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.