Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween: Our Favorite Frights of 2013

Another year, another Halloween, the one day a year, when it becomes appropriate to dress all in black and creep out your neighbors. To honor this most frightening of days, we thought we would take a look back at some of the scary moments we have encountered behind the wheel or in the saddle during the course of this year. Some of these were genuinely scary moments where genuine unease washed over us, while others were merely close calls.

In August, East Brother shared with us his trip to several haunted sites in the city of Waltham, MA. Joining him in the saddle of the K1200S, we toured the creepy remnants of several mental institutions as well as the grounds of a school and residential facility that is still actively serving residents, but is the site of one of the most haunted places in the Boston area. Just the thought of trekking back to the Fernald School is a chilling prospect.

Our modern cars are also so filled with computers and electronic nannies that the modern automobile can now be easily hacked and taken over. Everything from opening car doors to forcing the car to drive anywhere but where the driver wants is entirely possible. Can you imagine driving along the road when suddenly your doors lock and the steering wheel seems to take on a mind of its own? It is like a ghost has taken over your car. Scary thought, is it not?

There were innumerable close calls, including run-ins with total lunatics perpetrating road rage like nobody's business, near misses with wildlife while biking (damn those squirrels are crafty), and, of course, the death of common sense behind the wheel. Getting on any form of two-wheeled transportation was sometimes frightening enough on its own, with drivers today seemingly completely oblivious to their surroundings and hell bent on doing anything behind the wheel except drive.

On a final note we just want to remind everyone to be safe, be courteous, and to never drink and drive.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz CLA250

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with the Mercedes Benz CLS55. This black bomber was a fist in a velvet glove. The sleek exterior combined with a comfortable interior, all on top of a chassis that delivered responsive handling and a motor with locomotive like pull. It was one of those amazingly fun experiences that you never want to come to an end. When the new CLA-class first made its appearance, I was hopeful that in copying the swoopy shape of the CLS, Mercedes had also deigned to deliver unto us a truly fun driving experience at a more affordable price point. There was some hope with the seemingly endless stream of accolades that Mercedes had garnered from the automotive press for the CLA45 that this new 4-door coupe would finally be more than just a well-groomed, but utterly soulless creature. Sadly, it appears that the AMG magic does not trickle down to the more pedestrian brethren.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Events: Boston Cars and Coffee October 2013

Back in May, I attended my first Cars and Coffee in the Boston area. As the fall foliage season comes into full swing, the car gathering season draws to a close up here in New England. Many of the cars we see at these events will get put away for the winter as the roads around here quickly become coated in salt when the temperatures start to drop. As a final hurrah for 2013, I took the K1200S to the final Boston Cars and Coffee scheduled for the year. It was a beautiful day and many people clearly had the same idea as attendance was good, with numerous cars out enjoying the good weather. Because of its location, on the grounds of the Larz Anderson Automotive Museum, there is not the usual chorus of high performance departures as there are at Cars and Coffee events in other parts of the country, but the idyllic setting and excellent company keep the enthusiasts coming back for more.

Click past the jump to see a few select photos from the event as well as access the full photo gallery.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Road Trip: Lake Elsinore and the Ortega Highway

The legendary Ortega Highway connects the coastal freeways near San Juan Capistrano to the desert highlands of the the city of Palm Desert, passing through the inland resort community of Lake Elsinore. Exit from the infamous Interstate 5 freeway and head away from the California coasts into a barren landscape, dotted with random bits of vegetation. Before long, you find yourself climbing and the greenery begins to get denser, until you are high up enough that the temperature has gotten a few degrees cooler, and the air is just a bit crisper. Having only ever taken this road at the helm of our family MDX during a detour on our way down to San Diego, I endeavored to return, preferably on two wheels, to make full use of its ample curves. Luckily, my time spent reviewing the BMW R1200GS presented me with the perfect opportunity, if not quite the perfect bike.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Test Ride: 2012 BMW R1200GS

Image courtesy of
Adventure bikes are not usually my thing. The weight does not bother me so much as the rather high center of gravity relative to a sport, or even a standard, bike. However, during my most recent trip back to the West Coast, I had the occasion to slip away from work for a day and take the gold standard of the adventure bike class, BMW's venerable R1200GS, for a full day test ride. I used the opportunity to cover a road that is popular with all sorts of riders, Southern California's famed Ortega Highway, but also spent plenty of time on it traversing the crowded suburban sprawl of LA as well as slicing through traffic as I split lanes between cars on the parking lot that is the 405 freeway during rush hour. MotoQuest, which provided the bike for the review, was extremely helpful and made sure that I had plenty of time to get acquainted and appreciate the genius that is this motorcycle.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Events: Herb Chambers Cars and Coffee October 2013

Back in May, I attended my first Cars and Coffee in the Boston area. While the official Cars and Coffee event at the Larz Anderson Automotive Museum is a great setting, its location within the residential neighborhoods of Boston makes it a much quieter affair than the raucous party that is typical of the Cars and Coffee crowd. Luckily, one of the local dealership chains holds its own series of Cars and Coffee events, set at various dealership properties throughout the Greater Boston area. I attended the last one of the 2013 season, located at Herb Chambers Lexus in Sharon, MA, just outside of Boston. The crowd was quite sizable and because of its location in a primarily commercial part of town, it was possible for gathered crowd to cheer on the drivers as they gave us a show upon departing the event.

