December 31, 2016

2012 Mini Cooper S Countryman Passes Test

That title may not draw a many regular readers but it's purpose is actually for those in the future that will find my review at the bottom of this blog due to Google spiders indexing it.

There might be someone like me that will be looking for some owner experience in the Mini Cooper Countryman and would like to know what it does in general terms.

So for those that have arrived, maybe curious ... we are starting with the normal hound's morning walk photos. Just as many as usual with only one picture of the Cooper Countryman at the bottom of this post to show the results of my test for it today.

It was very nice to feel the temps in the 40's as we stepped outside this morning. The skies look like rain maybe but by that time I'll be sunk into my couch watching an Indiana basketball game at 12:30am, where I do not expect them to win. That will lead me to the game I really want to watch today around 3pm ... the Washington vs Alabama football game.

Once again the team that I will be cheering for probably will not win ... The Dawgs of Washington. They could but probably won't. Then we will finish the evening with the Clemson vs Ohio State game, one that I don't care who wins nor do I care about either team. Yet, they are part of the 4 team playoff for college football.

I let the hounds roam at their own pace while I walked mine this morning. I was actually more interested in the 'sky show' I was seeing with different cloud formations ever direction you turned.

The normal storm systems will travel north of me and south of me ... it seems. That does not matter if it is winter snow storms or spring tornadoes. For years I have watched them split at the Indiana/Illinois state line and then follow I-70 to the north and the Ohio River to the south. We will still get some severe storms here in 'the tropics' but not nearly as much as those 70 miles north of us.

Stella was in the mood to keep up with Sadie today. I'm not sure what her thought process was but she was interested in following Sadie.

All the pictures look the same to me, at times bore me but then after downloading them and looking at them closer I can usually see something slightly different that my eyesight did not.

One thing I did notice this morning though were both hounds moving deeper into the wooded area, the tall dormant grass and even into the top part of the gully.

They were both thrilled to be back at their 'happy hunting grounds'. I could tell from the start that neither of them were going to leave too soon and most likely I would be on my final approach to home, after making the final turn.

It wasn't so much the tower nor the turkey farms that caught my attention in this picture ... it was the sky.

In these next 7-8 pictures you can see the difference between Sadie and Stella. Notice that Sadie is looking at me and probably cannot see me clearly but they sure do look like they are looking right at you even from a far away distance.

Sadie will ALWAYS come toward me after looking at me if she knows I am pretty far away. Okay, there are those few times where she doesn't but I would say that happens less than 1% of the time.

She will run in my direction without being called.

Whereas Stella may look right at me but that does not mean she is going to come running towards me. She is just the opposite of Sadie where if she does come my direction, it is less than 1% of the time time.

She will always stare at you, then turn the opposite direction and go back to what she was doing and doesn't have a care in the world what is going on around her. I wonder at times when she does this, if she will ever come home if I were to ignore her and keep walking.

Still has no intentions of heading Sadie and my direction.

Then with an abrupt left turn she will start her gallop usually right into my leg where she can nudge me with her nose to let me know she is back or she is there.

You might think snow is on the way but it's to be in the 50's for the next few days before going back to the daytime highs in the 20's.

While Stella, Sadie and I were finishing our morning walk ... I decided I was going to take the Mini Cooper Countryman out a different road but it would be a 'true test' for what this car could do. The Edmund's review says it can do everything the FJ can do EXCEPT climb large rocks and rutted roads where you have less than 4" of ground clearance. It also has 20 cubic inches less in the cargo area. All things I knew before making the trade.

I decided to head out to my friends house, the same road the hounds and I took in the summer, out through the cornfields, gravel and hard packed dirt roads. We blogged and took pictures of that local trip.

I wanted to try out his driveway. It starts with a 60° or steeper incline with sharp left and right curves. He says if you don't have 4x4 you will not make it ... I noticed the other day his wife was driving a Toyota Rav4 so I was pretty sure 'The Countryman' could do it.

It climbed without any problem. Having the manual transmission was a plus I think in all of this testing today, especially the driveway. The first half of the road test was mostly gravel, semi loose gravel since they had just laid a single lane of new gravel in preparation for winter snow and rain. At times this same road will washout due to the small creek that runs the full border of the road.

