One-Yard Wonders projects

Saturday, September 7, 2013

From Greenville to Brownville....

It was nice to sleep in this morning and wake up in my own bed, with my little red-headed alarm clock alerting me that it was time to get up. After a quick yogurt/fruit/granola breakfast, Mazy, Violet and I went on a 40 minute walk, then a 30-minute playtime at the park, and then a 20-minute walk home. Whew. By the time we came indoors, we were all dripping with sweat. It's really heating up out there!

Strangely, South Carolina proved to be much cooler than Iowa. They have had a ton of rain this summer, something like 14 inches since July so Greenville was very, very green and lush and beautiful. If you have never been, I strongly suggest a weekend trip to downtown Greenville. It is one of the most beautiful small cities I've ever been in. The work they've done along their river walk is amazing... I felt like I was on a movie set much of the time. It's really picturesque with so many great local restaurants and shops all throughout it. We had a great time!

And that was just at night after we were through with work. During the day, I was driving BMWs, Mustangs and took a ride in a Corvette with a professional driver who had it going 120 MPH on a very curvy track! It was wild! They were teaching us how to find the limits of your tires, and let me tell you, I am now a believer. When you compare the handling of a really good tire, to a regular or sub-par one, you will be shocked at what your vehicle is capable of doing, especially on wet roads.

One of the first driving tests was comparing a BMW to a Toyota minivan. The BMW had the crappy tires and the minivan had the really good ones. We put on helmets, buckled up and drove around a really twisty track with water raining down on us. The whole point was to slide through turns, get the vehicle to hydroplane a little and see how much more control you had with the good tires. Man, I had that minivan skidding around corners and flying down the straightways. It was so fun!!! I almost drove the BMW right off the track. It was sliding all over the place, which was kind of fun, since I didn't have to worry about running into anyone.

Then we went to a huge perfectly circular track, also with water raining down all over it.  This time, the test was to show you why you always put a new set of tires on the back of the vehicle, never on the front. The first time around the track, which was ground down so it's super slick, you're in the car with the good tires on the back, and the front tires were about half-worn out. You go around twice, taking it to the limit of the tires, just as you start to feel it hydroplane. It was scary, but pretty cool to feel how the car was able to stay in control. Then you take out an identical car with the new tires on the front, and the half-worn ones on the back. The instructor told me, "Give it gas until you think you've reached the limit." Also, he was French and I was the first one to drive on that track so I think I missed a lot of what he was telling me. So I got out on the track, gave it some gas was about a quarter of the way around when we hydroplaned, spun in two complete circles and he yelled, "Hit the brakes!" But that was exactly what was supposed to happen. It about scared me to death at the time, but the test is to show you how dangerous it is to put the tires with all the traction on the front, and leave the bad tires on back. So remember that next time you get a new set of tires.

Then we went to the bigger track with the pro driver who had the Corvette revved up and waiting for us. Man, those guys are such good drivers!!! Coming up to those corners you think there is no way you are going to stay on the road, they're going 120 MPH and then they stomp on the brakes, slow you way down, get halfway through the turn and then floor it again as you're going out of the turn. It was AMAZING!!!

But it also made me a little queasy at the end of the ride. The final driving test was in the Mustangs -- X-cross racing on the Big Black Lake -- a 1,300-acre asphalt area with tons of little cones set up all over the place that you have to race through. Again, we drove a Mustang with good tires, and one with bad tires, so we could see the difference they make in dry braking and handling.

I'm not a big car person but that was a pretty freaking awesome day!!! Not many people get to do what we were allowed to do -- no cameras, cell phones, recorders or anything are allowed on the grounds. It's pretty secretive. But since we all write about and market their tires, they wanted us there to experience the difference and turn us all into buyers. I'm telling you, I want those good tires on my minivan! No mother at school would ever beat me into the pickup and drop-off lane!

And on the first day of Tire School, we were able to tour the manufacturing plant where the passenger and truck tires are made. Wow. You would be shocked at the technology and processes that go into making a tire. There are over 200 materials in the average tire. And each one is added at a different time in the manufacturing process. I thought tires were just one big hunk of rubber that they cut to have treads.

Well let me tell you, that is NOT the case. Layer after layer of different materials are added to the tire. It's incredible. And at the end, every single tire is hand-inspected and then tested by machines. I don't usually do this, but if you want good tires, I'm telling you, go for Michelin. Seeing is believing, and I am going to save up so I can get me some!

So this is getting kind of long and Bo is hungry so I'll wrap it up. Flying back into Iowa yesterday afternoon, I was shocked to see just how dry and brown it looks... We should still be fairly green this time of year. But it looked like a big brown dessert in so many areas... Ugh, it's terrible. I hope this drought ends after this year.

Have a great weekend! I'll get some of my photos from the week downloaded to share with you. It was often dark when I had my phone so I don't know how good they'll look.

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