Friday, October 19, 2018

Duffey Lake Road

Last weekend, I traveled 522km from Vancouver up to Lillooet and back just to drive along Duffey Lake Road. It was a brilliant day out, and I made several stops, one at Squamish for a short rest break, and then I had lunch at Grimm's Deli in Pemberton. From there, it was just under two hours to get to Lillooet along Duffey Lake Road. I then retraced my way back, but I only stopped at Squamish for dinner, as the drive took far longer than expected, and was almost dark by the time I returned to Pemberton.

This road winds through the mountains and it used to be the old way to get to the interior of BC but now its superseded by the coquihala. As you can see in the video, not many vehicles travel this route. I rented out my favourite Mazda 3 for the day, and it did admirably all the way.

Once April comes around though, I'm going to do it again, but with the Scion FRS - between October and March only vehicles with winter/M+S tires are allowed up north, and the FRS only has sport tires. Whatever that means. I think it'd definitely carve up those mountain roads with impunity :3

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Dash cam observations

One of my favourite pastimes is watching dash cam videos. Primarily, I use it as a tool to observe situations and how I can learn from the mistakes of others and to avoid getting into those situations.

First, people are just too damned assertive of their right of way. If someone wants to enter your lane, even if they are not in the right, just back off, let them in. I keep seeing people just speeding up to close the gap instead of just letting people in, and both vehicles get damaged. What's up with that? Is it worth your time and money just to be right? I don't get this.

Next, drive defensively! Oh my synthesizers, why do people drive so fast and also keep close to the cars ahead? Leave enough space in order to respond to the situation ahead! It also gives a much better view. I just don't get people.

That said, I'm one of those lucky few that don't need to commute to work and only drive for pleasure. Perhaps if I had to drive everyday, I would sing a different tune.

My experience so far in Vancouver has been very positive. Sure, I've encountered red light runners and idiots that don't turn correctly. But in general I feel that other drivers are pretty chill. I've also been reviewing my own footage, and I think that - based on the stripes on the road - that folks here in Vancouver don't drive as fast as footage I watch in the states down south.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Got a dashcam.. because.

I recently purchased a Vantrue N1 Pro dashcam. I thought it'd be good to have after watching all the bad Vancouver driver videos on youtube. Thus far, I must say I haven't met any crazy bad drivers - yes, I've driven through Richmond and Surrey - and if anything I thought most of the folk are pretty chill. Definitely have met some people with no regard for others, but just slowing down and letting 'em go ahead does the trick.

So far, I've been using it to improve my driving skills. For example, over the weekend, I entered a right turn lane over a solid line instead of the dotted lines closer to the intersection. Not going to make that mistake again!

The N1 pro is one of the "middle" of the pack cameras. It doesn't have the almighty super capacitor people rave about, and it only does 1080P. It doesn't have wifi, and it only captures the forward view. What I did like about it is the price, and contents of the package.

First, it comes stock with a suction mount. That's perfect for people like me who drive only carshares. Next, there's a 12V to USB mini cable for powering the camera. That cable also provides an additional usb port for charging, pretty neat. Also included is a micro usb cable. You can power the camera via mini usb through a port on the suction mount, or to the camera via micro usb. Interesting design choices, but eh.

In use, it's fine, I guess? It's my first dashcam*. It captures the going-ons in front of my ride very adequately. To be clear, it's not one of those "2k" cameras, and license plates and similarly small details are only visible up close when everything's not moving. The controls are not very intuitive, but once you've read the manual, it's clears it straight up.

One minor annoyance of this camera is the input for the mini usb faces to the driver's left, I wish it was on the right. If not, the camera works great for it's price. I could use the micro usb cable, which is exits on the right of the camera, but I won't subject a tiny microusb cable to the weight of the cable, and the mini usb is the one that has the 12V adaptor connected to it.

The packaging is probably my main gripe. It's too damned nice. I really dislike how "wanna be Apple" the packaging felt like. For gods sake, all I need is a a box with some protection, I don't need no fancy slide out paper sheath with quality printed manuals. And a separate box to hold the cables and mount. Slick, high quality bag of the camera. No seriously, I'm not sure how much the packaging adds to the price. It's really nice, and I'm just going to toss it in my storeroom till I sell the camera.

If there's one thing I hope the camera will be updated with is the exposure compensation. Right now you can only adjust it in gradations of one stop, that's pretty massive. I think having the option of half stops would really improve the blown out skies. Also, there's no memory card with it. I'm using a 32GB card with it at the moment and it fills up pretty rapidly; three minutes of footage runs about 345mb, so about 4hours-ish of footage. No biggie, as the camera has a loop mode that erases old footage when the card fills up.

I must say some days I wish I'd just blew more money and got a top of the line 2k camera. But I don't drive that much, and if I really wanted good driving footage, it would be better money spend getting a mount for my dslr.


