Thank you, Mr. Nice Guys in the Costco parking lot

ted | driving | Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I will easily admit I should have been paying closer attention, but it’s hard to do low speed driving through a very crowded parking lot and keep an eye on two dogs. So much so that Coltrane actually jumped out of the car.

Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt at all, in fact he seemed to have enjoyed it, there were two witnesses and it only took me about 10 seconds to notice Mr. Puppyman was missing. Thank you to the nice older Asian gentleman with his Jetta parked in what little shade was available for pointing me in the direction of the dog and thank you to the nice guy who had intercepted Coltrane and was about to call the number on the tag while petting him. I was the most shaken out of the whole thing, fortunately. I’m keeping a much closer eye on the rear windows now, at least until he gets bigger, which he is doing on a dramatic scale.

Sometimes when you least expect it, folks just help out of the goodness of their hearts. Thanks, guys.

<insert witty title for Chicago to OKC roadtrip here >

ted | driving | Sunday, July 1st, 2007

1601.1 miles in 42 hours and we’re back from Oklahoma City with a new greyhound puppy. Lots of biodiesel billboards in SW Illinois, which is good to see, but not enough availability of the fuel itself. Stank Louis ain’t so bad but other than that we both had our eyes closed the entire way through Missouri. Eastern Oklahoma is hillier than I remembered, is the home of some flogged-to-death Will Rogers shrines, some fairly questionable toll collection practices (pay full fare up front then get a refund if you get off before the next tollbooth?) and some of the smokiest diesel I’ve ever run through my car. I was able to molest it into smoking like a dump truck without much difficulty.

Ken was nice enough to graciously put us up for the night and have beer and cane sugar Dr Pepper waiting for us. Hell, he even turned on the air conditioning despite his love of tropical environs.

The folks from Fasthound were very nice and easy to deal with. We got back on the road mid afternoon, set the cruise control at 80 mph and headed northeast. Finally made it back to Chicago at 0230 with a belly full of ephedrine and (ugh) Red Bull.

And of course, Coltrane (that’s the little dog, mind you) was wide awake and HOWLING when we finally got in bed at 0400. It didn’t sound as good as his namesake’s solos. So, still having plenty of energy, I took the little widder out for a long walk. And to watch the sun rise. And to convince him that it’s OK to use the backyard as a bathroom – we really prefer it that way.

Finally got about 3 hours of sleep before waking up around noon, then the normal post-roadtrip slacking. Around 4 we loaded up the dogs back into my slobber-streaked hatchback and eventually made our way up to the dog beach (Lakeshore Drive & Recreation Drive – 3650 N). Mingus got the hang of swimming, kinda, and enjoyed running around with a bunch of other dogs. Coltrane tried to keep up with those that were several feet taller than he but wound up having fun with an Italian Greyhound and what looked like a Labrador puppy.

Damn, I’m tired.

Pictures to follow, especially those of Coltrane terrorizing the cats.

Gs up, Ds down

ted | driving | Thursday, June 7th, 2007

For much of the winter, diesel was about the same as premium unleaded gas. I fully understand the reasons for this – distillate demand goes up due to heating oil in the Northeast, etc etc. In the spring, that extra demand is GONE and diesel prices typically fall as gasoline prices spike.

And this year, fall they did. At one point there was over a dollar a gallon gap between the price of diesel and RUG.

It’s funny when people would talk to me about why a diesel car wasn’t a good idea, because diesel is more expensive than gas. Nevermind the fact that I get about 50 – 100% better fuel economy than most gassers – they’d never think about the actual fuel cost per mile. People have all sorts of wildly idiotic math to defend their vehicular choices.

At any rate, this is the kind of sign I like to see – both prices have actually gone down about ten cents per gallon. Plus the other fuel is 89 octane midgrade and this station has some of the cheapest fuel prices around. Leave Summit/Argo and gasoline goes up about 20 cents per gallon.


He asked that I call, so I called

ted | driving | Friday, May 4th, 2007

Well, he did ask that I call in the email I received.

So I called.

He was very nice and apologetic and we discussed what happened fairly emotionless and businesslike. He got the facts from me to document the incident and said the pictures spoke volumes more than just the text of my email. He also said the email originally went to the head of the company, who then forwarded it to him.

Apparently their trucks have built-in GPS units. He checked the data for that stretch of road at the time I mentioned. 73 mph in a 55.


