Current Event Friday #84

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some aren’t sure what they’re beholding

“Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?” While this line evokes memories of a Saturday Night Live game show skit featuring Adam Sandler, it’s fitting for news of a new concept vehicle being released this week. The reactions to the vehicle are today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Tesla’s new Cybertruck

Known for their technological endeavors and futuristic pursuits, Tesla revealed their new concept of a pickup truck. Their other models including the Roadster are trendy vehicles that those with money are willing to purchase. Even the SpaceX program promoted by Tesla’s founder and spokesman Elon Musk are popular among techies. However, the Cybertruck drew negative attention for its odd shape and features.

While the coupe and sedan models are sleek and utilize flowing curves, the Cybertruck is angular and features sharp lines and resembles the efforts of young boy’s drawing of a truck. When antique cars began featuring flowing curves as a break from the angular and boxy look, they eventually became a standard for several decades of older models.

So, it’s possible the Cybertruck inspires other automakers to follow the look, the unbreakable windows might give some consumers pause. Musk invited an audience member to damage the vehicle to prove its toughness, while the body survived the windows were not as lucky. Although the windows didn’t completely break, they did resemble a dropped cell-phone screen.

For what it’s worth, Elon Musk claims that several thousand orders have already been placed for the Cybertruck. If that’s true, more power to them. Obviously, Tesla is a known brand and its devotees are going to be inclined to purchase whatever the company rolls out.

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Powell Motors’ Homer

Admittedly, when I saw the news about the Cybertruck it was hard not to be reminded of the Homer model created by Powell Motors on The Simpsons. Yet, its creator was cobbling together random qualities and features with no thought of how they should work together. Elon Musk and his staff have some intelligence when assembling the Cybertruck and considered what materials and features work together.

Would you buy a Cybertruck?

History Monday #66

Let’s get it started!

I’m back from my continuing education program, and glad to be back to writing for pleasure rather than for classwork. So, without any further ado, I’m revved up for writing again. Speaking of being revved up, today’s #HistoryMonday is all about how folks in Indiana have gotten revved up for over a century.

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On this day in 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

The construction of a racetrack and races to be featured at the venue were conceived by Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher. Fisher saw the appeal of a racing speedway in 1905 after attending a race event in Europe.

Fisher realized that automobile racing was a means of testing cars before consumers took delivery of them. He also argued that race spectators were only able to perceive a glimpse of the cars on a linear track. Fisher believed that a 3 to 5-mile oval track would allow many more to view the abilities of the automobiles featured.

With dozens of automakers located in Indiana, Fisher proclaimed, “Indianapolis is going to be the world’s greatest center of horseless carriage manufacturer, what could be more logical than building the world’s greatest racetrack right here?”

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Construction of the track began in March 1909. Built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana. Laid out in a rectangle configuration measuring two-and-a-half-miles with four turns with two long and two short straight sections. The track’s surface was originally comprised of crushed rock and tar, a decision that would soon be regretted.

Fifteen  teams arrived on the first day of racing on August 19 for a three-day event. Fifteen to twenty thousand spectators showed up, paying at the most $1 for a ticket. In that first five-mile race Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. But the track surface broke up in a number of places and caused the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.

Eventually, the surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. The new paving brick surface led to the speedway being dubbed “The Brickyard,” after it reopened in December 1909.

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Since 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been held every year, with the exception of 1917-18 and 1942-45, when the United States World Wars 1 & 2. The decision to host the Indianapolis 500 proved to be more successful after the speedway owners realized an annual long-distance event rather than multiple short-distance races throughout the year.

With an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports. An asphalt paved surface would eventually replace the original brick surface by 1961. Speedway owners chose at that time to preserve a one-yard line of bricks left exposed at the start-finish line as a nostalgic reminder of the track’s history.

The proliferation of races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway also led to other automobile racing organizations using the track to feature their cars. In 1994, NASCAR began their annual event at the Speedway originally termed the Brickyard 400. IROC, an all-star event featuring drivers from all automobile racing also partnered with the Brickyard 400 event similar to their companion race to the Dayton 500.

Motorcycle racing predated automobile racing at the speedway by less than a week. Motorcycle GP racing returned to that tradition almost a century later and continued racing at the track until 2015 using a road course configuration during the run.

