Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tank 301 - 27 December 2K11 (End of Year Round-Up and 2K12 Preview!)

Yesterday I refueled on my way home, at the Stafford Wawa. I had gone 441.4 miles, and the tank accepted 10.924 gallons of gas, making for a quality mileage of 40.41 mpg. It was my 39th and likely final tank of the year.

The Corolla's gone 16,757.5 miles this year, which turns out to be about 2,000 miles fewer than last year, but about 700 miles more than the year before. So about average. It averaged one tank every 9.51 days, with an average fuel economy of 38.19 miles per gallon for the year.

That's better than the advertised fuel economy of 35 highway, like 9.1% better!

Gasoline apparently was an all-time high cost, at an average of $3.356 per gallon over the course of the year.

I spent $1,475.30 on gas. This works out to $37.83 per tank, or about 8.798 cents per mile (not including maintenance costs like oil changes (I performed three or four this year) or tires (I don't think I bought any tires, but I might have) or wiper blades (I bought some of them) or anything else. I think I had something done in the late summer but have since forgotten, but I have the receipt for it).

Looking forward to 2012, I may need to get a front wheel bearing replaced. I described the sound to the guy at the car shop and he said it sounded like a bearing may be worn irregularly that makes the odd humming noise that goes away when I curve left.

Also, my office is moving to be roughly 12 miles closer to my house. I had 201 commutes home in 2011. When the office moves at the end of September, there will be about 45 commutes from that location. This will reduce my commuting miles by about 1080 miles for those three months, so close to 4,000 over an entire year.

Overall, the Mighty Corolla is doing its job well with few problems.

I'm looking forward to 2012 where I'll not only track my mileage and length of time it takes me to drive home each day, but also my time to drive to work each day and the time I spend riding my bike (using the same rules I use when determining my time driving home), so I can track if I spend more time commuting in my car or riding on my bike. I think it'll be really close and a fun thing to track over the course of the year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of Year Traffic?

Well, I-95 frommy office to my home is pretty much showing up as a red and black stripe for about half of the way. Fortunately, US Route 1 seems to be green and yellow.

From this, I conclude that I-95 is filled with holiday travelers who aren't aware that Route 1 is an acceptable alternative during heavy-traffic conditions.

Also it's raining cats and dogs outside.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tank 300 - 15 December 2K11 (The Best of Tanks, the Worst of Tanks)

I refueled the Mighty Corolla on my way home last Thursday afternoon, stopping at the Wawa in Woodbridge, near my office. I had gone 421.3 miles, and probably could have driven home without any problems, but I was concerned that traffic would bad and I'd be sitting and not moving for a long time, and in those situations I grow painfully stressed out about running out of gas.

So I put in 11.392 gallons of gas, which made for a fuel economy of 36.98 miles per gallon for the tank, which isn't that great, but given my recent streak of stellar mileages, it's okay. Plus, my recent habit of "never getting gas at the same pump twice" has, I think, supported my argument that pumps shut off at different sensitivity levels.

Indeed, last tank the fuel gauge was down 1/4 tank at about 100 miles, and this tank I've gone close to 100 miles so far and the gauge needle is barely moved down a little over 1/8 of a tank. If this trend continues, the current tank will result in a great mileage, which will make this tank seem less horrible, and add to my theory that different pumps shut off at different times.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am a big liar. But not on purpose (most of the time)

I'm going to get more gas for the Mighty Corolla today. And there's 7 more commuting days left in the year. If I drive extra-miserly, it's about 450 miles more, so conceivably I could make it without another tank, but probably I'll need to gas up again on the 28th or 29th.

But it will all work out.

I discovered a major flaw in my goal of riding my bike more than I commute in 2012, and that is that my bike computer stops the timer when I am stopped on my bike. When I am out on my one hour bike ride at work, the timer usually reports back 42 to 51 minutes of riding, because there are a few long stoplights I must wait for.

My commutes home count the entire trip, including traffic and stoplights.

Simple solution, though, is to look at the clock at the beginning and ends of my rides and keep track of time that way, so there's more of a direct apple to apple comparison.

This will make my biking time seem longer in the data collected. But I still anticipate it will be a close race throughout the year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tank 299 - 7 December 2K11 (Hypermilers Do It Granny-Style!)

Refueled on my way home last night at the Sheetz near Central Park (which is neither central nor a park). The Mighty Corolla had gone 444.2 miles and the pump at Sheetz, following the practice of stopping at the second click, dispensed 11.298 gallons. The second click happened much earlier than I had thought it would, but the rule is the rule.

So my mileage was 39.32 miles per gallon for the tank. The average mileage for my last five tanks is currently 40.06 mpg, eclipsing my previous-best (and four-yrar-old) record of 40.03 mpg, set in October 2007.

I went 15 days between tanks this time, a feat unseen since July when apparently I went on vacation.

I enjoyed at least two commutes on this tank where I managed to draft behind (at a safe distance and reasonable speed of about 60 miles per hour) tractor trailers.

It's remarkable to note the difference in sound levels when driving behind a tractor trailer compared to driving behind nobody. The wind is drastically reduced. At least in the Mighty Corolla, the sound level reduces considerably as well.

Looking forward to the rest of the year, it's likely I'll only get one more tank of gas before the end of the month, which will be my 38th tank for the year, to match my current low of 38 tanks set in 2008. However, this will be my most expensive year for gas, as I have spent $1,404.35 on gas for the car so far this year.

2012 ought to see these stats reduce, as my office is scheduled to move closer to my home in September. And I hope to ride my bike to and from work during those last three months, to the extent that I can. And I hope to use more vacation days to reduce my trips to the office even more. Well, just a couple more days than this year, but every trip counts and makes a difference.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tank 298 - 22 November 2K11 (It's Better than a 7-11, it's a 5-12!)

(not my real face)

I wimped out and refueled on my way home from work last Tuesday. I was about 15 miles from home and the tank had already given me 447.2 miles when I arrived at a "5-Twelve Market" in Stafford. The eccentric pump at this eccentric store deposited 11.412 gallons of gas into the Mighty Corolla, making for mileage of 39.19 mpg for this tank.

So now my average fuel economy for the year is a strong 38.13 miles per gallon. It appears the duct tape on the front lower bumper has improved fuel economy to some degree as well.

Looking at the calendar, I am not going to be driving to work for a full five-day week now until 2012. This should help reduce my driving and spread out refills. Probably I'll refuel twice more this year.

I'm looking forward to next year's goal of "more time on the bike than in the car commuting," but have forgotten (well, "forgotten" is a strong word, since I haven't forgotten, just not paid much attention to it because I'm on schedule) about my goal for this year, which was to ride my bike on at least half of the days of the year.

Considering the goal for the year, I have ridden on one of my bikes 196 times. Nine of those times were "double days," meaning I did two trips in one day that counted, so even subtracting those days from the account, I have ridden my bike 187 days of the year so far. So, mission accomplished with a month to spare!

For the year so far, I've ridden almost 3,537 miles. Around October, I thought it would be cool to reach 4,000 miles for the year, but it's looking like the remaining 463 miles may be a tough chore to finish, as Christmastime is here and there will be more competition in my free time, with all the social activities and such that happen around here. Plus there will be at least one 4-day stretch where I won't be able to ride at all. So in the 29 remaining days, if I can ride on half of them (14 or 15 days), each ride would have to be 30 miles.

Unlikely. Achievable, but unlikely.

I am permitted to ride for three hours per week at work, and typically those rides end up being 45 minutes and about 13 miles each time out.

Still, I'll try to reach 4,000 miles, probably won't make it, and that's okay. It's been a fine year with lots of good rides.

And only one flat tire!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Probably No Gas This Week (If You Know What I Mean)

So it's a short holiday week this week and I'll likely not refuel until perhaps 28 November, one week from now. In the meantime, I can only report that commutes have taken a long time and mileage indicators appear to show less than 40 mpg but not abnormally low.

I've been working on three spreadsheets to track my commuting time and bicycling time in 2012. I have them all on a nice Excel spreadsheet with a little pie chart that automatically updates with the hours commuted vs. hours ridden on the bike. I am trying to figure out the best way to save the chart so it can be uploaded here in an easy way. Maybe the blogger has a chart option I can make and add to the side here or something. There's time to research it and figure it out.

Probably it's just me who's interested in seeing if I can log more time on my bike than in my car commuting next year. But I'll have the data here and it'sll be a nice distraction and interesting to me, anyway.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tank 297 - 13 November 2K11 (These 4-Day weeks are Killing Me!)

I refueled the tank of the Mighty Corolla on Sunday afternoon at the nearby Fas Mart, whose gas pumps have no limit as to how slow they can pump. Maybe they just never change the gas filters in the holding tanks or something. Yet I still go there as it's quite convenient.

