Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Castle in the Sky: Colorado Road Trip Part 3

[Previously on the Thinkware Colorado Road Trip: I took a giant detour driving from Colorado Springs to Denver. It should've taken me about 2 and a half hours. I took 12.] 

After 2 days of exploration and (new-found) experience with extreme altitude, I felt considerably more prepared to drive up Mount Evans -- which cradles North America's highest paved road at 14,130 feet. Yes, it is higher than Pikes Peak.

I didn't do so well at Pikes Peak.

Before my trip to Mount Evans, I stocked up supplies in Denver to best prepare me for the drive up. I got snacks, plenty of water, and sunscreen (you are a lot easily sunburnt at 14,000 feet than at sea level, which is also one of the reasons why people get dehydrated easily, which leads to altitude sickness).

Interestingly, the local shops in Denver also offered pressurized oxygen canisters for an instant kick when you need it the most. I didn't think I needed it.

Alas, half way through my drive towards Mount Evans, I realized that I forgot one of my most important gear -- my trusty DSLR. So, most of the images on this blog will be pictures taken on my trusty iPhone 6.

So, off to the highest paved road in North America we go.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Top of the World: Colorado Road Trip Part 2

[Previously on the Thinkware Colorado Road Trip: I flew to Denver, CO so I can drive to Colorado Springs, CO so I can drive up Pikes Peak, CO in a soccer-family-special Ford Explorer. I also got altitude sickness.] 

After recovering from said altitude sickness, I looked at the map and pondered my options. I knew that I wanted to go to the Rockies, because a) it's the Rockies; and I knew that I wanted to spend my last portion of the trip driving up Mount Evans as well. However, the portion between Colorado Springs and the Rockies were very much still up in the air.

As far as I was concerned, I had two options:

1. I could either take the I-25 through Denver to the Rockies, which would be about 2 hours and 40 minutes of driving. We will call this the "boring" way;
2. Or, I could take a "slight" detour through the state highways, taking in the scenery, through Aspen, a world-class ski resort town, and eventually circle back to the Rockies, before stopping in Denver. This would take me about 12 hours. We will call this the "fun" route.

Guess which route I took?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Only Way is Up: Colorado Road Trip Part 1

14,000 feet.

I repeat: 14,000 feet. That is 100 feet higher than your typical skydiving altitude. In fact, if you jump off a cliff at this height, you'll be freefalling for just about a minute. Not that you'd be able to, of course, as the tallest cliff in the world only clocks at a paltry 4,100 feet.

At this height, Oxygen becomes very thin (as I later found out). You will also see the curvature of the earth quite easily in the distance. Here, the boiling point of water is at 185 degrees.

In other words, 14,000 feet is quite high.

It is also the altitude you can find yourself at in Colorado. Colorado just happens to have 53 of those places above that altitude, known locally, as the fourteeners.

My goal is to drive up to two of those mountains -- Pikes Peak, and Mount Evans -- and see what the drive is like.

Friday, March 31, 2017

10 Best Driving Video Games

Any gearheads probably spent a considerable time in their childhood playing car racing video games. I certainly did: at the age of 6, one of my first interaction with Lamborghinis and Ferraris wasn't through a bedroom poster or a cut-out from a car magazine -- it was through my dad's old Windows 95 computer, driving around the country side while evading the cops, in a game called the Need for Speed.

It was glorious, and the game basically cemented me as a car person.

Since then, many more car racing games have been released, some are more arcade-ish games where you can shoot rockets out of a go-kart (or something), and some are more simulation-based games where you need to observe the proper racing lines in order to achieve the best lap.

As kids who have played a lot of those, here is our picks for the 10 best driving video games.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Can You Autocross With a Family Wagon?

Wagons always get an unfair reputation for being the nation's favourite schoolrun-mobile -- images of an '83 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, driven around by a family with three kids and a St. Bernard in the trunk doesn't exactly help shed that relative uncool-ness. Wagons just aren't sporty, and they sure aren't cool, people say. Over here, we have seen many people ditch the wagons in favor of the taller SUVs and crossovers for their bigger size.

For most of the world however, wagons are great alternatives for those who want to haul more things without needing to get a truck, but still retain the fun driving dynamics and fuel economy of a 4-door sedan. Don't believe me? Take a quick look on Google Streetview for streets of London and it will take you less than a minute to have the first wagon-sighting.

Case in point: in addition to the #SharkNoseDiary 6 series project car that I have, I regularly drive a slightly-scratched up 2007 Mazda 6 wagon as my reliable daily commuter. Fitted with a 3.0 V6 engine that produces 212 horsepower, the car (nicknamed Mazda Miyagi because why not) can propel itself from 0-60 at a respectable (in 2007 standards) 7.1 seconds.

My favorite thing about it though? It's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Combined with the zoom-zoom Mazda driving dynamics, I can go fast enough to quickly fall in trouble with the law while hauling my apartment in the trunk. You can't really do that with a modern SUV (unless you are willing to spend a lot of money for one of these).

The bottom line is: The car is a lot of fun, and it can do fun while hauling as much stuff as your neighbor's CR-V.

To prove my point, why not enter my car into an Autocross event?