Writing for the Slash and Burn crowd

Archive for the category “Driving”

Changed Volume

Ten days (or so) ago, I got some work done on the car.  It had been getting noisy – which I knew was the wheel-bearing starting to play up – but it turned out to also need new bushes, as the existing ones had split. (I’ve no idea – well, I kinda know, but whatever)

I got the work done, and since then the car has been a *lot* quieter. Surprisingly so, in fact.  Like many things, it’s obviously been ongoing (and getting louder) for a while, but because it’s just been gradual, I hadn’t really noticed.  (The wheel-bearing happened quite quickly and had more of an effect/impact)

But as a result, it’s also meant I’m driving faster, while my brain recalibrates a bit.

You see, a lot of the time I drive by the noise of the engine, rather than necessarily looking at the speedo all the time. I know what each speed “sounds like”, along with whether it’s level road, or up or down hill. I should point out that this isn’t something I’ve learned specifically, or been like ‘ah, so that’s what [x] up/down-hill sounds like’, but it is something I’ve noticed I do. (I also drive faster if I turn up the volume on the radio. It’s not a conscious thing, but it does happen)

So yes, this last week has been spent recalibrating my speed and volume settings. Which is kinda fun, and kinda geeky.

12 Years A Driver

Blimey, I’ve been driving now for 12 years today.  That really surprises me, how the time has flown.

I dread to imagine how many miles I’ve covered in that time – all I know is it’s well over quarter of a million miles. 120,000 in the Mondeo, another 120,000 in the Saab, and coming up to 20,000 in the Kia already.  Of course, that doesn’t include the ones I covered before buying the Mondeo, or any of the hire vehicles I’ve had in that time.

However you look at it, that’s pretty scary.

It’s hard to imagine life now without driving – if I were to lose my licence, it would change things radically, including having to change where I lived, where/how I worked, and many other things.  I value that freedom and licence more than I ever actually thought I would.

I’ve no idea what the future will bring, but I’m pretty sure that whatever comes along, I’ll be driving there.

Paying for Parking

During the working week, I regularly park in an area controlled by parking meters – not one per slot, but in big blocks, so you pay for your ticket/parking at a machine, and return the ticket to the car.

It’s an area/business that in many ways doesn’t seem to have kept up with progress at all, but in others is quite a way ahead of most other places. It’s very odd – and it seems like a lot of people are caught in that middle space between the two extremes.

You see, the meters themselves take cash, and only cash. There’s no facility to take card payments, let alone contactless. I assume that some of this is down to maintenance costs – the more things it can do, the more things there are that can fuck up.

Then at the other end of the scale, we can use online/mobile payment setups like RingGo to pay for parking, which is super-easy to do, and works really nicely.  (There are other parking payment providers, most of which are worse than RingGo, but they’re still getting used by various councils etc. around the country)  There’s no need for cash, it’s all smooth and simple to do, with the parking wardens having smartphone equivalents where they can check each vehicle’s registration and see if it’s paid for parking online.

Both solutions seem to work, either with the super-basic “put coins in the machine” or the semi-techie (but still really pretty simple once it’s set up) paying via mobile/online.  There’s also the ability to pay by phone using RingGo, but that appears to be overly complex.

However, both options seem destined to confuse the majority of people.  I regularly see people dredging pockets for change – which is becoming less common, with the prevalence of debit cards and contactless payments, so they’re surprised and unprepared for needing coins to park – or completely stumped by smartphone apps, or having problems with the paying by phone.

In some ways that harks back to people not being prepared, but at the same time I do understand that these meters are a bit of a surprise. They’re so low-tech in many ways, and people just don’t seem to expect that.  But they’re also unprepared for using their smartphones – despite this whole pay online/app thing becoming more and more common for parking – and don’t have the relevant app, or have it set up. And even with 4G coverage etc., it seems that a lot of them are utterly unable (or just unwilling) to sort out installing the app and just doing things the easy way.

I don’t know what the answer is. I think we’re in this weird hinterland at the moment, where we’ve still got simultaneous low-tech and hi-tech solutions, and people are just caught in the middle, too advanced to be happy with the low-tech, but a large number also still unhappy or uncomfortable with the hi-tech alternative, so they’re stuck in some kind of mid-tech wilderness.

It’s very odd, but interesting to watch and see how things go.

PIDU – Performance Cars

[PIDU = People I Don’t Understand]

There are many, many types of people I don’t understand – or at least whose thought processes are beyond me. That’s the theme of the PIDU posts (as mentioned here, although I’ll probably repeat this a few times) and may also become a bit of a throwback to the rants of yore.

In this case, I don’t understand people who buy performance cars, and whose driving abilities can’t match the car at all.