So I had gone 419.8 miles and added 10.572 gallons, making for a fuel economy number of 39.71 mpg. My wild hopes and aspirations for a three-peat streak of tanks of over 40 miles per gallon was smashed. But that's okay, as this tank still brought up my average for the year to over 38 mpg. It's shaping up to be the highest mileage year ever for the Corolla, and that's not too bad for a car with over 117,000 miles on it, I think.

So I have driven over 15,000 miles so far in 2011. It's a lot, but last year at this time I had driven 16,994 miles, so I have actually cut back! And nect year is looking to be even better as my office will move about ten miles closer to my house, which will save 20 miles a day, or 80-100 miles a week, or 360 miles a month, or over 4,000 miles over the course of a year. Except we're not moving until probably the end of September, so the impact may not be seen until 2013.

Looking forward to my goal of "riding my bike for more time than I commute in my car," I am up to about 183 hours driving home in my car, and about 215 hours riding my bicycle. But this is just for the drive home, not including my commuting time on my way to the office. It's a safe bet that my commuting time to the office is at least half of that 183 hours. It will be a great challenge to spend more time on the bike than commuting in the car. When the office moves in September, the game will be so on, as my home trips ought to be about 30 minutes shorter and my trips to the office should be about 20 minutes shorter.

Alternatively, I could try to take more vacation and/or sick days to reduce the number of times I go to the office, and ride my bike for "a couple/three hours" on those days. Perhaps this will happen. And also, I have tentatively planned a century ride in May with a friend, and if I can ride a second one later in the season, that'll be a large swing of hours towards the bicycle as well.

I'm looking forward to this effort in 2012.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Objects at Rest Tend to Stay at Rest

This morning, I stopped by the ATM to withdraw some cash. There were two machines there, a sidewalk of maybe 8 feet wide and then the parking lot. A car was stopped right at the curb and was running as I arrived. A fat woman stood at one of the ATMs.

I parked in a parking space and turned off my engine. My walk was perhaps 50 feet to the open ATM.

This scenario really got me angry! There's people everywhere who complain about gas prices being too high, but these same people are the ones who leave their engines running for several minutes as they wait for people or, as in this case, go to the ATM. And this woman's fatness just added to my frustration. She probably (well, I hope that she) is aware that her fatness could cause health problems and makes it hard for her to walk around, but she couldn't make the connection that a little walking would be helpful as exercise.

I was so angry at the whole situation I could barely contain myself.

There I was, 6:30 in the morning. It was dark, a pretty much empty parking lot at the strip mall, only one other person in sight, and she got me all worked up in anger about my shallow conclusions about her and her fat lazy lifestyle.

I am so in the wrong here it's probably not funny.

Maybe she has a medical condition that causes her metabolism to operate slowly. Maybe she just had hip replacement and can't walk more than a few steps. Maybe her ill grandmother or child was waiting in the car and needed the engine running to keep the life support or air conditioning or heat running or something.

Instead, I immediately assume that this woman is fat because she has no self-control over her horrible eating habits, and is too lazy to walk ten extra steps to the ATM, and too stupid to realize that an idling car is using the gasoline that she feels is too expensive at $3.299 a gallon!

The older I get, the more bitter and judgmental I become. It's sad and pathetic and shallow of me and I need to fix this about myself and my attitude.

But fat lazy people, really? Don't they realize how fat and lazy they are? Can't they take little steps, literally, to start improving their situations? Do they really enjoy being fat and lazy?

Oh, I am the worst person of the most hypocritical and vile sort for posting this baseless rant against people I don't know. I need to reassess my priorities and goals in life here, and must learn to accept other people as they are and not be so quick to judge harshly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In the Middle of a Tank, but I Got This Great Picture.

Mostly I am excited that a sign like this was up in a public park where I was visiting in-laws last weekend in North Carolina. It was near the ground level, although a dog probably couldn't read such a sign.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tank 296 - 2 November 2K11 (A First!)

Refueled on my way home at my most favourite gas pump at my most favourite Fas Mart!

The low fuel light came on as I was driving home, at 433.7 miles, which is the longest distance ever traveled before the light came on, eclipsing my previous record set in 2008 by two miles!

When I refueled, I had gone 461.3 miles, and I squoze in 11.314 gallons of gas, making for a fuel economy of 40.77 miles per gallon for this tank. This is my 14th tank of over 40 mpg, and the very first time I have achieved mileage over 40 on two consecutive tanks of gas!

This tank has also pulled up my average mileage for the year to 38.05 miles per gallon, an all-time high as well. If I can maintain this level, I'll see an improvement of close to 3% better fuel economy this year over last.

Although the jury is still out concerning the effect from the duct tape over the bottom vents in my bumper, it's looking like the duct tape isn't harming my mileage.

Please enjoy this picture of a hipster squirrel I have included with this post.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bumper Still Duct Taped Looks Like Success, but GPS MapMyRide Fail?

As I drove into work this morning, the fuel needle for the tank was right at the halfway point at 267 miles. This is close to what happened last tank and I got 41 miles per gallon, so either this is clear evidence that the duct tape is working, or that my driving style grannification is nearing completion.

It's supposed to be a nice day, so I brought my bike with me for an one-hour ride before I go home.

Last Saturday morning, it was 41 degrees, rainy and windy for my short ride. I brought the iphone with the "MapMyRide" feature activated. On this day, my bicycle computer reported 11.367 miles, while the "MapMyRide" said 12.01 miles. This appears to be a 5.6% difference in distance measured.

My confusion was increased when I was tripping through the settings of the "app" when I got home. First, I was happy to see (and activate) the "auto-pause" feature, which I suspect pauses the timer when I'm stopped at a traffic light. Second, I was super-excited that there was a "tire size" feature, and I quickly changed the tire size from 7005c. EUREKA! PROBLEM SOLVED!!

Later, I started to ponder things and realized that the iphone isn't connected to my wheels in any way, and that the speed and location information is taken from the GPS satellites, so there's probably no point in putting my tire size into this app. So I remain troubled at the disparity between my bike computer and the iphone "MapMyRide" app.

But on the good side, I was riding up a hill in the rain, and the asphalt was nice and new, and I was pedaling so hard and the slope was so large that I think I felt my rear tire slip under all my power. So I got that fun memory of riding in the bone-chilling rain.

I suppose my next step is to take my bike to a high school track and ride four laps with the computer and iphone on, and see what each says. I don't know if I can continue and stay in my right mond knowing that somewhere there is a truth between this 2-5% discrepancy between my trusty bike computer and new-fangled iphone app.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trust the Bike Computer, or Trust the iPhone App?

I have a crisis of moderate concern and proportions on hand here.

My lovely wife recently got one of those them there iphones. It's really neat, like a little computer and internet machine with a camera that also happens to make cell phone calls. Some friends use their cell phones to track and post athletic endeavors to the internet, including runs, walks, and bike rides. Since I am a coattail rider and follower, last Sunday I "borrowed" my wife's iphone, downloaded the "MapMyRide" app and used it on a ride, along with my bike computer to see how they matched up.

The bike computer finished up at 28.266 miles. The GPS "MapMyRide" said 29.04 miles. This is about a 2.74% difference.


If I trust the GPS, then I'll need to adjust the calibration on my bike computer, which will change my future records in either a positive or negative way (in relation to distance and speed), but when I think about which way it'll be affected I get confused and move on. But if I trust the bike computer, I am basically admitting that I don't trust modern technology.

I like the bike computer better, as it doesn't record time I'm stopped. The "MapMyRide" app kept the timer ticking even when I stopped for a snack. So it registered my average speed as 15.8 miles per hour, while the bike computer showed 16.4, which is faster and thus better. My bike computer also tracks a top speed, which is a nice feature the iphone app did not seem to have.

The iphone had to be carried in my back pocket since I don't have an harness to attach it to the mike anywhere, so it got all damp and humid in the pocket there from the physical expressions of my exertion, and that wasn't pleasant. But the "MapMyRide" did the altimeter thing, and that was cool, too.

I think one day this weekend I'll use the iphone again and go on a large hill near my house to see if that qualifies as a "big climb." the "MapMyRide " won't classify anything as a climb unless it's 500 meters at least, with a grade of some degree that I don't know if I'd recognize it if I saw it.

Please let me know your opinion in the comments about your experiences and what you think of the truthiness of the GPS mileage data vs. the regular bike computer/magnet on the wheel setup. I suppose the GPS/iphone app should be more reliable than my programmed bike computer, and if the GPS is more accurate, I guess eventually I'll reprogram the bike computer to indicate a larger wheel circumference such that it will register a slightly longer distance with each turn of the wheel. I guess take the current circumference of 2091mm and increase it by about 2.74%.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tank 295 - 25 October 2K11 (Third Best Mileage Ever!)

