Monday, December 29, 2014

Dave's Drives: The back roads of San Ramon in the Aston Martin V8 Vantage

I got a new external microphone for my GoPro camera as a Christmas gift and it seemed a great day to go test how it would pick up the sounds of my favorite exhaust.  The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a great cruising car - a very luxurious, sporty, and capable 2-seater GT with 400 HP.  It is a fast car but not a world-beater.  But what is does have is a tremendous growl when the car opens up over 4000 rpm.  Crow Canyon Road as it heads west out of San Ramon, CA is a nice spot for a quick-fix countryside drive on a Sunday. Short and sweet and easily accessible from Danville and San Ramon but also from Castro Valley and San Leandro.  If the first 30 second of this video doesn't make you appreciate the Aston Martin, then you just don't love internal combustion engines!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dave's Drives: Highway 84 San Gregorio to Woodside, McLaren MP4-12C

Several of my favorite roads in Northern California lead to/from the small town of Woodside.  Highway 35 (Skyline Blvd) and Highway 84 (aka La Honda Road) are two of the best roads for a Sunday drive.  You get tall redwood trees and shady, twisty roads up along the ridge of Skyline, leading you to the "Four Corners" area where 35 and 84 meet  - and where cars, sports bikes, cruisers, and bicycles from all around have been gathering at Alice's Restaurant for decades.  Heading west on Hwy 84 towards the coast and the small town of San Gregorio, you pass through the peaceful outpost of La Honda, and then the road opens up into big sweeping turns as you go through open farm country on the way to the wonderful California Coast and Highway 1.  This video was shot coming up the other direction, East from San Gregorio on the coast up Highway 84 into La Honda and Woodside. A nice 70-degree day in November and a great excuse to take the McLaren out for a spin. If you want a perfect 2-hour tour of California's best, take the circular route that starts in San Mateo at the junction of Hwy 92 and Hwy 35:  Take Hwy 35 south from Hwy 92, then West on Hwy 84 to San Gregorio, North on Hwy 1 into Half Moon Bay, then back East on Highway 92 to where you started.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

McLaren MP4-12C: My first track impressions

This week, I got a chance to take the McLaren to a couple of track day events in Northern California: one at Sonoma Raceway and the other at Laguna Seca. My initial impression: I am wowed!!  At Sonoma, my first time on track with the new car, wearing stock street tires (Pirelli Pzero), I managed to beat my best time ever in my highly track-modified Cayman S.  I was a good 8 seconds faster around Sonoma than with the Cayman and I was not pushing the McLaren nearly as hard at all.  Keep in mind I have been racing that Cayman for 3 years!

A few days later at Laguna Seca, I bested my Cayman times again, this time by only a few seconds (1:41 in the McLaren vs 1:45 in the Cayman).  Again, not pushing the Mclaren very hard,a nd I know I can drop that time by 4-5 seconds.  I know it will handle more entry speed in the corners so I'm sure I am over-slowing and depending on the car's acceleration out of the corner to make up for it.  That's ok, it makes for a safer first experience.  I also took a few minutes to go out on the skid pad and try to break the car loose in some drifting to see how well I can control the car with steering and throttle inputs.  It went pretty well - the car is amazingly balanced. With traction control turned off, the rear end breaks loose easily with all that 600+ HP!  My flailing around caused one instructor to come over to see if I was a complete idiot or if I was actually trying to cause the car so much upset.  Nice guy, Pete, a very experienced race car driver and coach.  I then took him around the track for a session and he was amazed at the car's abilities - it never fails to blow people away what you can do with this car on track!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More great uses for the garage + New toys

This week, we harvested our first real batch of grapes from the vines next to the garage.  These vines are now in their second year and weren't expected to yield much, but we got about 100 lbs of Zinfandel from our 18 plants (and much more came from the 21 Concord grape vines planted on the other side of the hill next to the Zin). But this is about the Zin for now.  We got so many grapes that I decided we needed to start our first attempt at home wine making.  So, we rented a grape crusher to de-stem and do the initial crush.  We now have a new use for the garage!  It turns out to be a great place to spill a little juice and easily clean up lots of grape skins.  100 pounds of grapes were crushed into our 30-gallon primary fermenter (basically a food-grade garbage can), and it should ultimately yield 6 gallons of juice/wine. That'll be roughly 25-30 bottles of wine, depending on how much we lose in the process.  So now Dave, Car Guy takes a turn as Dave, Wine Guy.  If it turns out really bad, maybe I can use it as an engine de-greaser!

I will post more as the process continues, but for now, I finished the crush and in a couple weeks the initial fermentation will be complete.

While I am here, and since it has been so long since I have blogged (who knew retired life would be so busy!), I guess this is a good time to mention a couple adds to the Dave-Cave.  If you ever read my prior post regarding the history of my car addiction, you may have read about my motorcycle days and the 1985 Kawasaki Ninja I rode back in the 80's.  I crashed that bike, unfortunately, and apparently so did many others.  So you don't see them around much.  But I found one for sale last year and picked it up with the intention of fixing it up and keeping it around for non-riding aesthetic enjoyment.  It has just 15,000 miles and looks pretty dang good for a bike that is about to celebrate it's 30th birthday.  Nice to have one back in the family...

And just a  few weeks ago, I added a new car to the stable - the first one in a few years.  A 2012 McLaren MP4-12C. I appreciate this car for the fact that it was ground-breaking with its carbon-fiber chassis/tub and 3.8 liter twin-turbo engine putting out 600 HP.  But also for its historical significance. Bruce McLaren is a legend in auto racing and his cars from the Can-Am era were some of the first racing cars I really was aware of as a kid.  The MP4-12C was the first car built for consumers after the critically acclaimed but very limited McLaren F1 car.  That car has become very collectable and maybe some day the MP4-12C will be as well.  It has now been replaced with a new model (650S), so there are only about 1500 of these that got imported to the U.S.  And to drive it is... unexplainable. The speed and handling is unlike any other car I've driven.  It is faster and more capable on track than the competition from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, Corvette, Nissan, etc.  I will post more about this car as I become more familiar with it.  I have a track day coming up where I will get to really explore its capabilities. More blogging after that...