Monday, September 29, 2008

Safety Dance!

So I don't like the politicking lately has been "we need a democrat/republican in office." it reminds me of the Futurama episode with That 80s Guy.

Here's a funny comic from  John Campbell and his comic Pictures for Sad Children:


So word has it we bought a new car.

And it is a newer car than the van, but not exactly "new."  Not that I wouldn't think of it as being new.  Since it is new to us.

Many things about it are new to us about the car.

like the size. compact.

Wicked cool how much space is left in the parking space with a compact car.

And then there is the driving experience...

The Gimpy the Wonder Taurus always had a smooth ride.  The van also.  But neither gripped the road like this car does.  On curves the van tried to pass itself, and Gimpy couldn't get up to a dangerous speed.

What I would like to tell the car salesmen we didn't buy cars from is this: consistency.  We dragged everything over a couple days and every one of them changed their stories in some horrible inconsistent way.  Like the guy in the Honda dealership.  His wife went from staying home with year and a half old baby and their single car, to 15 months ago he bought an Avalanche for a second vehicle because he just "needed a truck."  Now he might have shared the stories in a way that was confusing.  Perhaps when the baby was born they only had one car and now they have two, but he didn't say that.

I have a few stories that I share with customers, and what I try to do is keep the important details always the same.  Maybe I am more accustomed to seeing a customer more than once?

Learning to drive a stick has been getting easier as I deconstructed the way I was used to driving and inserted my control of the shifting.  I'm still rough; I dumped the clutch with my Grandmother riding shotgun.  But really like driving the car.  Did I mention Frenchie still fits in the trunk of the compact car?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yooper Weekend

So Friday we drove up north.

Not to Brainerd or Fargo or Ely, but to Upper Michigan.  My Grandma's cabin is over on Lake Gogebic and we enjoyed a nice quiet weekend of Saunas, hiking, and biking.  

On our way to Duluth we drove through the campgrounds in Banning State park to scope out choice camp sites there.  If we aren't going to hike into the woods, I like to have sites on the inside of curves so that as people drive around we don't have to look at their headlights.  Then we stopped at Fitgers and refilled our growler.  The Blueberry Wheat lacks the gentle subtlety of the Apricot and the rich mouth feel of the stout.  Though we haven't tried everything, I think the Apricot Wheat is the best followed by the stout.

Orchard's in Iron River sold us lunch of burgers and pie.  The wild blueberry pie is very good, and the cherry pie is also very good.

We stopped quite a bit driving up.  More than usual and it took nearly 6 hours becasue of that.  But it was nice easy driving, compared to trips that have been in snow or rain especially.  

The Porcupine Mountain State Park is one of my favorite state parks.  One of the more easily accessible trails, the Escarpment Trail, seems to have seen more traffic since I frequented the park and for a ways has lots of fencing to keep people onto the trail.  But my favorite trail, The Little Carp River Trail, is just as I remembered it.

One awesome thing about the LCRT is its annoying distance from civilization.  From Wakefield or Ontonogon it is roughly a million miles driving on a two lane road.  And then a ways down an old dirt road.  But unlike the Escarpment Trail's rocky path, the LCRT is all soft pine needles.  Excellent for hiking and tenting. Here's a nice map.  

I'm saving some significant stories for the next post about the wildlife.

there is something terribly broken about that last sentence.  lets take a moment.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rar is Toyota and the Honda didn't leave us feeling civil

So the salesman at the toyota dealer was nicer than the guy at the Nissan dealer.  And the guy at the Honda dealership had conflicting stories (which is it: did you buy an Avalanche as a second car or do you only have one car?!?!?).  Interesting how when a sale is drawn out over a few days how a story can change.

The Toyota was very nice.  But it didn't have the tachometer, and only had the 4 speed transmission.  And we really were looking for 5 speeds.