Refueled this morning again at the world-famous Fas Mart near my home. The low fuel light turned on as I drove home yesterday, but then it went out as I got to the bottom of the hill and started going up another hill, and then the light turned on at 431.2 miles, the second highest mileage for that since I started tracking such things.

After putting in 10.580 gallons (and driving a bit more before that to go a total of 436.9 miles on the tank), I was happy to learn that fuel economy for this tank was 41.29 miles per gallon!

So clearly it's because of the duct tape I installed on the lower front bumper. Or the psychological influence of the duct tape that caused me to drive extra-grannylike for this entire tank.

"IRREGARDLESS," I am pleased with this tank's outcome. Now the countdown begins until the next tank, as typically the tank after a great tank like this one is a severe letdown in the mid-30s for mpgs.

So for the year, my average fuel economy is now 37.97 mpg, a whole 0.10 mpg greater than my record set 65,000 miles ago in 2007. I'm averaging one tank every 9.33 days, which is my highest since 2008, the year I carpooled for several months with a coworker-who-must-not-be-named.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Operation: Duct Tape Update (Halfway Through Third Tank)

I realized on my drive home yesterday that my fuel gauge was right at the midpoint of the tank again. As you may recall, the first tank was like 262 miles at this point, but the second tank was barely at 250 miles. So I winced, took a deep breath, and pressed the odometer button to see how far I had gone...

Turns out I had gone 274 miles!

So I was fairly pleased at this development, and then immediately fell into a spiral of self-doubt and sadness, as I don't really know what explains such good fortune here. Is it because of the duct tape over the lower vents of the Corolla's front bumper? Is it because I am driving more like a Granny now than ever? Is it because traffic has been kind to me and I haven't been tricked/trapped into many situations where I needed to speed up and slam on the brakes a lot?

I will know more information about this tank's mileage next week, as I'll probably refuel either Monday evening or Tuesday morning. But at this point, it's looking really good in support of the duct tape, even if it's just in my mind.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bike Crash vs. Car Crash Reactions

A week and a half ago, my wife crashed her bike and was strapped to a stretcher and taken away by an ambulance.

When I shared this story with friends, many responses included "That's why I don't ride a bike. It's too dangerous."

Earlier this morning, I drove past a Marine who crashed his car and was strapped to a stretcher and being loaded onto an ambulance.

When I share stories like this with friends, many responses typically include "Were you late for work?"

It seems that in most cases, people in general talk about the safety of bicyclists in bike crashes, but the inconveniences imposed on other drivers in car crashes. Even though there could be injuries in each situation, it seems that "bicycles are dangerous," but car crashes are just everyday normal occurrences to be tolerated.

Maybe it's because my friends know my wife and felt a more personal connection to the pain she experienced. I'm not sure. Maybe I'm bending my perception of reality based on the amount of bicycling-related articles I read and am starting to think there really is a large percentage of the general population that thinks bike riding on actual roads is super-dangerous and must be avoided.

I think it's appropriate to point out that maybe my friends have seen few bicycle crashes in relation to the number of car crashes, and they've become so de-sensitized to the car crashes that the bicycle crashes seem hideous and dangerous in comparison.

My awesome brother made a brilliant observation about this apparent discrepancy. He said that if people quit driving every time they saw or were in a car crash, the traffic problems would all disappear.

All of life involves some degree of danger. I have crashed on my bike before. My wife has crashed on her bike, too. I get back on and keep riding. I hope she will, too. She's been to the gym as she recovers and waits for her scrapes and bruises to heal up, and has ridden a stationary bike. She said it was pretty good.

I rarely arrive home from a car ride and say "boy, that was lots of fun!" But I say that after about every bike ride. I ride a bike because it's fun.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tank 294 - 14 October 2K11 (Second Full Tank of Operation: Duct Tape)

Mildly unencouraging data to report today, as I refueled this morning at the same pump I had used for the previous two tanks. I had gone 435.8 miles and filled up with 11.367 gallons, making for a fuel economy of 38.34 miles per gallon.

I was hopeful for another tank of over 39 mpg, but alas...

Still, I am riding a streak of pretty good gas mileages. The average of my last five tanks is 38.30 mpg, which is the fifth-highest average for the year (32 tanks, so it's in the top 15.6%).

This tank has raised my average fuel economy for the year up to 37.86 miles per gallon, just 0.01 miles per gallon less than my all-time high average fuel economy that was set in 2007.

It's also looking like this year will see me break the all-time annual gasoline expense. So far I've spent $1,226.36 on gas (average $3.388/gallon). Last year's record cost totalled $1,332.35, and I still have 2.5 months left in the year. Quick estimating in my head of 4 tanks/month @ $35/tank = ~$350, so the predicted total annual gasoline cost of ~$1,575 will totally eclipse my current record.

So I got that going for me!

So, after two tanks of driving with the duct tape over the lower part of my front bumper, my mileage doesn't appear to have improved by any notable amount. But two tanks does not a complete experiment make, so I'll continue. If anything, the deflected air will allow my engine to warm up faster as we enter the cooler months.

Paula Deen is not Photogenic!

The "famous TV chef" came to visit our local Wegmans and this is the photo of Paula Deen that the newspaper chose to publish?

I know it's getting close to Halloween, but this is a little too scary!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Do You Get an Unnecessary Street Sign Taken Down? NOT THIS WAY!

I had the pleasure of working with the local department of transportation over the last couple days concerning a pointless sign I pass every day as I leave my neighborhood. There's a "WEIGHT LIMIT 20 TONS" sign that can only be seen as you leave the neighborhood, but not as you enter the neighborhood.

Seeing on how I've lived on my street for over 15 years and there's never been a problem, I thought the removal of this sign would make sense, as it's clearly unnecessary. Removal of this sign would reduce the visual distractions along the side of the road and allow for easier mowing of the grass growing on the shoulder.

So I wrote this note to two county departments I thought would be helpful and agreeable to my request:

Original Message:
From: Kenny
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:59 AM
To: Angel
Cc: Maria
Subject: Unnecessary, pointless street sign.

Dear sir or madam,

As you travel south on Maple Grove Drive behind Gander Mountain off of Route 3, there is a sign that says NO OUTLET after you pass Glazebrook Drive. If you turn around at the T-intersection at Hazel Court and exit the area, remaining on Maple Grove Drive, there's a sign after Raynold Court that says WEIGHT LIMIT 20 TONS.

I don't understand why this WEIGHT LIMIT 20 TONS sign is there.

There's no indication of a weight limit when you cross over the "bridge" from the other direction. Large moving trucks have helped move families into and out of this neighborhood for years. I don't think there is any danger here.

It seems pointless and unnecessary to have a WEIGHT LIMIT 20 TONS sign placed on the side of the road where you'd only be able to read it after you had crossed over the road section in the first place and were on your way back out.

For this reason, I humbly request that you remove this sign immediately.

Thank you so much,

Angel forwarded my message to Becky in another department. Here's her cover note to Becky:
From: Angel
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 10:37 AM
To: Becky
Subject: FW: Unnecessary, pointless street sign.

This e-mail came to me. Not sure why… Maria works here, so I am sure she is hoping that I will forward to someone who can help. Who would handle this? VDOT? Thanks.

Becky must have sent it to Daniel, who sent it to Peter and cc:'d Angel and me:

From: Daniel

Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 2:32 PM
To: Hedrich, Peter
Cc: kenny; Angel
Subject: RE: Unnecessary, pointless street sign.


Can you look into this issue and determine if another sign is required from the opposite direction or if the existing “WEIGHT LIMIT” sign should be removed. The only information I have on it, is that the bridge has a sufficiency rating of 72, is 19’ in length, and was built in 1977. I think the Virginia ID is 6115 if the info. I have is current.

Reply from Peter the VDOT Traffic Engineer to Daniel (who must be somebody's boss because the responses come from Peter and another engineer later on):

fromXxxx, Peter

toDaniel Xxxx
cc kenny,
"Xxxx, Rodney T."
dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 8:36 AM
subjectMissing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive
We have confirmed with bridge design that this sign should stay in place and we need to replace the sign in the opposite direction that is missing.

Rodney, could you please pass this on to your AHQ to have them reinstall the missing sign southbound for the structure described below? A picture of the missing sign is attached. Looks to be about 150 feet before the speed limit sign.


