First time pull-over

One thing I’m proud of in my life is that I’ve never been pulled over by a police officer. I feel like I’m a good driver, and that I try to be careful on the roads. However, that all changed this afternoon.

First, the afternoon started with a parking lot violation tag on my car stating that I hadn’t paid the parking fee. I pay the fee for this particular lot electronically with an app, and because my car still has dealer plates on it, they must have missed that I had put “DEALER” for my plate when I submitted payment. So I had to call the parking lot company and explain the situation and give them the transaction number to get it all cleared up.

Then as I pull on to the freeway I merge into the MNPass lane. I have a MNPass device that I pay for that lets me ride in the HOV lane when it’s open and heavy traffic. I’m not more than a quarter mile out of downtown when I pass a highway trooper who immediately pulls in behind me and starts his lights. I pull over on to the shoulder and wait. I assumed it was a problem with my device, and sure enough I apparently didn’t mount it in the right place on my new car.

He explained that it has to be at least 4 inches from the roof line, and that if it’s too close to the roof they can’t see it. He sent me on my way, but now I need to re-attach the little velcro stickies and move it to where it will be more visible. But here ends my streak of never having been pulled over. All for a stupid reason too.

My first new car

Due to “circumstances” that I’m not going to go in to, I made the decision to sell my current Honda CR-V to my step son. I did this for a few reasons, first and foremost, due to him needing a car, but also because I have been wanting something different for quite a while. Many years ago I bought a 2009 VW Tiguan, and loved driving it. The mileage wasn’t that great, and the repairs were sometimes a little expensive, but it was an amazing car to drive. I wanted something like that but since the newly redesigned Tiguans were very expensive, and brand new, I figured I’d have to find something different.

A bunch of Facebook friends gave me a lot of good suggestions, and I looked in to a bunch of different vehicles. On Monday I specifically went out looking at a Subaru Forester. The Subaru brand has long been synonymous with the “outdoor life” and I thought, that this would be a great vehicle for my lifestyle. We took a 2015 model out for a test drive, and by the end I was feeling disappointed. It was louder than I wanted, and it didn’t handle like I was expecting from the reviews. Maybe I just got a bum model, but I finished the test drive feeling very unimpressed.

We happened to be at a VW dealer where this Subaru was located, and so I asked to take out a 2015 Tiguan, and a 2014 Ford Escape that they had on the lot. I wanted to see if I could remind myself what I liked about the Tiguan, so that I could have something better to compare to as I’m testing other cars. It was a -10 degree day, so they were having issues getting the Ford to start, so we took the Tiguan out first. Halfway through the test drive, as I’m telling my wife how much I love driving it, she says, “If you’re comparing everything to the Tiguan, just get a Tiguan. It’s what you really want to make you happy.”

IMG_2026.jpgShe was right. As much as I complained about the poor MPG, I really loved my Tiguan, and I wanted that experience again. I also have test driven the new, completely redesigned 2018 Tiguan, and liked it as well, but it was out of the picture, since it was tremendously expensive for my budget. We arrived back at the dealer, and I took the Ford Escape out for a quick spin and found it rather blah. I decided to shift my focus to finding a decent used Tiguan.

As we’re talking with the salesperson about what they have in stock, he mentioned that the current, brand new, 2017 Tiguan Limiteds are on sale for a HUGE discount. Because 2017 is the final model year of the older model design, they were looking to clear them out to make room for more 2018’s. That means that the price of a new 2017 Tiguan was only a few thousand dollars more than a 2015 with 25K miles on it. At this point I suddenly realized that I actually could justify owning a new car.

IMG_2025.jpgI’ve always wanted a new vehicle, but I know (and my wife reminds me) that it’s just not a practical financial decision. You lose so much depreciation in the first 6 months that you can never feel like your money was worth it. However, with the incentives that I was getting, that gap was much, much smaller, and I walked away with a vehicle that is only depreciated a couple thousand dollars while driving it off the lot. That makes the entire experience a much more palatable one for me.

So tonight I drove home my car that has less than 30 miles on it. It’s got lots of great tech in it, but most importantly, it’s comfortable, and drives like I like to drive. Nice tight German handling that hugs the road, and a little bit of pep to remind you that driving can be fun.

