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I'm a car guy. I've liked cars for as long as I can remember - there's just something about them that intrigues and excites me. And I like all types of cars; I'm not strictly a sports car fanatic, or a race car fan, or a luxury automobile snob - I appreciate all types of cars, as indicated by my car ownership history. Allow me to go on a tangent for a bit?

My "little black book" of cars that I've owned looks like this:

- 1979 Chevrolet Z-28 Camaro
My first car. Black on black, 350 V8, 4-speed, 3:73:1 rear gears... gorgeous car, but not practical as a daily driver, which is what I tried to do with it. After a few too many highway miles (the motor ran at nearly 4,000 rpm at 65 mph), I bent a pushrod and broke a rocker-arm, which caused some internal engine damage. I tore the car down, ran out of money, and left it sit for years before selling it for pennies on the dollar.

- 1979 Pontiac Bonneville
The winter car that I purchased to relieve the Z-28 from winter duty. I loved this car. It was huge - yes. But it was reliable, comfortable, and loaded with luxury items. It also had a semi-modified 301 V8, so it had a little bit (little being the key word) of pep... I kept this car for several years before selling it to a friend. I drove this car around the country - to NHRA drag races in Ohio, Indianapolis, and Brainerd, and never once had an issue with it.

- 1992 Chevrolet Beretta GT
My first "new" car; purchased it used in 1993 with about 10k on the odometer. Unfortunately it had a random/wild cooling system issue from day one that was never able to be resolved. I sold it after about 6 months because it would randomly overheat and leave me stranded on the side of the road. GM never could find the problem.

- 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra
Whoa Nelly. This car was a beast, at least back in the day... 17" wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, 240 advertised horsepower, 5-speed, 0-60 in 5.0 seconds. Less than 5,000 were ever produced. I modified it with exhaust, intake, and a bunch of other goodies. Sold it in 1997 with less than 20,000 miles on it.

- 1983 Ford Crown Victoria LTD
Purchased as a winter car/daily driver for the Cobra. Installed an insane stereo system that eventually caused the back windows to leak from the sound pressure. A habitual head gasket issue eventually led me to sell it.

- 1991 Mercury Sable
When the LTD died and I sold the Cobra, I purchased this car from the dealership where I worked as a technician. I drove that car into the ground - it had 145,000 miles on it when I sold it, and was top-notch reliable. Never once had any issue with it. It went through the snow better than most 4x4s, and was comfortable and economical.

- 1998 BMW 528i
My first luxury car. Talk about a great highway cruiser - 5-speed manual, 2.8L inline 6-cylinder, every option available, and it delivered over 30mpg on the highway. Despite being rear wheel drive, it did quite well in the snow. I eventually tired of the high monthly payment (if memory serves, it was around $700/month) and sold it.

- 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe
We still have this vehicle and love it. It has been the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned, and it's been the most comfortable and versatile. Chevrolet nailed this vehicle - even with 125,000 miles on it, it's showing no sign of aging. Simply amazing. The only downside? 13mpg on a good day.

- 2002 VW GTI 337
A real pocket rocket. 1.8L turbo-charged 4-cylinder with 6-speed transmission, 18" BBS wheels, huge brakes, and Recaro seats - all from the factory. Only 1,500 were ever made, and it was a fun car. When I sold it in 2005, I made a huge profit...

- 2005 Honda Element
So close, and yet, no cigar. All-wheel-drive. Tons of cargo space. Practical. Underpowered. Built on the Honda Civic platform, so it couldn't haul or tow anything, despite having a cavernous interior. 4 adults exceeded the gross vehicle weight capacity. The anemic 4-cylinder didn't win any points, either... with a roof rack installed, I had to floor it (literally) to maintain 70mph.

- 2006.5 VW Jetta TDi
Turbo diesel 4-cylinder + German luxury interior + great styling = Win. Nothing like getting 45 mpg all day, every day, while enjoying precise handling and an upscale interior. It wasn't the fastest thing on the road, but it was torquey and fun to drive. Great in the snow, large trunk, comfortable back seats - I really liked this car. Sold it to a friend when I moved back to Wisconsin, and it's still going strong.

- 2003 Chevrolet 1500 Z71 4x4
Gorgeous black truck with grey leather and every single option available. It was simply too large to drive around in Madison. I couldn't park it anywhere, couldn't make a u-turn, and never saw anything north of 13mpg. Sold it in 2-hours after listing it on Craigslist and made a few thousand of profit. Not bad.


And that brings us to today... and the real subject of this entry...

After I sold my truck, I didn't have any idea about what kind of car to purchase. There wasn't anything that struck my fancy, and I was looking for something with practicality, cargo capacity, decent fuel economy, and a reasonable monthly payment.

I considered all sorts of cars, from the Audi A3 to the Subaru WRX to the Chevrolet Malibu, to the Hyundai Sonata, to the Ford Fusion. But none of them wowed me. I couldn't find enough positives to justify any of them. And so, on a complete whim, I purchased a 2009 Toyota Prius.

