Looking for A Used Car


We're looking for a car to replace the white 1993 940 Turbo sedan at left, otherwise known as Whitecar.

During the big snowfall we had last year, my wife’s rear-wheel drive (RWD) Volvo 940T provided her with a few anxious moments when it slid sideways during a slow left turn and then would not drive up the short, steepish slope of the sitter’s driveway.  All this within about a half mile of our house proved to be a little seed of dissatisfaction.  Formerly, we’d put a 40# cinder-block in the trunk for winter driving that, at a cost of probably less than $10.00, sufficed nicely to aid in RWD rain and snow traction.  Now that the trunk of that car seems junked-up with kid-stuff, and we’ve moved to a new location evidently leaving the cinder-block behind, and the Caution-Lady’s desire for greater safety features generally, and especially in winter and during our treks North, we’re looking for a replacement.

Toyota 4Runner

Although my wife prefers the Volvo XC90, I looked at one of these

I first looked at a Toyota 4Runner, because we’ve got a friend whose 1998 4Runner has been reliable since new, and although he’s replaced it as a daily driver, he is keeping it for mountain getaways.  The 4Runner I test-drove at a dealership a couple of weeks ago was the four cylinder model known to have higher fuel consumption than the six cylinder model.  The car I drove had seen rough use, had been inexpertly repainted, and was otherwise unsuitable for Caution-Lady.

Lexus RX300

I test drove one of these last weekend, and liked it. It felt as well-built as a Volvo, and I was expecting something else.

Last weekend, here at Stepford, I test-drove a Lexus RX300.  The model year was 2001.  Great car, loved it, wanted to buy it, but couldn’t get past the price-tag.  There’s not a car on earth that is worth more than $10,000.00 to Caution-Lady or me.  Later that day, somebody tipped me off to the fact that RX300 has a known transmission problem – they frequently quit by 70,000 miles.  The car I drove had about 94,000 miles on the odometer.

Volvo XC90

My wife would like to have one of these in all-wheel-drive, but our mechanics have advised against the T6-AWD version. They much prefer the five cylinder front-wheel-drive version for reliability and durability.

Yesterday was a hot day in Middle Tennessee.  During the morning hours we had a workman in the house doing an install.  Meant I had to stay home, Caution-Lady and Seventy-Six went to the store.  Before we knew we’d have to be home during the early part of Saturday, we had made plans to have lunch in a nearby town with a favorite relative.  We were late getting to lunch.  I drove out and picked her up and my wife and son met us at the restaurant.  At one point, my car’s exterior temperature sensor registered 111 degrees Fahrenheit.  We took two cars because I had to leave after lunch and drive to Franklin, Tennessee, to look at a 2001 Volvo XC70 or Cross-Country wagon.

2001 Volvo XC70

I test drove one of these yesterday.

The drive to Franklin was uneventful except for the inevitable happenstance of getting stuck behind two or three people who slavishly adhere to the belief that a speed limit is only to be approached very slowly, if at all.  Sort of a false-religion of the highway which I oft repudiate, suiting action to word.

The Cross-Country’s seller and I had agreed to meet at a Shell station near the I-65, but we hadn’t talked about the fact that there are two of them.  The car, when I saw it, was absolutely beautiful.  One minor door ding on the driver-side, some scuff marks probably from one of those rubber-nubby automatic car washes.  My guess is that the owner detailed the car himself to judge by the pride-in-ownership quality of work.  Car looked great inside and out.  All of the automatic windows, sunroof, door locks, mirrors, seats, etc., worked fine.  The car’s air-conditioning blew cold, comfortingly cold like a refrigerator in the heat of Franklin’s asphalt gehenna.

Behind the wheel, I shifted the automatic transmission from Park to Drive, but apparently did so in “Auto-Stick” mode.  Pedal about halfway down to the floor the tachometer’s needle approached 6000 revolutions per minute before I realized something was wrong.  The seller figured it out before I did and switched the transmission into its normal auto-trans mode.  My guess is that the “Auto-Stick” feature is intended to serve, in a manner that does require significantly more operator interaction, the same purpose of the old 850 automatic transmission “Sport” mode.  Although the car pulled slightly to right and the wheels had a slightly unbalanced feel at highway speeds, it was a pleasure to drive.

The consensus  at Brickboard’s All-Wheel-Drive XC forum is that the 2001 XC is to be avoided because it was the first model year on something called the “P2 Platform,” and Volvo “doesn’t do first years well.”  I have a cousin who’s got an ’01 V70, the standard wagon model and characterized the problems he and his wife have had with that car as “bad ju-ju.”  If I were a pagan, I would posit angry Swedish Viking ancestor retribution for selling out to Ford Motor Company.  Additionally, my mechanics, guys I like and respect and who stand to gain monetarily if I buy a car with problems, have stated that the 1999 and 2000 models should be avoided at any price.  Which leaves the 1998 as a model year reasonably priced and a platform that is essentially that of the AWD 850 that was available in the Canadian market in 1997.  However, the mechanics had nothing bad to say about the ’01, which either means they haven’t had many customer cars that year with serious problems, or they are easier to work on than the 1999 or 2000 models.

