Car Thoughts: The Ferrari Museum, Maranello Italy

Not too long ago, I decided to visit Italy, and being a car nut, had to stop at as many car museums as I possibly could which, with national holidays I had not foreseen, meant only one: The Ferrari Museum (aka La Museo Ferrari).

Hopefully the photo and video above is indicative of my not being one to bury the lede, that vandalized fiberglass body casting of an F355 Berlinetta sits outside the museum and has been there for some time looking like that. I’m going to come right out and say it: The Ferrari Museum needed some work. In fact, it needed a fair amount of work, ranging from care & maintenance to curation to location. What with the backing of a conglomerate like Fiat, I guess I expected a juggernaut of a facility along the lines of the Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche museums in Germany, but in actuality, the Ferrari Museum was maybe as good as perhaps a private Ferrari collector’s. I realize that Fiat no longer controls Ferrari, but this museum has been around since they did.

The thing I realized is, that most of the cars featured in the museum could be seen in practically any decent car museum or local concours. Despite their rarity, it seems that 250 Testa Rossas and 250 GTOs are not hard to find on display…and yes…this museum had them. Yippee.

It’s also worth noting that some displays had been around for twenty years as evidenced by the use of a Macintosh Powerbook “Wall Street” G3 in one wall spread. Unfortunately, my museum snobbitity prevented me from taking photos of some of the tackier aspects of the museum, like the photo op Ferrari with a green screen behind it that visitors could pay to sit in and have their photo taken (and composited with a  “visit italy” background no doubt), or the gift shop where you could get just about anything with a Ferrari logo slapped on it (you know, pens, mousepads, shoes, phone cases). One thing I do have a photo of (but can’t find at the moment) was the cafe where they served Coca Cola Classic out of a beer tap, and had local news channels playing on HDTV’s. Classy.

What I had hoped to see there were prototypes, test mules, concepts, and other one-off vehicles. To be fair, there were a couple, barely, but the museum for the most part was stocked with “million dollar a dozen” classics and F1 cars driven by Michael Schumacher (keep fighting Michael), including a half rotunda that had been added on to the museum to house many of the F1 cars in a manner similar to statues of important historical figures.

One element of Ferrari that was completely lacking was any display of road cars from the 1970’s through the 2000’s. That’s right, thirty years of road going Ferraris were absent from the namesake museum. Okay, there was an F40 LM, but that was about it.

I admit that maybe I’m being a little hard on Ferrari, but really, if you’ve been to the car museums in Germany (or any half way decent car museums and most are half way decent), then you know Ferrari could do better. Way better. And yes, I’ll be posting about those German museums, and it is going to take a while.

Also, there were a lot of race cars.

All this being said though, the drive to get there was a dream, and passing by the factory itself was something of a pilgrimage, but first you have to drive by the other gift shop.

I didn’t go in.

Thing Thoughts: OMG Shoes – A Retrospective

OMG shoes, am I right?

Shoes have been the bane of my existence. Given that I’m not cool or a fashionista(o? Er? Ist?), I’ve never been able to wear snazzy hype beastie footwear (ie shoes that just look bonkers), but that certainly hasn’t stopped me from trying either. It usually doesn’t go well. As the years have passed, I’ve also developed an aversion to things not ethically or environmentally made (translation: almost every shoe on zappos) and for that matter, disposable things (translation: almost every shoe on zappos). To that end, I’ve spent more time (and money) than I ever should have trying to find a shoe that is:
– Tough and would last more than a year
– Ethically made by people earning more than a living wage
– Could be refurbished once worn out for a second or third or more go arounds (ie resoled)
– Had a reasonable carbon footprint
– Looked good and was comfortable

Now let’s look at the greatest hits from over the years. This is a digest on all the shoes that have yet to wear out on me (and may not) in my lifetime, apart from re-soles.

Dainese Something-or-Others:

These shoes, despite their appearance, have been ridiculously tough and well made and showed little to no wear over the twelve years I had them. In fact the only real wear they experienced was in the laces, which themselves ever gave out. The primary reason they lasted as long as they did (before I finally donated them this year), was that I found myself not wearing them that much. This was because they were poser shoes. Dainese is a brand focused entirely on stylish-but-protective gear for extreme sports, most notably motorcycling (a hobby I recently put on ice). I first began riding motorcycles in 2006 and quickly took a liking to Dainese stuff, but did not have an entirely informed opinion on what gear was good and what wasn’t and these shoes were an example of what wasn’t. They were non-functional stylish shoes designed to let people (translation: ladies) know you ride motorcycles with little stylish bits like the integrated toe protector and “pucks” on the outer sides of the uppers. But the shoes didn’t rise above your ankle, making any assumption that you’d be protected in a crash utterly absurd. So while they were likely decently made (in an eastern bloc country sweatshop), their downfall was that, in hindsight, they were as stupid as the Pilotis you see overtanned Ferrari owners wearing to Cars & Coffee.

