Tag Archives: Mazda Miata

First Road Trip

For some time now, I have been thinking about what should be my first road trip after I retire. Just to be clear, I am not talking about a road trip where the destination is the main purpose of the journey. No what I am talking about is a trip where the drive itself is the purpose. I’ve done a few of these over the 20+ years that I have had fun little cars to drive but I have always been limited by the number of vacation days I could take from work.

One of the first of these road trips was my inaugural excursion on the Tail of the Dragon in Eastern Tennessee. My wife was not interested in a trip where the main purpose was to experience a road but when I mentioned the idea to my sister, she readily agreed to come along. We did combine it with a final destination to one of our favorite places in the world, Montreat, but experiencing that fun road with 318 curves in 11 miles was as close to a roller coaster ride in a car as you can get, one that I would repeat multiple times over the years.

Probably the granddaddy of all these road trips was in 2010 when I drove the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) together, another trip my wife was not interested in going on.

Over a five day period, I drove by myself about 2,000 miles, almost 600 of the total being just the two roads for which I took the trip. For the most part, the weather was perfect and allowed for all day top-down driving in my little red convertible. The only negative of the trip was on the last day when I encountered construction that had the last 75 miles or so of the BRP closed to traffic. 2010 was the 75th anniversary for the BRP and I was most surprised during its Diamond Jubilee year that part of it would be closed to traffic.

While I had driven the part that was closed many times before, it still irked me that I couldn’t say I had driven the whole road all in one trip.

So what will my first trip be?

Ever since I found out that I would be retiring this year, I have had this question in the back of my mind knowing that I would no longer be limited by the number of vacation days I had. Frequently as I would be driving to work or running errands, the question would come to the forefront of my thoughts. I know to interest my wife in coming with me that it has to be more about the destination and the things we may see along the way than the road itself. With two of our kids living on the west coast, I’ve thought a cross country trip would be fun as there are many things along the way that we would both want to see.

In fact, an opportunity presented itself for just such a trip this year when my nephew (the one that made me an uncle for the first time), announced that he was getting married in Pasadena in November. But a cross country trip at this time just wasn’t in the cards so that won’t be the first.

I also have been toying with the idea of trying to drive as much of the historic Route 66 that still exists. This trip would afford the opportunity to see many sites I have never seen and would end up also in Los Angeles where a fun drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) would allow a visit to San Francisco where our oldest son and his family lives.

I’ve also thought of doing the BRP again to complete the whole 469 miles in one trip. And I’ve considered that maybe I need to research another fun road to drive in the US and experience that.

My most recent idea is to just stay closer to home and head over to Nashville and pick up the Natchez Trace Parkway, not as long or likely as scenic as the BRP but a road that I have never done.

But with road conditions and open-air driving not conducive to the cold weather starting to creep into the forecast, it will probably be spring before I actually decide on a specific trip to take. However, this gives me the winter to research other roads that may be my first post-retirement road trip. And when I do, I’ll be sure and report all about it here so you can enjoy part of the trip too.

Because for someone who loves car and loves to drive, what’s better than a fun road trip!

Old Car Magazines

As long as I can remember, I have always loved car magazines. Of course this should not come as a surprise for someone like me who loves cars.

dsc_0011

At one point after college (when I could afford it), I had subscriptions to the three big ones: Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Hot Rod. Occasionally they would review some of the same cars and so I enjoyed getting to read each magazine’s take on the pluses and minuses of a certain car.

But to clarify, while I am an avid car lover, I am not a car racer or car modifier and so over time, I found that I appreciated more the “sheer driving pleasure” editorial perspective of Car & Driver and so dropped the other two.