Yes, it had a hatchback, tons of storage, lots of practicality, and great fuel economy. But I had no idea just how dreadful all of the "little annoyances" were, nor did I appreciate just how quickly and completely the Prius sucks away your soul. Never before have I been in a car that so thoroughly and completely neuters its occupants. The Prius is practical to a fault and insanely annoying.

The only saving grace is the fuel economy. Other than that, the list of hated items is long... and so, I give to you:

10 Things I hate about the Toyota Prius:

Number 10: The keyless system

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Keyless entry is nothing new. We've all had a car with keyless entry - you hit the remote button and your doors lock or unlock. Toyota has taken it a step further - their system is supposed to allow you to enter the car without hitting any unlock buttons; it detects when you're within a certain proximity of the car, and the doors unlock.

Once inside the car, you don't need to place the key into the "ignition" to start the car. In fact, there's no real "key" - you simply place the fob in your pocket and hit the Start button.

The only problem? It rarely works. As you approach the car, it seldom unlocks. If the key happens to be lodged behind your wallet, the car won't start. It's super frustrating.

Locking the car is even more frustrating, because the car often thinks you've left the key inside of the car while attempting to lock it... even though the fob is in your pocket (or hand), which is outside of the car. So you have to do this "walk away, walk toward the car" game in order to lock it. After playing this game a few hundred times, it grows old.


Number 9: The Lawyers Won.

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My particular Prius came equipped with a GPS system, which would normally be a good thing. Except for you can't set or program the GPS while the car is in motion.

"That's smart!" you say? Ok... so, what if you have a passenger with you, and you ask them to find and program a location for gas or food while on your journey? Why can't the passenger program the GPS?

Instead, you have to pull-over, come to a complete stop, and then you can enter in a destination. What's more safe? (a) having your passenger program the destination while you travel at a safe highway speed, or (b) stopping alongside of a highway to program your GPS

My money is on A.

And, the system is "smart enough" to recognize if someone is sitting in the passenger seat... the weight sensor/seat-belt sensor has a hair-trigger - if I set a small bag of groceries on the front seat, the car will ding incessantly until I fasten the passenger seat belt... it thinks there's someone sitting in the front seat that isn't wearing their seat belt, so this church-bell-ringing noise overwhelms everything until you fasten the belt. All for a bag of apples on the front seat...

So, if the car can detect a "passenger" in the front seat, couldn't it then allow you to set the GPS while moving?

No? Thanks Toyota Lawyers.


Number 8: The GPS is Awful

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In addition to not being able to program or adjust your destination while on the move, the GPS itself is otherwise nearly useless. It seems to be truly hit-or-miss as to whether or not it will recognize an address as "valid."

I recently had to visit a friend in a city that has been around for at least 100 years. His address was on "Main Street." I entered in the address, and the GPS told me, "No such street exists in this city."

I tried again - same message. So, I searched for a gas station in that town, and wouldn't you know it, the GPS found the gas station. On Main Street.

Most worthless GPS system ever. Glad it was only a $2,000 option.


Number 7: The Voice Recognition System May Be Deaf.

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The Prius has a voice recognition system? Oh wow! That's great! You can do things without taking your hands off of the steering wheel, so that has to be safe!

....sigh.... If only it worked.

Here's how the voice recognition experience usually goes:

Me: (presses voice activation button) "72 degrees" (to set the temperature to 72)
Prius: (ding!) "Turning off GPS navigation."

Me: (presses voice activation button again) "seven-teeee-twooooo-degreeeees"
Prius: (ding!) "Setting fan speed to medium"

Me: ARGH! (presses voice activation button again) "sevvvvennnn-teeeeee-twooooo de-"
Prius: (ding!) "That command is not available in this function."

Red-faced and mad, I have to manually navigate to and press the 3 key strokes that it takes to set the temperature to 72 degrees.

The system never works - unless you count successfully raising the driver's blood pressure. Then it works every time.


Number 6: Lawyers Win Again

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Whenever you press one of the multi-function screen buttons, the system displays this lengthy legal disclaimer/warning that includes the line, "Watching this screen while driving can cause a serious accident."

Really? So, why do you (Toyota) display this dangerous warning screen for 10+ seconds each time I try to launch a new function? This screen appears when you activate functions that include: using the GPS, setting the climate controls, adjusting the audio functions, or flipping to the "information status" screen.

Lawyers... protecting us from ourselves and failing miserably.


Number 5: The Gas Gauge Lies

Here's my fuel gauge, with 122 miles burned from the tank. It shows 3/4 full:

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And here's the gauge again, 80 miles later:

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And the problem? It's never accurate. Aside from dropping 3 full bars in 80 miles of travel, the car always lies about how much fuel and/or range you have before running out of fuel. It's 2010, people! Can't we engineer a semi-accurate gas gauge? My freaking wrist watch and phone can pinpoint my location to within a few feet using satellites that are hundreds of miles away and in orbit, but my gas gauge can't determine how much fuel I have in the tank?

Seriously...


Number 4: The Wheels Weld Themselves To The Hub

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This one irks me because for a car that has so many "technological and engineering advancements," I'd like to think the folks responsible for those innovations would have a very basic understanding of chemical reactions...

