You’d have to be a keen reader to pick up on my obsession with cars. I haven’t posted about it much, heck the only post I could dredge up was this one from my trip to the USA last year, but I’ve been something of a car nut for the better part of 15 years. You can put this down to my rural upbringing where we had big plot of land that my parents let me drive around on. It started with motorbikes, seeing me own no less than 3 different ones before I was legally allowed to do so. Then thanks to a father who wanted something different to drive rather than his Morris Minor came into posssesion of not 1, but 2 Datsun 120Ys one of which (after he salvaged for all the good parts) became mine.
My brother and I then became obsessed with making the most we could out of our new found toy. Whilst we had a rather vast backyard in which to indulge in our various driving exploits most of it was cut off from us by a giant forest of eucalyptus trees. Undeterred we spent the better part of our summer holidays clearing a path through the forest so we could get to the wide open paddock in the back. We got there eventually and what followed was weeks of driving the car around our makeshift track, thoroughly enjoying the small bit of freedom that we had created for ourselves. I even managed to secure an upgrade to a Datsun 200B when a family friend no longer needed it, giving my brother and I both our own cars with which to tool around in.
You’d think then that once I had a decent job that a good chunk of my pay check would’ve been sunk into buying some kind of slick sports car. That was somewhat true as my first real car, a 1988 Honda Prelude, had nearly double its purchase price sunk into it in the form of body kits, stereo systems and all sorts of modifications. It was a workhorse of a car having nearly 400,000KMs on the clock before I retired it out to my parents farm. It even still runs fine, just that it needs about $4,000 worth of work done on it before it’ll be fully road worthy again. Since then I’ve been sharing the little Hyundai Getz that my wife bought a long time ago, not being able to bring myself to buy another one.
The reasoning behind that is quite simple: cars are depreciating assets. The old adage of a car losing a third of its value after you drive it off the lot explains this well as cars drastically reduce their value in just a few short years. Ever since my financial coming of age back in 2007 (the time when I first realized this) I’ve always looked at cars with a kind of strained appreciation. I love them for their technology, beauty and the thrill you get from driving them but the discomfort I get from the thought of losing that much value so quickly just doesn’t sit right with me. To that end I’ve kind of reserved myself to be an avid spectator, always looking but never touching.
That hasn’t been easy, especially when the limitations of a single car come into play. It hasn’t been that much of a big deal really, just scheduling conflicts that lead to either myself or my wife having to waste a couple hours here or there, but it’s enough to send me down the dark path of potentially purchasing a car again. Of course I have exacting requirements (that’s the only way to satiate the fiscal conservative in me) and that’s made finding that right car inexorably difficult. My lust for technology doesn’t help either and that’s made the search for something that I might actually end up purchasing quite difficult.
There is the notable geek lust short circuit exception¹ however and there’s one car that’s managed to trigger it: the Tesla Model S. I’ll be honest I started off hating it as the first couple design iterations were just hideous, especially compared to the striking design of the Tesla Roadster. The current design however is just stunning and combined with all the technology and gadgetry under the hood (did I mention that it’s fully electric?) I find myself not asking if I’ll buy one, but when. I’m glad that these kinds of decisions don’t happen too often as that would be rather disastrous for my current financial planning.
Since the Model S won’t be available here for some time my mind of course drifts to what I could purchase as a practical car now. It seems my criteria for what I’d consider practical now is quite rigid: all wheel drive, wagon body and preferably something in the 4 cylinder range with a turbo on it. It covers all the bases of my current needs (infrequent camping, carting stuff around and my inner hoon) but the cars that suit this are thin on the ground. Indeed the only options for this are decade old models of things like the Subaru Forester or Outback, with no one else really competing. Indeed the section that those cars used to serve has been usurped by the SUV market, swelling all of their current generation to ludicrous sizes that I just have no requirement for. The V6 variant of the Volkswagen Passat Wagon is getting pretty close though and the amount of gadgets in there are enough to make buying one sound half reasonable.
As you can see my relationship with cars is a complicated one, layered with cognitive dissonance stemming from my competing goals for financial freedom and simple wunderlust. I know that I’ll eventually have to cave in once the Getz starts getting a little long in the tooth but until then I’ll probably just settle for my usual longing glances and enthusiastic conversations with my work mates.
