Life on the road. Know what’s going on with your vehicle. #9

Today let’s start exploring some of the characteristics and possible problems our vehicles can have. Whether you drive a car, a truck, a bigger truck, or ride a motorcycle, there are things that will indicate if something has gone “off” with our vehicle. All of us will recognize when there is a major problem like smoke, flames, steam, or a blow-out, but often times it’s the little things that will help us to avert the major, and perhaps more dangerous occurrences. Not only will good observation warn us against greater problems, it almost always saves us money!

A good place to start today is with tires. It is important to purchase a tire that is properly rated for the vehicle that you are driving, and for the intended use of that vehicle. Tires are governed by DOT, (Department of Transportation) they make sure that the tire performs at a minimum standard. As the consumer, you should have a good idea of whether you are best served by a hard tire, or softer tire. The harder tire gets greater mileage, the softer tire usually give you better traction. I would say that the next thing would be to know the proper tire pressure for the tire and vehicle in use.

Let’s switch over for a moment to Motorcycles! Motorcycle tires are also governed by Department of Transportation. There are a large variety of uses for motorcycle tires, ranging from cruisers, to off-road, to sports profile, and road racing. It is also important to know about the tread on your tires, or lack there of. If we go to the racetrack, our tires will be used in accordance with what we are riding or racing. If we are on what is classified as a “Super Sport”, or “Super Stock” machine we will ride, or race on a tire with very light or sparse tread. If we are on a full works bike, or “Super Bike” it will have slicks, (no tread). Everything that has to do with high-performance calls for top specifications, and accurate settings. Tires and air-pressure are critical in best performance scenarios.

One of the most important things we can do is pay attention to how our tires wear. This will give us very good information about what is going on with the rest of the vehicle. Not only does this tell us about our tire pressure, but about our suspension also.

Many motorcycle instructors believe that the first steps in going faster are proper synchronization of tires and suspension.

The last tire in this section will be rain tires. If you have never seen a motorcycle rain tire up close, it is worth checking out. Motorcycle rain tires are very soft, and have very linear tread patterns. The cut of the tread is very close together. It is amazing how much traction a rider gets with rain tires. The down-side of rain tires is that as the ground begins to dry, the tire begins to disintegrate rapidly. Experience and good planning are needed to run successfully with rain tires.

Well let’s bring it to a close for today. Know your vehicle.

Until next time…

Tags: Zerotohero, cars, roads, highways, weather, racing, tires,

Life on the road. The long distance haul. #8

So today I want to launch into the long distance auto journey. I’m really talking about driving distances of more than 300 miles. My estimate for 300 miles is four hours forty minutes, give or take. The give or take would certainly have to do with things like how fast you drive, how straight-forward is the road, What kind of weather, traffic, road conditions, etc.

First I will talk about a trip I have made often. Over the years I have made the drive many times between Martinez California, and Seattle Washington. Seattle is 800 miles from Martinez, so there are some things that must be planed and accounted for. (Note: At a reasonable rate of speed, it takes approximately 13 hours to make the drive under optimum conditions.) In the winter, there is always ice and snow in the passes. It is very important to know certain things like will I need chains or cables in the passes, Is there any road work going on, and if so, where, and how long are the delays? I want know how sound is my vehicle? What kind of gas mileage will it get on the open road? Is it front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or four wheel drive? Do I need GPS or a map?

There is also the matter of my personal preparation. Am I actually fit enough to make this drive? How comfortable am I driving this kind of distance? Am I driving alone, or with one or more other person? Will they be driving too? One year, my brother and my nephew decided to ride down from Seattle to Monterey with a guy who was pulling a trailer full of bikes. He had decided to leave town at 9 pm, which alarmed me until I found out that he was a fire-fighter! They drove through the night and arrived at 10 am! My preference has always been to leave home at 4:00 am, so as to arrive in Seattle by 5 or 5:30 pm. I like arriving before the sun goes down. Is everyone on this trip in accordance with that? Years ago when I was married, I always convinced my wife to leave at 4 am. I would drive from 4 until about 7 am, and then she would take a shift until 10 am. That worked perfectly because by 7 am I was starting to nod, and she was wide awake. Although my ex-wife was an excellent driver, most of the time I would stay behind the wheel when we switched at 10 am, for the rest of the day.

One of the really important things about long distance car travel is how you structure the trip. I know that a lot of drivers love to make stops along the way to shop, or eat, or sight-see, but my focus is almost always on arriving the same day, and on time. I like to prepare food before hand, and drive straight through. I think about the fact that at 5 o’clock we’ll be arriving at our ultimate destination. It’s kind of like the end of the work day. Neither way is better than the other, but all parties must be on the same page.