Open wheel racing was also featured with Formula One using the track for Grand Prix events beginning in 1998 and ending in 2012. The F1 race featured a road course configuration similar to the Moto GP configuration.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s ownership by the Hulman family continued to grow the speedway and its fame. With the Hulman connection to the track, the family also earned enough money to fund colleges in their native Terre Haute.

The speedway and the Indy 500 have also continued to connect young viewers to Jim Nabors. Supported by Purdue University’s marching band, Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to the start of the event. As Nabors health declined before his death, a capella group Straight No Chaser and Chicago Blackhawks singer Jim Cornelison performed the song.

Current Event Friday #70

A different kind of horsepower takes over Louisville this week.

Everybody is revved up for the weekend, and for anybody near Louisville this weekend, hundreds are literally revved up. The cause of all this commotion and the significance of it is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Vintage Cars on Display at the Street Rod Nationals 

The Street Rod Nationals conference kicked off Wednesday morning which included a  parade featuring about 50 vintage muscle cars. This year marks the conference’s 50th year. Louisville has hosted the Street Rod Nationals for 25 of its 50-year run.

Sponsored by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA), the event brings well over 10,000 vintage cars from the 50s, 60s, 70s (and most of the 80s) to the event, along with an estimated 30,000 people.

Visitors are expected to spend about $15 million at local businesses, hotels and restaurants during the 4-day event. The car enthusiasts attending the event with their cars are known to stay in hotels up to 50 miles away if there are vacancies.

Admittedly, it’s always interesting this time of year on this side of the river as many of the vintage cars are out on the local roads as their owners are heading to their evening lodging after spending time at the event. Particularly, the 60s & 70s muscle cars are some of my favorites, and in particular any of the Mopar family. I also enjoy seeing the cars up close at local car shows or at vintage car museums.

 What’s the big vintage car show event you travel to?

By the way, I’ll be away at school for the next two weeks so I won’t be posting during that time. Posting will return on August 19.

 

Current Event Friday #61

Maybe don’t follow David Lee Roth’s advice and Jump!

♪ Just the good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you never saw ♫

No, today’s #CurrentEventFriday isn’t about news that the Dukes of Hazard is returning to syndication or streaming service, but about two unrelated events about some wannabe Duke boys and the trouble they’ve found themselves in this last week.

 

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Full disclosure, I’m tempted to echo sentiments about flag burning from Pres. Bartlet from The West Wing, “Is there an epidemic of [car jumping stunts] going on that I’m not aware of?” I can’t say that there’s necessarily correlation between the two events, just that people are daring and willfully ignore warnings on television not to replicate stunts in real life.

First, out of Lake Charles, Louisiana is the story of Alejandro Cazares and Roberto Alejandro Moreno of Texas. The pair attempted to cross the Black Bayou Bridge — a drawbridge South of the town. The stunt occurred early on 25 May 2019. The driver put the car in reverse in order to have distance to pick up speed. The driver then sped up to try to “jump” the ramp of the bridge. Unfortunately for both men, the vehicle fell into the water and sank to the bottom. Cazares couldn’t escape the car and police found Moreno’s body nearby. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Officials have not yet determined whether alcohol or drugs played a factor. An investigation is still ongoing into the accident.

Second, comes from Indianapolis. Police officers entered into a high=speed chase with a reckless driver Sunday night. The driver had refused a traffic stop and sped towards Shadeland Avenue where there is a bridge out, ignoring signs and warnings and attempted to drive across the bridge, but the vehicle’s trajectory was altered after striking the exposed beams of the bridge. Fortunately, in this story the driver and passenger survived. The driver fled from the car and is still at large. The passenger was arrested. Police reported that the passenger had violated house arrest by being in the car and removing his house arrest monitors. Police hope to find the driver who left behind his prosthetic leg when he fled on foot 🥁(ba-dum-tish).

I saw the first story on my Twitter feed comparing the Texas men to the Dukes of Hazard earlier in this week and mentioned it to my parents the next day. I was expecting the local news to report it the next day so we could get more information and it included the second story. Which is why I felt like it’s a Current Event worth mentioning since there’s multiple stories about folks that think they can be as good as Bo and Luke or even Coy and Vance. A simple Google search would tell you that the car jumping stunts won’t work. The seven-year run of The Dukes of Hazard saw somewhere between 256 and 321 Dodge Chargers that were labeled as the General Lee. A similar scene in Road Trip shows that even with physics on your side, car jumping rarely works in real life. Yes, good ol’ boys and girls love hill hoppin’ while driving around here in the Hoosier Hills of Southern Indiana, but most aren’t foolish enough to think they’ll be the next Duke boys. Remember, most of what you see on fictional television shows doesn’t work well in real life and shouldn’t be replicated.