We test drove an '06 Civic which was awesome.  accept for a few things
1. why was the car in every 6k miles according to Carfax.  but didn't mention the sale to a dealership?
2. why was the battery replaced at 50k miles?  Why was the entire right tail lamp replaced when it was traded in?  
3. why was there a tic-tac-toe game scratched into the hood?!?

But this is not what killed the sale.

First off, the sticker price on this Civic was a little high.  Not by too much, but enough to give pause.  Second, why didn't the salesman change the pitch when we mentioned that the price was a bit high.

So why not a jetta.

We know the current owner.  We know the quality of maintenance it has received.  And the price is well below what the car is actually worth to a dealership.

All I have to do is  be a quick study for a standard transmission.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How Yar is Toyota

To quote Kathrine Hepburn “Oh she certainly was yar.”

We sat in a sedan of the Yaris, and it was spacious. But not exactly what we were looking for. But then we sat in the three door hatchback.

I don’t want to rave about features...



the back seat moved forward, back, and folded up flat. perfect for a French bike to ride on.

Something else that the Yaris had that I have never seen in a car is bolts holding the cover for the spare in place. Maybe to keep the road noise down? Something certainly did.

The car was pretty nimble, more so than the Versa. It accelerated a lot better, and gets better gas milage.

The salesman was also much nicer.


To be clear, we really liked the Versa.  But something that really seems to have pissed off the guy at the dealership is this:

We don't rush decisions.

The car did most of what we want in a car, however, we haven't test driven any other cars yet.  How could we tell if we like chocolate more than vanilla if we never tried the vanilla.  What about Neapolitan? 

So it was the end of the day.  So we drove two cars and seemed to like on more than the other.

But what really killed the sale was when he said "So you like the car and the price, why am I not filling out the paperwork."

wa wah.

Clearly we wanted to think about the decision.  The car is going to cost almost as much as a year of college and he wanted us to buy without thinking.  

Even if the car was a steal there needs to be some time to think.  The sandwich heavy portfolio doesn't always win.

First Impressions

This past weekend we made our first steps onto the dealerships.

It was pretty much what was expected.  For one, it was pouring down rain intermittently. I can only imagine that people at dealerships in the rain are serious about buying a car.  

The Toyotas we saw didn't excite us.

We haven't made it to a Honda one yet.

At Brother Yam's suggestion we test drove a Versa.  It was pretty nice.  The S model was missing an arm rest.  Which threw me off.  I like to rest my elbow on an armrest while driving.  The 1.8V4 was quiet and sitting idling eerily quiet.  Entering 35 though I had to stomp on the gas to get up to 75mph, but the tach never past 5000.  rpm at speed was between 2500-3000 which is what we were used to in the van, keep in mind the van had a 3.4v6.  The 5 speed automatic seemed to run pretty much in the 2000s even on side roads.  

Something that impressed me was the turning radius: 8 parking spaces.  roughly a circle twenty some feet on the outside.  I think it was Volvo that introduced the idea in a concept car during the late 90s but they put triangular windows in the A column.  Which the Versa had at the base of the A column.  not a lot of added visibility but something a little different.

We also test drove a used Versa.  Still had the 1.8 liter engine, but a different transmission.  The CVT was weird because it just kept going.  No hesitation as the gears changed because there wasn't a gear to change.  Pickup was much better in the used SL than the brand spanking new S.  I liked the feel of the leather steering wheel, the armrest in the front and back seat.  The leg room in the back seat was comparable to AirMalta.  The ride in the back seat was pretty nice overall.  The salesman didn't know if the glass was UV or not, but since it wasn't mentioned on the DOT label in the corner: I don't think it was.  What I didn't like, and this is a big issue for me was the lack of key for the SL.  Instead it is a prox card.  So by approaching the car and touching the handle the doors unlock.  

If you watch Top Gear perhaps you remember when Jeremy bought the Ford GT.  It had a similar system of keyless operation.  And was plagued with bugs.