Over the winter, while rummaging around in my closet, I came across a dusty shoebox and cardboard box at the bottom of my closet.

img_3638

What delight to find that inside were some of my old car magazines dating back almost 20 years to July 1998! Not that a 20-year-old magazine with circulation probably in the millions and questionable increased financial value would be my source of glee, it was just that these old magazines held sentimental value for me.

img_3639

My favorite issue was always the new car issue that came out in either September or October of each year. Car & Driver would faithfully chart the changes over their glossy pages for the new models, confirm the demise of certain models, and include technical highlights for some of the more significant updates. I would use this issue along with ones specific to a certain car I was interested in to help make future car buying decisions. So rather than saying I was just hoarding old magazines, I was building a database archive of research material.

img_3645

But the greatest find in my closet was this shoebox, which contained all of my Miata Magazines, the official publication of the Miata Club of America (now defunct).

miata-1998

It was in 1996 when I bought my first Miata and as soon as I did, I joined the Miata Club of America. For the reasonable price of only $29 per year, you got a member sticker to put on your car and four issues of a magazine.

img_3641

This was the first issue I got, not long after purchasing my car, which incidentally, just celebrated 20 years with me. I really used to love this magazine, probably the only one I would ever literally read cover to cover. This was no doubt because of all the cars I have ever owned; the Miata is my all-time favorite (I own two now).

img_3640

The magazine included news of Miata club gatherings all over the world, tips on how to take care of your car, how to modify it (if you chose), stories by Miata enthusiasts and the fun they had in their cars, and of course lots of great photos of Miatas. In no other magazine would authors refer to his or her car as a Blue ‘95 and everyone would know exactly what that meant (down to the actual shade of blue and color of interior)!

img_3635

One of my favorite columns to read in each issue was this one by Barbara Feinman where she chronicled her own story about her relationship with her Miata, at least until she got married, started a family and had to sell it since it was no longer practical.

img_3642

Sadly sometime between 2003 and 2005, these magazines were discontinued.

img_3643

Mazda stepped up and began to publish another magazine, with coverage expanded to include other sporty Mazdas and then this magazine morphed into…

img_3644

…which covered all Mazda cars. These later magazines would usually include stories about Miatas but other Mazda cars as well that I was less interested in reading about. It was sad to lose a magazine dedicated exclusively to my favorite car.

img_3637

But in spite of the demise of the Miata Magazine, I still continued my subscription to Car & Driver.

img_3647

Then in 2013, in addition to their long-standing print version, Car & Driver began to offer a digital version of their magazine through a partner company, Zinio. It was incredible! It was a multidimensional digital publication that went left to right and top to bottom.

img_3648

In addition, many pages had black or red dot hyperlinks that pulled up even more detailed information when clicked. But the feature that blew me away was for car comparisons, they included videos of the trials upon which the story was based. So rather than just reading about the test results, you could actually see the cars in action in a video. I’m sure it raised an eyebrow from my wife the first time I was reading an issue in bed when all of a sudden, engine racing noises emitted from my iPad.

img_3649

They must have offered this as a one year trial to existing print subscribers because at the end of 2013, I was sent a bill for $25 or $30 to continue it for 12 months (over four to five times the reduced hardcopy price I usually paid). I declined and so switched back to hardcopy.

img_3650

Then in 2016, Car & Driver began to publish their own digital version. It was not the multi-media version that I had received through Zinio, but it was offered at the same price as the hardcopy. I signed right up and have been receiving the digital version to my iPad every month since then.

I realize that by now subscribing to the digital version, I will no longer be saving hardcopy magazines that could possibly be valuable in about 100 years. I did google the value of one of my Miata Magazines (since they are out of print) and found they were going for about $15 a copy (about double the price I paid 20 years ago ($29 annual membership divided by four issues or $7.25 per magazine). So I obviously won’t be supplementing my retirement income by selling these old magazines. But then again, I won’t be piling up more old magazines in my closet that will just have to be cleaned out one day. So rather than leaving a bunch of old magazines to my heirs, I’ll just bequeath my iPad with all the digital issues.

Miniature Car Moving Day

Not long ago, the day came that I needed to transport my 1/18-scale model cars home from my office. This was in preparation for my final office move before our site closure and my retirement. Last year I posted that this would be a necessary step before I retire. While my eventual idea of a miniature garage for them in the back yard was not well received by wife, I needless to say needed to bring the cars home.

The first step was getting down their original boxes from the attic. As you can see, they were quite dusty with some having been in the attic for almost 20 years. Donning a respirator mask to keep the dust out of my lungs, I climbed into the attic and began to search for all of them. Before I brought them into the house, I wiped them off as best I could with a damp rag. Some of the boxes were a bit damaged from the time when squirrels got into our attic (who would have know squirrels like to eat plastic).   Others were covered by blown insulation, which actually protected them quite nicely from the dust and the squirrels.

