Averagejoedriver “Flips” out in HD

Coming soon….stay tuned for some video documenting the adventures of averagejoedriver on the psychotic roads of Houston. I am now being accompanied by a Cisco Systems Flip UltraHD 120mins video recorder. After much research, I was going to either go with the Sony Bloggie with the swivel lens or the Flip, and I ultimately chose the Flip.

Bear with me as this will all be trial and error for me, but I hope to start documenting some of the topics I rant or rave about on here.

This should be fun….

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Tuesdays: Unspoken Etiquette

For the most part, most of city dwellers are familiar with the rules of the road….as they apply in city driving. Essentially drive as fast as you can, get there before the driver in the lane next to you, honk alot, there’s an orange signal between yellow and red, so on and so forth. Every once in a while some of us venture out of our cityscapes, past the suburbs and rural areas out into the country. Traveling from one city to the next. In places where roads are 1 lane in each direction and the lane dividers alternate between dashed yellow lines, double solid lines, and dashed with solid on your side or oncoming traffic’s side. On these ventures there is a technique whose practice helps making driving safe when passing someone, but both parties need to be aware.

Flashing. Your lights that is. I have travelled many a times where it was night time and I needed to pass the slow driver, so I flashed my lights. TYPICALLY the driver in front being passed understands this gesture and eases over into the shoulder (when available) and allows the driver behind him to pass. Apparently some people dont understand this dynamic of a relationship and do not ease over. In these cases you take advantage of the dashed yellow line, meaning it is safe to jump over and pass via the oncoming traffic lane. Obviously if there is no oncoming traffic!! The other version of the dashed yellow line is accompanied by a solid yellow line. This line jumps from one side to the other. If the solid line is on your side, it means YOU can NOT pass but someone in the oncoming lane can pass a slow driver on that side of the road. Obviously given that you aren’t coming at them in your lane!

This all would be so much easier if the slow driver in front of you just eased over allowing you to pass. A courtesy extended and initiated by a simple flash of your high beams. I also usually flash my emergency blinkers a couple times after passing as a thank you to the driver for easing over.

Flashing your headlights can be helpful for many other things….I usually use them for flashing fools at night in oncoming traffic that have their highbeams on blinding all of us headed in their direction. Also, I flash oncoming traffic to alert them of a speed trap up ahead. For you, is the flashing of the highbeams useful at all?

From Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlight_flashing

“Historically, law enforcement officers give citations for headlight flashing under three types of laws: (1) laws prohibiting a person from obstructing a police investigation, (2) laws prohibiting a person from having flashing lights on their vehicle, and (3) laws prohibiting shining a vehicle’s high beams at oncoming traffic. The specific language of each law varies by state along with courts’ holdings on whether their respective laws prohibit headlight flashing. Additionally, although not legally binding, the state driver’s manual of some states suggests flashing high beams under specific scenarios (e.g. if an oncoming vehicle is using its high beams, driver’s manuals suggest a motorist flash his or her high beams).” for example “In Tennessee, flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a police car ahead is protected free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” where as “In Washington, high beam flashing is illegal. Washington law prohibits flashing one’s high beams within 400 feet of another vehicle, including using them to signal for any reason.”

Tuesdays: Unspoken etiquette

Have you ever been riding next to a car who is behind you in next lane, the moment you put on your signal, they speed up, not letting you in? As if to say, “hell no, you aren’t getting in front of me…get your a$$ behind me!!” Maybe that kind of stuff only happens to me, but I doubt it.

Or how about when the situation is reversed?! You slow down to let someone in, is it too much to ask to expect a little thank you hand wave gesture in the mirror? I know I see some people do it and others not, but I havent really observed enough to guess if its more a certain race, age group, sex, or what is an underlying similarity for the people who do extend the courtesy of the thank you hand wave. Is it even necessary?! If not, why does anyone do it at all? I usually try to do it…an aknowledgement of your courtesy for allowing or assisting in my entering or exiting traffic. I try to make sure mine is visible or when a thank you is extended to me I raise my hand in a “think nothing of it” response.

Courtesy on the road. We lack it so much these days. Most people don’t even know when a situation is meriting a thank you because we are all self-serving, self-involved drivers who can’t get our minds off our phones and onto the road.

