Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A few More Street View Twisties - Thank You Google

I'm still working on riding routes for this summer.  I use Google Street View to see what the road conditions are and what date the Street View was photographed.  Since W. Virginia is fracking country, you can't count on older Street Views, a lot could have changed with the fracking trucks.

Once in a while, I come on a Street View picture that just makes me smile.  So all honors and attribution to Google for these two photos.  I couldn't resist sharing them.


Sunday, January 7, 2018


Something has changed in the headlight world while I wasn't paying attention.

Back in the early 2000's, HID headlights were a premium car, premium option that cost more than $1000.  It was mainly OE, but you could find aftermarket options if you were willing to pay $800 per headlight.  So I lived with Halogen and wondered about the future LEDs, but I knew that just changing to an LED bulb wasn't going to work because the LED doesn't work as a point light source like the Halogen, so the reflector design is all wrong.

I'm in my 6th winter with my Fiat.  In the past, I didn't need to drive much at night since I was out of town much of the winter.  This last couple of years, I have been driving more at night and noticing that the Fiat headlights are not great.  The Fiat uses a kind of projector headlight, but rather than 4 lamps (2 low, 2 hi), they use only 2 lamps and have a mechanical shutter to form the cutoff in low beams.

Having 4 lamps on high beam is a real plus for cars that are built that way because the light from each of the lamps adds together to make things brighter.  So even though the projector headlight in the Fiat may be a good design, it isn't very bright on high beam.

This point became critical when I was down in West Virginia looking for motorcycle roads.  I'm on twisty, hilly, and narrow roads in the country and it's pitch black darkness at only 5 pm.  I just can't see enough to keep going at any speed.  Ok, so my eyes are getting older and we can blame them as much as the headlights.

That evening down in West Virginia, I started looking online to see if there was a brighter bulb or something available.  What do you know.  Since the last time I paid any attention, HID conversion kits have become much cheaper.  First of all, the HID bulb is very similar to the Halogen in the idea of a point light source.  So they can make an HID bulb to work well in the the housing of a Halogen headlight.  I guess the market grew and the cost of electronics became smaller, because now you can buy a cheap HID conversion kit for as little as $30.  There are some issues with the cheapest versions, so even a better quality version can be had for less than $100.

Today I installed my HID conversion kit.  It was a bit fiddly as the British say, but it went together nicely and only took a couple of hours.  I just got back from a test ride and it's totally worth the effort.

First you turn on the headlights and get a FLASH.  Then it's like a slightly slow fluorescent bulb where it dims after the flash, then slowly gets brighter over 4 or 5 seconds.  By the way, you get to choose your color and I chose 6000K which is slightly blue but mainly white.  Much whiter than the 4300K original Halogens.  A whiter light makes it easier to see details at night, so I'm already ahead of the game.  And the light is so much brighter.  I'm ready to jump in the car and go back to West Virginia.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Merry Christmas and Twisty New Year

In addition to a really nice family holiday, I have been spending time between Christmas and New Years planning routes for a motorcycle ride this summer.  I know, thinking about motorcycling in the middle of winter is crazy, but certain types of mental illness are not preventable.

Naturally, you can do a lot of planning online these days, but there is no substitute for going there.  Every route that I planned at home needed "adjusting" once I saw it in person.  Happily, I can have fun driving these roads in the Fiat and exploring is fun, no matter what the weather.  Well, almost any weather.

I learned a long time ago that it's difficult to take good pictures of curvy roads, so I've taken the liberty of showing screen clips of Google Maps, both terrain maps with fun roads and street view of select corners.  Full kudos and honor is due to Google for their wonderful maps and full credit for the map images and street shot views.  Full warning, Google street view shots vary in quality depending on when they were taken and where along the road, so the screen shot above is more than a bit fuzzy.  The road is fun, though.  I just love a high speed esses section like this.

Naturally, I took a few shots myself, but only with my poor phone.  It's easy to tell the Street View shots, mine are winter with ice and theirs are summer with leaves.

This is Ohiopyle Falls with ice on the edges.  I do like exploring in winter.  The trees have lost their leaves and the snow lights up the shadows, so you can see many things that you would miss in summer.  Let's just face facts.  I have an itchy foot and have to travel to scratch that itch, no matter what time of year.

I wouldn't have wanted to try this road in winter.  Better saved for summer.

This is what happens to the bedrock faces along the road.  Water seeps out between the layers of rock and forms icicles.  They are everywhere in Ohio and W. Virginia and they are as varied as they are beautiful.

 Here is wishing you and yours a wonderful new year.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Amp

I never expected the inside of an amplifier to festive, but the amp I just finished seems to give off that vibe.  I can say that I'm happy to get it working.  For what seems like a month, it has been kicking my butt.  Nothing like letting a little smoke out of some components to let you know you have screwed up.  But at least it's colorful.  When you first turn it on, it has yellow neon for about 30 seconds, then red and green LEDs lighting up the green and blue boards.

This amp is the most expensive, least efficient, and most dangerous I have done so far.  For least efficient, it puts out 25 watts of useful power but uses 180 watts just sitting there with no music playing.  That means the thing is like a space heater with heat rolling off the top all of the time its on. 

Regarding dangerous, there are 350 Volts running around inside this thing.  Part of the extra time taken to trouble shoot this baby are because I was waiting for the volts to go down.  350 Volts will kill you.

