Me + Car + Oregon = Buffy?

I’ve been feeling the pressure to share my truck-buying adventure last week with the world – or at least with my five readers and the google robots. This is me caving to peer pressure, something i don’t do very often, partly on principle and partly because i rarely shut up long enough to listen to anyone else’s advice.

The plan was simple. I wanted an Infiniti QX4, chosen over the equivalent Pathfinder for its more carlike and freeway-tuned 4WD system and handling, luxurious interior and greater quota of buttons and switches. It had to be a 2001, as the 2000’s 3.3L engine is warily regarded by every mechanic i’ve discussed it with as a problem waiting to happen, whereas the 3.5L VQ-series in the 2001+ is a media favorite and has seen service in the Maxima, Altima, Pathfinder, 350Z, G35… several minivans, and probably a few Tim Allen-style lawnmowers. I had a price range, and a *strict* interior color scheme (black only). My exterior colors were more flexible: black, dark grey, or dark blue – so basically any color that would coordinate with my high-fashion Manhattan wardrobe.

After a month or so of searching, i found one that met the qualifications above, 283 miles away in Eugene, OR. Not the furthest i’ve driven for a vehicle – you’ll recall my Z is a Medford, OR transplant – and not an impossible weekend drive. As usual, when none of my friends were willing or able to make the trek, my awesome little sister stepped up to the plate and agreed to drive me down there saturday morning. She needed to check out of her old apartment that morning, so we left after that was completed.

It was a long, hot drive and Danielle’s car’s AC struggled to keep us from becoming human pot roast. We found the dealership holding my target vehicle, Kiefer’s Mazda, and threaded our way past the eager Mazda salesmen practically hurling keys at us and bellowing “Test Drive!” as they jostled past each other, elbowing ribs and nipping at heels like pack animals hoping to pick the wounded widlebeest from a herd. Keeping my herd close together for safety, i found the receptionist and paged the sales guy i’d been talking to on the phone all week, so i could experience his halitosis in person.

We poked around the truck, Danielle testing out buttons while i looked for signs of bodywork, undercarriage leaks, and crumple zone, uh, crumpling. Everything checked out, except that there was no radio – just a big hole in the dash. Despite his protests that the vehicle came to them without one, i insisted that their ad showed one and mentioned it in the ad copy, but let it go after that, as it was less important than the truck’s overall condition.

After some quick test driving on a nearly-empty tank, i pulled the trigger and agreed to meet with the business manager. Here i learned about (and declined) various extended warranties, undercoating sprays, fabric protectant (for the leather interior?) and “powered by Mazda” stickers. A lot of nodding, signing my initials and letting my thoughts drift to important issues like whether i should keep my old ski rack or get a new one. I held my ace and played it last; when everything but the final signature had been inked, i inquired about the radio. Since – of course – it was nowhere to be found on the parts shelves, having probably already been installed in a 97 Mazda Protege which was sold, driven to Tacoma, stolen, parted out and shipped to Mexico in boxes, they had no choice but to throw in $200 cash on top of the deal. Brian: +1.

Danielle followed me out of the lot and across town to the Econolodge, me driving on the imaginary fumes of gasoline i did not have. I parked where i could see my new truck out the window of our room, we settled in, and planned for dinner.

I need to take a short aside to describe the comedy of errors that was this room. When i made the reservation, a 2-bed suite and a regular 2-bed room were nearly the same price. As i wasn’t sure at the time how many friends/mechanics would be in my entourage, i splurged 3 extra dollars on the suite in case the extra square footage might prove useful. You know me, always trying to be prepared. Our plan, as discussed on walkie talkies during our crosstown caravan, was to gas up the new ride, find some dinner – preferably accompanied by very large, very frozen margaritas – and return to the hotel to find a movie on cable that we could fall asleep halfway through. The “suite” (and, later, the evening’s events) would send awry the best laid plans of mice and men.

Here’s a diagram of the room’s genius layout, drawn by yours truly using the Photoshop equivalent of a half-chewed crayon:

As you can see, lying in bed watching TV was completely out of the question. Also, the second bed’s proximity to the bathroom door made this luxury suite not just wheelchair-inaccessible but pretty nearly alert, sober, walking-on-two-feet-person-inaccessible. I won’t even get into the bizarre wasted space and the extraneous – but not what i would deem *luxurious* – second sink. This room was wack.

