Tag Archives: motoring

Driving Logs #2

Not much of a trip this time, just a run of less than 70 miles over to Milton Keynes and back, but I felt it was worth recording as it represents a trip I have done regularly for 25 years (at least to the MK area if not this specific address). It is also, for part of the run, one leg of a longer journey to and from the North.

As an aside, I got my route planner software to propose a route. It suggested the fastest way was to go down the M4 to the M25, round to the M1 and up there to MK. That trip was estimated at 111.1 miles and taking 99 minutes, but the software would have not known about the several sets of 50 mph restrictions on that route, let alone the likely congestion. The route I used is virtually a straight line on the map, and the distance and timing make an interesting comparison.

My route across country involves a mixture of rural and urban roads, some 2 lane single carriageway with speed limits between 30 and 60 mph and others 4 lane dual carriageway. The Oxford Western by-pass still has a 40 mph restriction around the bridge works at Peartree, but that was my only issue with road works. I chose to drive straight through Bicester both ways rather than use the ring road. Rush hour traffic was worse on the way out, especially towards the Oxford end of the A420 and around Buckingham.

Note that the stop at the Kingston Centre retail park added 1.2 miles to the journey – big places these.

Way Point Time Elapsed Distance Speed MPH
Home (depart) 719 0.0
A420 (join) 724 5 2.6 31.20
A34 (join) 800 41 27.6 40.39
M40 (cross) 810 51 36.6 43.06
Finmere 825 66 46.3 42.09
A421/422 Buckingham 836 77 51.0 39.74
Watling Steet (cross) 852 93 61.1 39.42
Kingston Centre (stop) 901 102 64.6 38.00
Kingston Centre (depart) 912 113 64.6
Magna Park (arrive) 917 118 66.9 34.02
Net driving time 107 66.9 37.51
Way Point Time Elapsed Distance Speed MPH
Magna Park (depart) 1600 0.0
Watling Steet (cross) 1609 9 4.6 30.67
A421/422 Buckingham 1621 21 14.6 41.71
Finmere 1628 28 19.2 41.14
M40 (cross) 1646 46 29.0 37.83
A420 (join) 1656 56 38.4 41.14
A419 (cross) 1729 89 63.1 42.54
Home (arrive) 1734 94 65.7 41.94

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Toyota Troubles

I have been very distressed by the ongoing tales of Toyota troubles. Not that I have any favour for the make, although I have rented many Toyotas in the US, as well as a Lexus. They’re OK cars, but so are lots of others. And, whilst I feel for the victims or their families, neither is their plight the source of my woe.

No, my distress has been in the apparent lack of basic skills being demonstrated. As I understand it there are two problems alleged to be at the heart of the Toyota throttle (gas/accelerator) pedal troubles. One is that the floor mat interferes with the pedal and the other is that the pedal linkage may stick.

Now over the (nearly 40) years that I’ve been driving various cars, trucks and goodness knows what else in nine countries across two continents I’ve had the floor mat problem so often I couldn’t possibly count them. It was a persistent problem on a DAF LF 7.5 tonne truck I drove regularly a couple of years back. I’d take my foot off the power and it wouldn’t slow as expected. The problem wasn’t DAF’s fault either. In the end I cured it by taking out the extra slip mat the regular driver had added, but you’ll note here that I am reporting multiple incidents with one vehicle, one that’s a fair but bigger that the average Toyota, and one I was driving in central London traffic, yet I’m still here to write about it. I didn’t have or cause an accident and I’m not trying to sue anyone.

I’ve also had the stuck pedal linkage problem a few times over the years, more so in my younger days when I was driving cars that were fugitives from the wrecker’s yard but, again, I’m still here to tell my tale. Why? Am I some sort of superman?

No. At best I’m just a driver with a bit of common sense and a strong sense of self preservation. Give me a problem in a car and all I want is a little bit of time to sort it out before I hit something, and that is often just a matter of seconds. First principles: I check my car before I drive it. One of those checks is to make sure that my floor mat is OK. Maybe not obvious, but if it gets in the way of the pedals I have a problem, and I’d rather fix a problem before I have one, hence getting rid of the extra mat in the DAF once I’d recognised that the damn thing would not stay put.

Second principles: If I don’t get the expected result when I take my foot off the gas, or I seem to be going faster than I think that I should be, then I do two things at the same time. One is to keep driving the car; look where I’m going and try not to drive into anything. At the same time I dig both heels into the floor mat and jerk my feet back. If my problem is the mat fouling the pedal this will fix it so I can pull over, stop and sort it out properly. (Another action is to hit Cancel on the cruise control). If that doesn’t work, I stick the toe of my shoe behind the pedal and pull it back. If my problem is anywhere in the foot well then that will work and, again, I pull over and stop where it is safe to do so, and either fix it or call for help.

