The 2017 Honda Ridgeline – An automotive reboot.

Picture provided by Motortrend.co,

Picture provided by Motortrend.com

When Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, it was the truck equivalent of Zima. Zomething different.  Not quite a truck, not quite a SUV.  It looked kinda like a midsized Chevy Avalanche, but didn’t carry the tough look.  Some would argue that it competed against the Subaru Baja as a modern four door El Camino, but it was chunkier in comparison.  Honda billed it as the truck for “Cool dads”, but the pitch fell too short. Honda’s Ridgeline was just too different.  The sales numbers proved this.

In 2006 The Ridgeline hit its sales peak at 50,193 sold in the U.S. When the original design ended in 2014 the Ridgeline sales struggled at 13,389. To put this in perspective, the Ford Ranger sold 92,420 models in 2006 and in its last year run of 2012, sold 19,366.  (Honda sold 14,068 Ridgelines that year.)*

With such low sales, Honda followed Hollywood’s latest trend and rebooted the Ridgeline.

First they stopped production of the previous design for two years. This let the memory fade a bit and allow a better reaction for the new version.

Second they made it fit the mold better. The original Ridgeline left you wondering what it was. The image of this Ridgeline is better defined.

Alas, as with other reboots, the traditions of the original are easy to spot. The New Ridgeline is of unibody construction just like the old one.  This is proudly acknowledged by the executive vice-president of American Honda, John Mendel.  He touts the rigidity of the unibody, while promising a smoother street ride than the traditional, body on frame trucks of Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan.

John is smart to point out that the Ridgeline in no way competes against the big boys of the full size team. No sir!  The Ridgeline is aimed squarely at the Colorado, Tacoma, and Frontier.

But, in a way, it’s not.

Even though Mendel boast that this is a tough truck, and that the payload and towing rates are right in the fight with the other welterweights, (Up to 1,600 pounds payload and an estimated 5,000 pounds towing as of this writing) he openly admits that contractors need not apply.

This truck “Isn’t about the jobsite” he stated during the Ridgeline’s introduction at the NAIAS, it’s “about the lifestyle.”

In short, the Ridgeline is for the hobbyists. People who need a truck for light duty projects and occasional hauling, but not a career building companion.  Campers, beach combers, motorcyclists, and kayakers are who Honda is aiming at; not landscapers, pool supply runners, and handymen.  Sure you can fit a sheet of plywood between its wheel wells in the bed, but you still have to lower the tailgate and have it stick out a little to have it lay flat.

Honda also insisted on keeping the spare tire tucked in a separate compartment under the floor of the bed. Not underneath the bed as other truck do, but in a mini trunk under the floor of the bed.  (The mini trunk also has a spot with drain plugs so you can turn it into a cooler.)  This would be such a hassle if you were carrying a load of gravel and you suddenly blew a tire on your way home.  But Honda thinks this will be a rare occurrence with its buyers.  This is reinforced by the addition of a new sound system for the bed and the vehicles front wheel drive layout.

Honda has found a way to turn its bed into a giant speaker using six of what it has named “Exciters”. The exciters vibrate the bed just like a magnet in a speaker, creating a large sound device.  Evidently Honda wants to be all about that base.

If that doesn’t shake up the market, the Ridgeline’s front wheel drive surely will. Besides being body on frame, all trucks have been designed with rear wheel drive as standard.  This is done so that when you put a load in the bed, it adds weight to the driving wheels and adds to their traction.  It also helps when towing. Truck purists are going to give the Ridgeline a long, sideways look before shaking their heads and moving on.  But, again, these are not the people Honda is aiming at.

The Honda Ridgeline is a recreational tool built for fun times. It comes with a six speed auto as its only transmission choice as well as an all-wheel drive option with a multimode terrain management system so owners don’t have to do any work in switching from front wheel drive to all wheel drive. It’s in bed 400 watt converter can power sawzalls and drills, but will more likely be used for margaritas and x-boxes.

Like every reboot, the Honda Ridgeline is high on gloss and shine. Only time will tell if it makes it into the heart of the buyers.

  • Sales numbers provided by left-lane.com
  • Quotes are from the 2016 NAIAS video on youtube

Filling the soul and clearing the mind

Have you ever felt like you want to write something creative but nothing flows?  That’s how I felt for the last few weeks.  Stories that usually flowed easily couldn’t even break the surface of my thoughts.