So, returning to the primary story. I’m sure you’re wishing by now you’d brought a snack on this rambling thought-journey. We were hungry too, and so was the new truck. Trouble is, we couldn’t go fill it up, because it wouldn’t start. It just turned over and over, acting like it was out of gas. Which seemed like a plausible situation, given how low the needle had been riding all day, and that it was now parked on a slight incline. We walked a few blocks to a gas station, sweating in the 90-degree heat, bought a small can, and brought home a gallon ($3.39 charged to my Amex card). Nothing. A return trip, another gallon, a weird look from the attendant (remember, this is Oregon, where you’re not allowed to pull the trigger on your own 92 octane), and still nothing. Could it still be low fuel? I called the dealership several times, until i had several different employees scurrying about requesting manager approval for things, and finally secured a 5-gal tank of gas to be delivered by two lot attendants. They arrived, the tank was filled, it started right up, problem solved. Dealership: +1. I drove the few blocks for a fillup, and brought it back. Danielle and i had already ordered in (tragically, sans margaritas) and resigned ourselves to the sofa where Nicolas Cage tried valiantly to put us to sleep, but was trounced by the carved-granite sofa. We fell face down in our respective beds, willing the morning to come slowly.

Up at six, trying to make good time, as Danielle needed to be home by noon for her appointment to be thoroughly frustrated by Comcast. An exit or two up I-5 we saw a Fred Meyer near an offramp, and pulled in for breakfast and travel food. Our efforts to choose breakfast items that were easy to eat while driving proved futile, however, when my truck wouldn’t start again. We opted to eat our breakfast first and think about what to do, as thinking on an empty stomach wasn’t getting us anywhere but hungry. Once our hunger was satisfied, it was replaced by frustrated apathy, and we opted to wander around Freddy’s for a bit and see if the problem fixed itself. It was apparently a brilliant strategy, as 20 minutes later after our second trip through the Freddy’s checkout, the engine whirred to life.

At this point, theories on the truck’s reluctance to leave Oregon were flying across the airwaves on multiple frequencies and across several state lines. The simplest plan was the most obvious: never turn the truck off. It worked flawlessly at our next stop, securing gas for Danielle’s car and junk food for the drivers. Thankfully the truck was sipping fairly miserly at its fuel reserves (considering it’s shaped roughly like a shoebox with wheels) as i wasn’t sure an Oregon pump jockey would swipe my card with the engine still running.

The third time was in a rest area south of Olympia. I was following the plan – i didn’t shut it off – but it died when i tried to leave the parking space, so i just coasted it back to the curb. At this point, we returned to our previous strategy: ignore it and hope it goes away. Fifteen minutes on a shady park bench and everything seemed better, and the truck must have thought so, too, because the key worked its magic and that now-familiar tone rumbled from the exhaust. We left quickly before it changed its mind. Strategy: +1.

The fourth – and final – time was just south of the West Seattle bridge, within sight of downtown and less than 20 miles from these bedraggled travelers’ final destination. Freeway traffic looked slow through the city, so we were merging right to detour on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, when i apparently gunned the engine in an unacceptable way and it responded with the silent treatment. As with every time before, it was courteous enough to throw its tantrum as conveniently as possible, after we were already halfway down an empty exit ramp and well distant from speeding traffic. Truck: +1.

Not wishing to tempt fate any more, and having no desire to find out where the *next* spot would be (The express lanes? The Battery St tunnel? The Aurora bridge?) i called AAA and enlisted a wrecker for the last leg of the trip. They were fairly prompt and only left us baking on the shoulder for 30 minutes or so. Of course, my truck started readily and loaded itself onto the flatbed with no winch-based assistance. I sent Danielle home and i rode in the tow truck, trying to make small talk with a tow truck driver that had absolutely no interest in anything i had to say. He dropped me and my truck (which, again, drove perfectly) at the Nissan dealership near my house, where – when he received the hundreds of voice mails and text messages i’d sent – Travis would hopefully be able to look at it on his next day at work. Despite being consciously aware that i had comfortable shoes and clean socks as close as my suitcase, i walked the last mile home in flip-flops, arriving at my front door limping from the kruller-sized blisters my feet were now sporting. (A week later they’re still not entirely healed.)

