Monday, April 24, 2006


Ok, folks, here's some car trivia: My car has three separate dummy lights, set to monitor various things in the car, and then warn me if the car is not meeting performance standards.

The first is the check engine light: We all have this one, and it tells us about emissions problems, o2 censor, gas regulation, and misfires (when flashing).
The second one is the Service engine light: I have to assume this is more serious. This one actually says you have to go in and get shit checked out. It covers the whole engine.
The third one is the Service Vehicle Light: What the fuck does this one do? It's on in my car.

So, I call Car-X: "Did you check the gas cap, the o2 sensor?" Nope, you lose, that's the check engine light. "Well, bring it in and we will check the codes"

OHHHHHH, the codes? That's right, these cars have a little brain that stores when something has gone wrong, to tell the tech what to do. The problem with that solution is I HAVE THAT COMPUTER, I CHECKED THE CODES, AND NOTHING HAS CODED ON THIS CAR!!!

Now, I call the local Chevy dealership. Talk to the certified service techs. "Did you check the gas..." Stop right there, paco, that's the check engine light: "Oh, which one is on in your car?" Service vehicle soon, "Oh, that could be anything, I won't know until I scan it" With what? "OBD II scanner" Like the one I just used, that came up with no codes? "Oh, then I don't know what's wrong"

So I call another, much larger Chevy dealership. Two techs agree it is for the scheduled maintenance. One thinks it might be drive control (like ABS, or stabilitrac) and another wonders when I changed my oil last. Since I just did, and my car has a separate light for that, I doubt that's it. The drive control should be followed with a flashing ABS, or stabilitrac light (yes, I have THOSE lights, too) but I don't get that. So is it scheduled maintenance? Didn't they get rid of those lights after they pissed a bunch of people off with them in the late eighties?

The last techs are calling the main Chevy office to find just that out. But here is your chance to know more than the Chevy people: You tell me what you think it is, when I get the answer from the main office, I will post it. The winner gets an exclusive, never before seen, prize sent to their actual USPS mailbox. No, it is not a bomb.


So, I just got off the phone with Chevy's customer support (they really did an awesome job) They told me what the light indicated, and what I should do as a result. Was it:

1) Oxygen Sensor problem
2) Anti-Lock Brake System malfunction
3) Parking light out
4) Nothing wrong
5) Bad/Blown Fuse
6) Driveline Control Module
7) Scheduled Maintenance
8) Security System Failure


Friday, April 21, 2006

I know that traffic lights do not contain malice. They do not even have the capacity for choice. They cannot do anything but "be": red, yellow (for a small amount of time) or green. This is function, and not autonomy. The changing of colors, and the control of traffic than ensues, is just a result of clever algorithmic function.

I KNOW that.

But it doesn't stop me from being mad at them this morning. We, and by that I mean my clients and I, are already late, due to a mix up with pants, and I just don't need some automated light system messing with my morning drive. Do you hear the tone in that? As if they could choose, and then they DO choose, and the choice is centered on me. How terribly arrogant.

But that is logic, and the mornings are not for logic. They are for irrational hatred of anything and everything that gets in my way. And I am ALREADY late. Dammit. The first light, that is an anomaly, I think. But in the ten blocks that are lighted (they all have street lights, but I wanted a word to describe "having stoplights") all five of them turn red before I get to them. And not just before, but JUST BEFORE! ALL FIVE OF THEM. FUCK!

I can keep it together through the first couple. Really, I can. But by the third, I am swearing so much, and so vehemently, that my clients start to giggle, in the way only adults who share intellect with children can, and I get more frustrated. The forth light makes me want to run through, damn the cross traffic. But the fifth, and final, oh that's where I lose it, I mean TOTALLY LOSE IT. I start swearing, not at the lights, only, but at the people who put them up. At MNDOT, for deciding I need lights on my morning drive. At the man who invented the traffic light to begin with. How about the city planner who, unlike city planners with heads on shoulders, instead of securely up their ass, can't make the lights all turn at the same time.

But we get the distance behind us, in only about triple the time it should take. I, of course, am livid, for no reason, and can hardly say, "have a nice day at work, guys" without adding some muttered oath.

But then one of my clients turns to me, just as he leaves the van, and says, "Other days, Other dollars"

Close enough, Billy, Close enough.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In "Home and Away" Scott Simon, of NPR's Weekend Edition retells some of what it means to be a fan of Chicago sports. While there may be more interesting, noteworthy, or relevant stories, I thought this would be a good one to test out the new audio-blog Bil has been tauting. I don't care much for my speaking voice, when recorded, but I will not taint your experience by whining about it post-post.




The Stay

Part one: The early days:

We got to Adam's house around 3 o'clock. Both he and his fiance, Jenelle, had to work, so we were left to our own vices for the evening. I was hungry, and tired, and tired won. Carly and I decided the best course would be a nap, then something to eat, and an exploration of the town. Decisions, though, mean little without followthrough, and as tired as we both were we were more excited to see our new surroundings.