These are but a few of the things on my checklist that will help make for a safe uneventful trip. Please plan for your long trips accordingly.

Until next time…

Tags: Zerotohero, drivers, highways, freeways, trucks, weather, motorcycles,

Life on the road, Negotiating all conditions, #7

There is a turn at Sonoma Raceway that is known in the numerical sequence as turn”2″. Everyone knows to watch out, and be careful as you navigate turn 2, but it takes it’s fair share of victims every day that an event takes place. The accidents, or incidents as we call them consist mostly of spins and excursions off of the racing surface into the dirt. From turn 1, you make your approach knowing that it is a blind uphill right-hand turn. We also know that surface conditions due to cold tires, cold weather, and dampness play a big factor in successfully negotiating the turn, and still it takes it’s toll.

In a much broader sense we face the same thing on the open roads. A race track is inspected regularly during the course of day when an event is taking place. We obviously do not have the benefit of that on our streets, roads and highways. In addition to surface conditions, we face weather and general visibility concerns. Throw in traffic density, and negotiating traffic conditions becomes very formidable.

I spoke in an earlier blog about what I believe to be two of the most important general qualities a driver can possess. They are the ability to anticipate what is coming, and the willingness to remember to be predictable. These are amplified in difficult conditions.

Because I grew up in Seattle, I had always been pretty comfortable driving in the rain. As time has advanced, I have realized that due to the increase in vehicles on the roads, and the fact that they are so much more powerful, I have to be more careful than ever! We should start with our vehicles.

Tires with proper tread, working windshield wipers and blades, reliable brakes, just to name a few things that should be on our check-lists.

Road obstacles are ever-present. If we are not facing something that has fallen off of a vehicle, there is standing water, and road damage to contend with. Even with the new cars, it is important to have a road kit. Jumper cables, a working jack, flares, a quart of oil, and whatever will best serve you in your vehicular travels. Make that list and fill it.

That’s all for now, see you later…

Tags: Zerotohero, weather, automobile, speed, safety, trailers, travel,

Life on the road, be kind to one another #6

I think this should be a reoccurring theme, being nice to one another. To serve as motivation, there are a couple of things we can envision.

  1. We don’t know what kind of day that other person is having. It could be terrible, or even tragic.
  2. If I think about this person as if they are someone I know, or better yet, a member of my family, it makes a difference.

When we get on the road, too often we are in a hurry. We have shorted ourselves on time and think we can make it up by going faster. It’s like that driver who is in and out of traffic making dicey moves only to be two cars ahead of us twenty miles later.

We are all familiar with the term “road rage”. Two or more drivers have become angry with one-another, and lost their composure. Never a pretty site, and often times ends very badly! So here is an example of what that can look like:

(Taken from the nightly news last year). Two middle-aged, distinguished looking gentlemen both driving very nice cars managed to get the ire of one-another. At the first stop, one gentleman got out of his car, and positioned himself in front of the other combatant’s vehicle. Driver number two took that as an invitation to bump, or attempt a run-over of the man standing in front of him. So now we have one driver accelerating away from the scene with the other spread-eagle on the hood, holding on to where the windshield wipers would normally come from! Every time the hood rider thought about getting down, the other player found room to move forward! This little drama continued until another driver with a 9 mm hand gun, approached them and helped them see the error of their ways! Oh, both drivers were equally charged!

As ridiculous as this story is, we have all heard the stories of encounters that ended much worse! If we can just diffuse this kind of thing early then we don’t have an embarrassing story to tell later. I heard an officer of the law say that if he makes a mistake as he is driving home at the end of his shift, he will wave to the other driver to acknowledge that mistake, but without making eye-contact.

So let’s talk about how NOT to end up there.

The pro-active approach is to dial back the competitiveness in our driving. If I make the decision that I don’t have to be first, or be ahead of the other guy, than it’s not being forced on me.

Be kind. Invite the other person to go first, even if it might actually be your turn.

Here is one that I have learned, and practice on a regular basis. Put your signal on, and wait for that car to make a decision whether to move forward, or let you get over! That’s in place of signaling as you are moving over. You will be surprised sometimes at what the other driver does!

Kindness and consideration.

That’s all for today, see you next time…

Tags: Zerotohero, tractor, trailer, travel, tune-up, flashers, cars,

Life on the road with sixteen-wheeler’s and transporters. #5

I would like to refer to anything that is over-sized and operated by a professional driver as a “Transporter”. Obviously there are so many more cases of very large vehicles that we share the road with, and need us to partner with them to create a safe travel experience.

