The payoff…

I could weave a yarn about doing the right thing and everything working out or how sometimes being kind is it’s own reward, but that would be so out of character that no one would believe it anyway. No, I’m going for “payoff” in a much more literal sense. As in I have a big red truck and it’s paid off. A few months ahead of schedule.

That’s a surprisingly big deal for me. There was a while there between 2002-2010 when I was swapping out rides every two years or so. Hanging on to one this long is something that hasn’t since I was knocking around in the old trusty Wrangler. Of the seven cars I’ve bought on my own, if memory serves this is only the second that survived long enough to see the note vanquished before I was ready to test my luck with something different.

Fact is, five years on I still like my big red Toyota. I like the room, the ride, and the fact that everything is basically worn in the way I want it. It’s the automotive equivalent to comfy couch. At this point I don’t even mind that it’s a thirsty, thirsty beast – of course that bit is variable based on the prevailing price at the pump.

I’m not fool enough to think there will never be another vehicle in the garage, but just now I’m more than content with a little extra cash flow and letting the Tundra live out her golden years right where she is.

Magnetic…

From the time I got my license in June 1994 until October 2011, the only accidental damage I ever had to a vehicle was the occasional cracked windshield. Admittedly, the Jeep’s flat glass seemed to have an unnatural attraction to rocks kicked up at highway speed, but still that was just the cost of doing business. Since October 2011, the tide has turned. I can’t unnamedseem to go six months without the telltale screech of rending sheet metal. A parking meter jumped out and tagged my left turn signal, a crease appeared in my rear bumper shortly thereafter for reason or reasons unknown, an old man in an F-150 faked me out with his turn signal and cost me a new front end, and today I’ve got a softball sized dent on the left bedside from an unfortunate run in with the grill and hood of a Chevy.

Big Red is a trooper, though. Dents, dings, a new front end and she just keeps doing her thing. Now we’re off tomorrow morning to the body shop for the latest repair estimate. Given the relatively recent completion of my new front end, I’m trying to keep this one off the books at the insurance company. Unfortunately I can already hear my credit card screaming in protest. 2013 was basically punctuated by one headache after another. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that 2014 isn’t going to offer much in the way of relief, but just more of the same.

I love my Tundra, but she’s a rolling accident magnet… and if she wasn’t so damned close to being paid off, I’d think hard about trading her in on something that might not have so much bad mojo attached.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Irons in the fire. If there was ever a recurring them up in this place, it would have to be that time is fleeting. There’s never enough of it and there’s always too much to cram into the hours available. I hit that wall once every five or six months – when it gets to the point when you’ve got to start making uncomfortable decisions about what stays and what goes; what you’re willing to invest time into and what you’re going to toss over the transom. It’s why I don’t golf any more – I loved it, but carving out four or five uninterrupted hours at a time eventually fell into the too hard to do column. It’s getting to be one of those times again and it’s just a matter of racking and stacking the things that are eating up my day and deciding what makes the cut and what doesn’t. I’m absolutely convinced that I can do it all, but I equally sure I can’t do it all at once.

2. Failure to lead. Once upon a time, the United States was the voice of reason on the international stage. Winning two world wars and forging an international economic order, we managed to keep the cold war from turning hot and kept enough of a lid on a dozen other regional conflicts to keep them from boiling over and dragging the rest of the world down with them. Now, with our oldest alliances fraying and our “great power” influence on world events waning, we seem more or less content to let others lead while we fall back. We’re in retreat from the world around us and our responsibilities in it; worse, we’re letting other countries call the tune to which we’re going to have to dance. I see the growing notion at home and abroad that the United States is “just another country.” Philosophically, I’m horrified by the very notion and know full well that the road we’re on doesn’t end well either for us, or for the generations who have looked for us to lead the way.