You see, the Prius uses a technology called "regenerative braking" to help charge the batteries when you apply the brakes. Pretty neat, eh? Well, yeah. But, the Prius also uses aluminum wheels with steel hubs. (The hub is the part that the wheel is secured to and held on to with lug nuts)

Anyone who has ever taken grade school chemistry should know about something called Galvanic corrosion. It's a chemical reaction that takes place when electrical charges are introduced between two incompatible metals, such as steel and aluminum. The net result? The pieces basically weld themselves together...

As mentioned, the Prius generates electricity when braking, and as such, the aluminum wheel literally welds itself to the steel hub. Which makes for difficult times when attempting to rotate your tires every 5,000 miles. I literally have to kick the wheels with all of my might (and these legs ride/run/squat/press a lot of weight on a regular basis) to break the wheel free from the hub.

Come on, Toyota...


Number 3: The Window Locks & Door Locks Are Dumb

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Door locks and window locks are a good thing, right? Yes, provided they function properly. Unfortunately, when you activate the window locks on the Prius, it prevents everyone from raising or lowering the windows. Including the driver.

And the door locks... the car doesn't auto-lock when you begin moving, nor does it auto-unlock when you park it. Really? My 1992 Beretta did that.


Number 2: The Dashboard - Who Designed This Thing?

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Dashboards are supposed to provide valuable information at a glance. But surprise - the Prius doesn't do that.

Rather than share information like engine coolant temperature, oil pressure, or alternator/charging system condition, the Prius proudly tells me such things as whether or not my rear defroster is on, if I have the HVAC system set to auto or manual, if I have my headlights on, or if I have the cruise control activated. It even proudly tells me it's "READY" - meaning the car is on... sigh.

Really? Those things were more important than knowing the status of vital engine components and conditions? Why couldn't the Toyota brain-trust have placed a small indicator light on the rear defrost button itself, rather than displaying it on the dashboard?

And the dashboard design is terrible - it's set extremely far forward on the dash and is right at the base of the windshield, which causes a reflective glare from the speedometer on the windshield at night.


Number 1: The ABS/Traction Control System WILL kill you, eventually.

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I couldn't get a photo of the ABS/Traction light while it was on, so I used this representation instead...

Here's the deal. Imagine you're driving on a perfectly flat, perfectly clear, perfectly dry road, and you encounter a stop light. You begin to apply your brakes and slow the car in a controlled manner. Now, assume there is a set of railroad tracks (or some other imperfection, such as a pothole, rut, or some other type of irregularity) that you must cross while approaching the stoplight.

If you have your foot applied on the brake pedal and you encounter an imperfection in the road, the brakes will literally disengage and the car will speed-up until you clear the imperfection. It is truly unnerving and unsettling.

Even though I know it will happen, it still surprises me every single time. It doesn't matter if you press the brakes harder; the system takes over and releases the brakes because I suspect the ABS thinks the car is skidding. It's the least intelligent ABS system I've ever experienced, and it's dangerous.

It's not just me... Google search for "Prius speeds up over bumps while braking" or "Prius brake stutter while braking" and you'll find thousands of complaints about it.

Where are the lawyers now?


Miscellaneous gripes

So, I have a few other miscellaneous complaints - none are really "top 10 worthy" but are gripes nonetheless. Far be it from me to pass on an opportunity to kvetch or complain about something, so here are a few more items to consider:

It's a hybrid

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Contrary to popular belief, hybrid technology isn't new. The first hybrid cars existed as far back as the late 1800s, and they used regenerative braking, battery packs, electric motors, and many of the same technological components as today's Prius.

Batteries are bad. They're bad for a number of reasons. They're heavy. They have a very finite life cycle, and WILL need to be replaced at some point. They're toxic to the environment when produced and are toxic to dispose of. To manufacture them, the components are shipped to four continents - how "eco-friendly" is that? The ore is strip-mined in Canada, the ore is refined in China, the cells are assembled in the UK, and the car is built in Japan.

The technology is also extremely finicky and difficult to service. Despite being an ASE-certified technician with seven years experience, there's no way I'd ever attempt to work on the hybrid system myself. And that's both a shame and scary.


The Fuel Bladder Sucks

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As I mentioned in a previous entry, the Prius nearly stranded me thanks to the inaccurate gas gauge.

The root cause of this (aside from bad engineering) is likely to be the fuel bladder system that the Prius uses. Rather than using a rigid, fixed volume gas tank, the Prius uses a bladder system, similar to a hot water bottle.

When the bladder becomes cold, it doesn't expand as freely as it does when warm, and as such, the capacity diminishes. So, rather than holding a full 12-gallons of fuel, it may only hold 10.5 when cold... that's more than 60 miles of capacity gone. And for what benefit?


No power outlets or amenities, for that matter

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What modern car doesn't have several power outlets? There are two (2) power outlets in the Prius - one located very inconveniently under the dash near the passenger footwell, and one located more inconveniently in the center console. Try having your backseat passengers charge their cell phone while on a road trip... it's comical.

