Category Archives: Automotive

The Wreck of the Z3

May has been quite the month here at Club Josh. As the title suggests, I was involved in an accident with my Z3 coming home from work at the beginning of the month. Faithful readers know how much I have wanted a Z3 since they first came out in the 1990s so this was an especially tough blow. I was hoping that the damage would be below the total point of the car, but sadly the repairs to the car were too extensive and the insurance company totaled the car out.

It was especially gutting because I didn’t think the damage was that severe and the car still only had 69k miles on it, but I had to remember that as a 19 year old car, it really wasn’t worth that much – only to me on an emotional level.

I did some sole searching about what I would do, and most people agreed that I needed to let my Z3 go. It had become something of a daily driver which I never wanted it to be. I think if I had a beater car to commute in, I might still have the Zed. In the end, the practical side of me decided it was time to return to Crossover/SUV land and I was really impressed with the look and feel of the new Subaru Crosstrek.

This weekend, I was able to get my new car, a 2018 Crosstrek, but as it ended early, it is still difficult to say goodbye to my Z3. I really hope to get another one in the future. It was such a fun car to drive, despite all of the minor issues that I had to repair in the short time I had it. It was these minor issues that really made me re-consider getting another one. I just was not ready to pump an additional 1-2K into an older car and I was ready to have a new car that I could take on road trips. Plus, I could not find any for sale Z3s that met my criteria.

So off on a new car adventure! Z3 I hardly knew you and Subaru, let’s get to know each other!

Catching Up – It’s been too long!

I really can’t say what exactly led to the decline in my social media postings and blogs, but since September 2016, I have done exactly no blog posts. I have managed to post some Gorn photos – that lasted until December, but even then my Instagrams and Tweets have declined dramatically.

Looking back it was a confluence of work and other things happening in real life that get in the way. At work, I was deeply involved in a project which inherently makes me not want to talk about what is going on – it helps that I actually can’t (LOL). My project ended at the end of May and I have slowly been easing back into regular work routine. As for the rest of life, the change in political climate and the complete deluge of 24/7 news and information made it difficult to focus on any particular thing. Let us also not forget how powerful laziness can do.

However all is not bad several great and amazing things have happened in the last 9 months:

Kris visits – Kris and his family were down for his wife’s performance at the Skirball Puppet Festival. Was so great and felt so good to see him and finally meet his son!!

Jean Michel Jarre – after having yearned for decades to see him live, my dream finally came true in May when I saw him at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater and the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The show did not disappoint and I was so, so happy to see him. As a bonus, I actually met Jarre earlier in February when I won a Facebook competition to go to a Q/A panel in Hollywood. It made up for the fact I missed him when he was signing at Amoeba Records. Sometimes living in the OC is a disadvantage to quick reactions to things. Of course my Social Media malaise was partly to blame since I rarely check it at work so didn’t know about the appearance until it was too late. But all was right in the world when we met. I think a separate detailed blog post with photos and such about my Jarre geek out this year is required.

Twin Peaks! – It has returned after 25 years and boy oh boy am I loving it. Its been a long wait and nothing is as thrilling as re-visiting the world. Tonight is episode 8 which is almost the halfway point of the 18 total episodes of the season. Its been typically Lynch paced which can be frustrating because you want the payoffs to come, but it has been so good that I am willing to wait. As much as I want to just binge watch the whole thing, I am glad its released weekly so we can all analyze and re-analyze what the hee-haw is going on and that makes it that much better.

The Z3 – I still can’t believe that I went out and got a Z3 over Labor Day weekend last September. I know I posted a photo when I took delivery, but the whole experience is again worth its own blog post.. 9 months later I am still loving it. I have of course got a few dings here and there and had to repair some of the smaller items but nothing dampens my enjoyment of driving the car I have wanted since the late 1990s.

Shanghai Disneyland – It’s been a year since it has opened and I am glad that I have kept in touch with the people I have worked with there. It truly is a special time and so grateful I have kept in touch with my friends. I still miss the bill free existence and the glamour of living in a major international city, but I am also so, so glad I can see my family on a regular basis.

Travel – Other than the trip to Colorado in August, Daniel and I really haven’t been able to go anywhere other than camping with my Mom. We are hoping to go somewhere in October (likely Tokyo where else) and I am likely heading to the Caribbean in December on my first ever cruise. The Gorn is a bit antsy so hoping we can get to some new places soon.