My mind had become too crowded.  It was full of the usual detritus that flows in daily.  Concerns at work, distractions on the radio, and the usual politics both near and far.  I had let myself get over focused on some things, and crowded by others.  It was no wonder why I couldn’t get a decent creative thought to appear.  The ground was too compact.  I needed a break.

Luckily the rain helped.

I have one of those jobs that lets you leave when it rains.  It’s usually not good for the pocket book, but I do have time to cover it.  So off I went.

My goal was simple:  Go to different places and let the stimuli stir things up in my imagination.  I went to three different places.

First was to a local park.  I promised the dog a walk and she really wanted out of the house.  We drove across town in the mix of soft mist and drizzle, but when we arrived at our destination the sky decided to open up with real rain.

Sadie saw the rain and still wanted out of the truck.  Amazing given the fact that I have to literally push her out the dog door and into her run when it’s raining at home.  We walked about 100 yards before turning back.  The rain just grew heavier with each step until I had had enough.  I also had to keep pulling Sadie away from the ponds.  They’re a little more dangerous than ones up north.  They might just have a gator or two in them.  These were large enough to house an eight footer easy and I did not want Sadie to become a before lunch snack.  She didn’t seem to understand, though and was not happy as I kept redirecting her moves.

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As we left the park, I turned down one of the side roads just for fun.  The side roads were not the usual suburban scene.  Abandoned and forgotten from the big but local housing bust of the early sixties, they sit quietly while nature slowly closes in on them.  They make for a great post apocalypse scene, so I took a picture.  (Or maybe it’s an ancient road leading to hidden treasure, Indiana Jones style.)

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After taking Sadie home and drying her off, I headed out again.  This time to the fishing pier in El Jobean.  There were few cars parked there, but I did see two mothers grabbing their gear while trying to corral their children before heading towards the pier.

Being a lone man in drizzly weather without a fishing pole, I decided to give them some room and snag a few pictures before going down the pier myself.  I walked down the road to the wonderful opening showing me the mouth of the river.  Great shot there.  On the other side of the street I noticed a long metal roof peeking out above the trees.  I moved around, hoping to see something of the building itself, but the trees were too thick.  Clearly this place had been deserted for quite a while.  But I wanted to see the architecture and wasn’t about to give up just yet.  I knew that the front area was mowed and that I should be able to see something of it.  And something of it I did see.  Framed between two trees stood the face of the building.  Aged and dilapidated; weathered and grey, this place was foreboding. Someone had replaced the front door at some time and stuck a “No Trespassing” sign in the window.

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Somehow, I don’t see it discouraging curious teenagers looking for a secret place to party.  Opening scene for a horror story?

With that done, I turned down the pier and got my nature on.  There were so many different things to notice.  Yes, I’ve seen the Bengal clock vine before but the flowers looked so vibrant against the faded green leaves and steely sky. There was such depth to them.  It seemed as if the rain was washing their color out. I had to take a picture.

??????????????????????????????? Some of the small trees had great character created by the constant wind and salt air surrounding them.  If bonsai artists really want to get an accurate vision of trees, they should look at these.

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A man walked by, fishing pole in hand.  I asked how the fishing was and he grimaced.

“Too cold and too windy for fishing today.”  He replied while briskly walking past.

He must’ve thought me a “Snowbird” with my short sleeve shirt and shorts.  Feeling the wind against my skin, I closed my eyes and listened to the crash of the waves against the pilings.  After a few, I opened them again and sapped off a few shots.

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It was after the last one that I realized how easy it is to fool the audience into seeing whatever I wanted them to see.  I could’ve talked about the weather and how it reminded me of the seaman Joshua Sloccum as he stood on the pier in Massachusetts, or describe the dancing of sea birds at they are buffeted by the wind.  I could paint this lovely picture of sea wind and air never letting you know that a large bridge and the highway lay only eight feet to my left and that traffic was rushing past in all its droning.

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Ah the magic of writing.

Leaving my tire trails in the wet gravel, I headed west.  There was still one place to go.

Being that I was only at this place once, I was really winging it.  I do remember taking a turn down one road, so I took it again, but seven miles later I couldn’t find the marker for it.  I found something else though, so I hit that instead.

It was a nature preserve.