It was a bit of a treasure hunt to find them all and in the end, I found 27 of the 28 boxes I knew I should have. The one missing may turn up whenever we get other things out of the attic.

With the boxes cleaned fairly well, I loaded them up into the trunk of my car for the drive to work.

The next day, once I got to work, I loaded them onto one of our stability sample carts and wheeled them into my office.

Next began the process of removing the Styrofoam base from each box. Because the clear plastic had come loose in many of the boxes, this proved a tedious task for some. In a few with the loose plastic, some of the blown insulation had gotten into the boxes and so I had to clean this out as well. One of the more damaged boxes might have been a temporary home for a squirrel as when I dumped out the insulation; an acorn and something else I won’t mention fell out (For your benefit, I chose not to photograph that).

Each car is attached to this Styrofoam base with a bracket and two screws (I actually managed to find all but three screws). Some of the boxes still had the small catalog inside the box, this one being almost 25 years old.

A few of the boxes still had the price tags on them. This one I could see that I had purchased at de Bijenkorf, the large department store in Amsterdam that Anne Frank shopped at.

Prior to putting the car inside, I gave each box got another good wipe down to get rid of the residual dust and then I stacked the car filled boxes on the cart.

After I got half way through, I realized I had been putting the cars in backwards. I confirmed this by going to the BBurago website and seeing all of the cars facing left with the front angled forward. I had screwed them all in with the back angled forward. Obviously I had to redo those.

For some of the cars, it was bitter sweet to box them up. This Mini sat on my desk for over 10 years…

…a daily reminder of one of the most fun cars I ever owned.

And this is probably the nicest car I collected, complete with soft rubber seats and even carpet on the floor. I fondly remembered finding it on a trip to Lugano, Switzerland in 1998 with my wife and youngest son.

Throughout the afternoon, it was interesting to see the look on coworker’s faces when they stopped by seeing what I was up to. Even my boss had an odd look on her face when she walked in, no doubt wondering what I was spending work time doing. But none of them understood what an emotional task I was undertaking.

After I had screwed the last car into its box frame, I was left with this one car for which I could not find its box. So I decided it would just have to be on display somewhere at home until I did further searching in the attic.

Rather than taking them home, I decided to keep my two Miatas on my desk to the very last day. I knew it was going to be traumatic enough to walk in and not see my collection so I would at least retain these two…

…miniature reminders of the two fun Miatas I owned.

With my task complete, I placed all of the filled boxes on my cart and wheeled them down to my car.

As I carefully stowed them in the trunk of my car, I was glad to realize that I finally owned a car that they would all fit in to. Over the years, I brought the cars into work one at a time. Until I bought this WRX, none of the small cars I had would even hold them all.

Knowing that for now, I did not have a space to display all these cars at home, I stored many of them in this large box I found in the closet and the rest I put on top of this shelf in the same closet.

I was determined I was not going to put them back in the attic knowing the damage the boxes had incurred from their years’ storage there.

And I was encouraged by my wife’s comments when I told her I had brought them home. She said maybe we could find a glass enclosed cabinet to display them in, not so much to keep the dust off of the cars, but to keep them safe from small grandchildren hands which would no doubt be fascinated by all these miniature cars.

So hopefully one day, my cars will be on display again so that I can enjoy seeing them and recall to the times when I purchased them. Until then, I’ll just have to be satisfied with the memory of them in my office for so many years.

Going on Sweet 16

15thbirthdaycake

Last year, I wrote about a “birthday” of sorts for my 1994 Mazda Miata as it was celebrating 20 years with me. I was pleased to learn that this post inspired my daughter to write a post about her first car that she had for more than half her life.  Not to be left out, several weeks ago, my 2002 Miata marked a similar milestone, 15 years with me.