Now imagine a car for less than 10% the cost of his car with a key fob that will not let you lock the doors and walk away if a key fob is still in the car.  Say we are going some place and want to leave Shannon's purse in the car.  ah Ah AHH.  Car unlocks itself.  And since a key fob it in the car, all a thief has to do is turn a knob on the dash.

The SL is not for us.  Maybe they have an S with an armrest somewhere.

Today we storm the Fords on Robert.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Will a Honda Fit?

We don't want a new minivan.  Too big, too bad of fuel economy.  

This past week gas has dropped like crazy but I don't see it sticking.  Remember from Econ 101, short run competitive equilibrium.  Since our "free" economy is quickly becoming a sham as yet another industry gets bailed out, I don't see any significant companies leaving the marketplace.   For the moment prices are low, but next week as consumer confidence is restored when Freddie and Franny come out of bankruptcy prices will rise.

But the Honda Fit might fit bikes the way we are used to cramming them in.  Which would be awesome.  If we could have all the characteristics of the van that we liked, without driving 18 feet of boat, or dragging around 3800 pounds; that would be the best.  

In the mean time, we have my parents '98 Taurus.  The car burns gas like there is no tomorrow but it runs.  So we are happy for the opportunity to shop around without renting.

We have managed to be a single car family and plan to keep it this way.  But we did explore the logistics of being a zero car family.  We would save a few thousand dollars a year in gas and maintenance, unless we get sick or something comes up.  It would also make it more awkward to get to some of the campgrounds we want to.

I do plan to bike to work for as long as I can this year.  I just need snow tires.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where are the rest of your pants?

It's Frenchie and Sir Walter relaxing by the Wisconsin boarder!

Shannon put the fire wood on her bike and we rode around the park laden thus.

God dammit.

It has been a while since I updated.

The last time I posted the van was running perfectly. Since then we went to St Croix State Park. Which was awesome! We went fishing. We went biking. We went hiking. We played Frisbee.

here are some pictures

The tent worked perfectly. The old Boy Scout favorite proved easier to break down than I even remembered. Which made the nieghbors jealous—with their raspberry shaped dome tent and a dozen different sizes of poles.

What we aren’t prepared to go without is esspresso. If I haven’t mentioned how awesome the 9 cup Bialetti mocca pot is, here I am saying an aluminum espresso pot that works on a camp stove or the kitchen burner has infinte utility. Every camping trip we’ve been on has had espresso. Which boggles other’s.

Frenchie didn’t like the washboard of the gravel roads in the park. My teeth didn’t fall out but my steel waterbottle did cartwheels. In fact, the water bottle worked pretty badly.

maybe...just maybe...old french road bikes are not mountain bikes. I know, it’s hard to believe but perhaps there is a difference.

So, as the weekend wrapped up it also got toasty out. We tried some of the Munger trail on our way out of Hinkley but Shannon’s tire started to seriously bulge. The three year old tires started to come apart in the middle of the tread. By the time we got back to the van the rubber was rubbing on the fender.

We were able to dodge a lot of traffic by taking 35w to the Cleveland exit and sneaking into St Paul through the U of M campus. We did stop at Fleet Farm in Blaine and finally picked up an axe. So we'll be able to chop our own tinder, which is awesome.

On our way back, the van was running a little hot, but, I figured that 90 degree heat would explain that away. It had been running a bit rough but I just figured that I was needing a bottle of seafoam.

Shannon had me pick up a kettle for canning. It sorta fit on the rack...

This past Saturday the engin temperature skyrocketed. So Shannon took it into the shop only to get bad news. antifreeze in the oil from the headgaskets. Crap.

what did the van get us at Upull?

300 bucks.

Monday I test rode a Crosscheck. On smooth surface it felt sorta like Frenchie, but without low speed squirrliness. On bumps it was a dream. Tonight I test rode a Big Dummy on my way home from work, which was also smooth on bumps, but the Crosscheck had more electricity.

Did I mention we are looking at buying a car?

The question they asked at work was :

"John, where are the rest of your pants???"