I am getting tired of looking for a car.  I may drive to Lowe’s tomorrow after work and buy another cinder-block.  If I don’t buy anything, then I’m already the price of the car I didn’t buy richer than I would be if I bought the car.

The point of the exercise, however, is to find a safe, reliable car for my wife and son that does not slip much in ice and snow, and hardly at all on rain-slick roads and occasional mud.

Update:  I’ve been Mapquesting locations of cars found on the Internet for driving directions back home, and Pricelining flights to said distant locales.  Cinderblock more cheaper but Caution-Lady must have a car.

Normandy Lake 7/18/10

Josh H. and I, after church and after lunch Sunday, loaded the E68 and 450S and drove out first to Ovoca Lake to see if that would be at all interesting to paddle (it was not, it is a largish pond of probably no more than 10 acres covered in sludgy-looking lily plants).  We drove on, then, to Normandy Lake and put in at Barton Springs boat ramp.  Crowded parking lot filled with trucks that’d trailered in pontoon-boat party barges, jet-skiis, run-down bass boats, and every variety of lesser motorized waterborne conveyance.  The drivers and passengers of these small craft seemed a little boozed-up and under-dressed for the occasion.  Because we got to the water fairly late in the afternoon, we didn’t spend long on the water – paddled out to the bridge, then crossed to Negro Hill and around to the other side of the public camping area there, and then back.  Way better than no time on the water.  I tried out round-tipped canoe paddle with the Pionier, and it worked pretty well.  It was easy to stash in the cockpit and may reasonably be expected to serve in the event of some emergency.

Stuff I’ve Been Thinking About

Blog Posts

My blog posts, in grammar, content, and style, tend to have the character of telephone pad doodles or the things one writes in the margins while taking notes during a meeting, lecture, or while reading a book.  Mistaken is the person who expects this or any blog to conform to scholastic ideals of “penmanship” or rigid notions of propriety.

Stodgy Canoe Guy

One of the things I like about paddling is the woodsy ambiance or vibe associated with paddling.  It’s especially evident in the preoccupation with things like sandpaper, tung oil, needle-and-thread, preparedness, self-reliance and mutual aid.  And the clothes.  At least the clothes I wear – floppy hat, old permanent press work shirt, long baggy shorts, etc.  For the most part cheap, plain-looking clothes that dry quickly.  I’ll leave the bright colors to the guys zipping around on jet-skiis.

Other Drivers on the Road

Something is wrong with the people who drive their cars, outer elbow (because this is probably true in England as well as America) on the window ledge and forearm hanging down against the outside of the car-door, palm backward, resembling to me a large, usually fat, white-bellied dead fish.  It’s like the driver lacks the energy or some other quality of life that separates the living from zombie-like necessary to so much as control all of his or her limbs, in addition to operating a motor vehicle.  Usually, this type of motorist drives too slowly and seems to take pleasure in aggravating the drivers behind them who, for some reason, cannot yet pass them.  Also, and this is similarly galling, this sort of driver seems to be saying, “I AM TOO BIG, THIS CAR CANNOT CONTAIN ME, I AM BURSTING OUT OF THIS CAR!” which is, in itself, pretty offensive.

I think license plates on vehicles should bear some device or color-coded tag that allows other motorists to determine at a glance the vehicle owner’s Performance Intelligence Quotient (or PREFERABLY some entirely new measure of intelligence specific to motor vehicle operation).  Maybe something that could be abbreviated DIQ.  Drivers are going to let you know all about theirs, anyway, but it would be nice to know at a glance in order to plan lane changes and passing before it becomes necessary to dodge some erratic manifestation of deficiency or impaired ability.  Drivers with seriously impaired DIQs could be required to drive vehicles like that Obama soap-bubble, the so-called “Smart Car” – that way when they crash their vehicles into other vehicles or buildings they will do less harm to other people.

The use of cellular telephones by anyone operating a motor vehicle should be prohibited; pull over to talk on the phone.

Feeling Rich

When I bought that canoe Ohio last week, then took it to the White River and paid the outfitter there a measly $13.00 for shuttle service, I felt rich.  A man who has his own canoe is a man of substance, and a man who can use his own strength and sense to propel it on the water’s surface is a man who feels rich, indeed.

