July 31, 2017

Yes I Did It Again

There were only a few readers that caught on that there might have been a recent car transaction. Then, some more asking questions by making comments on the blog or emailing me. I decided it was time to explain.

This is not to make fun of any kind of addicts because addiction is a serious and terrible thing ... but I do see myself standing in a room with a bunch of strangers, raising my hand and stating ... "Hi my name is Steve and I am a car addict". For you long time readers there are no surprises here in this post but possibly a lot of laughter from the location you sit.

New readers, yes ... I have bought and traded a lot of cars, trucks, an RV, during the life of this blog in the last 6 years. I can't say I'm an addict really, it just took me this long to finally decide what two cars I like and the two cars I plan on keeping a long time.

Yes I justified everything back in late October when I explained here, the reasons I unexpectedly traded my Voodoo Blue 2007 FJ. I never planned to. Out of everything I said to justify it it basically boiled down to me not wanting to put $3,000 into a almost 10 year old vehicle that had close to a 150,000 miles, to replace the bad catalytic converters. That was the quote from a Toyota dealership where I made the trade.

I knew that day I drove off the Toyota lot with another 2007 Black Cherry FJ that I had made a mistake. It didn't ride the same, didn't feel the same and even within those first few miles I knew I would not keep it. I tried for the next month and a half to talk myself into agreeing it was a good decision.

By the time I returned home after the 75 mile drive I was out of shock and realized I should have kept the Voodoo Blue one with the needed repairs ... I could have looked locally for a repair shop that could give me a better price for making the repairs. Yet, when that Toyota service rep handed me the computerized estimate, I went into deep shell shock' that influenced my bad ... bad ... decision.

Besides the hail damage I did not see on top of the Black Cherry FJ when I inspected it before I bought it, it had a fairly good gouge in one of the hard plastic fenders. Normal wear and tear in different parts ... but those kind of scratches and dents bug the crap out of me. Like I said before, it just didn't ride like my other FJ. Plus the more I looked at it the less I liked the color. This was Black Cherry and the one I confused it with was the model they offer in Red Brick.

Maybe it was the weather turning cold in early December that made my brains cells go into overdrive on a brand new idea. I explained my thought process back then with a blog post, that you can read here if interested. I never drive my Z4 in cold or bad weather. It's a 'good weather' car where I can put the top down. So the month of December is a time I sometimes think of selling it more than driving it.

I had another brain failure when I decided I was pretty sure that I'd list the Z4 for sale on the Z4 forum, and Craig's List but not expecting it to sell until spring. At that time I'd park it down by the mailbox so those in heavy daily highway traffic could see it was for sale. I've never had a car last more than two weeks when I park them by the highway with a for sale sign on them.

That is when I came up with the idea of 'one car', 'one insurance policy', 'only one to maintain' blah blah blah ... the Mini Cooper Countryman S All4 would give me a small SUV and a Sports Car Mode. This thing would haul ass down the freeway at 85 and 90mph. There were only three problems with the car and none of them were maintenance issues ... it was a great car.

Those were:
  1. I drove it more as a sports car because of how it drove ... I couldn't keep my foot from being buried into the accelerator almost every time I drove it. Luckily I never got a ticket.
  2. Sadie and Stella were always looking to ride. This missed those rides in the FJ ... problem was they were a little cramped to ride at the same time. There's Stella checking for a way inside.
  3. I have pretty much decided on a trailer I am going to buy and would feel much better towing it with an FJ and not the Mini Cooper S Countryman.
I had enough doubt about trading for the Mini Cooper. After I sat with the salesman for most of the afternoon, I changed my mind and drove home with my FJ. By the time I traveled the 12 miles home he called me wanting me to come back and make the trade. He sweetened his offer a little bit for it to happen.

Add in the other factor, that EVERY time I take this 14 yr old jewel out on the highway I hear myself saying "there is NO WAY I am ever trading or selling this car" !!!! It runs like it's new and has a little over 62,000 miles. My spreadsheet tells me I drive it 1,500 - 1,700 per year.

Once I was sure that I was keeping the Z4, then there was no need to have TWO cars giving me that sports car feel, I knew I'd be trading the Mini Cooper S in for an FJ. After all ... the Toyota FJ was THE BEST car I've ever had and I have had a ton of them over the past 17 years for some reason.

Then a few months ago I started sorting out in my head, old options I had analyzed and blogged about on this blog years ago ... what to travel in, RV or trailer, or what to tow, etc. Out of all the options I looked at, I have always come back to the FJ towing either a small trailer or a converted cargo trailer.