He also started going into how the employees have been suspended and Monday he’ll most likely start termination proceedings at which point I cut him off and said that it was none of my business what he did internally. I just wanted to make the company aware of how their employees acted behind the wheel of a company truck. It honestly doesn’t matter if it was high fives and cold Budweiser all around or riding them out of town on a rail.

That being said, I may very well take a different route home for the next week or so. Some suspended/sacked psychopath with cameraphone pictures of my car and a chip on his shoulder ain’t my idea of a good ride home.

Like I said before – I don’t cause trouble, I don’t bother nobody.

And to the driver and passenger – put a quarter in your ass ’cause you played yourself.

I get people fired

ted | driving | Friday, May 4th, 2007

I’m not proud of it, but goddamn it, I’m fed up with assholes in company trucks getting all up in my tailpipe when I’m already 10 over in a $375 minimum ticket construction zone and driving like dicks.

It happened again two days ago, Wednesday, 2007-May-02. I took pictures, since I almost always have a digital camera with me.

“Yesterday as I was heading North on IL-394 at about 5:30 pm, a truck got very, very close to the rear of my car at the traffic signal at Sauk Trail Road and was doing something to make the truck creep forward and bounce. After the light turned green, the truck began weaving in and out of the left-hand lane and going at least 75 mph (in a 55 zone).

Since I drive a small fuel-efficient car, I certainly do not appreciate larger vehicles following too closely or pulling up within feet of my rear bumper at lights, so I took a few pictures of the truck, apparently number 55, IL license plate 95 006 H. The truck continued at a high rate of speed north, until it began to slow down and get behind me, now in a construction zone.

The passenger began taking pictures of my car with his cell phone and clearly gave me the finger multiple times. The driver proceeded to tailgate me again until it exited to I-294/I-80.

Just to dispel any notion that I’m some choleric octogenarian that complains about everything, I’m an engineer in my late 20s. I enjoy driving fast and having fun, but the company truck in a 45 mph construction zone and three feet off my bumper is not the place to do so.

All I can say is that I believe this reflects very poorly on Permaseal, that employees would willfully disregard the safety of other drivers by driving recklessly and then giving sophomoric hand gestures. Shouldn’t the employees driving your trucks be professionals?

A quick note about the pictures attached:
truckback.jpg was taken just as I was passed the first time. You can clearly read the truck number and license plate.
rearwindow.jpg is the view while being tailgated in the construction zone.
rearwindowclose.jpg is a crop of the original picture, showing the cab occupants and the passenger taking pictures of me with his cell phone.
truckdriverside.jpg is a picture as the truck exited to I-294/80.
truckdrivercrop.jpg is a crop of the original picture, showing the passenger giving me the finger and continuing to take pictures of me with his cell phone.

The driver was quite good at blocking his face in all pictures.

Ironically, I have a leaky basement that recently got worse. My wife and I are weighing our options as to whom we should call to have it inspected and get repair estimates. I think it’s safe to say that Permaseal isn’t on the list anymore. If your employees can’t even show common courtesy, much less obey the rules of the road, how could I expect them to perform any sort of repair?


And the evidence, in order:

I got an email back today from Permaseal.

“Dear Mr. F,

Thank you for bringing this unfortunate incident to our attention and I apologize for what happened. The employees involved used poor judgment and do not have a place in our organization. I immediately suspended the staff involved and will start termination proceedings. I can assure you that we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and take this matter very seriously. Perma-Seal has been in business for over 29 years and we have a solid reputation, unfortunately we have incidences such as this that cause us great dismay. We would like to assure you that proactive steps are being taken to communicate this through our business and avoid future incidences or errors.

I would like to discuss this further with you over the phone if possible. Please call me at your convenience.

Best Regards,

Production Director”

So. Am I an asshole? A vigilante? A crotchety octogenarian trapped in this late-20s body?
I don’t know.

All I know is I’m sick and fucking tired of people being assholes on the road. I used to drive a LOT faster than I do now and move in and out of lanes a lot. On my normal drive home, I pretty much set cruise at 65 mph and chug along in the rightmost lane. I merge over when traffic enters or exits, but I don’t cause trouble – I don’t bother nobody. Last tank I got was 47 mpg and I broke 50 mpg last month. I’m a lot calmer, too, even if it takes me a whole 3 minutes longer to get home or to work.

But yes, I am going to call T- and see what he has to say and explain how I feel about things.

