Driving the blue CR-V almost exclusively for the past couple of weeks, it put the current condition of the silver CR-V into stark perspective. I took her out to get some supplies this weekend and became acutely aware of how how poorly the windshield wipers worked, filthy the interior was, how lousy the tires were, and the fact that an exhaust leak by the muffler has been heating up the plastic in the wheel well and melting it slowly over time. Before finishing my errands, I stopped in to the auto parts store and grabbed some new blades. At home I backed her up to the garage and spent a good half an hour vacuuming out the cabin and emptying out accumulated trash, which made a big difference inside. This morning, with a fresh paycheck, I ordered four new tires to be delivered to the garage down the street, and after they are balanced and mounted, I’m going to have them hunt down the exhaust issue and pray she doesn’t need an entirely new exhaust system. Eventually she needs to go in for a clutch, which I’m saving up for a little further down the road, but with new tires and a less flammable exhaust she’ll be in better shape.
Later on Saturday I cut out a section of 1/16″ 3-ply luan and laid it under the rear cabin floor of the blue car to reinforce that area. Knowing we’ll be loading her up with lots of cargo in the next couple of years I don’t want to be worrying about breaking anything. I also ordered a set of floor mats for the whole car to cut down on the wear and tear on the carpet, seeing how rough we’ve been on the silver car for the past fourteen years.
Meanwhile, our plates and paperwork came in at the dealer, so I’m going to head up there tomorrow night to pick those up.
We’ve put 150+ miles on the CR-V so far, and I’m very happy with our purchase to date. It’s a pleasure to drive. It feels both nimble and solid on the road—a little chunkier than the 2006, which it is—but when I get on the gas it gets up and goes. We’re still getting used to the controls, and learning about most of the features. All of the new lane-sensing technology is a big shift; the display on the dash flashes SLOW when the car thinks you’re approaching something too fast. The lane-changing warnings are a mixture of lights and a chime; I liked how the Chevy flashed quietly in my peripheral vision better. The seats are firm and comfortable, and the adjustments make them even better. Overall, it’s a hell of a car for the money.
One thing that I don’t like is the rear bed situation: Honda cheaped out on the material they used to cover the spare tire well. At different times in the past, I have thrown a pressure washer, pallets of water, two Costco shopping carts worth of merchandise, several hundred pounds of tools, Scout car parts, and people in the rear of the 2006, sometimes all at once. I’ve often looked at the rear of the car squatting down over the wheels and wondered if I overloaded it a tiny bit, but I never once worried about breaking the rear deck. Maybe that’s because it famously uses a removable folding table as the rear floor. But in the 2024 it feels like cheap cardboard. I’m going to buy a 4×4′ section of 1/4″ sanded plywood and cut a custom floor to drop in under the carpet—or, better yet, just pull the OEM piece entirely and cover the plywood with an OEM Honda rubber floor tray.
I’m shocked to admit both Ford and Chevrolet have beaten Honda in CarPlay integration hands-down. Granted, we were driving upscale models of their SUVs, so we got upgrades like extra-large displays. Honda’s integration isn’t as technologically savvy, but it does get the job done. Having test-driven multiple makes of car over the last couple of years, I wouldn’t consider a car if it didn’t have CarPlay. GM’s recent announcement that they’re going to discontinue CarPlay and go with some home-brewed infotainment system baffles me both because they did an excellent job with it in both examples we drove, and because it’s so monumentally difficult to do infotainment correctly. They’re going to have to hire a whole development team to build something half as good.
Yesterday I spent more money in one day than I have since I bought this house, and while part of me is thrilled, the other part is a little queasy. In the morning over coffee, I locked in plane tickets for a trip to Portugal in the early summer, right after Finn gets out of school. We’ve got friends who own an AirBnB in the city of Porto, and we locked in a date with them last week. I’ve got a line on a house sitter for Hazel, and I’m making those inquiries this week to reserve his time. Normally, I’m lousy at planning things like this out far in advance, but I’m trying to learn from past mistakes this year, and when these opportunities arise, you have to jump on them.