Click past the jump to access the photo gallery and to see select photos and videos from the event.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Consumer Advice: Leasing vs. financing

Getting a new car is always exciting. That new car smell, the shiny new paint, and all of those wonderful new toys to play with. Along the way, hands were shaken, deals were struck, and papers were signed, but one of the key decisions that many new car buyers struggle with is whether to finance their new purchase or lease it. Leasing has become increasingly popular as new cars have continually gotten increasingly more expensive and credit became increasingly easier to access. There are detractors of both methods, but paying for a large purchase, like a car, in cash is out of reach for most people and most buyers must find a way to finance their purchase. Both traditional loan financing and leasing have their own pros and cons and the conditions that suit each buyer's needs may lend themselves favorably to one versus the other. While this may not cover every possible variation, the goal is lay out some general guidelines to help you decide which path if the best for your needs.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Crazy of the Week #3: Playing too much GTA V?

Here at East-West Brothers Garage, we do highlight road rage quite a bit as it teaches us what kind of drivers not to be. The following video below though, takes road rage to a whole new level:

This man from Indiana, 51-year old Dr. Perrin Dobyns, decides to go GTA on the driver recording the video, and pulls a gun. Police reports have indicated that Dobyns did open fire on the driver recording the video. Luckily, the driver recording the video had slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid being shot. Why was the driver recording Dobyns? For driving recklessly. Local news reports that Dobyns was arrested in the Indiana correctional facility where he is employed and will be charged when he is extradited to Kentucky.

Read the original article here on Jalopnik.

I suppose we should all treat this incident as a cautionary tale. While there is nothing wrong with recording other drivers being reckless, as it does provide police with evidence if they ever need to arrest someone, just be aware that you never know when the person you are recording is armed.

Be careful and drive safe everyone!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Editorial: Holding innovation to higher standards

A little more than a week ago, a car fire occurred outside Seattle, WA. Seems like rather insignificant news, right? Car fires are a daily occurrence around the country and most people drive by them without so much as a second look, although most likely accompanied by some colorful language at the traffic congestion that is caused by the rubber-necking that occurs anytime flashing lights are seen. However, the fact that this car fire was the first involving a Tesla Model S someone warranted national news coverage. The Model S in question was damaged by a large piece of debris that fell off a semi-truck. The debris in question hit at such an angle and with such force that it punctured the extra thick metal casing that houses the battery, resulting in the cooling system for one battery compartment to fail, which ultimately caused the fire.

With all the coverage, one would expect there to have been a fatality, or at the least severe injury, involved. Someone must have gotten hurt or something dramatic must have happened, right? Otherwise, why would we be holding this innovative new technology to a higher standard than the technology we currently have?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Road Trip: The haunts of Salem, MA

Massachusetts is one of the oldest states in the US and has a tremendous amount of history contained within it. Some of that history dates back to the colonial era, with many Revolutionary War battlefields and monuments to visit, making it a great place to go sightseeing on a motorcycle. But of course, not all of that history is quite so illustrious. Salem, MA is a town that has a dark history associated with the infamous Salem witch trials. These proceedings, which often were done out of fear of the unknown, rather than a desire for justice, brought many lives to premature ends. It is believed that the souls of these individuals who met an early death may still haunt several sites around the city. With such a rich history, I could not resist the urge to hop on the K1200S and tour around this most notorious of Massachusetts towns.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Game Review: Burnout Paradise

Image courtesy of
I want to start this review out by making it clear that I am not a big fan of the current Electronic Arts. With the recent set of faux pas including the botched Sim City launch, the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco, and the failure that is EA's Steam competitor, Origin, there is a lot to dislike about EA these days. The only reason I have a copy of Burnout Paradise is because it was offered in one of EA's previous "Humble Bundle" sales. The "Humble Bundle" is actually a fundraising effort in which EA and Origin will sell you a pack of six games for any price you choose, with the proceeds going to five different charities. Luckily, all but one of the games can be unlocked through Valve's Steam service, which means not having to deal with the horrid service that is EA's Origin. It would seem that EA might be on the path to redemption with some gamers thanks to the Humble Bundle, but enough about my dislike of EA. Let us get to the real purpose of this review: Burnout Paradise.