How I missed seeing this trailer last year is beyond me but once I found it I had to research it. It's my new plan but not until my hounds pass on. I've explained in previous posts that I find it too hard to travel with three hounds and only two hands. Plus now I have not one but two big strong bloodhounds so that is beyond what you can imagine, trying to travel with.

From reading on the Mini Countryman forums, there were those towing boats, small trailers with the Mini but I just didn't feel comfortably putting stress on a transmission of that car towing something even as small as this trailer. Plus .... I needed more room inside.

So here is what I am planning to buy for traveling and to use the FJ as the tow vehicle. Taxa Trailers in Houston Texas. These photos are from their website, not mine nor someone's personal pictures.

But really this isn't a new thought that just happened this summer. From that day back in October I bookmarked the site at Car.com, showing me all the 2007 FJ's for sale within 100 miles of my zip code. I would check that site every night if not multiple times every day. I knew I needed the same options as the Voodoo Blue had. I knew I'd eventually find one on my terms.

I even tried to buy my old Blue one back in early January. Their price had dropped below what they gave me as a trade in. Everything had been fixed and it looked good as new on their sales lot. It might have been anger, or they just wanted to play games with me ... or maybe they thought I was an idiot just passing through ... but they didn't want to sell it to me.

They gave me an extremely low offer for the Mini Cooper as a trade in. Then when I thought I had a deal almost done the 3rd week of January, they told me a price over the phone that was $2,000 higher than I was looking at online. I decided then the games were over and I'd find something.

I mentioned once in a blog post recently that I had expanded my FJ search out 250 miles from my zip code, then 500 ... "Only to Look" if I remember correctly. I was really looking for one that had the same options as I had before. There were not many of them even in a 500 mile radius. Plus I only wanted one in Voodoo Blue or Silver. I finally located one 106 miles away but it didn't have a roof rack, so I passed on it a month or so ago. It had everything else I wanted though.

Mileage wasn't a big thing for me. I bought my last one with 130,000 miles on it. I've seen these have over 200,000 and still going strong. It was also good to see on the Carfax it had only one owner. The father gave this FJ to his daughter for college when he was finished with it, so it was never driven off paved roads, most likely had never been rock climbing and the pictures showed very little wear and tear.

It might seem trivial but I wanted  this model of radio, not the black one that many of the 2007's have.

These 5 buttons showed me quickly I had a lot of the same features my old one had. We were off to a good start as I scrolled through the pictures. Again, no scruffs or scratches in the normal places.

It looked so clean and not scuffed up in back that I had to download this photo to my computer so I could enlarge it for a closer look. It looked even better in person. No normal wear and tear in the back. Yes it had the large sub woofer, not a deal breaker but just like my other FJ.

New floor mats throughout ... no scratches or gouges on the back door. I also didn't see any signs of rust around those 5 screws above, my old one had rust on them.

It looked brand new inside on their sales ad and also in person ... I don't know if the backseats have ever been used.

I knew since I bought this one at a Toyota Dealership that it had gone through their service department where any repairs or upgrades were done before it was put on the lot for sale.

Seeing these same wheels heavily chipped and worn on the Black Cherry FJ, I read on the FJ forums it was common for that to happen on their stock wheels. These wheels are brand new.

The sales rep told me on the phone that he had the rock rails taken off, sanded and painted. He also had his shop repaint these silver parts of the bumpers. That is a black fly in the picture, not a chip.

I did not find any wear and tear on the body itself. All of the plastic bumpers and fender guards are in perfect condition. The only dent I found was a small round one above the driver side door handle. It did not have two options my other FJ's had, the tow package and a roof rack. It did have the extra skid plates.

Instead they had added a Reece Tow package to the car, rated for 5,000 pounds, same as the FJ. Using the roof rack on my other one in June 2015, I decided then that I might like a rack by Baja much better. It is more rectangular and still uses the same factory mounts. If not I can have or I can install a factory roof rack.

The girl from college added her own touch to the FJ by adding a spare tire cover with a color that matched the car. That is going up for sale on Craig's List if anyone is interested or knows of someone with a Voodoo Blue FJ that would like one.