Just a little observation of mine on the roads. Remember say thanks when thanks are due and you might get a happy “you’re welcome” back. Or keep driving oblivious of your fellow drivers you are sharing the road with and you will be getting a slightly different hand gesture. The bird.

AJD

A night at the Drive-In Theater

Friday night was our night at the Drive-In Theater. A fun activity that involves sitting in your car and watching a movie. No more hanging speakers from your window. You just tune your radio to the broadcast for the screen you are watching and enjoy the movie.

My wife and I hadnt been to one before our time last summer to see Terminator:salvation and Angels & Demons in one night. Friday we went to see Alice in Wonderland but didnt stick around for the second feature, When in Rome. The movie itself was good, at least the parts we were able to watch. Since this isnt a movie review blog I wont get into the details of plot and what I thought of the movie. I will say though, for some reason I kept expecting it to be the movie version of the Disney cartoon, yet it actually is the SEQUEL to the original story. I guess it should have been called something like Alice: Return to Wonderland.

Of course our daughter chose this nite to learn to use her outdoor voice, as she would stick her head out of the back window of the Escape and talk, babble and yell during the movie. Yes, we became THOSE people, the ones with the kid that talks during movies. It would be ok since its a “drive-in” since you assume most people are inside their cars, but some people, ESPECIALLY our neighbors next to us, are sitting around their vehicles in lawn chairs. As the night progressed, the talking became more like whining and crying and she got more tired and refused to go to sleep.

Alot of people asked us on Facebook where the drive in is located. I believe there are at least 2 or 3 around the outskirts of Houston. This one is called The Showboat Drive-In and is off of 2920 out in Hockley TX. Not very far from us in Katy, but for my friends and family in Southeast Houston it might be quite the drive just to see a movie. Showboat Drive-in has 2 screens, each with double features. They update the movie listings on Tuesdays for the coming weekend. Visit their website for more details.

The Showboat Drive-In
22422 Waller-Tomball Road
Hockley, TX 77447
(281) 351-5224
The Map

We had a blast and hope to return as our daughter begins to be able to sit through movies and when they have movies we want to see. Here are some pictures of our adventure.

The big Screen

A little Lowrider History

I for one, would love to own one, maybe one day. Thing is, building a lowrider doesnt just happen….you have to want it and desire it. Pursue the dream with a vigor. Like my brother did. He ultimately sacrificied his beloved 1964 2-door (yes it matters) Impala for some money to go to Jewelry School in Paris Texas.

I spent quite a few nights following him in his 64 on the way to setup at a carshow or go to the shop Marcustoms, where he kept it and worked on it when it wasn’t at our parent’s or brother’s house. I wanted to share a few excerpts about lowrider history. Also to demystify it as a lifelstyle and not just a customized vehicle. In the same way that hotrodders have their own style and culture, so do lowriders. The problem is in today’s media, more often than not, when you see a villainous latino or african american antagonist in a film, they are usually driving up in what closely resembles a lowrider. This sort of publicity gets a lot of the normal lowrider guys, (the ones who work their arses off for their families, pay all their bills, love their kids and wife and just happen to have a heightened sense of comradery with fellow lowriders who help each other out on working on their vehicles), end up getting mean stares or looks of fear. I know some “gangsters” happen to own lowriders, however to assume that anyone who owns a lowrider and lives the true lowrider lifestyle is a “gangster” would be like assuming all import tuners are asian, all guys in trucks with cowboy hats are rednecks and anyone in a minivan must be a soccer mom.

In my time with my brother, I became and remain friends with many lowriders. Some even told me I was one too, although I didnt have a lowrider vehicle, they said I had the same passion for the lifestyle. I also love my brother so that helped, and my father always ridiculed him for it, so I felt it necessary to be in his corner. Thats what brothers do.

After a while I became a part of the Houston Lowrider Council. I designed the logo, sat on the decision making board, ran the website, took pictures at most of the carshows, etc. I was on the board for a few years and ultimately stepped down when I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to the group that it merited. They are still running strong, I am happy to say, and will be having their 5th anniversary picnic at MacGregor Park in April of this year.