I came to a T in the road where I decided to take a left instead of the normal right. I had a vague idea where it would end up but I had no idea what the road was like getting there. The road went up and down, sharp curves, maybe 1-1/2 lane but a lot of time just 1 lane ... all on hard packed gravel and dirt with occasional mud. It had blind corners on top or just past a steep hill, not knowing if traffic was coming from the opposite direction.

The All4 drive performed just as described, whether it was on loose gravel, hard packed dirt or spots of mud. Sometimes the lanes were worn down enough I wondered if 4" clearance was going to be enough ... but each time it was. Those gravel/dirt roads later turned into some new pavement with the same type of up and down hills, sharp curves and narrow roads.

The Countryman naturally went into it's sports car mode and handled just as good as my BMW Z4, although the Z is a smoother ride, has more power but at no time did I feel a lack of response from the Mini Cooper S 181hp engine.

Once again I feel good about the transaction and am finding out there is not much I am missing with the Toyota FJ. I definitely like the 34mpg gas mileage I am getting in all types of driving.

Well the hounds need a quick 'pre-game' break outside to dump their tanks and then I'll be on my football game marathon for the rest of the day.

I am still deciding on which direction to take on buying new tires. I have barely enough tread left on these Pirelli Run Flat tires that came with the car.

Happy New Year from 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.

December 30, 2016

The Hounds Enjoy Another Beautiful Day

This had to be one of the coldest days in recent weeks. It said it was 31° but felt closer to being in the teens. By the time we finished the morning walk I had frozen fingers under my gloves.

Sadie and Stella didn't seem to notice and were probably wanting to stay out longer than we did.

Last night as I approached the top of my driveway and was making the turn into the carport ... my headlights caught a golden-red cat sitting just at the edge of the yard in the center of this next picture. By the time I got out of the car and walked out to see if it was interested in food in the freezing night, the cat had already disappeared.

That explains a lot about the reason Sadie has been so interested in that area and down into that ditch these past few weeks.

With Sadie bothering me lately earlier and earlier for her first walk of the day, I put on all my cold weather gear and we headed out a little after 9:30 this morning. It instantly felt colder than 31°. There were some winds from the NW that made a difference in the wind chill factor.

Yet, it was clear skies and sunshine so I can't really complain just because the temps were borderline frigid. After all we are not walking through deep snow or on ice.

Stella ended up staying so far back that at one time I couldn't see her through the zoomed lens. I thought she might have moved into the wooded area but about that time I saw her rise up from the ground on the horizon. I didn't realize there was that much of an incline.

Sadie and I had already turned the corner, and once we made that turn ... it got a lot colder with a stronger wind. Once that wind hit me in the face I couldn't wait for the walk to be over.

I had no idea that Stella was coming up behind me, so when I took this picture I was focusing on only Sadie ... when Stella ran into the view finder about the time I took the picture. Her speed was much faster than what the picture shows.

They explored ... I continued to walk.

As we made the final turn home, they both walked so close to me that even the 18mm setting could not fit them into a picture. It wasn't long before they took off jogging in hopes of getting a little more exploring done before I got there.

Stella has set another new record of letting me leave the house without her showing any signs of separation anxiety. That is always a good thing but even after 16 months I still wonder when the next episode will be. There has always been a 'next episode'.

After some late morning errands, they had their lunch when I got back and Sadie was 'demanding' another walk ... it had only been a couple of hours since her last walk. Once they get that after lunch walk in, they normally will sleep the rest of the afternoon in different spots inside the house.

That is a very deep gully just a few feet into the woods. Luckily none of the hounds venture into that area because it is nothing but mud on the gully floor.

Stella took the lead for the afternoon walk. She was almost making the turn to the far right corner when I yelled the word "hey", she stopped and started heading my direction.

Then she and Sadie was off to the back edge of the field.

They both had a lot of 'nose activity' today.

Two things that Sadie has always chased are birds on the ground and flying leaves. Today she was not only chasing the leaves that were bobbing around the field from the wind but she was also approaching those that landed, with caution. You never know when those leaves might attack.

While I was watching Sadie and her leaves, Stella had almost snuck off to the 'no-fly zone' behind me. I had to go to the 200mm zoom because she was that far away from us. Something had her interest and she surprised me when she stopped and came when I called her. I thought for sure she had smelled something and was going to take off after it.

She is never happy after being caught trying to escape.

As we get closer to January 1, the college football bowl games have better matchups. I'll be watching college football for the rest of the afternoon and tonight it looks like. A crockpot of vegetable soup will be finished about supper time. Football and hot soup on a freezing day sounds good to me.

