Sunday, May 27, 2007

Winning the Pool

Many friends have an unofficial pool going that states that CC will not get a new ride until Herbie, aka GoCartus Maximus, is a smoking husk on the side of the road. Due to recent problems, such as a driver's side door that won't open properly, Herbie has actually been renamed in some circles as Death Cart.

Well, after another tow job last week and an increasingly loud cacophony of ills during the commute (for which I had started wearing earplugs, seriously), I knew the time had come. With a 60-mile/day commute, Herbie was being flogged to death like an old kindly trail horse being thrown into the Kentucky Derby. It was time to put him out to pasture.

And so the day began, Saturday AM. I had 4 target vehicles, and set out, with title in hand....

And the upshot is that I now own one of them! The Era of Herbie is over... Long live go-carts!

Here is a rough chronology of the day:

Vehicle 1: the G35

This was the same G35 that I saw before. It's an auto but I was willing to make that sacrifice. The car made me feel like Batman. On the 2nd test-drive, I confirmed that it was fast indeed but somehow the sexy factor wasn't there. This was due to: (a) the first time it was in a dark garage, and caught the light just so and (b) I saw Vehicle 2.

Vehicle 2: Subaru WRX STi

This car is the famous "STi". Some friends dream about this car when they go to sleep at night. It is the ultimate boy racer: a near-race-ready rally car that has 300+ HP. There was a black '04 on the lot next to the G35. It was all I could think about when driving the G35.

I took it for a test-drive. My my.... The acceleration was like the shot from the new roller-coasters. In addition to a tach gauge, there was a "turbo boost" gauge: when you walked on this thing, all of these dials were spinning along with your head.

Sadly, the road noise was ferocious, even at 40 mph. But I didn't care. No one cares. The ladies can laugh and make jokes about the hideous hood scoop (as I once did) and absurd wing (which I love). This car deserves all of the hype it gets. Another minus, though, was extreme squeaking from the brakes.

Vehicle 3: The Pocket Rocket

I saw this little number online during the week. Conveniently, at the same dealer as the other 2. It's a Honda Civic Si, and is in a class of cars known as the "hot hatches" or "pocket rockets". Although the Civic Si has been surpassed by others (most notably the MazdaSpeed 3), this one caught my eye for some reason.

I drove it right after the STi which is a bit like following The Beatles or the Stones onstage. But it did ok for itself -- it was fun to drive and peppy if not hellacious.

Vehicle 4: The Yellow Mini

I've mentioned the yellow Mini Cooper S in the past. I drive past the dealership in St Peter's everyday, and this one was definitely the favorite going into the day. Driving out on Saturday, I had a price in my head for negotiation. Also, Herbie was making some serious noise from the transmission: I didn't know how much would be left in him, seriously.

I took the Mini for another ride, but the honeymoon was over. I was disturbed in that the sunroof (moonroof?) had no cover to shield the light. I was also disturbed by a major sub-theme: where's my bike going to go? There are bike racks that bolt into the license plate area but upon inspection, the Mini only had 2 holes for the plate, where most have 4.

The dealer came to within $300 of the offer in my head. I nearly went for it, but it came up in conversation that the only dealer for Mini's in StL is the AutoHaus in Clayton. Gah! With all of Herbie's woes, I didn't want a car for which I might have to schedule a Saturday appt 6-8 weeks in advance. (I don't know if that is true, but there are a lot of Mini's around -- one shop??).

Plus, it's yellow. If it had been blue with the black racing stripes, then I'm in. But...

I left to go back to the original dealer, begging Herbie to just hold on for one more trip.

The Winner

On the drive back, I knew I would get one of the first three... but which one?

I realized 2 things: (a) I needed to relax because this whole thing is insane and (b) one of them was more fun than driving the Mini. Plus one of them would probably be way more reliable than the others.

In a surprise move, out of nowhere, the Pocket Rocket won the day. I bought it yesterday. It was fun to drive, cheap, and looks really sharp (more so if you are in high school and a fan of the Fast and the Furious).

This may well not be The Next Car. It was more of "let's establish a foothold so I can think". Actually, its name comes from the famous Rodin piece.

If this link still works, meet Rowdy (click here). This is the actual car. Rowdy comes from "Rodin" and the significant road-noise..... it's no STi but he's a bit rowdy on the road.


So, let it be known that I did trade in before catastrophic failure with Herbie. Though it was close: he had 206,6xx miles at the end. The trade-in value was $400. LOL.