TCX X-Street WP Shoes

In my ongoing quest to find a shoe that would work on and off my motorcycle, I did eventually find this TCX shoe…well, boot cut to look like a shoe really. And these boots were utterly brilliant. They were my primary motorcycle boot (offering gobs of protection) and also my primary travel shoe up to the present. Being made of a rather heavy grain leather with a waterproof liner, I trudged through every type of terrain in these shoes and have undoubtedly walked millions of miles (inches) in them. Millions I tell you. The issues I had with these included the fact that, like the aforementioned Dainese shoes, they were made in an eastern bloc sweatshop, were not necessarily suitable in all types of situations, and had inserts that slid around inside the shoe (although this last problem was remedied with custom inserts from the local New Balance store). I have beat the tar out of these shoes and they keep on going. Who knows if they’ll ever give out? The X-Street has since been replaced by the Street Ace which is the same shoe with some slight aesthetic changes for the better, but I do have to say that this is arguably one of the best sneakers ever made. If only it could be re-soled.

Frye Walker Low Lace:

Unfortunately I had the idea to write this post after I had already sent these shoes to a “shoe farm up state” so here’s a link to the Walker Low Lace. This was a superb basic leather sneaker. I particularly liked the fact that it was/is made in the US (Kansas I believe?) and made incredibly well. My only issues with them was the lack of arch support, but that’s my problem, not the shoes. I got around this by using custom formed New Balance inserts (the same ones I used in the TCX sneakers), but that tragically required me to rip out what may have been the cushiest leather insole that has ever been made. That was my foot’s fault. I have some ideas though on how to save that insole with my next pair. One quirky thing about them was the fact that the excellent leather laces they came with (they also come with fabric as well), where way way way too long and required trimming lest you constantly step on them untie your shoes. But that’s a quirk, not a flaw, and I’d rather have laces that were too long rather than too short. But the laces were also super grippy and never came untied either, so no complaints there. The only real problem with them, was that their soles simply didn’t last. They were a soft rubber that wore out way too quickly, especially when compared to the bulletproof leather uppers. While this was, apart from short tread life, possibly the best sneaker I’ve found, it is, nonetheless, one I won’t be replacing, short of winning the Powerball lottery.

SOM Footwear

I found this small shop in Colorado that made minimalist footwear to an impeccable standard. They’re called Sense of Motion Footwear (aka SOM) and their shoes are fantastic. They ticked off so many boxes. They were incredibly light, extremely comfortable, very well made/durable, and capable of being re-soled. What’s not to love right? Well, there is just one thing. Wearing SOMs are a bit of a pragmatic decision. They aren’t exactly going to win any fashion awards, and as I can make Christian Louboutin’s shoes look unsexy, you can only imagine how in SOMs I’m 100th after the last man on earth. Their functionality is somewhat also their fashion Achilles heel: they have an exceptionally wide toe bed which feels great, but makes them look like clown shoes. Also, while they are capable of being re-soled, the vibram sole used does not last that long (maybe 6 months and a day), so be prepared to send them back. I’m such a fan of the business though, that when they released a new model and sole, I snapped it up immediately on impulse, despite being able to re-sole my existing pair. So now I have two pairs of quirky looking shoes although I may wind up donating a pair. They’re going to take a while to wear out the uppers.

Trickers Stow Boots

The Trickers are a mixed bag. They’re an incredible boot, but I bought these more because I wanted a pair of Trickers than really putting effort into getting the exact Trickers boot I would have liked. I wound up with a limited edition Stow boot that was made for the shop Leather Soul, which at the time had a store in Beverly Hills, although they have since closed it to focus on their Hawaiian locations. Why Hawaii for stately and distinguished leather goods? I have no idea, but anyway. The Stow is a tough boot that, when paired with the right sock (still working on that) and 1/2 inserts for arch support, can probably do anything. I haven’t been nice to these boots. They’ve got scratches and slices and gouges galore and I’m not sure how most of them happened. I know that when I take them to a cobbler for some TLC, I’ll probably get a dirty look or two (“How DARE you sir??”). The downside to a forever boot like this, is that it’s quite heavy, and the Itshide sole (similar to Dainite soles) is so hard it must be made of carbon. Every step you take in an Itshide soled Trickers Stow leaves a crater in planet earth. These boots score a -4,000,000 on the Ninjability Scale. When the time eventually comes for my great great great great great great great grandson to get these re-soled for the first time, he may want to consider trying a traditional Dainite sole or perhaps a cork sole instead. One of the great things about the Stow is the number of colorways offered is basically infinite, and to a degree, you can order custom boots to your liking.

