Many of you know that I have my pet peeve about rental cars. When I reserve a particular size of car, I would really like that size. I’ve been renting vehicles most of the times I travel to Omaha for my AF Reserve duty, and rarely do I receive what I’ve reserved.

Call me cheap, but when I don’t expect to do any more than shuttle myself to/from my job every day, I don’t need more than the smallest, most fuel efficient car available. Some of you may remember my adventure with the Ford Mustang that I rented in late February 2011.

This time around, I was pleasantly surprised when the car rental dealer attendant told me that they had a “subcompact car” waiting for me. That was what I had requested.

A Toyota Yaris. It starts at $14K new. Probably among the least expensive cars on the market. ¬†And that’s what you get. It’s a very very simple, low powered, basic car. Hooray for 30+ mpg and hooray for it being nice and nimble in the tight Offutt AFB parking lots near the building where I work.

But as you can see from the picture above, I couldn’t even fit my single wheeled duffel bag in the back. I wasn’t expecting that. BOO! I was able to toss the bag into the back seat, and I guess I should be thankful that there even was a backseat. It could have been a Smartcar, right?

This car has mostly manual controls (except the power windows and automatic transmission), a very basic stereo (with an MP3 jack, at least), and the dashboard information — such as the speedometer, odometer and engine lights — was in the middle of the car…instead of right behind my steering wheel on the driver’s side. Why is it like that? I’m not sure at all.

From what I read, the 2012 Yaris doesn’t have that centralized dashboard anymore. Phew!

With a 106hp engine, you can imagine the cars trailing behind me when I am trying to climb a hill, say, near I-680 and Dodge St. in Omaha, where you’re climbing up into the elevated express lanes.

Here’s a better view of the car.

It maneuvers quite well. But not very powerful, which is evident on hills.

06. March 2012 · Comments Off on A Brief Family Update · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Hello friends!  I have a lot to talk about — but I need time to sit down and just do it.  Things have gotten pretty busy here…between my involvement in the base Spouses’ Club and Cub Scouts, I’ve been spending more time with community work than ever before!

The boys started baseball a couple weeks ago (both boys), so that’s been keeping us busy too.  Their season will start after spring break.  No pictures yet, but I’ll get some soon, I promise!

Both boys earned their Cub Scout badges in February.  We are so proud!

Timmy’s face is painted as part of the ceremony for earning the badge.  The orange square badge is pinned on upside-down until he does a good deed.

Jacob’s face is painted too, but you aren’t really see it.  Jacob’s light-green badge is upside-down until he did a good deed.

I added one more layer to my already-crazy life, which I’ll write more about later.  Here’s a teaser for you:

Dave’s back surgery recovery has been continuing.  He was cleared at the beginning of February to resume exercise and he’s been slowly working back up to his Air Force fitness running requirements. I think he and Jacob could run a 5K together by May!  I’m hoping they can do the Sunset Stampede!  The boys and I did the run last year and it was a great time!

If you are either Dave’s or my Facebook friends, you will already know about our latest diversion — a new car for Dave!  For those who might not have realized, not long after we moved to Florida, Dave began looking at a “fun” car to enjoy on his 15-mile U.S. Highway 98 commutes between Navarre and Hurlburt Field.  I had convinced him that our household budget would appreciate his waiting about a year, which he patiently did.

Now that his back is feeling better, Dave is back to wanting to go out and explore the Florida panhandle.  I’m so excited to have my Dave back (no pun intended!)

So we spent much of February shopping for a convertible.  Between a nearly $10,000 trade for the Prius, and Dave keeping his search to a used model, this turned out pretty reasonable.

We looked at used BMWs, used Ford Mustangs and new Mini Coopers.  I want to thank my sons publicly for their tolerance of road tripping all over Pensacola, Crestview and Fort Walton Beach, test driving and sitting patiently while the grownups talked to the car dealers.

And here’s the new car:

Dave was particularly interested in a 2011-or-newer Mustang V6 for its exceptional mileage.

The very next day, Dave let me drive the new car with my friend Stephanie to Walt Disney World to run a half marathon (for another post), and after that weekend, the weather was absolutely LOUSY.  San Francisco-type fog rolling in waves from off the Gulf of Mexico for FIVE DAYS!  Starting this past Sunday, it’s been BEAUTIFUL and worth while to have a convertible.  We can’t wait till this spring!

So there’s a brief update on our lives — keeping up with our jobs, the kids and our community.


29. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

First I’ll greet you with this super cool picture:

This is why it’s wonderful to own a Toyota Prius!