Peter xxxx, PE, PTOE
Area Traffic Engineer
Virginia Department of Transportation
87 Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22405
540-899-xxxx Desk 804-898-xxxx Cell

This wasn't exactly going where I hoped, because I didn't report any sign as missing, only the existing sign as pointless and unnecessary, so I swiftly replied to drive home my point:

to"xxxx, Peter"
Angel ,
"Xxxxx, Rodney T."
dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 9:07 AM

subjectRe: Missing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive

Mr. Peter,

Thank you for your swift response to my question. However, may be so bold as to kindly request the flat out removal of the current sign?

As it stands, there remains just the one way to enter my neighborhood on Maple Grove Drive. If an alert driver of an extremely heavy truck notices the "NO OUTLET" sign that's currently there, and heeds the warning about the weight limit (because of the sign you think is still necessary), there clearly would never be a time where an overweight truck would be past this bridge and need to come out over this bridge. Thus, there is no clear reason why a weight warning is needed on the way out on Maple Grove Drive.

Even if an overweight vehicle ignored the sign, it would completely destroy the bridge under its weight, so such a heavy vehicle still would never make it to the point where it would need to make a return trip over the bridge, and the current sign remains unnecessary.

Please reconsider your position to keep the pointless sign in place, as there is no reasonable way an overweight vehicle would ever be in the position where it would be driving in this direction. As I said before, and is clearly visible on the maps, Maple Grove Drive is the only way into and out of the neighborhood. If no overweight vehicles can cross over the bridge and get into the neighborhood, clearly no overweight vehicles would ever be actually in the neighborhood to come out, which they would not be able to do since the bridge has a weight limit, which they would have known as they crossed the bridge on the way into the neighborhood.

Thanks again for your attention to this matter.

Peter suddenly gets it and agrees with me and tried to get the pointless sign taken down:
from Peter

ccDaniel xxxx,
"Xxxx, Rodney T.",
"Xxxx, Thomas S., PE"
dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 9:18 AM

subjectRE: Missing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive

You make a good point. I have copied Thomas Xxxx of our bridge group to see if they would like to retain or remove the sign on the exit from Maple Grove since it is a no outlet condition.


Peter Xxxx, PE, PTOE
Response from Thomas the Assistant Bridge Engineer, who clearly has no sense of reality or reasonable sensibilities, and dumps a wet blanket on the whole thing:
from Xxxx, Thomas S., PE 

to"Xxxx, Peter",
ccDaniel Xxxx,
"Xxxx, Rodney T."
dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 11:00 AM
subjectRE: Missing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive

Virginia State Code Section 46.2-1130 requires load posting signs on both ends of the structure where the weight capacity is restricted. This sign layout is also addressed in Mobility Management Division memorandum MM-313 Signing for Weight Restrictions of Structures and in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. As an explanation with regards to signing the exit from a neighborhood with a single point of roadway access, please consider an empty truck coming into the neighborhood, loading up in excess of the posted load, and then exiting without the benefit of the required regulatory sign.

The Fredericksburg District Structure and Bridge Office forwarded a Bridge Signage Form to the Residency Administrator on October 6, 2011 to replace the missing weight limit sign on Str. No. 6115; Rte. 1115 (Maple Grove Drive) over 4 ft stream, Spotsylvania Co. This replacement requires immediate action if it is not already complete.

Virginia State Code Section 33.1-345 and Section 46.2-832 designate the unauthorized, willful damage or removal of a highway sign as a Class I misdemeanor. Please assist in providing for safe roadways by notifying the Spotsylvania County sheriff’s department or Virginia State Police if you observe anyone engaged in this activity.

Thank you for your assistance.

Thomas S. Xxxx, P. E.
Assistant District Structure and Bridge Engineer

Rodney the Sign Orderer's quick response (a mere nine minutes later! Rodney must have nothing better to do than wait for more signs to order!):

fromXxxx, Rodney T. 

to"Xxxx, Thomas S., PE",
"Xxxx, Peter" ,

dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 11:09 AM
subjectRe: Missing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive

Sign has been ordered thru the sign shop and will be installed when the sign is complete.


Rats! My effort to get a pointless and unnecessary sign taken down has resulted in not only the keeping of the current sign, but the ordering of another one to put up on the other side of the road!

Without thinking, I quickly write the following thank you note to all involved:

to"Thomas, PE"
Rodney T
dateThu, Oct 13, 2011 at 11:47 AM
subjectRe: Missing bridge weight restriction sign Spotsy Maple Grove Drive

Mr. Thomas,

Over the last fifteen years there have been dozens and dozens of houses built in this neighborhood without the benefit of the required regulatory sign.

Your explanation with regards to signing is inaccurate, however, as the sign that currently is there in fact only warns trucks that are exiting the neighborhood. An empty truck coming in and loading up with twenty tons of furniture would, and always has had, the benefit of this weight warning on the way out of the neighborhood.

To think that for over fifteen years, this culvert has daily been exposed to the possibility of catastrophic failure from overweight vehicles driving in without the benefit of a required regulatory sign that was never there!

Thank you for your swift attention and action to resolve this matter. I will sleep soundly knowing that my effort has not only uncovered a problem that hasn't existed, but thanks to all involved, taxpayer money will be spent to make sure a sign goes up to keep this from ever happening.

I am confident that the new weight limit sign will work just as well as all the posted speed limit signs to keep drivers well within the confines of the law.

Kind regards,

Kenny McKane
Moral of the story: If you see an unnecessary sign, take it down yourself because probably nobody will notice.
I sure as heck can't do that now, seeing on how Thomas the Assistant Bridge Engineer was kind enough to add the Virginia law that let me know that my removal of the unnecessary and pointless sign would be against the law, and that my effort to get it removed would immediately cause me to become the number one suspect if this or any nearby sign disappears in the future.

Finishing Up Second Tank of the Great Duct Tape Experiment

Driving home yesterday the fuel gauge needle lined up with the "1/4 tank" line. I checked, and had gone 354 miles. On the first duct tape tank, I had gone about 362 miles and was giddy with excitement. Seeing on how I was less than enthusiastic about the half-tank distance, I am not getting my hopes up.

This morning I arrive at the office and the odometer reads 404 miles. The low fuel light hasn't lit up yet, so that's pretty nice. Looking back at the data, my average mileage when the low fuel light waits at least this long to light up is a shade over 39 miles per gallon.

If this holds to be true, I'll have started a streak of two consecutive tanks with mileage over 39 mpg. This has actually happened only twice in the last three years, in April/May of this year when I had three tanks in a row (40.01, 39.38, 39.85), and in July 2009 (39.31, 39.91).

So I will be cautiously satisfied that if history proves to be right, I'll have started a streak of good mileage that normally doesn't happen.

We'll learn more in the upcoming weeks to draw a conclusion that this is just a statistical anomaly or a true, however slight, way to improve fuel economy on a 2005 Corolla CE.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Midway Through Second Tank of the Great Duct Tape Experiment

So this morning I was driving to work and my fuel gauge slowly drifted down through the halfway point mark. And as it was in the middle of the center of the half-a-tank tick mark, I eagerly pressed the little button to see how fai I had gone on this half a tank and saw...

250.4 miles.

So, at the beginning of this endeavour, I noted that a good tank shows 250 miles at the midpoint. My first full tank of this experiment was encouraging and was something like 262 miles at this point, but here we are in the middle of the second tank and it's merely what I expect to get at the middle of a good tank.

And here I am. Am I discouraged? Not in the least, as every tank of gas is different. This tank spent 4 days at home, running periodic short trips in town, which is not the best way to improve mileage.

So I declare the jury is still out, and will wait for five full duct-taped tanks before arriving at a tentative conclusion as to whether or not this is a smart or dumb thing to do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tank 293 - 4 October 2K11 (First Full Tank of Operation: Duct Tape)

Yesterday morning I refueled at my favourite gas station, at my favourite gas pump, in an effort to keep as many variables the same as I can during my "experiment." I put the word "experiment" in quotations because probably I'll forget the duct tape is there and it'll just stay there until it falls off by itself. So in that sense, it's not really an "experiment" but more of a "modification."

"Irregardless," My optimism for insanely high gas mileage for this tank was tempered somewhat when the pump pumped in 10.945 gallons of gas after I had gone 433.1 miles. My mileage was 39.57 mpg. This is better than most other tanks this year, but I hit 40 mpg just last month, although I was rightly concerned that it was due to a pump that shut off too soon, as the next tank was merely 35 mpg.

I had forgotten about the odd pump irregularities surrounding that tank last month, and the other time I hit 40 mpg this year, the tank just before it showed unusually low mileage of 35 as well. So if my next few tanks are consistently in the high 30s like this one, hopefully 39 or more, it should support my idea that plugging these holes improves aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

So, my mileage for the tank was pretty good. I think it was very good, in fact, because one day I did drive home with much enthusiasm in my right foot, with swift starts and pointless passes of slower cars on twisty back roads. I'll focus on driving more normally for the remainder of this tank to see if the mileage remains close to what I just achieved.