One anguishing day later, Travis was able to open the hood, connect a code monitor, and pronounce an $80 sensor the culprit. He changed it in less than 3 minutes, confirmed for me that – now – the truck was in excellent shape and would be very dependable, and sent me home happy to swap clutter from the old glove box to the new. Travis: +1.

As a sort of a postscript, Danielle and i drove it across Washington and back this weekend, into the north Idaho mountains to meet Mom, Dad, and a significant chunk of our extended family on their annual July 4th campout. The engine started every time, the AC kept us at a comfortable 72 inside while the digital ambient readout glowed “100F”, and we are both home safely tonight with no new roadside tow truck stories to tell. It’s going to be a great truck, but i will definitely be hesitant to buy another vehicle in Oregon. I think they must do something to their cars there, something evil, something that must be exorcised from them before they change ownership lest the curse follow the new owner, even across state lines. Travis seems to have made this one clean again; even so, i’m weaving a rope of garlic tonight and keeping a wooden stake under my pillow. You know me, always trying to be prepared.

Bring home my 300ZX Twin Turbo

Good friends help you shop… great friends drive 500 miles to help you shop for a car… ! 😉 I’ve been home long enough to unpack and download the pictures… Steph, Danielle and i just got back from a very long but very rewarding weekend trip to Medford, OR. It was sunny and amazing, a perfect roadtrip. The top was down on Steph’s convertible once we hit central oregon and the temperature hit 65. By Medford it was 80 and i was nervous, excited, and we were all a little sunburned. A huge bonus on the drive home was catching up with Sasha and Ty for coffee – so great to see them after so long!

My fortune cookie at lunch on tuesday said “you will soon have a happy adventure” and it couldn’t have been more right. The adventure itself was very happy, results notwithstanding. But in this case, the results were as happy as the journey! 😀 I’m the proud new owner of a beautiful 1991 Nissan 300zx. It’s previous owner, Mark, took such meticulous care of it that it feels and looks brand new, and it’s something i know i’ll enjoy very very much for a long time. As if it wasn’t beautiful enough, it’s less every month than the Maxima was and a serious head-turner. I’m instantly popular with gas station attendants and half the drivers on the freeway. Steph and i enjoyed the looks, smiles and pointing towards both our sweet rides all the way home. I don’t think i’m going to be getting anywhere on time for quite a while. 😉

So, the part you’ve all been waiting for… visual aids. 😀

So gimme a call and you can be the first one to ride in it… well, the third one, after my roadtrip partners… 😀 And if you see me smiling so hard my face wants to explode, you’ll know why! 😀 😀 😀

I’m easily distracted today

Bored at work today? Tired of sitting in your cubicle alone? Need to stretch your legs, shake your thang, get your groove on? Check out Stealth Disco! Bored office employees like yourself bring the spirit of the 70’s to the workplace, in secret or in public! Next time you’re standing in the back of a time-wasting meeting or behind your boss at the stockholders presentation, break into some jivin’ disco action… it’s guaranteed to make you smile.

In other news, if you thought your cell phone bill was high, be glad you’re not some guy whose at&t wireless bill this month was for $39,000. Maybe he needs a plan with more minutes? 😉 Actually, someone stole his identity and signed up several more lines, started calling Nigeria with them. Just one more reason why you should shred your bills and receipts before you throw them away… yikes.

On the personal front, my car loan got funded today, and i’m working on reservations for a hotel in Medford, OR. If all goes as planned, i’ll be a Z owner by sunday nite – wish me luck! I’ve been breaking into fits of glee every time i think about turbos and blow off valves and t-tops. Hopefully i’ll be able to contain myself and my drooling and whimpering long enough to negotiate a price with the guy and sign a bill of sale with some semblance of adult behavior… 😉

Lucy Liu, I’m still waiting for you to return my calls

New photos up from the aforementioned Oregon coast daytrip. Go check ’em out! I know it’s been over a month… i hope you think they’re worth the wait! It was a fun trip, i had fun putting together the gallery – even really late! 😉

Got a few more steps done on Ian’s transmission today. Old automatic tranny is out, new manual tranny is working and assembled. Big old hole under the hood, couple pans full of tranny fluid laying around in Dave’s garage. Looks pretty cool. 😉