Its too early to say whether its worth the effort.  I certainly hope it sounds good.  At least its mostly finished and I can turn back to working on motorcycles.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nose Pictures

My father used to enjoy taking close up pictures of faces.  He would move in so that the frame was filled up with just eyes, nose, and mouth.  He called them nose pictures and I liked them.  They were unusual, but also a nice representation of the person.

It seems that I have unconciously developed a kind of nose picture that I take when possible.  In this case, it's close up pictures of hood ornaments and, occassionally, badges.

Recently, I went to the Hemmings Concours in Lake George, NY with my old high school friend Dan.  Lots of interesting cars, but I liked the hood ornaments best.

Of course, horns can be nice too, but there is no way to avoid the photographer being in the reflection.

A Studebaker badge isn't a hood ornament, but it's a nice detail anyway.

Of course, hood ornaments started out as radiator caps.  Here is a nice one from an MG racer.

The classic hood ornament is the Packard Swan, although Packard referred to it as a Cormorant.

Although I guess Studebaker was trying to compete with Packard.  Is that a swan or a goose?

The gazelle was a Chrysler hood ornament in the 30's, although something similar later became the Chevy Impala trademark.

Stutz was using a goddess.  I think it is either Athena or Minerva, the difference being Greek or Roman.

An some hood ornaments are just fun.  I am assuming that this one is aftermarket and just for fun.  Either way, it is interesting to find on a Studebaker.

 If you find yourself enjoying hood ornaments the way I do, the link below will take you to pictures of many more fun and interesting ornaments.  Of course, all the pictures above are mine from the Lake George event.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Signs of Autumn

As autumn comes on,  I count on different signs to let me know its really here.

The sure sign of fall's arrival is a visit from the sandhill cranes.  Some of them always stop in my yard for a visit before heading further south.  This image comes from an internet image.  It seems the cranes in my yard are just a bit camera shy.

Actually, the first indication of their arrival is there unique call.  Some have called it prehistoric and others have described it as the sound of a creaking of a screen door.  The sound image below was downloaded from and was created by Corsica_S.  Of course, Blogger doesn't make it easy to share sound files, so I had to put it in a video.  The only thing there is a title and 1 minute of sound.

Sandhill Crane from Jac Brown on Vimeo.

As the season goes on, the cranes fly south and the sound is replaced by shotguns and bird hunting season.  But late in the season, there are always one or two trees with strong color late into the season.  In the past, it has been a Cherry tree in my front yard with bright orange/red leaves that hang on even until the snow.

Alas, this has been a tough weather year in my yard.  Strong storms have blown down two trees, one of those being the beloved Cherry.  So this year, I turned my attention to my back yard where the combination of the dark greens of the white pine contrast nicely with the yellow/orange of this old oak tree.  It reminds me of that line from the Shawshank Redemption, "There is a big hay field up near Buxton....One in particular.  It's got a long rock wall, a big oak tree at the north end.  It's like something out of a Robert Frost poem."

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Identifying Cars from the Video

In the last post, I showed a video based on home movies of car racing.  One of the things that fascinates me is the variety of cars on the track and in the parking lot.  Some of these cars would be worth millions of dollars today.  Others, we don't even know what they are.

The one that shows in the frame before you start the video is an Elva Courier,  I would love to have one of those.

Starting with a mystery, the sports racer in this freeze frame is quite unusual and I haven't been able to even come close to identifying it.  It is very wide and low and has a very rectangular shape in plan view.  My memory tells me that this is the Flying Shingle raced by Ken Polman, but the existing pictures of the Shingle don't match at all.  By the way, the Flying Shingle was a very creative effort.  It had a steel tube chassis with no suspension (go-kart style) to save weight.  It was powered by a 700cc Mercury Outboard boat engine.  The complete car was said to weigh about 300 pounds.

 Somehow, I remember that Mercury outboard engine in this very low car, but memory does funny things over more than 50 years.

Staying in at Waterford, I love the smaller classes.  Mini Cooper .vs. NSU Prinz TT .vs. Hillman Imp with Volvo, Fiat 500, and Beetle thrown in for fun.  One of the fun things about Waterford is that it puts a premium on handling, so the feature race on Sunday was when all of the closed wheel cars raced together and there was usually a ding-dong battle between a Mini and a Corvette for the overall win.

 I also love the battle between the front engine and rear engine Formula Junior cars in the early years.

The big cars had lots of Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros, and one E-type, but there was also a few pure, big bore racing cars. The 1969 part of the video has an amazing range of big bore racers.

McLaren Mk 1 Can Am racer

 Lola T70 Can Am racer

  Porsche 906

 Porsche 904

Pretty fancy stuff for a little club track like Waterford.

By the time we got to Watkins Glen for the F1 in 1971, things were pretty interesting in F1.  If you remember, 1971 started out with outrageous, suspension mounted wings flying high above the body.  The crashes mounted quickly and so did the regulations that limited height and forced wings to be body mounted.  By the time the cars got to Watkins Glen near the end of the season, the cars had evolved into some of the prettiest and ugliest F1 cars ever.

Does everybody remember the "tea tray" March?  It was there and competing.

On the other hand, I have always found the McLaren of that year to be beautiful.

The Ferarri is quite nice too.

 The Tyrrell may not be quite as pretty, but it was effective (1971 champion) and iconic.

Did you find anything else worthy of note?

Greg found a number of cars that I hadn't called out with a photo, so here we go.

Ford Lotus Cortina

Ford Anglia

Hillman Imp (on of my personal favorites)

Lotus 7 Series 4 (I assume you all found the earlier series Lotus 7's)

 NSU Prinz TT or known as just the TT

The business end of the TT

Renault Dauphine