Saturday, February 08, 2014

Snow Day, 2014

Barclay wants us to go outside and play!

Pretty Please?

Dave threw him some snowballs.

He didn’t always catch them…

Dave threw some to Navi, but she had her head in a hole!

Did someone throw something at me?


Barclay wants to play stickball

Too cold for this!

The snow just keeps coming down.


We took the Flex out to Fred Meyers to pick up some groceries. It did great! I think the van would have gotten stuck in the driveway!

Our first big snow at The Rancho!
Barclay is glad we went outside to play!


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Spending time in another world


Sometimes I feel a bit of guilt that I enjoy videogames so much. After all, there is a big wide world out there to explore, why waste time on the couch exploring a virtual world? To me, there is hardly a better way to spend the little bits of time left at the end of a day. I would so much prefer playing in a world I can interact with, compared to watching TV. In fact I can hardly sit still to watch a TV show or a movie. Sometimes younger people act surprised that I play videogames, but I’ve been playing them my whole life! OUR generation started out with Atari 2600s, why should we quit playing when games just keep getting better every year?!

At the end of September, Dave gave me a present for HIS birthday! To keep me entertained while he was away working on a play.




The ‘world’ is huge, and finely detailed. I could forget it’s a game. Sometimes it looks like a movie.(There is an ‘in-game’ cell phone that lets you snap pictures of your adventures. That’s where all these pics come from.) Sometimes I just sit and enjoy the view, listening to the waves lapping at the beach.






So you start out the game as a small time criminal, running around doing jobs for various mobsters. I created a woman character, and named her ‘Amanda Hugnkiss’. After a couple weeks I saved enough for a crappy apartment and a garage.





For the first month or so I did every mission on that pink sport bike, I loved that thing!




Though I frequently found myself ‘borrowing’ other vehicles, like this Patriot that I accidentally high-centered. It was totally stuck, wheels spinning in the air, I laughed my butt off!


I really enjoy flying, and trying stunts, landing in strange places. Like in front of my apartment, and causing a traffic jam…




Though many landings don’t go that well…








Eventually I worked my way up to a fancy apartment, and a BIG garage! I wish it was that easy in real life. Oh wait, I did have to kill a lot of people to get that, I guess I probably wouldn’t do that in real life.




Sometimes there are ‘glitches’ to enjoy – little things that shouldn’t happen. Like when I found myself able to walk around underwater.




Or when I followed directions from a YouTube video to sneak off to the secret, snowy land of Ludendorff.




And the time she inexplicably started sporting a beard!




And some joker gave us $2 Billion dollars to play with, which changed the game drastically. Eventually they cleaned it up and removed all the ‘glitched’ money, but it still changed the game. Instead of grinding away to make money, suddenly everyone had money for all the ammo and cars and planes they could want.

For Christmas the game designers gave us all a present – a snowstorm in Los Santos (it’s supposed to be Los Angeles)




Along the way I picked out a few favorite vehicles – like a pink Mustang




And my ‘Bifta’ Dune Buggy




And our Rhino Tank (posed on top of the tallest building in the city)!




So once Dave had time he started playing it too. We play it differently – I like missions, he likes running around randomly causing havoc. You share this world with other real players, and you can fight each other, or team up to make amazing things happen. It’s a sandbox, you don’t have to have any particular purpose, and that’s ok. This game has been loads of fun, probably the most I have enjoyed a game since Red Dead Redemption (an open-sandbox cowboy-themed game from the same people) and I’m hoping they’ll keep adding new surprises to it to keep people playing for quite a while longer.





Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Our new Ford Flex

There was a time when we horse-traded cars all the time, cars would come and go so quickly we’ve forgotten we owned some of them! But recently we have settled down and lived with a few cars that we really liked
Dave’s 1993 Dodge Stealth
My never-ending Mustang Project (Immobile since 2005 – and still NOT going strong!)
Mr Miata (1990)
2013-07-21 20.24.29
And the mighty 1995 Van - which has done a mighty good job pulling the Airstream since we bought it in 2003, and has also set a record for length of stay. I don’t think we’ve ever owned a car for 10 years straight without once having even thought of getting rid of it.

Unfortunately, all our functional cars have something in common – the newest one is a 1995 – and it’s 2013! The Stealth is coming up on some major maintenance that will probably cost more than the car is worth. So we decided it was time to replace the Stealth. My priorities were something that could handle gravel roads for getting to the trailheads for all the hiking I’d like to start doing, and something with 4 doors that would make it easier to load the dogs. Dave’s priority was something cool with lots of horsepower.
As we started shopping, it appeared that anything we got with the ground clearance and passenger capacity we wanted would be pretty big – almost big enough to pull the trailer. I spent months fussing over towing capacities and reviews of towing performance on the crossovers we were test driving. I wasn’t very happy with any of them. Seemed like if we just went a little bit bigger we could replace the Stealth and the Van with one car.
Then this showed up on the internet search at a Ford dealership in Portland.


