I had one of these…

for 16 years and 170,000 miles.  It was the first car I got after college and was the definition of “sleeper”.  The car was made in Tennessee but the SR20DE engine and transmission was Made in Japan.  Drove it all over California.  Sold it with the original clutch.  Fun to drive!

Honda Clarity

Honda had an event in San Francisco where you could test drive the new Clarity.

The Clarity is a line of cars that are roomy inside like an Accord, full of tech and doo dads and looks retro like a 1970s Buick.  What sets each one apart is their drivetrains.  It comes in full electric (80 miles), plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

The fit and finish are superb as is the interior.  Nice because these cars are Made in Japan.

Like the iPhone holders on the back of the front seats.  Good detail.

But look at it on the side.  That rear wheel!  That’s a 1970s Buick!!

Ippudo Story San Francisco (Lost in Translation)

No Scarlett Johansson here (bummer).  Just two ramen fans that were excited to welcome San Francisco into the big league of ramen towns.  San Francisco has an Ippudo.  Finally! No more queueing at Mensho for hours in the TL with bums.  We could now queue in a wind tunnel off of Market Street! Despite being forewarned about the broth being dumbed down (at Ippudo Berkeley, which opened nine months earlier),  we braved downtown, found a parking space and crossed Market Street for a bowl.  A very expensive bowl.

Yes.  That’s $82 (after tip) for dinner for two.  A beer, a bun, a bowl and some ice cream.  Keep in mind that the same bowl in Tokyo is half the price (along with the beer) in what gaijin call “the most expensive city” in the world.  I would be willing to excuse this as “the price of doing business” in San Francisco, except the broth here tasted like they phoned it in.  It’s technically tonkotsu, but set at 5 instead of 11.  The best way to describe my disappointment is to say that the broth here has been Lost in Translation.  It isn’t as “fierce” as it should be.  Also, no sides of garlic and ginger as the other Ippudos in Asia have.

They did get some things right.  The cha siu was tender and the broth could have been a smidge hotter (in order to keep the noodles hot).  And Ippudo is probably the only place in San Francisco that can actually do the soft boiled ramen egg properly.  Delish!

Because of this, it’s technically an “Ippudo”.  The ramen was bowled properly, the noodles had some snap.  The flavors are there, just not enough of it.  I really wanted to love this place; to be able to say that it’s a match for Ippudo’s Tokyo and Singapore locations (I know these best) and everyone should brave the line and the price for a bowl of Akamaru Modern because THIS is what ramen is supposed to be like.  Instead, I’d recommend this as a starter Ippudo.  Go here and appreciate it for what it is.  A decent, but VERY overpriced bowl (because of the local conditions that restaurants in San Francisco have to operate in, not because of Panda Express greed).  Then book a flight to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai and have a bowl over there.  That’s how it’s supposed to taste.  And you’ll save some money too.

Ippudo SF
18 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103

Driving Electric (car post)

For the past year and a half, I have been leasing a Volkswagen E-Golf.  It’s the 2016 base model with an average range of 80 miles/charge.

(representative photo, not my car)

There are many quirks that you will have to adapt to if you’re driving electric.

First off, the range can be wildly “optimistic” After a full L1 charge, my car has claimed a range of 104 miles.  Of course, after I drive for a bit, it loses range quickly until it’s back down to the 80s.