The following information comes from Lowrider Magazine’s website and are very small excerpts from the history of lowriding. Hopefully it piques your interest into wanting to read up more on the subject.

“Throughout many Mexican-American neighborhoods, called barrios, from East Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, cruisers have been dropping Chevrolets to a sidewalk-scraping stance since the late 1930s. It was part of the “zoot suit” fashion, a trend popular among teenagers from every culture. Mexican-American zooters, cool from slicked back hair to highly polished shoes, called themselves pachucos. They cruised beautifully restored, older Chevys, decked out in their oversized zoot suits for a night on the town. Often just the back of the Chevy was temporarily lowered, using sandbags hidden in the trunk beneath strategically placed planks of wood, or permanently dropped all around, the springs shortened by cutting the top few coils or heated until they collapsed to a proper cruising height. They cruised through the streets, honoring a custom that may have been practiced since the heyday of the Aztlan Empire.

After World War II, America’s economy was booming. Southern California’ the ’30s its comparatively strong economy during the Great Depression had attracted immigrants from the dust bowls of the Central United States and Northern Mexico–was ready to roll. Prior to the war, most “customizers” were interested in speed, not looks, making inexpensive modifications under the hood while removing heavy, “useless” extras like the fenders and roof. Early custom and lowriding (although the word would not come into use until the 1960s) enthusiasts, however, in particular the pachucos, were more interested in looks, class and style.

It was all on a Depression-era budget, but the seeds were being sown for modern custom trends. After World War II, the hard-driving economy fueled a new generation of automotive enthusiasts, these early styles began branching out, racers, now called hot rods, joined by lakesters, street rods, roadsters, customs, cruisers and finally, lowriders, each new style owing a debt to the cars that came before it.

By the late 1950s and early ’60s, what we would now consider lowriders were finally hitting Whittier Boulevard in great numbers. Such fine rides wouldn’t appear overnight, however. California car culture and Mexican-American cultura would both develop and grow, each enriching the larger American culture with every passing decade.

Lowrider style has changed a great deal over the past 50 years–although you still have to take extra care of a car sporting a nice set of rims–but, as Cesar Chavez pointed out, Chicano cruisers have always customized their cars very differently from the speedier sets. “Lowriders do happen to alter a car in a way that makes it almost the precise opposite of a style long favored by Anglo car customizers,” noted Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker. “The California rake, which has a jacked up rear instead of a lowered one, outlandishly wide tires instead of tires that seem much too small for the car, and a souped up motor instead of one that has been filely ignored.” The “East L.A. rake” was part of a new style that was developing.

These cars not only looked clean, but they were also a way of showing defiance against the mainstream culture. The young pachucos cruising these beauties on Whittier Boulevard, the main strip in East Los Angeles, or on Boulevards throughout the Southwest, had also developed their own style of clothing and hair, which was stirring things up a bit. The zoot suit craze had been spreading across the country throughout the late ’30s, popularized by movie stars like Clark Gable. Blacks in Harlem, New York, popularized the look, an enormously oversized jacket over baggy pants with pegged legs. Young Mexican-Americans called them drapes, and often dropped the fancy fedora altogether. There was some concern on the part of the mainstream about the refusal of these young people to assimilate.”
http://www.lowridermagazine.com/historybook/0000lrm_history1/index.html

“If lowriding has a single defining feature, it would have to be those high-hopping hydraulics that move your ride front, back, side to side, and up on three wheels. This is not to say that every true lowrider has to have them; in fact, only 10-percent of Lowrider Magazine readers actually own those precious pumps and dumps. But what dreamer doesn’t pore over those gold-plated setups on display at the shows or captured on film, wishing that one day his or her own low will rise to the occasion? In many ways, lowriding was born when Ron Aguirre’s ’57 Corvette, “X-Sonic,” lifted itself into the Long Beach Arena, when the gasps of the crowd committed the concept of automotive hydraulics to history.”
http://www.lowridermagazine.com/historybook/0000lrm_history5/index.html

All photos by Alberto Aguirre Jr aka AverageJoeDriver

Funny sign but oh so TRUE!!