The general lack of amenities is a letdown, especially on a car that cost $31,000. Yep, that's right - my 2009 Prius carried a sticker price of more than $31,000. And at that price, it didn't include heated seats, power seats, or satellite radio. Leather without heated seats is semi-criminal.


It's a Soul Sucker

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The Prius may be practical, but it's anything but fun or inspiring. In fact, it's a vampire that slowly erases your identity and suffocates your soul - Twilight has nothing on the Prius. Every trip becomes one mired in tedium. You can't get excited when driving this car. It's an egg on wheels. I dare you to find the words "sexy," "invigorating," "spirited," or "refreshing" and "Prius" used in the same paragraph... the Prius is the ultimate in plain vanilla, milquetoast, dry toast, pasty oatmeal automotive offerings.


So there you have it. The top ten reasons why I literally hate the Prius. So why not get a new car?

There are a couple of reasons... despite the lying gas gauge, I do enjoy the fact that I can drive the car for 9-12 days and only use $28 in fuel.

I do appreciate that I can fit several bicycles in the back; I've hauled a recliner home in it; I moved most of my possessions to the new residence in it... so, yeah - it can hold a few things.

I like the inexpensive car payment and cheap insurance. I guess when you try to insure a car that has 90-horsepower, the insurance Gods shine brightly upon you.

I like that the car is "plain" - it draws no attention from the authorities, and anonymity in that circle is fine by me.

But that's about it... the list of likes is quite a bit shorter than the dislikes... So to address the question about getting another car - the answer is simple: there's nothing that I like better right now.

As I mentioned earlier, I considered several other cars - the Audi A3, A4, or A6 are all near the top of my list for cars that I'd really like to own. But I can't justify a payment that's nearly twice that of the Prius. The same holds true for cars like the Subaru WRX or a gently used Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

I considered a Mini Cooper Clubman, but it was too small to be practical; I couldn't even fit a single bike in it. I looked at the new Malibu, which is gorgeous and nicely appointed, but again, it's a true sedan - no room for a bike or even a larger dog.

Any true sedan or coupe isn't a viable option; sure, they'd be fun, comfortable, and would have more personality, but I'd have to pony-up for and deal with things like bike racks, luggage racks, and so on. Any SUV would provide cargo room, but the fuel costs would eat me alive, and the insurance would be nearly double that of the Prius.

And so I'm stuck with this soul leech. Maybe I need to play PowerBall a little more often...

Tag, I'm it.

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Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. WIth as absolutely friggin' terrible as Madison drivers are, I knew I'd eventually have an incident while on the road. And my time came yesterday at lunch.

With my achilles tendon growing better by the day, I've been increasing my run distances slowly but surely. I've also given-up on waking up early to go run during the week - I'm just not a morning person, and I can't bring myself to consistently rise and run by 6:30am each day. So, I usually run during my lunch hour, which means I have to venture out in the downtown Middleton area.

Yesterday's weather was absolutely beautiful - mid 70s, light breeze, sunny and mild. A perfect day for running. I was about 3.5 miles into my route when I approached an area that has several restaurants, which means there are several driveways/entrances to parking lots. I've mapped my route so that I never run "with" traffic - I'm always running "against" it, so that I can better see people as they turn into and out of driveways and intersections.

So imagine my surprise when I suddenly felt like I had been tackled from behind and scooped up onto a hard surface. One second I was running, the next I was hitting something hard. My left hand went instinctively behind me to help catch my fall and I heard a "crunch" followed by a horn honk.

It scared the living daylights out of me, and I sprung straight up. I had been hit from behind by a car that was turning left into the entrance of a restaurant's parking lot - see the diagram of what happened:

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The car didn't knock me down - it scooped me onto the hood (partially). When I sprung up, I spun around and saw a lady in a white Kia sedan on her phone. I gave her a "what the heck just happened???" type of look as I got out of the way. Once clear of her car, I stopped and stared at her and said, "What the hell are you doing?!"

She was on her phone, and much to my surprise, she honked at me again and then took off, honking her horn the whole time. As she sped off, I took a swing at the side of her car with my fist, and managed to get a solid hit in the left rear corner.

I couldn't believe what happened. I also can't believe that I wasn't aware enough to get her license plate or anything - in fact, I'm not even 100% positive it was a Kia sedan. Everything happened so quickly; it was an unbelievable experience. Thankfully, the only bad things that happened were my left palm is nice and bruised from hitting the hood:

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And I've got a small, perfectly circular cut in my leg, near the back of my knee from what I assume was a license plate bolt. I'm guessing that's where the car first hit me from behind. How I was "scooped up" is beyond me - I probably should've been knocked down... I can only assume that she wasn't going more than 3-4 miles per hour because there's nothing else that hurts or shows any injury.