In the afternoon, after careful consideration and an assist from Dr. Gebler in the negotiation phase, we bought a new car to replace the Accord. This is a 2024 Honda CR-V EX in Canyon River Blue, optioned out with the same features the 2006 has (electric everything, moonroof, cruise, etc.) plus heated front seats, an electric driver’s seat, dual climate controls, lane-keeping assist, and a backup camera. We did a quick test drive to make sure the windshield didn’t make Jen sick, then pulled the trigger and got it for $50 over dealer invoice. The salesman couldn’t have been nicer, and frankly the process was much smoother than I was expecting. The only hiccup was waiting for the detailing crew to get it ready for me. After everyone else left for home (it was a complicated commute involving two cars and late homework). I drove it home solo while talking to Mom with the hands-free phone hookup and felt like I was on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. And for an automatic, it’s really nice to drive.
Future plans for it include aftermarket remote start, a set of Honda rails and roof racks, trailer hitch, and rubber floor mats throughout. And I’m not a fan of the stock wheels; I’ll have to keep an eye out for a set of these at the pick and pull yards around town.
Meanwhile, the ’06 is in the driveway patiently waiting for new tires and a clutch rebuild, which will come first on the list once money issues get sorted out.
I mailed off the title and other release information for the Accord this afternoon, and once that’s been received and filed, we should be getting an electronic deposit from the insurance company for the value of the vehicle. While digging through my records for the proper paperwork I came across the original CarMax listing for it, as well as the original loan paperwork. We bought it with 25,000 miles back in 2012 and hit the deer at 102,939, for an average of ~7,080 miles a year. I’m sure COVID had a huge impact on this number, but even if I subtract three full years, that’s still a little less than 10K per year. With the ending valuation from USAA, the Accord only depreciated $636/year in the 11 years we owned it. The other interesting thing is that our APR in 2012 was 4%; right now USAA is at 6%. We were able to pay it off in 2017 a few years ahead of schedule due to some well-timed freelance checks coming in, and I hope we can do the same with whatever we wind up buying this year. I updated the research chart with some new numbers and a down payment of $12,000.
After some miscommunication with USAA and Enterprise regarding the wildly overpriced rental we were given in New York, I finally got an excellent CSR on the phone and she straightened everything out. One thing I learned is that our rental will only be covered until next Wednesday, and we’ll have to return it then or pay to extend it. We can get by with one car for a while with some careful oversight of our complicated calendars, but it will be good to have two foul-weather cars on the road as soon as we can.
We still haven’t heard anything from the USAA about the Accord as of this morning, but they assure me the very expensive rental bill for the shiny Chevy Trailblazer out in the driveway will be covered. It was a very comfortable car to drive home: heated seats, dual climate controls, CarPlay, and a host of other whiz-bang features we are not used to at Lockardugans’ Luddite Car Emporium and Repair Facility. It’s a CUV, so it’s slightly smaller than the CR-V and suffers from the same annoying design problems other CUVs we’ve driven do: little to no visibility over either shoulder, tiny rear porthole windows, and a bit of cheapness to the finish. This one is the RS model so it’s “sportier” (I suspect that just means some badging, racing stripes and fancier seats) but we averaged about 36MPG on the way home according to the on-board computer. Not too shabby.
I spent some time over the break doing some research into new and used cars and broke my top choices into two main categories: midsize pickup trucks and SUVs. I’m really only interested in Honda for the latter, but I think I might have to add the RAV-4 to this list just to be complete:
What I’m seeing is that the Fords and the Honda are the top contenders; as much as I’d love a new Tacoma, the gas mileage on this and the Ridgeline are just terrible. Apparently the Tacoma is brand new for 2024 but I wouldn’t buy a first-year model of anything for any amount of money. I’m thinking ahead to the next five years and having to haul a ton of stuff in and out of houses and (hopefully) to college; for that I’d like a quad-cab pickup with towing capacity—ideally the Travelall will fit this role too, but that would be toward the end of the 5-year plan for that truck unless we win the lottery. And to be honest, stuff like heated seats and CarPlay are exceptionally nice—I’ve been very spoiled to jump in the car and have it immediately pair with my phone to start displaying my route on the touchscreen. The other big consideration is price; I don’t know what they’re going to give us for the Accord but I’m shooting for $10K down on whatever vehicle we decide upon. I’d like to get the payment below or as close to $400/mo. as possible; we’ll see who can give us the best interest rate and terms before we go shopping.