It's a Ford Flex! Silver with a black leather interior, and even with 68k miles on it, it just about looks perfect from end to end. We couldn't have asked for a nicer car. We had already been to test drive a 2013 with 15k on it (it was a former rental car) and liked how it drove, but the $26k price tag was too rich for us. Then we saw this 2009 on a local ford lot, and it was $17.5k, which was much better. We only needed to get them to knock off the 500 to get down to $17, and we felt it was a fair price, especially compared to the other ones available. The carfax was clean, and showed it spent one year as a rental, and then the next three years with a family in Vancouver, so it was a local trade in. It also isn't loaded down with goodies we don't need (though it's still plenty loaded compared to the cars we are coming from). The sales guy knew nothing about it, told us all sorts of stuff that was wrong, didn't know how big the engine was, said it had 7500# tow capacity (it will have 4500# capacity after adding an oil cooler)! Luckily we had done our research and already knew all the info we needed.

Check out that cushy black leather interior!

The only problem we had was that we had gotten pre-approved from our credit union, and wanted the dealer to just give us a purchase order, and we would go get the check and come back with it the next day. But 1) they want the sale closed NOW so you can't change your mind, and 2) they want the financing to go through them, so even if they get the financing through your credit union, they will get some kickback. However, we didn't want them running credit check on us – it wasn’t necessary. So Dave steadfastly refused to fill out a credit app, and they just would not give up. It literally took an hour to get them to relent and send us home with a purchase order. They said, oh we can't hold the car for you (that's ok, we'll risk it), we can't take a deposit, it's against the law (really? I find that hard to believe), Here, you tell us the info and we'll fill it out for you (you're really not getting the point). Finally, FINALLY, they decided to give us the purchase order and let us go. So they brought out a blank purchase order and said 'here you go, sign this', and we were like, we can't sign this, it has no info on it! I don't sign blank contracts! They said, it's ok, we'll print everything on it later. We said fine, go print it on it NOW, we'll wait. So they went away and then came back and said they couldn't do that, so they made the salesguy write it out by hand - I think it was just to make it as painful as possible for not filing out their credit app!

I love the ‘ribs’ on the sides and back, giving it that retro station wagon look! (This picture was taken after we got the hitch installed)

The next morning at the bank we found the guy had totally screwed up the VIN, but luckily we could pull it up off their webpage and got all the bank paperwork filled out. Columbia Credit Union was great to deal with, didn't try to push anything on us, helped us figure out the best payment, got 5 years and well under $300 a month, so I was happy. Took the check back to the car dealers where they made us awkwardly sit around and make small talk for about a half hour with the sales guy, then finally went in with the finance guy. So we have a purchase order, a check, and printed instructions on where to send the title to the Credit Union. By the time we get to the finance guy he has lost the piece telling him where to send the title! Then he starts asking us about our credit score to see if he can get us a better rate (again, no thank you, and our credit score is none of your business), and THEN tries to sell us on 'gap insurance' and a warranty!

Finally - about 2 hours later - we drive off with our new car. Salesguy offers to help us setup the bluetooth, and we say no thanks, I'm eager to get back to work, and we finally drive it home - yay! Later, when our friends are helping us try to set it up, it turns out, the car doesn't even have Bluetooth! I swear that kid didn't get a damn thing right about the car!
The final insult, on our way out the door they hand us ONE key – sorry, that’s all they have. We should have argued the point (or found this out earlier in the negotiations), but since we are coming from 1990’s vintage cars we had no idea that the key has a chip imbedded in it and needs to be programmed. If you have two keys you can program a third, but if you only have one, you have to let the dealer program it, and it costs about $150!!! Let me put a few more exclamation points on that – $150 FOR A KEY!!!!!!!! What a flipping rip off!
It’s such a shame that to get the car you want, sometimes you have to deal with car dealers because they really put such a massive amount of ‘suck’ into the whole experience.

But none of that matters, I shall put it all behind me (except for remembering to never, NEVER go anywhere near that dealership again), because we already LOVE our Flex! It drives so nice, it has good power, it's smooth, it's so quiet you can easily talk in it. Last night we went to a play about 45 minutes away, and took our friends, and the backseat was comfortable and we chatted the whole way. I even took my whole department to lunch and fit everyone in it – with two adults in the third row – they said it was reasonably comfortable! I can plug in my ipod and listen to Christmas music :) It's just awesome.



It's a little bit shorter than the van, both in length and height. Since it did not come with a factory tow package,we had our tire guys install a Reese tow hitch, now we just need an oil cooler and then it will tow 4500#, plenty for our 3000# trailer. And look at all this room in the back for hauling stuff – and that’s with the backseat still up!


Oh, and all-wheel drive, so it shouldn't get stuck on wet grass like the van used to. Can't wait to get that all setup and try it in the spring! I think the silver Flex and the silver Airstream are going to look great together!


The worst part is that after finding this awesome Flex to replace the van, we have decided the van is just too useful to get rid of yet, so we’re keeping it – for now anyway. There’s no way I would let anyone put plywood or gardening supplies in the back of my beautiful Flex!