I'm at home near Chicago right now, but if I was in Los Angeles (my most-visited city away from home), I'd want to be at the Los Angeles Auto Show (LA Auto Show®) - which kicks-off this weekend, running November 18-27. With the press preview having just-wrapped (showcasing debuts like Nissan's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story edition of their popular Rogue crossover, the Kia Soul Turbo, and Mazda's new RT-24P race car), the doors are about to open with family-friendly activities and all the best in vehicles and technology from all the top makers. Here's some highlights...

Thursday, November 17 2016 15:27

Holiday Wish Guide: 2016 Hess Toy Truck & Dragster

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I do love classic traditions, and one that was previously an East Coast thing first landed firmly on my radar about five years ago, when I started writing about the Hess Toy Truck during the Holiday Season. 2016 marks the 52nd year for the annual toy, and it's the third year (and fourth truck) that the folks at the Hess Corporation have graciously sent to Rock Father HQ for review. As the story goes, Leon Hess wanted to offer an affordable, yet exceptionally high-quality toy for customers of his Hess Gas Stations, and in 1964, the first Hess Toy Truck was released. Over the years, the "truck" wasn't always just a truck, but often a hauler paired with a secondary, complimentary vehicle - sans a few years where the "truck" was actually something totally different - like an oil tanker. Over the past few years, the vehicles have been made to include an impressive array of action features that rival even the biggest of toy makers, packing LED lighting, digital sounds and more into packages with Batteries included. For 2016, it's the Hess Toy Truck and Dragster!

This post is sponsored by Life of Dad and Kelley Blue Book. All opinions are that of James Zahn, aka "The Rock Father"

Earlier this year, I had the unique opportunity to become one of the very first #KBBDads - an elite team assembled by Life of Dad to partner with Kelley Blue Book to showcase some of the best cars and trucks for families. I headed for KBB Headquarters in Irvine, California where I went hands-on with a fleet of vehicles, hitting the roads of Southern California after getting the details on how to evaluate like the team at Kelley Blue Book - direct from the KBB Editors. Kelley Blue Book is the trusted resource for new and used car buyers, available 24/7 to help people make the best possible buying decisions. Their yearly Best Buy Awards are a pinnacle of what they do, and as we prepare to flip the calendar for a new model year, I'm excited to share with you the 2017 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award Winners - a field of 12 vehicles that have secured positions ahead of their competitors.  Check out the full list along with a few "Rock Father Picks" below!

Monday, November 14 2016 08:24

Holiday Wish Guide: Kent Bicycles for Girls & Boys

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When it comes to the Holidays, there's certain gifts that just evoke that feeling of a classic Christmas. A kid coming downstairs to find a shiny new bike under the tree is one of those things, but as both Santa and parents know, kids grow (and outgrow) quickly, and families want to be sure that their children have a quality bike at a price that doesn't break the bank. The folks at Kent International have a full range of bikes for the whole family, but for my 2016 Holiday Wish Guide I'm focusing on the 2+, 5+ and 8+ range, including their 18" Sparkle Freestyle BMX Bike... the same one that our youngest daughter has been rockin' the sidewalk on, sent to us this Fall for review.

Tuesday, November 01 2016 09:22

The 2016 Hess Toy Truck and Dragster hits the Streets!

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It's November 1, so that means that the arrival of the Hess Toy Truck, a tradition that began back in 1964, is here. Previewed in early October with an image of gleaming pistons alongside the message that the truck "is coming with more power than ever," the 2016 Hess Toy Truck and Dragster retails for $31.99 with free standard shipping and five Energizer® batteries included. The vehicle went on-sale exclusively via its official website at 10am Eastern time, with an immediate queue forming some 20 minutes+ deep in order to meet demand and avoid the crashing that plagued the 2015 launch - the first time that the trucks were offered as an online affair following the sale of the Hess Express Stations the year prior.

