Category Archives: Automotive

Fumes

My father didn’t cook.  I can’t even recall him ever making a sandwich, much less cooking.  He did chop the onions and celery for stuffing on Thanksgiving (the only time I ever saw him chop anything) and late in life he did start making bouillabaisse occasionally – a dish with which my mother resolutely refused to be associated. 

Of course, being a middle-class American male, he did the outdoor grilling (although my mother prepared anything that was going on the grill).  I can still envision my father dousing the coals, lighting the match and flinging it from as far as he could manage.  The grill would practically explode in flames; my father used gasoline, not lighter fluid to start the fire.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as lighter fluid until I was an adult out on my own.

You’d think that having watched my father blow up the grill on a regular basis growing up that I would have a good sense of the power of gasoline.  Three weeks ago, after the last measurable snow, I got my snowblower out for the first time this winter.  It was given to me by a neighbor who moved to Chicago; he left his gas can to me as well.  As I was adding gas to the machine I noticed that the spout had sprung a leak and to keep the gas from running all over, I held the spout together with my gloved hand.  Since my glove was now wet with gas, I pulled a second glove from my pocket and pulled it on over the first.

When I got all done and went inside, I pulled off the gloves along with all my now-sweaty clothing and threw it all in the washing machine with a few other dirty items from my hamper.  Now some of you are probably already shaking your head, but I was still clueless until I opened the washing machine later to the overpowering small of gas.   If I had known I was about to do something stupid, it would have been easy to find online advice about gas on clothing.  But since I hadn’t known, now I had a washing machine full of gas fume-filled clothing.

It took me a full week and at least six washings (some with just vinegar and water, some with detergent) before I was willing to put the clothes in the dryer and even then I ran the dryer on air dry for over an hour.  Now that it’s been a couple of weeks, I’ve lost track of what clothes were in that load but I’m still feeling compelled to smell things as they come out of the washer.  (Oh, and I threw the gloves away when I realized what I had done.)

Done anything foolish recently that could have been avoided with a bit of advice?

Driving Dreams

For the most part, I love my car.  I love that she’s red, I love that she is a hybrid.  I love having a hatchback again.  I really like that she tells me when it’s time to change the oil, based on her internal workings and not an arbitrary date.  And she’s small.  No Intimida or Sherpa here; with a tank capacity of 8+ gallons, my monthly gas budget is about $30.

There is one frustrating thing though.  She feels the need to let me know when tire pressure has changed, with a big ding and a reminder every time I start the car once she has noticed a pressure issue.  This usually happens twice a year… when it first gets cold and then again in the late spring when it starts to get really warm.  I usually just drive down to the dealership; they top the tires off right away and I don’t even have to get out of the car. 

But this fall, the pressure notification has gone off TWICE.  When we had a couple of seriously cold days last month and the again this past weekend when it was warmer.  I will admit that I whined a bit to the service guy and he said that it was happening a lot this fall since the temperatures have fluctuated quite a bit.

While he was adjusting the air, I daydreamed about my fantasy car.  I’d like to have those little lights on the sideview mirrors that indicate when someone is coming upon alongside you.  I would love to have built-in GPS and a north/south/east/west display.  Heated seats would be nice.  Of course, my fantasy car would actually drive itself; of course that could only be supplanted by my ultimate fantasy car — a transporter.  “Beam me over, Scotty.”

Tell me about your fantasy transportation. 

Heavy Lyfting

There was some serious budgeting for the trip to San Diego with YA.  First off, the trip would not have been possible at all except for free airline tickets that I won last summer as well as all the award points that I’ve saved up at work over the past few years (they paid for the hotel and the zoo/safari park).  That left us with food and transportation.

We had an Excel spreadsheet for all of this and the transportation was the most challenging.  While the airport, the zoo and Balboa Park are all fairly closely clustered, the safari park was quite a distance.  Plus we were working with a limited selection of hotels due to the budget (I only had so many award points).  I initially just wanted to rent a car, but that got expensive fast with overnight parking as well as parking at many of the attractions we wanted to visit.  We used a website we found for approximating taxis in San Diego – not much better of a price point.

YA suggested we should just use Uber/Lyft like she did on her last trip and the initial research showed quite a bit of savings over rental cars and taxis.  But I was hesitant.  I’ve never used Uber or Lyft and it made me really nervous.  YA said she would take care of it all.

