The Difference…

workOver the last week, my Honda CR-V (aka The Excelsior) had been starting up just a little more sluggishly with each trip.  Eventually, it got to the point where it just barely started, but as is human nature, I figured that it would last just long enough to get to get the battery looked at.

Of course, I waited one trip too many and eventually it didn’t start at all one night.  Click-click-click-click-click was all I heard.

After getting a jump-start from a neighbor (always have cables in your vehicle, folks) I went to the auto parts store where I had replaced the original battery a few years prior.  I had a strong suspicion that the battery was dead, but when the gentleman asked if I would like to have it tested, it placed just enough doubt in my mind to make me think that might not be the case.  I didn’t want it to be something else, because as far as car repairs go, replacing a battery is on the fairly inexpensive scale, and it can be done by one’s self, assuming the vehicle can be taken to a good battery or vice-versa.

The gentleman grabbed a tester and followed me out to my noble (if not currently unreliable) steed.  I popped the hood and proceeded to let the gentleman do his job.  He attached the clips to the battery terminals and proceeded to push some buttons on the device.  After a few moments he told me the battery was good and asked if I wanted him to test other ‘start the car’ parts.  I said yes, and he asked me to start the vehicle.  I made a crack about ‘I hope it starts,’ but much to my surprise, it started with no hesitation.  A few moments and button presses later, the man told me that the alternator and starter were probably okay, too.  I thanked him for his time and went on my merry (if slightly worried) way to the grocery store, where the car started again without issue.  What the heck was wrong with my car?

As folks are oft to do these days, I went onto social media to share my ambivalence over the situation.  Friends offered advice and their own tales of automotive experiences, both good and bad.  One friend mentioned that a similar problem had been caused by loose terminal connectors.  This idea sounded intriguing to me, as I had recalled my interior lights flashing during the process of having it jumped, and so I resolved to investigate them come the morning.  I didn’t park the Excelsior in the garage because I had a feeling I was going to need another jump-start.

The next morning, I hopped into my trusty steed to go have some breakfast and was greeted by the clicking noise again.  No big deal, it’s the terminals, right?  Wrong.  Nothing was loose and there was no corrosion to be found.  It has to be the battery, I thought, but what the guy last night told me it was good.  I frumped for a while as I searched for nearby mechanics and groused over the pile of money I anticipated I was going to have to spend.

Finally, I decided to get a second opinion.

I got a jump-start from a different neighbor, and observed that both times we had to let my vehicle sit for a while and charge up.  The thought of it has to be the battery kept bouncing in my head as I drove to a different auto parts store.  I walked inside and asked to have my battery checked.  This time around, the tech got a frumpy look on her face when she saw my terminals.  The connectors to the Excelsior’s battery have these plastic covers that were getting in the way of the clips, meaning she could only reliably attach the clips to the screws that kept the connectors attached.  “I don’t like taking a reading from the screws, the reading is sometimes wrong,” She said.  The tech did her best to adjust the tester clip, but was not completely satisfied with the result: “I’m not getting a good reading, can you take the battery out?” She asked.

I said sure, and proceeded to do so, with the tools I keep inside the vehicle.  I also had to borrow a pair of pliers, but eventually dislodged the battery and took it inside the store.  The tech did her thing, and sure enough, the battery was bad.  Fortunately, I had purchased the ‘three-year replacement’ battery the last time and I received a new one free of charge.  I installed it myself, which was only fair since I had taken the old one out, and now my trusty steed is trusty once again.

I figured that it would be a good idea to let the tech know about my experience the night before.  We both agreed that the other guy just didn’t know about the screws providing unreliable readings.

And thus we have the difference between somebody who only knows how to follow instructions, and somebody that actually knows what they are doing because they have learned how things really work.

Whether they are fixing cars or computers, a good tech will have more in-depth knowledge about the things that they repair than someone who is only taught how to fix things or is working off a script.  When the ‘usual steps’ don’t work, a good tech can think things though and improvise to find a solution.  A bad tech only knows how to follow instructions, and when those instructions don’t do the job, they’re stuck, and so are you.

37 Things I Noticed After Having a Fender-Bender

My trusty CR-V (the “Excelsior,” because I name my cars after spaceships) recently got dinged in the back.  The damage isn’t too terrible but it’s in a lousy spot.  Thus, I had to deal with my insurance company (Progressive) and rent a car.  Along the way, I noticed a few things:

  1. ding

    #5. *Angry Bear Noises*

    The lady that hit me seemed to be pretty impatient while I got Progressive on the phone.  MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T CAUSE AN ACCIDENT IF YOU’RE IN A HURRY, LADY.

