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Being a car and motorcycle enthusiast means that I generally object to electronics taking any control away from me while driving. I will admit though, that I really don’t have much experience with new cars. “New” is a funny term to use too because when I say it, I really just mean newer than 1996 which is the year of my Toyota Tacoma. Motor vehicles have come a long way the last 18 years so when GMC offered us a brand new Yukon we were psyched to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

I doubt anyone who really loves driving cars is thrilled about the computer having control over wheel spin or alerting them that there is someone in their blind spot. I am opposed to it because I take pride in the fact that I am always aware of them myself. I like to think that’s what makes me a good driver. I am suspicious that cars which are using computers to  monitor everything for you, make you lazy. Instead of being aware of where cars are around you, you will just glance at the side-view mirror to see if the blind spot warning light is flashing or not.

On the other hand, there is a part of me that has a deep respect for new technology and how it can solve a lot of problems in the world. I have worked on mobile apps that will eventually revolutionize the way that people are able to live with diabetes. I’ve seen how a simple iPod can give life back to people previously thought to be brain dead because of Alzheimers.* As a designer, the idea is to have complex back-end technology that results in a simplified front-end interface that lets the user stay focused on everything else. That is exactly what the car industry is and should be doing but for some reason, I’ve always had a negative reaction to the idea.

Ojai Valley

Sarah and I left from LA and headed to an Airbnb we had arranged in Ojai Valley. As I quickly figured out how to use the Adaptive Cruise Control on the highway it was the first time that the two conflicting sides of my brain started talking to each other. As the Yukon gently adjusted our speed to match the slower moving traffic about 100 yards ahead of us, and then picked back up to my programmed speed once they exited my lane, I started to think about how big of a deal that really is. Innovative features like this are the first steps towards a potential solution for increasing traffic issues all over the world. We arrived at the beautiful Airbnb we had arranged around 5pm and settled in.

Ojai is an amazing little community that a lot of people are talking about. It’s very accessible, plenty of hiking and adventures you can do, and even a magical time of day they have coined “the pink moment” when the sun sets over the valley. We enjoyed walking through town seeing all of the new stores and restaurants that are starting to pop up. Our favorite had to be In the Field. We chatted with owner Channon who had started coming to Ojai from LA years ago with his wife, but had opened the store just weeks before we got there! There is certainly a design scene starting to emerge in this quiet little town, and In the Field sets the bar high.

Big Sur

Next stop was Big Sur, CA. We got to spend a good amount of time on the highway as well as the winding mountain roads which led to a few other revelations that improved my driving experience. The first of which was the adjustable pedals. Yup, simply push a button and the pedal height will adjust to your liking. This effectively adjusts the travel as well, making the gas pedal more or less sensitive which I thought was very cool. Second was the Powertrain Grade Braking. I’m not a huge fan of automatic transmissions, but they are really getting smart these days which makes a huge difference. Driving down steep mountain passes, the Yukon will automatically enable this feature, which essentially downshifts and uses the engine to help braking so that you don’t melt your brakes. Also fascinating is that the V8 engine will put 4 cylinders to sleep when you don’t need them to save gas…both parts of my brain agree that is pretty neat.

The ride to Big Sur is stunning. Although it’s been very dry, they got a decent amount of rain earlier in the year and the landscape is still relatively green. We wanted to get off the beaten path in Big Sur for once, so we sourced a house on VRBO in the mountains. We usually just stick to route 1 through Big Sur, so it was amazing to drive deep into a mountain pass filled with cool cabins and moss-covered a-frame houses. We arrived after dark and found the key, a couple lights, and fired up the wood burning stove for some warmth.

We spent the next day exploring and hiking in Big Sur. A misread map lead us on a 3 hour 2,000ft vertical hike that took us completely by surprise in the best way possible. The first hour was in the forest, then we popped out and could see how steep the ridge was all the way to the top. I spent the second hour trying to keep up with Sarah while I lugged my full-size camera, huge camera backpack and tripod. It seems every time we go for a “quick” hike we end up completely lost, hiking all day. We weren’t complaining though, the view from the top and the entire hike down was absolutely stunning. We drove back to our cabin, cooling off quickly with the seat A/C on full blast (the thing I will probably miss most about this car).

WE RECOMMEND

Soberanes Canyon loop hike

 

WHERE WE STAYED

Our VRBO

Point Reyes

The last place we really wanted to get to was actually past SF, Point Reyes National Seashore. As the road straightened out we really got to enjoy all the luxuries of the Yukon. Another one of my biggest issues with computers in cars is the interface that you have to use to control them. Until now, the big goofy displays in the dashboard were impossible to figure out, it was hard to connect your own device, and even in the most expensive cars they ruined the experience of simply trying to listen to music. Those days are clearly over as it was an absolute pleasure to play with all the features in the Yukon. The interface was easy to navigate and very responsive. A Bose audio system with 8 speakers and a sub in the center console means that they did not skimp on the acoustics in this car. It sounds incredible. Another great feature is being able to see the exact tire pressure of each individual tire anytime. Things like that make the road a safer place for everyone and I think we all agree that is a good thing.

We enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous day at Point Reyes. We grabbed lunch at Point Reyes Station and headed out to brave the crowds and see the lighthouse. We stuck our heads out the sunroof and stared at the waves that went on for miles and miles and took our last couple breaths of the salty pacific coast air.

All in all, this car taught me a lot about…myself. I learned that these two conflicting parts of my brain actually get along pretty well and that it was my lack of experience with new cars and the associated technology more than anything else. There will always be a place for the old Audi turbo, and the Ducati in my garage, but the more of these new GMCs I see on the road, I feel, the safer it is. Driving this car for a week made me whole-heartedly believe that this is the direction that cars should be going in this day and age. The 2015 Yukon gives me hope for the future of cars, technology and taught me to have a more open mind for the future of everything.

-Stefaan

WE RECOMMEND

Tomales Bay Foods

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