Category Archives: Automotive

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)?

Hotdogging It!

Every now and then I just have to laugh at what makes the news these days. I’m not talking about the incessant political news that is spewing these days, or even the complete over-saturation of stories about the helicopter accident last weekend.  No– I’m talking about the fact that a Weinermobile driver got a traffic warning.

The Weinermobile driver (drivers are called Hotdoggers) got pulled over by a Wisconsin traffic officer and was given a verbal warning about the state’s “Move Over Law”.  This law says if someone is pulled over on the side of the highway with their flashers turned on, you have to move to the next lane over from them or if that is not possible, to reduce your speed significantly.

Oscar Mayer was quick to announce how much training their Hotdoggers get before they are allowed to take to the road in the Weiner mobile, but I guess there will always be a slip up. Luckily instead of getting a fine and points on his license, the Hotdogger just got a warning.

What’s the whackiest “news” you’ve heard/seen recently?

2019 Crop Wrap Up

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I hear lots of farmers saying “2019,” and they sigh, “It is what it is. And it needs to be over.”  Yep.

For me, it was December 15th, 2018 when the guy ran into me and totaled my car, and from there it was the leg infection and the rain and now the kidney stone and this year just needs to be over and I’m going to start fresh on December 16th 2019! With Jury duty!  A whole new experience!

I was big on having ‘Experience Adventures’ when I was younger. I quit using that term at some point, but I’m still up for an adventure or experience and they keep coming. Attitude is everything. 

Got the soybeans out. Yield was terrible. Mostly just the weather caused that. No one had great yields, but some were OK. I had that one field that was short. The one I said made me sick to my stomach every time I looked at it. That entire field yielded 89 bushels. Well heck. That was a 10 acre field. Should have done 45 bushels each ACRE! Should have had half a semi load from there! Should have had 450 Bushels! I had some fields here at home that ran 40 – 50 bushels / acre. Don’t know what was up with that one field. Planted same day, same variety of bean. Too wet, too many deer eating the tops off, too cool… it is what it is.

Overall, my beans averaged 28 bushels / acre which is about half of what they should have done. Crop insurance will kick in and cover some of the yield loss. At least they got combined before they got snowed on. Price was on the lower side. But test weight was good and soybeans are almost always dry enough that they don’t need to be dried so all that was good.

Corn was done last week. I knew the yield looked good. Which is pretty amazing considering again, it was planted late, it was cool, it rained, it had windstorms, and then it froze early. It averaged 167 bushels / acre. Above average for me. It doesn’t make any sense considering everything done wrong, but it is what it is. With the raccoons pulling stalks down and wasting the corn, deer knocking them down and eating the corn, and turkeys pulling up young plants, it’s a wonder any survives. Every night you’d see deer out there eating. And as I rode in the combine and he finished the last field, we chased 6 raccoons out of the last rows.

And it was wet, but we knew that. The combine was saying 25% moisture. Delivered corn to the elevator (where it really matters) and the loads were between 24% and 28% moisture. It has to be dried to 15% to store it and that cost me $0.50 / bushel to dry it down. Cost a few thousand dollars for drying. Price wasn’t great to start with. It is what it is. A good year, better soils, less deer, it’s not unusual to average 200+ bushels / acre on some farms in some places. The “Pie-in-the-sky” goal is 300. Takes lots of management to make that happen.

My dad, before hybrid seeds, got 50 bu/Acre so he’d be impressed with the 167.

Crop insurance may kick some in as a price insurance coverage. (because I can buy “revenue” insurance too. NOTE: In fact, the agent was here. No payment on corn because even though price was low, the yield was good. They always get ya).

It froze before I could get any fall fieldwork done. I thought maybe with the warmer weather the last few days maybe it would go; I hooked the chiselplow up and ran out and tried and no. Three inches of frost yet and I should have known but I would be mad at myself if I didn’t try.  2019 – It is what it is.

I’m wondering if the warmer weather the last few days might have helped take the frost out? But it rained too and it’s too muddy to try. Oh well. It is what it is. Next year will be better.

I got some cool pictures of the combine at night.

In the end we didn’t make as much money as we do some years. But I’ve been saying we’ll be OK. And we will; We won’t go broke.

The difference between me and the really big farmers is a matter of a few more zero’s on our checks AND bills.

I asked Craig, who was combining my corn, how much they had left to do. He grunted. “A lot” he said. Later on I asked again. About 900 acres he figured. Yikes.

And of course, the propane shortage we had wasn’t helping but I think that’s passed. Even the coop elevator was shut down because their natural gas was turned off. No one had ever heard of that before. Forty years, no one has heard of that. Craig said they use 1500 gallons of LP / day to dry. One day they got 500 gallons. So they just have to wait.

One guy I watch on YouTube (Mn Millennial Farmer) has a huge, multi-thousand gallon tank and contracts his LP for the year. Yep, he has a contract, he just can’t get it delivered either. He wanted a semi-full, got ½ a load.

I’ve heard it was Illinois’ fault. They usually are a month ahead of us combining corn and they don’t usually need to dry it. And it’s not usually this cold this time of year. It is what it is.

Next year will be better!   Right??