No emotion, per se... Despite the narrative and the anthropomorphization (?), it's just a ride... but it was a good one. Good luck, Herbie.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Game On

My arch rival, the dreaded Jim G, and I are still in frequent contact. In fact, we work about 15 minutes away from each other and plan to run together Thursday evening.

2 big events coming up:
  • St Peter's Recplex Tri. The next tri, in mid-June! Jim G, his band of neighbours/friends, and I will be in the same group. This will be our 4th excursion out in St Pete. Note that the alltime score, for all triathlons, is 3-2 in favour of Jim G. However, I'm on a 2-tri streak.
  • StL Track Series. This is a series of track events at Parkway North. They range from 3 K, 1 m, 1500 m, etc each week down to the 400 m showdown. And new this year: a 100 m drag race. I'm stoked. I always enjoy this event even though I am often dead-last in my heat. The people there are crazy fast.

Aside from demoralizing Jim G at every opportunity, I have 2 goals for the track series.

Goal 1: the Miracle Mile

I'd like to break 6 min for the mile. I actually thought this might be my "breakthrough" but I've already done it! Though it is by no means obvious that I can do it out in the heat. My record at Parkway North is 6:25. Hopefully I'll destroy that at least.

Goal 2: the Drag Race

Goal #2 involves the 400 m. This is one lap around the track. As they say, "run as hard as you can, for as long as you can". Zero strategy, unlike the more complex 800m. In 2003 I ran the 400 in 70 seconds, which I have never reached again. Jim G, to his credit, did 66 seconds which was unbelievable. He was so red and out of breath that I was actually worried that he would blow a gasket at the end.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Promised Land

For weeks, I have been sneaking up on a sprint goal with tiny 0.1 mph increments. Tonight, I kicked the door down, boosting my alltime max speed by an insane 0.4 mph.

I ran a mile in 6 minutes flat. 10 mph.

I've been chasing this, on and off, for years. This is the Promised Land. And it wasn't easy: 4 minutes in, I didn't think I was going to make it.

It is one of the biggest achievements of my life, seriously. I still can't believe it!

ps. Interestingly, it didn't go unnoticed. A kind man on the cleaning staff said to me in the locker room, "dude you look _tired_ tonight... you look like you went over the top!".

I smiled wanly and laughed. But inside I was thinking, "My friend, you have no idea".

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talk Me Down Off the Ledge

New theory:

It is far less stressful to buy "a car" versus "The Next Car". Just get a cheap ride... maybe for the summer and then flip it at a small loss. No one really cares if I have a "hall of fame" car, right?

Right... and so this car (click here) is highly, highly appealing. Crazy, but appealing. I can't tell you how much fun this would be for a few months. Talk about a pimp-mobile.... my my.

A Fair and Balanced Assessment

PEI isn't always so lovely... here's a morning pic from this week! Snow in mid-May!

PEI part 2

The wintery pic in the previous post is the house of my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Vernon. It is in Hampshire, PEI, not far from where my dad grew up.

In fact, less the snow, it will be the site for an annual family picnic held this coming weekend on Victoria day. Victoria day is in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday and is the symbolic birthday of the reigning sovereign. It's a major holiday weekend that raises the starting flag for summer activities, much like the USA's Memorial Day.

ps. As reported previously, Bryguy and Miss Cheryl are engaged. Miss C's fam are visiting PEI this summer and last night was a "reconnaissance dinner" to learn about the sights etc. A hilarious evening... Kudos to my sister who wrote a thorough, descriptive list of must-see spots.

Though it can be wretched during other times of the year, summer on PEI is typically in the 70s F and sunny. Lately, it is filled with festivals, music, and places to dine outside. It is way more hip now than when I lived there...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PEI from the air

Hey, Islanders!

Check out this aerial pic it may look familiar to some of you (I'll report later for everyone)

hey everyone else:

this is one reason why I miss home

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blog Tag for Mom

Blog tag is game where people ask other bloggers to reveal 5 personal tidbits. It's derived from the email chain letters.

In recognition of Sunday, here's 5 things about CC's Mom:

1. Mom is a repeat-winner of an Island-wide baking contest. Her masterpiece is fruitcake.

2. She's very literate. My award-winning writing style comes directly from her.

3. Many, many moons ago, she offered me a choice of going into French-immersion (i.e. a mostly-French elementary school). Influenced by Sesame Street (the Canadian version), I said "ok!". That one decision has probably impacted my life as much as any. Anyone who knows me well knows that I was more of a Renaissance man at 10 than now.