3. Modern convenience. I have a light on my truck’s dash that is supposed to tell me when one of my tires is low on air. It’s been on for six months because what it’s really telling me is that I have a bad air pressure sensor. When I was informed by Toyota that the pressure sensor was a $300 fix, let’s just say that after laughing at them my next question was whether I could get behind the dash and just take the bulb out of the idiot light. I’m sure some people consider knowing their tire pressure from the pilot’s seat an incredible convenience. I’m not one of them. Back in the dark ages when I got my driver’s license, we had to manually check our tire pressure from time to time with a $.99 handheld analog gage. If it means not spending $299.01, I’m happy going right back to doing that once a week just like I did from 1994-2008. I’m pretty sure this is a case of modern convenience being more trouble than it’s worth.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Power everything. As a rule I appreciate the power accessories that Toyota has jam packed into my Tundra. What I don’t like is that now that the days have turned brisk, my “automatic” power window has an annoying habit of going down about a third of the way and then stopping. Press the button again and It sluggishly goes down the rest of the way. It’s obviously some kind of issue with the electronics, but it means I spend most mornings hoping that it won’t get stuck halfway down when roll though the front gate at work on some 35 degree, rainy morning. I’m going to try nursing it though another 1000 miles until the truck goes in for its next oil change so I can kill both birds with one trip. Until then, I’m going to nostalgically wish that I could just make the necessary adjustments with an old fashioned hand crank rather than a rather suspect electric motor.

2. A cold dark place. Getting dark at 5PM sucks. It sucks worse when it’s accompanied by the temperature dropping like a stone. When I moved back to Maryland, part of me was happy at the idea of having an actual winter again. As the nights get longer and the ambient temperature gets colder, I’m beginning to rethink that particular part of my rationale. Since this is one of those gripes that there is absolutely no way to do anything about other than turn on every light in the house and throw another log on the fire, this has served no purpose other than making me feel slightly better by voicing my distinct displeasure at the current state of affairs.

3. Something to do. For the better part of the last week, I’ve had the overwhelming feeling that there was something I was supposed to do. I have no earthly idea what that might be, but it’s still a nagging thought in the back of my head. My Google calendar isn’t screaming that I missed anything important and I’m not getting any foreclosure or impending disconnection notices, so it can’t be anything too pressing. Knowing that it’s surely nothing important, though, doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Customer service?

So, let me get this straight. I call on Monday to set up a vehicle inspection on Saturday. You make the appointment. No problems, see you
Saturday morning. Fantastic. One step closer to closing the chapter in my book called “moving fiasco”. It’s not until Friday afternoon that you decide “um… Well, uh, we don’t actually do inspections on the weekend because those guys have seniority and, uh, want the weekends off.” seriously? WTF? even if that is the actual reason, what on earth would possess you to say that to a paying customer who was going to come in and spend $200-300? Thanks for the call and whatnot. I’m still going to spend the money, but you can be damned sure I’ll be spending it somewhere else.

Anatomy of a day off…

Anatomy of a day off…

I took the day off yesterday. Not so much because I really needed to, but a three day weekend now andthen is much appreciated. I realized that my days off aren’t exactly what most people would think of as relaxing. I was up at 5:30, which I suppose is technically sleeping in. Dropped the truck at the Toyota dealer at 7:00 for an oil change and an hour of shooting the shit with the service manager. Then it was grocery shopping and driving halfway across the county to pick up meds for the dogs. After that, it was off to my own doctor for what has become a never ending routine of follow up inspections and random pokings and proddings. An hour of that and a clean bill of health, or as clean a bill of health as I’m ever likely to get, it was back to a house in serious need of cleaning and dinner that apparently didn’t magically make itself in my absence. Follow that up with a bowl of orange sugar free jello and periodic napping and you’ve got the anatomy of pretty much any weekday when I’m not at work. I’d tell you what one of those days looks like, but that would be too depressing to contemplate on a Saturday afternoon.

As it is now, the hiring freeze is still on and I’m no closer to hitting eject on this place than I was eight months ago… But I’m still swinging for the fences. The house is a little cleaner than I was yesterday. And today’s dinner, I’m assuming, isn’t any closer to magically making itself while I’m out. The beer’s cold, the scenery is excellent, and there’s still another day between me and Monday. All things considered, I’d say I’m still doing better than average.

Finding the right accessories…

With the new truck tucked safely in the garage, it’s time to think about accessories. That’s probably a hold over from being a Wrangler owner, where everything was an accessory. I’ve got two appointments scheduled Friday. The Line-X bed liner gets sprayed in the morning and the tint shop is doing the windows in the afternoon. That goes a long way towards getting me where I want to be. Next step is finding a hard tonneau cover and step rails, but that’s going to have to wait for a week or two given a pesky trip for work that has cropped up in the middle of my accessorizing. Very inconvenient, that, though it does give me a chance to do a bit more research before making any decisions. I had a flip cover on the old truck which was great, but wasn’t quite as weatherproof as I’d like. Of course the drawback to the full hard cover is that it basically eliminates the ability to haul anything of size. Then again, how likely am I to manhandle a sofa into the back of the truck anyway? Yeah. Not so much.