It would be a beautiful day to fly today ... not a cloud in the sky.

January 1st is right around the corner here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.

December 29, 2016

Lost Track Of Days

Every since I retired in April 2014 I find it normal that I lose track of days. With our fast paced lifestyle her in 'the tropics' it's really not a big deal when that happens.

Whether it is Wednesday or a Saturday the hounds have the same routine, even on declared holidays.

So as we were out this morning, me with a cup of coffee in hand while Sadie and Stella walked around the field, I realized I had no idea what day of the week it was. Luckily the print out I have for the college football bowl games on tv reminds me not only who is scheduled to play that day or night ... but shows me the day of the week. How convenient is that?

Even with my cup of coffee in my hand and no camera, Sadie still gave me that stare she has when she wants to walk.

When I told her "not yet" ... she went back to what she was doing.

It wasn't long though ... just one more cup of coffee ... then we headed out to enjoy a beautiful sunny morning, no wind and a crisp feeling to the air.

The hounds were more than happy to get started ... meanwhile back inside the house, Heidi was in full winter mode and had not come up for air while sleeping under a sleeping back, every since she had finished her breakfast kibble. That routine in the winter cold temps is nothing new for her ... she has done this every winter since I brought her home in 2011.

The hounds were on their own as I walked. I could tell early in this walk that Stella had different things to check out and most likely would not be walking with Sadie and I. She was good though, getting back to us without being called.

When I zoomed in for this picture I knew Stella had no intentions of following our pace.

That never bothers Sadie as she sprinted past me on the path and headed for the back of the field. Even at 34°, it felt warmer than the pictures show.

Has Stella even moved since we left that spot? Even lifted her head from the ground?

Then out of nowhere, she decided she had better catch up with us.

Just as she glanced to her right up to the far corner of the field, while Sadie and I were heading home ... she made a quick left turn only to be interrupted by something her nose found.

Not to be fooled into who was really in control of this walk ... she took off trotting to a corner that is about as far away as she could get. Sadie and I continued our path home ... I was really curious what Stella would end up doing. I wondered if it was going to be one of those days where Stella lags so far behind that she is out of sight as I would make my last turn home.

But just like before she started trotting our way. With her nose to the ground she followed our steps along the edge of the field and evidently smelled Sadie and changed direction to come right at us.

Maybe she was getting cold and wanted to get home, I'm not sure. She let Sadie know she was headed home.

By the time I am almost at the edge of the backyard, Sadie gave me that stare again ... only this time she wanted to stay outside.

Stella was in no hurry to come inside either so I let them roam while I picked up more twigs around the yard on the north side of the house. When I made it back up the hill after a quick trip to the mailbox, both of them were waiting for me at the door, thinking I had left them and had gone inside.

Stella had to come to remind me it was time to feed them lunch. A quick nudge by her nose gives me the first warning shot, after that she will move to the howling stage which gets Heidi out of her deep sleep into a barking mode. I find out within 30 minutes if I am really behind in the feeding schedule.

I tried getting a picture of Heidi today to let everyone know that she really does have a pulse and actually gets outside her (mine) sleeping bag. She was so quick I barely caught her as she was moving under the yews and out to the front yard.

Stella debated whether to head out to the field or back inside. She is also not a fan of cold weather and since this morning, winds had picked up and was blowing freezing air from 15-20mph. She turned and went back to the house with Heidi and I.

Sadie never cares how cold, how much rain or snow ... she just loves being outside. I let her hangout in the field for almost an hour, then I hooked Stella up to the retractable leash and went for a 'supervise' afternoon walk. The winds were stronger and the air was colder coming from the west. Sadie was happy with a 2nd walk and was quiet the rest of the afternoon.

While they spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping, I spent time setting up all of my new spreadsheets for 2017. Seems like it was a pretty fast year and some of the spreadsheets were showing some interesting results over the past year.

It is another night of no interest in watching the 3 college football bowl games being televised so it might be back to book reading or watching a movie.

I almost forgot ... Heidi had a 20 minute soak in warm water and Epsom Salts. She likes that enough that she almost lays down in the water but that would put her head barely above water. Her skin looks good but compared to past Decembers, it's about the normal condition for this month. I've thought for the longest time this year her skin problems are airborne allergies.

As long as the sunshine is out, we are happy here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.