Archive for the ‘Car’ Category

Cranmore and Saddleback

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This post is about my two (so far) local ski trips this winter.


On January 24th Mary and I drove to North Conway, NH to give Cranmore a try. We mostly went because it would be cheap. That day they were running a deal where driver’s of hybrid cars get free lift tickets. Oddly, since passengers of hybrids didn’t get free lift tickets it actually discourages carpooling, which, given the distance, makes a larger environmental impact than the hybrid. For the curious, they asked to see the car’s registration to prove it is a hybrid; note that my registration doesn’t have any indication of such a status, but they were not concerned. It also came recommended by Kelly, who skied there frequently in her youth.

I was disappointed with the runs there. The vertical was 1200 feet, which seems respectable, and they had some nice lifts to keep the lines moving, but we took our warm up run on a blue and diverted to a black. We mostly diverted to get away from the crowd, but it was not difficult at all. The conditions were pretty good. It was clean and ~25 degrees out, but there was a howling wind, that was blowing snow up the mountain. This was not a problem as far as seeing, but it did manage to keep the slopes well groomed, as any tacks you made were covered back up by the snow you loosed. It was fun to spend all afternoon (we skied from 11:30-4pm) speeding down the relatively tame runs, but we did manage to do just about every black and blue there in that time frame. In short, it was a fun time, and it was cheap due to the free ticket, but I wouldn’t go back unless I was teaching someone.


Eleven people somewhat loosely associated with Wednesday Night Dinner went to Rangeley, Maine from February 6 – 8 to ski at Saddleback. Saddleback was a small, local place until recently when it was purchased and greatly expanded. They expanded their trials by 40% since last year, and they have plans to continue this kind of growth. When they are done it will be huge, at least as fat as New England standards go. It was also exceedingly cheap and not at all crowded. Of course, it is almost five hours drive to get there. That is why we spent two nights there. Also the lodging was part of a package deal that left us with $28 lift tickets. Since its so new and expanding everything, but most importantly the equipment was all brand new.

The skiing here was excellent and challenging. There were some glades and slopes that looked downright scary, some of which I did and some of which I skipped. The weather was warm, topping out at ~36 degrees, with little wind. Although it got overcast in the afternoon. Here are some icture highlights from the trip to continue the story:

The Cabin. There were 3 rooms (with an open kitchen/living space). There were 9 beds in the place and we slept 11. It was cozy, but cheap.

Breakfast was eggs and toast.

Before we could get the slope we first had to climb this ice covered hill between our lakeside cabin and the road. It was well below freezing in the valley (it was warmer up on the mountain by a lot) and so we ended up pushing all of the cars up the hill. I don’t recall having ever needed to use low gear on my car before, but clearly it helped here. What didn’t help is that due to the lake, we didn’t have much chance to get a running start. Luckily Sunday morning was much warmer and so it wasn’t a problem.

The view was pretty spectacular from the top of the ~4000 foot mountain. The lodge was at ~2000 feet. This view looks west down towards our cabin and New Hampshire. Looking north one could see Canada as well.

We rode a lift up with an instructor and we discussed these two trails that looks like there was all kinds of debris in them. He said that it was only the tops that had the debris and that bottoms were clear, and of course ungroomed. He told us how to cut over safely. There we found the best conditions of the day; although, they were not untouched power by any means. I found I was able to cope (and have fun) with the natural, soft moguls that had developed. It was great. Of course, the story with the trail is that they didn’t finish cutting and clearing it all before the first wave of snow; this picture looks up at the debris field of course.

In closing:

  • Don’t take my word for how great this place is.
  • Don’t ever give it a try.
  • Continue to take your slight shorter drives to your much pricer, smaller, and more crowded resorts of choice.

My Second Geohash

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Today, July 7th, 2008 the geohash was in Concord, MA. The actual spot was less than 10 miles from work, so I figured I would leave early and check it out. On the way there I rolled my car past 9900 miles. I’ll hit 10,000 this week, probably on the way to Wed. Night Dinner, which is way out in the boonies this week, but offers the chance at real Texas barbque. See the link for more story and more pictures. Here’s a map:

View Larger Map

A Car is a Vehicle…

Friday, February 29th, 2008

It seems that no matter what time I leave work, there is always a bus at the bus stop waiting to pick people up as I walk past it to my car. In reality there is a bus every 15 minutes on the quarter hours, and I just happen to leave at nice quater hour times. In any case, it makes me feel kinda bad to just walk past it and get in my car, when I could just as easily save some steps and hop on the bus. I took the bus for two months, when I didn’t have a car, and I still pay for a monthly T pass — I could hop on at no additional cost.

Today , I came to a new justification for why I bought a car a year ago, and continue to skip the bus in favor of it. The bus takes over an hour to get to the end of the subway line, which is about 20 minutes from my apartment on average. That is a long time. The car takes about 25-45 minutes, depending on traffic.

The car is vehicle, by which I can transform money into time.

It takes a whole lot of money and provides an hour a day or so of time which I can use to accomplish things that can not be done on a bus (there are additional morning time savings). That doesn’t seem very efficient, given the high cost of a car. But really, it’s very difficult to actually turn money into time. Other than increasing your travel speed, the primary way is to pay people to do things for you, like cook, clean, and laundry which is also expensive.