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Never seeing before, I had to check it out.  The rain and mist made reading the map impossible, but I got the general idea.  The rain didn’t stop me from reading one sign and I laughed at its unintentional sarcasm.

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It stated that the park/preserve was open to everyone, but the cattle chute opening was so tight there no way anyone in a wheel chair could get through.  Somebody’s gotta widen that opening.

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Inside the trail was as narrow as the opening.  I wondered who had been there recently to tamp the trail down.  Was it hikers or a maintenance crew?   The trail was marked with brightly painted poles with badges pointing the way to go.  I kept an eye out for any game trails.  Wild hogs are known throughout the area and are very territorial.  I didn’t find any and think they were being smarter than me and were actually sheltering themselves against the weather.  I didn’t see any snakes either.  Diamond backs, racers, or even moccasins.  None of them were around.  Again the sounds of the highway would sometime intrude on my silent solitude, but I was able to reflect on the scene before me.

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This was part of the ninety mile prairie where cattlemen drove their herds to market or rustlers to other ranches.  The palmettos would scratch at their long boots or chaps and pines would scent the air.  With not much shade to be found and the debilitating combination of heat and humidity of summer, days like these must’ve been a godsend to them.

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Capturing the moment on pixels, I headed back to the truck.  I had accomplished what I was hoping to.  I cleared my head of the crowding thoughts, and filled my soul with wondrous surroundings.

I also came home with a bonus I did not expect.

A nice cold.

Scenes from a gas station.

I took my dog, Sadie for a ride tonight.  It’s one of our weekly rituals so she doesn’t get cabin fever.  She is one of the best dogs to give a ride to.  She’ll jump up to her seat and lay down quietly as I drive down the road.

The trips aren’t usually too long. Twenty minutes tops if I feel she needs extra away time.

Tonight I needed to gas up for the week so I thought I’d take her with me.

The gas station was brightly lit as usual.  It was also busier than expected.  There were three full sized, crew cab pickups pulling trailers sitting in strategic areas.  Two were gassing up while one was off to the side to allow other people the ability to gas up.

I pulled my truck up in the bay between them.  One truck was pulling a rock wall and I wondered if there was a festival going on somewhere that weekend.  That’s when I noticed that the one of the other trailers had a granite business printed on it.  I doubted that it was part of the group then, but the generator being towed behind the trailer gave me doubts.

A loud rumbling shifted my thoughts.

“More trucks.”  I said to myself.  “Probably horse pullers from the sound of it.”

My guess was disproved as two long bed diesels pulled in boy racer style.

They were jacked up on aftermarket suspension lifts, shod in large off road rubber, and sprayed in a covering of mud and turf.

One of the young drivers looked at me questioningly as I looked at the rigs.  I gave him a slight smile and a nod of the head to calm his fragile ego.  His young face and plaid white shirt instantly brought back an article I read by Ted Baxter.

Ted was an editor for Car and Driver back in ’82 and had written about the culture of high school boys and their trucks in Hardin County, Texas. He went through the pecking order of those trucks and how the young owners would spend copious amounts of money on them to attract the fairer sex.  Thirty-one years later it seems like not much has changed.

I twisted the cap back on and shut the flap as the kids strolled into the station for Cokes.  They left their trucks running for audio effect.

Ted’s words faded as I pulled away only to be replaced by a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Thoughts of: A Pickup Truck Podcast

Podcast:  An audio recording that is played, downloaded, or streamed on a computer, smartphone, or other mobile media device.  The recording is loosely based on a talk radio format and is created variously from the hobbyist to fully funded industries.

How many of you listen to them?  I started when I won an i-pod in a contest.  I’d download scads of them and listen through the day as I did my mundane and tedious chores at work.

Podcasts are wonderful things because, like blogs or the internet, they allow you to find a topic you enjoy and bring fellow enablers to strengthen your biases.  I’ve seen podcast sites for gardening, cars, books, sailing, comedy, motorcycles, firearms, Star Trek, farming, bicycling, hiking, horse riding, news, music, business, video games, religion, and even old radio shows from the era before television.  There’s even a small section that focuses on dating and relationships if you’re so inclined.  It doesn’t seem to be that popular though given how hard it is to find anything on that topic.

Like the web, there is a podcast for anything.  Well, almost.

