Travelogue: The Ultimate Road Trip?

Waffle House Run to Kansas City
All Photos by Randy Stern

I’ve always wanted to do an epic road trip.

In the past, I have done that. My relocation from Northern Virginia to Madison, Wisconsin in 2000 was one. My failed attempt at a relationship in the Puget Sound area back in 1995 was another – from the Bay Area, and back. And yes, annual those drives to/from the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally actually count on this list – considering the distance and time.

The truth is that these road trips were for practical purposes. However, I have never done a road trip that was non-linear. By non-linear, I mean a larger loop around the country. I deviated on some trips – like the one year I went home via Iowa from a MAMA Fall Rally (I went there through Wisconsin), but never something that was meaty, required an extraordinary amount of road time and circled places I have never been.

To find out what kind of road trip I can put together if given the chance, the funds, and the time to accomplish – I reached for a plan that would bridge business with fun. I did so by using Google Maps to calculate routes and distances. A pretty handy tool, if you ask me.

Indulge me, if you would…

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My Favorite Malaise Era Vehicles

MN Cars & Coffee September 2017
All Photos by Randy Stern

I grew up at the right time – the Malaise Era, to be exact.

The industry was in the midst of change. Some of it was instigated by the oil-producing nations across the ocean. To manage change, the industry had to do something to meet the challenges of emissions controls, safety regulations, and achieving higher fuel consumption.

Not everything looked great. For the era, it was refreshing, Yet, necessary actions did produce some memorable vehicles. These were vehicles that I can honestly say that I remember when they first arrived at the dealerships.

This My favorites column will focus on vehicles I got really excited about during the Malaise Era. More so, these were vehicles I actually liked, enjoyed, even drove. They still yield find memories even to this day.

Here is that list…promise not to frown, OK?

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On The Dial: Aretha Franklin – 1942-2018

By Ryan Arrowsmith [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

How do you celebrate the life of a great voice that ruled the airwaves for many decades?

Aretha Franklin was that voice. It was ripe for the radio – and on stage. Every stage – from the church to President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

We lost the Queen of Soul on August 16. She died at the age of 76 of pancreatic cancer, surrounded by her family in Detroit. She may be missed in physical form, but her voice will remain a staple of radio for generations to come.

Why am I talking about Aretha Franklin? Continue reading

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A Most Charming Hybrid

2018 Lexus NX 300h
2018 Lexus NX 300h – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Lexus NX 300h

Quick! Name the best selling premium compact SUV/crossover in 2017?

Let’s go down the list, shall we? It was not the BMW X3. Nor was it the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Acura RDX, Lincoln MKC, Volvo XC60, or Infiniti QX50. The Jaguar E-Pace and Alfa Romeo Stelvio are not eligible since they only sold in part of 2017.

Which leaves us with the Lexus NX.

Surprised? Continue reading

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Commentary: My Left Foot and The Imbalance Between Health and Driving

Photo by Randy Stern

If you are dealing with some sort of terminal or debilitating illness or injury – you should not be driving.

That’s a loaded statement!

The idea that health should be a factor in eliminating one’s driving privilege has been bantered about for years. In the name of highway safety and traffic management, there had been campaigns to get certain drivers off the road – such as our senior citizens, the infirmed, people with developmental disabilities, and so forth. While some feel that these people should be removed from the roads, other will point to a form of discrimination based on their life challenges.

Yet, we have provisions for drivers with “handicapped” placards and plates. We enable smarter driving techniques for those who have the ability to fulfill their driving privileges.

So, what’s the problem? And, why am I bringing this up?

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On The Dial: Broadcasting From The Pod

MotoCult’s Erik Berger about to do his thing. Photo by Randy Stern

Radio or podcasting?

This was a question that came out of a retort on a recent appearance on the MotorCult podcast. While I mentioned that I did a radio column (this one), one of the hosts, Erik Berger, retorted that (and I may be paraphrasing here) “podcasts are the wave of the future.”

You don’t say…

We all thought they were the wave of the future last decade. The ability to do a podcast was made possible by less expensive equipment – laptops, microphones, mixing equipment, software, and the ability to put it up on iTunes. Today, the podcast is on the rise – not because of local car guys like Berger, Ryan Sesnesky, and Kristopher Clewell (of the Overcrest podcast). It seems that everybody has gotten into the act.

This brings up a new question: has the podcast caught up with the ratings and interest of radio?

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Quickies: The Best Pickup Truck Sold – Right Now

2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4X4 Big Horn – All Photos by Randy Stern

I once considered the Ram 1500 as the best pickup sold in this country – period.

Two things happened. First, a rash of quality issues and recall notices. Just when you thought Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was making a standout pickup, things began unraveling. Sad, really – it was a great pickup truck. It still is.

The second was a broadside to Ram and everyone else. When Ford introduced their latest F-150, they touted an all-aluminum cab and box built on top of a rolled-steel frame. Some had predicted that Ford could fail with this new construction for its most popular vehicle. Instead, it extended its lead above all vehicles sold in North America because of the new construction of its half-ton pickup truck.

How do they counter the leaner, meaner Ford? Continue reading

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Historiography: Fast Food For The Fast Crowd

P8053100All Photos by Randy Stern

Fast food is bad for you.

That is what a lot of medical professionals and organizations full of them say. Dietitians and health advisors tell us to stay away from fast food since it is loaded with calories, fat, questionable ingredients, high levels of sugar, salt, and can cause terminal diseases. It is considered the cause of global obesity.

Had we known that in 1921, we would be a healthier world, right?

The double-edged sword of fast food was the growth of the popularity of the automobile. It seems that they do go hand-in-hand with the change in eating and health habits. In this country, fast food cuisine is tied to the advent of the drive-in restaurant and the drive-through window. The automobile had plenty to do with these types of dining.

The idea of “fast food” did not start in 1921 – and in this country. Continue reading

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What Would Randy Buy…the 2018 Edition

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R Design
All Photos by Randy Stern

Welcome to my annual tradition of self-indulgence and absolute pining for the day I can buy a vehicle that I would truly enjoy and own.

But, how? And, who’s money?

Understand that for the past few years, I took liberties on this site to do something that is part-selfish crap and part-consumer advice.

I arrived at this list by using some form of methodology to answer the question in the title of this missive. In past years, I went with a price point methodology – in 2015, I included pre-owned cars and in 2016, I just concentrated on new ones. For 2017, I just listed them out regardless.

To make things more interesting, I have shaken up the rules a bit. Continue reading

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The Combination of Unique and Fun

2018 Kia Sportage SX Turbo AWD
2018 Kia Sportage SX Turbo AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Kia Sportage

Did you know that the Kia Sportage was the first SUV/crossover sold in the USA from the Republic of Korea?

It arrived in the 1990s to help boost a brand that needed a reputation boost. The original fit in a new class of small SUVs, joining the ranks of the Suzuki Sidekick, Geo Tracker, and the Daihatsu Rocky. Not only did it come in a four-door SUV version, it also came in a two-door convertible. Quality issues dogged the first generation Sportage, but help was on the way.

As Hyundai and Kia became one large corporate entity, the next Sportage arrived to show it was modern enough to compete in a segment that was about to explode onto the marketplace. It looked as it was very competitive, but shortcomings still did not help this popular SUV’s cause. There was a trade-off – it was very capable off-road.

By 2010, Kia changed up the Sportage again. It no longer looked like everyone else. The absence of a C-Pillar glass was controversial, but everything else made up for its unique styling. It was still quite spacious and offered powerful engines, including a turbocharged engine.

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