4. There weren't many rules growing up but a strict one was that, in grade 7 and beyond, any grade below 80% would spawn vague, undesirable consequences that would be swift and harsh. Again, I'm grateful.

5. A key phrase in terms of her first-aid is a wry "I think you'll live". It's embarrassing how I still seek out that phrase when at a doctor's office or hospital. I could be hit by a bus but as long as the ER doc says "I think you'll live", I'm happy.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Test Drive #2

Even with a failing computer, we can't break the "Captain Compact" between CC and the legions of fans. A test-drive synopsis was promised, and will happen:

Infiniti G35

I test-drove a red one, with tan interior. I think the red was a downer for me, because it wasn't as appealing as the gorgeous black-on-black. The car rode nicely, but was louder than I expected -- possibly due to low profile tires. It has a V6 at about 260 HP, though, so it would definitely haul. The clutch pedal, as mentioned earlier, was another schoolbus-like experience.

Mini Cooper S

The S means "Singer Sewing Machine of Scintillation" -- a turbo. This is the first turbo I have ever driven. It was a light yellow Mini with black trim, and tricked out with lots of bells and whistles. It was fast. After the expected 1-2 second turbo lag, there was a sound from the dash like a sewing machine with rabies. It didn't feel fast but the speedo didn't lie -- and there is no missing the speedo as it is in the center of the dash, about the size of a dinner plate.

You think I'm joking? Click here

Definitely a fun ride, but I wonder if my go-cart days are over for awhile. I found myself wondering how it would do in winter etc.

The wildcard

At one dealership, the guy had an '06 Mustang with hail damage. For some reason, that really lit the lamp: a good deal on a car that is already broken in. Very appealing to me, for some reason. Unfortunately, the car wasn't. It was a V6 (+1 for the commute, versus V8), silver (-1 on metallic colours), an automatic (-1 I was dying at this point), and no sunroof or anything fun. It was a boring, rental-esque gray Mustang. Too bad, if it was black and a stick, I might have done a deal right then and there.

I gotta say that the Prius is bouncing back... The skinny is that I realized today when I want to go for a drive and think about things, I go on my bike. I don't think that is going to change much, even with a sportscar. 25 mph on a bike is rather interesting. I just wish the Prius wasn't so utilitarian! I often cite the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. The Prius is a total angel: not a sign of the devil anywhere.

System Down

If you know anything about farming, you know that feeling when there is a perfect hay day: warm, sunny, recent drying conditions, and a pleasant breeze.

Then something breaks. Perhaps a bolt is sheared in the baler. Or a tractor goes down.

This is old school frustration.

_New_ school frustration is having computer problems 2 days after signing up to write an article for work. And while one could actually _use_ the Internet to shop for cars.

For the love of Pete. Sacre bleu. I was already freaking out about things before this.

Blogging is not on the priority list right now so if you don't see a post for awhile, I am probably fine, and just channeling unadulterated rage towards a treadmill. Or making up new swear words (it's fun to mix English and French).

Hang in there, CC champions! We'll soon be back with all the action from CC HQ. We wish the interns had had time to sift through the zillions of entries for the Op-Ed piece. Just no time, and no time to offer ideas per KK's request. Woulda came in handy now.

ps. I am on _now_ thanks to a neat tool called Knoppix. In is an OS that boots from a CD -- I'm running this baby without really using the hard-drive. (Knoppix is a version of the geek-famous OS called Linux). I can still shop for cars but I can't really work on my article. Hopefully I can research a bit about how to get Windows XP running again.

pps. It took 15 minutes but I found my Windows XP disk under some dusty debris in my living room. It was under a bike manual from my first bike which I bought in 2005. We're not exactly running a tight ship here at CC dot com.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Islanders: Tourist Alert (Info Needed)

Ok, Islanders, listen up... The StL area is dispatching travellers your way this summer and we need recommendations.

I will do my best but I haven't lived on PEI since 1991 (can you believe that?).

The travellers are peeps in Miss Cheryl's family (soon-to-be BryGuy's family).

I can handle the obvious and timeless: the North Shore, Cavendish, Anne of Green Gables, the wharf area in Charlottetown, and various scenic drives. But I need some current stuff! Possibly cultural venues, great pubs, great restaurants, etc. Anything, pretty much....