My co-workers laughed at me when I went back to work yesterday and sat at my desk like nothing was wrong. My boss even said, "So wait - you just got hit my a car, and here you are sitting at work?" Yeah, I guess so. :-)


I did also do the Capital bike ride last night, and was pleased to be surrounded by a bunch of friends from work and some really cool dogs. One of my project team members did the ride last night and then brought her dog, Piper to say hello. Here's Piper (he's a 3-year old Visla):

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And here's Piper with his owner, Carrie (my project team member) - she's an organizational readiness analyst who has helped us with communications and organizational change management for one of my really big projects:

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And then there were these two random buddies - a cute greyhound named "Nola" and an awesome Neopolitan Mastiff named "Madison." They were super sweeties.

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According to their owners, Nola got her name because she was rescued from New Orleans, Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina; and Madison is a 6-year old, 200-pounder. Crazy!

So, not only are the roads awful around Madison (I still dare anyone to drive down University Avenue with a hot cup of coffee near their lap), but the driver's are quite honestly some of the worst I've ever experienced. I've made mention of this in the past, and most have dismissed my observations as "heresy" and due to "grumpiness," but now I have hard evidence that my claims are well-founded, reasonable, and substantiated.

Study shows that Madison, WI is the 16th most dangerous city to drive in.

I saw the story on the news last night, and boy howdy - I couldn't agree more. I'm most surprised that Madison ranked so low - I'd put it in the top 5 for worst cities to drive, ride, run, or walk in. To further validate my claims that I "know" my bad drivers when I see them, Austin ranked 4th - and you'll recall how much I disliked Texas drivers...

But back to Madison... Common driving events include:

  • Drivers speed and tailgate like crazy, regardless of surroundings: it's not uncommon for me to have people pass me on University Avenue or Parmenter Street at speeds in excess of 50mph (the speed limit is 30-35 on either street).
  • Drivers "block the box" when turning left: this incredibly stupid maneuver involves left-turn traffic pulling well into the middle of an intersection while waiting for traffic to clear so they can complete their left-hand turn. I've seen at least 2 accidents because of this.
  • Drivers do not yield to pedestrians or bicyclists, even when in "protected" zones like crosswalks or bike lanes. You have a real death wish if you commute by foot or bike in this city.
  • Drivers cannot comprehend the notion of a "round-about," yet we keep adding them... I can't tell you how many times I've seen people go the wrong way in a round-about. It's not that hard to figure out, folks! Yield to traffic from the left, and you're good.
  • They love to run yellow/red lights here. Holy cats - I've never seen so many people run yellow/red lights as I have since moving back to Wisconsin. It happens at least 2-3 times on every single trip I take, including my short, < 3 mile commute to work each day.
  • School zones? Why should I slow down for them?!
  • Drunk/distracted/out-of-control drivers are everywhere. I always get the feeling as if no one is ever in control of their vehicles here - it's as if they get in, start the car, and just "hang on" for dear life as they drive. Truly scary to see people trying to navigate parking lots, entry/exits, and so on - I just shake my head when I see a car/truck come bounding into a parking lot, the driver perched way back, arms outstretched as if they had Tyrannosaurus Rex-arm syndrome, with a complete lack of sense for their surroundings... they usually go squealing into a parking stall, narrowly missing any adjacent vehicles, and then bounce to a stop, the car rocking back-and-forth as they jam the shifter into park.

So, here's to you, Madison - congrats on the ranking... now do us all a favor and try to learn how to drive with some courtesy and awareness of those around you. As I've mentioned before, I've narrowly missed being run over by people while I'm running - it happens so often that I've stopped counting the incidents.


And speaking of drivers, I had a chance to play golf yesterday afternoon - my friend John called and asked if I'd like to join him for 18 holes at the Foxboro club in Oregon, WI, and I said "Absolutely!"

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The weather was gorgeous - low 80s, sunny, but a tad on the humid side. Oh well, who can complain when you have an opportunity to sneak out of work for a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon to hack away at the golf course?

And hack away I did. I haven't golfed since 2007 - my clubs were covered in dust, in fact! My first swing was a shot from the 1st tee... and things went downhill from there. I think I shot a 55-56 on the front 9, and we stopped counting on the back 9... :-D

Here's me at one of the tee boxes - folks, this is how NOT to tee-off:

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I say that only because nearly every one of my tee shots ended-up in the rough - I have this amazing tendency to slice each and every tee-off. So, I spend the majority of my remaining shots working my way back to the fairway. It's still fun, though. I need to get out and golf more than I have been - it's pretty enjoyable, and there are definitely worse ways to spend an afternoon.

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Pop-quiz

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Pop-quiz for you driving experts...

Q: In the picture below, assuming that the road as illustrated is a controlled access interstate highway, which vehicle should yield right of way (slow down, speed up, etc)?

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Options:


  1. Vehicle "A" should yield by slowing down or speeding up to "make room" for Vehicle "B"

  2. Vehicle "B" should yield by slowing down and waiting for an appropriate and safe opportunity to enter mainstream traffic.

Take a second to think about this....

The answer is: Vehicle "B" should yield. Why? Vehicle B is attempting to access a controlled-access highway, and must therefore yield to existing traffic. The same holds true of any traffic that would normally interrupt or impede the normal flow of any mainstream traffic.