The first morning, the Lyft driver showed up at our house 10 minutes after she set it up.  Perfect.  Since that was the transfer I was the most nervous about, I could relax.  Uber/Lyft are just big software applications that hook drivers up with passengers.  More than once during the trip, we had a driver change while we were waiting; at the zoo the driver changed twice after we set up the initial request, which ended up getting up back to the hotel sooner than we had anticipated.  After doing a bit of research I figured out why it’s cheaper and why taxi associations are up in arms.  Uber/Lyft drivers are not employees – they are individual contractors and the software just puts them together with folks who want a ride.  No fleets of cars to maintain, no huge workforce to deal with employee issues, insurance, etc.  (I did this research because the day before we were to come home Uber and Lyft both announced they were going to stop service in California (that night!) due to a new law that the state has passed concerning the employee status of drivers.  Luckily within a couple of hours there was a stay granted so that Uber/Lyft can continue challenging the new law, so we were still able to arrange a transfer to the airport the next morning.

Really the only problem that I found was that both Uber and Lyft driver rely completely on GPS, unlike taxi drivers who actually do a lot of training and testing before getting their licenses.  So if the GPS is off, then the ride is off.  On our first full day, we headed up to Escondido to the Safari Park.  It’s a long haul, about 40 minutes and YA had her phone open to the Lyft app the entire time so we could track where we were along the route (apparently this is “how it’s done”).  As we approached the main entrance to the park, there was a clear turn off and a huge sign but our driver went right by it and turned left at the next driveway, which was exactly what GPS was telling him to do.  Unfortunately this was some sort of service entrance with a security gate; it took YA a couple of minutes to convince the driver to go back to the first entrance to the park.  Luckily, you pay upfront for your trip, not by the miles or the time you are actually in the car, so this kind of thing doesn’t jack up your price.

So every single one of our transfers was done by Lyft.  YA says she likes Lyft better than Uber but she can’t articulate why.  It doesn’t seem like the two companies can be that different; several of our drivers had both Lyft and Uber stickers on their windshields.  But whatever the difference, it worked out quite well for us, saved us money and I survived using a new technology.  Of course, we’ll see how it goes if I ever had to set up a Lyft on my own!

Any new technology that you’ve survived recently?  Or that is driving you crazy?

New Toys

Husband’s new smoker/grill arrived on Tuesday. You can see it in the header photo.  It is quite the machine, something my dad would have called a “delicate piece of equipment” given all the complexity involved in using it. It is iron, true. It took two trips to the hardware store just to unpack it. We needed a tin snips to cut the thick, wire strapping that secured its protective wrappings. Then we found it was firmly attached to a heavy wooden pallet by screws that had odd heads needing  a bit with a square head for the electric screwdriver.  I am thankful I managed to remove the screws without stripping them.  What would we have done then?!

Husband has waited years for this grill with the same anticipation as a child waiting for a long hoped-for special toy at Christmas. His first smoked sausage and country style pork ribs turned just as he wanted.  We are truly blessed with good cooking equipment.

What is the most complex piece of equipment you ever had to operate? What is your favorite cooking vessel or utensil. 

 

This is a follow-up to my rant about my car dealership about a year and a half back.  I complained that they tried to sell me tires when I really didn’t need them yet.

Fast forward to last week when my car (Brekke) started making noise – it sounded like something was stuck under the car and was only audible when the wheels were in motion.  And it was variable – some times louder than others.  The last time I had a car noise like this (back when I had Civetta the Civic) it turned about to be brake pads.  In addition to the noise, the check tire pressure light went off again – it was finally time to think about new tires.

But I didn’t really trust the dealership to do tell me the truth or charge me fairly – such a sad state of affairs.  Back when I complained about the dealership the first time, Anna (I think it was Anna) mentioned that she’d had good luck with a car shop near our house.  That reminded me that another friend had also said good things about them.  It took a few days to get Brekke in to see them, but they had a spot yesterday.  When I described the noise, I did mention brake pads (and then kicked myself on the way home).

I was completely bowled over when they called me mid-day.  The brakes and pads were fine for now – no need to replace.  Turns out that another consequence of the pandemic is that newer cars with metal brake pads are not getting enough use and getting rust build-up, which then makes noise.  They cleaned it all up.  Then we talked about tires and agreed upon which ones and getting them aligned.  When I went to pick up the car, the mechanic said to be sure to send in for a rebate on the tires and got me the right form so I didn’t have to print it out off the internet.  Very nice service.

They could have easily told me the brake pads were bad and replaced them – I would never have known the difference.  And they certainly could have tried to soak me for much more expensive tires.  So I am entirely satisfied and although I hope I don’t have to go see them again any time soon, I’m thinking that they are my new mechanics!

Have you gotten any outstanding customer service lately?