I had not been in the driveway more than 5 minutes before Stella was leaving bloodhound drool on the back bumper and near the doors ... her way of looking for a way to get inside and ride. Over the past two weeks of ownership, every time I open the back door to get something out or put something inside the FJ ... Stella gives a quick glance to see if we are going for a ride anywhere. It's been too hot lately to take them anywhere and I'd never stop with them inside the car in this type of weather. Our local drives are always to and from the house with the AC on if it's too hot.

Finally this past Saturday the temps had not reached 80° and there was a strong breeze to keep things cool. I told Sadie "let's go for a ride" and she went nuts. She never barks but she did then and didn't stop. She was in back of the FJ almost before I could get the door completely open.

That is when I found out that Stella's hips are definitely bothering her. She wanted in the back but couldn't jump in the back like she use to do before. She put her front paws on the bumper and I lifted her in.

Heidi took her co-pilot seat up front, windows down and she was ready to ride.

To say the hounds were happy to go for a ride again is an understatement.

So, lesson learned. No matter what comes up with either car, I will keep it and fix it. I was curious to see what the final cost was to me. I hated to look but had to put some numbers down on paper. You guessed it ... Since trading the FJ in October I have spent more than the $3,000 it would have cost me to fix the first FJ.

I never planned on trading that car until it broke. I'll not trade this one. The Toyota FJ is the best vehicle I have own, plus that Z4 that is driven only in good weather. I forgot to mention they gave me more for the trade in value of the Mini Cooper than what I paid for it in December. I also paid $500 less for this FJ with the same miles as my first one I bought in May 2014.

Also you might have noticed I never changed the truck plate when I traded for the Mini. It was allowed to be used on the Mini because BMV classified it as a 'wagon' but I was pretty sure I'd be using that plate again on a different FJ ... a lot of readers probably did also.  LOL

If you read this far you are to be commended. For the first time since I traded for my first FJ in May 2014 I have not had on iota of buyers remorse about this latest car deal. Things feel back to normal with an FJ back in the driveway.

NEVER a dull moment here in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana ... LOL

Sadie & Stella Don't See Deer Again !!

I am beginning to think that Sadie and Stella need to go in for some maintenance on their noses. For the 2nd time this summer I've seen deer close to me and close to them with no response. For the 2nd time in 14 hours, two deer have been within 30' last night and at the first corner this morning ... no response by the hounds.

It looks like we may have a couple of curious new neighbors. Last night around 6:30pm Sadie, Stella and I were heading out for our 3rd walk of the day but NO CAMERA ... big error. Just as we turned the corner of the house and stepped toward the yard there they stood, two deer not 30' from the edge of the yard ... just as shocked as we were. None of us moved, the deer the hounds and I just stood still so the others could not see us. Even when the deer turned and sprinted for the woods, neither Bloodhound chased after them.  (strange)

This morning started like any other walk early in the morning. We were a little later today, just past 9am. At this time I did not see who was staring at us again. Sadie slowly strolled to the wet field and Stella stopped to eat some nice tall, wet, green grass. Little did I know what I would see up ahead.

I thought I saw deer at the first corner of the walk but without my glasses on I can't see distance that clear. So I focused the 200mm zoom lens and sure enough, there they stood. A mom and baby looking at us again. I don't believe it was the same two from yesterday. I turned to look to see if Stella was going to take off after them ... she had her nose to the ground totally unaware there were deer in the area.

Same response from Sadie. She had no clue that two deer were within eyesight and close enough to chase. I saw the deer turn and walk around the corner and knew they would not be there by the time we arrive.

The closer we got to the corner Sadie decided that yes, something had been in this area but didn't show that bent out of shape excitement that she usually has when her nose locks into a strong scent.

Stella was on her own pace, taking her time exploring the field. She finally came trotting toward me to catch up. Still, she did not show any 'deer urgency'.

By the time I turned the corner the 'light bulb' had turned on in Sadie's nose and she was positive there were deer in the area area and took off sprinting for the far right corner ... the deer entry ramp down into the gully.

She was a day late and a dollar short in her search. The two deer were long gone, back at their camp telling their comrades about the two idiot bloodhounds they saw and were never chased. I'll be looking for them again between 6pm - 8pm, from inside and looking out the window, not to scare them off.

With both hounds enjoying the field in totally opposite directions I was able to catch some butterflies this morning. I am going take the camera with me on the afternoon walk today because again last night the field was full of butterflies.

Stella met Sadie and I on our return trip. She had just crossed our path and was headed north when I said "over here", so she stopped and waited on us.

Sadie let the butterflies alone this morning. This one was about a foot in front of Sadie's nose but she didn't charge the butterfly this time.

