All I need are some Birkenstocks...

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It looks like I'm officially a "tree hugger" - all I need are some Birkenstocks and a few more Phish songs on my iPod.

Why?

I bought a Toyota Prius. I almost can't believe I typed that; let me explain what happened to prompt this purchase.

As most of you know, I had been driving a gorgeous (but large) Chevrolet pick-up truck. I found it at a local dealer with really low miles, loaded with options, and more or less in perfect condition. I installed a Line-X bedliner, detailed the heck out of it, and planned to keep it for a long time. It was nearly ideal - it could hold my bikes with ease, it was comfortable, it had a great sound system, and it ran like a top.

But, it was nearly impossible to maneuver the thing around town and it was really impossible to park it in my new garage - I literally had to have the front license plate of the truck touch the front wall of my garage so that I could close the garage door (and even then I only had about 1.5" of clearance behind the truck).

Every time I parked the truck in the garage, I went through a 5-8 minute "dance" that involved me pulling-up as close to the wall as I possibly could, jumping out of the truck to check my distance, inching forward a bit more, jumping back out to check, and so on. It quickly grew old. Before you suggest that I hang a tennis-ball to mark the ideal parking location, know this: the ceiling in the garage is 15+ feet high.

It also grew old trying to find parking spots - whether it was at the grocery store, the parking garage at work, or at one of the many ramps in downtown Madison... parking that beast was always a chore, primarily because the turning radius was so poor. I've never done as many Y-turns in my life as I have over the past six months or so.

So, I put the truck on craigslist, and wouldn't you know it, but I sold it in just two days to a super nice couple from Mount Horeb. They picked-up the truck early last week, which left me without a vehicle. The weather was nice, so I didn't mind biking to work, nor did I mind walking to get groceries and other things.

I didn't know what kind of car I wanted to buy... part of me wanted a station wagon (Audi A3, Audi A4 wagon, VW Jetta Wagon, or VW Passat Wagon) because I'd be able to put a bike or two in the back and still have room for other things like a small toolbox, a small suitcase, and so on. The Audi options offered all-wheel drive as well.

Part of me wanted a sedan (Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, Saturn Aura, Ford Taurus, or a Ford Fusion) because it would be practical, roomy, and there were plenty to choose from.

Part of me wanted something really fun (Mercedes Benz E350, Mini Cooper S, Subaru WRX STI, or an older Corvette).

And then I stopped to think about how I "really" used my vehicles; truth be told, I hauled my bikes in the truck on exactly two occasions... I didn't really use the 4WD feature... I didn't use the back seat for anything other than holding groceries... but I did enjoy the low monthly payment (I got a really good deal on the truck and loan), and I did spend a ridiculous amount of money on gas every 8-10 days ($65 per fill-up), and I did hate parking it.

So it was evident that I needed something that was affordable, got good mileage, could haul some cargo if necessary, and would prove to be reliable and, if possible, slightly fun.

Purely on a whim, I searched for used Toyota Priuses, and wouldn't you know it, but I found a 2009 Prius at the local Toyota dealer - a one owner car, loaded with options, certified-pre-owned (which meant it came with a 100,000 mile warranty from Toyota), and with a decent number of miles. I checked Carfax for the car's history and it came back clean - the records showed regular maintenance, no accidents, and all looked good.

So, I haggled on the price, got an excellent deal, and an excellent interest rate. As mentioned, it's a 2009 Prius with "Option package 5," which means it has: voice-activated GPS navigation, JBL premium sound system with iPod interface, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, leather seating, and a few other items I'm forgetting. The original sticker price was $29,855. I got it for about half of that, and it came with Toyota's certified-pre-owned hybrid warranty, which gets me a really nice extended warranty.

After getting the car home last night, I washed it and set about detailing it. Here it is, sitting in the garage (in which it fits nicely), getting ready for a good buffing:

car_prep.jpg

I taped off the plastic and rubber trim so that I could really get after things with the buffer. Once the taping was complete, I clayed the car, buffed it with Meguiar's #101 and #201, polished it with Zaino Z-PC, washed it again, and then applied 3 coats of Zaino Z2 (with ZFX) and finished with a wipedown with Zaino CS (Clear Seal). I dressed the tires, cleaned the interior, and treated the leather. The whole process spanned two days (I started last night at around 6pm, worked on it until around 11pm; woke-up and rode/ran this morning (7am - noon); then finished the detail at around 7pm this evening).

I snapped two quick photos - the lighting was bad, so I'll take some additional photos in the near future.

car_front.jpg

car_back.jpg

And here's some of the fun stuff from inside - the touchscreen computer is pretty cool - it serves as the climate control center, information center, and navigation hub. Check out the mileage I've gotten so far:

fuel.jpg

Here's a picture of the entire "dash" area - the layout has most of the items in the center of the car... it's going to take a bit to get used to it.

gps.jpg


So there you have it. I'm a tree-hugging hybrid driver. :-) And while it's not the most exciting car I've ever owned, I should enjoy the lower car payment and the incredible fuel economy (most of my trips are in-town at speeds below 40mph, which is where a hybrid shines). I predict I'll spend about $30 on fuel every 3 weeks (versus $130+ with the truck).

And finally, as I was driving to take a photo of the car, I witnessed an accident in downtown Middleton. Further proof as to how poorly people drive around here... picture this: it's 80-degrees outside, it's sunny, there's not a cloud in the sky, the pavement is totally dry, and there's barely any traffic. Perfect conditions.

A Buick SUV, heading east on University Avenue in the right-hand lane, suddenly decides that it's going to cut across three lanes of traffic to turn left at an intersection that doesn't allow left-hand turns. The driver cranks the SUV violently to make the turn (I'm guessing they were speeding as well), and next thing you know, I'm watching a SUV roll on to its side and slide before coming to a rest. I just shook my head and stopped - the traffic in front of me stopped as well...

roll1.jpg

...sort of scary.

Even scarier is that I cross that intersection every single day while running.

Here's the aftermath - just as I was taking this picture the tow-truck got the SUV right-side-up... I was so angry - I wanted to get a better picture, but this is the best I could manage.

roll2.jpg

You've got to love the drivers around here. Truly, truly awful.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on July 31, 2010 10:17 PM.

Baseball, beefsticks, and bird watching - another random update was the previous entry in this blog.

It ain't as easy as it looks... is the next entry in this blog.

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