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A Hoon’s Journey to the First Mustang

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April 17th, 1964 is known officially as the birthday of the Ford Mustang and is a date that saw the launch of what is perhaps the most iconic vehicle ever made. 50 years ago today, Ford launched more than just a new car aimed at younger souls or those who just wished they were; they launched an entirely new class of car, a new automotive philosophy, and they helped launch one of the most exciting eras in automotive history that we still reminisce about today, even if not all of us were around for it.

So on today, the Mustang’s 50th birthday, allow me to reminisce a bit myself about when I got to see the beginnings of a legend, including the original 1962 Ford Mustang I concept, the first Mustang which Ford accidentally sold, and where they were all built. Along the way I also finally got to experience the legend from behind the wheel and fell in love with a car much in the same way as America did starting on this day 50 years ago.

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Ranking the Border Crossings Along the Pan-American Highway

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Background: Since 2007, I have been taking bus trips along the Pan-American Highway. I have done 12,000 miles of it so far, which is approximately 88% of the road that stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the tip of South America. I have two segments left. This summer, I will travel by van along the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Next year, I will finish with a bus trip from Lima, Peru, through Ecuador, to the frontier town of Turbo, Colombia (along the edge of the Darien Gap).

While I prepare for my Alaska trip, I thought I would share with you my experiences at the border crossings. Oftentimes, the border crossing is the most exciting, and dangerous, part of the journey. It certainly gives you insight about each country’s culture, governance, and character. 

I will rank the border crossings I used, from least to most “challenging”.

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Millbrook Punishment Park – An Engineer’s Playground

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Racetracks are great. Every circuit has its own distinct character and set of challenges, which test the mettle of the driver in a specific way. There’s no getting away from the fact, though, that a racetrack is just that. Designed for racing, with clean racing lines, plenty of run-off and a layout which aims to be vaguely spectator-friendly. I pain with broad strokes, here.

What a racetrack can’t necessarily do is test a car. What you really need for that is a Proving Ground. There are examples of these wonderful establishments all over the world; but one is particularly close to my heart. That place is Millbrook, in Bedfordshire, England; and I wish I could play there a lot more frequently than I can.

You’ll all recognize Millbrook, or bits of it, anyway, from regular appearances on Top Gear, or any other motoring program who’s production budget could be stretched far enough to hire it. Or from the Aston Martin roll sequence in Casino Royale, filmed on these premises.

Basically, if there’s something you want to test on your car, there’s a way of testing it at Millbrook. If you’ve got a 42 tonne truck and trailer and you want to test it on gradients up to 26%? Step this way. If you’re looking to perfect the ride quality on your new luxo-barge, might I point Sir in the direction of the 0.9mile Belgian Block Pave loop with angled depressions? There’s also a 137 metre steering pad, a whole range of noise-generating surfaces for interior sound tests, and if you feel the need, the need for speed, get yourself down to the two-mile banked circle with its 100mph “Hands off” speed. It really has everything.

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A Photojournal Trip Across the Country

Bradley Brownell October 18, 2013 Featured, Road Trip

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The cross country road trip is one of those American phenomena that simply cannot be delivered similarly anywhere else. Sure, there are wide expanses of countryside in Canada, Russia, Australia, China, etc., but none are quite like the good ‘ol US with its widely varying countryside vistas, the excellent cityscapes, the comfortably large well-paved lanes. Our interstate system is becoming rapidly outdated, but still makes for relatively easy drives from end to end. 

A recent shift in the paradigm of my employment has facilitated a relocation to Reno, Nevada from Cleveland, OH. I’ve been in Nevada for almost three months now, and my girlfriend (though she is featured heavily in this story will be henceforth referred to as “the girl”) has continued to live in Ohio in that time until the lease was up. At the beginning of October, that became the case, and the full move was finally upon us. I flew in to CLE airport, enduring the excruciating pressure change from nearly a mile high to just above sea level along the way, to help pack up the remainder of our belongings and prepare for our cross-country trek. We stayed in Ohio for two years, making some great friends along the way, but it was time for us to move on to (hopefully) bigger and better.