I’ve been dreaming about what kind of new car I’d buy for years now, after we bought a Honda Accord to replace Jen’s Saturn. The thinking then was that we’d have two kids and I’d need a commuter with enough space to move them and all their crap, and I wanted something that got reasonable gas mileage. For some reason I focused on a midsize sedan, and we looked at several Accords at the local CarMax. This decision was also influenced by a trip to Gettysburg I took with my folks; my Dad had just come back from a serious health scare and wanted to do some things on his bucket list while he was feeling healthy, and I needed something big enough and easy enough for him to enter and exit without a child seat. We looked at several Accords and I settled on a gray off-lease LX model with the barest of options available.
It’s been a solid car for our family since we got it, rarely complaining and completely dependable over the course of 60,000 miles and eight years. I paid it off as quickly as possible, and without that monthly hit to the bank account I’ve been maintaining it carefully, knowing it would be with us until the wheels fell off. But it’s a sedan and not a wagon (I am solidly a wagon person), the steering wheel is completely uncomfortable for long-distance travel, the passthrough from the trunk to the rear seat is tiny (big enough for a pair of skis or four 2×4″s) and the headlights are way too dim. and, it’s a sedan. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of replacing it for something else that we all like better (Jen is not a fan) and which might provide more utility vs. the lack of a car payment for several years now. I clearly missed the most obvious gift I could have been given: sky-high resale rates on used cards during the pandemic. Oh, well, I thought. I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with the Gray Ghost here.
[cue ominous foreshadowing music]
Finn and I loaded up for a trip to Mom’s house for Thanksgiving and set out Tuesday afternoon, and made our way through rain and fog and the darkness in Pennsylvania with little trouble. We were about 3 miles from Mom’s house, Finn was asleep in the seat next to me, and I had a podcast playing in my AirPods. A flash appeared from my left and suddenly the windshield filled with a very large buck, who we hit at 65mph pretty much head-on. Both airbags blew immediately and the car slewed to the left; I turned into the skid but all four tires had lost grip and we did a 360 until we were sitting in the fast lane facing back over the other way. Finn woke up and asked why the airbags were in her lap, and I asked her to roll the window down to help air out the car. I tried to call my Mom but the phone failed to connect, and found that I couldn’t call anyone in my contact list. I did call 911 and while I was talking to that lady a cruiser passed us on the other side, hit the lights, and made a U-turn to get to us.
Finn and I waited while the cops set up some flares, and another officer loaded us into his cruiser to take us over to the Costco to wait for Mom. I sat in the perp cage and gave him my info and he gave me a printout of the police report to pass on to the insurance agency. We both made out fine; there’s no injury at all other than a slight burn on my right hand from the airbag, but the car is totaled. I stopped over to the towing lot to empty it out the next morning and was shocked to see how much it had pushed the radiator backwards into the engine. She isn’t coming back from this one.
With a heavy heart I emptied out all of our stuff, going so far as to pull the jack and tools from the trunk and all of our registration information, and left her to her fate in a rural impound lot miles from home. She was a good car and treated us well, and I’m sad this was the way she went out.
So now I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to replace her with. I have looked longingly at crew cab pickups for years, and the utility of having a four-door vehicle with a bed outside the crew compartment is very tempting. I’d go with a mid-size Tacoma or maybe even a Ford Maverick depending on their price. Another option is to double down and get a newer CR-V, although their interiors have gone more upscale and the U in utility has been downgraded somewhat. Jen has requested a manual transmission but the options there are few and far between; basically we’d need to buy an astronomically-priced sportscar or one of three crossover-type vehicles (hello there, Bronco) but she doesn’t want a Subaru.