Doing laundry and staying up late watching movies with Josh. Well, i’m not doing laundry with Josh, just the staying up late part. A little Charlie’s Angels is a great way to finish the night…

I can use the brakes again

Busy, busy week last week, but can’t believe i was so busy i didn’t have time for you’all. Seriously, what kind of a friend am i? 😉 It’s monday morning and am back at work after a great yet disturbingly short weekend. I brought my BitCharG RC car to work today (i’ll get a pic for ya and put it here tonite) and my plan for the morning is pretty much to drive that around the office and avoid doing any work. But i guess i can take a break from terriorizing the hallways to fill you in.

Worked like crazy last week, a few hours late most nights, a good chunk of overtime. We’ve been installing new computers in our offices all over the state, which makes for a lot of heavy-travel days. It’s been good, tho, as everything’s gone very smoothly and Ron, Caleb and i have been traveling together, which is funner (yes, ‘funner’) than traveling alone. Long days, tho.

So i rewarded myself with a completely fun weekend where i did nothing productive. 😉 Took a great roadtrip to the Oregon coast, stopping in Tillamook for fresh cheese and pepperoni, and then on to Cannon Beach and Seaside. It was a bit rainy and more than a bit cold, but still nice enough that Libby was able to do her yoga on the beach. The drive back was a bit rainy and dark – sure glad i have those new tires, thanx Mom & Dad! A great trip tho, and i have a couple cool souveniers i’ll get pics of for ya, plus i’ll get the roadtrip pics up in the gallery this week (promise!). And Patrick, i have your block of sharp cheddar, as requested. 😉

Sunday was spent in my home-away-from-home, Ian’s garage. Matt installed his custom ground wire kit on my car – it came out great, he’s a real pro – and i finally fixed that stupid taillight wiring. I’ve been embarassed to use the brakes cause i was missing a brakelight and i think that’s so tacky, so i’ve been gearing down a lot and finding other creative ways to slow down (holding my hands out the window? jake brake?). It’s much easier to just use the brakes, so i’m glad they’re working 100% again… Also changed my oil (third time i’ve done it myself, i’m starting to get the hang of avoiding the mess) and collected a sample to send to Blackstone Labs for engine condition analysis.

The other big project for the weekend was actually a co-project with Patrick, deciding on a name to put on our business license application. We’ve narrowed it down to two, i’ll keep you posted on the progress…

I’m purposely not saying anything about any current events items as the whole thing pretty much creeps me out. I will say that i’m really annoyed by hypocritical protesters – i don’t know how someone can carry a sign proclaiming that capitalism is evil when they’re wearing an eddie bauer jacket and nike’s and their picket sign is made from office supplies. Also, for all those anti-petroleum protesters who keep scowling at me in my car from their rainy street corners – we use petroleum for more than just making gasoline, ya know. Like making your shoes, and your picket signs, and your ‘environmentally friendly’ bicycle… and keeping hospitals sterile, and food fresh. And i’m sorry, Cameron Diaz, but we’d have to turn off a lot of lights to save the energy consumed by your 10,000sf home and your 8000lb Escalade. So if you’re gonna protest, get your facts right and walk your talk.

So, that’s my dish for the weekend. Have a great monday, peeps!

Oregon Coast roadtrip (pancakes for dinner!)

Wow, ten whole days without anything new! I’ve been neglecting you! Well, what’s going on lately… Mom and Dad will be here on Wednesday, to spend a few days and then take Danielle home. It’s going to be weird to live by myself – she’s been here for three months! We’re trying to cram in as much fun as possible in these last couple weeks, so Saturday we got up really early and, along with Robin and Temby, drove to the Oregon coast for the day. We stopped in Astoria (home of the Goonies!) to explore a bit, and then spent the bulk of the day in Seaside, with a quick jaunt down to Cannon Beach to scope out Haystack Rock, and then trekked back home late that night. It was a great trip, laid back and relaxing like a vacation should be. We window shopped in the fun little stores, looking at kites and seashells and wooden ships. We took a nap on the beach in the sun. Well, it was sunny for a little while, anyway. We ate clam chowder, and ice cream, and had pancakes for dinner. And took a bunch of pictures, which are up in the photo section for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!