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V.I.S.I.T: A Disabled Member of the Tour America Parade

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Earlier today, this olelongrooffan had just finished a liquid lunch with Donald Duck and the boys up in MickeyMouseLand and was cruisin down Florida’s Highway 9 toward my Miami style bungalow. I was chatting it up on my newfangled iPhone with my counterpart over in the doors and millwork division of the  company we represent around this here Sunshine State. As my phone is slowly becoming my daily driver image taker, I took 20 miles per hour off my speed to conclude that conversation so I could gather these images. A couple more are after the jump.

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Zooming Around with the RX Club of Wisconsin

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I’ve been behind the wheel of all sorts of vehicles in my lifetime, including an array of sports cars. Mazda’s RX-8 still provides one of the best driving experiences I have ever had, thanks in part to it’s  precise 50/50 weight distribution, quick and snappy six-speed manual, razor-sharp handling and exciting 232 horsepower rotary engine. It’s perfect.  If you haven’t driven one, put that on your list. Having grown up with RX-7s and now an RX-8 in my father’s garage, there’s no way I’d turn down an invitation to join a friend on the RX Club of Wisconsin‘s Fall Cruise.

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Recap: The 2013 Rally New England

Robby DeGraff August 19, 2013 Featured, Road Trip

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Driving for a good cause. That’s what Rally North America is all about. In the past twelve months, members of RNA raised more than $85,000 for Camp Sunshine, an organization that invites children with life-threatening diseases and their families to come and have fun at camp for a week, free of charge. RNA was founded in 2010 by Scott Spielman and Tony Intrieri, two car guys looking to make a difference out on the road.

In recent years past, I drove in the inaugural 2010 Route 66 Rally and the 2011 Rally Appalachia. This time around I was part of the film crew set to document the day-to-day reality of this event. Over the next 1,300 miles (that is if you don’t get lost… like I did), more than eighty unique vehicles from exotics, classics, high performance pickup trucks, sports cars and tuners, will rally to give back.

This is the 2013 Rally New England. 

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Adventure Driving Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

engineerd™ August 8, 2013 Road Trip

On the trails

“Let’s camp in the U.P.” That’s what we said one night over beers at Soo Brewing. The owner, standing across the bar from us, said we would not be disappointed and that we must enjoy some microbrews on our trip. Soon I was hooked up with a forum called UP Overland and my desire to overland was rekindled. Actually, it wasn’t just rekindled, it was a full out burn. My 2001 Jeep Cherokee was not going to be a mall crawler. I wanted her to see mud and trails.

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Come Out and Have Some Fun- Rally New England Stars Next Week!

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If you’ve never participated in a road rally, you’re missing out. Big Time. There are plenty of real non-profit rally organizations around the country like Cheese Wheel IncRoad Rally Charities and Rally North America, who put on affordable road rallies every year, with one goal in mind: deliver a fun driving adventure while helping out those in need.

The five road rallies I’ve done within the past year have taken me down Route 66, through the winding roads of Appalachia and across more states I can count on two hands.  For up to seven days at a time, it’s you, your navigator, your prized set of wheels and dozens of other cars and teams.

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V.I.S.I.T. – Vehicles I Saw In Traffic (on the A36 From Montbéliard to Dijon in 1991)

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A 10-year-old non-artist’s dramatic depiction of a rented Fiat Uno’s rear license plate.

A moving truck full of stuff showed up at my house two weeks ago. It wasn’t unexpected, as I had hired the movers myself. But the contents of the truck wasn’t strictly all mine (though I suppose now it is) – it was full of, well, stuff from my late mother’s house. Most of the stuff I was expecting – pieces of furniture/artwork/housewares that held sentimental or other value to me, photo albums, papers, Christmas china, and other ephemera that is both meaningful and, let’s be honest, useful. But there were a few boxes of surprises, mostly things my sister simply didn’t want – boxes of books, long-forgotten household miscellany. One or two boxes, however, held fascinating surprises within: my entire childhood’s worth of school papers, report cards, notebooks, drawings, standardized test scores, birthday cards, birth announcements, and just about every other paper-based evidence that I was once a child living in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

I’m getting to the point. One of the long-lost treasures in this box was my travel journal from my family’s first trip to Europe in 1991. Flipping through the notebook that had likely not been touched in two decades, memories of my first European adventure came flooding back to me, particularly…of course…the cars. 10-year-old me, like 32-year-old me, found ’80s Euro cars slightly more exotic and interesting than they probably actually are. And so it was with that mindset that 10-year-old me set out to document every single new and exotic car I saw on the highways of Switzerland, France, and Germany. 

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