Podcast! – Daniel has started the Room 396 Podcast and I have appeared on the first 5 episodes to date. If you want to know what I actually sound like take a listen and tweet me your feedback!

That is it, we are all caught up and look for some more details on the Z3 and Jarre coming up. This week is the 27th anniversary of Club Josh so hoping to do some refresh items here and there (Lots of Jarre items to add!!) and hopefully re-start the blog a day!

Change Again

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve returned back to the USA and have been getting settled back into my old routine. It’s been quite the shock to the system to come back to the States and part of me feels like I had a stroke and had a feverish dream about China. Then I look back on all my wonderful photos and am glad that it was real and I really did get to experience something as wonderful.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the past year and the future and would not change a thing about what I did. Such a great experience and I hope I get asked to do something like it again. Back in reality, I’ve been getting used to my old job which honestly is just like the job I was doing in China, just with more English. I am glad I am fortunate to go back into a comfortable place to ease back into things. I do miss my friends and life in Shanghai. It was much simpler (no bills and no worries) and my friends were great people who really made living overseas so much better. I hope our paths will cross again and I am glad we have been able to keep in touch.

On the homefront, it only took 5 days for Daniel and I to find a place to live and so far we are loving it. It’s not as close to work as we used to live, but its nice and quite and the apartment, even though its smaller, still feels big. I’ve decided to keep most of my stuff in storage and will start pulling things out as needed (I urgently need a toaster!). It also gives us plenty of storage for the extra stuff we have no place for until we are able to finally buy a place in the future.

In the car front, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I’ve now been without a car since the end of May 2015 – the longest I’ve ever been without a car since I got my license. The first few weeks were the toughest, but honestly it hasn’t been that bad. We’ve been carpooling everywhere and its been fine. We’ve had a few pain in the rear end days where schedules or what have you haven’t worked out and that really got me thinking about what kind of car I really need. I honestly don’t need an everyday car, just something that I can use a couple times a month.

Thinking about the future and not wanting to have car payments – I’ve had them since 1996 – I made the decision that I should get a used car. Me being me though, I’ve also decided I don’t need a boring practical car, but I should get something enjoyable. Nevertheless, it has led me down a crazy road and my next post will be the complete story (I hope) about me getting the car of my dreams.

Stay tuned!

2012 Prius v Two Review

From 2012-2015, my car of choice was the 2012 Toyota Prius v. I had a great time with this car and despite a few quirks, I was very happy that I had been driving it for the past three years.

It started back in 2012 as my lease on my 2008 CR-V was coming to an end. I had a choice to get into a new CR-V, but after doing some test drives, I decided that it was time to look at other cars in the segment. My favorite car of the last 10 years has been my 2002 CR-V and the new CR-Vs just didn’t capture my attention and driving pleasure. I wrote about getting the car and my first impressions back in 2012.

These observations held up over the three years. I’d like to add that my relatives loved riding in the Prius v on our many trips to San Diego, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara. Part of the reason I got this car was for the ability to chauffeur them around Southern California. I managed a fairly consistent 40-42MPG over the lifetime of the car. I spent most of the time in the ECO mode which was the cause of the underperforming freeway acceleration. When I learned to turn off ECO and go into POWER, the Prius v was great in acceleration.

Another high point of the v was it’s ability on long road trips. Whether to the far north of California or to the Arizona desert, the v was comfortable all the way and had great gas mileage. Mileage might be better in the c or the hatchback, but I think you can’t beat the comfort of the v.

A word of warning though, the Prius v and other hybrids have a huge mark up for insurance. I was completely blindsided by this when I got the car and despite the extra gas savings, I think the higher price of the car and the higher insurance rates completely negated any savings I was hoping to achieve. I think had I stuck with the under-powered and smaller Prius-c I would have saved money in the long run, but I know my driving pleasure would have been greatly reduced.

It will be almost a year before I re-enter the car market and it will be interesting to see what is out there. With the upcoming redesign of the Prius I will keep it in my “first look” car list, but will also be keeping my eyes open over the next few months to see if anything can steer me in another direction.