If anyone out there has recommendations on brands or personal experiences on the hard covers, I’d be more than happy to hear them. Once I get these few things squared away, I should be set… until I catch a wild hare and feel compelled to start playing with the onboard electronics, of course.

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Let’s make a deal…

I use to have a blog over at Blogger that went by the working title “Falling into it.” That’s mostly because at odd moments, I seem to trip over good situations. This weekend is a case in point. To say the least, I wasn’t planning on getting a new truck. In fact, I was extremely happy with the one I had. Usually getting a call from a car salesman on a Saturday isn’t something I’d look forward to. The only reason I picked up at all was that I was driving and had the bluetooth in my ear and didn’t feel like fishing for my phone to screen the call. I’m sure it’s an old line in the car business, but he was adamant that they had someone looking for my “exact model truck”and would cut me a good deal on anything they had on the lot if I was interested in trading.

I wasn’t interested in trading, of course, but since I was driving past the dealership anyway, I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to slip in and let them buy me a cup of coffee. My “old” truck was a 2008 and was getting along towards 50,000 miles (a couple of trips to Maryland every year will rack ’em up fast). No way were they going to be interested when they saw the mileage, so I should be on my way in a couple of minutes. I handed off my keys to the appraiser and hopped on the golf cart for a window tour of the lot, commenting on other trucks here and their and throwing out a laundry list of things I wanted: full sized crew cab, power everything, sunroof, 4×4, towing package, cloth seats, and nothing in white, tan, or silver. Pulling through the lot he passed truck after truck that got disqualified for one or more reasons (4×4’s in the south are surprisingly hard to come by). As we pulled back to the front, I was sure that we were all but through. Until, he mentioned that there was one more Tundra in the showroom that he thought I would like… The infamous one more thing. Sure, I though, he wants to get me inside to make it psychologically harder to leave. OK, I’m game. Let’s go have a look.

So there it was sitting in the middle of the showroom floor, with the exact specs that I had told him it would take for me to even start talking about a deal. I still had my safety net, though, as I knew the appraiser was never going to come back with an offer high enough to pay off my loan on the old truck. Well, the short version is that he came back with an appraisal that was well in excess of what I had been expecting and more than enough to pay off Bank of America. Still, I knew there wasn’t a chance of the finance people coming up with a number that I was going to be willing to work with, so it wasn’t even close to a done deal. In my own mind, I was no closer to buying a new truck than I was when I walked in the door.

Their first deal wasn’t bad enough to be insulting, but was way off in terms of where the numbers needed to be to convince me it was worth while. It’s a car dealership, there’s always haggling and that’s half the fun. Back he scurried to the sales manager’s desk, coming back 10 minutes later with an offer that was a little better, but still not sweet. One more time, I say, tell your guy that this one needs to be his best and final offer since we’re not going to do this all afternoon. Back to the sales desk, about 20 minutes this time, and he comes back and hands me a sheet of paper. And that was the offer I couldn’t refuse – 0% financing, and a monthly note that was about $2 more than I was paying already.

So to get this straight, I’ll give you my two year old truck, with 50,000 miles on it and in exchange you’re going to give me a brand new truck, 2 years of free scheduled maintenance, not increase my payment, decrease the length of my loan amortization, and let me use Toyota’s money at 0% to make it happen? Yeah?

Sold.

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New stuff rocks…

So, between the new pup and the new truck, my free time has been cut back to almost non-existent… Just the way I like it. Winston is doing well and packing on the pounds. We’re back to the vet Monday for his 4th round of puppy shots and hopefully a continued clean bill of health.

I’m tapping away here at the Toyota dealership where they’re somewhere in the back installing my Sirus receiver since they didn’t have one in stock last week. The balance of the weekend will be installing step rails, having the windows tinted on Saturday, and making a run to BestBuy to get my iPod adapter installed. Once I get it to that point, I’ll be ready for a roadtrip… Which is coming up soon… More on that a little later.