Before, I used to not mind it so much. Heck, I used to be just as guilty as the people I swear at under my breath nowadays. My perception has changed only recently, since I’ve become a father. I love my daughter very much. The way I see it, anyone being careless on the road driving and talking on their cellphone is potentially putting my daughter’s safety at risk. Hence you are my enemy. Now I understand sometimes its necessary or even an emergency. I myself will jump on for a quick minute, however with the Ford Escape having Microsoft Sync, I dont have to use one hand to hold my phone. Unfortunately, not only does talking on your mobile occupy one of your steering hands, it occupies your attention. I have driven next to some people that are so animated and involved in their conversation, they are driving slower than traffic. While speeding is illegal and dangerous, driving too slow can be equally as dangerous. Others are conducting business from their mobile offices, also known as their automobiles. Composing emails, drafting letters, updating their facebook status, tweeting and texting ON TOP of the phone calls. I have followed people for miles while they conversed on their phones or typed away. They must have had something really important to say.

I have often wished I had one of those LED signs with programmable messages that I could program messages like “Hang up and Drive” or “Pay attention I’m about to hit the brakes on your ass!!” At one point in time I wanted to purchase a Cell phone signal jammer to disconnect calls of those around me while driving. However that would leave myself without a means of being reached and the legalities* behind it are something I’d rather not deal with.

For the time being, a sign like this one, available at Prank Place will have to suffice. Getting the message out about how I feel about people who insist on bullsh!tting around on their cell phones on unnecessary calls. ESPECIALLY around me when my daughter is in my car with me.

Prank Sign

*In the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries, blocking cell-phone services (as well as any other electronic transmissions) is against the law. In the United States, cell-phone jamming is covered under the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits people from “willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized” to operate. In fact, the “manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited” as well.

Jamming is seen as property theft, because a private company has purchased the rights to the radio spectrum, and jamming the spectrum is akin to stealing the property the company has purchased. It also represents a safety hazard because jamming blocks all calls in the area, not just the annoying ones. Jamming a signal could block the call of a babysitter frantically trying to contact a parent or a someone trying to call for an ambulance.

The Federal Communications Commission is charged with enforcing jamming laws. However, the agency has not yet prosecuted anyone for cell-phone jamming. Under the U.S. rules, fines for a first offense ca­n range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the government. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-jammer5.htm)

Tuesdays: Unspoken Etiquette

45South exit at South Loop

I thought Tuesdays would be a good day to share some of what I think are good Etiquette rules of the road. At least somewhere along the way, I learned them to be. Or perhaps I invented them in my head and expect my fellow drivers to honor them as we share the road. For today’s example I can give a specific example. Here in Houston there is a freeway exit I used to frequent and came into this scenario on many occasions.

The exit for 45 South (Gulf Freeway) at 6-10 (South Loop) is a one lane exit, and gets a long queue during traffic hours, which in Houston is pretty much all day. While the patient, courteous drivers wait in the line to get off of 6-10 and on to I-45, some drivers feel the need to drive all the way up to the last instant where there is no more room anymore, STOP, put on their blinker and insist on edging their way in. Now mind you I appreciate the use of the blinker, because ALOT of drivers don’t even extend that courtesy. However, what gives you the right to bypass waiting in the queue and basically cutting ahead in line?! In my earlier years, these culprits would have been met with a middle finger from me as well as my bumper riding forcing them to get in behind me. Small victory to me in my head. On one occasion a guy got all agitated, until I stopped and began to open my door, which triggered him to drive away and try this rude behavior again tomorrow. Ahhh to be young and wreckless.

Maybe this practice isnt a big deal, although it is a major pet peeve of mine. I have seen on one occasion a motorcycle officer forcing the people that tried to do that to move on. Not because of the sense of unfairness cutting in line, but because they are coming to a complete stop in an open lane on the freeway and could, and probably have, cause an accident just to save some time from waiting in the queue.

Please don’t become THAT driver that thinks they are better than everyone else. Trust me, I’ll shove my Ford Escape right up your Land Rover’s tailpipe. Driving a luxury vehicle doesnt give anyone impunity from respecting the people they share the open roads with.

AJD

by the way, that image is a photoshop attempt to show the scenario I was referring to, and is not an actual Google maps snapshot of it actually happening.