Monthly Archives: December 2013

Let’s share the road

There is enough space for all of us, providing we all observe the same road rules.

I have no problems with cyclists in general. You and you mate want to team up together and ride to work. Good on you. It is the Lycra-clad peloton that does my head in. Six abreast, ten deep. This, in a suburban street. They are not only blocking traffic in both directions, their grim determination to replicate Tour de France on the Lower North Shore is both infuriating and screamingly funny. If I was to pretend that I am in contention of the Bathurst 1000 on Sydney roads, I would be very quickly relieved of my driver’s licence and a very large amount of money. And rightly so. Come on, guys, I don’t mind if you are blocking my way, and only one direction of traffic. I am OK to wait until I can safely overtake. As a corporate worker, if I arrive few minutes late it is not a tragedy, though the tradie in his van behind me may not share my lack of enthusiasm for reaching my respective destination late. However, I do believe it is against the law for you lot to ride more than two abreast anyway.

Just as aside point, if you are going to wear white Lycra, stop sticking your butt in the air and get off the bike at traffic lights. The view of your rear truly leaves NOTHING to the imagination.

The other sore point is CBD pedestrians. I do not drive on the footpath, I obey the road rules. Stop at red lights and the rest. Please trust me, that SMS you are sending is not important. It will not solve world hunger or create world peace. Everything else can wait. The number of people who simply walk out on to the road without looking or caring (as it seems) is mind-boggling.

I nearly witnessed a tragedy this very morning watching a pedestrian crossing Clarence Street. The business woman wearing what a friend calls “sitting down shoes” launched out on to the road in front of a bus without a care in the world. I would have given anything to hear the bus driver trying desperately to stop roughly 10,000 kg of moving vehicle plus a number of unsuspecting passengers hurtling forward as this female unsteadily teetered across the road, obviously unable to even walk properly in her super-high heels. Love, I love beautiful high heel shoes just as much as you do. However, as somebody who drives to work every day, I know to mind the road rules, and have no intention of ending up a greasy spot on Clarence Street where some poor council worker will be sent out with a high-pressure hose and industrial detergent to scrape my remains off the tarmac.

10 reasons why you should fall in love with your car

Last month in the Weekend Australian, John Connolly from Prestige Motoring provided 10 reasons why not to fall in love with your car. I do not agree with him, and here are my 10 reasons why you should:

1) Cars don’t lie. Just because some moron with a cap back-to-front purchased an AMG badge and stuck it on the rear of a C250 (diesel), don’t blame the car. Blame the squidgy thing behind the steering wheel.

2) Cars don’t get cross with you if you are late. They patiently wait in the car park until you return.

3) A car does not continually correct you. Some of the new ones try, but this is easily rectified by turning that function OFF.

4) Cars take you where ever you want to go. They are just as happy to take you to a designer clothing store as they are to take you to Bunnings.

5) Cars do not run red lights whilst updating their Facebook, like the pedestrians in the CBD.

6) Cars are better than a therapist. A long drive by yourself is far better than session with therapist called Rainbow with whale mating songs in the background.

7) Cars don’t get sulky and stroppy if you look at another car.

8) They will even drive you around when you are shopping around for a new car. Try doing that with your partner.

9) They drive you to pick up your new car, despite knowing that they will be left behind. I try making mine feel better by telling them that they will go to a new home where the new owners will love them as much as I do.

10) Most people have fond memories of their cars, even the lemons. Now ask your friends how many of them remember their exes like this?

Dust, dust and more dust

After eight or nine sessions at Wakefield, I thought I’d try my hand at rally school. A friend shouted her partner eight laps at Hunter Valley Rally School, so I decided to play “The Cable Guy” and join their party.

Leaving work on Friday and getting stuck on the Pacific Highway was not the best way of starting our adventure, but once we cleared Warawee, things improved drastically. My friends were lucky, as they’d left about 30 minutes earlier. However, at least I had personalised updates on the traffic conditions.

