2018 Jeep Wrangler is meh…..

I had the good fortune to change things up a bit this week. I was able to get a Jeep Wrangler Sahara as a rental. I normally get a GM because of CarPlay but since this was available I thought, why not its supposed to be a fun car to drive. The specs are on the internet so I won’t really go into that but needless to say, I’m not very impressed with the Jeep as a car. I guess its because I value speed rather than off-road capability. This car is SLOW. The pick up is pretty terrible compared to my minivan and my sedan that I have at home. I guess its because I’m spoiled by the power that both cars have and the fact that they both can get up to 70 mph in short order.

The doors are a pain in the ass, you need a lot of force to close them. You really got put some oomph and slam the doors closed. It’s hard to see but there are running boards on this thing but they’re too high, when you use them you then have to duck into the Jeep. Talk about terrible user design! I’ll admit, the Jeep looks really cool but its not comfortable, gets terrible gas mileage, can’t accelerate fast on the highway, there’s really not a lot to like about this thing.

I would like to take the top off but that requires 2 people to accomplish when it has a hard top. I’m glad for my Hertz Presidents Circle status, it gives me the opportunity to try out some cool cars sometimes. I’ve wanted a Jeep in the past but now after actually driving it for a few days, I can say that I’ll never own one of these things. Along with most American cars I’ve driven as rentals. It would seem that the cars I like the least come from Chrysler (the 200 is an abomination that shouldn’t be sold to the general public). I think I’ve been fine with the Dodge Charger and maybe their pick up trucks but thats about all.

I’ll keep running around for the rest of the week in the Jeep, it was funny but I knew after the first 5 minutes of driving the Jeep I hated the thing. Too bad it was too late to return it to Hertz to get another car. Let’s see what car I get next week, maybe it will be something like the Infiniti Q60 I got that time at Melville NY or maybe I’ll give the new Camry a spin.

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Driving the Infiniti Q60 3.0T AWD…. what?

Last week I had the pleasure to drive around in an Infiniti Q60.  My good fortune is attributed to landing really late at night and there not being any other cars in the Hertz lot and my Presidents Circle status.  One of the things that are crazy about Japanese cars is their branding.  Lots of letters and numbers in the title so when you talk to someone it sounds like you’re a scientist or something.  Even I have a hard time telling people what it is I rented since it doesn’t have a cool name that stands out, just a model number for the most part.

Anyway, this car was really FAST!  It had a 3.0 turbo under the hood but since I had to drive on Long Island and the LIE, there was no where to really test out all the muscle under the hood.  This car is truly wasted in the NY Metro area since the speed limit is 55mph, there are cops everywhere, and the pot holes in the road just ruin the otherwise very smooth ride.  I will say that climbing hills was a lot of fun, just slam on the gas and zip up to the top and leave the little Hyundai tailgating me in the dust!  I don’t know how many gears the transmission had but it had a nice manual mode which is also wasted in NY Metro and I appreciated that it wasn’t paddle shifters but the actual floor shifter that is used to move from gear to gear.

As with most sports cars, the interior is cramped but at least the trunk was big enough to hold my backpack and my rollerboard suitcase with ease unlike the Camero SS convertible I had that one time in California.  There IS a feature to have a map but since the SD card with the map data isn’t in the car it just showed a blank screen, slightly annoying and there was also no CarPlay.  I had my phone mount which made it not so bad but the infotainment needs an update to support CarPlay or Android Auto.  I guess overall not a bad car as a rental but I still wouldn’t buy one myself.  Surprisingly I still like running around in my Honda Accord or Honda Odyssey than most of the cars that I end up renting.  Too bad Hertz doesn’t invest in Honda’s as rental cars, I think a lot of people would like renting those cars compared to some of the ones they offer currently.

I wonder what car I’ll be able to rent this week….. another Chevy Malibu or Impala perhaps?  At least those have CarPlay 🙂

NAVIGON is no more!