I’m going to take some more time with this decision and try to find a vehicle we’ll all be happy with for a long time; working from home means there are only a few times when not having a car will jam someone up—but it’s going to be tricky.
Today I’m on Week 27 of my Invisalign trays, which means I’ve done a half a year with them so far. Looking at both the trays and my teeth I have to be honest and say that I don’t see a huge difference yet. This is not to say that my teeth don’t hurt on Thursday mornings when I take the new trays out; my eyeteeth are screaming bloody murder for the first 2-3 days and then things settle down. There was a period where I was certain my two front teeth were straightening out but that seems to have stalled as the trays continue to push my side molars out to make room for everything. I was getting discouraged, and then went for a checkup to the orthodonist, who assured me everything was going smoothly. The then handed me three more boxes of trays and sent me home. I opened up the final box to compare the trays and saw that by week 70(!!?!!) things should be straight and even. If my shitty math is correct, I’ll see a major improvement by next October.
I drove down to Bob’s on Saturday to continue working on the drywall in the upper hallway, and I took the CR-V. Curious to see what kind of mileage she was getting, I noted the odometer reading when I filled up before leaving town and then when I topped it off before returning home. She’s getting 22.5MPG, which is right in the middle of the US Department of Energy’s listed averages for the model (technically she’s doing better than the other manual models listed). For 150K miles, that’s a good sign; the engine still has power and the clutch is still strong. We did notice that there’s some water intruding into the cabin on the driver’s side at the bottom of the door, so I’ll have to look into a replacement gasket for the door to see if that seals things up.
Bob’s hallway shaped up a lot better that I was expecting; he’d asked us to pull the wallpaper off the walls a couple of months ago and mentioned hiring someone out to do it; I don’t want to subject workmen to his supervision so I’ve been tackling a lot of this stuff myself. The wallpaper came off after some pretty bloody fighting, leaving a cratered battlefield in its wake. I hit all of the walls with an orbital sander and then mudded the divots to smooth things out. After block sanding it all, I primed everything twice and fixed a couple of small issues in a few areas. All that’s left is a 5″x5″ square of 3/4″ drywall to patch a hole and a small area over one door, and the whole thing should be done. Next I’ve got to climb up into his attic and reorganize the insulation, which is all cattywampus and not covering the ceiling evenly.
The CR-V is back on the road and running happily, but we’ve got a Maintenance light on the dashboard, which could mean any one of a number of things. Typically this means she’s reminding us to change her oil, but that was done less than 1500 miles ago and the alert shouldn’t be coming back up. I figured I’d bite the bullet and buy a cheapo OBD2 scanner to hook up to the car and see if it threw any codes; in typical Amazon fashion I ordered the unit over morning coffee and it arrived later this afternoon. Plugging it in to the car, it took a minute to talk to the car and revealed no codes. It is probably just the oil maintenance light coing back on, in which case I can reset it in 10 seconds; knowing it’s not about to explode for other reasons is a good thing.
In the car on my way home from karate this evening we heard about Bitcoin dropping in value because of some exchange doing something or another, and Finn asked what Bitcoin actually was. I started out by asking her about the concept of money, and then explained government-backed securities, and stocks, and then tried to explain Bitcoin to the best of my abilities. I think I got it about 60% correct, and ended with an explanation of what a Ponzi scheme is, which I figure at least puts me in the ballpark. Finn listened and answered questions and was very interested to know if all of our bank accounts were FDIC insured. Defector did a very good explanation of what all the fuss is about, and I suddenly understand a lot more about what NPR had been reporting on.
One of my favorite podcasts, You’re Wrong About, did a format change last year when one of the hosts, Michael Hobbes, left for greener pastures. I like the other host but I don’t dig her new format all that much, so I ended my subscription. He’s now doing a new podcast called If Books Could Kill, which reviews single-serving pop nonfiction books you see in airport newsstands. The first episode is about Freakanomics, and it’s an excellent takedown of a factually bullshit narrative. As someone who has made a big part of his professional life about producing and promoting factual scientific information, I found this fascinating. Subscribed!