  2. I didn’t even think about calling the police. This was a low speed accident and not worth their time.
  3. She eventually gave me her info and drove off in a huff because “I have kids in the car.”  I don’t know about y’all but I tend to drive extra-careful whenever I have passengers…just saying.
  4. Insurance company Ding #1: To be fair, I was getting impatient with Progressive too.  Pick up the phone, guys!
  5. It wasn’t a bad dent, but in just the right spot for water to get into the hatch.
  6. I’ll get a call back in 24 hours. Cool.
  7. Ding #2: The claims rep was supposed to call me ‘within 24 hours.’  2 days later and still no call.
  8. I posted an angry tweet about that lack of communication and got a response within a few hours. Modern times and all that.
  9. Lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility (as well they should) Woo-hoo!
  10. Stuffed a plastic bag into the hole to keep water out. Lucky it hasn’t been raining lately.
  11. I was initially going to pick a shop to take it, but decided to punt and the insurance guys handle it. I have other things to worry about.
  12. Ding #3: The last time this happened, I got to pick a rental.  This go-round they threw me into a Toyota Corolla. :/
  13. I got everything I needed from the CR-V…except for the garage door opener. >.<
  14. The heck with giving me both car keys on a key ring that I can’t remove them from?
  15. It’s a little bit of an adjustment going from a small SUV to a car, but I’m (mostly) handling it. Lucky for me I don’t have any long trips coming up.
  16. When did car air conditioners get so complicated?
  17. tennycar

    15. Me in the rental

    This is a newer vehicle, yet the backup camera looks terrible compared to my 2012 CR-V.

  18. Having an in-car touch screen does not work very well. At the risk of getting technical: The user interface is poop.
  19. Ding #4: The repair guy was supposed to call me ‘tomorrow’  Didn’t happen.
  20. Yeah, it’s probably time to start looking for a new insurance company.
  21. Thing I miss most about my CR-V? Legroom.
  22. I’ve given up on getting any calls from my insurance company at this point, just going to check their website every so often.
  23. If you are going to tell somebody you are going to call them and you don’t, that is rude and unprofessional.
  24. Unless you’re a recruiter, then it’s par for the course. (obligatory job-related item)
  25. Auto headlights should NEVER turn on the high beams…just sayin’
  26. Had a funny moment when it rained and I tried to turn on the rear wiper that wasn’t there.
  27. Also, the ‘beep’ it makes when I turn on the alarm can barely be heard.
  28. The day before the repair is due to be completed, the app says “2 days left until repaired.” Huh?
  29. (Finally) Got a call that afternoon saying it will be ready when scheduled, woo-hoo!
  30. 4pm and the app now says ‘Repairs complete.’ Maybe I’ll get lucky and get my ride back a day early?’
  31. Ding #5: Of course they call me 15 minutes before they close (and I’m already at home from work) to schedule the pickup the next day, grr.
  32. Since the lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility, this little adventure isn’t going to cost me any money, just a little time and aggravation.
  33. I also got a blog post out of the deal, too 😀

    newcar

    35. Looking good!

  34. Ding #6: Scheduled the appointment for 1230, get there at 1231 and I have to wait 😛
  35. Holy cats, the Excelsior looks good when it’s cleaned up.
  36. Feels good to be in my own vehicle again. I had to re-learn some habits, like having cruise control settings on my steering wheel instead of on a stick thingie.
  37. Time to shop for new car insurance!

47 Things I Noticed at Garner State Park

1

#25: Darn skippy

After (too many) years since my last trip to the iconic Texas summer getaway, I decided to take stay for a night to see if anything had changed since then.  I’m glad to say that the park is mostly the same, but I did notice a few things…

  1. It is only a two hour drive from San Antonio to Garner, as opposed to three and a half from my parent’s house. WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?
  2. I took Highway 90 on the way over, and will likely take the ‘scenic route’ on the way home.
  3. Shocked to find hardly any vehicles at the park office, think I picked a perfect time to come!
  4. Temperature notwithstanding, anyway.
  5. Slept without the benefit of air conditioning at home the night before to prepare myself.  Not too hard.
  6. Resisting the urge to turn on my CR-V’s air conditioner on the drive over, however, was quite difficult!
  7. Lost my cell signal somewhere between Sabinal and the park.  Didn’t miss it…much.
  8. Okay, maybe I missed it a little, but that’s because I’m waiting to hear back about an interview.
  9. Despite the low number of cars at the park office, I still had to wait a bit.
  10. I pulled number 70 and the last one helped was 65. People have no patience!
  11. My original plan was to stay two nights, but I shortened it to one…maybe once it isn’t a billion degrees out.
  12. It has been so long, I only have vague memories, but a few were jostled loose when I drove by the campsite I (think) I stayed in last time.
  13. Canyonero!

    #13: Canyonero!

    Upon reaching my site, I had to take a picture of my CR-V like it’s in one of those SUV commercials.