Curious thing when I was checking my NAVIGON app last week, there was a message that I sort of just clicked through but it bothered me so I checked the website, to my surprise Garmin decided to kill all their iOS navigation apps. I have had NAVIGON on my phone since the days of the 3GS and it used to be my go to app for navigation in my car. Apparently I’m allowed to use it for another 2 years until there will be no more map updates. That’s kind of sad but it’s expected since in the age of unlimited data, you only need Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.

I remember the software being a crazy price. I think I paid $79.00 for all of North America. Truthfully it was one of my better purchases due to all the travel I do for work. At the time maps kinda sucked on the iPhone and NAVIGON was more accurate. Over the years I got frustrated with the software due to its interface and lack of search capability. In recent years I’ve relied on 3 apps for navigation and with the final death of NAVIGON I’ll be able to reclaim about 100mb of space on my phone and a tile space.

I’ll admit that having an offline map is useful but Google has this and I have another app called Ulmon that does offline maps. It doesn’t really do turn by turn but I won’t get lost either which is the main point. For it’s time, NAVIGON was freaking awesome and prevented me from getting lost most of the time. Before I had unlimited data it was useful to have he map preloaded on the phone so I wouldn’t use up my data plan. I just might keep the software on my phone for the next two years mainly because I paid for it so I might as well use it if the need arises. By then I should be ready to upgrade my iPhone 7 to something else.

Switching to NordVPN

Recently I found a new deal on Mashable about a service called NordVPN for a 2 year subscription for $69. That’s a pretty decent deal in my book. I have been using Private Internet Access for the last 2-3 years as my VPN provider which I used on my NAS, computers, and iOS devices. I was generally happy with PIA but the one thing that totally sold me was that I could be on NordVPN and also watch Netflix. To me that was one of its greatest weaknesses, that and I could never get the OpenVPN protocol to work right on my NAS for some reason. After some initial hiccups with the setup on my NAS and getting my account set up, everything seems to be working pretty well.

I’ve noticed that my iPhone 7 will always stay connected to the VPN now rather than the VPN stopping on its own. That’s definitely a nice feature. I don’t necessarily need to be connected all the time to the VPN but its nice that it doesn’t turn itself off. The speed with which the VPN works is about the same as PIA, apparently my connection goes through a double VPN so if one VPN server fails, its already on a backup server too so my connection never drops. Since its a seamless thing, its not something that I can see or review. Using the app is a cinch on all my devices, its not specific really on what city I’m connecting to but for the most part I’ve been running some Whois queries on the web about my IP address and I seem to be connecting to the closest server to my current location, that’s probably to ensure that my speed isn’t really hindered by distance. I can select a specific country but not the server. The place I do that is with my NAS which requires an OpenVPN profile to be imported.

Overall I would say that I like this service more than PIA so far. I’ve only had it for about 2 weeks but I’m locked in for 2 years so if I’m ever dissatisfied I’m going to be stuck with the service for a while. I’m sure more features will come to the service to keep things nice and fresh but the most important part for me is keeping things secure. Oh and one of the best parts that I’ve discovered about the service? I can access my banking website just fine now through the VPN rather than being blocked. Now that to me is a game changer on not only keeping myself secure but able to do my personal business while using public hotspots.

I have too much GoPro Footage

GoPro Hero Session

I got this little guy about 3 years ago to try and take some action cam footage while I was away on vacation.  I received it as part of a package deal in which at 32GB card was included.  I upgraded that to a pair of 2 64GB cards and I think thats half of the problem I’m now encountering.  Due to the pair of fairly large micro SD cards that I have I take a lot of footage and most of it is crappy.  I’m too lazy to go through all of it so I end up transferring it to one of my external drives for later review which is something that I don’t really do.