Wheels

On this day in 1896, Henry Ford drove his first Ford through the streets of Detroit. I can only imagine what people thought when they saw it. I wonder what the horses in the city did and thought when they saw it.

My first car after I got my license was a little Nash Rambler that was missing the pedal on the foot feed, so I had to press my foot on the metal bar the foot feed would have been attached to had it been there. My first real car was a Chevy Chevette that my parents got for me when I was in college.  Now we drive a Honda van and a Toyota pickup.  My father loved to buy and sell cars, and the last car he bought was a Subaru when he was 93.  He said it was the nicest car he ever had. I am glad he got a chance to drive it.

What was your first vehicle? Do you have any vehicular prejudices?

Driving Miss Daisy

I saw a news story about a high-speed chase in the Seattle yesterday.  The owner of the car struck two vehicles before he headed onto the interstate, where he hit speeds as high as 109 mph.  At one point he drove on a popular pedestrian trail (luckily nobody was on the trail right then).  The police ended up throwing down spikes to end the chase.

During the chase, one officer thought he saw a dog in the driver’s seat and this was confirmed when they finally got the car stopped.  A “sweet” pit bull was in the driver’s seat and the car owner was steering from the passenger seat.  The news story didn’t say who was controlling the gas pedal.  The owner of the car said he was “trying to teach the dog to drive.”  The charges filed against him include DUI, reckless driving, hit-and-run and felony eluding.

Personally I would rather teach my dog something a little more useful – like changing the sheets on my bed every Saturday or how to mop the kitchen floor.

What would you like your pets to do for YOU?

Auto Update

Finally – some science I can completely get behind! An article last week declared that drivers of expensive cars are jerks.

One study measured this by clocking vehicles at various crossroads. It found that drivers of more “flashy vehicles” are less likely to stop for pedestrians.  And not just that, but as the cost of the car goes up, the likelihood that the driver will even slow down decreases.  The researchers speculate that luxury car owners “feel a sense of superiority over other road users” and were thus less able to empathize with lowly sidewalk-dwellers.  And I’m sure no one will be surprised that the race and gender of the pedestrian matters as well.

Apparently this discovery of a car-value-to-jerkish-behavior correlation isn’t new; The Journal of Transport and Health, backed up a Finnish study published in January found that men who own flashy vehicles are more likely to be “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic.” According to the study “these personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others.”

Obviously no one wants to tar every single luxury-car owner with one broad brush, but the generalities don’t look good. We just have to worry about how all the small, cheap, beater car owners will now feel smug!

What’s one extra component you’d like to have on your car? Extra smugness points to anybody who doesn’t have a car!!

Best Laid Plans

Over the weekend I made thank you cards for the good Samaritans that pulled me out of the snow last week, baked two loaves of zucchini bread, wrapped them and tied them with ribbon. When it was time to go to dog class Monday night, I put everything in a tote bag and took it along.  Neither of my Samaritans was there.  One is on vacation in Mexico, the other under the weather and skipping class.  I left one loaf for the other staff to enjoy and YA has already polished off quite a bit of the second loaf!

When have you had best laid plans go awry?

Stuck!!

I know we’ve had “kindness of strangers” stories before, but here is another.

Took Guinevere to her doggie class Monday night.  The school is built on a hill and there are two parking areas, one up top that we’ve been warned is occasionally ticketed and the one that goes down the hill in the back.  I have always parked down the hill.

It was only about an inch of snow and I wasn’t very worried until I got down to the bottom of the hill and turned around to get into my favorite parking spot and slid a bit.  So I thought maybe I should park up top, just in case.  Now, you should know , I don’t have great tires, but I don’t have a great need for them, living on a well-plowed county road and surrounded by other well-plowed thoroughfares (50th, Crosstown, 35W, 100).  But this was one of those times when I needed better tires;  I could not get back up the hill.

There is a spot off the parking lot, behind a bank of garages and I thought “I’ll zip in there and when I come out I can get a little speed to get me up the hill”.  If I had really looked at the area I was about to enter, I would not have done this. It clearly hadn’t been plowed since the LAST snow – once I was back there, I could not get out.  And to add insult to injury, for some reason I did not have any gloves in my pocket.

In between the two halves of the class I tried shoveling out and did get the car moved closer to the parking lot, but then got stuck again.  When I went back inside and started to call AAA, Terry (one of the instructors) said “Let’s go take a look.”  He and John (who I had never met) came out, attached a big strap to the back of my car and basically pulled me out of the snow and all the way to the top of the driveway backwards.  I was able to park up top and finish doggie class!

I have a thank you card design in mind and I think I will deliver them with zucchini bread next Monday night.

What the last kindness you’ve received (or given)?