As drivers, we often become impatient with our over-sized fellow vehicles because we view them as being too slow, or in our way. So let’s take that look at what is really going on here.

The transporters consist of a “tractor” and at least one “trailer”. When they are pulling a load, this constitutes a tremendous amount of weight to go along with the size. We all forget that it takes longer to get all of that mass-equals-weight to slow down, and finally stop. We’ve all seen the pictures and video’s of the rolled-up tube of tooth paste that used to be the “family car”. The very sad and tragic news is that the family is still in the car…

I want to tell you a story about how our disconnect can lead to tragic or near tragic situations.

My brother “Chester” who is a fine driver and a great truck driver was carrying a load (he transports lift equipment, tractors, backhoe’s, etc.) through town one day. He was at a stop light in the right lane, when he noticed in his passenger mirror a bicyclist proceeding that same direction in the bicycle lane. Suddenly a driver who was legally parked to the right opened the driver’s door, which struck the cyclist, and caused him to slide under the truck where he remained, stuck under the transmission. Because my brother pays close attention to everything around him, he did not move when the light changed. Rather he put on his safety flashers and called for help. The rider had lots of “road-rash”, but he lived to tell the story!

Most of our truck drivers are great at what they do. We can really give them an assist by being considerate. Remember, they deserve to arrive home safely too.

This is dedicated to my brother Chet, who transports the goods, and my friend Linda D. who escorts the wide loads.

That’s all for now…

Tags: Zerotohero, tractors, trailers, highways, cars, transmissions, brakes,

Two wheels and four-or-more, can we all just get along? #4

Hello all. I just want to cover the topic of sharing the road between 2 wheels and more wheels. For starters, I was reminded once that we all have ridden a motorcycle, or know someone who does. The hope here is that whether we ride or not, we will take the same level of care when encountering a rider as we do with other drivers. Maybe even better. They are for the most part just like us, sometimes not perfect! What we have to remember though is that very same accident that constitutes an annoyance for a truck or car can kill a motorcyclist.

So let’s talk about the differences that matter. 1. Cars protect their driver and passengers much better, especially when seat-belts are used. 2. Motorcycles are more nimble. 3. Cars are more comfortable. 4. Motorcycles are WAY more fun! 5. Cars protect us from environment dangers such as wind, debris, etc. 6. Motorcycles can get through tighter spaces (as in lane-splitting). We certainly could go on, and I would challenge you to think of more, but you get the point here. So how do we go about sharing the road safely and peacefully?

Let’s look a situation and figure it out. Car is proceeding at a safe speed on the freeway and realizes that a motorcycle is closing at a high rate of speed, (not recommended). What I would suggest is to hold your line and let him or her find a way around you. That is the safest thing a driver can do. Note to motorcyclist: surely it is time to find one of the many companies that does “track days” and invest in a day or more at the track. I can recommend several if you are in California. (Please inquire).

Obviously there can be many scenarios between cars and motorcycles but the point is to resolve them safely. Let share the roads.

Until next time…

Tags: Zerotohero, events, speed, flags, workers, motorcycles, cars,

Traffic, mirrors and visibility #3

At all closed circuits or race tracks, organized events employ the use of corner workers. One of the things that corner workers do is communicate with the drivers on course with a series of flags (more in depth on that later). One of the flags that we use is the blue flag. In almost all instances, (excluding NASCAR and most motorcycle events ), the blue flag is meant to let a driver know that he or she is being over-taken by a fast vehicle. Their most immediate response should be to check their mirrors and adjust their speed and or position accordingly. In other words, prepared for a safe pass. As in most things there are contributing circumstances that necessitate certain actions. At the race track the additional assist of the blue flags is often deemed necessary because of the vast differences in speed, and because many vehicles such as formula cars are not tall enough to be easily seen.

That brings us to vehicles of transportation on the open roads. All vehicles of transportation are required to have mirrors and turn signals that assist us in negotiating safe lane changes, and our position in relationship to the other vehicles on the road.

Most of today’s cars and trucks come equipped with a driver’s side mirror, a passenger’s side mirror, and a rear view mirror. Motorcycles come with a mirror on the handle bars, both left and right sides.

Let’s depart from what everyone already knows. While we all know that the mirrors are there, how we use them makes all the difference in the world.

I have found that scanning all of your mirrors constantly is absolutely necessary. That is a habit we must develop. Since we do not have blue flag stations on the open roads, it’s up to us to see everything that’s out there and to know how fast it’s closing on us.