However, if you're from Wisconsin, apparently the person on the ramp should automatically have the right-of-way, and all other traffic should yield to the ramp traffic. Silly me, I should've known better - I was shocked to discover this "unwritten rule" while driving to the Packers game on Saturday...

The highway was packed with traffic, and I was "coached" by my passengers that it was my responsibility to make room for any traffic that was trying to merge its way onto our crowded highway. Hmm. I guess you learn something new every day.

Pop Quiz: Texas Drivers Edition

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3:26am on Sunday morning and I'm wide-freakin'-awake. Nice. I don't know what it is, but I absolutely cannot sleep. Tossed and turned for the past two hours with zero sleep, so I decided to get some things done. Answered a ton of work e-mails from the weekend, made a to-do list for Monday morning, and crafted an idea for this blog entry.

In the past, I've been rather critical of Oklahoma drivers, and prior to moving to Austin, I was convinced that the world's worst drivers were from Oklahoma. And while I still firmly believe that Oklahoma drivers are awful, Texas drivers have officially won the award for the world's worst drivers, without a doubt, and beyond any exception. Congratulations, Texas - you hold a unique distinction!

I have never had more bad experiences while driving than I have while in Texas. It's ridiculous how badly people drive here - they have no regard/care/respect/concern for anyone else on the road, and it almost seems as though they blatantly try to spit on the rules of the road. It's so maddening.

So, in the interest of helping illustrate just how bad the drivers are, I've developed this quiz. See how you stack up against the selfish, inconsiderate, obtuse, rude, and genuinely awful drivers from Texas. Let's begin. Oh - just a word of advice - if you've completed a single hour of drivers education at any point in your life, you're already going to score light years ahead of any Texas driver...

And before you think I've lived a sheltered, traffic-free life, please keep in mind that I have spent many years living and commuting in San Francisco and Washington DC, so I'm not really a stranger to heavy traffic...





Question 1: Were you at any point in your life taught or otherwise educated on how to drive in Texas? Or, do you currently hold a Texas-issued driver's license?

A. No. I am educated, considerate, understand and observe the rules of the road, realize I am not the only person on the planet, do not tailgate, do not camp in the left lane while going 55, do believe in using my cruise control, and try my best to properly signal impending traffic maneuvers such as lane changes.

B. Hell yes! Screw everyone!!! Y'all!!!!


If you answered "A," please continue to try and avoid driving in, near, or through the state of Texas. You will only become frustrated and your life will most definitely be placed in immediate and extreme danger. Nuns and Buddhist monks alike have been blinded with rage from encountering Texas drivers. If you answered "B," I have nothing to say other than, "Lord help us all."






Question 2: This picture shows:

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A. A 5,000-horsepower NHRA Top Fuel Dragster as it leaves the starting line of a closed-course race track, where the environment has been strictly controlled to facilitate professional drivers operating and competing with technologically advanced machinery designed for maximum acceleration over the course of a quarter mile.

B. A typical Texas driver at any given stoplight in any given part of town.


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas... in which case, you should substitute the multi-million-dollar race car for a: pick-up truck, SUV, ratty old Hyundai, or Vespa scooter - the result is the same. No one else can accelerate as quickly as a Texas driver. When the light turns green, you absolutely MUST floor it - don't look back, don't look around, just gas it and go. And don't you dare stop accelerating unless you've run into someone in front of you - just go, go, go! (y'all!)






Question 3: You are the only car on this particular stretch of road. You do not wish to exit from the road. Which lane should you be driving in?

open_road.jpg

A. The lane to the right (not the exit lane).

B. The left lane would be my preference, especially if I was going 57mph in an area zoned for 65mph. Or, hell, since I'm a Texas driver, whichever dang lane I want, including the exit lane and both shoulders, y'all!!




The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case you don't care about lanes. Your vehicle has wheels, a motor, and at least one gun rack, so you'll drive wherever you want to.





Question 4: Reference the picture from question #3, and imagine there is a ______ (insert: bicycle, pregnant mother pushing a baby stroller, pack of baby ducks, or other defenseless entity) traveling on the shoulder. There is no traffic on the road. You are the only vehicle on this particular stretch of road. When passing the non-motorized entity as described earlier, you should:

A. Allow a safe distance between your vehicle and the cyclist/pedestrian/creature. It would be best to move over to the far left lane, and pass with some degree of caution.

B. Hug the shoulder as closely as possible in an attempt to buzz the cyclist/pedestrian/creature. If available, you should throw something at them while whooping and hollering. After all, this is YOUR road and who the heck do they think they are by riding/walking/traveling on YOUR road, y'all?!!


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, answer "B" would be the natural, knee-jerk response.






Question 5: You are traveling in heavy city traffic on a multi-lane highway, where the speed limit is 65mph. There are vehicles in every lane, and there are signs that clearly indicate that "slower traffic keep right." What does this mean?

A. Traffic that is preparing to exit the highway should be in or near the right-most lane so that they may efficiently and safely exit the highway. Traffic that is traveling at a normal pace should attempt to occupy the center lane, and traffic that is passing the slower traffic should temporarily occupy the left-most lane, then return to the center lane so as not to impede other drivers.