Car15

It was in January 2002 when I agreed to let my oldest son borrow my ’94 and I purchased a new ’02 to replace it. Having had fun going back and chronicling all the road trips that the ’94 had taken over those 20 years, predominately with my son’s hands at the wheel, I thought it would be entertaining to also recount some of the fun mileage of my ‘02.

img_3634

Admittedly, close to 95,000 is not a lot of miles for a fifteen year old vehicle. But for most of those years, the ‘02 was not the only car I owned and had available to drive on a regular basis. It was joined first by a 2006 Mini Cooper S and then by a 2012 Fiat 500. However, for its first four years with me, the ’02 Miata was the only car I had and thus was my daily driver. It also is the one car I have not “loaned” out either to my wife or kids so those 95,000 miles are for the most part my miles.

file1068

This is one of the earliest photos I have of my new Miata, safely tucked away in the garage during this rare snowfall in Memphis. This photo was taken shortly before it made its first road trips, although these were admittedly not fun trips.

medad

Not long after I took delivery of this new Miata, my dad was hospitalized due to complications from his melanoma cancer. So the first few road trips I took in the ’02 were over to Hot Springs, AR to see my dad just before he died. While being extremely sad driving memories, I tried to make something more positive out of them by taking a portion of my parent’s estate left to me and paying off the car. Although neither of my parents ever saw this car, they both knew how much I loved cars and I think they would have approved of me using the money this way, in a sense turning it into “my inheritance” car.

The following year for my next road trip, I headed off in the opposite direction when my sister and I drove up to Knoxville, TN to visit my brother and other sister. This was a weekend visit that would spark the beginnings of what would become our annual SIBSAB (Sibling Sabbatical) when just the four of us get together. Being that this was in the winter close to the one year anniversary of the death of our dad, we were met with sleet the morning of our departure.

File0015

In 2005, I convinced my sister who lived in Memphis at the time to take a road trip with me to North Carolina. But on the way up, we took a slight detour to drive the Tail of the Dragon, a fun, super curvy road (incredibly 318 curves in 11 miles). Even though I’d had the ’02 for three years, this was my first opportunity to run her on what is certainly one of the best “driver’s roads” in the US. It also gave me my inaugural experience of what the expression “it corners like it’s on rails” really feels like (it scared my sister). Following this heart-racing thrill ride, we made our way into Asheville, NC for a fun brother-sister road trip (click here for more details).

DSC_0010

With just the taste of a single run on the “Tail” in the ’02, I wanted to go back for more. So in 2008, I took a “father-son” bonding trip to North Carolina with my two sons, the youngest of which had just turned 21. Since multiple runs were what all three of us wanted, we made the “Tail” our destination for the first day’s drive from Memphis and booked a cabin at the Tapoco lodge which is on the North Carolina side of the same US 129. And for this trip, we took not just the ’02 Miata but the Mini Cooper as well (the ’94 Miata was in San Francisco at the time).

DSCN1020

With one extra driver on each run, we actually got some pretty nice photos of the two cars.

IMG_2109

Riding with my youngest son at the wheel, I got my chance to be scared (much like my sister probably was) as we squealed around several of the tight curves. The final destination for this trip was once again Asheville, but not before having multiple exciting runs (click here for more details).

By far, the granddaddy of all road trips I have taken in this Miata was in 2010 when I set out to drive the entire Sky Line Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).

DSC_0036

While these parkways are not curvy roads like the “Tail”, they are some of the most scenic routes in the US. And at 469 miles long, the BRP is America’s longest linear park. When I asked my wife if she wanted to accompany me on this road trip, she demurred when she learned it would be mostly spent in the car—which it was.

DSC_0091

Over a five day trip, I drove over 2,000 miles with the time on the two parkways (about 575 miles of the trip), almost exclusively with the top down. Although I was all alone on this road trip, it was still very special as I posted previously (click here for details).

Having owned the ’94 for 20 years and the ’02 for 15, it has given me plenty of opportunity to notice the differences between the two cars. The ’02, being eight years younger in age, certainly doesn’t have all the squeaks and rattles that the ’94 has and the ‘02 is surprisingly still pretty tight given it wears its original-equipment Bilstein shocks. The glass back window with defroster in the ‘02 is a definite advantage over the plastic window on the “94 that has to be unzipped and carefully lowered before dropping the top. But with the top dropped, the ’94 exhaust note wins hands down. They are both very fun cars to drive and in the end, they are similar but different.   I don’t plan to ever sell either one of them.

While my ’02 Miata has not seen as much of the country as my ’94, what the ’02 has seen has been all with my hands at the wheel. With the miles I have put on my two Miatas, I realize that I have been driving a fun, sporty convertible for almost half my driving life.