Turns out my daughter needs to do a science fair project, and she was listening to me as I described what I am doing. She asked if she could use my data for her science project! On one hand, I am excited that a whole science project will revolve around my detailed recordkeeping and mileage data, but on the other hand I'm sad that my daughter clearly is taking the easy way out because with this project a whole bunch of historical data has already been collected.

On the bike front, I rode a century ride last weekend with my friend John. Bike time was a little over 7 hours. If I can do two of those next year, that will help tremendously with my goal of riding on my bike for more time than driving in a car.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Update on the Corolla Duct Tape Experiment!

I am about halfway through the first tank of gas in the "cover the holes in the bumper with duct tape to see if it improves mileage" experiment.

So far, there are indications that there is indeed some improvement to my fuel economy.

Normally, when the fuel gauge gets down to the halfway mark, is I have gone 250 miles, it's probably going to be a pretty good mileage number when I get to the refueling point.

Yesterday, the fuel gauge got to the midpoint, and when I checked I had driven 262 miles, about 4.8% farther! Of course, there are all sorts of variables at work here: was the needle really in the middle of the tank? Was it moments before adjusting down again? Was it because I drafted behind a tractor trailer on my way home two days ago?

Clearly, the experiment must go on for more than one tank. I have behaved somewhat erratically so far on this first experimental tank of gas, as truly I did draft behind a tractor trailer going home on Wednesday- but I was going much faster than I would have ordinarily driven (~70-75 miles per hour) in order to maintain the draft. And yesterday on my way home, I did several jackrabbit starts to try to beat other cars to the next intersection (hey, I felt that I was in a hurry and thus more important than everyone else!).

So, overall, my driving habits so far for this tank aren't really representative of my overall driving style. Well, that may be a lie. I frequently have one or two spasms each tank where I floor it for no good reason.

But the experiment will proceed. I am curious to discover if this "4.8%" increased distance on half a tank will equate to a "4.8%" increase in overall fuel economy. I don't think there's a correlation that strong, but if there is, my mileage may be pushing 40 mpg on a regular basis, rather than the normal 37.5-38 mpg.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tank 292 - 27 September 2K11 (Operation: Duct Tape - Commence!)

As I tried refueling this morning at the Fas Mart near my home (where the only thing slower than the pumps is the cash register clerk), I initially thought my identity had been stolen.

Over the weekend, my gmail account informed me that several dozen messages failed. Turned out, some spammer hijacked my gmail account and sent messages to all my gmail contacts, 10 or 20 at a time, telling them about some amazing something they needed to click on or something. Happily, Google figured out it was spam before it went through the internets, so I think none of my friends actually got the spam.

Why does this matter? Here's why:

So the gas pump asks for the 5-digit ZIP code associated with my credit card's billing address. After you push the 5 digits, you press "enter," which is a step that I'd expect wouldn't be necessary, as the machine ought to know when the 5th button's pressed that that's the ZIP code.

So I swipe my card and enter what I thought was my ZIP code and hit enter. A few seconds later, the gas pump tells me to go see the attendant.

"Oh, crap," I think to myself, "not only did my gmail get hijacked, now it's my credit card."

Then I realized that I may not have put in my ZIP code, but perhaps it was my PIN number, which is just 4 digits, and that caused the gas pump mega-confusion. So I canceled the transaction and started again and it all worked out and I pumped in 10.752 gallons after going 412.8 miles. So my mileage was 38.39 miles per gallon.

More importantly, over the weekend I duct-taped over the lower vents on the lower part of my bumper in my fuel economizing improvement effort. I used red duct tape, because my car's red, but the duct tape was "just a couple shades lighter" than the bumper. It looks bad. So I acquired some black duct tape to go over the red. This ought to look better, since the mighty Corolla's just the "CE" version ("CE" stands for "Cheap Edition"), and the area where fog lights would be is filled with black plastic inserts and there are black mouldings along the sides of the doors and the side view mirrors are also black plastic.

So shortly I'll cover it all up with black duct tape. Meanwhile, this will be the first tank where I may be able to see the affects from duct taping these vents.

Will there be an improvement in my gas mileage due to any increased aerodynamic advantage? Time will tell.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Goal for 2012!

One of my "goals for 2011," if you're of the sort to make and track goals, was to ride my bike on at least half of the days this year. This has turned out to be an easily attainable goal, thanks to my employer's awesome "healthy wellness program" that permits me to exercise for three hours a week, in one hour increments. Between that, every other Friday off work (again, than you kind employer), holidays, and weekends, it's been normal to get at least four rides in per week, sometimes more.

If I just match the pace I set last October, November, and December, I'll meet my goal of "riding the bike half the time in 2011."

So for 2012, I think I'll make it more of a challenge.

My goal in 2012 will be to spend more time riding my bike than I spend riding in a car!

As I maintain my fuel economy numbers, I also keep track of how long it takes me to get home from work each day. At first, I kept track to see if there was any pattern to explain why some days took 40 minutes and other days took 120 minutes (there is a kind of pattern that supports the theory that Thursdays and Fridays take longer, but it's also kind of common knowledge). So I have pretty good data for the length of my trips home.

If you took my drive home times for the year and divided it all out and included weekends, I spend about 0.55 hours a day driving home. Yes, it's not really an accurate answer, because I don't drive home from work on Saturdays and Sundays (because I don't go to work on those days), but for the sake of "can I ride on my bike as much as I drive in my car" purposes, it works out.

So right off the top it looks like I'll need to ride my bike for an average of 35 minutes a day.
But wait! This doesn't take into account my commute times on my way to work, which tend to be steady at about 40 minutes each morning, which rounds out to roughly 26 more minutes per day, since I get every other Friday off. So that's about an hour a day I'd need to spend on my bike, or 7 hours a week.

But wait! There's even more!

It's looking like my office will be moving from its current location near Potomac Mills to a building that's about 10 miles closer to my home, but a little more "surface streets" overall. This ought to shave about 10 minutes off my morning commute, and 20-30 minutes off my evening commute. And this would make my effort a little easier.

Just for grins, I rode my bike close to 22 hours in August, and went to work on 21 of those days. So on the surface, my goal looks easy if I can keep up my current efforts. But wait! There's MORE!

In order to do it right, I'll need to track my time in other cars, too, as on weekends we usually drive places as a family in the minivan, and there's a couple/three big trips that normally happen as vacations road trips, too. So that time needs to be considered as well.

So with these factors and sensible rules set in place, and the predicted but not certain move of my office to a closer location, I think this goal for 2012 to spend more time on my bike than I spend in my (or any) car is an achievable challenge.

I'm going to need to invest in a stopwatch of some sort to do this right.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Delta Touch Faucet Is Still Terrible!

So this morning I woke up as I usually do, drank my tall insulated travel mug of coffee, ate my bowl full of Apple Jacks with milk, and tool the dishes to the kitchen sink for a quick rinse.


So I left it all in the bottom of the sink. Hopefully the cereal bowl's film of Apple Jack-sweetened milk won't attract too many flying insects.

I think we're out of "C" batteries, too.

Please, people, don't buy this sort of faucet. It's just horrible!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tank 291 - 19 September 2K11 (I get better mileage on my bike!)

As feared, the mighty Corolla thirsted for gas early this time. As I refueled in the pre-dawn splendor of the Fas Mart near my house (slogan: "our pumps are so slow, we can't put enough ads everywhere to entertain you!"), the car had gone only 406.1 miles. Coincidentally, two tanks ago I also went 406.1 miles.

Unlike two tanks ago, I put in lots more gas. Well, only about 0.3 more gallons, but the 11.552 gallons confirmed to me that the Sheetz from last time did indeed shut off too soon, and it made this tank's fuel economy look as bad as last tank's looked good. 35.15 miles per gallon. Just pitiful. Worst mileage since August 2010!

To make things worse, I forgot that I needed to get gas this morning so I didn't leave extra early, so in my haste to get to work I went almost over the speed limit! Fortunately, I drafted behind a giant tractor trailer hauling what appeared to be two large dumpsters. Unfortunately, it became evident that the dumpsters were filled with dirty diapers and rotten eggs.

I changed the oil in the car last week, and as I was lying underneath the car watching the oil drip into the collection pan, I remembered hearing that there's a new car(s) out there that has louvers that shut when the car goes at highway speeds, in order to better manage airflow and increase mileage. Then I remembered some hacker website where a guy put duct tape over his grille and such to simulate this effect, and it improved mileage.