Have you ever pretended your car was the General Lee?

Current Event Friday #36

School Bus safety is today’s #CurrentEventFriday

October has ended, and this week comes to an end as well. Much of this week in Indiana has been focused on bus safety in addition to Halloween. So, naturally it’s a newsworthy event for #CurrentEventFriday.

The focus of discussion was an automobile accident involving a school bus in Rochester, Indiana. During the morning bus route, four children were struck by a pickup truck in the oncoming lane as they boarded the bus. Three of the four children struck were siblings and were killed as a result. The fourth student struck is still hospitalized but stable. The three siblings killed in the crash were survived by another sibling, in addition to their parents.

As soon as the news broke, many jumped on the bandwagon to catch, persecute, and shame the young woman driving the pickup. The woman was charged with 3 counts of reckless homicide and illegally passing a school bus the same day but posted bail and is awaiting court proceedings. As people found out that she posted bail, there were calls of impropriety by authorities and imprecatory wishes expressed towards this woman.

I’ll admit, I was surprised that she was granted bail that was easily met given the nature of the incident. However, she’s afforded that right by the eight amendment. Some critics pointed out that bail is usually not granted in cases of homicide. I don’t pretend to be a legal scholar unless I’m watching Law & Order: SVU or Judge Judy, so I couldn’t say what the process is for bail. I could easily understand if there was no bail for malicious homicide, but it seemed like a tragic accident.

As the hordes advocated harsh punishment and assigned blame to a young, inept, and possibly inebriated driver more facts appeared. The young woman behind the wheel of the pickup is active in her church, seldom drinks, and was driving at safe speeds. The accident seems to be the result of a poorly placed stop for the bus to collect children. Vehicles in the northbound lane are obscured by both elevation and the curve of the road to vehicles in the southbound lane. The driver of the pickup was unable to see the bus until too late and had trouble stopping in time. Regardless, both the driver of the pickup and the family who lost three children are having to deal with the loss. The family of the children lost will no doubt have to process grief and feelings of anger towards the pickup driver. The pickup driver will have to deal with feelings of guilt, shame, and public hostility. What’s worse, is all this attention that was directed at her will quickly be forgotten by regional and national media. Yet, the feelings about this accident will be present for a lifetime.

I’m willing to consider that the pickup driver was driving as safely as possible and this tragedy could be avoided by a change in the bus stop location. I know my mom told me that when she was growing up, the school bus she rode would have to navigate a downhill blind curve and would honk at the top of the hill and the bottom to warn oncoming vehicles. This was during the 1960’s on a narrow county road with little traffic, I can only imagine how much more difficult this might be as the neighborhood has grown up in the last decade or two.

I do think the safety awareness promoted by local law enforcement and the Facebook police are worth paying attention to. I know many are unaware of the school bus laws and who should stop. Most of this is helpful when motorists can observe the stop bar and flashing lights of the school bus without problem. I think the caveat from Driver’s Ed is always helpful, be aware of your surroundings and be a defensive driver. During peak times of school bus loading and unloading, be on the lookout for school buses and stop when the stop bar is displayed.

Drive Safe!     

History Monday #26

Put this #HistoryMonday on my tab, bartender.

“Honestly officer, I’m not as think as you drunk I am.” While we smile at this joke about a drunk driver mixing up their words while being questioned about their ability to drive, it is a serious offense. The legal ramification for this offense is the topic of today’s #HistoryMonday.

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Foster Brooks, famous for his portrayal of a ‘functioning alcoholic’ during a Dean Martin Roast.

On this day, 121 years ago the first drunk driving arrest was issued. The perpetrator was a taxi driver named George Smith. The arrest was issued after Smith drove his cab into a building. For his actions, Smith was fined 25 shillings, equivalent to $204.01 in today’s money.

