Happy New Year!
Readers, I have made two New Year's resolutions. The first is to lose 20 pounds in weight. That was last year's resolution as well — I lost only five pounds.
The second resolution is to start unloading a vast and complicated inventory of auto parts, new and used. More on that later.
But first, let's go to the L.A. Auto Show in Los Angeles. This year, they moved it from January back to December as to not interfere with the Detroit Auto Show. I saw a lot of cars. Most of them looked pretty much the same as last year.
The new themes at the show were fuel savings and the environment. Hydrogen fuel cells, E-85 fuels, batteries, and some other ideas were on display.
I met Rick Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, in the restroom draining the radiator after breakfast. His presentation later that morning discussed GM's commitment to quality and a new 100,000 mile warranty on GM vehicles. He also discussed the company's commitment to a car that would combine environmental concerns with a good price so you could "go green without going broke."
Poor President Wagoner. He had just finished his public presentation when a band of activists took the stage with him. They brought a petition with them on a huge cardboard sign that proclaimed General Motors Commits To The Environment and asked President Wagoner to sign it. He didn't sign. Security and police responded but it was not big deal. The activists got their day in the sun and lots of media attention for about 15 minutes.
One thing that seemed fairly common at the auto show were built-in GPS systems like On-Star in the 2007 vehicles. Call me old school, but I always just get out a map when I need directions. Every couple of years, I get a new Thomas Bros. guide and, for longer road trips, a free AAA map has always worked for me. With these simple tools, your significant other or friend in the passenger seat can direct you to most destinations.
Well, I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I find it's simply hard to get around anymore. I went to Las Vegas for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week and couldn't believe the new housing developments on I-15. There are hundreds of new streets. This is where GPS really should work well.
I remember several years ago my father-in-law had a GPS. He showed me how it worked and I was impressed with the electronics and satellites. However, without a GPS, I knew where I was. I was at Pomona College and he was too. No big deal. It might be a help to know your latitude and longitude but it looked like a toy to me.
"Merry Christmas, Allen!" This year, my lovely and thoughtful bride got me a Tom-Tom navigation system for my gift. At first, I was kind of surprised at the gift. After all, I never get lost! Okay, that's bull. I always know where I'm going. Okay, that's not true, either. I always listen carefully when the navigator in the passenger seat gives directions. (Ha ha!). So why would I need a Tom-Tom?
I really don't know how I lived without one. The Tom-Tom is to driving directions what the cell phone is to communications. This is a win-win for drivers who choose to travel smart and passengers who want to enjoy the drive. The Tom-Tom even talks you through the trip and has various voices and languages you can choose. I have been riding with Mandy, a British navigator. Mandy calls the freeways "motorways" and never makes a negative comment if I miss a turn. She simply directs me to another route.
All I have to do is input the destination and Mandy sets a route for my approval — or another if I don't like her first suggestion. She can direct me via a non-freeway route at rush hour or on the freeways.
The satellites somehow know my speed and the speed limit on some routes. When I'm over the speed limit, my speed shows in red. Mandy keeps her mouth shut about it when I am speeding, a good feature.
Here is the way things normally work, from an actual recent situation. My buddy and I are going to Lakeside, California, near San Diego, to pick up a trailer. Are we taking Interstate 5 or 15? Do we have good directions in San Diego? Do we have a current map? Yes, but the street we're looking for isn't on it. Would we get lost with the hand-drawn map of Lakeside as our only guide? Yes.
Chances are in this scenario there will be some harsh words and perhaps some profanity.
Gone are those days. We put the address in Tom-Tom and Mandy got us right there. She even forecasted the driving time in light traffic. Technology makes life easier for all again.
Life won't be as easy, however, with our driving and California's new laws. I went to traffic school since the last "Restoration Blvd." column. I really recommend the company "Free Pizza and Great Comedians" traffic school. I have gone to a few of these and this, by far, was the best and most informative.
One thing I learned from traffic school is that it looks like several new laws are going to hitting us soon! They are going to add speed cameras on the freeways and mail tickets out to everyone who passes by driving over the limit. They are going to change the speed limit to 65 miles per hour or less on all roads in California. They are going to increase substantially the fines and penalties for DUI, speeding over 100 miles per hour, street racing, and backing up on the freeway.
The state will be rich.
There are always a couple of interesting people in traffic school. One husband and wife couple got stopped after a party. The wife was driving and ended up getting a DUI. The husband was okay to drive but got a speeding ticket later that same night. During the speeding ticket process the wife got mouthy with the police and they ended up with five more vehicle violations that need to be corrected. The husband explained, "She gets pretty bad when she's been drinkin'."
Another guy got hit with a 99 miles per hour ticket on his motorcycle. He told the class he was going over 120 miles per hour and the officer gave him a break.
Another guy got a ticket for littering the freeway and causing an accident when some auto parts fell off his trailer. He said that the straps broke and some wheels fell off around LAX.
I know the guy's wheel and tire inventory problem. In the small area I have dedicated to outdoor storage I had 17 wheels: 13 with tires and 4 that were just rims. These have been accumulating for years along with a bunch of other stuff.
Keeping my New Year's resolution, I loaded eight wheels along with a bunch of other stuff and took off for the Pomona Swap Meet on Sunday, January 14, the coldest morning in months. There was ice on the road at 3:30 a.m. as we headed for the Swap Meet. I sold the eight wheels and tires, so now I'm down to nine in inventory.
One resolution down and one to go. Wishing you the best for the New Year!
Originally published in the February/March 2007 Automotive
Copyright 2007 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.