There's an area at the bottom of the bumper, below the grille, that just looks like it's holes for air to blow through, it's below the radiator. So I'm thinking about finding some duct tape myself and covering these holes to see if mileage improves at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tank 290 - 8 September 2K11 (Late Report and Depressing News)

So last week I refueled at a different gas station, a Sheetz in "Central Park" (which is neither central nor a park). At least I think it was the Sheetz there. Probably it was. Anyway, I immediately knew there would be trouble because I had driven 441.9 miles on this tank and the pump first shut off at only 10.8 gallons. I waited about 5 seconds and then continued on pumping the pump until the second click, which is my standard measure of filling the tank, but it clicked off again at 11.036 gallons.

Crap. Another confirmation that gas pumps have different limits of automatically shutting off.

So it made for an impressive-looking mileage of 40.04 mpg for this tank. But I'm not enthusiastic here because I'm halfway through this next tank and the fuel indicator is much lower than it tends to be at this many miles.

I normally can go about 250 miles before the needle is right at the middle of the "full-empty" arc. The needle was in the middle yesterday, and I had only gone about 220 miles.

If I refuel at probably any other gas station than this Sheetz I just went to, I'm going to put in more gas than I probably actually used, so my mileage will look pitiful for this tank.

Please enjoy this fun picture that's not relevant to the despair I am currently feeling about this situation.

Some other housekeeping news, my car's odometer read 114,549 at this fill-up, and the total of all my tanks was 114,489.7, a difference of 59.3 miles. Last time I checked in on this, the difference was 58.3 miles. But the time before was 58.6, so there's no clear pattern emerging.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No updates for a couple days!

Sorry folks, I'm in training this week and won't get back to normal activities and mileage updates until at least Wednesday.

Management sends its deepest regrets...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blatant, Shameless Commercialism and Flagrant Promotion! (Plus, the short story of a flat tire)

Today I found the happy website today, and think there's lots of nice things there. I don't know what shipping costs are, but many of the stickers and T-shirts are happy and positive.

I nicked the above image from one of their sticker designs. Isn't it nice?

On a different note, I was out on my bike on Monday morning and my rear tire went flat in the most spectacular fashion. We were riding on a lightly-traveled road that's frequented by walkers, joggers, and other cyclists, and suddenly POP! A sound like one loud firecracker shattered the peaceful morning.

I looked around and declared "it wasn't me? What was that?" And the walkers nearby were also startled by the noise. As I began slowing down, it became apparent that my rear tire was quickly deflating.

It was a happy time! I had been carrying my supplies of a patch kit, multi-tool and frame-mounted minipump for weeks waiting for this to happen, and here I was with it happening! I could barely contain my excitement as I pulled off the road and announced to my wife that I had all the things needed to fix the tire!

Well, not only was the tube popped, there was a small hole ripped through the tire tread, about an inch long. Seems the tire, after going about 1,100 miles, was worn out to the inner casing, I guess, as many sections of the tire looked almost as bad as the new hole.

So I pulled out one of the emergency dollar bills form my shoe, to use the bill as a boot, and patched the hole and pumped it back up and was back on my way.

But I think in my enthusiasm of the moment, I didn't wait long enough for the patch to fully stick on the tube, or I didn't fully roughen up the tube for the peel-and-stick patch, because about a mile from home the tire deflated again. I pumped it up but only got about 200 yards before it went flat again. So my lovely wife rode her bike home and picked me up.

But other than that anticlimactic ending, the whole fix-a-flat experience went about as smoothly as could be expected!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tank 289 - 31 August 2K11 (Post Earthquake Tank 1)

So it turns out (surprise!) that my little episode of driving home the day of the earthquake as fast as I could last Tuesday, it was not the greatest thing for my fuel economy.
This morning I refueled yet again, against my better judgement, at the Fas Mart near my home. I enjoy spreading the fantastic rumor that this particular gas station is "home of the world's slowest gas pumps," but today the pump I was at seemed al most normal. Perhaps it was because I was the only one pumping gas at the time.
So I put in 11.269 gallons and only drove 406.1 miles, so my mileage for the tank was a crummy 36.04 miles per gallon, worst mileage since last April!
Doing some quick (and probably wrong) math, my hot-rodding earthquake trip home at unreasonable speeds accounted for about 8.3% of the total miles of this tank. This tank's fuel economy was about 4.5% lower than the average of my last 5 tanks of gas. So, extrapolating from these factual datas, if I continually drove the Corolla like a rabid bat out of the fiery pit of Hades itself, I can expect to achieve barely 25 miles per gallon. Or something like that.
So as of this tank, I am resuming my pattern of taking the slow lane and driving like your grandma to get great mileage. I kind of rather prefer the grandma style of driving, as it becomes clear that if you're one of the slower cars in the slow lane, there's rarely a slower car ahead of you so you can maintain your speed and not worry too much about switching lanes to find the fastest lane of traffic.
If I am in your way, excuse me! I am in the slow lane, what do you expect to find in the slow lane? If you were patient and curious, you might find that the slow lane typically keeps moving when the fast lanes speed up and slow down, accordion-style, as all the "I'm more important than you and will cut you off to get ahead of you" people cause followers to brake and accelerate randomly.
My putt-putting around at a consistent speed is helping my lane to flow more smoothly. Of this fact I am confident. If we all work together and consider traffic flow as a whole, we all can get there faster. Sadly, the few careless selfish boobs who bob and weave through traffic to get to their destinations 30 seconds faster are adding time to the rest of the drivers who try to follow the rules.
But this type of traffic theory is a difficult lesson to learn, and people don't want to listen to it. So the majority continues to suffer at the hands of a relative few ignorant fools.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquake Stories - Part II

Probably one of the great stories to come out of the recent plague of earthquakes in Virginia came from my 75-year-old neighbor, Mrs. Yammers.

Mrs. Yammers told me her earthquake experience like this:

"I just left the house at about 1:50 to go to my doctor's appointment. When I was stopped at the red light on Route 3 by the Denny's, my car started wiggling. I thought it was something wrong with the car, so I revved the engine, and the car just started bumping up and down more.

"When the light turned green, the car stopped jumping and just drove like normal. I thought 'that was weird, I better get that checked out,' and went on to the doctor's office.

"When I got there, the office ladies were leaving and locking the doors! I got out and asked them what was going on, because I had an appointment, and they looked at me and said 'Mrs. Yammers, we had an earthquake! We've canceled all out appointments for the rest of the day and going home to check on everything!'

"And that's when I realized that it wasn't car trouble at the stoplight back then, it was an earthquake!

"But now I need to reschedule my doctor's appointment, but it's not a big deal because it was just a routine visit to my urologist!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Report, Part 1

Yesterday I got home in less than 40 minutes!

Thankfully, one of our main bosses quickly concluded that the rest of the day was pretty much done, as everyone was busy reveling in this new shared earthquake experience and/or contacting friends and/or family to check in and compare notes.

So when the word came out that we could go home, I bolted! The kids were home by themselves and I didn't know if their mother would be coming home early, too, so I felt it was my best interest to get home as quickly as possible to help encourage calm amongst the kids. And if other organizations came to the same conclusion as my boss, it was likely that the entire afternoon rush hour would be unleashed at the same time.

(Turned out that public transportation fared worst, as overcrowded buses got stuck with the rest of the commuters, and trains were rolling along very slowly all afternoon as every inch of rail had to be investigated before being declared safe)

As I got on the interstate, traffic was not overwhelming, and I thought to myself that today, with the earthquake just happening and people all confused and concerned, any traffic enforcement police officers would probably be called away from their speed traps to help the general population.

It was my chance to open it up and go for a record! At some points on my way home, the speed limit was eclipsed by substantial amounts. A fantastically smooth ride home. Fastest trip home since February of this year, and in my top five quickest trips home ever.

(My actual fastest trip home was 35 minutes, and that happened one winter day when a blizzard was going on and nobody went to work except for me and a few other hearty souls, and by the afternoon, the sun was out and the roads were clear and empty.)

I arrived to a still-standing home. The worst damage was not the attached picture (indeed, this picture was stolen from a friend who stole it from someone else), but my small collection of empty Pringles cans in the basement tool room that had fallen over and landed on the floor.

It was neat that so many people felt the earthquake, yet so little relative damage was done and as far as I know, nobody was killed or died as a result.

Watching the news, I was happy to see the reporters showing piles of stopped cars and standing pedestrians, while bicyclists fluidly weaved through it all and were able to maneuver themselves swiftly, efficiently, and silently. But they cyclists must have been invisible to the reporters, as not a single one noted how the cyclists were able to move almost freely through the field of vehicles and bikeless people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tank 288 - 23 August 2K11 - Whatever Happened to Windshield Wiper Refills?