Let's hear it, folks... I think they are going in July. Once I get the dates, I might look for festivals etc.

merci bien,

(Where is the awesome lobster supper place again? Fisherman's Wharf? no... St Anne's?)

ps. For non-Islanders: though farming and fishing are huge, historically, tourism is definitely where it's at for PEI's economy. So much so that a bad summer, weatherwise, can cause a lot of distress.

Test Drive Micro-Entry

I test-drove 2 cars tonight but will post later on... We need to keep balance on this blog. Only the best for the readers of CC dot com.

I will give an apology to the RX-8 though. Apparently all newer sportscars have clutch pedals like dump trucks. Who knew? Either that or the Miata's is so worked-in that my left leg is weak.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Blue Laws in MO

Does anyone know if the following is true?

Someone told me that Missouri used to have "blue laws" that prohibited various businesses opening on Sunday. A vestigial remnant of this is that car dealerships are closed on Sundays (by law?).

True/false? I'm pretty sure car dealerships are closed on Sunday but not sure of the motivation.

Interestingly, you can go to a casino on Sunday and by some Jack Daniels along with your groceries 24 x 7.


Someone must have come up with the idea to coat greeting cards in glitter.

I hate glitter, and I have an intense "non like" for that person. I hope they get glitter all over their hands while choosing a card (preferably, one that wasn't even a glitter card but coated ad hoc by the other cards). Then, perhaps they will rub their eyes with said hands and ultimately get some glitter behind their eye near the optic nerve, and see "glittery stars" forever more. Poetic justice!

This vent has been bubbling for years. My apologies.

Damn you, glitterers!

Test Drive

Using AutoTrader online, I found a dealership near my old workplace that had 4 cars of interest. It was going to be a very productive day!

Incredibly, I ended up driving a single car: 2 of the cars had sold, one was damaged (some sales goon had broken the door handle), and the car I did test-drive wasn't the same one as online.

*sigh* At least the sales guy was a decent hombre.

The results:

Mazda RX-8 (see it here)

The experience was a bit of a turnoff because it was clear that the previous owner was a smoker. So I switched gears from "is this the car?" to "is this the type of car?".

The RX-8 is unique as it has a rotary engine. Dan owns one and loves it. I must say, it has more guts/power than the car magazines give credit. Not for me though... I'm not taking a chance on cooking a rotary and the clutch pedal travel rubbed me the wrong way. Fun ride though

Infiniti G35 (see it here)

This was the car with the broken handle. Black on black (though no tinted windows as with the link above).

I gotta say, it stole the show. I sat in it and saw a whole new persona for CC V 2.0: Batman. Leather interior. This thing is sex on wheels, at least pending a test-drive. Sadly, this ride was an automatic. But we will be seeking others. And they shall be black.

Pulling out of a Nose Dive

Saturday was a rough day. The car thing is stressful, and because I'm crazy, I signed up to write another article for work. For June, no less... Gah!

Around 3 pm, I was sweating like a pig in my car, stuck in a drive-thru, keeping on eye on the heat gauge before the steady march to "Thar She Blows".. Things were bleak.

But I saw the Kentucky Derby at Miss T's and hung out with some peeps. And then, this morning:

1 mile swim, 7 mile run. Run was slow but the last mile was close to a personal record (and that's a big deal).

We are happy again. There is a deep, profound biochemical thing going on with exercise.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wheels 2

I had been thinking of driving to Columbia MO for a triathlon on Sunday, but the last post about Herbie has clarified the urgency for taking rides for a test-drive. Especially with new, ominous noises emanating from the transmission area, I think I'm on borrowed time.

Some more thoughts:
  • Many see the irony of me driving a wreck, but some may not. My Dad is an ace mechanic who keeps his rides in tip-top shape. He's the kind of mechanic that helps other gearheads when they don't know what to do. Although I have his logic and diagnostic skills, I have always used them for math and comp sci and not mechanical and electronic stuff.
  • The next ride will not be a convertible and will not be red.
  • I just pumped gas for $3.20 a gallon, so the gas mileage just went up on the priority chart.
  • Months ago, I thought I would get something with some serious power. Mustang, Vette, you name it.... Sadly, the profile from the last post spells one thing: luxury sedan. And that spells "entrenched in the mid 30's (age wise)". Gah!
  • I don't like test-driving cars because of the salesmen. But tomorrow I'm test-driving something. Car posts do well on here in terms of feedback so I'll probably do a review. I have even considered a separate blog a la "1 test-drive every Saturday". But no time. There's another free blog idea for the masses. I swear, I don't know why you people aren't running with these.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

State of the Wheels

A lot of people have asked about Herbie, my geriatric car, and how the Commute of Champions is going. Recall that it's a 1991 red roadster with about 205,000 miles. And, well, some issues:
  • Brake fluid leaks and needs occasional replenishment.

