(as Johnny Olson) A NEW CAR!!!

Yes, we did!

And here’s how it came about: Ruby, our beloved 2011 Versa, was in serious need of attention. Like, to the tune of repairs totaling about a grand or more. The wonderful Shell and I talked about it, and the more we spoke, the more we figured it was time to perhaps look into getting a newer vehicle. Another, newer Versa would be nice. We could trade in the old car, but Shell really wanted to keep it as her own daily driver, and we really couldn’t trade in the truck either as with our rural property (such as it is) we still really need a truck. So, what to do?

A trip to the credit union proved the answer. We were quoted a figure on a used car loan, plus a little additional money to repair the old car. It kept us in the ballpark of payments that we had on the previous machine, and with that in hand we started shopping.

It didn’t take long. We went through Enterprise Car Sales, which whom our credit union as a relationship, and they had pretty much what we wanted: a 2016 Versa Note SV. The only hitch was the color; we had but two choices, black or silver. Neither one was particularly appealing, but I was prepared to live with silver, till I asked the wonderful young lady at Enterprise who was working with us if there was another alternative. She clued me in…”Sure! We have several of them at our Memphis dealership…what color do you want?”

Well, Ruby is red, so perhaps blue? She allowed as to how that would be no problem, and sent me a link. The picture included wasn’t all that good, but it looked better than black or silver, so I said, ship it and I’ll come have a look at it. She said, no obligation, which was even better. A day and a half later it was at the dealership, and I went in to scope it out…

Azzie the New Blue Shoe!

“Azzie” the New Blue Shoe sits at the dealership, patiently waiting her new owners.

…wow! That’s not the same blue I saw in the picture! It’s more of an azure, Shell said. It was love at first sight for me and I didn’t even bother taking a test drive, I had so much confidence. A mistake, I know, but somehow I just knew. I would take my test drive on the way home.

So. To the lot on Saturday to complete the transaction. I expected this to be as painful as our experience buying Ruby, but just it wasn’t so…we got it all done in well under an hour. Nice job, Enterprise…we will certainly do business with you again next time we’re ready for a new car!

Now then. I have since noted that the Versa Note gets no respect from the car mags–you know, the likes of Motor Trend and Car and Driver who, it seems, have forgotten what it’s like to be poor–so I figured I would put my own .02 worth in. Thus, here is the actual review I posted about our new car at edmunds.com.

First off, you probably should know that this is our second Versa. We really like the model…it is, it seems, as close to our ideal vehicle as exists today. Sure, we wouldn’t mind some cavernous SUV but the fact is that we can’t afford it, and with gas getting dearer and dearer still we appreciate the economy of a well built “misermobile”.

We bought the first used as well and have put 140K miles on it (so far…it’s still running well!) but we were ready to get another, thus the 2016 Versa Note SV. We purchased this one via Enterprise Car Sales and I cannot say enough about the buying experience…first rate all the way; great price, wonderful vehicle, just what we were looking for, and with pre-arranged financing through our credit union we were in and out of the dealership in well under an hour.

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The back side view. Minus stickers, those would, of course, come later.

Now, as to the car…first things first, it’s not a race car, so take reviews from sites like Car and Driver and Motor Trend and their ilk with a VERY large grain of salt. The Versa Note is a commuter car, and it does that job exceedingly well. It rides well, has a quiet, roomy cabin (I am 6′ 3″ and fit fine both in the back seat and behind the wheel) and everything is laid out logically. The SV package includes just about every electronic widget you could possibly desire sans navigation, but that’s why I have an iPhone and a GPS. The backup camera is a nice touch but with so many enormous windows it isn’t wholly necessary. It’s nice to have, though.

The body style is a significant upgrade from the rather shoe-like boxiness of the 2011 Versa we own, and is very pleasing to look at. The cargo space is remarkable with the rear seats folded down (my bicycle fits just fine, thank you!) and the Divide-n-Hide storage is a neat feature that gives you a nice flat floor with a nifty hiding place beneath. Every car should have this sort of thing!

As to the driving, I enjoy the CVT personally though I can understand why drivers who prefer more input might desire a five or six speed. I certainly can’t argue with the results though…my average gas mileage has been a jaw-dropping 41.5 mpg in combined highway and local driving. Seriously. I watch this stuff carefully (with my budget I have to) and this is not just accurate, it’s spot-on. Those are near hybrid numbers, at what, a half of the cost? A third? Remarkable! Mind you, I drive with a balloon foot mostly, but hey, I stay out of the way and don’t slow anybody else down. I bet I could speed up a bit with little loss in mileage, but I’d rather be kind to the car. The small fuel tank probably helps too, holding about 2.5 gallons less than the 2011 Versa. Less gas, less weight. Less range too, you would think, but at 41.5 mpg you’re talking 450 miles per tank, and that’s more than the 2011 ever got.

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Behind the wheel. More buttons and levers than we are accustomed to, certainly!

The steering is precise on the road but remarkably light in the parking lot…nothing to complain about there. The car mags all note the supposedly gutless engine, but hey, it gets me up to speed just fine and I don’t have any problem keeping up. So far as costs go, apart from gas, regular oil changes, and rotating tires, the Versa would be frugal on that score too.

In the summing up, as a used vehicle, fleet or otherwise, the Versa Note is a remarkable bargain, proof that you don’t have to give up much to gain a lot of value. I expect to be driving it for many years to come.

