New CUP Contest tomorrow!

Okay, I want to write about my week, so you can either bear with me OR if you just want to learn about tomorrow’s CUP Contest scroll all the way down to the last paragraph of this post.


This past week has been amazingly stressful, both in good ways and bad.

On Friday I drove eight hours down to Chicago to visit with my Mom. On Saturday we went to the Art Institute, enjoyed a lovely tapas lunch at Emilio’s, and went to Cirque Eloize that evening. After the show we ate a light dinner at Petterino’s and then came back to the hotel and packed. The next morning we got up early, I dropped Mom off at the train station and I headed over to meet Chicago cool cat and fellow blogger Jeremy and his Chicago cool cat wife, Tina. We puttered around snapping photos in a relatively famous cemetery called Graceland Cemetery, then battled the Mother’s Day crowds to have lunch at Marietta’s (phenomenal lunch and well worth the wait!). I’ll have more info and pics of the Chicago trip in a later post.

I left for Minneapolis at around 2pm, but immediately became stuck in traffic on I94 leaving Chicago. I survived that and stopped at the Belvidere Oasis for road snacks (i.e., junk food that can’t be justified in normal day-to-day existence), and then I made it four hours NW to Mauston, Wisconsin when my car broke down. My bought in February of this year/60-day bumper-to-bumper warranty expiring less than three weeks ago/NEW CAR broke down. When I stopped for gas in Mauston, the engine wouldn’t start again. I called AAA for a tow truck. When I went into the BP to let them know why I was blocking a pump, I was browbeaten into pop clutching the car by this horrific bully of a woman who mocked me for  calling for help when it was so obvious that all I had was a dead battery. We got the engine started and I agreed with her that I should just head for Minneapolis and not stop anymore.

But instead, the second I left the  BP gas station I drove over to a local KMart to buy a battery, just in case mine quit on the trip home. At KMart the car died as I was pulling into a parking spot. Not a good sign, but my first reaction was  joyous indignation as I thought “Ha! I knew that pushy b*tch was wrong!” But then I realized “Oh wait, my car is broke good, innit?” Still, I decided to replace the battery and try for home.

As soon as the battery was in, I started the ignition and the engine roared to life. I headed for Minneapolis, but made myself nauseous with worry for the next three hours. I tried all sorts of tricks to relax including listening to different kinds of music and podcasts to distract myself, breathing deeply and calmly, arguing with myself that even if I did break down I could call for help, and really a breakdown was just money and time.

None of that worked.

I worried for the entire time up until I actually did break down again outside of Hudson, WI, which is about 40 miles from Minneapolis.  I was THIS close to making it home! It was about 9:30pm and night had fallen. I glanced down at my dash and saw that it was completely dark. I glanced at the road in front of me and was horrified to realize that my headlights had gone out. The only reason I was able to see was because the traffic behind me was illuminating the road and the tail lights of the cars in front of me were guiding my way. I pulled off the road just as the engine died. Alternator.

Aych eee double hockey sticks.

To make an already long story slightly less interminable: AAA came and towed me to Stillwater where some nice friends rescued me and put me up for the night.  

Monday was gray and depressing. I had left my glasses in the car at the repair shop and my contacts had conked out, so I spent most of the day with fuzzy vision, which gave me a headache. The car wasn’t ready until 2:30pm. So, many hours and $600 later I left Stillwater. I drove right to the house of some friends in North Minneapolis to relax and be around nice people, because I was so bummed out that I didn’t want to be in an empty apartment by myself. Who knows what kind of damage I could have done the Ben and Jerry’s container in the freezer at my place?

On Tuesday I had to go to the dentist AND I had a doctor’s appointment. Also, work got very…involved that day. The one bright spot was a crazy spring storm and an evening of drinks and gossip at the Independent with a friend.

On Wednesday work was very busy again, and I spent the evening doing laundry and cleaning the house.

So, you see…it’s just been an often crabby, sometimes enjoyable, busy few days.

But yesterday was pretty awesome. Work is crazy busier than usual, but I’ve taken on an interesting new project. After work last night I headed over to the Be’Wiched Deli in Minneapolis to enjoy dinner, drinks and conversation with the Minnesota Skeptics meetup group.