While this was the first instance worldwide, U.S. laws against drunk driving weren’t passed until 1910. Advances in enforcing these laws were only made in 1936 with the first device to test for blood alcohol content. A more efficient and accurate device was patented in 1953.

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These advancements in drunk driving laws are much more enforced and discussed now. Thanks to efforts by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), police are able to enforce these necessary laws. While we know the dangers of driving while intoxicated, we still hear of tragedies like the Carrolton Bus Crash and Vince Neil’s DUI manslaughter case. In 2005 alone, over 16,000 arrests for driving while under the influence were issued. Raising the legal drinking age to 21 has curbed some of the problems by limiting the availability of alcohol to young inexperienced drivers who still have the 10-foot tall and bulletproof mentality that emboldens them to take unnecessary risks. Heavy fines, jail sentences, and suspension of licenses has helped some. Also aiding law enforcement is the issuance and installation of ignition locks that will only allow vehicles to be operated if the driver is at a certain blood alcohol content. Most importantly, education through adolescent programs about the dangers of drunk driving and PSAs on television and radio have helped Americans realize the danger of drunken driving. Added to these education efforts for the public, are Sobriety checkpoints on busy highways during high alcohol consumption events such as Labor Day, Independence Day, and Super Bowl Sunday. While these sobriety checkpoints may seem intrusive and time-consuming they do help to reduce the risky drivers from potential disasters. While a 15-minute traffic jam may seem inconvenient; a 45-minute discussion with police, 15 minutes with EMTs, 2 hours in an emergency room, or worse the option of the shorter delay with the sobriety checkpoint is preferable to the latter options.

So, drive sober, select a designated driver, or call an Uber/Lyft, or a cab (just not the George Smith guy from London in this post). Above all, be safe and make good choices about driving and alcohol.

History Monday #15

The latest edition of History Monday is important for the Automobile Industry.

Time for another #HistoryMonday post, and today had quite a few historic events to choose from and I deliberated awhile on what to write about, and I finally settled on something that might be a little less known than some of the other notable events. Be sure to look at https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history if you want to check out some of the events I chose not to discuss.

About a third of automotive fans will be excited about today’s post and the other two-thirds will find some way to tease the other third. Regardless of the friendly rivalry between automotive brands from their fans, Henry Ford can’t be overlooked. Now I’m guessing you’d assume that on this day the Model T was first produced but you’d be wrong.

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Before the Model T was created on Ford’s assembly line Henry Ford had to build his first gas-powered automobile. It was on this day in 1896 that Henry Ford built what he termed the Quadricycle. As with most of Ford’s contributions to the automobile industry, it’s not that he is the first inventor of an automobile component or automobile, it’s that he perfects the construction and design of automobiles.

Henry Ford was working for Edison Illuminating Company when he first conceived of building a quadricycle. Ford found inspiration from another inventor and fellow engineer — Charles Brady King. King was able to build a four-cylinder gasoline engine powered automobile that was able to reach a whopping speed of seven miles per hour. Ford saw an opportunity to make a quadricycle that was lighter and faster. With help from King and others at the Edison Illuminating company Ford achieved that feat just three months after King’s maiden voyage.

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Without Ford’s vision to improve on automobiles and see the potential of gas-powered engines the United States wouldn’t have the car culture we have today. It still amazes me how young the technology of automobiles really is compared to other technologies. Some will object and point out that it’s over a century old but compared to much of our other technology and industries it’s relatively young.

Ford’s proof of concept with the quadricycle continued to fuel his passion for the automobile and gas-powered engines eventually led to the creation and success of the Ford Motor Company. And yes, GM and FCA/Dodge fans you have to give credit to Ford. Ford’s success with the Model T helped push the popularity of other Detroit automobile companies like GM. Also, specifically, Fiat Chrysler/Dodge should give credit to ford since Ford gave actual credit as investment capital to the Dodge brothers to begin their company. Consider automobile production from a capitalist perspective, every car company tries to do what Henry Ford did. Each company wants to do better than their competitor whether by making a faster, more affordable, or safer car than the other guy. They each push each other to get better in one or all those traits plus other traits of production to sell more.

Oh yeah, and just because I’m Team #MoparOrNoCar, the Ford Quadricycle did break down during the drive thanks to a faulty part, so yes even the first Ford was the inspiration for the backronym Found On Road Dead. Sorry Blue Oval Crew, I had to get one shot in.