B. Who the @*#&$!!@ cares?! I'm from Texas, y'all!! I drive where ever I want to, and I'll drive at whatever speed I want! If I want to go 45 in the left lane and then swerve over to the far right lane, speed up to 100, then slam on my brakes as I dive over to the left lane so that I can squeeze within inches of you and another car while going 50, I'll do it, y'all!! Get outta' my way, y'all!!! Yeeeeeee hawwww!!



The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case answer "B" seems completely plausible, especially if you add in that you're texting on your iPhone and jamming out to some country music while driving like a complete jack-and-apes.





Question 6: True or false - when traveling on the freeway, where the majority of traffic is flowing smoothly and the road is wide open, straight, and free of obstruction, you should use your cruise control to maintain a consistent rate of speed.


The correct answer is "True." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, you will most likely do your very best to disrupt that even flow and rate of travel. It is your God-given right (and duty) to drive like a complete jerk, so you will speed-up whenever someone attempts to pass you, and you will attempt to make it nearly impossible for anyone to get around you. If you're in the left lane, you will be going slower than everyone until someone attempts to pass you. If you're lucky enough to spot another driver from Texas, the two of you will form what is often referred to the "Texas roadblock" by driving side-by-side at exactly 8 mph slower than the posted speed limit, thus impeding and inconveniencing every other driver around you. Occasionally, your Texas roadblock will speed-up to a high rate of speed, still traveling side-by-side, and then abruptly slow back down. You will repeat this process for miles and miles.





Question 7: When approaching a stoplight where all surrounding traffic has come to a stop and the signal shows "red," you should:

A. Remove your foot from the gas pedal, apply the brakes, slow down, prepare to stop, and be aware of the traffic around you.

B. Keep on accelerating toward the stoplight, screw y'all!! I'm from Texas, I'm driving a big truck, I got my 10-gallon hat on, I got my country music crankin, I got a big wad of dip in my lip, and I ain't slowin' down for nobod--- oh crap!!! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEETCH!!!!! What the heck are y'all doin'?! Get outta' my way!!!


The correct answer is "A." By now, you've probably got the idea of how bad things are around here...






Question 8: You live in a city of nearly 2-million people. There isn't a dirt road, field, or any type of farm within a 30-mile radius. Parking spots are tiny, parking garages are short, and gas is both limited and expensive. What type of vehicle should you consider purchasing?

A. A reasonably sized vehicle that suits your needs; if you have a family, you might purchase a minivan. If you're single, you might purchase a smaller vehicle, such as a MINI Cooper, or a Honda Civic.

B. The biggest truck you can find, in 4x4, with the largest motor available. You should then modify the truck so that it is lifted beyond the legal limit, fit it with the loudest exhaust possible, tint the windows as black as possible, install an oversized and unnecessary trailer hitch, and install a large brush guard on the front, complete with as many fog lights as possible. If there's any room left on your credit card, extra chrome trim is always a welcome option.


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, you will answer "B," and you will then drive that obnoxious truck in an equally obnoxious and unsafe manner.






Question 9: What is the purpose of a speed bump?

A. To slow the speed of traffic, usually in an attempt to encourage safety and awareness in an area that may be heavily populated by pedestrians.

B. A jump for my vehicle and a major inconvenience to my busy schedule, y'all!


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case the answer is "B." You will accelerate at a high rate of speed toward the speed bump, slam on the brakes at the last possible second, fly over the bump, and then gas it to the next speed bump.

Wait... check that - if you're really from Texas, you would never slam on the brakes - you'd just keep accelerating, so disregard the explanation. Just gas it, y'all.






Question 10: You are driving on a busy section of road, where there are exactly 117 other cars around you. How many other cars are around you?

A. 117.

B. Who cares?! I'm from Texas, y'all!! I'm the ONLY car on the road!! I'm the ONLY one that matters!! Don't mess with Texas!!


Sigh.....





If you answered "A" to any question above, you are most likely not a Texas driver, and for that, I thank you and welcome you as a fellow driver. I also encourage you to stay as far away as possible from any vehicle that displays Texas plates, because you will most likely go from being a peaceful, law abiding driver, to an enraged, ready-to-snap, wanting to pull your hair out driver within a matter of seconds. Trust me.

Bonus question:

This is a picture of:

bush_driving.jpg

A. George W. Bush, our previous president

B. God's gift to the world and a fellow Texan. But what the heck is he doing driving so slowly?! That boy's spent too much time in Warshington DC, y'all! Tell him to gas it and go! What? No, he don't have to look ahead - he can keep lookin' over his shoulder, just gas it! Go, go, go!!!! Yeeeeeeeehaw!

Oklahoma, Part II

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So I had the pleasure of driving into Tulsa yesterday to pick up my sister-in-law from the Tulsa airport. Normally, I really enjoy driving. There's nothing quite like getting into a car that has just had its oil changed, tires rotated, fluids checked, and gas tank filled, knowing that you're about to embark on a good 'ole fashioned road trip. I enjoy seeing the countryside, listening to my Sirius Satellite Radio (or iPod), firing up the radar detector and hitting the road.