Yesterday and today I drove up to Long Island to pick up our boys from Dave’s parents’ house.  Since it was a quick trip and could pack lightly, I was able to take our Prius, and since the conditions worked out well enough, I was able to score over 50mpg today!  Yesterday, in the 100F+ heat coming up I-85 with full A/C and very little use of the brakes, the mileage was more like 46-48mpg.  Once I got on I-95 where you can’t just set the cruise control and the temperatures today were mostly in the 80s (it was raining most of my time in New Jersey).

I’m pretty beat from the drive, but not at all in a bad way.  I enjoy driving, and it was downright peaceful getting to enjoy the scenery with hungry, bored, or fighting kids.  I was pretty worried about making the I-95 trek from Petersburg, VA all the way to New York City…to the point I even asked some Facebook friends their opinions of using U.S. 13 up the Delmarva Peninsula instead!  According to Google Maps, taking US 13 would add about 60 miles and 70 minutes to my trip.  I left my stopover point (my sister’s house in NC) at the right time to go ahead and stay on I-95…I made it through (not around, through) Washington, D.C. around 11am, through Baltimore around 12pm, and through Wilmington, DE around 2pm.  I crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge just before 4pm…which is about when the traffic started getting bad.

I also want to write about the airliners I kept encountering on their final approaches (ATL, CLT, DCA, BWI and JFK), as well as the beautiful town of Eufaula, Alabama.  That’s for when I’m awake…

13. June 2009 · Comments Off on Yay! We Can Still See Out the Back! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
03. August 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
I’m fine…Dave asked me to run to Lowe’s to pick up one more can of primer for the basement-painting project he’s working on, and I guess my mind was wandering and I missed the already-red light and the car making a left turn in front of me.
I’ve never been in an air-bag accident before and the last time I was at fault was in an accident was in Korea where all you do is pay off the victim a couple hundred dollars on the spot.
I was taken to the emergency room via ambulance for a basic function check, I was only there for an hour. I’m sore from the seat belt and air bag impact, but other than that, fine.
Nothing a little ibuprofen can’t alleviate.
The woman I hit didn’t even need the hospital, she was given a ride home.
Kudos to both vehicles’ airbags…we’ll have to survive on one car for a while, but luckily we’ve been through that before and everything is quite close.

I’ve never received such quick medical support, that’s for sure! I crashed around 2:45pm, and I was walking out of the emergency room in Papillon around 4pm!

13. April 2008 · Comments Off on Gas Prices, Plus Some Experiment Results · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,


Today I finally got up the nerve to submit a local gas price to the Raleigh Gas Prices website. I figured I’ve been using the site so much, and the station right outside of my neighborhood’s entrance (it has a single entry/exit, more on that for another posting) is hideously expensive, I thought I’d get an account and start reporting what I see.

For those geography geeks, here is a cool map of gas prices across the U.S. Note the local minimum in South Carolina — I make a point of filling up in McColl, SC, where I usually cross the state line when driving down to Shaw AFB for drill. Further down on the page is a map of North Carolina, but you can enter any city/state or zip code and look at more localized price information.

“So how did you do on your grand experiment?”

Yes, I was just getting to that…

In case you were wondering, here’s a description of the experiment. Unfortunately, Dave and I took a temporary hiatus from the single-vehicle experiment during my drill last weekend, plus this week we had several occasions to use separate vehicles. I’d like to return to the schedule next week, but we’ll see. I will be watching a friends’ kids on Wednesday, so I’d definitely need the van to fit 4 little boys in their booster seats!

We were able to drive the van a limited amount on ONE tank of gas from March 8th through April 1st. The Prius cost us $25-30 to fill up about every 6 days. So we used about 4 tanks of gas in the Prius. Typically we spend $250-275 per month on gas, in the time period in question, we were able to spend only about $150 for gas. A nice cost savings, I must say! We put about 1000 miles on the Prius in that time frame. That took into account a round trip to Pope AFB (120 miles total) and one round trip to Dalzell, SC, about 400 miles total.

Overall, it was a cool thing to try out for a solid month, but in practice, we simply live too far away for it to work while we’re still in NC. Maybe it can become our lifestyle in NE this fall, we’ll see. The Prius was getting about 18 extra miles on it daily since it had to make two trips to campus instead of just the one, and the time the boys and I had to take every evening to pick up Dave could be better spent than sitting in the car.

