Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pre-winter inspection and prep

At the beginning of every season there's always a mad rush to try to get an alignment scheduled so this year after speaking with Steve at SJF Performance, we decided we'd do it differently. Bumblestook stays in hibernation all winter so there's no reason why we can't do an alignment before putting her away so she'll be all ready next season and that's exactly what we did.

Pre-winter prep -  SJF Performance - 11/21/2015
There was a bit of slippage since the last alignment and magically I regained some of the camber I had lost on the front driver side. This allowed us to dial in some more front camber so the front bites a little better for better balance. She was getting a tad pushy at the end of the season. We suspect my front subframe shifted a little during Nationals back to it's "normal" position so the final alignment we ended up going with was:

-3.4 Camber
0 toe
5 degrees caster

-2.5 Camber
0.06 total toe in (1/16")

At the last event, we also start hearing some squealing noises from the front wheels. We thought it could be bad wheel bearings but after getting her on the lift, we noticed no play in the wheel or suspension whatsoever. Then we looked at the next obvious thing, the brakes, and was shocked to see that I've basically gone through the front brake pads almost to the backing plates. That in and of itself isn't particularly shocking since it is a race car so it goes through brakes but considering Bumblestook is trailered, she's basically gone through a set of front pads in about 250-300 competition miles.

Front brakes are done - 11/21/2015
Almost down to the backing plates - 11/21/2015
Since these are Hawk HP+ pads and are fairly aggressive, the rotors have also been chewed up quite a bit so I'll have to replace these before I race next season. So much for being race ready before winter. We also used up all the Ethanol in the tank at the last event so I filled her up with pump 93.

Finally, I compiled a list of things I have to get done early next season:
  • Replace front brake pads and rotors 
  • Replace driver seat rail/slider (Ballade Sports ultra-low seat rail)
  • Re-dyno and verify the tune and double check the throttle bodies

Saturday, November 14, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 6 (The End)

Well, I finally completed my trip. Lupa and I drove a total of 3,137.6 miles over the course of 6 days covering 9 states and a tiny stint in Washinton D.C. all with the top down except for that one day of heavy rain. I'm not sure what I expected from this trip. Part of me thought I wouldn't be able to make it and I'd have to turn back at some point from back pain or something. It's not because driving to Florida and back is particularly hard. Lots of people do it all the time, especially old people that go back and forth apparently, but driving a S2000, in particular, a STR prepped S2000 is a different story. The only thing that bothered me was the lack of sleep and the ever changing weather since I had vowed to drive top down in all but heavy rain. The hot and humid days in Florida were brutal but so were the really cold days when I got back north. Leaving Charlottesville, Virginia this morning at 38F just as the sun was rising with the top down had me questioning my sanity for example.

Final fill up for this trip - NJ - 11/14/2015
I'm really happy how well this trip went. Lupa is prepped for SCCA's STR autocross class which stands for Street Touring Roadster and a 3000+ mile road trip definitely puts the "street" and "touring" into context and of course she is a "roadster". She's such an amazing car to drive. She puts up a fight and can get it done when she's being raced but on the street she's refined like a lady with a tiny bit of attitude on the side to keep you in check.

Back into NYC via the GWB - 11/14/2015
I got to see some parts of the country I hadn't yet seen. It was interesting. I didn't really hate any of it in a way that would prevent me from passing through again in the future but then there were places like the Shenandoah Valley that I know for sure I want to come back to every year. There really isn't anything special about this trip if you look at it on paper. Sure I drove 3138 miles and sure I drove it solo but so have plenty of other people in other cars. The difference for me is like having fat-free, sugar-free, vanilla ice cream in a cup versus a hazelnut ice cream with brownie bits, nuts, chocolate syrup in a chocolate dipped waffle cone. Sure, both will get you a sweet tooth fix but only one will really make you feel like to lived a little.