I do not know why, having owned five folding kayaks, I never felt that way before about owning and paddling that type of boat.  Folding kayaks are uniquely beautiful.  They tend to be more expensive to purchase than canoes.  I think the difference is a sense of permanence.  A folding kayak is designed to be put away or packed for easy transportation to the location of its intended use, whereas an aluminum canoe is designed to retain its shape and withstand the elements through time.  True it is that folding kayaks are designed likewise to last through time.  The most recent of these that I have purchased was manufactured around 1962 and was watertight when I got it.  The Grumman canoe is 36 years old, the Pionier kayak is 47.

I felt a bitter sense of loss when it was time to put the canoe in to the barn loft at the farm last Friday.  The feeling is similar to what I experience every time I disassemble one of my kayaks.  The feeling roughly translates thus, “Have I used this boat for the last time?  Is this the last time I perform this task?”  What doesn’t translate neatly in to words is the knowledge that some or other that will be the case.  I will use my kayak or canoe for the last time, and I may not know the experience is my last with that boat until time provides a vantage point for perspective, or events translate me in to the past tense and my next phase of existence.

These unpleasant feelings that I wish to repress seem consistent with an unconscious fear of death, although I seem to be in fairly robust good health at present.  As a young drunkard 26 or 27 years ago, I sought but did not find death.  As a man in middle age I seem to be aware of other feelings pertaining to my mortality.  Although they are clearly as long-lasting as any hardshell paddlecraft, the folding kayak has an ephemeral quality – skin stretched over a frame operated by whatever it is that I consist of – that is similar to that of man and animal.

Caution-Lady the Canoe


I bought a canoe the day before yesterday at Eaton, Ohio.  My first hardshell paddle craft, the canoe is a 1974 Grumman 17’ double-ender.  The boat has two seats, bow and stern, as well as three thwarts.  Some of the same machinery Grumman used to stretch aluminum for World War II carrier-based fighter planes stretched the aluminum used in my new boat’s hull.  Although I could count them, it is easier to say there are innumerable small rivets holding the hull together and the “standard keel” to the hull.  Monday night, while sitting at the dinner table, we were discussing whether we would buy the canoe and I kidded my wife telling her I would name the boat for her.  “It’s about time you named one of your boats after me!” she said laughing.


On Monday, I’d driven to Eaton to look at the Grumman which I’d found on Craig’s List.  The seller was asking more than I wanted to pay, but the other canoes that were priced more reasonably had already sold, or the seller was leaving town for a week that day.  The canoes that hadn’t sold were the plastic variety with cup-holders and built-in “coolers” sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Wal-Mart, or they had holes and looked like they’d been used as bongs. 

Seeing the 17’ behemoth on sawhorses at chest level, the Grumman looked overwhelmingly huge.  Kind of cooled me on the idea of buying a canoe.  Huge boat.  I’m the only one in the family who usually has any interest in paddling.  The seller said he had some life-jackets, paddles, and kayak he would throw in to complete the deal.  On the phone, the kayak sounded pretty good, but when I looked at it, it had two large holes on the bottom fixed with Bondo.  Anyway, I didn’t think there’d be room on the racks for both boats.  I told the guy I’d have to sleep on it since he wasn’t willing, and I didn’t seriously expect him to be willing, to accept an out of state check.  Which is how my wife and I came to be discussing the boat at the dinner table Monday night.


Tuesday I woke up thinking there was no way I was willing to pay the guy’s asking price, roughly a third of what the boat would have cost new.  I called the seller and told him I couldn’t pay what he was asking and offered him a lower price I didn’t think he’d accept.  We compromised, and although I think I paid about $50.00 more than I should have, the deal was still reasonable.  My father-in-law and I drove out to Eaton again late Tuesday morning and, before money changed hands, we checked to make sure the huge canoe would fit on the 850’s roofracks; it did, easily.  That’s the photo of the test, above.

The Grumman secured easily and none of the straps or tie-downs worked seriously loose during the drive back.  No problems with handling.  Actually, handling was not significantly affected.  The 850 with RZ96 on the racks handles a little worse.  Heavy stuff in the trunk, however, has a markedly worse effect than boat or boats on the roofracks.

Mid-morning yesterday I drove to Canoe Country at Daleville and paid them for a pair of cheap water shoes and $13.00 shuttle for the ride back, put in at the outfitter’s property, and paddled/floated down to Anderson.  I was concerned that the 17 footer would un-paddle-able solo, but I turned it around and paddled it from the front seat and the stern-as-bow.


This part of the Midwest has this week had daytime temperatures in the mid-nineties.  I took three pieces of pizza, a small bag with almonds and peanuts, and about a gallon of water in addition to a couple of small drybags.  Not much weight in the boat besides my own. 