  14. Set up my tent only to find the zipper on the door isn’t working quite right.  Crap.
  15. Only packed sandwiches and snacks to eat; I have no desire to prepare or eat any hot food while I’m here.
  16. Not bringing my stove and any food to heat up made packing harder somehow.
  17. Chili lime chips are the closest I’ll get to heat today.
  18. I’m keeping my Pebble Time smartwatch on even though my cell phone is kaputski. It still works as a pedometer, and well, a watch.
  19. Hiked down to the riverbank, had the obligatory ‘slip on the muddy ground/slick rocks’ moment.
  20. It is hard to resist taking panoramic pictures.  Some beautiful country, here.
  21. Finding trash around cheeses me off, and I pick up what I can.
  22. I can appreciate the irony in the gift shop selling bottle openers.
  23. Yes, I bought one, because why not?
  24. Picked up a cane sugar Dr. Pepper from the ‘Stinkin’ Sweet’ candy store to make sure it wasn’t defective.
  25. Also bought a bumper sticker.  Thanks to some unintended help from Verizon (see #7) it’s pretty easy to stay unplugged.
  26. Didn’t do any tubing, but went for a refreshing swim by the dam.
  27. Is there a rule that says the only people that buy portable speakers have to have the crappiest taste in music?
  28. The tube/paddleboat rental shack is no more, replaced by a trailer.
  29. They also have a food truck ‘Garner Grill.’  Dunno if they have tacos.
  30. Spent most of the afternoon sitting at my campsite, listening to the radio and working on this list.

    BUNNY!

    BUNNY!

  31. I also spent about twenty minutes just looking at birds.
  32. Didn’t do much, really, but that’s kind of the point.
  33. My $15 Emerson analog radio picks up The Eagle from San Antonio, yet my CR-V doesn’t. Huh.
  34. BUNNY!
  35. Jackrabbits are freaking HUGE.
  36. Saw a guy walk into the men’s room shower followed by his dog.  Damn furries.
  37. Garner Grill has the best food truck slogan ever: “Where fat free can take a hike.” No tacos, though.
  38. They did have burgers, of which I partook.  Hooray for convenience!
  39. Got a story idea while waiting for my food. Hooray for inspiration!
  40. I was a little surprised at how active the wildlife got once the sun went down.
  41. Annoying music coming from a car at a nearby camp. If his battery dies, and they ask: No, I don’t have jumper cables.
  42. Annoying music stops, and I can now hear music coming from somewhere else. *sigh*

    So purdy!

    So purdy!

  43. You don’t know how sunburned you are until try to go to sleep.
  44. It was a fitful night’s sleep. I’m not sure if it was the heat or my bedding that kept me up.
  45. One night of tent camping is definitely enough in Texas’s August heat.
  46. The scenic route home was a fun little drive.
  47. I look forward to coming back when the temperature isn’t so brutal!

11 Things I Noticed After Oklacon

I would drive one thousand miles…

Of course, now that its all said and done, one last list.

  1. I heard more conversations about DnD this weekend then I have in my entire life up to this point.
  2. Not sure which is worse: watching the Dallas Cowboys nearly blow the game on TV or hearing them nearly blow it on the radio.
  3. I put 1,000+ miles on the Excelsior during the trip…whew.
  4. Three days of sleeping on the ground made me really appreciate my bed.
  5. I was fortunate enough to have only encountered one raccoon.
  6. No matter how tired I am, no matter how many hours I’ve spent on the road, no matter how badly I want to get home, there’s always time for a stop at Buc-ees.
  7. Gas at Buc-ees was $2.99 a gallon for regular unleaded, WOW.
  8. The logjam I hit on I-35 South going home had me wishing I’d taken 281 instead, ugh.
  9. RED DIRT EVERYWHERE GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF
  10. Lesson learned: if I come back I’m getting a tent spot away from the bathrooms and the campfire.
  11. I am so glad I took Monday off from work to recover.  After what happened the last time, I almost stayed home!

10 Things I Noticed About Getting A New Car

Old car next to new car

Upgrade!

My 2005 Dodge Neon, lovingly referred to as the “Reliant,” has been a pretty dependable vehicle since I bought it back in 2006.  Recently, the only issue I’ve had with it is that well, its a Neon.  As I’ve been taking more trips to Dallas and Houston going to conventions and events, I’m finding that a Neon isn’t a very comfortable place to be for an extended period of time.

Thus, I began looking for a new vehicle in earnest. I didn’t need a “urban assault vehicle” as I like to call them, instead I wanted something just a bit bigger and more comfortable than a compact car.  I ended up buying a new 2012 Honda CR-V (pictured at right next to the Reliant and dubbed the “Excelsior”) and noticed just a few things during the process:

  1. As I mentioned previously, car shopping has changed just a bit since I bought the Reliant in 2006, and I think for the better.
  2. “Base model” doesn’t mean what it used to.  The base model CR-V includes Bluetooth, USB, rear-view camera, and automatic transmission.  Wow.
  3. The hardest part of getting a CR-V was well…getting one, as they are quite popular.
  4. Used cars are also popular; the Reliant was worth quite a bit more than I had expected.
  5. Of course, all I was going to get for it on the trade-in was some magic beans.
  6. Its good to have a man on the inside, hopefully my friend that sold me the CR-V stays at the dealership for at least a few years 😉
  7. Actual conversation with my friend: “Its not my car yet.” “Of course not, you haven’t paid for it.” “No, I haven’t farted in it yet.”
  8. I’ve barely had the Excelsior a month and its already been called ‘cute’ a few times. Here we go again.
  9. Having a camera in the back that turns on while I’m in reverse makes backing into parking spots like a videogame.  If I ‘lose’ its going to cost me more than a quarter, though!
  10. Hooray for modern engineering: despite being larger, the Excelsior gets at least as good gas mileage as the Reliant did and over 30mpg on long trips.