Finally done, 3137.6 miles later - New York - 11/14/2015
More importantly, this trip helped clear my mind, put things into perspective and inspired me. I can honestly say after this trip that "I lived" and that is an appropriate segue into the video I put together to capture the essence of this trip. It's been quite a while since I did a video project. I've been utterly uninspired recently to put this kind of effort into anything but for this trip it seemed fun, exciting and natural and it was near and dear to my heart which didn't make it any easier to create but it did make the entire process that much more enjoyable. 

S2000 East Coast Tour 2015 Video

Photo/Video Equipment
  • iPhone 5S
  • GoPro Hero 3 Plus
  • Canon 5D MK2 with 24-70L 
Audio Equipment 
  • Azden SMX-10 mic and of course built-in mics in the video equipment
Edited with 
  • Final Cut Pro X on 13" Macbook Pro (Late 2013 Retina)
  • "I lived" by One Republic
Sound bites 
  • Shigeru Uehara, lead designer and "father" of the S2000 and NSX - S2K home coming 2015 and S2000 EuroMeet 2014
  • Jeremy Clarkson - Interview by Eric Bana in "Love the Beast"

Friday, November 13, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 5

The past 4 days of this road trip have mostly involved driving long distances from destination to destination and then spending some time exploring each area on foot. For this last full day away from home, I wanted to cap it off with a more pure driving adventure. I was strongly recommended by several friends to make sure I swing by the Shenandoah Valley and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia. I stayed near Charlotte,  North Carolina, last night so my plan was to leave early for the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center near Roanoke, Virginia and get on the Parkway there and take it north all the way to Skyline Drive. I suppose I should've checked first but it turns out that the "season" is over and all the visitor centers along route were closed. The road was still open though and the upside to the season being over was that there were very few cars out. I had the whole road to myself the vast majority of the time just the way I like it.

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center - Roanoke, VA - 11/13/2015
If you've ever driven I-95 or in Florida before, you know that it's basically a bunch of straight lines so while I racked up many miles, I didn't exactly have to turn the wheel much unless I was exiting. In stark contrast to this, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive were nothing but corner after corner for miles and miles. It was the most amazing thing ever. The speed limit was only 45mph the parkway and 35mph on Skyline Drive but this suited my purpose well because I wasn't trying to race through this area. I wanted to enjoy the twisties and have it last for as long as I could. It was roadster heaven! To top it off, I got blessed with the most incredible weather. It was mid-50s, sunny and clear skies for as far as the eye could see. It was perfect hoodie and top down weather.

Roadster heaven - Blue Ridge Parkway - 11/13/2015
I even had all the overlooks to myself. I could pick and choose whichever one I wanted, soak in the spectacular view without any distractions and even had time to set up my tripod and camera for more awesome shots to document this trip.

A man, his S2000 and the open road
Skyline Drive / Shenandoah National Park - 11/13/2015
I thought I couldn't surpass the inspired feeling I had yesterday but the 4 hour drive through these winding roads really helped me appreciate not only the beauty of nature but how incredible the S2000 is and that brought an even greater sense of inspiration. As I rowed through the gears and kept constantly transitioning to follow the corners, I felt truly at one with Lupa and the road. I was telling her what to do, she executed perfectly and in turn was giving me feedback through all my senses what was going on underneath me on the road. It was like a coordinated dance, she moved that rear around predictably and with confidence. The cool air was perfect for the engine and I could hear that F22C run through the revs smoothly as she breathed easily. She was like a race horse at the start line, wanting, no, begging, to be unleashed but we kept it civil, only occasionally testing the limits of her cornering ability through some of the hairpins. There was no drama, only perfection. The S2000 was in her element and it showed. This is what Shigeru Uehara designed the S2000 negotiate the touge quickly and effectively, rewarding the driver with smiles to last for days. For those few hours I felt truly free and happy. I felt the happiness of a kid on Christmas day, the excitement of meeting someone and falling in love and the adrenaline of being chased by a wild animal all at the same time. It was the feeling of being alive, of being in the moment, of living life passionately, of not taking for granted any moment. It was Carpe Diem on 4 wheels. It, was, to put it simply, the most perfect day a man and his S2000 could ever ask for.

