There’s S*** on My Car! Thanksgiving Day was very pleasant. Despite my misery from a head cold and the OTC med I took to stop the sniffles, we had an easy drive and a good visit with relatives. The day brought partly-cloudy skies and mild temperatures. Today started off damp but well enough. As the day progressed, however, clouds continued to thicken, the winds came up, the temperatures went down; when evening came it was prematurely dark and snowy-icy bits were falling from the sky. I walked from my office to the car and found it covered with a thin layer of s***. Tonight the wind is howling and, whereas we started the day with a temperature of 52 degrees (F), it is now 31 and feeling like winter. Suddenly the Christmas carols that some radio stations here have been playing don’t seem to be so premature!
Out and about yesterday we made a stop at The Greensmith Garden Center in Hinckley, Ohio. Greeting visitors to their place is a very unusual flower planter — a Volkswagen Beetle, its boot filled with earth and posies! It might be fun to drive such a vehicle around but the same use has been put to the car’s engine compartment (in the rear) — dirt and daisies. Well, not really daisies but the alliteration was too choice!
Heavy storms again swept (and are sweeping again right now) the area. I was at work when the first wave of the evening hit. The wind roared, the rain poured, hail rattled, and tree leaves were torn and scattered … and therein was the problem. In our parking lot the storm drains became blocked by fresh, green, shredded leaves and the torrential rains backed up. The parking lot I had chosen earlier in the day flooded for the first time ever. I was lucky for I’d chosen high ground. Had I parked in my first choice of spots, I might be telling a less fortunate story. Someone else parked in the spot I might have taken and water lapped to within about two inches of their car doors’ lower edges! Due to a staffer’s heroic effort the storm drain was cleared and the waters subsided. Still, flooding, not wind damage, was the story around the area. I’m sure there will be many stories around the office tomorrow!
I saw the new 2011 Honda CR-Z sports hybrid the other day when we stopped in at our Honda dealer. Three of them were sitting in the lot and, not looking very photogenic where they were, I skipped photographing them. We're not in the market for a $20K two-seater but this one looks like it would be loads fun to drive and a great little commuter and runabout. EPA estimates put it at 35 MPG city, 39 MPG highway, and 37 MPG combined. Not that I trust EPA estimates. I don't know how they changed their testing –EPA used to be pretty accurate– but now, well my 2010 Insight was estimated to get 41 MPG combined. I regularly get 55+ MPG combined (real world) in the summertime and the worst mileage (in winter with lights and heat going all the time) was 41 MPG. In short, I think the CR-Z will get much better fuel economy than advertised and deliver lots of FPG (Fun Per Gallon). Link: Honda's Web Site
We were minding our own business, heading out on a pleasant little Saturday morning trip to a shopping area, more as an outing than an expedition. Stopped for a red light at an intersection, all was was quiet when suddenly –BOOM– a heavy blow from behind rocked the Insight! A second later we realized we'd been hit by a large black car. I shut off the engine, carefully got out of the Honda –the guy who hit us was already out of his– and we examined the results. (He said he "thinks" his foot slipped off the brake at the stop.) Whew! Nobody hurt. No broken glass. No smashed plastic lenses. No folded or torn bumpers.
The Insight, however, now wears as part of its rear bumper the distinct impressions of the other guy's license plate bolt heads (you can count the sides) and license plate frame. Of course, the other guy showed no signs of impact on the front end of his car. Probably nothing to be done but application of a bit of touch-up paint and. Too little damage for a call to the police or a call to the insurance company. So we were given the guy's license info, shook hands, and parted company. I think I know what I'll do about the bolt impressions –a new bumper sticker will do the trick– but some small scuffs and scratches will be harder to hide. The Insight is only a bit over a year old and was unscathed up to this point. Now it has its first permanent marks and I'll be reminded of the incident almost daily.
Northeastern Ohio winters can be a hard time for driving and I've been interested in seeing how the 2010 Honda Insight (now at 15,000+ miles) would handle it. Last week we had a cold spell with several days in the low teens and the temperature bottoming out at +8 degrees (F) one night. The Insight, sitting outdoors for about 12 hours, started right up sounding only a little annoyed at having to stir in the frigid morning air; I complained more than did the car. Despite the cold, the big hybrid battery provided plenty of juice and the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) started the gasoline motor –rrrrrRRRRRRRRRR– just as if it was 70 degrees. That morning I let the car warm for a few minutes before driving which doesn't help mileage (see below) but does benefit both car and driver.
Today we dealt with about five inches of overnight snow and +20-degree temperatures. Our development's drive was barely cleared as I left for the office in the morning and local streets were reduced to slushy tire tracks. The Insight had no trouble pulling itself up the hill and out into traffic. Yes, the roads were a bit slick –really bad in some places– but there was no problem starting or stopping; I was worried about the snow performance of the car's low rolling-resistance tires. ABS buzzed more than once, though not severely, helping abate skids. Electronic stability control kicked in a few times helping me accelerate in a straight line and I never felt the wheels spin when starting from a stop. I took the freeway to make up for time lost in slow, slow local post-holiday traffic. Average speed was about 45 MPH on a highway that had clear, wet tire tracks in lanes separated by piles of plowed slush. Changing lanes across the heavy glop was no problem at all and the car was in good smooth control at all times smashing through the messy barriers.
The only negative impact I've seen winter have on the Insight (besides salt and goop on the car) is a substantial drop in mileage. Operating lights, heat, window defoggers near full-time kept the gasoline motor running 'most all of the time. Mileage on the current tank appears to have "tanked" itself to about 44 MPG. I've been able to say the average fuel economy for my commutes has been about 50 MPG on a tank with my summertime high (no AC running, no lights, etc.) was just shy of 60 MPG. Now 44 MPG sounds bad to me but it's still about 10 MPG better than our Honda Civic averages and, considering the EPA's estimate is only 41 MPG (combined) and my worst performance overall is now 44 MPG, I guess I'll be happy.
Can't say I won't be happier when winter has passed and the snow and deep cold stay put in the arctic.
Noted in passing: Last evening as I was leaving a parking lot, there were three of us waiting to exit to the through road. On my left was a Toyota Prius. Ahead of me was a Honda Civic Hybrid. I was driving my 2010 Honda Insight. Three cars waiting, all of them hybrids. A sign of the times.