Stella did a little trotting this morning during her walk. She does this in the same part of the path almost every day now.

On the way back, both hounds needed to check out the area again where the deer stood. Like me, they couldn't believe they had missed them.

I kept walking and decided I'd let the hounds come back to the house when they wanted to. I guessed that by the time I went in and changed from boots to shoes, then bring the boots back outside to dry out in the sunshine that they would be at the door ready to come inside.

I was right.

It looks like the utility crew is back to check on their new installation.

With the forecast of a high of 86° today, this will be the coolest part of the yard. I need to get a nice chair to put out there.

When I got to the corner of the house to go inside, Stella was still back at the edge of the woods. By the time I was at the door to come back outside with my boots, she was standing at the door whining to come inside.

With my new plants watered this morning and the high temps of today I'll not be doing much more outside until later this afternoon. The ACs have already turned on automatically so the heat must have arrived early. It's not quite 11am yet.

With spending time inside today I'll have time to put a couple, yes, TWO more posts today. I have some photos I took Sunday afternoon right after the hounds had lunch ... all three of them spent some time laying in the sunshine, even Sadie and that's something that deserves a blog post.

The other post will probably have a few readers shaking their heads ... but once again I can explain everything like I have before. Basically the day or month might be different than before but the story is still the same ... stay tuned in for that one.

I am in my 2nd business day waiting for the local utility company to at least stop by and check the tree limbs touching the transformer and wires that lead into my house from the utility pole.

I can already see it's going to be another fine day here in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana.

July 30, 2017

An Active Sunday Morning Walk

Since it dropped into the 50's last night after reaching a high of 80° yesterday I knew the field was going to be extremely wet this morning as I put on my North Face snow boots. That would make no difference to Sadie. While I was lacing up the boots I decided Stella would have what I call total freedom this morning ... she could go anywhere she wanted at her pace ... I was not going to be 'herding' the hounds this morning.

It was a perfect quiet morning for our walk that started a little after 9am. Things were back to 'normal' since we our internet service had been fixed on Saturday. I was up early to upload over 300 photos to Google Photos and Flicker since July 26. I then move them into their own individual albums. Before I knew it, my 'free' data period was over at 8am. A little more reading online, two cups of coffee and Sadie let me know it was time to walk.

Since she was very active this morning I was sure we had just missed some early deer appearances. A lot of things were getting Sadie's attention just after starting the walk through the wet grass and wild flowers that are starting to grow for their fall cut.

Stella followed along laidback as usual, casually walking one paw at a time ... in no hurry.

That is until she saw Sadie sprinting toward the middle of the field. She actually ran again for the 2nd morning in a row. I know what is wrong with her though. It's her rear hips. She couldn't jump up in back of the FJ yesterday for our local drive. I helped her up as he put her front paws on the bumper ... Sadie was already inside ready to take off.

The way both hounds acted and me being so far away that I had to use the 200mm zoom on these next three photos, I was sure that we had just missed some deer. I thought they might be back in the far right corner of the field so I glanced in that direction once I caught up with the hounds.

It was good to see Stella running slowly but hard enough that both of her rear paws were off the ground as she ran. She and Sadie were all over the first part of the field up to the first corner turn.

As I turned into the sunlight you could see the heavy dew reflecting off the grass and wild plants.

Just as I was about to reach the rolls of hay I turned to find Sadie staring at me in the far right corner. She was having a blast running all over the field. Stella was not in sight as he was behind us on her own path.

By the time I had walked by 4 of these rolls of hay, Sadie had sprinted toward me and ran right up next to me. She covered quite a distance in the time it took me to walk only halfway in front of the hay rolls.

As usual I could barely see Stella's red coat through the growing field as I was on my way back home. The cooler overnight temps had chased away all the mosquitoes so far this morning. I forgot to mention the other day, that a light spray of 50/50 water and vinegar DID keep the mosquitoes off of me on my afternoon walk. Bethers had suggested 100% vinegar but I thought I'd try the 50/50 solution first since I had that mixed for Heidi's skin allergies.

I told Sadie to 'go get Stella' ... she had Stella in her sights of her nose within a minute.

She ran towards Stella and tapped noses, and like always Stella turned to follow Sadie. That message by touching noses must be pretty influential for Stella to follow Sadie's direct order.

I started to call the hounds for them to move over to my path on the last part of the walk. Today I decided to keep quiet and see what they would do. I was pretty sure that eventually Stella would walk into the north part of the yard near the property line pole that I was asked to leave up years ago.