Onto Day 6...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 4

Today started the long journey back to NY but before leaving Florida, I was recommended by a colleague to go see the Kennedy Space Center which was just 2 hours north of where I was staying last night, right off I-95 on the way back. I'm so glad I went because it was a truly inspirational visit.

Lupa at Kennedy Space Center - 11/12/2015
I generally get excited about "space stuff" but I came here not really sure what to expect. I thought it would just be a simple museum you could walk around but oh no, it was much more than that. I got on the tour bus that took us around the complex so we could see the vehicle assembly building, launch pads and other interesting tidbits about the space center and the tour ended at the Apollo/Saturn V (pronounced Saturn Five) center where there was an incredible show detailing the history of the Apollo program including sitting over the real equipment used in mission control during that period where they re-played audio and video of the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned mission the moon. That was a real treat and made my hair stand on end. We were then able to see an actual Saturn V rocket, the scale was just incredible and awe inspiring.

Real mission control equipment from the Apollo program
Kennedy Space Center - 11/12/2015
I then rode the bus back to the main area to check out the space shuttle Atlantis. That also included a video showing the history of the shuttle program, the problems faced by the engineers and finally the successful first mission by Atlantis. Then you were treated to seeing the real space shuttle on display. You could see the discoloration caused by re-entry into the atmosphere and a really detailed look into the materials used in its creation.

Space shuttle Atlantis
Kennedy Space Center - 11/12/2015
Clearly I was blown away by this and I regret that I initially only allocated 2 hours of time to see. I really needed a whole day. I ended going over that time by quite a bit because it was worth it but I have to come back again to really explore everything in full detail. This is probably the highlight of this trip so far. It put a lot of things into perspective. I don't think people truly grasp how important the space program is and those that argue it's just wasted money don't study history enough to realize that many of the amazing things we use today were born out of technologies pioneered by space program. The push for faster, lighter computers brought into being the semiconductor and later integrated chips. Advancements in material sciences of new alloys are in use in today by many industries. GPS and other satellite based systems would not be possible today without the space program. An entire generation of scientists and engineers were inspired by this. It made America great! It makes me sad that many people don't understand that we need to make this investment if we want America to continue to be a pioneer in technology going forward.

They played a snippet of President Kennedy's "we choose to go to the moon" speech (of course) but hearing those words again resonated with me today. Anything worth pursuing truly is difficult. Choosing the thing that is difficult often makes the experience more rewarding, more meaningful. If anything, you learn a lot of things about yourself when you dare to dream a little and push your boundaries. In many ways, it's a great back drop to this trip. I could've done any number of things to make this trip a lot easier but instead decided to up the difficulty a little and it's been an incredible experience so far. I've done similar things in various aspects of my life and looking back I've always been glad I chose the thing that wasn't easy, but the one that was hard.

Sometimes you just have to listen to it again!
President Kennedy's - "We choose to go to the moon" speech

Unfortunately, because I spent so much time at the space center, the 7 hour drive to my next overnight stop in Charlotte, NC required me to go straight through with minimal stops (mostly just for gas). Not only was I already exhausted from baking in the hot Florida sun and walking around but the drive would take me into some night time driving through highways I'd never been on before. I don't like that for many reasons but mostly for safety especially if I'm driving through areas that I know might have wildlife like deer ready to commit suicide at any time. Thankfully I got to my destination just fine but it was interesting to feel the stark contrast in very uncomfortable 85F humid heat this morning to the low 50F temps in North Carolina. I went from running the AC at full blast to having to wear my hoodie and blast heat instead all in the same day. I blazed through Georgia and South Carolina to get here and tomorrow it's off to Virginia to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway and all its twisty glory.