But – if gas prices continue to climb, this is something I’m willing to make the time for 2-3 times per week, provided Dave isn’t driving anywhere during the day.

13. March 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Well, while the enthusiasm is there to have our family live with just the one car, in practice we discovered some “issues”.

First, Dave usually leaves his office around 5:30pm. If I’m doing a labor-intensive dinner, such as a stir fry where I’m chopping veggies and standing over the stove for a few minutes, taking the 40 minutes to go out and pick up Dave every day would be a challenge. With the time change, though, we’ve been having dinner closer to 7pm lately, so we might be able to swing it…at least for our experiment.

If I do simple dinners, such as casseroles and quick homemade pizza, and if I prepare everything ahead of time so I throw it all together as soon as we get home, it can be done. Tonight it was homemade cheesesteaks with raw baby carrots and Ranch dip. 15 minutes.

Also, Thursday is soccer night for Jake, at 5:30pm. So I’d have to pick up Dave at 5pm on the nose to get back to Apex in time for soccer. Dave is willing to work from home on Thursdays, which would be great! I can make a fancy dinner on Thursdays, at that!

So today I drove about 60 miles in just the Prius. That would be ~1 1/2 gallons of gas, compared to 3 gallons it would have been in the van. This morning I dropped off Jake at preschool at 9am and then went straight to campus and was able to drop off Dave around 9:20am. Dave usually is at his office from 9:30am-5:30pm.

I drove Daniel home from the park today, and we had to cram his booster seat into the back of the car along with Jake’s booster and Timmy’s 5-point convertible seat. The seats all fit, but it was barely so and the seat belting was certainly an effort. But we were legal!

Picking up Dave was an adventure. I can’t remember ever being on campus at 5:30pm…what a nightmare, between the auto traffic leaving campus, the students walking everywhere, and the buses stopping every 50 feet. I pulled a “stupid” and tried this roundabout way to get to Dave’s building that wasted about 10 minutes. I ended up behind a bus that was stopping at each bus stop. Argh!

Jake, however, enjoyed his views of the young pretty girls. He asked me to put down his window (it was 65 degrees!) while I was crawling through campus traffic and he was hanging out the window yelling “HI!” to the girls. Of course the girls were swooning over cute-little-Jake. What a ham!

12. March 2008 · 7 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

So…we own two vehicles. Dave drives the Toyota Prius to/from work (20 miles per day), while I take the boys around in a Honda Odyssey (more than 20 miles per day, usually closer to 50).

Don’s blog now has an RSS feeder streaming his favorite news articles related to Electric (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) vehicles. I also noticed our local Citgo station’s unleaded gas (corner of Penny and Ten Ten Rds.) is going for $3.29/gallon (look here and scroll down to the list of most expensive gas…and YES PAUL, that’s Costco with the cheapest gas in the area!).

It got me thinking: how much gas (read: how much money) could we save if we tried to live with one car for a while…just the Prius?

Right now we average 1 tank of gas per week for the Prius (about $28), and 1.5 tanks of gas per week for the van (about $75). I wonder if we could do everything in a week on 2 gallons in the Prius?

Could we save ($28+75) – ($28+$28) = $47 per week? $200 per month? $2400 per year?

12. January 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
*Any Ren and Stimpy fans out there????

Meet our Prius. It was our Christmas present in 2005, although we waited till Jan 1, 2006 to pick it up so that we could take advantage of Toyota’s incredible $3500 tax credit in 2006. That was a SWEET tax refund that year. This year won’t be so nice.

Anyway, some argued that we were taking a gamble about gas prices choosing to buy a somewhat expensive car that would only be cost effective if gas prices stuck around above about $2.50 per gallon. Judging from the graph, I’d say we’re close. The prices have not delved lower than the last line on this graph (courtesy of DOE).

It’s sort of a game for Dave and me to try to outdo each other with the Highest Mileage Contest. Day-to-day, Dave is the winner by a long shot. He will turn off all the accessories (including the heat in the winter, A/C in the summer) to maximize his mileage. He’s definitely more gentle with the gas pedal than I ever am.

I might actually have the best record on a long drive, averaging 51 mpg on a trip from Raleigh to my Mom’s house in Norfolk, VA in May 2006 without the added load of the kids in the backseat. Everything was perfect: the warmer temperatures, the downgrade of the trip, the relatively flat terrain once you’re in Emporia, VA.

I get to use the Prius on my trips to South Carolina for drilling, and it’s certainly nice to make the entire trip: 6 hours roundtrip, on ONE tank of gas. About $30 right now.