I’ve filled up close to have a terrabyte of storage already with pictures and videos and its gotten to a point that some of this stuff just has to go.  I’ve even considered getting new NAS drives which would run me about $500, while that would help me in other areas this really wouldn’t help me unless I start doing reviews of my footage.  I’ll admit I’m a digital pack rat, I’ll save footage because some day I might want to view it.  I’m also a bit lazy in constructing my videos into smaller videos with just highlights from multiple sources.  While its really easy to do using iMovie, getting the video to my iPhone to do the edit (I’m not on my MacBook a lot during the week due to work).

The camera itself is pretty good, I wish it had image stabilization on it and the voice activation part as well so I don’t have to actually hit the button on top of the unit.  Thats just small inconveniences, it doesn’t warrant me going out and getting an entirely new GoPro.  Although I will admit that having those two features would be pretty bad ass.  Maybe I’ll save my pennies for a GoPro Hero 6.  I could use it for a few of my upcoming trips thats for sure.  One thing I am sure of, I might take my MacBook on my next vacation and a hard drive or two to store all the footage so I can start making some movies.  I mean technically I can keep it directly on my MacBook Pro, it has 1TB of storage and I’ve barely scratched the surface but I also don’t want to do it to keep my footage off a computer.

I’ll have to start going through the footage again soon, right now GoPro’s app Quik is downloading 64GB of junk that I’ve shot in the last year or so to one of my external drives.  I need to see what space I can free up, I think some of the oldest footage is of stuff like my daughters soccer practice and she’s not really going to watch that stuff (although maybe I should make it into a small video and email it to my daughter).  OK rant over, time to get some shut eye so I can do the rest of the laundry tomorrow and pack up for another thrilling week in NJ.  I’d bring my GoPro but there isn’t anything interesting in NJ worth shooting any footage and taking up previous hard drive space.

What happened to the premium features on the 2018 Odyssey?

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This is a photo of my 2012 Honda Odyssey when I first got it for the family.  Looks pretty awesome doesn’t it?  It’s actually missing the body side molding that I have put on to protect the doors and the front windows aren’t tinted yet because I like my cars to be all gangsta like that (really its for privacy and to keep the UV rays at a minimum so we don’t become rotisserie chicken in the driver seat).  My wife allowed me to get the Touring Elite version of the van because I liked having the really large wide screen monitor (16″ thank you) in the back that can do split screen and the blind spot indicators to tell me if some jackass is just hanging out beyond the range of my mirrors.  I also went shopping for the van with my new born so that helped a lot in getting the van I wanted since she was distracted more than half the time with my kid.  I had a reason to go to my local Honda dealer to get some work done on the van, its starting to show some age at 66,000 miles but while I was there they had a 2018 Touring edition there for me to look around in.  There was also the fact that my local dealership likes to bother me while my car is being serviced to see if I would like to trade in my van.  I keep on telling them no thanks, my wife doesn’t want another mini van and I only have the one child and the fur baby (the puppy), there’s no reason to have another van.  If Honda would make a small SUV with some power behind it, maybe I could be convinced to get a CRV or something.  Anyway I’m digressing again.

The Touring edition is just below the Touring Elite but it has basically almost all the same stuff.  As I was looking in the van I noticed that some of the things that I wanted in the Odyssey were missing but they might be in the Touring Elite.  One of the things that I think they cheapened out on was the large 16″ wide screen monitor.  This one came with a smaller screen that can’t do split screen, I looked up the brochure and this option is no longer available on the van which is a shame.  I also poked around for the cool box which uses the A/C in your car to keep drinks cold while you drive wherever.  This has been completely omitted from the van from all trim levels.  I use this feature almost every week to keep drinks cold for the family whether its a long trip or a short trip.

