturing hub, home to auto producers like Tesla (TSLA) and Volkswagen (VLKAF), as well as major parts suppliers Bosch and ZF Group.

Other resources, Slashdot, Auto.com of IdeaTimes.

5 Fun Road Trip Destinations

Whether solo or with a group or family, road trips are a great way to explore your inner self or bond with others while seeing the sights and attractions that can only be appreciated on the road. If you have just a few days or even a few weeks, there is bound to be a destination that will leave you in awe.

How to pick just one is likely the hardest part. Aside from the preparation and taking time away from obligations at home, the last thing you want to do is to drive for hours or days, only to be disappointed when you arrive.

Here are 5 Fun Road Trip destinations that might just be calling your name.

Fun in the Sun

Second, perhaps only to the infamous “Route 66”, the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH as it’s known, is an iconic drive along the sunny beaches of California. Stretching over 600 miles between San Francisco and San Diego, any segment of the PCH is well worth the drive. A drive along its entire length takes just over 10 hours. However, the variety of sceneries and activities along the way might be worth selecting a shorter segment to match your interests.

Bonus: US Highway 101 (North Section)

If your time allows, continue north from San Francisco on Highway 101 through Oregon and Washington. The ocean will rarely be out of sight and is well worth the extra time.

To See the Greenest Greens

As its name implies, the “Emerald City” of Seattle offers some of the greenest scenery you will see, despite being a larger metropolitan area. It may seem odd to pick a large city as a driving destination. However, most of Seattle, including downtown, is divided into smaller neighborhoods where parking in one location in each, will provide plenty of side excursions, well within walking distance. The recently removed viaduct along the city’s waterfront has been replaced by many walking paths.

Bonus: Victoria, BC (Vancouver Island)

There are few places where being able to drive on another island is as easy as driving onto a large ship. A drive up the Olympic peninsula and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, BC, provides even more diverse scenery with breathtaking seascapes.

Lighthouses and Airplanes

Another coastal adventure, on the opposite side of the US, is a trip along the Outer Banks in North Carolina. On this route, you will start at the famous Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers completed the first flight in a powered aircraft. From there, the relatively shorter route will take you along the scenic coast to Cape Hatteras to the historic lighthouses along the National Seashore. We highly recommended a convertible for this route.

Rolling Mid-America

Especially if taken towards the end of summer, the wildflower blooms along the Blue Ridge Parkway will create a lasting and perhaps unforgettable experience. The route, just under 500 miles, connects the Great Smokey Mountains to the Shenandoah National Park and Valley. Along the way, the rolling terrain that also includes a mix of rugged mountains is sure to have you stop often to just look at the sights. At the top of many of the higher hills and peaks, you might catch the fog filling in the valleys below, giving an almost celestial or floating background to the mountains.

Coast to Coast

Perhaps no other single road in the US can provide an opportunity to see more incredible diverse landscapes and sights, as the longest continuous interstate highway. At just over 3,000 miles, I90 is not a simple weekend road trip. But whether starting in Boston, Massachusetts or its opposite end in Seattle, Washington, completion of this epic trip will provide the gift of seeing almost everything the US has to offer. From the rugged Rocky Mountains to the plains of South Dakota and the coast of the Great Lakes, and ending at the famous Back Bay of Boston, this route could be one of your most memorable adventures. A vehicle such as a camper-van can make the trip all the easier by allowing rest wherever the scenery decides for you.

7 Things Every New Car Owner Needs

Taking a set of keys from a dealer or seller and stepping into a new car is an exciting moment. That first time you start the engine, the bond is set, and the car is now yours. You drive it home and that’s it, right?

It very well could be. But many things would not only make your car more personalized but can be essential in providing a much better driving or riding experience in the years ahead.

Roadside Emergency Kit

The last thing that someone wants to think about when driving away in a new car is dealing with a roadside breakdown. They might be uncommon, but they happen. One of the best ways to help keep some peace of mind and reduce the worry is to be prepared with a roadside assistance kit or a car-specific. Most of these are no larger than a small backpack and, sometimes, can be stored with your spare tire.

Car First Aid Kit

Chances are, you have some sort of first aid kit somewhere in your house or your outdoor equipment. If you don’t, you need to. Just like the roadside kit, this small pouch can be stored out of the way. However, if you ever need any of its contents, it might be the only place it’s available. Plus, keeping one specifically for the car means the inventory of band-aids and supplies won’t be out when you need them since they were used at home.