Onto Day 5...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 3

"Drive south, keep driving until you can't drive south anymore, then turn around and drive home!" That was the rough plan I had when I concocted this crazy trip. Today I did just that, I drove south until I got to the southern most point of the United States in Key West. It didn't quite go according to plan. My GPS had it estimated at a little over 4 hours from Palm Beach so I was hoping to leave around 6:30am, get there at 11am at the latest and then have enough time to walk around and explore. While I was eating breakfast, I saw on the news that a there was a major trailer accident on I-95 south of me right in my path and only one lane was open. Needless to say, it took more than 4 hours to get there after was closer to 6 hours.

Enjoying the slow crawl 100 miles on the
Overseas Highway to Key West - 11/11/2015
1475.8 miles later we arrive at the Southermost point
of the USA in Key West - 11/11/2015

By this time I was really hot and sweaty (so easy to forget how miserably humid Florida can get) and starving. I had a pretty funny moment. I got out, looked back at Lupa and the first image in my head was Forrest Gump looking back at all the people following him after he did all his random running and decided to just go home haha.

Yep, this was pretty much me after I got there today

Since I lost so much time and I had already been to Key West before anyway, I figured I'd just take a break and eat. I ended up eating at the Banana Cafe right around the corner since I had already found a nice spot to park Lupa. Assuming the worst, that I might hit similar traffic heading back to the the hotel, I opted to start driving back north right after eating. I had already made plans to meet Henry (s2k2knyc on for dinner for some good Cuban food and to catch up and I was looking forward to that more than just randomly killing time in Key West.

S2000 long distance micro meet with Henry - 11/11/2015
The slow cruise to Key West was one of the most tiring but inspiring parts of this trip so far. Since we were going at such slow speed and I was surrounded by incredible scenery, I had a chance to just get lost in my thoughts and listen to music. I will say that driving by the water in the the tropical heat reminded me very much of Hawaii and how I have to go back. Florida is nice and all that but yea, Hawaii takes the cake for me in terms of pure tropical bliss. Well today ended my southern journey as I ran out of land mass to continue driving so it's back up north I go and frankly I'm excited to be back to cooler conditions. I now understand why so many Floridians own convertibles but leave the top up all the time. The sticky heat is just nasty and I'll take hoodie weather top down driving in the fall in the NorthEast over this any time.

Onto Day 4...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 2

Day 2 didn't start off any better than how day 1 ended. It poured overnight and it was going to keep raining until late morning. It wasn't going to dampen my spirits though as I knew the majority of the day was going to be nice and my destination for today was Florida so I set off before 7am and starting racking up the miles.

A gray, wet start to day 2 - North Carolina - 11/10/2015
I forged through North Carolina and it dried up enough just before entering South Carolina to drop the top and enjoy some open air action. It was still very chilly though so the heat was on full blast despite the sun being present. Since it was still early in the morning, there was no one at the South Carolina rest stop so I took the opportunity to whip out the old camera and tripod to take a proper photo with Lupa to commemorate this adventure.

A man and his car going on an adventure
South Carolina - 11/10/2015

I don't really have much to say about South Carolina other than they need to have better rest stops. The rest stops were a bit sad compared with North Carolina and during some parts of I-95, as I looked over and saw the heavy brush and swampy areas, I couldn't help but think of The Walking Dead. I'm sure it's a great state but if you only get the I-95 experience, you're not getting excited about anything. I was supposed to just pass through Georgia but since I was making good time, I thought it might be interesting to make a stop in Savannah. I'm a bit of a closet history and old movie geek so when I think of Savannah, Georgia, all that pops into mind are scenes from Gone with the Wind.

Savannah, Georgia - 11/10/2015
I spent a few hours walking through the historic district taking mental notes of the old architecture and snapping a few photos and had lunch at the Savannah Coffee Roasters on W. Liberty St. I know this is a blog about a car but as a foodie, when I get good food, I have to mention it. This was by far one of the best meat pies I've ever tasted. The beef stew was tender, rich and hearty. It tasted home made, the kind of food you'd expect to eat in the south. If you ever find yourself in the area, I'd definitely recommend it.