I’m not even talking about high-end performance vehicles like Ferraris and the like.  No, this is even down to the level of a standard (for example) VW Golf GTI.   Anything that’s at the higher-end of performance than the standard models of cars.

As an aside, I also don’t really get why anyone in the UK would bother buying any of the seriously high-end performance cars, when our top legal speed can be attained by them in second or third gear.  But that’s a thought for a different time.

A lot of the drives I do are on country roads – still decent-enough roads, which I can easily (as well as legally and safely) cover at 55-60mph with no problems. But they’re narrow enough, and bendy enough, that if you’re stuck behind someone, you’re stuck behind them for the duration.

I regularly end up behind other drivers, usually in cars with a much better performance than my shitty Kia – yet we’re going at 40mph instead, and they’re still braking at every sodding corner, and panicking when another car comes towards them.

Last night was a perfect example – I spent the drive following a beautiful Lotus Evora 400 (one of my current favourite cars) that did the entire thing not going above 50mph, and usually slower than that.   It was a total waste of a brilliant little car, and I almost wanted to stop them, and suggest we swapped vehicles.

I just don’t get it, why someone/anyone would pay out a load more on a sporty/performance car – and on the commensurate higher-rated insurance and so on – when they’re just going to drive it slowly and badly. It seems to be a case of either “More money than sense” or just believing they’re better at driving than they actually are.

Slow Roads

Every so often I have a day where I just want it to be over – not in any kind of self-harm way, just when a lot of things have turned to shit, and all I want is to go home.

Unsurprisingly, today has been one of those days.

It started OK – it was cooler last night, so I actually got some sleep. I’d got a meeting down near Reading, so once I was awake at 6am, I left to get down there while avoiding the worst of the rush-hour traffic, and aiming to be down in Reading before it even really started. That mission was kind-of successful, in that I was down there by 8.30 – but still, it took two and a half hours to do a journey that I can do on a weekend in an hour, or just over.

The meeting itself went OK, and I’ve got a bundle of work to do, which will make life entertaining.

Afterwards, fortunately I checked routes home on my phone, and found that the M1 had been completely closed due to a fatal accident.  It’s an area I know pretty well, so I knew I’d got a bundle of cross-country routes I could take, and that’s what I did.

However, it seemed like every single part of that route, I was preceded by slow-moving drivers who had nowhere to go, or no desire to get there.  The entire way back was spent going at 30 or 40mph on roads where the limit was 60, and all on what turned out to be the hottest June day in more than forty years – warm to the point where even the car’s air-conditioning wasn’t really managing anything.  (I may need to look at re-gassing it, but we’ll see)

All told, the journey home took two and a half hours – most of which was just due to being so much slower than I would’ve been on quiet/non-busy roads.

So, by the end of it, I was just wanting to be home, for it all to be over and done with.

It’s going to be the first day in several months where I haven’t achieved my steps-per-day walking target – I could still have done it, but frankly, with the temperature and everything else, I just couldn’t be arsed.  In fairness, I’m already well up on the week’s target anyway, so a day off is perfectly doable (and I’m doing a bigger walk at the weekend too) but still, it’s also the first time in ages where I’ve had a day with such levels of failure to be arsed.

Parking Distances

One of the things I like about working (and travelling) in Milton Keynes is their attitude towards parking, along with a nice dose of apparent cynicism and understanding of human nature/lazyness.

Milton Keynes has been pretty much designed around the use of cars (I know, it wasn’t originally so, but the New Town concept pretty much was) and thus there’s a lot of parking available. Sure, the city gets busy, but there’s usually parking spaces available.

The great thing though – in my opinion – is that they organised (and priced) the parking according to proximity to the main areas that people use.  So the parking spaces that are the closest to the high-footfall areas are the highest-priced. If you go a bit further out – by which I mean a block, not miles – then the price is about a quarter of the highest-rate, which seems like a valid reward for being prepared to walk a bit more.

Note : I’m aware that this could also affect those with disabilities and mobility issues, but there are mobility and disabled spaces right next to the main areas, and they’re not at the high rates.

Down near the train station, there’s a great example.  The closest car-park to the station now charges £8 for the day.  But if you go to the next one – literally, the other side of the (dual-carriageway) road – then it’s £4. And if you’ve got a Milton Keynes Employee permit (which will be the subject of a separate post) then it’s even less – £2.40.  So an extra distance of maybe 20 yards can save at least 50% of the parking cost.

As a plan and concept, it understands human nature and lazyness, and take some advantage of it. I think that’s brilliant, to be honest.


Sometimes, things come together fortuitously.

Over the weekend, it was this – I got in the car one morning, and saw that the odometer was on 88,888 miles. So I took a picture of it.

I know it’s properly geeky, but still, it made me happy to have caught it – and with no risk to anyone else.

Post Navigation