Maybe its time for me to get another rent-a-racer, you know to keep the car enthusiast in me at bay 😉
¹Should a piece of technology represent something so novel, advanced or just plain cool (for lack of a better term) my financial conservative switches off completely. The most recent purchase to trigger this was the Samsung Galaxy S2 and I feel not one hint of buyer’s remorse.
I was awake long before the alarm went off, an annoying trait I picked up many years ago when I was tinkering with my body clock. It always seems that whenever I set an alarm I’ll be awake at least 10~20 minutes before hand but should I try to wake without an alarm I’ll more than likely oversleep. Still I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be and 30 minutes later I was ready to go and spending the last few moments in our hotel room watching the morning news whilst Rebecca got ready. We left the hotel 30 minutes later and caught a cab to JFK airport where we spent the next hour or so tracking down some breakfast before boarding our flight.
JFK to LA is one of the longest flights in the states and it was set to be about 5 hours to get to our destination. Thankfully this flight had Wifi and in a fit of forethought I had bought a monthly pass to the Delta in-flight system for only $7 more than the daily pass, granting me the ability to catch up on my tweets and Facebook posts. I didn’t use it much more than that though I was far too engrossed in the last 150 pages of Judas Unchained to care about much else, practically gulping down those last chapters without coming up for air. Knowing that I had 5 hours to kill and more than enough time to finish that book I had brought the sequel, Judas Unchained, along with me and started tucking into that immediately. I got about 100 pages into it before the call came on for us to land in LA. Our 5 hour flight had only lost us 3 hours putting the local time smack bang on midday.
After grabbing our luggage we made our way to the airport shuttle area to catch a bus to the hire car place. I had spent a lazy hour or so looking over the cars available the night before and settled on a Dodge Charger. Realistically it would be far too big for us, more suited to a small family, but I wanted something that would provide us a deal of comfort over some of the longer drives we were planning and the econoboxes weren’t really going to cut it. Arriving there we were told they were out of Chargers and the only one they had resembled a battered old Ford Falcon. A “mid sized” SUV was available for a similar price so we went ahead with that and got to pick our car. I picked a Jeep Grand Cherokee and got us on our way to the hotel with gusto.
After the initial excitement of seeing the city I realised that what I thought was clouds on the horizon was actually the thick blanket of smog. As we got closer it only got worse with the haze giving most of the buildings a particularly eery glow. Even in NYC the pollution wasn’t this bad as when we looked back at Manhattan from Liberty Island we could clearly see everything. From a similar distance in LA we were struggling to see the more distant buildings. Needless to say, I didn’t feel much like looking around town.
The hotel itself is in downtown LA, a fact I had failed to notice when booking it. Usually this wouldn’t be much of a concern but I knew this meant they’d be charging like a wounded bull for their parking. Indeed they were to the tune of $35 a night, as much as the car had cost to hire per day. Still the valets were nice and it meant we didn’t have to worry about parking but after the amount we paid for the hotel getting hit for extras feels a bit rich. I had the same feeling when I hooked up my laptop in the room only to be shown an sign-in page for internet access for $13 a day. I’d stayed in a $70/night hotel that gave me the fastest Internet connection I’ve had in the entire US for free so this was just the icing on the shit sandwich. Undeterred I started poking around to see if they were doing ARP poisoning like the DoubleTree was in NYC and found that they weren’t. 10 minutes of trying various MAC addresses later had me up and running with an Internet connection without having to shell out for something that I don’t believe should be a paid extra in a 4 star hotel.
We wanted to pick up some hotel room supplies so I tracked down the closet Walmart and punched the co-ordinates. About 10 minutes later we were passing through a pretty run down section of downtown LA. We past the supposed location twice and noticed that what was supposed to be a Walmart looked like a run down strip mall. Figuring that it was either a planned site (or more likely, one that was closed down) I found another and promptly got stuck in pre-rush hour traffic, seeing a 10 mile journey take almost 45 minutes. We got there though and secured out wants before heading back to the hotel for a workout before dinner. We hit a local pizza place that served amazing pizzas, leaving us both too full to finish and taking a box home to polish off later.
We’re hoping to hit up Disney World tomorrow as it’s something that Rebecca has really been looking forward to. After visiting Disney Land in Tokyo almost a decade ago and hating it (but then again I was an angsty little bastard) I’m keen to see if I’ll have a similar reaction the second time around. Plus it will hopefully get us away from the dreadful smog that seems to be unrelenting around here, making staying in the city very undesirable.