Yes, Burnout Paradise is a bit old now as it was released about four years ago, but being a racing game, I could not help but write a review about it. I am not usually one to go for arcade style racing games, as I much prefer the realism of games like the Forza Motorsport series. After experiencing how much fun I could have with arcade style racing games after playing through Forza Horizon, I thought I would give Burnout a try.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Editorial: An Open Letter to the Motorcycling Community

Fellow motorcyclists,

Last week, a video of an altercation in New York City between a group on motorcycles, affiliated with a Hollywood Stuntz event, and a family in a Range Rover emerged on the Internet. The video showed a bunch of squidly riders swarming around the black SUV, one of them intentionally brake-checking the driver. When a slight bump occurred, the reaction from bikers was to mob the SUV and physically assault the vehicle and threaten the driver and his family, causing the driver to panic and attempt to escape the situation, resulting in at least one serious injury. To further fan the flames, additional footage was revealed prior to the incident showing the motorcyclists all over the road, riding recklessly, and violating countless laws. Add to that the ultimate outcome of the altercation with the Range Rover, which includes assaulting the driver, and it is clear that these squids are nothing more than the undesirable dregs of our community.

Such deplorable behavior from bikers, whether we like them or not, sullies the good name of those of us who are responsible motorcyclists. The fact that there has not been a unified refutation of these individuals from the motorcycling community at large is almost equally disheartening. Instead of condemning the actions of these delinquents, our tepid response simply allows us to be implicated as tacitly accepting such irresponsibility. Why would those of us who ride responsibly want to have any association with people who risk not only their own lives, but the lives of others, especially the life of a child?

As motorcyclists, we want other motorists to respect us. We fight for our right to safely share the roads. We fight to get motoring laws changed to improve our safety. However, when we fail to speak out against behavior that makes us all look like thugs and criminals, we set those actions back and create more enemies who will fight against our common cause.  If our goal is to make the roads safer and more enjoyable for all road users, we must be willing to not only to answer a call to arms when something bad happens to one of our own; we must also be prepared to leap to action when elements within our community commit transgressions that no sane person would stand for.

If our goal is truly to fight for our rights as motorcyclists, we must recognize that criminal behavior is not only undesirable, but intolerable. While it may seem like nothing more than words, distancing ourselves from those people who commit such atrocities, who demonstrate such a cavalier attitude towards their own safety and the safety of others, helps other motorists to distinguish between those of us who are responsible riders that take everyone's safety into consideration and those selfish clowns who believe that they somehow are above the law.

Let us draw a line in the sand at this incident and stop enduring those who sully our good name. Let us no longer stand idly by when members of our community commit reckless acts against other motorists. Let us vocally castigate and physically cast out those who believe that their egotistical self-gratification is more important than the safety of others around them.

Please pass this letter to our fellow motorcyclists and encourage them to be more active in voicing their derision for the riders in this incident. If we wish to recruit more people to help our motorcycling cause, we must show that we are amenable to condemning the actions of those among us who create chaos.

East Brother

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Test Drive: Jaguar F-Type V6S vs Porsche Boxster S Head to Head

Picking a convertible can be a very emotional undertaking. You want to find something that is fun to drive, offers great flexibility, yet is not likely to to present too many reliability challenges. Recently, I did back-to-back tests of the newest entry to the luxury convertible class, the Jaguar F-Type, and the class standard bearer, the Porsche Boxster S. The Jag, with its sensuous shape and screaming exhaust system is a hot car and should serve as further indication that Jaguar is serious about a comeback after years of being relegated to the also-ran category. Its recent efforts, starting with the introduction of the XF sedan, the revised XJ, and now the F-Type definitely cemented Jaguar's place back in the minds of luxury buyers. However, is this new effort a good enough car to knock off Porsche, still one of the most beloved brands among car buyers in the US? Porsche's Boxster and 911 are frequently touted as being the ideal of what sports car owners look for in their rides, can the F-Type, which is aimed squarely between the two P-Cars, deliver a solid enough blow to keep it in contention?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Porsche Boxster S 6MT

Update: See how the Boxster S performed head-to-head against the all new Jaguar F-Type V6S.

Sometimes, you get into a car and it just feels familiar. Those sensations that you first experienced when you drove the various predecessors of such a car come flooding back and it only take moments to settle into a comfortable oneness with the car. Porsches, more than any other brand I have driven, seem to be able to capture that exact emotion. Heck, if you look at them, it seems that they are engineered around that concept, with the heritage of early 911s still clearly evident in even the latest model. Even the less expensive Boxster exhibits this character. I first drove a first-generation Boxster many years ago and even back then, the car was hugely impressive and really set a new bar for performance from convertibles. When I finally got around to testing this latest version, I was pleased to discover that this Porsche absolutely lives up to expectations. However, the competition has gotten significantly better in the more than a dozen years since the Boxster was originally introduced. So is the Boxster still king of the performance heap?