Now I will admit that there are some really cool new features that I wish I had but these aren’t deal breakers for me really.  There is that new “are we there yet” view that shows the kids if we’re approaching the destination, the new camera system inside the car so you can see people in the back and have the ability to talk to them.  There is also a Blu-Ray player but I mainly use HDMI in my van and snaked some cables to support my iPhones so we can watch Netflix while we drive.  I wish I had all the new safety gear in the newer van but its not something that I need (I ignore lane departure and forward collision warning on my Accord most of the time).  The lack of a real gear shift bothers me some, its just buttons on a console, its not nearly as bad as what Chrysler does with their cars but its getting there.

There might be too much tech within the new Odyssey that doesn’t make a lot of sense since there should be things like CarPlay or Android Auto taking over for a lot of the in house built infotainment features of cars these days.  Some of the options are cool, the seats being able to slide together was one of them when you remove the middle seat in the middle row, but thats not going to be used the majority of the time.  I think HDMI and more real power plugs would have made the Odyssey a better vehicle rather than reducing the size of the screen or killing off my previous cold beverage cooler.  I think if I get another van its going to be a 20 foot long class B RV.  Those are built on commercial van platforms and I can even have a real fridge and toilet in it while still being able to park in a regular parking spot at my local Publix.  But thats a ways off, maybe in retirement or something. Theres still 2 years left on the warranty on the van, I might as well use it as much as I can to get things fixed before it runs out.  Then maybe just 2 more years until its replaced with something fancier and maybe self driving.

Spring Break in Breckinridge

Once again the family decided to go on a ski trip to Colorado. To change things up we decided to go skiing at Breckinridge instead of Keystone. Both ski resorts are really close to each other and they use the same Epic passes that we purchased last year so we could use the Epic App to track our progress on how many times we went up the mountain.

Similar to our last trip to Colorado, we came in late at night and stayed close to the airport for the night. We ended up going to Keystone anyway first because we wanted to go tubing and to see the snow fort. With the Epic passes we were allowed to do that. I took some good GoPro video of the family tubing. What was kind of scary wasn’t the tubing or anything like that, it was getting to Keystone through Loveland Pass. This pass goes up and down a mountain and is supposedly the fastest way to Keystone from I-70. I don’t recommend it if you have a fear of falling off a mountain in your car. There aren’t any guard rails at all and the mountain is also a ski resort. While at Keystone we had to take in a meal at the top of the mountain because thats the only way to eat.

I will say that for food, Breckinridge wins when compared to Keystone and Snowbird. The town is excellent and has a lot of places to eat. We tried some diversified cuisine such as Thai, Cajun, Pizza, and Italian. There was plenty to eat so this trip was definitely the most expensive in the food department. The mountain itself was pretty impressive, I stuck to Peak 9 and did more intermediates this year than I did last year. My daughter had fun in snowboard school where they had some trails that were set up in the woods on the beginner slopes with some fun obstacles and props. There was also a really cool roller coaster that was built in the woods, I took a GoPro video of that too. https://youtu.be/fL6_IsrEBco

I think the hardest part about Breckinridge was the hotel. It was laid out pretty weird since it was built into the mountain. I had to take 2 different elevators just to get to my hotel room and when you’re wearing ski boots thats pretty tough. An additional elevator was required to get my ski’s from the locker and then a short walk to the slopes. Ideally it would have been better if we were in a ski in ski out sort of hotel. Another thing that annoyed me was the $35 a day I had to pay for valet parking for my car that never left the garage. I think thats kind of a rip off but since Breckinridge is a tourist town everything has a fee attached to it. I don’t know if I would go back to Breckinridge, I’m more partial to Keystone. I enjoyed their trails more and my daughter liked her snowboard instructor there too.

My wife did make a really awesome suggestion for the flight home, since we were traveling at midnight, we decided to stay at a hotel right at the airport. The good thing was that the hotel was a Westin so I could use some hotel points instead of having to pay for the 5 hours we would be using it. It’s not the most economical way to use my points but its definitely the most comfortable. I might as well add some nice scenery pictures to the post, I do like Colorado, maybe I should retire there and be a seasonal ski instructor in my old age.