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Archive for November 2013

Intrepid by the numbers

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When I bought the Intrepid I stuck a little pad of paper and a pencil inside the door pocket to jot down data with each gas purchase – date, # gallons bought, price per gallon, total spent and the trip odometer reading. I just tallied up the total amount spent on gas, from the first recorded purchase date (10/31/01) to the last tank of gas (10/16/13). $12,485.47 altogether. That’s enough to buy a new car!

Some random data:
Fuel economy on first tank (10/31/01 fill up) – 21.98 miles/gal
Fuel economy on last tank (10/16/13 fill up) – 21.41 miles/gal
Cheapest gas purchased –$0.98/gallon on 12/18/01
Most expensive gas purchased –$4.00/gallon on 5/19/13
Most expensive total bill – $54.39 (at $3.79/gallon) on 7/11/08

Most miles driven per fill up – 430.1 on 15.70 gallons (27.40 miles/gallon) between 5/16/03 and 5/19/03.
– I drove from CF to Iowa City on a Friday evening, IC to Des Moines early Saturday morning, back to IC Saturday night and back to CF Sunday evening, all on one tank.

2,886.3 miles driven between 7/25/03-8/5/03 (IA to Ohio, then Detroit, then through Canada to Niagara Falls, through New York and Massachusetts to New Haven CT, and back).
1,106.9 miles driven on 8/3/03 alone.

1,739.8 miles driven between 4/4/04-4/20/04 (Cincinnati to DC, NYC, New Haven CT, Allentown PA, back to Cincinnati).

No gas purchased in January 2004 (visited Neeks in San Diego CA that month)

Only two fill-ups between 12/27/04 and 4/1/05 (during my restricted license days). No gas purchased at all in March 2005. It was during this stretch that I watched 156 movies over a period of 28 days, only leaving the apartment I shared with Blake to walk to Blockbuster to exchange titles.


Written by camcarlson

November 29, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Posted in Travel


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So I bought a new car last month.

Well, not entirely new. It’s a used car. But it certainly feels new.

But let me set the scene. Last month, Viet and I were driving home from a night out with friends. I got in the car and before putting the key in the ignition I noticed the lights on the window switches were on. This would normally be odd due to the key still being in my hand, but those little lights almost never came on anyway. So I tried one of the switches and the window came down. With the car still off. Hmm. I drove home, parked in the driveway, and the same thing happened. Obviously a short, and one that could eventually drain the battery. I performed a little key dance with the ignition and got the lights to go out, but discovered the problem persisted the next day. To temporarily rectify the situation, I removed the power window fuse from the fuse panel. Obviously not something I could ignore for long.

The Intrepid had seen its share of issues over the 12 years I owned it. Too many to count. I think I began thinking about replacing it in earnest in May of last year, when the brakes completely failed (while I was driving back from Iowa City) and I shelled out nearly a grand to have them replaced. I was mere months away from paying off my student loans and wanted to keep focused on that, so I told myself the next financial goal after the loans were settled would be to buy a new car. Thankfully, the Intrepid hadn’t needed much maintenance since last summer, so most of my discretionary income has been set aside for its replacement.

So back to last month… the day after I discovered the latest in a too-long line of mechanical failures, I made a call on a car I had seen in the Veridian swap sheet. Met with the owner, talked a bit, took the car for a test drive, was very impressed, haggled over the price and came to terms. I had secured a new car. Spent the next day (Monday) updating my insurance policy for full coverage and securing an auto loan through Veridian, which I didn’t really need as I could have just cut a check from my savings account, but I figured an extra loan that could be paid off in short order would serve as good fertilizer for my A credit score.

I am now the proud owner of a 2007 Buick LaCrosse CXL. Let me tell you, this is one fine car. Nearly immaculate condition. One previous owner, an elderly man who passed away last month (his daughter & son in law were the ones selling it). Stored in a garage, never driven out of state, only 55K miles (very low for a 6-year-old car!), serviced & maintained ahead of schedule, clean leather seats, sun roof, telescoping steering column, 10 preset radio w/ optional XM satellite service, optional OnStar service, heated front seats (VERY nice this time of the year), remote lock, remote start, remote trunk unlock, a display counsel that tells me far more than I can remember, such as the outside temperature, each tire’s psi reading, battery voltage, two trip odometers, current fuel economy, oil life capacity (I guess an indicator of when the oil should be changed?), six-way driver seat adjustments, some manner of anti-theft system that I don’t fully understand, and about a thousand other things I’m still learning about it.

For the first couple weeks I alternated between driving the LaCrosse to work and back and driving the Intrepid to move recyclable items and Viet’s bike to his apartment. Then I left the Intrepid parked in the lot across from the Mandalay for a couple weeks. It was only costing me 56¢ per day to insure it but I just wanted to be done with it. And I didn’t have it in me to list it and deal with people coming to look at it and haggling over a selling price. So on advice from Denny I called Waterloo Auto Parts and they quoted me $300 if I could drive it there myself.

So a week from last Friday: Dad met me at my place to follow behind in his truck & give me a lift back after the sale. I remember getting inside the Intrepid and noticing, after having driven a properly functioning car for a couple weeks, how badly the Intrepid’s driver seat sagged! I turned the ignition and it made a really horrible clanky noise, followed by a whiff of black smoke from the tailpipe. Hmm. I let the engine rattle for a minute before feeding it some gas and shifting into reverse. Okay Intrepid, I thought to myself, just one more ride. Just get me there and you can rest in peace. I drove it gingerly to its final destination.

Made it to Waterloo Auto Parts without incident, although at a couple points I became seriously worried the brakes weren’t working (just my luck they would try to fail me!). I parked in front of the main office, took off the license plates, removed my registration paperwork & insurance card from above the passenger side sun visor, and went inside. The fellow I talked to on the phone greeted me and asked for the title and the keys. Odd how he didn’t walk outside to inspect the car… and given there were no windows in the front of the office, it was even odder how he just assumed there was a car outside at all! But whatever, he was a trustworthy fellow. Made a Xerox of the title and after a couple minutes in his office I had a check for $300, which I immediately cashed at the bank 10 minutes later. So long, Intrepid. It’s been swell.


I’m still getting used to owning a nice vehicle. I don’t put anything on the seats, aside from the large box of Kleenex that came with it when I bought it (a leftover from the previous owners). Most things go in the stretchy net thing in the trunk, or on the floor inside. I’ve taken it through a car wash once (Viet came with, his first time in a car wash!) — we went to the recently-opened Happy Hippo Car Wash on University for its $10 touch-free, tri-colored soap magic. I only put top tier gasoline in the tank, 87 octane or higher, which means no more fill-ups at the Hy-Vee station (and no business for Kwik Star as they have ethanol in their 92 stock). Conoco is a mile away and offers 93 octane ethanol-free, so I’ve been going there.

Sunday we drove down to Cedar Rapids to see “All is Lost” at the Wehrenberg (very good movie). Driving out of town to catch a film wasn’t something I’ve been able to do with the Intrepid over the past few years. Driving out of state (aside from a couple quick jaunts to the Twin Cities over the past few years) wasn’t even a consideration. But now that I have the LaCrosse, I can fill up the tank and light out for any direction I choose without a concern for performance. I’ve regained a sense of true mobility, and I’m already giddy for a road trip next year.


Written by camcarlson

November 20, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Posted in Finance