Lunch at Savannah Coffee Roasters - 11/10/2015
I killed a bit too much time in Savannah but thankfully the drive to the Florida border wasn't too far. There I was greeted with free super fresh Florida orange juice at the welcome center staffed with very friendly Floridians. It was sunny and warm just as you'd want a drive through Florida to be. I picked up some brochures for places I'm thinking about going to while I'm here. One crazy story from this rest old dude was parked right next to me. As I'm getting ready to leave, he walks up to me and says it's a really nice car. He then proceeds to say that the only problem with the car is that it seems to have a small trunk...not big enough to stick women into! WTF!?? Yes, I quickly got out of there. Crazy old man!

Finally in Florida - 11/10/2015
Things to do in Florida - 11/10/2015
Unfortunately, while I did enter Florida. I still had a good 4-5 hours left of driving before reaching my stop for the day in Palm Beach so I had to do the bulk of remaining drive in darkening conditions and watching the lightning in the horizon hoping I could make it to the hotel without having to put the top up. Tomorrow,  I get to check off the major milestone of this trip when I get into Key West but for now....sleep.

Onto Day 3...

S2000 East Coast Road Trip - Day 1

It was finally the day to kick off the road trip. Unfortunately, despite the very pleasant, warm weather last week, temps dropped abruptly over the weekend and I started my trip at 6:50am when it was 43F outside. As I mentioned in my previous post, the top was going to stay down regardless of temperature and so I bundled up, kicked up the heat to high and enjoyed the drive.

Starting the trip counter - 0.0 miles - 11/9/2015

The first leg of this trip would take me through NJ into Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and finally making my first sleep stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although it was cold, the sun was present through the first half of this leg but as I rolled into Maryland, I noticed the sun had disappeared and the cloud cover thickened. Little did I know, I was about to drive straight into a storm. I crossed the border from Maryland into Virginia and made a stop at the Virginia Welcome Center to stretch my legs and take care of other important business.

Virginia Welcome Center - 11/9/2015
Apparently Virginia is for lovers - 11/9/2015
As I was about to leave I noticed water droplets on the car. It looked like a mild drizzle and I wouldn't have to put the top up but the clouds were looking a bit too ominous so I hesitantly put the top up and was lucky that I did because the minute I merged onto the highway, I got hit hard with rain. This added quite a bit of action into this trip because Lupa did become a bit of a handful to keep straight. I would hit patches of standing water causing the diff to engage sending power to the wheel with grip causing the rear to step out a little (didn't help that I'm running very little rear toe for my autocross alignment). It wasn't horrible but you definitely couldn't be asleep at the wheel! Smooth inputs were necessary and quick reflexes were needed when she wanted to show you who was boss.
Damn rain - Virginia - 11/9/2015
The rain just kept getting worse and worse and eventually it was white out conditions but thankfully  it was a weekday with very few cars/trucks on the road so it was easy to maintain a safe distance from potential hazards. I eventually made it to the North Carolina border where I was able to stretch a bit and see how soaked Lupa was.

Arrived in North Carolina soaked - 11/9/2015
Unfortunately the night before I had trouble sleeping so I was pretty tired and after being on the road for 11 hours already (including stops), I had to pull over at the last stop an hour shy of Fayetteville to get something to keep me awake. The darkness, cold and massive concentration needed to drive her in that rain had mentally drained me. Thankfully a quick dose of Monster Energy Drink gave me the final boost I needed.

Re-energizing to complete this leg of the trip
North Carolina - 11/9/2015
For some reason I didn't look up what was around the motel to eat and I had assumed there would be nothing so I ended up eating dinner at this really empty Waffle House on the way there. It was "ok" but nothing to write home about (or take a picture of). Of course I realized as soon as I exited for the motel that I was surrounded by much better food options but I was already full so I ended up just resting.