IMG_2482

Now with a 2016 Subaru WRX as well, it is sometimes a tough choice to pick which one I want to drive at any given time. My choice is typically limited in that regard since only two of the three are at the same location at any given time (either our home or condo). But whichever one I do chose, I know I’m going to have a fun drive no matter what road I’m on.

No Longer a Teenager!

Credit: bbwclaire.wordpress.com

Credit: bbwclaire.wordpress.com

The 14th this week will mark a birthday of sorts. It will be 20 years that I have owned my white 1994 Mazda Miata, affectionately known as “the Marshmallow” (so named by one of our artist friends for its toasted tan colored top over miniature white body).

miata-1998

This is a significant milestone for me since I have owned and driven cars for over 44 years but have never owned the same car for 20 years. But no less significant is the fact that the car itself is now 23 years old (based on model year), and just two years shy of qualifying as an antique car.

img_3044

The Marshmallow turned over 150,000 miles this year, not an excessive amount for a 23 year-old car, and I thought for its 20th birthday with me that it would be fun to look back over how it accumulated all those miles.

I bought the car used in December of 1996, the year I turned 40. It had less than 10,000 miles (9,536 to be exact), which was not bad for a car that was 3-model years old when I bought her. For the next five years, she became my daily driver, providing me transportation for my commute back and forth to work as well as all of the errands I ran on the weekends. It made a couple of trips to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where my parents lived at the time but other than that, it was all local miles.

1997-03

That all changed in January 2002 when my oldest son needed to replace his 1989 Jeep that had died. That was when I offered to let him “borrow” the Marshmallow and I bought myself a new 2002 Miata.

Car15

At that point, the Marshmallow moved to Atlanta with him where he was in college at the time.

While at college with my son, she made a couple of road trips, once to the mountains of western North Carolina and once to Key West, Florida. And she would also provide his transportation home from college on holidays and summer breaks. Interestingly at the time, I discovered on Google earth that the Marshmallow had been captured in the satellite image parked on our street and at our son’s house in Atlanta, giving the impression that it could be in two different places at the same time—maybe a magic car?

2003-15

After our son graduated from college and he moved to Austin, Texas for graduate school, the Marshmallow went with him. Over the three years our son was in graduate school, I lost track of the trips they took together so that part of her car life remains a mystery to me. I seem to think she might have made a road trip to Mexico during that time but I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is that after our son graduated, he left her in Austin as he was moving in a U-Haul truck to the San Francisco bay area for his first job. I then had to fly down there and drive her back to Memphis, the prodigal car returning home.

With her back home, I now had a choice of “red or white” for my morning commute into work. At least that is until my youngest son decided he would like to “borrow” her for his weekend car and took her to his apartment in town. During this time, other than running around town, her big road trip was back to North Carolina in the hands of my brother-in-law and nephew when they had to return home while the rest of their family stayed with us.

Car14

Then in 2007, my oldest son decided he would like to borrow her back so he would have a car in San Francisco. That year, he rode the train home for Christmas and in January drove it back to San Francisco. This was probably her longest road trip ever as Memphis to San Francisco is almost 2,100 miles (via I-40). On this trip, she really got a chance to see the country.

dscn1015

While she was a California girl, I would get to drive her whenever we were in San Francisco visiting. This included multiple top-down drives on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), as well as trips to Sea Ranch where our family gathered for Thanksgiving a couple of years.

dscn1608

And one year, I even got to drive her down Lombard Street in San Francisco, the crookedest street in the world.

MiataonLombard

This was before the San Francisco Fire Department ran into her while she was parked on the street. The damage almost totaled her but not quite so. Now she has a new driver-side door, which is hard to close, a continual reminder of her time in San Francisco.

Then in 2011 after our son got married and he and his new wife moved to New York, we had her shipped back home to Memphis, the prodigal car returning a second time. The day my wife dropped me off in the parking lot after her long cross-country journey on a car carrier, I was really glad to see her again. I drove her to work that summer day for the first time in many years. But on her return home that day, she was now greeted not just with a sibling Miata, but now a 2006 Mini Cooper S as well.

2007-08-07

So now I had a choice of “red or white” or “red and white” for my daily drive into work.

At least that is until my youngest son decided to borrow her back and keep her at his apartment. While he kept her, her one road trip was when the two of us drove up for the day to the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Almost 20 years old at the time, I wanted to see how she performed out on the road. She did just fine.