*I originally bought a Viofo A119S, but it just stopped working like after fifteen minutes. Didn't want to deal with that so returned it andn got the N1 instead. The A119S does seem like a better camera though; high resolution, super capacitor. And the button layout made more sense. Packaging was not over the top. But yeah, failing after barely half an hour? Nah I'm good.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


I've got my N license in British Columbia a few weeks ago! This means I can drive alone in a car, but only with one passenger, and restrictions like no electronics usage etc. After two years, assuming I'm still alive and not maimed anyone, I can be upgraded to a full license and will be able to use a gps (yes!) and carry more people.

Now cars here in Canada are extremely cheap, from a Singaporean's perspective. A brand new Mazda 3 GT for example is about 25k. EXTREMELY CHEAP. That would probably cost like 3,4 times more back home.

Now, I'm one of those idiots that care about investing for retirement and personal finance. Can I afford a car? Easy. Can I justify it? No. So, I've opted instead to go with car shares. There's lots of car shares (and rental companies) here in Vancouver. I've barely over a year of experience, and some carshares need over 2 years of driving experience (e.g. Zipcar, Evo). The two that allow, as afar as I know is Modo and car2go.

Haven't driven much with car2go, mainly because it's a bit more expensive than Modo. Modo's about 2.50 for half an hour plus .30 a km, but car2go runs about 32 cents a minute, so even a ten minute jaunt costs a fair bit. It gets cheaper if you get one of the packages, e.g. an hour is 13 bucks, or 22 cents a minute. But Modo's five bucks an hour for their regular vehicle + 30c a km.

The key advantage of car2go is they're great for one-way trips. You don't need to return the vehicle to its start point, so long as it's parked at a proper parking space. I try my best to plan out one way trips because the smart car is good fun, but it rarely occurs.

Now the smart for two is a pretty solid vehicle. I love the throttle and brakes, and the car is so easy handle. A few things I thought might not be so good, especially going downhill, is that I need to crane my head down in order to see the traffic lights.  Visibility on the rear isn't the best either. Overall, it's a fun peppy car. Haven't taken it on the highway sadly, I'd be keen to see how it handles there.

Modo is Vancouver's big car share co-op, and the one I've been driving the last few weeks. I've driven a few cars and thought I'd put down some thoughts about them:

2016 Honda Fit (Blue)
Compact, throttle is a bit more responsive than I like. I'm sorry to say while I think this is a brilliant ride for the price, I thought it was a bit forgettable. It's.... a car.

2016 Honda Fit (Red)
I'm not sure what's with this particular Fit, but this car drives great! It had a "Eco" button that I don't remember seeing on the Blue one (edit: It's there, I checked recently). With that enabled, the car accelerates really nicely, but eco turned off, the car became really sensitive to throttle input. The fuel economy of this car appeared really bad though, I drove about 100km (downtown to Belcarra National Park, to New Westminster then back downtown) and that ate up nearly half a tank of gas (?!). Odd.

2016 Honda CR-V
I never liked SUVs, but I had to find out exactly why they're clogging up the road. This car feels damned planted on the road, and the steering feel is excellent. Eco mode is brilliant, makes for easy throttle control, and regular mode was a bit more touch but gives plenty of power to go uphill in New Westminster. It's wider, but I think the higher seating position allows me to better know where I am on the road. Lots of space inside, and lots of usb ports to share too, plus two 12v ports! I can see why people like 'em but I think I'm gonna stick to smaller cars like the Fit.

Fiat 500
I really want to like this car, and I will definitely rent it again, but it's the most twitchy car I've driven so far, it's rather scary when driving on a wet highway. The engine noise is also the loudest of all the cars I've tried. It's fun to hear the revs, but I soon got sick of it. The auto transmission also shifts around the 50km/h mark, which is annoying. The steering has zero feel, but it's super maneuverable.

I love the interior though, it's so kitsch! Unfortunately I don't like the rpm/kmph display, it's confusing with the RPM reading on the inner ring, and the kmph on the outer ring with a gear/cog motif that makes it difficult to read exactly how fast you're going.

Still, it's a very popular vehicle and I've not been able to rent it when I needed a car. There's also other variants that I want to try, like the 500C (convertible! oooooh) and the performance model, the Abarth. Not a big fan of the later - don't like the text emblazoned on the sides, and the interior is a boring single tone, not kitsch enough for my taste.

While this has 4 seats, there's no way anyone's going to be sitting in the back lol. Well, maybe if they're like, tiny. One great thing about this car, only two doors, brilliant. That way, you only need to buy one bazooka, point it to the right, and let it rip when you see a t-rex trying to get in. Don't reload when driving, that's unsafe.