This morning, I managed to avoid the Fas Mart near my home and instead refueled at what apparently is the world's second slowest gas pump at a Wawa on the other side of the Interstate. I chose this Wawa because 1) it wasn't the Fas Mart, and 2) going there would only cost me time at one stoplight and not 2, as the other Wawa (less than 1/2 mile away from this one) would have done, seeing on how it was on the other side of the road.

So this tank I only went 405.3 miles, with 10.687 gallons of gas, made for a mileage number of 37.92 miles per gallon. Not too shabby, and it brought my average for the year up to37.85 miles per gallon, a mere 0.02 miles per gallon lower than my highest annual mpg average that was achieved in 2007.

Of more concern for me today is that yesterday I went to the auto parts store and bought one low-beam headlight, or "lamp" as they say, probably because they can charge more for "lamps" instead of "light bulbs." While I was there, I remembered that my windshield wipers were showing signs of age, leaving more streaks than clear areas on the windshield.

So I walk over to the windshield wiper section and, as usual, am overwhelmed at the variety and types of wipers. And costs! There was a brand of windshield wiper there that was $49.99 for a single wiper blade arm! Needless to say, I concluded that safety is not my top priority and I quickly concluded that the $10 option was more thanm suitable for my needs.

As I was driving home, I remembered my purchase experience and didn't recall seeing just wiper refills on display, only the wipers with the whole metal arm apparatus attached. Seems like such a waste to replace the whole lever part when just the rupper wiper part is worn out.

When I was younger, I remember being able to buy just the rubber blade parts and slide them into the existing arm frames. But yesterday's trip to the auto parts store, I don't remember seeing just the rubber wiper blades. So I wonder now if this is some sort of scheme that the manufacturers thought up to get a little more profits from the gullible consumers such as myself? Are the plain old rubber blades kept in the magic world behind the counter, where only the chosen can tread?

Also a sad revelation from yesterday's trip to the car parts store is that I apparently have decided that my car is now too old to care about. I only replaced one windshield wiper, and one headlight lamp bulb. Screw symmetry. I hardly look over to the passenger side of the windshield anyway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tank 287 - 15 August 2K11 (Convenience Trumped Price, But I Got Free Air Anyway)

Yesterday I refueled at the home of the world's slowest gas pumps near my home. Again. For the third time. Back-to-back-to-back. Consecutively. In a row.

This time, I had driven that Corolla 450.8 miles, and put in 11.706 gallons of 10% Ethanol-enhanced unleaded gasoline product, making for a fuel economy of 38.51 miles per gallon for this tank. That was nice, because I made extra special care to drive dainty-like and not mash down on the gas pedal. Indeed, I only hammered it down just the one time on this tank.

The gas at this station was nine cents more per gallon than at the Wawa I was planning on refueling at. The plan was to go to the Wawa and get refueled and check the air in my tires at the "free air" station that all Wawas have. But as I rolled into the Wawa, it was a busy parking lot filled with cars at every pump with several cars waiting around to pounce on an open pump.

So I drove up to the free air station and figured (hoped is a better word) things would calm down in the few minutes it would take to check the tire air.

I got out of the car and took off all four valve caps, because in my experience, the air pump doesn't stay on long enough for you to remove the valve caps and also put air in all four tires. Then I got the hose ready, pressed the start button and hurried into action. It was like a NASCAR pit stop the way I was whipping the air hose all around the four corners of the car to add air to all four tires.

The funny part happened as I was adding the air. Just as I started filling up the first tire, a guy drove up and parked his car directly behind the Corolla, and he got out and started talking on his cell phone. He stood there near the air pump at the back of my car and talked on his cell phone as the compressor was noisily running. The way he parked, I wouldn't be able to back out of the parking spot, and there was a curb in front of the Corolla and a grassy median I couldn't drive on, too. So I was concerned about that, but since my mission was to fill up all four tires on one cycle of the air compressor, I didn't have time to investigate the whole situation.

I got the air pressure in the last tire just the way I wanted it, and right then the compressor shut off. Success!

Then I went and coiled the air hose back up on the side of the air station, and as I went to twist on the valve caps, this guy puts his phone back in his pocket and moves swiftly past me to get to that air hose. I'm trying to finish up my valve caps here, and this guy's like taking the air hose to start filling up his tires already! And the odd part is that the hose isn't nearly long enough to get to his front tires the way he had boxed me in with his parking job!

So I stand up slowly and look at him with the "evil eye." He stops short, because he's shorter than me and I was looking down upon him since he was unnaturally close to me, and asks "you finish with pump?"

I reply, "Yeah, and I'd like to drive out of here but I can't because YOU ARE BLOCKING ME IN!"

It is only at this moment that he looks at the situation and realizes how foolish he was in parking where he did. So he puts the hose down and goes into his car to back it up and free me and the Corolla from our trapped position. I finish up and put the three remaining valve caps on the tires and make my way to back out of the spot and get out of there. The guy gave me about six inches of free space as I was backing up. Luckily, I'm a very excellent driver. More likely, it's just that the Corolla is small.

Meanwhile, the status at the gas pumps has gotten worse. Still no free pumps and even more cars waiting for other people to finish up. So I admit defeat and attempt to leave the parking lot, only to get almost trapped in by a smart guy who thought he'd be sneaky and drive on the wrong side of the road and over an arrow pointing the opposite direction to get around behind the pumps. Only problem is that I was right there in his way. So he stops and "waves me through," so I am compelled to compound his idiocracy and drive on the wrong side of the parking lot as well, putting the Corolla in grave danger of a slow speed collision from one of any number of other cars that were actually following the markings on the parking lot.

Happily, I escaped and with little additional fanfare I traveled about half a mile to the aforementioned Fas Mart nearer to my home, where the gas runs slow and the prices run nine cents more per gallon. But it was worth it because I didn't have to sit in that Wawa parking lot waiting for a pump to free up for me to pounce upon.

Plus, I got free air from the Wawa and didn't even get any gas to pay for it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Four Birthdays in Two days.

It appears we survived the annual Birthday Weekend of Fun! With my wife and twin #1 going on the VA Beach parasailing trip, I thought they'd be all birthday-ed out and ready to celebrate the Bacon's birthday on Saturday and just twin #2's on Sunday. Boy was I wrong. I couldn't have been more wronger.

Woke up yesterday and made omelets for all those who wanted them - twin #1 and wife. Cleaned up the dishes. Got yelled at for not buying a "Paul's Cake" for wife, although (and she clearly forgot) we were thawing some of "Paul's Cake" remaining from the baptism spectacle of 2 weeks ago. Like the wedding cake top you save for a year and eat later? Like that...

Went to church and that was fun. Came home. Plan was twin #2 would pick lunch destination and twin #1 would pick dinner location and we'd all love it and not whine. So twin #2 tells me to drive to "Longhorn steakhouse" and we go there and everybody whines. I do my best "WTF?" face and drive to this craptacular Fr*nch themed restaurant called "Mimi's Cafe." Feelings feel better and we eat breakfast and lunch foods.

Go home, neighbor kids come to visit and kids play nicely most afternoon as Courtney and I watch this movie called "Brothers." It had Jake Gyllenhall, Natalie "Queen Amidala" Portman and Tobey "Spider-Man" Maguire in it and was super dramatic filled with drama and was good. And the kids started making a cake. Like we didn't have enough already with the Bacon's cookie cake she made Saturday and the thawing "Paul's Cake" but whatever. Due to lack of supervision, cake batter was more like bread dough consistency. Wife says forget it for now kids, twin #1 wants to go to FUN LAND!

But twin #1 only wanted to go there by herself to play skee-ball and ride the go-karts. And turned out all the family plus the neighbor kids ("A" and "B," who are all around good kids) all went and went nuts. Twin #2 crashed her go kart. Kids played all sorts of video games. Some skee-ball was played. It was like a casino for kids. 2.5 hours later they all wanted to stay. But it was 7:30 and nobody realized they were hungry yet. We dragged them out of there, dumped off the neighbor kids and the Bacon at home and the three birthday girls and I went out to Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant for dinner.

During dinner there was an horrific thunderstorm. We talked about how the weekend was going, and wife had the brilliant idea that next year, everyone should agree to celebrate their birthdays a month apart- July 14, August 14, and September 14. I could not sit for that and informed them that this great idea was not only agreed to last year, it was put somewhat into action this year, as (I won't name names) this year, two of them went out to a VA Beach vacation/birthday parasailing adventure earlier in the week, and yet here we all were, celebrating their birthdays on their real birthday anyway, even though they went away for 2 days for a birthday trip that the remaining birthday girl did not go on so she could have her birthday on her real birthday. With this in mind, all discussions of switching birthdays to alternative dates was tabled until a later date.