Yes, it’s fun to drive fast, I even had my Golf well into triple digits the other day. Yes, I understand that people get in a hurry. I even find myself unconsciously driving fast at times, like when I got nailed by an Evergreen Park cop doing 45 in a 35. If you’re careful, you can get away with it most of the time. But come on, doing it in the company truck that has a unique number on the side and your company’s name? That’s just reckless and outright dumb. Dumb as hell.

I’m sorry y’all might lose your jobs because of this.

I’m not sorry people might actually drive a little more civilly now.

Fond du Lac dorkfest

ted | driving | Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Last Saturday, I drove all the way up to Fond du Lac Wisconsin (aka Fondle my sack) to work on the 2000 NBTDI with a lot of people I knew and a lot of other people I didn’t.

I had a great time, got to see many of the local TDI folks and a whole lot from the upper midwest and even a couple vendors (rocketchip & tdiparts) that drove all the way from the right coast. Good folks.

I did all this, mostly by myself

  • Brake fluid flush (all four brake calipers plus clutch)
  • Rotated tires
  • Transmission fluid change (half Redline MTL, half MT90)
  • Diesel Purge injector nozzle cleaning
  • Oil change w/Mann filter & Rotella T synthetic 5W-40 (blue bottle)
  • Replaced cracked sideskirt on passenger side (timing belt lower cover)
  • Checked oily boost tubing leading to intercooler, unable to find any leak so cleaned entire area

It amazes me how relatively easy everything was once the car was up on jackstands and the wheels removed. The $40 Harbor Freight electric impact wrench worked like a charm, too.


ted | driving | Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Finally filled up on the way home from work on Friday. I knew this tank was going to be epic. Results:

790.2 miles
15.8 gallons ULSD-B11
50.01 mpg

Eat that, hybrids. I got a car that has some nuts, can be worked on with simple metric hand tools (for the most part, every new car these days needs some specialty tools) and gets better real-world fuel economy without having to resort to black majick.

And it runs on biodiesel.

I could have made this an 800 mile tank but I’m totally happy with what I got. Next couple tanks are prolly gonna be back to mid 40s mpg since I don’t like driving like a grandma and drafting semis all the time. It’s strange, though, the biggest change I did for this tank was to obey the posted speed limit.

Welcome the new addition

ted | driving | Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

…to the garage.

My wife and I just got a 2000 NB TDI to compliment our 2006 Golf TDI. That’s hers on the left, mine on the right.

Car is originally from Arizona and has been here for less than a year. After some SERIOUS interior cleaning by us, a tank of fresh ULSD-B11 with a big dose of Stanadyne and a boatload of work by JasonTDI Sunday (TB/serp belts & ancillaries, intake/EGR cleaning, figuring out there were not one but TWO TDC marks on the flywheel, new round of filters, Amsoil Euro, fresh G12, tightening all the loose axle flange bolts, replacing the AC compressor bolt that was hanging by two threads, plugging in the reverse light switch and perhaps a hundred other minor fixes) the car is almost right as rain and drives MUCH better than before.

All was not skittles & beer, however – we had a little run-in with a guardrail near Janesville, Wisconsin in a horrible snowstorm on the way up.

VERDAMMT! At least it’s all contained to plastic – nobody was hurt altho the two of us were both shaken & stirred. Lesson learned: the stock Michelins are complete crap in snow and the Wisconsin DOT ain’t too swift with the salt & plows.

Next on the agenda, after a front corner painting, is another round of interior cleaning, brake fluid flush & bleeding, intercooler repair (chafed from the plastic bumper) and an engine washing.

Mostly, if you’ve got a VW or a TDI and you’re within 5 hours of Madison, Wisconsin, TALK TO JASON. He’s fast, he’s talented, he knows these cars inside and out and he’s an all around nice guy. Tell him Chicago Ted sent you. And always, always, always bring your mechanic beer.


ted | driving | Sunday, December 17th, 2006

yes. direct link to the image in case it doesn’t show up correctly

A red letter afternoon on NPR

ted | driving | Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Holy shit, what a great round of stories on NPR this afternoon.

First off, throat singing. Not a big fan of genre covers, but Yat-Kha’s version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was damn near perfect, at least the snippet of it I heard. Hell, and I don’t even like Joy Division that much.

The other Holy Shit moment on my drive home this cold, rainy and windy evening came when Jonah Goldberg, in disparaging Trent Lott’s election as Senate Minority Whip, described the former Republican stronghold’s fiscal policy as “After years of wallowing in their own crapulence, spending money like a pimp with a week to live.

Awesome. I ♥ NPR.

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