Third principles: If that doesn’t work either then, checking around me for other vehicles, I’ll get the brakes on hard (a secondary problem with the errant floor mat is that it rucks up behind the brake pedal and restricts how far I can push it down – but if I’ve pulled the mat clear I should be fine). I’ll use both feet on the brake pedal if I have to, and I’ll put the transmission in neutral to stop the engine driving the wheels. I don’t switch the ignition off until I stop as I’ll lose my power steering and brakes (although if I’m going to hit something solid, switching off at the last second is a good idea).

Now I could have done all of the above faster than I could have made a call on my cell phone, and I would be pretty sure that I would have the vehicle stopped without too much danger to anyone else on the road, myself and any passengers.

If all of the above had failed, and I can’t see why it should, but if it had there is still the controlled crash option: I’d drive into the scenery or barrier at a shallow angle, aim for something soft, anything that’s possible. Many years ago I listened to one of the great Swedish rally drivers being interviewed. This was in an era when a rally car was the same as you or I could buy, but tuned up and with a roll cage and being driven through the forests and ice and snow or whatever at full bore and before the days of pace notes. Asked what went through his mind when approaching a blind crest in the forest at 100+mph he paused, and then he said “well, the road must go somewhere”. His premise was that there was always something that you could do to avoid an accident, but if you went off  you kept trying to get back on until you succeeded or hit something, but most times you’d work it out and avoid the accident.

Over the years I’ve had far worse things happen than a sticky throttle. I’ve four times had the bonnet (hood) come unlatched and rise up blocking my forward vision, once at 70mph on the M2 in Kent, at over 90 on the autobahn in Germany, on the way into DC from Dulles airport and, more recently, at about 50 on the old Roman road to Newbury.  Each time I got stopped with no damage to myself or anyone else.

Yes, these things get the pulse rate up a bit, but the point is that there is always something that I can do, and I’d rather be trying than dying. Stay calm, don’t panic and think about what you’re doing.

There’s an old adage that the most dangerous part in a car is the nut behind the wheel. My distress on these matters is that there seem to be far too many people out there on the road trying to kill me as it is. It’s bad enough that there are so many people driving cars who have all the spatial awareness of a stuffed wombat, but to know that there are also people riding around out there who may not even know how to stop the vehicle is just plain scary.

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like Lazurus the combination oven has risen!

Our much loved Neff combination oven, used 2 or 3 times daily since we bought it 6 or so years ago, was found dead in the kitchen on Sunday, having faithfully cooked Saturday dinner and a bread and butter pudding the night before.

But a nice man has just been and replaced an internal fuse and it’s working  again! No big bill for a new oven.

Now all we need is for the Jaguar not to need much work for her MOT tomorrow and it will have been a good week.

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driving logs #1

This is the first of my driving logs. I used to keep regular logs of my trips my road, rail and air, but got to the point in my business life that I was just doing so many journeys I couldn’t keep up. However, I’ve had to keep one form of log for my back to the floor driving and have just re-read a book from my personal collection that covers a number of road trip logs, both of which have inspired me to start again.

The basic principles of the logs are that the time is taken from the dashboard clock as I put the car in gear to start, as I join, or cross, each new road and as I apply the parking brake at each stop. I carry a voice activated recorder slung round my neck for recording random thoughts, so the waypoints are recorded using that and I do not include the odometer reading as it is too much of a distraction to note that each time. Mileage is taken from Autoroute 2002 instead. Unless otherwise noted, journeys are in my 2003 Jaguar S Type 3.0 SE (V6 petrol)

This first one is on a Friday morning in February 2010 and I’m up early for a trip from Swindon out to Bishops Stortford on the Essex/Herts border. It should take just over 2 hours, but allowing 3 for road works and traffic. Last time I did it on a Friday it took 5 hours to get home. This time we are starting the meeting earlier, so I’m hoping for an earlier finish and the chance to get on the M25 and M4 before they get too busy.

My log for this trip shows that, even with the 8 minutes stop at Birchanger services (why name them after an obscure, if local, village when they are just as close to Bishops Stortford and barely off the end of the runway at Stanstead?) the outbound run was quicker than the non stop return. The latter featured a number of undesirable stops on the M25 and M4 and both journeys were slowed by 5 sets of 50mph restrictions, two of which were lengthy.

Point Time Elapsed Distance Speed MPH
Home 600 0
M4 607 7 4 34.29
M25 704 64 63.2 59.25
M1 724 84 82.6 59.00
M11 748 108 106.5 59.17
Exit M11 800 120 120.4 60.20
Birchanger Services Stop 802 122 0.00
Birchanger Services Start 810 130 0.00
Bishops Stortford 817 137 122.4 53.61
Point Time Elapsed Distance Speed MPH
Bishops Stortford 1451 0
M11 1458 7 2.7 23.14
M25 1511 20 16.9 50.70
M1 1532 41 40.2 58.83
M4 1608 77 60.6 47.22
Exit M4 1713 142 119.6 50.54
Home 1717 146 122.2 50.22

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