The Venerable Ford E350 15 Passenger Van…and the idiots who have ruined its reputation.

CaptureThis is a typical Ford E350 15-Passenger Van.  There are somewhere around a quadrillion of these things on the road.  I’m not sure of how many zeroes that is, but I’m sure that it is a lot and I’m pretty sure that is an accurate number.

You might be asking yourself: Why are there so many of these vans on the road?  The answer is simple.  These things are an engineering marvel!  They are built like tanks, out-handle and out-perform similar offerings from other manufacturers, and they last forever if they are properly maintained.  I can vouch for this because I by my estimation, I have drive somewhere around 500,000 miles in these vans.

Another interesting fact about the E350 platform is that the vast majority of ambulances in the United States are built on this platform.  In fact, all they do to the chassis to make it ambulance-ready is change the rear axle to dual wheels.  The E350 is simply one of the most amazing and reliable vehicles ever built.

Now, here is the central question:  Why am I singing the praises of this vehicle?  Am I a paid endorser?  No, I just wanted to do a little bit to help clear the name of this much maligned vehicle.

You must realize that this van has taken a beating in the press over the last decade because of school and camp related accidents where students were badly injured or killed.  The press loves  to blame the vehicle, saying that it is a poor design and that the chassis wasn’t designed to handle that kind of weight or weight distribution.

I’m here to tell you that those accusations are simply inaccurate.  The E350 chassis is built just like the F350 and is capable of payloads that make it carry just as much weight as if it were towing the largest of travel trailers.  These vans could carry 15 passengers made of lead and they would still ride and handle well.  Well, that is unless one thing happens….an idiot gets behind the wheel.

Oh yes, it is now time to get the facts straight.  Idiot drivers are to blame for these wrecks; not the E350.  You must realize, there is this simple equation that comes into effect when you take an object and give it speed:  Mass x Velocity = Momentum.  Most people seem to like to ignore physics, but trust me…Physics is the law.  Physics doesn’t pull you over and write you a ticket for a violation.  No sir, Physics skips right to the judgment and sentencing phase when you screw up.  Physics is the real world equivalent of Judge Dredd.

The fact is that an E350 is a huge passenger platform that drives as easily as a typical SUV and so people get behind the wheel and forget that they have 14 other lives in the vehicle with them.  The problem is that drivers of these vans need to take that responsibility very seriously and many of them don’t.  When that happens, you get what I witnessed this morning on the way to work.

Three camp vans passed me that were obviously on the way to the airport to do what is known in the business as an “airport run” to drop off last program’s students and pick up the students for the next one.  The problem being that those vans passed me at all.  I was running somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 miles per hour when those vans passed me like I was standing still.  If any of those vans had a blow out in one of the front tires, the result would have been tragic; if it were either of the front two, it would have been a multiple vehicle catastrophe.

There was little more that two car lengths between each van and they were running around 85 miles per hour.  I’m sure that if they wrecked that the news media would brand it “another 15 passenger van accident”, when what the really ought to do is let everyone know that it was merely physics passing judgment on criminal driving decisions.

Leeroy Jenkins and the NSA

I know that there is much debate about what is the best indicator that America and its government have irrecoverably started the decline that has affected every dominant civilization in recorded history.  I now have the definitive answer for that question.

Because it is politically incorrect to profile based on actual risk factors for terrorism that might reflect someone’s nation of origin or religious affiliation, we have chosen to monitor World of Warcraft and other gaming communities.  That’s right….gamers.  The same people who have to eat Hot Pockets and store soda and Cheetos near their televisions because they only leave the room to urinate during gaming hours.

The FBI couldn’t stop the Fort Hood shooting even though they had numerous emails between Nidal Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki (a known promoter of terrorism) and yet the NSA thinks it is wise to monitor gamers.  That is just plan genius.

At least I’ve got some chicken.

The Demolition Dissertation

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I love demolition derby!

Actually, that last sentence may have been a bit of a misleading statement.  I love the International Demolition Derby in Cleveland County, North Carolina!

The fact that there is a difference between those previous statements is why I’m writing this post.  There are a lot of people who are going to read this who spent an inordinate amount of time during the mid-to-late nineties going with me to witness this annual event at the Cleveland County Fair.  Some have even made the journey with me a couple of times since then and in recent years, we have been sorely disappointed with our demolition derby at the Cleveland County Fair.  Last week, I learned why.

Last week, Matthew Kiggen invited me to come down to Boiling Springs and go see demolition derby at the Bar H Arena.  Having been there for lots of haunted hayrides, I decided to drive down, grab him, Seaver Wait, and a hoagie from the Italian Garden and head over to the event.  As we settled into our seats and checked out the program, I noticed that this was billed as The International Demolition Derby and that Shane Kirby, an old friend from Gardner-Webb, was scheduled to drive in one of the heats.  As the national anthem played and the invocation prayer was said, I began to realize that this was indeed THE demolition derby.

According to Shane, who not only gave me the skinny on the situation but also won his pastor versus pastor division, the guy who used to do the demolition derby at the Cleveland County Fair is one of his church members and had lost the contract for doing the derby at the fair a few years ago.  Yep, this was indeed the man who so many of us had heard utter the every familiar “Caution, Caution, Caution!”

The event was far superior to the last few years at the fair.  The track wasn’t so wet that the drivers couldn’t get traction and there was some amazing destruction.  One car caught on fire, one’s motor nearly blew apart, and there was enough smoke and steam for a KISS concert.  At least two cars came over or through the barrier and there was barbecue, as well as other concessions.  Honestly, that was the best $10 I’ve spent in quite some time.

So, now we are left with a bit of a good news/bad news situation.  The good news is that now we know not to waste our money on the vastly inferior demolition derby at the Cleveland County Fair and to take our business on over to the Bar H Arena for a reliable and familiar demolition derby experience.  The bad news is that they are done for the season.

Nevertheless, I will be watching and staying in contact with Shane regarding next year’s festivities and I look forward to seeing some of you at the International Demolition Derby in Boiling Springs.

The Oil Can

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed that I get more and more complaints from people in the Asheville area about the services that they use for keeping up with their vehicles, houses, etc.  I’ve always referred people to the businesses that I’ve used and trusted for years, but I held off on doing so on the internet.  Lately, I’ve decided that throwing these recommendations out there for everyone might be the most helpful thing for everyone involved.  With that in mind, here is my first recommendation:

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The Oil Can was started by a guy that used to work for my dad when I was growing up.  They were located on Sardis Road and ended-up selling out to another oil-change outfit who subsequently jacked-up their prices and ran off all of their customers.  One of the guys that worked with the original owner, Henry, restarted the business at a different location and brought on Mark, another one of the original Oil Can guys.

They do oil changes, inspections, and basic repair services (such as brakes).  They also sell tires and wheels.  Every oil change comes with a full check and top-off of all lubricants and fluids.  They also clean the exteriors of the windows and vacuum out the vehicle.  I can’t recommend these guys enough.  They are honest, do great work, and are very reliable.  Their services are priced reasonably and they do a great job of building a relationship with their regular customers.  Honestly, I can’t recommend these guys enough.

Here’s the info:

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