Perusing through various podcast sites and search engines, I have found one glaring omission.  The pickup truck podcast.

That’s right.  In the great streaming digital universe there is no podcast that focuses solely on the pickup truck.

Why is that?

It makes no sense to me.  Given that the pickup is still number one and two selling vehicle in the country and that 60% of GM’s profit comes from the pickup platform, you’d think a market savvy entertainment company would jump on this.

Let’s look at another auto based entertainment sector for a moment.  Printed magazines.  When it comes to motorized vehicle based magazines, every corner of the market is covered.

You like motorcycles?  Take your pick according to style, age, and market.

Cars?  Enthusiast or fact seeker?  Amateur racer or vintage restorer?  Big block engine or four cylinder hybrid?

Pickup Trucks?  You can focus on small trucks or big diesels.  Low ride street machines or off road trail riders.  You can find restoration magazines or wild customizations.  Anything and everything.

Scooters?  Yes there are magazine for scooters of all sorts and character.

But when it comes to podcasts I’d bet money that you will have an easier time finding a ‘cast about scooters than you would about pickups.

So then the obvious question becomes:

“How would you do it?”

That parts easy.

Since the pickup is made by car companies, you go the same route as a car based podcast.

News:  You report about the new vehicle coming out, the new regulations affecting future products, the way the market meets the challenges of the times, economy, safety, recalls, new technologies, and other newsworthy items.

Reviews:  Tests of the various trucks both on and off the road.

Interviews:  One on one with the designers, engineers, marketing, sports people, and spokesperson for the vehicles.  You could even record “live shows” where listeners could call in and ask questions.

Sporting and events:  From the Baja 1000 to auto shows to truck pulls, reports of what’s happening along with interviews of the stars of the event will always be wanted.

The Personal Angle:  A “This old truck” segment where an average person talks about why they chose the truck they did and how they use it; or a general discussion about the truck and how it fits psychologically into society.

Aftermarket products:  The pickup truck is the most personalized and accessorized vehicle on the planet.  There are so many companies out there that would love to come on the air and tell their story about how their product fits into the pickup world.  Plus all the above topics can fit into this section as well.

So, as you can see there are tons of topics to build a podcast around.  The “how to do it” is easy.

I can hear your next question already:  “If it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?”

To be honest, I have thought about it, but I believe that having a voice for sign language is a hindrance in this endeavor.  The time conundrum is another.

So for now I will keep searching for this elusive podcast, but I also would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  I know I have some pickup fans here.  Tell me what you think and what truck topics you’d like to hear about.

Until then, keep on truckin’.

Thoughts of: the other world

I’m late.  I know.

The other world paid a call today.  You know which one.  The world we live in outside our little electronic boxes.  The annoying one where we do the 9 to 5, 7:30 to 4 for me, thing and then run to our shelters for some work there before escaping to this life.

Today there is little time for the electronic world.

Today the bed is stuffed into my bathroom in various pieces.  The dressers and cabinets clog the living room, the carpet is gone, and there is a fresh coat of light green paint in the bedroom.

It’s been going on for about a week now, but tomorrow is the big day when the new carpeting comes.  Once it is in, we can start putting things back together.

The old carpet had held on quite well.  It lasted eleven years and through eight pets.  (Not at the same time.  I’m not that crazy.)  It was a reddish/purple color that had to be chosen to match the ungodly evil eighties pink tile bathroom.  (I live to see it gone.)

The room has been painted differently about four times now.  It was green before, but a different hue and shade.  (more yellow and darker than the new choice.)  To better tie the old paint with the rest of the house, I was forced to suggest painting one accent wall pink.  (See, Transparentguy, even guys who drive pickup trucks and use chainsaws will have a wall painted pink when needed.)  Then it was painted a nice blue with white trim.  I actually liked this color best, but it didn’t go with the rest of the house.  So when it was deemed that the carpet must go, my wife repainted and reaccessorized again.

The carpet we chose is greyish silver in color and will go well with the floor tile in the bathroom and the green walls of the bedroom.  It will be nice once its put together.   I’ll miss the blue, but am satisfied with the new colors and my wife is again happy to be doing something constructive with the house.

It’s one of those outside distractions that can seem annoying, but in reality its more of one of life’s mini adventures that is so common that we don’t talk about it.

I think I’ll stop now and take in the moment of chaos.