Mazda 3 Sport
OMG this car rocks! It's got good enough power for hillclimbs and getting on the highways. Interior is boring and un-kitsch but super comfy. Throttle is... not super direct, I feel there's a slight lag but it's a good thing. I thought I could control it the easiest. Dashboard is boring and utilitarian.Two usb ports and a 12v socket in the center console.

Handling is pretty solid, I felt very confident on the highways or narrow roads. I've also got brand bias, as I'm a big fan of the MX5 and FD3S, both of which I've never ridden lol. #initiald

If I ever needed to buy a car, this is probably at the top of my list. The main problem: It has 4 doors, meaning 3 extra egress points for velociraptors to enter the vehicle. It's expensive to buy like, 3 mini guns as anti-velociraptor defense.

(2014?) Toyota Prius C
I think this car is brilliant for city driving in mostly flat area; it doesn't have the strongest engine and you can hear it whine when you're on-ramping a highway or climbing steep hills. And New Westminster has steep hills! Not the steepest in BC but yeah I can easily floor the throttle and the car just.... tries its best to accelerate. The throttle positioning is also a bit tight; I had to keep shifting my foot to get a good place else I'd be trying to push against the right wall.

The throttle is great at low speed and for city driving, I feel it's very optimized for that range. When on the highways, yeah, flooring it doesn't really do much lol. Steering is very solid, it doesn't feel as "on rails" as the Mazda 3, but I felt very confident with it. I like the brakes as well, it was easy to slow down without over compensating.

The shifter does feel a bit cheap, but usable. No dashboard behind the wheel - the speedo is in the center and it's a digital readout. I thought this was a great speedo unit - unambiguous and easy to read. Definitely the car I had the easiest time keeping my speed with. I also think it was the only car I've driven so far that has a dash cam.

And yes, this car has 4 doors, which presents a problem when being assaulted by dinosaurs that know how to open doors. Consider buying one anti personnel mine, aimed at yourself, it's cheaper and you'd probably feel less pain than being eaten alive by dinosaurs.

2017 Toyota Prius C
The prius c above was recently replaced by this newer one. I only took it out for a short drive for dinner, and essentially I think it's a more refined version of the older one. Environmental controls were a tad confusing but I just put it into Auto mode and set a temperature and it worked great. Didn't get a chance to use the cruise control, mainly because I couldn't find it in the dark and I had to get to a dinner. Mazdas and Hondas have it just by my right thumb, and makes it easy to toggle on/off. I did think the older Prius C had more grunt off the line, but it was rainy today so possibly the TC kicked in. The headrest also felt rather hard, definitely not a car to go for long cruises in. I think, like the previous version, that it's easy to park and a very good city use vehicle. Oh, the e-brake mechanism? Very delightful to use :)

2012 Mazda 2
Eh, this is like Mazda's analog to the Honda Fit. Overall, I think the Fit is a better vehicle - but I'm comparing a 2012 vehicle to a 2016, so I'll stop there. That said, I really enjoy this car. Of all the brands I've tried so far, the Mazdas fit me the best. Even this budget car fits me really well. Handling is good, and small size means easy to park.

2018 Hyundai Elantra
The impression I got was that Hyundai made less than good cars. Evidently that's in the long past. While I don't fit just quite right with it, it was an excellent ride, and I really loved the backup camera in this car! I will have to take it out for a long jaunt like the Mazda 3 to really get the feel of it. If I had to nit pick, I would say that compared to the Mazda 3 it has a slight understeer entering the turn, and the steering wheel's grip was a little on the smooth side.

2015 Nissan Versa Note
Eh, I doubt I will rent this car again. I found the handling a bit too squirrelly for my taste, and I did not fit very well in the driver's seat. Throttle response I felt was smoother than the Mazda 2, which was nice, but the brakes felt really weak.

2016 Scion FR-S
Best handling car of all the cars I've driven to date. Wow. This thing just takes corners like a champ. And it's super flat in turns. Throttle is amazing and shifts so fast. Zomg. Come next year, I'm taking this up the mountains for a spin. The ride quality is rather harsh though. It also has rear seats, which I'd totally forgotten. Definitely only for kids. If not, it's a great place for bags and stuff.

2018 Toyota Prius
Oh my god. This car is the plushest car I've ridden. It goes over bumps and rougher patches of road effortlessly. Handling is vague, feels like I'm driving a cloud. I do think the Prius-C has more driving character. On the flip side, the interior of this car is pretty nice, and the one I drove had a backup camera is is sweeeeeet!

One interesting tidbit - the back of the prius is mostly plastic - I could not stick my N sign on any of the surfaces. The sides of the car are metal though, my N sign sticks well and fine there. Acceleration is nice and smooth, and the brakes are also quite nice, and they can jam the car to a hard stop if you push it deep enough. I think thus far, this and the Mazda 3 are my top choices for long trips.

Unfortunately, the Prius has 4 doors, so yes, it increases the difficulty of defending yourself if sharks attack.