One last thing… As our brothers and sisters on motorcycles can relate to, it is absolutely imperative that we get into the habit of… turning our heads!! Motorcyclist tend to turn their heads even when driving a four-wheel vehicle, but I rarely see it from most drivers. Sometimes we lose that car that is sneaking up through traffic only to discover that he or she is sitting in our “blind spot”,(rear quarter-panel on the driver’s side) and the only way to see that vehicle is to look over your shoulder.

One more last thing… Be sure to adjust your mirrors whenever they are not giving you a full or adequate view of what is taking place behind, and around you.

Until next time…

Tags: zerotohero, cars, destination, traffic, brakes, track, freeway,

To drive or not to drive. The journey continues. #2

What makes a good driver? This question is not as simple as it sounds. Evidence would suggest in some cases that a good driver might be that person who moves quickly and efficiently through traffic to arrive at his or her destination. Another definition of a good driver may be the one who takes complete responsibility for his or her actions while driving.

While I lean toward the second answer in general, I do believe there is more that contributes to the answer. For example, one’s ability to drive vehicles of different sizes and configurations would certainly signal one’s skill level, but there is more! The ability to understand and operate the vehicle you’re driving expertly at any given time speaks volumes. Here is an example. Early one morning at approximately 8:30 am. I observed a small white pickup truck following a Chrysler Crossfire in the left lane of a freeway. They were both moving at a very good clip and seemed to be having fun. There came a point where they entered a left-hand sweeper (gradual turn), when suddenly they realized that the traffic had come to a complete stop. The Crossfire, which is a sports car executed the stop safely with no drama while the truck was forced to veer onto the shoulder in order to find enough room to stop! Mind you, it was a great save by the pickup truck, but a totally unnecessary maneuver on the brakes. Our pickup needed to have a better idea about his response time and stopping distance on the vehicle he was driving.

I want to reach out to my fellow sport bike riders and remind them also about this same dynamic. Understand how your brakes work, both of them!! More later.

Well folks, it’s that time, so until next time…

Tags: zerotohero, destinations, cars, observers, motorcycles, drivers,

To drive or not to drive. The safe approach. #1

As I alluded to in my introduction I want this blog to be about driving experiences and how they relate to safety. As you know, I work at the speedway so I see top drivers operating at maximum speed and efficiency. I also see the rest of us on our way to and from our destinations throughout the day. Make no mistake about it, the top drivers get into trouble on a closed circuit or race track just like anyone else, so it can and does happen to all of us! The trick is to be as prepared as possible.

I have a simple, mental check list that I use when ever I am about to embark on travelling by a 2 or 4 wheel vehicle. I do a visual check of my tires and the outside of my vehicle. When I get in to the vehicle and start it, I do the same thing, paying attention to lights, gauges, latches, (seat belts). That includes control dials for music, air etc.

Now that it is time to proceed, I want to shift approximately 90 percent of my attention to the outside of the vehicle. Ninety percent may seem like a lot to some, but the idea is to get away from the distractions inside of your vehicle. There is usually a tremendous amount going on around you and the more of it you see, the safer you proceed.

I’m going to conclude here by adding two simple safety concepts.

  1. Be predictable. The traffic around you deserves not to have to guess about what you are going to do next.
  2. Always, Always anticipate. Our ability to figure out what coming next plays a very large roll in the safety factor for everyone. The more you practice it, the better you get.

As I conclude, I would like to invite observers to weigh in with suggestions and ideas. We are all out there trying to get there safely!

Until next time…

Tags: zerotohero, motorcycles, safety, predictable, anticipate, cars,

Let me introduce myself

I love sharing information and telling a good Story.

I’m Guy Berrysmith, 70 years young and my passion and fascination with Speed began in my early 20ies.

Weekends spent racing with friends helped me really appreciate Horsepower.

But my greatest fascination came about when I started riding Motorcycles.

Even though I have owned Cars and Motorcycles my whole life, working at the Racetracks just came about in the past 30 years.

I started out by working Motorcycles for the first 10 years and then expanded to include Cars over the past 20 years.

Let me clarify that I am not a Mechanic, that I work on the Course itself as a Communicator, Turn Marshal and Flagger.

Tracks I’ve worked are Buttonwillow Raceway, Thunderhill Raceway, Laguna Seca Raceway, Las Vegas Speedway and Sonoma Raceway.

I’d love to share some of my experiences with you, that I’ve encountered on the Race Tracks, City Streets and Highways.

These Blogs will be on a number of Topics that may be of interest and benefit to you.

I will start out with information about Cars but that will certainly evolve and change.

In a year from now I would like to know that Drivers who read this Blog feel more safe and comfortable on the Roads and Highways.

The point of this Blog is to illustrate what works on the Racetrack is not necessarily safe on the open Roads.

Tags: zerotohero, motorcycles, cars, safety, traffic

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