Maximum Max at the TDI Cup

Max and I are in Virginia this weekend for the inaugural race of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. You can read all about that at Diesel Forecast and AutoblogGreen. If you’ve been watching TV in recent weeks you might have seen Volkswagen’s new brand campaign featuring a series of interviews between some pseudo celebrities and “Max”. Max is the star of the ads and he/it is here this weekend for the race. Max and Max met face to face for the first time this morning. The TV Max is the one on the right in the commercials.

Up north for a few days 2

sleeping bear dunesWe just got back from a little vacation up in Traverse City for a few days and while most of it was great, there is one thing I feel I must warn you about.  West of Traverse City on the Lake Michigan coast is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   The Platte River flows through part of the park and there are at least two companies that offer canoing and tubing trips down the river.  The river is shallow and meanders down to the Michigan shoreline at a very slow pace.  It’s a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.  Just don’t go with Riverside Canoe Trips.  They have the most convoluted process I’ve ever seen for getting the tubes, getting transported to the drop-off point and then returning the tubes to get your deposit back. I won’t get into all the details, but suffice it to say that if you choose to do this I would go with the Trading Post instead.

The other problem with Riverside is their tubes are too small for adults to get comfortable on.  They had these funky tubes that had an inner ring in the center that prevents an adult from letting their butt slide down into the tube so you end up sitting up on top of the whole thing.  Aside from that the river was great and it’s an awesome way to spend a couple of hours.  The whole Traverse City area was nice and the beaches there and at the Dunes were wonderful.   We’ll definitely be going back.


stackable parking in ManhattanI spent a couple of days in Manhattan this week for the New York Auto Show some interesting stuff.  For a city that claims to be as progressive as Ann Arbor they sure have missed the boat when it comes to parking.  As everyone in the area knows downtown parking is at premium.  Unfortunately the choice to build parking structures on small footprints of land like the one at Fourth and Washington is somewhat counterproductive.  The space taken up by ramps so that cars can get in and out as well as stairs, elevators and the supporting structure itself, leaves too too few parking spaces per level.  Overall it’s a very inefficient design and leaves drivers often trolling up and down the levels looking for a parking space.  If you are going to build a structure, it needs to have a large-enough footprint that the ramps don’t take up such disproportionate amount of the potential parking area.

Manhattan on the other hand seems to have the solution.  Rack mount parking that provides the maximum density of parked cars per area available.  There is little wasted space and it’s probably cheaper to install than a parking structure.  I saw all kinds of these structures during my cab rides between the hotel and Javits Center and the airport.

With my limited time in the city, I didn’t get to really do any sight-seeing.  Manhattan is a very densely populated city with stuff going on everywhere you look and all kinds of noises.  The city is very much alive and an interesting place to visit, but the kind of place I’d want to live.  It seems like the majority of actual moving cars on the streets of Manhattan are yellow cabs, with most of the private vehicles sitting in those racks.  Given the traffic in the city, that’s probably just as well.

Getting out of New York was a real pain in the ass.  The Javits Center is on the western edge of Manhattan island while JFK airport was east of Manhattan in Queens.  Judging from my several cab rides over 48 hours in town plus my previous visit in December, going north-south in Manhattan is pretty straight-forward.  Going east-west on the other hand is anything but.  My ride to the airport involved the cabbie continuously turning norht or south trying to find an east-west route that wasn’t backed up.  The 17 mile ride took about an hour and a half.  It’s a good thing I left with plenty of time.  more later…

Something about Detroit that doesn’t suck! 1

I spent a couple of days in Chicago this week with the Autoblog team covering the Auto Show there, and between this trip and my December trip to Manhattan, I came to the realization that there is at least one thing that Detroit can be proud of, the MacNamara Terminal at Metro Airport.  After flying into LaGuardia and O’Hare’s terminal 2, I was reminded in both cases of the nasty old terminal that Northwest flew out of.  They are both crowded, narrow and kind of dark.  Leaving O’Hare in particular was awful.  The entrance to the security screening area was in the middle of the terminal and the lines spread from there in both directions to the entire length of the terminal.  Once we got to the security check point, there was a grand total of TWO lanes for the whole terminal.  Metro on the other hand, is open and bright and easy to get around.  Of course, all is not perfect, all airports need far more electrical outlets for travellers to plug into.  With so many people travelling with laptops, dvd players and all manner of other electronics, people need to charge their devices, especially when they are stuck between flights.

Now having said something something positive about Detroit, I must say that Cobo Hall must be demolished immediately if not sooner and replaced with a new convention center.   Cobo as everyone who has ever been in there knows how dark and unpleasant it is, not to mention not that big.  McCormick Place by comparison is huge, bright and just generally a much more pleasant place to be.  If we had a facility like this in Detroit, we might actually atract a lot of national scale events besides the Auto Show and the SAE World Congress.  As it is, the only reason the Detroit Auto Show gets any attention at all is because it’s home to Ford, GM, and Chrysler.  Otherwise, the Chicago show would probably get all the big introductions.