And that’s it. A new car buying experience that I will remember pleasantly (for a change!) and a new vehicle that so far has been a joy to drive. We’re going to take our first trip in her a few weeks from now and we’ll see how the pair of us enjoy it as a country road cruiser. Till then…

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Wrapped up in books

It is a well-known fact that I read a lot (and if it isn’t, it ought to be.) Now, one cannot feed on bread alone, nor can one solely exist in the reading world of the adult one pretends to be. As such, I have tried my best to delve into various age groups.

Harry Potter? Loved it, every single volume. I bought most of them on their release days. It really translated well to us big kids.

The Hunger Games? Liked ’em a lot. Not quite as well suited for the more “experienced” reader, but still highly entertaining.

Twilight? Ummm…the less said the better.

I have also really dug into Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and its subsequent followups. I loved it so much that I now have the boxed set. It’s quite the amazing world she has created, and there’s lots of lessons for us  adults in each of the stories. I suspect a certain orange-haired Oompa Loompa President hasn’t read too much Lowry…just a guess, based on the tenor of some of his statements.

Another terrific Lowry title is Number The Stars, which deals with children trying to escape the Nazis in occupied Denmark. It’s an incredibly gripping little book and I found myself wishing I’d known of it sooner.

Onward then. Having been very much into a reread of the Repairman Jack books (most of which are very much not children’s fare) I figured I’d overload on darkness and violence if I didn’t roll a kids book into my reading list somewhere. Now, I had a copy of the Puffin Classics version of Kipling’s Just So Stories on my dresser for weeks, so I decided now might be a good time to go ahead and check it out.

Well.

Regrets…I’ve had a few…and this is one of them. I should have read this book thirty years ago! Why? Because this is one of those books that would work so well as a storybook to read to a child. PJ would have loved this stuff! “How the Camel Got His Humph” indeed! My personal favorite is the one about the kangaroo being chased by the dingo, or the butterfly stamping its feet…it’s funny, entertaining stuff that teaches a lesson, and that can’t be a bad thing. Oh, I know it’s dated, and there are some folk who will say it’s not “politically correct”. P’shaw. Kids will eat this stuff up, and the kind of lessons they’re apt to learn are pretty timeless. Read it yourself and see if you don’t agree.

So. What other kinds of reading did we dig on?

Wow. I can go back a long way. Anybody else ready the “Little Eddie” stories by Carolyn Hayward? They were probably the first “series” books I ever read. I remember he had a pet goat named Gardenia and a next door neighbor called Annie Pat. They stuck with me. Then the Black Stallion books…I went through a bunch of those. Didn’t care a lick for horses, not like my sister, but I loved the books. Jules Verne? I went through a very Verne period where I read most of his books. I’ve reread them all several times since.

I went through a mystery phase too, one that never really ended. I was an early subscriber to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine…wish I still had my old back issues. I’m reading Raymond Chandler now and really enjoying his work. But all of this probably started with the Hardy Boys books by Franklin W. Dixon. Yes, I read a lot of those. Owned a bunch too. Yes, they were real mysteries. It was only much later that I learned that “Franklin W. Dixon” wasn’t a real person, he was several people, including women, and they were the same folks who wrote the Nancy Drew books. And the Ted Scott Flying books I enjoyed too.

Asimov. I think the first book of his I read was “The Gods Themselves”. Great book. Got it when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club the first (of many) times. I’ve read his Foundation series as an adult and the Robot books as well.

Mom used to take us to the library every week. That was a treat. There was a library downtown we had to drive to, then they put a new one close enough that we could walk to it. And if we couldn’t go, she’d look for something and bring it home for us. One particular day she brought home a book for me called Depths of the Earth, about caves and the people who explore them. Well. That started something, it did, and many years later Mom told me she regretted ever bringing that book home because she lost many a night’s sleep worrying about me coming home alive from our latest underground escapade. But that’s another tale for another day. Cave literature became paramount for a long while, and my childish scrawl can be seen over and over in the check out cards that remain in some of the books in the Griffith Public Library. Then volcanoes and earthquakes…why, I don’t know, perhaps just an Earth Sciences thing. Then airships. Airships! Ask me about airships, I can tell you all about ’em. I was steampunk before there ever was such a thing…

Our library had a paperback trade section…bring in a book, take home a book. And keep it! Wow! What a concept! I found my first Perry Rhodan book there, and I was back on the sci-fi train again. I read a lot of that “book-zine” back in the day. And I discovered the Griffith Used Book Store about this time too. A musty old place full of books. Gobs and gobs of books. But to get to that, I had to walk past Alexander’s…yes it was a stationery store, but it also sold books. And comic books. Yes, I read comic books. I was very into the reboot of Captain Marvel. Of course, back then “reboot” meant, “kick him again.” And Archie. Read a lot of Archie comics. And I bought my first “graphic novel” at Alexander’s, one based on the TV show Space: 1999.

Ah, then came 1978 and my first Indy 500. And suddenly it was all racing, all the time. I bought lots and lots of racing books. They were hard to come by back then, as racing wasn’t near as popular as it would later become.

That I would marry a woman who lover reading was only natural. And over the years Shell and I have accumulated a lot of books. Some of them are books from my past, like the star book my Dad brought home from a garage sale that got me into astronomy. Years passed, that book got away from me (as some inevitably do) and I wanted another copy. I found one. I have probably a couple of dozen books on astronomy too, but this one title remains dear to my heart.

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Our bedroom…it’s shelves and shelves of books. Very near to a thousand of them by my running list, and yes, I do keep a running list. Got to know what I have and don’t have when I go to McKays or when the next library book sale comes up…and it’s this weekend! Yay!

This is my life…wrapped up in books. I never really felt comfortable unless I was surrounded by them. I still don’t. Yes, I have a Kindle. Two, in fact. But they will never replace the Mighty Book.