We headed out on foot (the only way to get to know a new area) along Historic 101. Although it is a highway, it serves as Lincoln City's mainstreet. We would later find it serves thus for almost every small town along the coast. Like many tourist towns, Lincoln City is foot traffic friendly, and filled of the brim with shops. Both Carly and I enjoy being lookieloos, and new storefronts only make that all the better. While most of the shops were junk filled, like sea shells shops and bauble shops, we found one that was just up our alley: Wine 101 It would be a clever title, for they do indeed teach people about wine, but every other store along the coast is somethingorother 101, whether they instruct or just take your cash.

At any rate, this was a delightful (can a straight guy use that word?) wine shop, with the best that Oregon has to offer. Of course, that means a lot of Pinot Noir, but I would not hold that against a whole state. Still, the selection was wonderful, and we even found some mead to bring home to our mythology friend (I really almost typed mythological friend, but he does, in fact, exist). The store owners introduced themselves as Bruce and Sue, and we soon found out Sue had lived in Grand Rapids. What a small world, we probably exclaimed. And it truly is, for we met about half a dozen other locals on our trip.

But the most extraordinary thing happened when we were about to leave. I asked if they had recommendations for good places to eat around town (I have found the best way to judge a town is through its food, and the best way to find that food is to ask a local), and Bruce suggested the Blackfish Grill. I thanked him, fully ready to depart, when he said we would never get in without reservations. Before I could even analyze why, in the first place, Bruce would tell me about a great place to eat, knowing full well I could not eat there, he was already on the phone. He reserved us a seat for half an hour later, and it actually worked. Of course, Bruce supplies the Blackfish grill with their wine, so I should not have been so amazed, but I was. For a total stranger to do that was uplifting. We, I have heard, have Minnesota Nice, but this was the first time I had seen any sort of nice, to this degree, anywhere. They had absolutely nothing to gain, and still they did this for us.

And the Blackfish was wonderful. It is more of a bistro than a grill, but that, I think, is a compliment. Grills are dirty, bistros are quaint. And the food...Oh the food was amazing. I ordered the catch of the day, because I like adventure, and a local micro brew (Rogue Ale, it is GREAT) and Carly had a steak. Later we would eat at a four star steak house, and Carly would remark that the steak at blackfish was much better. The service was topnotch, and they knew us from Bruce, and treated us like family. I got three huge pieces of battered black fish (go figure) and homemade chips that must have just been cut and fried in perfectly fresh veggie oil. It was a great way to cap off thirty hours of driving, I can tell you that. Two days later, playing pool in a bar, the waitress would come up to me and tell me she remembered me, and even remembered my order. WOW.

After that, we walked off our buzz on the beach (ok, so I had more than one rogue ale, and maybe I had some dessert wine, as well). The sun was setting, I think, and the sea (which Carly had never seen) was awe inspiring. In Lincoln City, the bay is actually more than a mile out at sea. That means it is windy as all heck, and the waves are huge and rolling. We searched, without luck, for Lincoln City's famous glass floats, and spent a good evening hand in hand on the beach.

Day two will bring us down the coast a bit, then back up, and through some horrible driving. But day one ends here, with us sleeping, and with me getting, for the first time, literally, in my life, 14 hours of sleep.


Thursday, April 13, 2006


The Drive


You already know everything you need to know about driving through this state. The weather, when we left, was actually quite nice. It was a balmy 45 degrees, and the sun had some moments where the clouds were not obscuring it.

We took our regular route to the Fargo area, and connected there with I 94. No stops, and fast driving, and we were out of the state in no time.

Attractions: Worlds largest ball of twine in Bundy, MN.
Fun Fact: Fargo/Moorhead, in the dark, and from a distance, looks just like a very small corner of New York, in the dark.

North Dakota

When we hit I 94 we noticed all towns stopped. They were just gone. Each time we passed an exit, we were greeted with a "No Services" sign. Why make a friggin exit, if we can't get any services? Why would we want to exit at all? At least in the car I can get SOME service, if I talk really pretty to the fiance.

Still, though, the drive was fast, and as we neared the border, the terrain got better. The hills of North Dakota liken themselves to hobbit farms, and I spent most of my time dreaming up what the half sized bastards were up to, as I counted down the time to the border.

Attractions: Not only do they have the worlds largest Holstein cow, they have the worlds largest buffalo. And they are only about 50 miles form each other! Bring the kids.

Fun Fact about ND: North Dakota is home to almost two different races of people: white, and dirty white.


Montana is where the sights started gaining worth. The mountains loom in the distance, and you drive through some amazing canyons. Also, just past Billings, you get to drive on fabulous I 90. Even faster than I 94, and 4 less too!

But tragedy hit in the form of almost an inch of snow. While driving over the Rockies (who knew it would snow on top of a friggin mountain) it started snowing. The drivers went crazy. The speed slowed to around 20 miles per hour. And then we stopped. It was 12:33 pm.

It turns out some idiot trucker had jack-knifed his "rig" going down a slope, you know, because of the snow, and stopped both lanes of traffic. Of course, the county dispatched only the best road workers, and the situation would be handled timely.