Corner spot and visible from my room of course
Fayetteville, NC - 11/9/2015

The good news is that despite being generally tired from needing sleep, my body feels fine and my back doesn't hurt which was my primary concern. I did stop every 1.5 hours or so to take a walk and stretch and I think that helped tremendously. Also, as a side note, the Mugen exhuast is by the far the most awesome exhaust ever made for this car. No drone, with just a nice soft rumble at cruising speeds but with a solid grunt when you step on it giving you a solid smirk after being reminded what you have under there. I could enjoy music when I wanted and even talk to my brother over bluetooth speaker phone with no issues. I used up about 2 full tanks of gas during this leg. Tomorrow is another long day but I'll be ending up in Florida and will be enjoying some warmth again. The weather looks decent too so hopefully I get to drive the whole way with the top down.

Onto Day 2...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

S2000 East Coast Road Trip

I live and work in arguably the greatest city on earth so what more could I want? What could I possibly be day dreaming about when I'm sitting in the office and looking out the window? Well, as a car guy, I often dream of being on the open road, with the top down, rowing through the gears, hearing the rumble of the engine, the grunt of the exhaust, feeling every part of the road through all my senses. When I realized I had some time off left to burn before the end of the year, it was clear I needed to check another item off the bucket list...a real road trip in a S2000!

The Road Trip - 11/9/2015
Inspired by Top Gear specials, driven by my love for S2000s (and in small part, by insanity), I decided to come up with a week-long trip that would give me the maximum time on the road while letting me explore places I'd never been before. At first I wanted to go west, cross country to California, up the Pacific Coast Highway and back but with it being very late in the year and with limited vacation days left, it wasn't going to be doable so instead I decided far south as I could go...would be the next best thing.

This trip, I put together thanks to some tips from friends, will take me south from NY through NJ, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and finally Florida where my goal is to get to the southern most point of the United States in Key West. I'll then turn around, drive up north again making a quick stop at the Kennedy Space Center, then once I get to South Carolina start going north west back into Virginia right by the West Virginia border where I plan on driving the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive then back northeast home to the Big Apple. In total this trip is a little over 3000 miles and an estimated 47 hours of actual driving time over the course of 6 days giving myself ample time to stop and explore if I discover anything interesting and with only minimal night time driving. Unless I run into heavy rain, I also intend to make the entire drive with the top down regardless of temperature. "Top Down Always"...that's the roadster life!

Now, to be fair I've driven close to 3000 miles myself before towing Bumblestook from NY/NJ to Lincoln, Nebraska for the SCCA Solo National Championships and back but that's driving a super comfortable Touareg with all the amenities you'd expect from a luxury SUV.  In two of the three times I did that, I either had a passenger or a codriver with me that helped me pass the time. The longest I've ever driven a S2000 in a single day is a little over 5 hours when I bought Lupa in DC and drove her home early last year and my back wasn't all too happy with me afterwards. This trip is significantly longer. It'll just be me, my S2000 (well one of them) in full STR trim (yes, that includes driving on Bridgestone RE-71Rs), a duffel bag of clothes and the open road for almost a week. I raised the front driver side ride height a bit to get better clearance for road obstacles and dialed the Motons back a few clicks to avoid unnecessary roughness. I also packed a few tools, my racing jack, spare, tire repair kit, air pump, emergency LEDs, jump starter kit and oil just in case something happens in the middle of nowhere.

I'm looking forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life and having plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts and enjoying every moment driving Shigeru Uehara's masterpiece, one of the finest examples of Japanese/Honda engineering, the Honda S2000. This is one of those trips where the destination doesn't matter so much because the experience alone, which I'm sure will include some moments of regret, choice words and yearning to see my chiropractor, is an adventure that I'll remember for years to come.

Onto Day 1...