We arrived in Cessnock, quickly found a fabulous pub called the Oaks with a fancy restaurant and great food. Feeling much mellower after our meal, we quickly hit the hotel for an early morning start.

We arrived at the requested time at HPOTs. I love watching the individuals booked for these sessions. You have a variety ranging from fathers with families who would not look out of place at a corporate “meet the family day” to teenagers with licenses so new that the ink has not yet dried, guys who would not look out of place riding a Harley wearing club colours and everything else in between.

After an intensive briefing from Amber, where we received a severe warning not to abuse or be rude to the young helpers, who turned out to be her delightful children, we were ready to start. The initial eight laps were in a Datsun from the 1980s. As you can appreciate, a car about 30 years old (which for the last ten of these has been used as a rally car, and for the last five has suffered the indignity of being abused by customers of the Hunter Valley Rally School) was never going to provide a luxury ride. Sitting in the little red Datsun, waiting to enter the circuit, I thought that the rattles and shakes were re-organising my internal organs. The interior was covered in inches of dust and the instructor and myself very quickly shared this dust coverage. The first lap is supposed to be completed at a moderate pace to get you familiar with the track and the car. The subsequent seven laps are to be done faster and faster, whilst trying to stay on the track and hopefully not lose your teeth, internal organs or dignity.

After completing the eight laps, I was covered in dust, and my liver was somewhere above my shoulder blade. But boy, what fun! Both my friend’s partner and I booked an additional five laps in more recent and lot less-abused WRXs. I wished that it had been more than five laps. The WRX was more responsive, faster and so much more fun. I fully realise that no sane person would let you trash one of the WRXs on the first round, and this business treats the last five laps as icing on the cake.

It is now three days since my highly enjoyable but dusty experience, and I am still coughing up dust.

We drove home via Wollombi. This is such a pretty road; with the twists and turns and traveling at the allowed speed, it keeps you engaged and concentrating at your peak, in contrast to the boring and concrete F3. I had the Harmon Kardon sound system turned up to level that would alarm most people, listening to Lorde, Cloud Control, Kite String Tangle and Mumford & Sons. I am still smiling three days later.

There is a special hell for people who damage cars in parking stations

I arrived at the parking station after a 12-hour day in the office, only to find that some mentally challenged individual had decided that my black car was offending his or her sense of entitlement. He or she had decided that my car would look much better with a 30-cm gash. Obviously, a key was used on the right-hand-side rear over the right rear panel. I think Dante describes it well. Like his Satan in the Inferno, you too are impotent, ignorant, and full of hate. Congratulations.

The car will be repaired, and I am happy to pay for it without claiming it on insurance. I could say that I wish that your car breaks down on Sydney Harbour Bridge during peak hour, but I am thinking about everybody else who would be affected, so let me finish up by wishing that the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits and leave it at that.

I was paying attention Boz, I promise.

Losing concentration whilst going fast. Another day, another One on One with Boz. To spare myself the agony of the 4 a.m. wakeup call, I stayed at Goulburn overnight. There is nothing like a family-owned motel in Australia. I stayed in enough of them when I worked for Shell and travelled to Alice Springs and every small town in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The one in Goulburn had a special surprise in the shape of a spider who decided that he wanted to share my bathroom. I know, in Australia I am never too far away from an arachnid, but that does not make them any more enticing. At least at home they keep their distance, thanks to my ever-present can of insect spray. This specimen liked the bathroom very much, and no amount of persuasion would convince him to move away. Let’s just say I won that argument.

The day at Wakefield was huge fun, but I did try to expand the track by going off at regular intervals. The Fish Hook turn became my Waterloo that day. I felt totally ruffled, and to add to my bad driving on one of the sessions I glanced at a friend who came with me that day whilst he was standing at the concrete wall at the straight. A split second later, I was facing the wrong way and nearly redesigned the track. Sam tried to make me feel better by telling me about a professional driver who did something equally silly. Thank you Sam, it did help. However, I still felt very foolish knowing that I am just not that good, and losing my concentration did not help. I should have known better.