Edgewater Park at Anderson is seven bridges downstream from the put in at Daleville, an easy 11 or so miles.  I have paddled/floated this section several time over the past few years, usually in rented kayaks that look like slippers, and once in a 16’ Nova Craft or Old Towne rented canoe.  In several places the river is punctuated by mild riffles.  The water was running about four to four and a half feet at the gauge on Wednesday.  Enough water that I was able to explore a previously inaccessible backwater into which the river flowed.


I experimented with paddling from the rear seat, from a kneeling position braced against the thwart forward of my seat, and once, when I failed to “read the river” aright, using the long paddle included with the canoe to pole the boat from a standing position to get past some rocks I’d got hung up on.  The Grumman was not a problem to paddle solo, and I obtained the best results with a short paddle while kneeling braced against the thwart near the boat’s center.  Some kind of closed-cell padding would have made that more comfortable, but was not really necessary.  I was able to lean the canoe from the central position for faster turning.  Torso rotation worked with a single-bladed paddle as it does with a kayak paddle, and I modified a couple of other techniques of form from kayaking to move the large canoe.

When we drove north earlier in the week I packed a couple of fifty or so year old canoe paddles.  Miss Blanche gave them to me, although I’d offered to pay for them.  They were in the attic of her house, and had belonged to her late husband, who’d used them to propel whatever non-motorized craft he’d been wont to fish from.  I started stripping them, because they appeared dried out and their varnish bubbled in places, the week before we left. 

Although I hadn’t completed the process by Wednesday, I took along with me the darker of the two paddles, the one with the squared blade and better-carved handle, to see how it would work.  Also took the long laminated wood paddle the seller included with the canoe.  I know next to nothing about canoe paddles, so asked the guy at Canoe Country who said that longer paddles are more commonly used in deeper water like lakes or possibly large ponds. 
The shorter paddles are used in shallower moving water like rivers.  He said he thought the shorter paddle was reasonably sized for river paddling the Grumman.

Standing in the boat was pretty easy, but I’m not sure how efficient or good an idea it is to paddle it standing.  I have seen pictures of paddlers standing a canoe’s gunwales, or with one foot on a gunwale and a knee in the boat.  Not sure of the utility of either technique, but it might be interesting to try out another day.

The previous evening my wife, her sister, and her mother had been watching an old Mel Gibson film, “Forever Young,” on one of the cable or satellite channels.  I caught about the last five minutes of the movie’s happy but implausible ending.  Two things about that movie, which I’d already seen, struck me.  The first is that the things I see today in the town where I live that date from the 1930s and ‘40s were once new and looked new.  The second is that the film contrasts the general competence of people who came of age in the early part of the last century with the general ineptitude of those who came of age during its latter decades. 


I saw something shiny in the water after the sixth bridge.  It turned out to be the left rear quarter section of a plastic model B-17 Flying Fortress.  Those little windows at the airplane’s stern-section or tail-section clued me in, but the almost square opening forward for a waist-gunner also helped with identification.  The small replica bomber’s last fight was, I imagined, initiated by a bored child flinging the airplane out of a car window as the vehicle crossed the bridge overhead.  Or perhaps the youngster was interested in the model’s potential for flight.  At least it spent a few seconds aloft before shattering on the rocks below either this bridge or another somewhere upstream.

The broken airplane (even though the bomber in the movie is a B-25) started me on a train of thought about actor Mel Gibson’s recent very public living problems.  I’ve always liked the guy’s movies since Gallipoli, which I saw when I was young drunkard in the 1980s, through The Passion of The Christ, although the latter contained mythological elements that have no provenance in orthodox theology as I understand it.  I hope the guy manages to overcome whatever’s tormenting him and has a better end than the plastic B-17.

Ford-Paddles Yesterday I drove to town to buy some Tung oil to finish the canoe paddles after I’d finished stripping and sanding them.  The hardware store in the closest big town was out of Tung oil but could have sold me a gallon of linseed oil.  They directed me to a hardware store in another town, which was what I preferred to the local Wal-Mart.  Thing about Wal-Marts is that they seem to be filled at all hours with incompetent-looking people who don’t appear to have much direction.




The guy at the hardware store (first of the three pictures above), knew my father-in-law and his father-in-law, had gone to church some years ago with that aged gentleman, and grew up a couple of miles north of my wife’s family farm.  That’s the canoe on the 850’s roof seen through the car’s windshield.

Today is Friday, and we’d planned to take the canoe to the lake nearby to paddle with the kids as a watery supplement to pontoon-boat rental.  Weather radar informs me that we’ll probably not paddle today.  I will probably help out at the barn cleaning farm implements.

Weather Radar 7-9-10 

About my black and white photos – they start out as color digital photos, and I discard the color information or make other adjustments.

C’est tout.

Canoe, Combine, Thistle Eradication