Anyways, I feel perfectly happy to purchase time at the exchange rate offered by a car. Thinking of it in those terms gets my mind away from the whole energy/pollution efficiency of mass transit. Rough estimates show that I spend about $28 a day on my car (gas, loan payments, upkeep, & insurance), which by rough estimates are similar to the value of an hour of my time (or less) — which is of course why I am perfectly happy with the exchange rate. I just thought it was an interesting thought, enough to share.

Government Gets Something Good Done!

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

The Senate recently passed a bill that if enacted would raise car, truck, and SUV milage standards nationwide to 35mpg by 2020. In a surprising turn of events President Bush said that if the bill, in its current form, is sent to his desk he will SIGN IT! That is pretty amazing, does he even remember how to sign bills? I like now the New York Times phrases it as “Bush Won’t Veto…”

But all is not well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke with the party line and introduced the bad FISA reform bill to the senate floor over the objections of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, and Chris Dodd. This is the bill that I praised Chris Dodd for “putting a hold on” a while back. More on the story is here. Luckily Dodd is still on the right track and has pledged “to filibuster any legislation that does include retroactive immunity” for the telecoms involved in the NSA wiretapping.

Well, Dodd’s threat of a filibuster has postponed this debate until next year. It seems that the traitorous majority leader has decided that he’d rather try to pass other laws than spend the remainder of the year’s session listening to Chris Dodd talk. I have to add that the bill is also sponsored by a democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and for him I don’t have words. I would like to point out that “Dodd was the one Senator currently running for the White House who left the campaign trail to debate the” measure. You would think that just maybe the other 3, or is it more, current senators could take some time off from the campaign trail to help defeat the disaster that is this new surveillance law designed to replace the expiring Protect America Act. What we need is not more surveillance powers, unless they are surveying the executive branch’s overreaching power grab, and most certainly not immunity from past infractions against the rights of the public. End Rant (at least until January).

Snow Day

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

The View from the Porch
We had a snow day at work today, in light of the 6-12 inches of snow arriving between about 12:30pm and whenever it stops today. I had planned in advance and got up at the ungodly hour of 6am to make the 7:30 bus from alewife. That was my usual bus for the months when I went without a car. It was a good move, leaving work at ~2pm it took me until 4:15pm to arrive home, on the bus, which was faster than driving for sure, at least me driving in this stuff. It also saved a bundle on gas mileage, as sitting in traffic with the heater going is just about the wost case scenario for that I can imagine.

MIT 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge Entry But I did briefly, between learning of the snow day at around noon and 12:30 when it started snowing wish that my car could drive itself from home to the lab and come pick me up. Now, maybe robotic cars were just on the mind because some of the principle investigators in charge of MIT’s DARPA Grand Challenge entry came to give a talk at about 1pm, which was cut short, and was pretty much a disaster of a talk. There were some really sweet video’s constructed from data taken during the competition that made the whole thing well worth it. Anyways, I just want to go on the record saying it would be sweet if cars could live in a repository garage somewhere, possibly roboticly controlled to save space, and they could show up at times and places requested in advance, or could be called to come early or late, or just come now. They could temporarily park on the street while waiting for you, but they would spend the night in the repository. Well it wouldn’t leave your side until you told it it was ok. And of course, you could still manually drive while it is transporting you it if you wanted. Anyways, it is apparently currently impossible to do that, according the the PIs, and I guess they would know, they did at least give it a try.

By request, more snow pictures:

Black and White All steamed up The car, more just a measure of total snowfall, than interesting.

It’s Snowing

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Driving into work it was whisking off the window but now its big enough that it may just stick. I’m not really nostalgic or excited about the first snowfall of the season, but I feel like I should be. Mostly it just confuses the parking situation at home. You see, due to “recent trend in warmer weather” the city of Somerville has extended street sweeping all the way to the end of the year. How’s that for the most annoying effect of global warming yet to date. This creates a catch 22 of sorts. You see, if we get 4+ in of snow and it is declared a snow emergency then you can only park on the odd numbered side of the street or risk being towed. Now, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of a month from 8am-noon you can’t park on the odd side of my street for street sweeping, which risks a ticket. So if you go to bed Tuesday night and its not a snow emergency you should be on the even side, but if it is, the odd side, and if the state of snow nonemergency-ness changes while you are sleeping you’ll need to move the car in your sleep. The solution is to park on the odd side and get out of there and off to work by 8am; unless its snowing too much, then just take the T. But! You would think that we live in a world wear it can snow or not snow on a 1st and 3rd Wednesday morning and not have to be awake before 8am; clearly that is impossible.

In other news, its snowing and I’m still getting ~40mpg from my car. This is much improved over the ~34mpg I got last winter, but I used the heater last winter and haven’t used it much at all so far this winter. I’m sure that will change once the highs dip into the lower 30’s and its in the teens when driving, and that may very well drop me down to ~34 again. My goal is to see if I have improved at driving efficiently enough not drop that low. Rising spring temperatures gave me this impression, but the car definitely is more efficient at warmer temperatures. The current heater-less test proves that, in early October I was still getting ~45mpg, and only the weather has changed (to the best of my abilities to control the other variables).