I was down in DC three weeks ago for a work thing, and because I had to hump a bunch of video gear from the office to my old CEO’s house as well as meet up with a bunch of folks for lunch, I drove the Accord. We were eating at a restaurant I’d never been to before, so Siri took me in and dropped me at an empty parking spot right out in front of the place. I went in, lunch was had, and we left two hours and five minutes later—just enough expired time for the Accord to collect a $50 ticket. The ink was still warm when I pulled it from the wiper blade. Last week I went online to pay it, grumbling, and found a cryptic message that said I owed $0. Puzzled, I waited for the official paperwork to arrive. Yesterday I got two (?!?) letters from the DC government that confirmed things: the officer hadn’t turned in his paperwork on time, so by law I owed nothing. That was a nice gift.
We got the CR-V back from the body shop yesterday, looking like a half-brand-new vehicle. The list of stuff they replaced was long, but the visible stuff included a new bumper, bumper surround, front fender, and weatherstripping; the rear hatch opens and closes again, and the spare tire hangs straight. It’s good to have our old girl on the road again, even with 150K on the clock, and I hope we can keep her going for another 50. Now I need to bust out the buffer to shine up the sheet metal that wasn’t sanded and repainted so that it matches correctly.
When I had the Baby taken out in 2017, the doctors had to do some extra cutting and trimming while they were under the hood, and one of the things they removed was my gall bladder. As a result, fatty foods and I have had a love/hate relationship: I love to eat them, and I hate what they do to me. When your gall bladder is AWOL, there’s nothing to break those foods down as well as they should be broken down, so things get unpleasant. I started taking ox bile supplements about four years ago, and while they seemed to make a little difference, it wasn’t the difference I was hoping for. My bottle went dry about two weeks ago, so I ordered a larger dose: I went from 500mg to 1000mg, and the capsules grew to the size of pool floats. I started taking them last week, and my body immediately decided that something was wrong. They gave me the world’s worst case of heartburn; it felt like I’d swallowed a hot toaster and it was stuck at the top of my throat. I had to go lie down, it was so bad. A couple of Tums and some time solved that problem, but I was still burping constantly for hours afterward. I’m not giving up on the ox bile, but I’m going to order 500mg capsules and take two a day in the hope that it’ll make a difference.
I drove to Easton on Friday afternoon to help Karean with a long-delayed project. One of the joists holding her deck up was rotted out, making a section of the floor right outside her back door sag. We’d tried to schedule something in the spring but the weather washed us out. This time there was rain in the forecast for Friday night, so I couldn’t take the Scout, and Jen needed the CR-V. I ran to the Bass Pro Shop and bought a cheap pair of strap-mounted roof racks for the Accord, installed them, threw my 28′ ladder on top. With a trunkful of tools and a change of clothes, Finn and I drove out and got to Easton early enough for me to cut the old joist out, pull the screws from the deck, and run to Lowe’s for a replacement before a giant thunderstorm blew through and drenched everything. We hung out and caught up that evening while the kids played video games, watched a movie, and hit the hay for an early wake-up. In the morning Karean and I walked downtown to pick up breakfast, then started replacing the beam. By about 11AM we had the new joist cut down and in place, and by 1PM everything was screwed in place and sturdy.
I had to pack up and haul ass back home because Jen was pulling triple duty at her Dad’s house taking care of him post-surgery, as well as trying to work and monitoring the dog, who was either out back hunting lizards or wandering the house whining. Finn and I transferred tools to the Scout and took that down, thinking there was work to be done, but we wound up taking it easy. He seems to be in good spirits, and apart from some minor repairs there wasn’t a lot we could do other than spend time with him, which I think he appreciated.
On the ride home the CR-V started having some issues when the AC compressor cycled on, so I told Jen to keep it off for the ride home until we can get it fixed. This means we’ve got three cars without operable A/C; the Accord is just blowing air and I pulled the condenser and ductwork from the Scout years ago (it never had a compressor.) So first up we get the CR-V sorted out, and then we’ll figure out what’s wrong with the Accord. Why does this kind of thing always happen at the beginning of a vacation or during the hottest week of the year?