In just three short hours we were driving again. We got to Butte, and heard the report that we were the last group of cars through the pass. The "snow" had closed the road for the night. We sped on to our destination.

Attractions: In Montana? C'mon, people.
Fun Fact about MT: If you live in Montana, on a butte, you MUST own a trailer, and park it on the plateau. In this way, Montana, the "Big Sky" state, can further enhance it's skyline vistas.


We hit Idaho around false dawn. The whole upper part, or handle, is mountain, and they, wisely, put the roads in the valleys. That means falling rock signs and switchbacks throughout the state. Still, we were getting a taste of what was to come, and the scenery was starting to change into high desert. Since we were in the state for less than two hours, total, I guess I have nothing else to write.

Attractions: Potatoes, I suppose. Really, though, they make Vodka out of that.
Fun Fact about ID: If you live in Idaho, you aren't having fun.


To be continued. Now, THAT'S Funny.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The Car

I still have not dissected and digested the whole of my trip to Oregon yet, but I feel compelled to write about it. Instead of rushing head long into the middle of some unformed thoughts and opinions, I decided I would break the trip down into three parts (I have always liked the number three): The Car (it's new); The Drive (it's long); The Stay (it's special).

So today, blog fans, you get the first part, and, I might add, probably the most boring of the three.

About a month ago, we bought a new (to us) car. It's a 2003 Monte Carlo SS. Really, it is a sweet ride. Fully loaded, and ready to roadtrip. Some of the features, it turns out, came in handy, too.

The Good

Heated leather seats: Even though we were heading to a warm destination, it was still cold in the morning, and cold upon leaving. Nothing warms you up faster than heated leather. You don't have to wait for the damned heater to warm up, and blast enough heat throughout the ride to actually make it comfortable. And then you don't have to worry about cooling your car back down once the sun comes out. You just flip on the switch, and watch your ass get griddle hot. It's N I C E.

Sunroof: Maybe it's a moonroof, can anyone really tell me the difference? Anyway, it is just nice to have the sky poking through from above. It really is. Sort of makes the car feel bigger, you know? And, when you eat out for nine days straight, developing a case of swamp ass, the vent feature lets the gases escape before hitting the passenger. Carly was happy about that, I can assure you. Cruising with the thing open, too, means letting the car cool down without having the annoying wind making your eyes tear up behind cheap sunglasses (thanks, Ebay!).

Active Trac (traction control): I always thought this was a bit of a joke. It engages whenever you hit ice around here, which, around here, means all the damned time. And all it does is make the ABS go off (loudly), startle you, and then disengage. But I was wrong. It still sucks on ice, because it cannot make the coefficient of friction from the tires to ice any better, but it works wonders on switchbacks. We had to drive through two mountain ranges, twice, and would have probably driven off the edge without active trac. OK, I would have driven off the edge. Turns out I like to take turns at 80. Who knew?

Sirius Radio: Where would we have been without this? We drove through areas where "towns" were more than 100 miles apart, and those "towns" were just a collection of trailers gathered 'round a fire pit. I wish I was making that up. Anyway, I doubt there would have been much in the way of radio, and certainly nothing worth listening to. Sirius rescued us with The Coffee House, The Pulse, and, at the end, Laugh break and Raw Dog. We didn't have to fight over the radio, we both got to hear music we liked, and we were not constantly hitting the scan button, and settling on crap that was only half-bad.

The Bad

Two Doors: Yeah, just because you don't ride back there doesn't mean you don't have to get back there all the time. Two doors means having to crawl my 6 foot 190 frame into a space made for midgets just to get something out of the backseat. It means having to wrestle with the seatbelt to get to that space. It means having to try and figure out how I had my seat before moving it that was so comfortable, and how it could get so bad just by moving it a little bit.

The Paint: When the car is clean, it is a very nice burgundy (I am told). It looks classy, and sporty, all at once. When it is dirty, it is pink. It looks like a teenaged girls car. When it is covered in sea salt it is HOT pink. It looks like barbie's dream car. For most of the trip, it was hot pink.

The Horses: I am told we have 220 of them. I believe it, most of the time. When passing on the highway, that thing can really rumble. It is nice, and I feel powerful enough to forget I am driving around in a pink car. But on the hills, and later, the mountains, all those horses went away. Clearly, this thing is geared for speed, and not power. I had to kick it down into third sometimes to make the mountains at the speed I like (see above). It made me sad, and a little piece of me died. Do I really have to type out which piece that was?

The Verdict

Overall, this is still one sweet ride. The comfort, and drive, more than make up for the color and loss of power on inclines. It was smooth and responsive most of the time, and really saved our back and asses from a long drive. Also, for a car with so much power, it gets GREAT gas mileage. To the tune of 29.5 mpg over our trip, actually. I am glad we bought it, and glad we took it on our trip, instead of flying. We got to spend a lot of quality time with each other, and, were it not for the comfort of the car, we probably would not have got along so well.

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Drive.