Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Year's Day Road Trips - Part I: The Plan

I love road trips.  It's the idea of going somewhere I'm not.  The open road, changing scenery, the mystery of what's around the next bend.  Anywhere is fine.  The destination is unimportant as long as I can get in the car and go.  I've long admired/envied Peter Egan, who writes for Road and Track.  Long before I could drive, he was writing about road trips in interesting cars, including Austin Healeys, MGs, a Porsche 356, Ford Model A, and a couple of old Cadillacs.  Given the chance, a reliable mode of transportation, and the right music, I'll take a road trip at the drop of of a hat.  Over the years, I've made half a dozen runs to and from Florida, a pilgrimage to Dyersville, Iowa to see the Field of Dreams, and wandered across northeast Oklahoma along Route 66.  Unlike Peter Egan, my most interesting steeds were a LeBaron convertible, a rented Hertz yellow Mustang, and a Penske truck.  But given the keys and the time, I'll drive anything anywhere.

Which is how I found myself taking back to back road trips around New Year's Day.

The first trip was a run from Kansas City, Missouri to Palm Harbor, Florida in thirty-one hours.  There was no Smoky, no Snowman driving a truck full of Coors beer, and no black Trans-Am.  Instead, it was my in-laws' Kia Sedona mini-van and their gentle-giant golden retriever named Sunny.  They had driven up for the holidays and decided to fly back rather than drive.  At about this same time, my wife and I were car shopping and found a 2008 Saturn Outlook for sale just a few miles from their house.  The plan was for me to drive the Kia to Florida, buy the Saturn Outlook, and drive it home in four days, stopping just long enough to sleep, eat, and grab some quick beach time in nearby Dunedin.

Dunedin is a town of about thirty-five thousand people, just north of Clearwater and south of Palm Harbor on the Gulf Coast.  It's known for three things, Scottish heritage, the home of the Blue Jays spring training camp, and some of the best white sand beaches in the U.S.  Any day I could walk or bike along the Dunedin Causeway or watch the sunset from Caledesi island while my kids play on the beach to the sound track of laughter and gentle waves lapping the shore, is a day well spent.

Since my in-laws were flying back in a few days, we packed most of their luggage in the van.  The Kia's rear seats fold flat into the floor and the middle captain's chairs can be folded or removed.  It's amazing, the amount of space in a modern mini-van.  You could almost park an original, 1984 Plymouth Voyager inside the back of the Kia and have room to spare.  I'm also impressed with Kia's 3.8 V6.  I don't know if it's the same engine Hyundai puts in the Genesis, but it's buttery smooth and powerful.  No question it would outrun my old Infiniti, or just about any muscle car made before 1990.  Plus it burns regular gas and gets around 22 MPG on the highway, fully loaded, with a motorized wheelchair and lift on the back.

I spent Thursday morning, December 29 running errands to get ready for my trip.  I lined up financing at my credit union, called my insurance agent, and stock up on Diet Dr. Pepper.  By 12:30 the Kia was loaded and I was heading towards St. Louis.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Post - Dangers of Toxins Found in Automobiles

This post is by Brian Turner.  I thought I'd share it since it provides good information on some of the chemicals that can be dangerous when working on cars.

Dangerous Toxins Found in Automobiles

For many people, an automobile is more than just a means of transportation; it's an investment that sometimes has sentimental value. Beyond that, many individuals and families spend a lot of time in their vehicles, whether it's driving to and from work and school or taking road trips across the country. In fact, it's estimated that the average American spends anywhere from one to three hours per day in an automobile or vehicle of some kind.

Now imagine all those hours adding up over the course of months and years and take into consideration the fact that much of this time may be spend exposed to dangerous toxins such lead, bromine, asbestos, polyvinyl chlorine and ethyl benzene. These materials and chemicals aren't found in the exhaust fumes your car releases when you drive; they're found directly in interior components, including interior carpeting, dashboards, vinyl and cloth seats, and steering wheels.


The dangers of
lead are well known to most people. Lead poisoning can lead to a variety of problems, including fertility problems, joint and muscle pain, learning impairment in children, kidney problems and chronic headaches. Lead is especially common in classic cars since many car manufacturers used lead based paint in past decades. For people who keep or work on classic cars, being aware of the fact there may be lead particles released during paint stripping or other bodywork is essential in keeping safe.


Asbestos has been linked to many health problems and cancer types, including mesothelioma. It's estimated that over 9500 people die each year from asbestos related health issues. While regulations have tightened over the years, asbestos can still be found in some cars, especially classic and foreign models. It is most often present in hood liners,
brake pads, valves and gaskets and clutch linings. Asbestos is especially dangerous when breathed into the lungs, so protection for mechanics working on these areas of a vehicle is very important.

Bromine, Polyvinyl Chlorine and Other Fire Resistant Chemicals:

Other dangerous chemicals are found in carpets, dashboards, shifters and armrests. These chemicals include bromine, polyvinyl chlorine (PVC),
benzene and others. Most of these are fire resistant and applied either as an unsealed coating to interior vinyl and plastics or mixed into plastic material during manufacturing. Many of these materials, chemicals and metals are known to cause a variety of health problems, including neurological damage, anemia, respiratory problems, learning impairment and birth defects. They may be breathed in or absorbed through prolonged contact with the skin.

Always wear a facemask and eye protection while cleaning the interior of your car, and be sure to research which makes and models have the lowest amount of toxins in exterior and interior parts.