Now, it’s time to start planning for the trailer hitch install!

So that time I forgot my car…

Wednesday was a busy day for me at work, and I was going to be all over the cities, so I decided to take public transit. This starts with me driving over to the train station to take our commuter rail into downtown Minneapolis. The train station is about a mile and a half from my house, so despite my propensity to run long distances, I usually drive to it before work. From there I went to my Minneapolis office and went through my morning meetings.

Once I was done with those I headed to downtown Saint Paul on the light rail, where I had to catch a ride to a different office that wasn’t on any transit lines. When my boss and I got back to my office in Saint Paul I settled in for a bit since the plan was to meet my wife at a brewery in downtown after work. From there she’d pick me up and we’d have dinner and so on before heading back home.

We finished dinner, grabbed some ice cream for dessert and then pulled up to our house. Since it had snowed I opened the garage door so we could grab the shovels and clear the driveway before pulling my wife’s car in. About half way through shoveling I looked over at the empty garage and said, “Oh…. my car is still at the train station.”

Needless to say my wife laughed. And then proceeded to help me finish shoveling and drove me to my car. I guess there’s a moral here about public transit in the suburbs where you have to drive to park-n-rides, but either way, it’s a fun little story. Not unlike one where my wife forgot her car for an entire weekend, but that’s a story for a different time.

Got to try CarPlay!

Today I brought my car into the shop to get some work done. It was costly enough that I decided to spend the extra $25 to get a rental car for the day. I love getting rental cars from dealers because they are usually the latest model vehicles with all the bells and whistles. Today was no exception as I got to drive around in a 2017 Honda CR-V decked out with leather and everything else you can imagine.

One of the biggest perks is something I’ve been wanting to play with for a long time, Apple CarPlay. I immediately plugged my phone in this morning and started playing before I left the parking lot. CarPlay (and Android Auto) are dead simple to use. When you plug in your device the screen is taken over by a UI similar to that of your phone. No more clunky auto manufacturer attempts at a user interface. You get something clean and familiar.

It took mere seconds to get my phone screen up on the dashboard, with it’s limited set of icons that are CarPlay enabled. Most apps don’t make sense on a dashboard, so only a few have been modified to work. Thankfully, Google Play music is one of them. Operating CarPlay is just like operating my phone. The menus are familiar, and you simply press the screen and select, just like on the phone. Things are optimized to be efficient and easy to use, with no clutter.

As I used CarPlay over the course of the day I fell in love with how it wasn’t distracting, but in fact got out of the way. Changing music involved a quick poke with my finger on the next track, or simply pressing the steering wheel controller. Siri was there for any other interactions I wanted to have, meaning it was easy to pull up directions and travel times without taking my eyes off the road. Best of all I didn’t need to worry about pairing anything to Bluetooth.

I don’t know that a new car is in the cards for me for a while, so I’m starting to think about getting an aftermarket deck installed. I’m curious if anyone out there has ever gotten a CarPlay/AndroidAuto deck put into their vehicles, and what their experiences are?

Time to go electric?

I recently test drove a new model of the VW Tiguan, a car I really like driving. I would really love to get one in the next year or so as my kids get older and graduate, but there’s something that keeps showing up on my news feed to make me thinks twice… the rise of the electric car.

Today, there was yet another article about a location considering banning internal combustion vehicles. This time it’s California; as it tries to fight pollution from it’s over-sprawled and car-centric culture. There have been similar announcements from European countries, and most surprisingly China. All of these places are seeking to end the reign of the gas guzzler sometime in my lifetime.

That brings me to thinking that perhaps it’s time to pause briefly and wait for the inevitable explosion of electric cars to arrive. Now that multiple governments have made it apparent where the future lies, it’s going to be a race to overhaul the market. Every manufacturer is announcing their electric plans, because this is one competition that no automaker wants to be late to the game for. If you’re leading this market, you’ve got a much smaller group of competitors to deal with.

VW has announced that they will be turning their entire line over to electric by 2030, and it appears that they will have the start of a very robust line by 2020. So perhaps it’s time to just keep the gas guzzler going as long as I can, until I can join the future with an all-electric vehicle.