Tag Archive for 'car'

Insert Beach Boys Reference Here

I am, in fact, alive and well, if lacking in new and interesting news. The last week has involved a lot of shopping and driving and general preparations for the big cruise. This year my parents are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by taking the honeymoon they never had, and they’re kind enough to take my sister and I along. We’ll be taking a Carnival lines cruise in the Caribbean with stops including San Juan, St. Thomas, Aruba, Dominica, and Barbados. Our plane leaves Sunday and we’ll be back on the Fourth.

I expect to have grand adventures to report–snorkeling! rum! rainforests! coconuts! sugar cane! sunburns! rum!–and pictures to go along with them. My research indicates that, although I am not permitted to drink onboard the ship, I am of legal drinking age in the ports we’re visiting–with the possible exception of Dominica. I haven’t managed to find information on the legal drinking age there because Google is convinced that what I really want is information about the Dominican Republic. In any case, the important thing here is that I get to enjoy visiting the rum distilleries more than, say, my little sister. And mostly it’s so that I get to enjoy making Pirates of the Caribbean references just a little more often. 😛

Anyone interested in getting a postcard from the Caribbean should drop me a line at gnome[at]silver-starlight.net with the appropriate information. I will try my best to be good about doing that this time.

In car news, we hit 301 miles today, which means that the engine is officially broken in and long distance road trips are now permitted. This is good because, once we get back from the cruise, Mom and I (and probably my little sister) will be taking a road trip up to Ithaca, New York in order to locate an apartment for me. Exciting times.


Here’s the end to the great car-shopping saga. Of course, it’s been more of a saga for me than for any of you because I haven’t written down every niggling detail. But in any case, I’m now the very proud owner of a new 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT:

My new car

After some online searching and a fair amount of luck, my father and I located a suitable model about 70 miles west of here. Actually, the two models I’d specced out online were sold the night before Dad called to ask about them. But an identical one had just come in on the truck, and that’s the one that I got. Dad (and I) got the insurance and financing worked out–and I spent Mark‘s last couple of days here and the rest of last week struggling with my excitement.

On Saturday we drove down I-40 to sign the papers and pick up my shiny new car. I’ve put about 100 miles on it since picking it up, and, to borrow a phrase from McDonald’s, I’m loving it. It’s quite nice and comfortable without having a ridiculous load of bells and whistles (although I’m still scratching my head over the beverage cooler). And it’s somehow just the right size, especially the driver’s wheel. Every time I sit down to drive somewhere, I find myself enjoying more than the previous time.

The driver's view

It’s gotten a good reaction from everyone else, too. My mother seems more comfortable in it than in her van–although part of this may have to do with her not having to worry about me wrecking her vehicle. And, to my amusement, one of my little sister’s friends just poked her head in my room to inform me that I have “a really pretty car”. How funny!

I’ve started doing a few little things to personalize it. I’ve got a Case School of Engineering sticker in the back window, and there’s a Case license plate holder waiting for my proper tag to arrive. I’ll have to swing by Cornell’s bookstore when I’m up in Ithaca to get a Cornell sticker, too. There’s something of a debate raging in the household as to what the car’s name should be. The current two choices are Remy and Rigel. Remy is based on the fact that the car is a Dodge Caliber–think Remington rifles–and Rigel is, well, the brightest (blue-white) star in my favorite constellation. The aerospace engineer in me leans toward Rigel, but Remy is an easier diminutive. Yeah, I know that anthropomorphizing my car is sad.

My sister and I went a little crazy with the picture-taking today, but I consider that an effect of having waited so long to take them. The guilt got to me. It’s been raining here a lot lately, which makes it tough to get pictures. But I have them now, so go take a look.

Car Shopping

One of the things we did over Memorial Day weekend was start the car shopping process. Because I won’t have all that much money to dedicate to monthly payments on a car, I expected to get a small used car, probably a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla because they have good mileage. So we spent Saturday looking around. We looked at Saturns, Pontiacs, Toyotas, Hondas, Dodges, and so forth. The shocker is that both I and my parents had our eyes caught by the Dodge Caliber.

2007 Dodge Caliber

This was unexpected on many fronts. As I said before, I expected to be looking at used vehicles. And, well, at first glance the Caliber doesn’t look like a car I’d be all that interested in. Having moved N-times in small sedans, however, a hatchback was looking nice. So we thought, okay, we’ll give it a try. The first shocker? It’s roomy inside. Or, more exactly, the interior is designed so that passengers are comfortable. My father can sit in the backseat comfortably, which is unheard of in most small vehicles. All the same, it’s not big enough for me to feel uncomfortable in the driver’s seat. I’ve decided that one of the reasons I dislike being forced to drive my parents’ vehicles is that they’re too big and not just in exterior dimensions. As bizarre as it sounds, I feel more comfortable when the driver’s space is a little smaller. It somehow feels more manageable. For example, I felt comfortable sitting in the driver’s seat of a Corolla, but the Camry felt uncomfortably large. You can imagine then how I feel in the Windstar mini-van and why I flat out refuse to drive the F-250 pick-up.

And there are silly little perks, too. Like the Caliber’s auxilliary stereo jack, which lets me plug my Zen Micro mp3 player directly into the stereo. The test drive went well–although I didn’t drive because the model the lot had had a standard transmission and I can’t drive stick 🙁 But, all in all, I liked it.

So we started looking at whether we could afford to get a stripped down Caliber model with the CVT2 system (like an automatic but cooler in terms of engineering and better in terms of optimizing torque and fuel efficiency). It costs more than we wanted, but given the prices of used vehicles with less than 30K miles on them and the financing we can get, it turns out that I can get lower monthly payments on a new vehicle than on an older used one. Add to that the fact that a new car comes with a warranty and my parents seem to be sold. My father located an automatic Caliber SE down in Lexington and we drove over there tonight to take a look.

This time I did actually test drive the vehicle myself. I’ve been somewhat nervous to do so at the other places because I haven’t driven much recently and I despair of anything going wrong. But this dealership is in Small Town USA. Literally. The sales rep didn’t even ride with us, it was that Small Town. So I felt fine and I did great. I liked the car–which is in Steel Blue, by the way–except for one little niggling thing: it doesn’t have power locks. Now, personally, I find it rather odd that a car has a jack for an mp3 player but it doesn’t have power windows and locks. Oh well, I tell my parents. I can live without that.

But my dad, being, after all, my dad, starts thinking to himself, “But my daughter is going to have to drive through cities to get to Ithaca. She’s going to be far, far away from my protection. And there will be Neighborhoods and when she drives into one of those Neighborhoods I want her to be able to hit a button–click!–and be safe.” (I’m sure anyone who’s driven down Chester or Euclid in Cleveland know what he means by Neighborhoods; the rest of you can just imagine.) So he starts wondering what it’s going to take to get power locks. And, along the way, he starts noticing all these other little things, like the cover that slides over the cargo area to hide what’s under there. We stop by another dealer on the way home and a rep there mentions that on the next model up, the SXT, these power locks and such are standard. So my dad starts looking into that. Nevermind that I don’t know where the extra $1600 is going to come from. As my mother put it, “Justifying it is easy. Paying for it is another thing.”

So where things are headed, I can’t say for certain. It looks like he’s going to see what price we can get on an SXT someplace 40+ miles from here. The other option, of course, is to go with an SE and add some options to it, which means placing a special order. Which means waiting eight weeks. Which, you might guess, I don’t particularly want to do. Not having a car has never bothered me much in the past, but now that my own set of wheels has been dangled in front of me… Oh dear freedom…

We’ll just have to see how this ends.