By the time Sadie was almost home, she was soaked from the field. Her legs and paws were just as wet.

I might want to get back inside to make a small breakfast but that doesn't mean that Stella wants to. She is always on her on 'clock' unless food is mentioned ... then she will run for the house.

Still waiting for her to finish.

Slowly but surely she starts towards the yard. Instead of a direct route toward me, she walked far to her right and entered the yard just inside the property line pole. I find that to me not only interesting but amusing.

Sadie wasn't going to wait much longer. She was reading for her morning nap ... Stella took her time, she wasn't going to hurry for anyone.

The Daylilies are trying their best to show me they can grow after planting them only a week ago. I'm not sure how long it will take for them to get fully grown but they will cover a lot of area and still have nice blooms. That's the reason I chose them.

This is to the left of the porch under the living room windows Saturday afternoon.

This is from this morning showing how they had closed over night. They will get shade until about noon. Then that sunshine moving to the west will blast them with bright sunshine all the way to sunset.

I am going to go on a plant exploration sometime this week in Bloomington and hopefully find some Hostas to add to these areas. Once I get all the planting done and the ground settles a little, I'll cover all the exposed ground with Cypress mulch.

A little rambling before I go this morning. I had so many pictures from this mornings walk and was only able to get my choices down to 21 pictures for the blog. With the day as nice as it's going to be I can see later tonight I'll do another blog post with pictures of the hounds taken throughout the afternoon. I continue to read "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz. I can see a lot of what she says in all three of the hounds.

I really cannot figure out my internet data usage. By paying only for 20Gb per month and only 2Gb per month on my phone I am still very careful how I use and what I do on the internet.

Here is what I find strange and it makes me wonder if it is costing me more data to use HughesNet Gen5 for my internet service. When I had Excede Satellite I averaged below 500Mb of data per day. My internet use has not changed just because I have changed service.

I get faster speeds now ... 48Mbps instead of 10-12Mbps. My free period changed from midnight to 5am with Exede but 2am-8am with HughesNet. I normally use my free data early in the morning but not every day. This morning uploading those 300 photos took almost 200Mb of data, luckily it was on my extra data that HughesNet gives me for free.

Friday when my internet service was down I viewed and did my normal online reading on my Verizon account on my iPhone. By the end of the day I had used 358Mb, way below my self imposed 667Mb average.

Yesterday after the tech rep fixed my internet service, it was past 12 noon. I did my normal internet reading but spent a lot of time away from the computer. I cannot say that I did anything different than what I did on Friday with my iPhone.

Last night at midnight when I logged my daily data use into my spreadsheet ... Hughes told me I had used 895Mb !!!!

895Mb from 1pm to midnight compared to my use on Friday with Verizon 358Mb doing the exact same kind of internet surfing. My Activity Monitor was showing I had used a little over 500Mb of data.

My iPad, iPhone and MacBook Air had Wifi turned OFF during this time as part of my test.

The Google Chrome Extension I added a few weeks ago called Data Saver shows how much each website I visit uses in data. I can choose to look at their counts for 1 hour, 3 hours, 1 day, 1 week, 30 days and 60 day intervals.

In all cases Facebook was the leader in data use, using twice as much data as the #2 in line ... Blogger. My blogs use more data than any other website I visit except Facebook. If I use Google Photos or Flickr between 8am - 2am, then they are a close 2nd place depending on how many photos I am uploading.

So this morning after 4 hours, minus the time it took us for our walk ... I did the photos upload during my free period and I have not spent one second on Facebook ... I have only used 99Mb of data in a 4 hour period.

99Mb ... 25Mb per hour roughly ............ how could HughesNet show that I used almost 900Mb??? I would have had to been on the computer every minute of the day and night for that to be possible.

Also I have all automatic updates in the background .... shut off

Also I have an extension called Disable HTML5 AutoPlay that works well blocking videos that want to play automatically on different news and sports sites.

I have AdBlock Plus to do what it sounds like ... block ads.

I can't think of anything else I can do to stop any data "leaks". I'll be anxious tonight to see just how much data HugesNet tells me I have used after a very similar internet day compared to "their" 900Mb day on Saturday.

Since switching to the faster download speeds of HughesNet, my average data usage is 723Mb per day doing the same thing I did with Exede and averaged less than 500Mb per day.

Any ideas?

I cannot believe this weather we are having this summer in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana ... it's been great.