Destination Outback

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

Outback Steakhouse Unfortunetly Google could not calculate driving directions between Boston and Alice Springs, NT, Australia. So Josh and I settled on an Outback Steakhouse in Connecticut to settle round 2 of our Red Sox/Yankees bet. The Yankees won both May and June series, although swept neither. That means to Sox are still 1 game up in the head to head record. Anyways this entitled Josh to a free meal. It was a good time, but both the Sox and the Yankees lost their games that day.

Also of note, on the way there (~150 miles) I got an average 47.0 mpg, the highest yet. Feeling that I could make it to 50mpg, the 2007 EPA number if I just drove @65mph on the way back (instead of ~70 as I did on the way there). Alas, I only got up to 48.0 (and just barely) on the way back. In any case thats 3 mpg higher than the 2008 revised EPA numbers. This is the first time I have beaten that number. I drove this same route at ~42.5 mpg two months ago, at similar speeds, so I attribute this higher number to a nice dry summer day — It was raining and ~50 deg. F. on the previous trip.

That’s a nice looking car.

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

My 2007 Honda Civic I was at The Best Gas Station in all of Massachusetts! today; filling up just 4 days short making it one month on a single tank (~480 miles!), when a stranger complimented me on my ’07 Honda Civic Hybrid. I parked in slightly the wrong place, so when I opened my door it hit the little pillar, not hard, and not enough to leave a mark. I immediately checked which may have tipped off the stranger on the other side of the pump that I care about the car and try to take care of it well. Much more so than my previous car, and I thought I was trying to take care of it as well, although my dad may disagree — I’m going to call it, good practice. Anyways the exchange went like this:

Stranger: “What kind of car is that?”
Me: “Its a Civic… its an ’07.”
Stranger: “The civic used to be such a plain car. That is a nice looking car.”
Me: “Thanks!”

It made me happy, although maybe not my day because of the computer purchase decision. In any case it was nice and unexpected.

Destination: New Haven

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Destination: New Haven Map On Sunday I took my first “road trip” in my new car. That is if you consider 272 mile round trip as a “road trip,” but it was long enough for me to test out some new things. The reason for the trip was to meet up with Josh to settle round one of our bet over the Yankees/Red Sox series this season. For each series or pair of series the loser buys the winner dinner. This dinner was for the first series at NY; we hadn’t started the bet before the first series at Fenway. Anyways it was a nice trip, esp once I got out of the rain in Boston. Below are the things I tested on the trip and the results:

  • M$ Streets and Trips: Verdict: Crappy
    I played around with this once before on the way home from work and had issues with route recalculation not working very well. These issues resurfaced on this trip. All was alright (not good) until I got off the highway due to traffic in New Haven. First the gps lost track, the software’s response to this was to not tell me anything and lock up. Josh had called to tell me I was early, so when the software got done locking up I tired to get it to tell me where Yale is so I could drive though it since I was there and had time. Well it couldn’t tell me, how worthless. Of course, as it turns out, Yale is spread out all over the place there, but I managed to miss all of it.

    Tonight came the next problem, the reason why I will never use this software ever again. The program recorded gps trails of exactly where I went, which are pretty high fidelity looking at the map. I want to export these traces and put them up on a my map. Well try as I might all this data remains locked up in a proprietary MS binary file format. All i need are the coordinates in text form, I can do the rest, but no I can’t get anything out the program except the screen shot above. Next time I’ll just have to use Linux to log the raw gps data for me. I know, I should have known better than to expect that I would be able to do what I want with locked down closed source software.

  • Car (2007 Honda Civic Hybrid) MPG: Verdict: Amazing
    I’ve been wanting to go on a long trip with my car to get a good sense as to what its true highway performance is. The primary, trustworthy, MPG displays an average, you can have 2 running averages at one time. I use 1 per tank, and the other has been running since I got the car. Normally the per tank average is lower than my usual to work and back real mpg. I can tell this because the average always ticks up during the week. On the weekend when I only make short in the city trips the average dips. As such I didn’t know my true highway performance until now, with a ~270 mile trip @70mph almost the whole obliterate any low readings pulling down the average. The revised 2008 mpg numbers for the 2007 Civic Hybrid are 40 (city) and 45(highway). Well I got 42.3 on my trip. I bet I could hit that 45 if i drove 60mph. Also this spring my normal millage has increased from ~34 to 38+. I will be confirming just how much plus this week by watching how much the 42.3 average drops. So far in 1 22 mile round trip to work the average is still 42.3, it went up to 42.4 for a bit. The overall average since I got the car is now ~36 up from ~32 in the winter. I’m not sure all of this can be attributed to weather, as I’m probably becoming a more efficient driver. I purposefully did not drive 75 on my trip after I noticed my mileage dropping when I tried it. In any case I am very happy that my numbers are very much in sync with the new revised EPA estimates now. I had previously been unimpressed with my mileage.