Photos, high heels, Carriageworks and helmet

Photos, High Heels, Railway Tracks and Helmet. In order for the header on this website and other photo’s I needed for Motoring Misdemeanours I knew I wanted a very industrial and grungy background I was lucky enough to secure the rear area of the Carriage works in Eveleigh. Joe from Smarterdigital was kind enough to spend half a day with me to provide these fabulous photos. The giggles began whilst wearing a helmet that quickly fogged up as I kept laughing. The high heels and the somewhat covered railway tracks posed problems I never anticipated. I could not see where I was going, to add to my woes. I hate having my photo taken, and my self-consciousness did not go away. Even wearing the helmet did not help. Joe, being the eternal perfectionist, had me moving the car again and again until there was no reflection and the car looked just fabulous. I was just an afterthought. My feet ached, my back was sore and I learned a new appreciation for models on photo shoots. In my fogged and muddled brain I had forgotten to turn the lights off on my car, ending up with a flat battery. From Carriageworks, rescuers came in the shape of Matt, proud owner of a 1980s Mercedes, and Kaillan, who had been helping us during the shoot. Thanks so much to both of you; you cannot imagine how much your help was appreciated.

Perhaps I can even convince the RMS to use the shot of me wearing the helmet as my driver’s licence photo? Or perhaps not.

SLS, Brookland and keeping the UK economy going

Holiday made in heaven. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to have a holiday that I will remember for a very long time. Arrived in London on the usual early morning Qantas flight. Staggered out of the plane looking much worse for wear—and I’d been sitting in the pointy end. Heaven help Heathrow staff if I ever get out of economy. They might have to shoot me to stop me scaring people.

Rusty picked me up, or more likely spotted the walking dead and decided that I was about the right height, sex and looked vaguely familiar, and deposited me in my hotel in next to no time. I love London, but it sometimes gets a little bit creepy when he drives through the park and around Tyburn Hill as I am reminded of all the people who were executed there. I read that some of the old sayings originate from this area. Such as ‘one for the road’— this refers exactly to that, as men would pass a drink to the condemned on their ways to the gallows.

Sorry, got side-tracked. Shower, change of clothes, hair done and a quick walk through the park and I was in Mayfair. Made sure that Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols were still there, something to eat, little bit of retail therapy, back to the hotel and crash. Next morning, Brooklands. Why anybody in their right mind would let me behind the wheel of the newly-released Gull Wing SLS Mercedes is beyond me, but they did. Boy did I have fun. I had no idea how long before they usually had to change tyres, but I guessed about once a day. If not, then certainly after my attempt. The instructor allocated to me was lovely and very relaxed. The fact that he remained that way after spending hours with me remains a mystery. My crowning glory in stupidity was when an E-Class AMG came on the race track at the same time and I had to go and chase him. Let’s just say that the air wing popped up whilst I was cornering. It took me a while to get the car under control with the help of the instructor. He then looked at me and told me to relax. I had not realised, but I was so tense that I could actually feel the carpet fibres through my shoes. Instructor and car were returned in near perfect condition, and I made my way back to my hotel grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Monza and keeping the Italian economy going

Next stop, Italy: Milan and Monza. Was lucky enough to have stayed at the BVLGARI hotel, thank you Richard, and everybody else from BVLGARI in Sydney who got me upgraded. This is not a hotel; this is heaven on a stick, understated elegance. I am told that it used to be a convent; I bet you it did not have the kind of rooms and bathrooms as it did when I stayed there. I nearly drowned in my bath, it was so big and luxurious.

So, I was in Italy, the home of Ferrari, and Formula1 was on. Did I mention that the Lotus team was staying at the same hotel? I am happy to report that I did not disgrace myself and rush up to people asking for photos and autographs.

Bless the Italians, Stand A is followed by Stand C and Stand B does not exist. My Italian is non-existent; however, pity was taken on me, and as only an Italian male could, I was rescued or more or less taken to the correct stand.