Once our youngest son had his daughter, a Miata was no longer a practical second car to have and so she returned home once again—although this time it wasn’t to home but rather to our mid-town condo where I had a reserved, covered parking spot for her.

img_2973

And this is where she lives now. Whenever I stay at the condo, I use her as my fun run-around car on errands or just out for a drive. Since she is 23 years old, she certainly has her share of squeaks and rattles. But when the weather is nice enough to put the top down, I get to hear her iconic exhaust note.

img_0728

My plan is to keep her at least until she becomes an antique. No longer being my daily driver, she won’t rack up the miles over the next several years like she has in her first 20 years with me. In fact, she has belonged to me for so long; I just don’t think I can ever sell her. Who knows, in a few years, one of my sons may decide to “borrow” her back. Or even more exciting, maybe one day, one of my grandchildren will want to borrow her as his or her first car. At that point she will have become a 3-generation car, all in the same family!

A New Car

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a lifelong car lover. In the past, I have written about all the Cars that I have owned, when I recognized the Magic in them for me, and the Stable of cars that I have been accumulating.

DSCN6326

Just last fall, I wrote about how hard it was to trade in one of those fun cars and how that launched a search for a replacement. Well that search is over now but before I give the big reveal I have a story to tell.

Not only do I love cars, I also love new cars. Of all the cars that I have purchased, I have only bought two used cars in my lifetime, one turned out to be troublesome…

Car07

…and one turned out to be extremely reliable.

Car14

I know all of the financial advantages of buying used cars instead of new and I have family and friends who never buy new. But as with any monetary decision that must be made by weighing the pros and cons, the intangibles of buying a new car for me have always factored more heavily in my decisions. The reliability factor, having a repair warranty, and being able to get pretty much exactly what I want tip the balance over a used car’s lower cost (in spite of the fact that with a used car, someone else is taking the hit on depreciation). This perspective has unfortunately put me at the mercy of the new car salesman and the new car sales process time and time again.

It truly amazes me that as expensive a purchase as a new car is, that closing a sale has to be dealt with such dishonest people.   Because the sales price is negotiable, every buyer always wants to get the best deal and the seller obviously wants the same thing. With two independent parties both wanting the same goal, invariably in the end there has to be a winner and a loser. Thank goodness in our modern society that buying food does not involve the same process, as the weekly shopping trip could take all day if we had to negotiate the price for every single item.

While I don’t mean to slam the entire new car industry—there must be honest dealerships and salespeople out there—I just haven’t come across many in my past.

One of my favorite experiences was when my daughter was buying her first car and witnessing how assertive she was in the negotiation process (and how she said each time the sales person left to go talk to his manager, that they were just eating donuts and shooting the breeze). It was as if she were a pro on her first outing.

1999-20

In my lifetime, I have bought 13 new cars so I have subjected myself to this process multiple times. Some sales people I’ve dealt with seemed more honest but others epitomized the sleazy salesman we often think of. A couple of years ago when my youngest son bought his 2nd new car, it was probably one of the worst buying experiences I have ever had (and one I will never repeat at that dealership).

IMG_0930

The only positive aspect of my buying experience is that I have always known exactly the car I wanted to buy before I arrived at the dealership so I wasn’t having to visit a multitude of dealerships and subject myself to that pain multiple times. In fact in recent years, I have started off with the sales manger first because the car I actually wanted was not on the lot (having previously viewed their inventory online) since he would be the one to have to locate it anyway.

DSC_0109

When my wife bought her last car, we tried a totally new process—Internet sales. Thanks to a really nice feature that all car manufacturers offer today—a new car configurator—you can use this online tool to configure just the right car.   My wife built the car exactly the way she wanted it and then submitted it for a sales quote. After getting a return e-mail response fairly quickly, we scheduled and went in for a test drive of a similarly equipped model, asked for their best price, and then left to talk about it. No pressure and in and out of the dealership in less than an hour.

A few days later, we decided to order the car that my wife had built online, called them back and that was it. No sitting in the showroom for hours and no haggling (and yes, no donuts). I knew when I bought my next car; this was the approach I wanted to use. Only problem was this time, I didn’t know what car I wanted so I was destined to have to deal with a number of dealerships.