Aside from perhaps, STAR WARS, the most-mentioned pop culture property here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine is undoubtedly The Greatest Television Series of All-Time™, KNIGHT RIDER. That's what the youngster in me still believes, the very boy who eagerly awaited new episodes on a weekly basis from 1982-1986, who made watching reruns after school a part of his daily routine from 1988-1990, and who still stops and watches for a bit while running across an episode on television, despite having owned the complete series on DVD for years. Of course, my affection lies firmly with the original KNIGHT RIDER - the Glen A. Larson creation that starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, who alongside a talking 1982 Pontiac Trans Am known as the Knight Industries 2000 (K.I.T.T., if you prefer) fought bad guys for an hour each week. While there have been several sub-par "reboot" efforts over the years, none have matched the original, and the long-rumored cinematic version (rights have changed hands repeatedly) never materialized. Now there's hope for a proper KNIGHT RIDER to ride again, as Justin Lin (FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, STAR TREK BEYOND)  is heading up a Machinima "Digital Series" for a 2017 launch.

Unless it's in the shell of a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am and offers "self-driving" as an option rather than a standard, I have zero interest in owning (or riding in) an "autonomous" car. One of the most important aspects of car ownership is driving, and for that reason alone - nevermind the fact that I'm seldom comfortable even with another human at the wheel due to perceived lack of my own control - and a vehicle that is devoid of a steering wheel is a prospect that is terrifying. That said, one of my favorite automakers - Kia - is set to unveil the stuff of my nightmares at SEMA 2016 in Las Vegas next month, and now there's a preview. Check it out...

It was over a year ago that I first featured SOCK PUPPET PARODY here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine, and they've kept busy in that time, racking up millions of plays on their send-ups of popular songs. Now comes a very special "Halloween Episode" of the show, and it's a good one, finding the sock puppets taking on the WHITE ZOMBIE classic, "More Human Than Human." Since the album it came from turned 21 this year (Rob Zombie actually performed ASTROCREEP 2000 in its entirety at Riot Fest), it's a track that can be considered timeless at this point. Check it out...

A great road trip is one of the most exciting activities to enjoy with family, and a getaway during fall is one of the best times to do it. I say that, of course, with the American Midwest in-mind, but any locale that boasts the true seasonality of autumn, complete with falling leaves and a robust color palette will make for a beautiful drive. When it comes to hauling family, there's only been a few occasions where I've actually driven more than our immediate crew, fully complete at four. Sure, I've driven plenty of larger vehicles with third-row seating and plenty of people-moving power, but seldom have I actually had a full load. This trip was an exception, one in which I could use the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (on-loan from Toyota USA) to it's potential, heading straight out of Illinois and heading north to our relatives' lake house.

Monday, October 10 2016 09:04

31 Days of Halloween: 2016 Halloween Hot Wheels

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Mattel has a long tradition of releasing themed-versions of their popular toys, and holidays have been a big part of that over the years - particularly with Hot Wheels. When fall rolls around, there has usually been a limited-edition Halloween-themed series available as a retailer exclusive, and for 2016 that's true once more... but the exact locations have been a bit trickier to pin down. This year's 8-car Halloween line has been popping up at select grocers (many Kroger-owned chains are rumored to have them) and drug stores. Check out this year's assortment below!

Back in the 1980s, Galoob Toys' Micro Machines first hit the scene and became a massive success for a number of years, eventually fading a bit before the small, West Coast toymaker was absorbed by the large, East Coast-based Hasbro. Along the way, Hasbro also acquired TONKA, since licensed out to Funrise Toys, current manufacturers of the iconic yellow vehicles and their many spinoffs. The reason why these acquisitions and licensing deals are important to this story is that the newly-released TONKA Tinys seem to carry a lot of DNA from all of these companies' past endeavors. While there have been plenty of Micro Machines copycats over the past three decades, none have felt as close to the real deal as these new Tinys from TONKA, and that's a pretty cool thing as nostalgia plays so heavily into what parents of today are introducing to their own kids. One decidedly modern spin, however, is that TONKA Tinys are essentially "Blind Boxed," and they tap into the very now trend of micro collectibles.

'Tis the Season for the annual arrival of the iconic Hess Toy Truck! Hess Corporation today announced that the 2016 Hess Toy Truck will be revealed and available for purchase starting on November 1 at 10:00 am EDT exclusively at www.hesstoytruck.com. This year's holiday truck will retail for $31.99 with free standard shipping and five Energizer® batteries included. The 2016 truck marks the 52nd year for the toy - a tradition that began back in 1964 with the release of the very first Hess Toy Truck. Despite "truck" being in the name, the annual release hasn't always been a truck, with past vehicles including helicopters, boats, RVs, race cars and more joining the fleet. 

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