But just as the driving experience can be enjoyable, it can be miserable, and that's exactly how I describe any trip to Oklahoma, or any trip that's tainted with an abundance of Oklahoma drivers in close proximity to me. Holy cats. People -- I know that you think I'm exaggerating or embellishing how poorly Okies drive, but I swear to you I am not. Ask anyone that lives anywhere near Oklahoma and they'll tell you the same thing - there is not a worse group of drivers than Oklahomans.

Here are a few reason as to why I can't stand to drive anyhwere near an Okie, as evidenced yesterday during my forray into OK:

1) They don't use cruise control.
The speed limit in Oklahoma is 75mph on most interstate highways. I set the cruise on my car at 78mph, and stayed in the right lane, except for when I had to pass the frequent vehicle that was travelling 50mph or slower. Nothing like a 30mph speed differential to keep you on your toes...

Anyway, I never varried my speed. 78 on the dot. Oklahoma is flat. The road was smooth and nice. Yet, almost every single vehicle that either passed me or was passed by me would do the following: slow down as I passed them or after they passed me. We'd trade places. The vehicle would then pass me at around 90mph, then slow down to 65 mph. Then they'd go exactly 78mph. Then they'd drop down to 70mph. Then they'd speed up to 80mph. Repeat this until they would exit, or we'd come up on other traffic. Can anyone hold a steady speed in Oklahoma???

It wasn't just 1 vehicle, it was every other vehicle on Highway 412 -- seriously!


2) Brakes = 100% on or 100% off
I followed an older Oldsmobile car that was driven by a lady with frizzy, 80's rockstar curly hair. The Olds was rusted. It was missing at least one hubcap. It was filthy. The antenna was "repaired" with a coat hanger. No license plate. And two bumper stickers that read: "If you can't FEED 'em, don't BREED 'em!" and then right below it, another that read, "Pro Choice and Proud of it!" Excellent. I fully support the pro choice movement. But her car was full of kids - 4 to be exact, and by the looks of the car, she had to be feeding her kids because she wasn't putting any money into the vehicle...

So, she would approach a slower vehicle, and at the very last possible second, SLAM on the brakes. The car would nose dive, weave a little, and I would zing past her (my cruise still on 78mph). Then she'd floor it past me, only to approach the vehicle in front of her, and then SLAM on the brakes again.

Repeat this for every vehicle she encountered. All the way from Siloam Springs to the Tulsa airport. She was always within eyesight of me (or alongside of me).


3) Red light? What's that?
I encountered a few stoplights during yesterday's journey, and like most respectable drivers, when the light turned yellow I would slow, and when the light turned red, I would stop. Apparently most Oklahoman drivers are color blind, as a red light carries no meaning if you're displaying an Oklahoma license plate.


4) Stop when there's no red light.
Following a long line of traffic, and we're stopping for no reason along an extremely busy stretch of "city" road. An opening appears in the other lane, and I floor my vehicle to get out of the stopped line of traffic. What's the hold-up? Oh, just a guy in silver Mustang, who's stopped in the middle of the road to look at a sign on a building... At least he wasn't in the left lane, in a 45mph zone. Oh, wait, that's right - he was.


5) Total and complete idiocy and ignorance.
I saved the best for last... When you enter Oklahoma from the east on Highway 412, you have to pay a $2.25 toll to get on to the Cherokee Turnpike. Shortly after paying your toll, there is a travel center that features a gas station, convenience store, and some restaurants. I was driving past this center when a truck approached from the on-ramp. It was a new Ford pick-up truck, the Harley Davidson edition. Gloss black, nice new wheels, and tinted windows. As it merged onto the highway just in front of me, I immediately noticed two things:

a) Several confederate flag sitckers on the back window, which is fine. No big deal...

b) The ENTIRE tailgate was covered with bumperstickers that read, "Save America! Vote Bush/Cheney for '08"

I kid you not. The ENTIRE tailgate was plastered with these stickers - side to side, top to bottom. Where was my camera when I really needed it?!

Aside from the fact that a President can't be elected to a third term, Bush/Cheney have all but ruined us. I always wondered who the idiots were that voted for those bumbling, crooked, underhanded, lying, ignorant, (insert 100 other derrogatory comments) dummies Bush and Cheney.... now I know.

In defense of Oklahoma, the truck in question had a Texas license plate...


New Feature: Drivers by State

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Welcome to my newest feature - "Drivers by State." In this sure-to-be-entertaining new series, I'll take an in-depth look at the drivers from each of our fifty fine states, examine their idiosyncracies, point out their flaws, and point out any unique identifiers.

For our first installation, I'd like to start with Oklahoma drivers.

State: Oklahoma
Easy Identifier: Look for the driver that's oblivious to everything.
Watch Out For: Erratic moves without using signals, extreme tailgating, regularly running red lights, road hogging, random lane changes, random parts falling from vehicle, and complete jack@$$edness driving.
Distinction: The world's *worst* drivers, bar none.

oklahoma.jpg

(story continues after clicking link)

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