I got a very nice M35x upgrade from Hertz in LA this visit. It was one of the better rental cars I’ve had and a nice conclusion to 7 rentals in a row. The car is fast, comfortable, and quiet. The stereo sounded very good, there was in-dash GPS, refrigerated seats (!), and some other good features.
The control dash is a bit over the top. The radio/temp/GPS control panel is via a big knob in a near horizontal format that made it fairly difficult to find the controls one wanted while driving, probably my only complaint.
It has a fairly nice back-up camera feature that projects overlay graphics to guide backing up and made parking a lot easier once one got the hang of mapping the camera to motion.
Oddly, the car had a feature I couldn’t figure out – a Compact Flash card slot. It is unusual not to have a USB interface, which seems more general than something media specific like a CF slot. I didn’t have a CF card to test, but I’d think it is either a way to add data to the GPS or media for the radio.
A business trip took me to the French Alps and I managed to escape to the Mageve ski resort at the (excellent) advice of our sponsor. It’s a beautiful place, the winter counterpart to St. Tropez. It is easy to get to from Geneva, though the GPS took us up a tiny winding back road when we trusted it that wasn’t plowed and definitely was not the approved route. The resort is huge and interconnected with other valleys in the European style. There is a good range of terrain, though nothing too terribly difficult. The crowd tends to be fashionable and right now is the holiday season and in France so it is a bit crowded. Rentals are cheap (25 Euro) and lift tickets are pretty affordable too (35 Euro).
The crowd is generally a bit fashion conscious: in fact, everyone I’ve met thus far is a seasonal employee and also works at St. Tropez. Which also suggests something else: the visitors tend to be a bit fashion conscious and with my old gear and less than fashionable presentation I seem to connect more with the local employees than the other guests. There was a very cool woman from Cote d Ivory I met at a Jazz club, and a hilarious photographer I ran into at a bar/tapas place. He spoke pretty good English and had a hilarious story about why he was there having crashed into his friend and broken his snow board while trying to avoid a tourist that had stopped on the downside of a big mogul (bad idea).
Ski School is a big part of the holiday season and the kids fly down the hill like brightly colored ducks in a row. Some are pretty advanced and the instructors take them to fairly challenging terrain sometimes leading them off into the woods: au revoir les enfants.
There is wonderful powder in the Cote 2000 lift area, which takes a lot of traversing to get to and even more to get back from – two Poma lifts back, one of which is the longest Poma lift I’ve ever had to ride. Near the summit after what seems like 30 minutes there is a sign “>50% Grade.” Uh oh. Then, right on that grade, the lift stopped for about 10 minutes to clear some injured off the track. Ow My Ass!
In one of the back country areas there was some lovely off piste deep snow. I was cruising along and jumped a small creek. OK, nearly jumped a small creek. The far side was a nice steep rise and got me quite airborne, butt high. I landed flat on my back skis up in the air which engendered screams of tiny laughs from a swarm of little French ski students. Hey, one of their own had just missed the same jump and was retrieving his skis, so I don’t feel too bad.
Ski School Megeve is an English (British) speaking outfit.
Instamapper.com has a pretty cool solution. Nothing radically novel in concept, but it does pretty much just work and with most devices with a GPS.
It’s a little different from Google Latitude, which has a social aspect (your friends) but no history. Latitude is built into Google Maps Mobile 3.0, so everyone will have this on their phone in a few days. That’ll be weird fur sure.
Amazingly I downloaded this app this morning at 3.0.0, by the time I’d told a friend about it the release was 3.0.1, and the last person I told got 3.0.2. I guess Google is excited about this one.
- Quiet – this car is about as quiet as any I’ve rented except perhaps the Audi A4.
- Comfortable – the V50 is a little less roomy than a torus, but I find the layout fits very well and doesn’t feel at all cramped.
- Basic amenities – I’ve gotten rental cars with manual windows or manual seats and mirror adjustments. It would matter less in one’s own car or just driving around, but realizing the mirrors are out of wack as you try to merge onto the freeway that is probably taking you the right direction before the GPS has locked satellites and discovering that you have to reach over, unroll the window, and poke at the mirror is sub optimal. The Volvo has everything you’d expect.
- Stereo – up here in Canada I listen to CBC-R2. Good classical and some funky music too. It’s nice when it sounds good. The Volvo has a great stereo that performs well at any volume and isn’t absurdly bass heavy like a Scion. On the other hand, the Volvo doesn’t have an iPod port like the Audi or a MP3 compatible CD player like a lot of Mustangs have.
- Security – I usually have a computer with me and sometimes it is convenient or necessary to leave it in the car. A trunk is a lot more secure than a wagon, and while the Volvo has a pull-out cover to hide what’s in the back, it’s not as confidence inspiring as having a solid trunk.
Carolyn and Vera and Zolly and I went skiing in Tahoe; they stayed at Donner Peak and I spent the day running up and down Granite Chief at Squaw, the only part of the mountain no being blasted by enough wind to blow you backwards uphill. The snow got pretty heavy at times and it was very pretty.
Unfortunately the day before at (ahem) Boreal (ahem) I fell going pretty fast down their “black diamond” slope and bent my thumb back on the ice. The colors had faded by today and it is starting to move again.
I really want to make a “sports” personal GPS, something with an indestructible over the jacket/on the wrist/on the handlebar wireless display and a remote back mountable patch antenna on some kind of shoulder strap and a data recorder with heart rate monitor. My GPS showed a max speed of 40.6 mph, but it can’t really get the fast parts because I’m bent over then and it is hard to mount it where it can see the sky.