Second is that real issue, range anxiety Because of it’s stated 80 mile range, it’s great in San Francisco and the immediate area (north to Marin and south to the Airport).  Due to the City of San Francisco’s stupid policy of traffic calming, the car actually works fine in Eco+ mode getting around the City (because you’re not really moving due to bad congestion that’s created by the City, I mean “traffic calming”).  You don’t actually get 80 miles to drive, although the car may claim it has an 80 mile range.  When your range drops below 20, it automatically goes to Eco mode.  When it drops below 10, you’re in “Limp home mode” AKA Eco+.  On the freeway?  Forget about it.  There have been times when I was driving rideshare when the car would hit “limp home mode” coming off 280S at John Daly.  I would coast down the hill to Westlake, recharging the battery so I’d have enough power to get from the stoplight to the DC charger in the shopping center.  And speaking of DC charging…it charges the battery to 80%,  That’s enough to get you home in 60 mile chunks.  100% charge is achieved with either an L2 or L1 charger.  Cold?  The E-Golf has seat warmers that work well..  The heater works best in “Normal” mode and takes at least 10 miles off your range.  It doesn’t work in either Eco or Eco+.  The new generation of electrics have longer range (and hopefully better heaters).  The Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Type 3 (with it’s big booty) have 230 mile ranges which is practical for California driving.  The latest versions of the Nissan Leaf and the E-Golf have 120 mile ranges.  An improvement but not there yet.  What’s needed now with electrics having longer ranges is more DC charging stations.  And speaking of DC chargers…

Long trips require planning (and apps).  I’ve taken the E-Golf up to Sacramento several times and I can say that in the hinterlands between Vallejo and Sacramento, WalMart is your friend.  Besides having reasonably priced groceries and organics, the WalMarts in Fairfield, West Sacramento and Dixon have DC chargers.  There’s also a DC charger in the Vacaville Factory Outlets (along with an In & Out and Chick-Fil-A).  PlugShare is your friend.  Download the app so once you’re up in Sac, you can do things near the plethora of L2 chargers up there.

Conclusion:  Always lease, because electrics are hella expensive and the battery is expensive to replace when used up.  Technology is moving forward fast so you’ll want the latest out there (because it usually means a longer range) and since the car manufacturers need to have these cars on the road, there will usually be some nice deals out there.  Sometimes they pop up on Leasehackr.

How to behave in Gion

These are the rules for behaviour in Gion (Kyoto).
I’m not sure who these rules are targeting.  Begpackers?  Mainlanders?

No touching the geiko/maiko, no loitering.
No smoking, eating, littering or selfie sticks.

4000 Pounds (car post)

4000 pounds is big and heavy. For anything, really. 4000 pounds of anything is pretty big.

I had a Ford C-Max Energi that weighed 4100 pounds. The Energi is a plug in hybrid that has a 20 mile battery in the boot and has a gas engine and tank. Despite being h-e-a-v-y and having the world’s largest turning circle, it had decent acceleration and was maneuverable enough to handle San Francisco traffic.  It was also one of the more practical cars I’ve owned.  It’s footprint is small so it fits into parking spaces.  It’s tall so there’s a lot of room inside.  What it doesn’t have is boot space because much of that is taken by the hybrid battery.  They can be purchased used for a good price, kitted out.  Mine had all options except the moonroof.   I was able to get 500 miles/tank driving in hilly, uber/lyft choked, traffic calmed San Francisco. The current owner in flat Sacramento gets 1000 miles/tank.  See?

Not bad for a 4100 pound car.  Now in comparison, I have been looking at other cars that weigh about 4000 pounds.  The Alfa Stelvio, for one.  It’s about 4000 pounds, but it’s a crossover SUV.  It’s built on the Giulia chassis so there’s some of that “fun to drive” element to it.  Or at least, as much fun as you can get driving an SUV fast.

It’s a good looking SUV and although I drove it in Monterey and was less than impressed (because I had just driven its really fast sister, the Giulia Quadrifoglio), on retrospect, it wasn’t bad.  Definitely better than all the other SUVs that aren’t made by a company that starts with “P”.  It’s just hard to compare race cars with people movers.

Another 4000 pound car that’s interesting is the Kia Stinger.  It’s front engine, rear wheel drive.  Its Kia’s first full blown performance car.  The car looks good.  The specs look good.  James May likes it.   Kia may run into the same problem that Volkswagen had with the Phaeton.  The Phaeton was a tour de force; it had every option and gadget cars were capable of having.  It has a W-12 engine.  It was the cousin to the Audi A8.  And when it was new, it went for over $100K with options.  And that was the problem.  “$100K for a VOLKSWAGEN???”  Kia has made its name with nice, inoffensive, affordable cars.  $52,300 for a Kia???  It’s tough going upmarket.