Alden Indy Boots

Alden Boots are another incredible boot that gets nothing but love the world over. They’re ridiculously well made (like Trickers) and in the USA at that. The Alden boot I impulsively bought was called the Indy (named for none other than Indiana Jones, who wore them, in real life, although I know he’s imaginary). These boots were arguably more comfortable than the Trickers Stow, and came with a softer cork sole that did not shatter the earth underfoot with every step. They also fail the Ninja test though in a rather dramatic (and possibly worse) way than the Trickers. They shoosh. No, they don’t squeak, they shoosh, or rather, one of the two boots shooshes, making for a rather annoying walk. You almost expect a heavy boot to clunk when walking (ie the Stow), but the shoosh? No, it’s awkward. It’s like a problem a character in the Amazon Prime show ‘Patriot’ might have. I plan to get these boots conditioned soon, and perhaps that will alleviate the shooshing, but it has kept me from wearing them, despite the fact that they’re great in every other regard. Like the Trickers, they lack any sort of internal support and so I do wear 1/2 inserts with them that make them feel and fit like a glove, so I do recommend that you consider inserts when looking at a traditional leather shoe. You won’t regret it. Well there is one caveat: you will regret it if you go with full length inserts. This will lead to exceptional discomfort along the top of your feet. I don’t know why, but this is unique to leather shoes, and so 1/2 inserts (or heel cups) are a must. The brand I swear by is called SuperFeet.

Helly Hansen “Hiking Slippers”

Sadly, I can’t remember the actual name of these slip on boots and Helly Hansen has since discontinued them lending credence to the phrase “you snooze, you lose” because these boots are worth their weight in “effing” gold. I absolutely love these. I picked them up on a whim at the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, prior to it getting infected by the movie ‘Frozen.’ They’re waterproof, breathable, warm, easy to get on and off, and have soles that are the podiatric equivalent of the Bridgestone K02 tires on my Rover. They’re utterly fantastic, especially for travel and those winter days in the office around the holiday season when it’s cold and nobody’s there and you don’t want to waste vacation days when it’s not busy or hectic. Helly Hansen, as I mentioned above, no longer makes these and the closest equivalent they have now is the Garibaldi slip on. Logically, they should be better, but I have a hard time thinking of how one might improve on these. They’re fantastic for travel. You can pop them on and off in a matter of seconds at security checkpoints and since they’re insulated and waterproof, you can trudge outside in the snow having just gotten off a plane on your way to hire a car. They’re utterly brilliant.

This covers, for the most part, my greatest hits in shoes. I’m currently on a new pair of sneakers that have replaced the Frye Walker Low Low Laces as my daily pair, but I’m refraining from writing about them until I wear through my first set of soles and get on to my second. Sneakers, that are resole-able, and not SOMs. That should be a hint to you as to what they are and what to expect in a review down the line. Spoiler alert: I utterly love them so far…

Car Thoughts: The Last Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

It’s not uncommon for theme parks that leverage movie properties to create replicas of items to put in theme parks. Often artifacts from summer blockbusters and tentpole films are too intrinsically valuable to a franchise to sacrifice to the wear and tear of theme park display, however this Jurassic Park Ford Explorer bucks that trend.

Universal Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

…this Ford Explorer from the 1993 film Jurassic Park appears to be the real deal.
Installed in Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park roughly 18 years ago (accounting for construction and soft opening), it has undergone a couple of rehabs in its time.
In its early days, it retained the original curved bubble roof and its side windows were still transparent and likely still glass. The side windows were later converted to plexiglass and painted black on the inside to discourage people from both peering in the vehicle, and smashing the glass to take home a souvenir from the film.
The bubble roof eventually succumbed to warping, discoloration, and leaking and was replaced with a hastily formed sloping roof that did not match the the shape of the original. I speculate that this is because Universal theme parks (at the time owned by the Blackstone Group investment fund and NOT Universal itself) failed to pay for the tooling or moulds used to make the roofs along with the SUVs themselves.

That’s right, there was no connection to the movie studio and the theme parks for a long time. Comcast has since bought the theme parks back from Blackstone.

Eventually, the replacement roof went tool and the truck has since had another roof put on, this time opaque fiberglass that was bonded to the body of the car (ie no longer sealed with weatherstripping), and painted black to appear tinted.

But there are way too many words, and not enough pictures here, so let’s continue:

Continue reading “Car Thoughts: The Last Jurassic Park Ford Explorer”

Geek Thoughts: Here’s Why LA Comic Con is Better Than San Diego Comic Con (and also why it’s not)

This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend L.A. Comic-Con (formerly called Stan Lee’s Comikaze) at the LA Convention Center. There were things about it I liked instantly when compared to my newbie experience at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year. I had heard profiles of it as a convention when it was referred to as Stan Lee’s Kamikaze and press was quite positive as people had tired of the intensity and shift away from comic bookiness that San Diego underwent before returning to its roots (as I have heard it has in recent years).

In fact I liked the LA con so much it got me to thinking: This convention has real potential to take over San Diego in terms of popularity with fans. And so below I’ve listed the reasons why I think it will…..followed by the reasons why I think it won’t (Oh you thought this was going to be easy?)

Continue reading “Geek Thoughts: Here’s Why LA Comic Con is Better Than San Diego Comic Con (and also why it’s not)”