To find the hospitality venue took another few hours, or so it seemed. The entire stand was given red A3 sheets to cheer on the Ferrari team. I felt like an interloper, as I was there to cheer on Mark Webber.

Around the corner from the BVLGARI hotel was a delightful street full of my kind of shops, but the one that made me smile was a cake shop that had everything Ferrari. Cakes with Ferrari colours, cakes shaped like F1 Ferrari and everything else in between. Would have been great to buy one and bring it home. But I had been through Sydney customs a few times and that idea was shelved very quickly. So, I drove a SLS, seen F1 race and kept the courier company busy as I had to mail my purchase home. The Qantas baggage allowance was generous, but even they have their limits. Now I have to buckle down and pay for it, so that I can do it again.

Enough of Duck Bus, please!

The Duck Bus has sunk in Liverpool (UK). According to Jalopnic, the ghastly machine that once drove through Sydney streets is at the bottom of a river in the UK. I am glad that nobody died, and I wish all of the people who were involved in this accident a speedy recovery. Please let this be the last of these tourist traps masquerading as Fun Things To Do On Your Holiday. I am probably kidding myself that this is the same bus as we had in Sydney; but the alternative, that there are more of these hideous contraptions around the world, is just too horrible to imagine. I can remember these things on George Street, with the driver happily sounding the quacking horn to attract more tourists, and recall myself wishing that the thing would just float out of the Heads and sink. Let’s leave it at the bottom of the Mersey, and hope it stays there. However, gold star to the posts, some of them were very good:

1 – Hull Plugs, People, Hull Plugs.
2 – Cause of the accident was a quack in the hull.
3 – The boat is sinking! Quick, everybody, duck paddle.

Did I mention that I have a questionable sense of humour?

Honey, they shrunk my car

Honey, they shrunk my car. A few cars ago, I owned a second generation SLK. Somebody once referred to the car as a skateboard with a motor. Very apt description, but boy did I love that car.
I ordered it sight unseen. I was once asked if I got a good deal; unfortunately at the time of this question I was with a close friend who promptly burst out laughing and pointed out that camping on the dealership floor waving a cheque book had not exactly placed me in a good bargaining position.

I watched the Mercedes site like a hawk; the minute I received the WIN number I Googled it, and up popped the name of the vessel my baby was arriving on. Subscribing to Vessel Tracker, albeit with the info only being 24 hours old, I was able to find out which port the ship was in, and as it made its way to Australia, I got to the details of the dock at which the precious cargo would be discharged. The dealership rang to tell me that the car was in Australia, and I relayed to them which port, which dock, when the vessel was arriving in Melbourne, and eventually in Sydney. More accurately, I knew more than the dealership. Ben is still laughing about this one.

Given that friends and co-workers suffered through this entire episode, with day by day and hour by hour updates, revenge was always on the cards. I did not have to wait too long. About two months into my new ownership, I arrived at the parking station where I had been parking for years. As I fumbled in my handbag looking for my car keys, I looked at the car space where I was 100% sure I’d left my car. The eye level revealed an empty car space. But the hollow feeling in my stomach was quickly replaced by so many contradictory visual oddities that my brain could not cope. I was standing there opened-mouthed, looking at my car, perfect in every way, including the number plates, but it had shrunk, and was now about 30cm long. Then it started to move and drive around the car space doing doughnuts. Next thing, I heard muffled laughter. By this stage, my shock had been replaced by a fury capable of murder. My friends and colleagues had joined forces, “borrowed” my car keys, moved my normal-sized car to a different level of the car park, and replaced it with a scale model, complete with handmade number plates. The matter was not helped by a Macquarie banker, who was leaving for the day, stopping to see the show. He simply could not help himself telling me that washing the car as often as I did would result in shrinkage. Let’s just say that the “mini me car” is still with me. The remote control was “accidentally” stepped on by yours truly at least few times. My friends are still waiting for the payback. It is coming. I just need to make it very good, and as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.