  • Clutch fluid leaks and needs occasional replenishment.

  • Radiator fan doesn't work; heat gauge rises with alarming steadiness in heavy traffic/frequent redlights. (Solution: turn car off at lights)

  • Radio often doesn't work during wet weather. One speaker gone.

  • No A/C

  • Hole in soft top.

  • Uncomfortably loud at commute speeds (75+ mph/125 kph).

  • Probable leak of power-steering fluid. Power-steering moans like Chewbacca with a bad tooth.

  • Some rust. Paint job looks like a Farm-all tractor from the 1940s

Traci's Dad put it best: "I don't mean to pry into your financial situation, CC, but based on what you have told us about your educational background and career, we suspect that you could probably afford a different car that is worth, oh I don't know, more than $750." (The StL County property tax assessor values my ride at $750).

Of all these issues, the A/C is the most urgent. During the commute, I prioritize the criteria for The Next Ride:
  • Quiet ride. This excludes a lot of the candidate sports cars.
  • Used, circa 2002-2004. Don't buy new until you've been burned by a lemon.
  • Decent gas mileage. I'm driving 300+ miles a week, easy.
  • Killer stereo and cabin (cup-holders, iShuffle holder, cell phone dock, all that stuff)
  • Stick-shift. This excludes the Prius, sadly.
  • Possibly a shift in attitude: just "settle" for a damn ride instead of architecting a legacy of Hall of Fame cars. (The Miata has been cited as one of the Top 10 Cars You Can Ever Own)

St Louis Symphony

I received a call from the StL Symphony Orchestra tonight for their fund-raising drive.

One neat offering: their Vivaldi level of support ($100) includes a pass to go to an open rehearsal. You and a guest get to see the symphony practice, replete with "personal interactions" between the conductor, David Roberts, and the musicians.

Very tempting, but too much for me... especially since rehearsals are often during the day and I work in the middle of Missouri. (The symphony is downtown -- probably 60 miles between 'em)

Gator Aid

Miss Gila wanted some help to celebrate her birthday, so she came to visit St Louis last weekend (from Gainesville, FL, home of college football and basketball champs). We all had a grand time at various events including brunch and dinner. It was just like old times...

The brunch at Bottleworks is really great -- they have a huge open tent-space. Just my style -- outside but under cover. We pasty geeks like shade.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Curing while Touring

Jess is biking the Tour de Cure again this year. If you are interested in helping to find a cure for diabetes, be sure to check out this site of the Insouciant Cyclists!

Good luck, team!

Kirkwood Redux

ps. A rare editorial slip on CC HQ! Let's revisit Kirkwood and profile our favorite Kirkwoodians (?)

Stacey, Fred, and the irresistable Liv all live in Kirkwood. Of all the burgs in StL, it is the most "Apple Pie" IMHO because:

-- a train runs right through the town, stopping traffic on occasion throughout the day

-- there's lots of old-tyme shoppes along the main drag, including a train store and ice cream joint

-- Fred grew up there. When I drive through the town (often cursing the train), I can imagine him speeding to the arcade after school in his bike.

-- Stacey & Fred were married in a wonderful ceremony in K-wood. Replete with a harp player, no less!

-- The aforementioned Liv was brought from an orphanage in a land far away to live in this idyllic town. A picturesque life in a big, charming house with her loving parents and multiple pets. As thanks, she radiates charm and makes everyone's day....

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tour de Kirkwood

The St Louis Tri Club is going to run the Tour de Kirkwood!

This was started by a woman some years ago. I believe proceeds go to charity, but the event has grown beyond the scope of one (saintly) individual. It is popular because it is a great 1st tri and also very kid friendly (though kids must be 13 or over to bike, I think -- insurance, y'know).

Anyway, if you are considering a tri, check it out. It's easy and located in Apple Pie, USA! Fred's Mom, Betty, lives there!

_But_ the point of this message is: they may need volunteers. Several people kindly offer to come watch me do tri's but I can't bring myself to let them (BryGuy did once though), because I think it is boring for spectators. Unless you were doing it with me, in which case it would be highly punishing for spectators (ha!).

Anyway, I may (not 100% -- am I ever?) ask you to volunteer with me on this one! July 22. Keep it open, especially if you live in Kirkwood! You are on notice, Rosenbergers!