Jumper Cables

The modern batteries in cars, especially with new cars, are incredibly reliable. Most times, if you are mindful of not using your climate controls and radio with the engine off, you may go years without needing a replacement or jump. However, when you do, having your own set of jumper cables will help switch your search for help from who has cables to just someone who would be willing to help.

Window Tinting

For some, this can be a controversial one. But if your car did not come with any tinting on the windows, it will not take long for the sun to heat the inside of the car when it’s parked or even while driving. This may make the difference between having a cool interior without needing to have the fan on high. Be sure to check local laws on window tinting and be aware that going too dark (even within the legal limit), may make night driving difficult. Why suffer waiting for your car to cool down when you can reduce the heat before it starts. Tinting also reduces the fading on the interior and by reducing the heat issue, it saves on gas.

“Climate” Bag

Depending on where you live, this might involve some modification throughout the year, but consider the general climate you live in, and what sorts of things you at some point wished you had, but forgot to bring with you. Having a bag set aside for just such conditions can make the difference between staying happy and dry, or wet and miserable. This can be as simple as a packable rain poncho and towels for rainy seasons, or sunglasses and a few bottles of water for the summertime.

Car Wash Membership

One of the most often neglected parts of a car is the exterior and specifically, the paint. It is easy to believe the paint and clearcoat add some force field to keep dirt and grime from damaging the body. However, keeping the car clean and waxing it often, will keep the road particles from penetrating through the clear coat and potentially causing issues down the road. A membership to a car wash will likely save you money if you plan to keep your car in its pristine condition. If you go too long, you might need a deeper and more expensive clean, such as a clay bar wash, to get out all of the grit and grime. 

Sunshade

Regardless of the season outside, a sunshade can make a world of difference in keeping the temperature inside your car at a reasonable level when parked. Even in the winter, the sunlight can make the inside of your car stifling and create quite a temperature shock when you step in. Without a sunshade in the summer, you may be at your destination by the time you can cool off the interior to a comfortable level.

RV Parks: The FUN Kind

Part 5

A Bunch

We spent far too much time talking about Trailer Parks (as in manufactured home parks) and not enough time talking about Trailer Parks as in RV CampGrounds and Resorts. So back to the fun. 

Locating Amazing places to vacation on the cheap (comparatively) is made easier by the existence of entire networks and associations of RV sites. Here are a few to consider whether you’re considering a summer vacation or a longer season of nomadic living. 

The US 

Nobody does RVing like the United States with over 13,000 privately owned RV parks and over 1,600 state parks that cater to RVers in the USA. Available for drop in or with reservations, you can easily use these locations to stay for a relaxing breather or as a way to work your way across the country without having to sleep in a new bed every night. 

Membership campground networks like Thousand Trails operate via joining the club. You pay a joining fee and typically annual fees as well. Then you get a timeshare arrangement for you and your RV. The two largest chains of campsites or KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and Jellystone (after the famous yogi bear). The Good Sam Club is the largest association of RVers who maintain a list of independent campgrounds they endorse. Which can be very helpful. 

Each of these outfits has better coverage in some areas than others so it’s quite possible you will need more than one association if you really want to be choosy in how you get where you want to go. 

On that topic, you can find online directories of RV campgrounds and resorts through:

CampRate

MobileRVing.com

Reserve RV

RoverPass

RV Parks & Campgrounds

RVParkReviews

RVThereYet

The Dyrt 

If you intend to go off grid though, you won’t have access to wifi at all times. (Although some of the above operate as aps which may have “offline mode.”) If could be a good idea to seek an old school printed directory (you know the kind that are chronically out of date). 

Woodall’s Campground Magazine is the Gold Standard for RV lifestyle information. Equally as revered is Trailer Life Magazine. Before you become a “full-timer” you’d better spend some time reading up on “the life.” 

European Networks

The  Caravan Club is huge, with over one million users. Use them for mainland locations. 

Called Reisemobil-Stellplatz in German or Aire de Camping-car in French this more recent upstart operates in Germany, France, Norway and the Netherlands. There will be a language barrier for us Americans but google translate can get you quite a ways if you’re willing to take a chance.

In the UK you’ll get better results from Camping and Caravanning Club, a non-profit association of campgrounds with over 100 locations.  Pic Link https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/dist/images/Camping-and-Caravanning-Club-Logo.svg