Food came and we ate, happily receiving three free scoops of birthday ice cream dessert, and returned home at 9:00, where wife, undeterred by feelings of tiredness and singularly focused upon extracting every last drop of birthday happiness to be had, whips out the bread dough cake batter and commences baking it so that this morning a new mess can be made while home made frosting can be prepared. And also two more cake layers. Because like I said, we don't have enough cake.

And when I get home today, there will be about six additional screaming 10- and 11-year old girls in my home for twin #2's birthday party/sleepover. I expect to experience about 5 hours of total mayhem and carnage as more presents are unwrapped, more cake is eaten, and more games are played. It's supposed to rain, so my hopes for some outside playtime are diminished. Happily, I'll probably be out the door tomorrow morning before the party girls wake up and go home.

Then we'll have a day or two off until the the Bacon's birthday sleepover party is happening on Wednesday or Thursday. So we'll have a day or two to clean everything up, vacuum the carpets and prepare for the onslaught of a small pile of 13-year-old girls who will do almost the same thing to the house and our sensibilities!

August is a great month!

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Experience to Reinforce Negative Stereotype of "Men" Who Drive BMW 3-series!

Indeed, it's no secret that I believe there's no man worth knowing who drives a BMW 3-series. I almost believe that BMW dealers are required to administer an "arrogant prick" test to everyone who tries to buy one, and men can only be approved for purchase of a 3-series "Beamer" if they score high enough.

(Women who drive 3-series BMWs appear to not be associated with the arrogant prick-iness, and can be otherwise perfectly normal and nice people)

Witness my experience from last weekend as I was portaging 2/3 of my children from the Old Navy parking lot out to the road so we could advance to BJ's Wholesale Club. As we moved at the normal parking lot speed through the parking aisle, I saw the easily-identifiable back end of a BMW 3-series (easily identifiable due to the many, many observations of the back ends of BMW 3-series as they swerve, dart, and otherwise aggressively overcompensate for themselves in the midst of heavy traffic).

"Look up there, kids," I said, "this is why you need to be extra careful in parking lots, because that car up there has its brake lights on, like the guy just started up the car. I can tell it's a BMW, so the guy's probably going to just pull right out of that spot without looking."

And sure enough, all this happened as I got right up to the BMW. His back-up lights turned on and immediately the car started backing swiftly out of the spot. Being the incredibly talented and situationally aware worse-than-average driver that I am, I had my right hand perched on the powerful Sienna's horn button and I laid it on him!

And of course, the man driving this 3-series stopped suddenly to let me pass on and continue my trip down the parking lot. Probably he spent a few minutes in deep concentration trying to figure out how to blame his arrogant prick-iness on me, but then lost his stream of thought and continued on with his day, confident in his bought superiority and status he thinks a 3-series can give.

So to review:

1) All men who drive BMW 3-series continue to be aggressive arrogant pricks,
2) BMW dealers continue to be great at funneling such quality individuals to the 3-series,
3) The 2008 Toyota Sienna SE is the greatest minivan ever,
4) As long as it's completely clear that I care less about my car than you do, I win at these little games of "parking lot chicken," no matter what I am driving.

An odd thing about the whole BMW situation is that drivers of 5- and 7- series don't seem to fit into any category, they're just as apt to be nice as they are to be turds. It's mostly the 3-series that is guaranteed to be owned by men who are suck holes. But the SUV variants of the BMW are almost as bad as the 3-series.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tank 286 - 4 August 2K11: Hey, it was convenient!

Refueled yet again at the Fas Mart near my house, "home of the world's slowest gas pumps." I also discovered that it's also the home of the pumps you can't set to just pump while you clean the windows and remove the trash from your door pockets.

It remains the home of the pumps that can't tell when you're done entering your 5-digit ZIP code.

And sometimes when it rains, the shelter's so small that the rain drips across the hood of your car.

And it seems about half the pumps are gone or out of order.


Anyway, The cool thing about this tank when compared to last tank is that I went 447.5 miles, which is one mile more than last tank. I refueled with 11.763 gallons, which is 0.005 less gallons than last time. So my mileage was 38.04 miles per gallon, which is 0.1 miles per gallon more than last tank.

I'm mildly excited at my fuel economy for this tank. On at least three occasions I totally floored the gas pedal to accelerate with as much enthusiasm and aggression as the 140-horsepower economy car could muster in order to get around (if you can believe it) drivers who were either driving slower than me or weaving around in their lanes in a way that made me nervous. I figured those moments of anger and frustration would have ruined my overall mileage.

Perhaps with this next tank, I'll be able to remain calm the entire time and control my impulses to mash down the gas pedal and/or drive aggressively just to slam on the brakes a little farther down the road. Yes, perhaps this next tank will be 40 miles per gallon or more! Probably not, because I have poor self-control, but one can dream!

This tank put me at 10,303.5 miles for the year. Last year I had gone 11,812.1 miles. But last year I had that 5-week class that I drove like 200 miles each day to get to and back from, so it's not a good comparison really.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Special Thanks to Nobody Special

A few days ago I got a special performance incentive check in the mail from G0ogle Ad5ense for $116.

Yes, after more than four years of blogging, my advertising revenue due to people cl1cking on my sp0nsored ads had finally reached the magic number of $100 in revenue, and that triggered the process for G0ogle to send me payment for my years of continuous effort and "work."

Over the past years, my most success has been in the last months, with my wildly successful rant against the horrible Delta Touch Faucet (still sucks!), and my disappointment that Ikea hasn't jumped on "the Girl with the Dragon tattoo" bandwagon and started carrying Billy's Pan Pizzas in their Swedish Grocery section. Thanks to you, my post is on the first page of results if you G0ogle "Billy's Pan Pizza" and "Ikea" together.

So to all of you who were in no way not unencouraged to avoid clicking on the sp0nsored ads, there's no need to thank you or avoid expressions of appreciation for your lack of noneffort and support. Without any of you, none of this wouldn't have not happened, exactly.

And I can't say for sure that my intentions are to keep asking or not asking you to look at or not avoid clicking on any or all of the sp0nsored ads on this blog, seeing on how this additional income that may or may not be generated by such inactivity of unclicking on no ads is something that I might or might not welcome on a more or less irregular basis.

So in the future, I continue to be humbled and awed at your continued support and/or nonsupport of my generally innocuous posts concerning my gas mileage and infrequent other adventures.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tank 285 - 26 July 2K11

I refueled this morning at the Fas Mart near my home ("Home of the world's slowest gas pumps"). It was before 6:00 am and 74 degrees outside. Gas was $3.499 per gallon, and I got 11.768 gallons after driving 446.5 miles. So my fuel economy was 37.94 miles per gallon.

As the world's slowest pump was filling the mighty Corolla, I used the window washer and squeegee to clean off my front and rear windshields. After the first shutoff click, I gently squoze the pump handle again and more than half a gallon of gas went in. If I had given that pump handle a big squeeze, I suspect it would have shut off earlier due to the bubbles and such, and my mileage would have been over 38.

But it all will work out over time- probably next tank if I go to a different gas station it'll look like I used lots less gas and got much better mileage.

This was my 23rd tank for the year. I was on the 23rd tank of 2010 on June 14th last year.

Also of note, it appears that due to a days-long vacation we took earlier this month, I will escape July only having refueled twice during the month. This is an exceptionally rare occurrence, except for that I also went through July 2010 with just 2 trips to the gas station. And July 2009. And May 2008. And December 2007. But other than those five times, not a single other month with as few trips to the gas station!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tank 284 - 11 July 2K11 - Better Nate Than Lever

I refueled the mighty Corolla over a week ago and then promptly went away on a vacation. I didn't tell anyone I was going on vacation so as to avoid the fear of announcing to all the robbers that my house would be empty and open for robberies.

Anyway, way back to last week, the car had gone 441.6 miles on 11.844 gallons of gasoline, making for a fuel economy of 37.28 miles per gallon. So my dream of making 2K11 the most fuel-efficient year ever is being challenged by two consecutive lower-than-expected tanks of gas in a row, back to back.

However, I can take solace in the fact that I have driven about 1,500 fewer miles so far this year than the similar stretch of time last year.

On the other hand, I can be "continued frustrated" at the fact that my 284 tanks of miles equals 111,891.6 miles but the car's odometer read 111,950 at the time of my last refueling.

Perhaps it's time again to check my tire pressure. I check my bicycle tires every week or so, but don't remember the last time I checked the tires in the Mighty Corolla. Probably I can check it at one of the many Wawas on my way home.