And today I felt like blogging. Woo-hoo!


So, now that I’ve completely tricked you into reading about my personal drama by putting a misleading title on this blog post, allow me to announce that TOMORROW at 6pm I will post the next Close Up Photo Contest entry. I actually have the CUP Winners page up to date, so stop on by to read the rules, learn about past entries and take a gander at the current player rankings.

See you tomorrow!

New CUP Contest tomorrow!

Dead Car is Dead

This is a boring post about my car dying and yesterday’s search for a new car. Unless you know me, plan on hitching a ride with me in the future, or care about the process of purchasing a used car, you can probably just skip to my next post which involves a comic about the placebo effect and a bit on vertebroplasty. :p

Yesterday this happened:

AAA towed me to Steve’s Auto Repair in South Minneapolis (very clean shop, all of the employees were very friendly, and a big shout out to Tim for his help). After about 15 minutes of looking the car over Tim came out and very gravely said “Dead car is dead.” No, he didn’t say that, but wouldn’t that have been fabulous? He did, however, use lots of exciting words and phrases like, “explosion”, “catastrophic engine failure”, and “thousands of dollars”.

So the bright side: Yesterday I didn’t have to go to work, I learned that I have an excuse to buy a new car, I got to take a lovely 2-mile walk in the nice sunshine and relatively warm weather, and I was able to share lunch with some friends who work between the auto shop and my home. It was a wonderful day…that’s just going to cost me about $5000-$6000. Ah, well. Comme ci, comme ça.

I spent the entire day reasearching cars. I used vehix, carsoup, autotrader, cars and keepitlocal (dot)com websites, and then I opened up google maps, searched “car dealerships” and went to every major dealership’s website. Searching was actually pretty neat; I used online searches, I called and spoke with salespeople and even engaged in two IM chats with dealers. I went through literally hundreds of cars without leaving my computer. Gee, the interwebs are handy.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Price: Up to $5000
  • Mileage: 60K-115K
  • As Feul Efficient as possible – no trucks, SUVs, etc. Compact commuter car that can make the occasional road trip.

Other than that I’m pretty flexible. I have a preference for manual transmission (more fun and feul efficient) and 4-doors, but I can deal.

I found a handful of cars that met my criteria and are still available. Most of the cars are 2001-2002 models, (a lot of Saturns and Chevy’s) with 90-100K miles,  4-cylinder engines (there were a couple of V6s), and about half of these have a manual transmission. Most of them get 21-23 mpg city driving.

And then I found a Ford Focus SE. It’s a 2006 with 72K miles, manual transmission, and it gets 26mpg city/34mpg highway. It’s a really simple car. It has no tilt steering, AND it has manual locks and windows! Holy 1990’s stone age technology, Batman! <—– #firstworldproblems. It is about $6000, so $1000 more than what I was hoping to spend, but for 25K less miles and +5 years on the competition, I think that it’s the best car for my money that I’ve found so more. And once I realized that I was willing to pay $6000 for more car, I went back and reopened my searches to include cars in that price and mileage range that I may have missed on the first go around, but there wasn’t anything that caught my interest. 

I test drove it yesterday. It’s definitely a compact. The seat belt is waaaaay back, so you have to turn and stretch to reach them, and the ceiling room is sufficient for me, but the Hubby may have to recline his chair a bit to be comfy.  It only has two doors and the manual locks and windows suck, but the hatchback and folding seat backs are pretty sweet. The steering wheel is about the right angle and height for me, so I don’t have to worry about not having tilt steering. It’s chain-driven, so I don’t have to worry about changing a belt in 3K miles. It’s only had one owner, there’s no major rust and I wouldn’t need tabs until June (which would be a treat because currently I have to change tabs in January when it’s freezing and the car is covered in road slush). It’s mp3 ready. And there’s a 5-day/500-mile no worries return policy, a 1-month warranty, and all sorts of dealer perks for buying from the guys who are selling it.

So how about it? Any words of wisdom?

Dead Car is Dead