IMG_1925

In January, I decided to go to our local car show to help me narrow down the choices I was considering. While this is certainly not a big auto show and some of the brands do not even participate, it still helped me to eliminate a lot of different options I was looking at. After coming home from that show, I really had it narrowed down to just two possibilities. Thankfully that meant I would only have to deal with two different dealerships.

But still it was a hard choice as it came down to a decision between a modern version of a 2-door muscle car…

IMG_1184

…and something more practical, a car with 4-doors to better equip me moving into my Granddaddy years.

For months I went back and forth. One complicating factor was that since I wanted a manual transmission (in my opinion, the only way to drive), one of the two dealerships didn’t even have a manual transmission car on the lot that I could test-drive. But finally one came in and after test-driving it that clinched the deal for me.

In the end, I didn’t get the less practical muscle car; I got something even better, all the fun and power of a muscle car, but with four doors—a sporty 270 horsepower Subaru WRX.

IMG_2478

And since I was able to deal with the same dealership my wife had bought from, I had a similar pleasant Internet buying experience that was made even better by the fact that I took delivery of it on my birthday—my 60th! (Interestingly, this car replaces my 2006 Mini that I took delivery on my youngest son’s birthday 10 years ago, not long before I turned 50.)

So now when I take my grandkids out for a fun drive, I won’t be straining to get them into the back seat of a 2-door car. No I’ll easily strap them into their car seat in the backseat of my sporty 4-door car and off we will zoom, celebrating not only my milestone age of 60 in a new toy, but giving a dual meaning to the phrase “going from zero to 60” very fast!

Glorious Spring

Now that March Madness is over, for me spring can begin. At least where I live, the conclusion of those three exciting weekends of college basketball always spells the end of the cold winter and the beginning of warmer weather. But even as I was glued to the television watching a buzzer beater or an overtime game, spring was springing.

IMG_2016

Quietly while I was indoors, plant growth was coming to life slowly pushing green shoots upward from the soil even as reminders of winter—dead leaves—were still lurking along the borders of our porch. Spring means flowers blooming, trees budding, and grass returning from the brown to lush green. But spring also means…

IMG_2015

…glorious top-down weather.

Unless you own a convertible, you cannot appreciate this additional benefit of warmer weather. But for those that do, you know exactly what I mean. The thrill of getting to drive and experience spring not just through your windshield, but everywhere you look with an unencumbered 360 degree view of nature waking from its hibernation all around you.

IMG_2014

And this year, I had an extra treat—access to two convertibles.

Car15

Over the winter, my youngest son returned my 1994 white Miata in order to borrow another one of my cars, a hardtop, because he said it was too cold and no fun to drive a convertible in the winter (which I agree with and which is why I have my “summer car” and my “winter car”). Suddenly, I again had a varietal choice for my daily drive—red or white?

But beyond just a color choice, these two cars have different characteristics, not the least of which is their age difference.

For a 22 year-old car with nearly 150,000 miles, it is still a blast to drive. Sure it has its squeaks and rattles, not uncommon for a car into its third decade, and sounds that normally would drive me crazy. But the original Miata (known as M1 to Miata aficionados) has the most wonderful exhaust note that just has not been replicated in any of the subsequent models. (The first time my youngest son drove it; he asked me if I had put a performance exhaust system on it; no I replied, it’s stock.) So whenever the squeaks get on my nerves, all I have to do is punch the accelerator a little and the still peppy engine gives me an exhilarating boost of speed as it transmits that wonderful, satisfying sound through the muffler.

Car16

And for days or weeks when the weather is not going to be so accommodating for top-down driving (i.e., cold or rainy), then my 2002 red M2 becomes my daily driver. Even with nearly 100,000 miles on it, it still has tight suspension and few rattles or squeaks. And with ABS brakes and a heated, rear glass window; it is more suitable for cold, rainy weather. And at the end of the workday, if the weather has improved, then I can drop the top for a fun drive home.

DSC_0976

But if where you are reading this, winter hasn’t ended yet and you are still awaiting the day when you can put the top down on your convertible (the day I took these springtime pictures, my brother who lives in the northeast, actually sent me a video of snow falling out his back window), I can but offer you these few images of spring in the south. Hopefully this will tide you over until the day you too can get out and do some long overdue glorious top-down driving.