I recommend anyone looking for a comfortable, gas economic vehicle to take a look at the Prius v, although if you are looking to save money by owning a hybrid, I’d suggest sticking with a smaller hybrid or one of the hybrid sedans like the Camry.

2015 Toyota Sienna Review

I just wanted to post a quick review of the 2015 Toyota Sienna. But Josh you say, I didn’t know you drove a minivan?? You of course, would be correct. However, in the waning days of my life before I moved overseas, I had to say goodbye to my daily driver as I prepared to leave. Up against the wall, I needed to get a van that could help me move the last days worth of items out of my apartment. I found a low-cost rental car place and the minivan that they had turned out to be the Toyota Sienna.

Having driven a Toyota regularly for the last three years, the Sienna felt right at home. It’s easy to use controls were great comfort to someone who was completely exhausted and stressed out in the final days. Based on procrastination and general lack of action, I ended up with way more than I thought still in my apartment, including my bike and a few other large items. The Sienna swallowed them all up. Even Daniel’s TV fit in the cavernous cargo area with no issue. I wish I had rented the van days earlier as it would have been a big help. Gas mileage was great as well. I averaged over 30 MPG and only had to top off the tank prior to parking for the last time.

Now in terms of a daily driver, the Siena I am sure would be very comfortable with great seating positions. The back seats easily folded down giving me access to the full space. I am sure all of the soccer dads and moms will be able to convert the van with ease.

Can I recommend it for you? For sure if you need something last minute to bail you out of the jam – exactly what I needed. Those of you who are looking for a minivan should certainly consider it!

Figueroa Street Tunnels

Two-way traffic once ran through the Figueroa Street Tunnels, now part of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Courtesy of the USC Libraries - Dick Whittington Photography Collection.

Two-way traffic once ran through the Figueroa Street Tunnels, now part of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Courtesy of the USC Libraries – Dick Whittington Photography Collection.

I am such a freeway nerd, so I cannot resist good articles on Los Angeles freeway history. One of my new favorite blogs, LA As a Subject, has a great article on the history of the Figueroa Street Tunnels.

You may recognize them as the Pasadena Freeway tunnels, and I remember them most from the Universal Studios Tour back in the early 1980s when they would get volunteers from the audience to come on stage and bounce on a bicycle in front of a green screen and they made it look like you were riding down the freeway. I love the look of the tunnels and the other LA bridges that architect Merrill Butler designed in the 30s. It’s almost like the LA River bridges and the tunnels are Art Deco bookends for the city.

Check out the article for some great photos of the tunnels under construction and in use as a road before being upgraded for freeway traffic.

My Favorite Car

I am not a gear head by any means, but I do love cars. For example, this week is the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and I, of course, am glued to the news and blogs to see if there is anything that gets my blood flowing. The last few years have been very ho-hum IMHO about cars. It goes to show that I chose practicality over passion when I got my Prius v. I do love my car more than a regular Prius, but there is that part of me that wants something to blow the doors off someone at a stoplight.

Some of my favorite cars are classic cars, which is one of the reasons I love watching Chasing Classic Cars on Velocity Network. I currently can not afford anything even remotely in the ballpark that is featured on the show (there is still time), but I love seeing what Wayne finds on each episode and root for him to either get a good deal or make heaps of cash at auction.

The North American Car of the Year for 2014 is the new Corvette Stingray. There is a lot to like about this car, but for me a lot to dislike as it still looks too much like the new Camaro for my liking. I still prefer the 1963-1968 version of the Corvette the best, partially because my dad has a split-window ’63 that we still drool over.

My personal favorite car is the BMW 507 and it’s updated kin the BMW Z8. I’m not a BMW-aphile but I have always loved the look of the original 507 when I first laid my eyes on it. It was what I thought a sportscar should be. In the 1990s, the Z3 came out and I really wanted to get one (and still hope to get my hands on a used one someday). A few years later my jaw hit the floor when the Z8 came out – I was really in heaven. It was a true update to the legendary 507 and something I also would be happy to drive one day. I love all three of these cars so much that I have models of them on my desk. But if you ever want to buy me a set of cars, I’d take a 507 and a Z8! Here is a photo of them in my future driveway for reference.
(Courtesy of the Villa d’Este Concours, photo by Bjoern Schmidt)