Sunday, May 31, 2009
Ending Mileage: 115,109
Total Miles: 1,352
Total Vehicle Expense: $436.86
Total Cost per Mile: $0.32
Overall for being a partial month, May was not too costly on the Volvo even with the unscheduled repair. When all things are considered, if you deduct the average car payment from what I spent, I only spent $36.86 to run my car for an entire month. That's not bad for any stretch of the imagination...because it also includes all gas, all maintenance and all repairs. Aside from the one repair, of which $0 would be covered under a typical new car warranty, someone making payments on a newer car would have had on average a total of $836.86. Stay tuned for June, there are two exciting road trips planned, as well as the biannual state emissions inspection for Virginia.
Friday, May 29, 2009
The final few days of June were surprisingly busy, but uneventful. I spent most the final few days driving back and forth to work, and getting things ready for my move next week.
Overall, the last few days of the month were not nearly as calm as I had initially thought they would be.
Most of the past several days were spent driving around getting things ready for my move and commuting back and forth to work.
Ending mileage: 115,109
Total Miles Driven: 398
Total Vehicle Expense: $36.02
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Beginning Mileage: 114,243
When I first sat down to write this post, I had not seen the photos I took during the trip. 500 miles behind the wheel in one day is quite a feat for anyone, or any car for that matter. Even with all the running around, the Volvo seemed to ask for more as I was running the engine to allow the turbo cool off. Any way you cut it, 9.5 hours behind the wheel in one day is about my limit...possibly even a little beyond what I'm capable of.
I got on the road a little late today. I had planned on leaving my house by 9:00 AM so I could get to the first planned stop, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater by 1:00 PM. The goal was to be able to tour the house, then have some time to take some photos before heading in to Pittsburgh for dinner at 5:00. As it happens, I didn't get on the road until 10:30 which means I didn't get to Fallingwater until 2:30. Basically, I had time to get lunch there before taking the tour, and no time at all to explore the grounds and take photos either before or after the tour.
The day was absolutely perfect for a nice, long, drive. The trip out took me Hwy 15 north to I-70 in Frederick, MD to I-68 in Hancock, MD (Pictured above). I-68 between Hancock, MD and Cumberland, MD is very hilly. I counted nearly 12 mountain passes that I crossed in that stretch of highway. On around number 10, I decided I would be taking the Turnpike back to Virginia even if my GPS told me not to. Somewhere soon after Cumberland, MD, I-68 and US 40 part ways, my GPS unit instructed me to take 40. The sky in the Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands is big. Very big. (Pictured Below) You don't realize it until you've driven through on a perfectly cloudless day. Near every peak of every mountain, the horizon appears significantly lower than it does anywhere else I've ever experienced. At points of the drive, the only thing I remember seeing in the windshield was just a solid, deep blue wall. The richness of the color was striking.
The Laurel Highlands could be a trip just inside itself. There was so much I would have liked to stop at if I would have had time. For me, the prime attraction would be all of the roadside Mom and Pop restaurants. It seemed that every couple hundred meters...for the entire trip between I-68 and Fallingwater, there was another. A month wouldn't be enough to experience all of them, even if you were eating at a different one for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late evening libations. Since I didn't have time, however, I'll spare the details. It leaves a good excuse for me to return.
Fallingwater ended up being better than I had originally thought it would be. They offer two tours, I took the basic $18.00 tour. If you plan your trip well in advance, there is another, more in depth, $55 tour, in which you get to go in restricted areas of the home, and take photographs inside. A word of caution on the $55 tour, you must book it several months in advance. When I tried to get a same day reservation on the tour, all I said was I was looking for the In-Depth tour. The lady on the other end of the line informed me that the next available date would be well into July. I decided the regular tour would be just fine for my purposes.
If you are only going to visit one Frank Lloyd Wright building in your life, Fallingwater is the one to go to as it is only one of his buildings known to exist with all of the original furniture in tact. The home is decorated exactly how it was in the early 1950's...down to the paintings on the walls, the liquor on the coffee table and the books on the shelves. It is as if you are a guest inside a home someone's living in, except there are very strict rules about touching anything at all.
The cafeteria on the grounds on Fallingwater is where I had my late lunch. The food served is spectacular. I'd recommend waiting and eating on the grounds, rather than getting a bite at the first place you come to. It's well worth what they charge.
After leaving Fallingwater, I followed 381 North to Mill Run. Soon after Mill Run, the road starts to wind down off the Highlands. Be very careful. Follow the speed limit as closely as possible. Not because of police presence, mind you, but the road is extremely curvy, and there are no guardrails. If the need arises to brake suddenly, you want your brakes cool(er). I overheated the brakes on the Volvo on the way down even though I was extremely careful to use a lower gear and to stay off them as much as possible. Near the bottom I had very limited stopping power, which necessitated a stop in Connellsville, PA for a re-fill on my diet pepsi, and a few circles around the car to make sure the brakes had cooled.
Aside from the braking incident, the trip into Pittsburgh was rather uneventful with the exception of hitting rush hour traffic on the Turnpike, and leading into the tunnel on the 376. Once past the tunnel, traffic flowed freely all the way until I got to Station Square. A bit of advice on station square. It's just like any other tourist trap. In fact...that's all it is. The restaurants look like they should be local (with the exception of the Hard Rock Cafe...which by the way is a chain I detest, and will not go to even if it's free) most of the places are little known chains. I got trapped by that. Where I could have ridden one of the inclines up to the top and gotten a real local restaurant, I ended up eating at a chain I had never heard of, that while the food wasn't bad, it was still a chain, so I will not mention the name. However from my table at dinner, I did have a beautiful view of Downtown Pittsburgh across the river (pictured). It was almost worth breaking principle for. Trains flew past on the tracks that were between where I was sitting and the river two to three times while I was having my dinner. Interestingly enough, you can feel the trains approaching well before you can hear them.
Parking for the length of stay I was at Station Square was $4.00. I could have gotten it validated, however, you have to spend $50.00 on tourist-trap stuff at one of the multitudes of gift shops in the shopping center. I'd rather just pay the $4.00. The restaurants do not validate. While I enjoyed my time at Station Square, it would probably be more fun had I been there with someone else. There is plenty to do in and around the center...you just have to know what is going on.
After dinner, I crossed E. Carson St, to ride the Incline up to one of the many overlooks. A word of caution to anyone who A) is positive they have a fear of heights, B) has a limited fear of heights, or C) thinks they could possibly have that fear residing anywhere inside them, take a cab. The incline feels rickety. I was assured by the lady running the thing it was perfectly safe, but it still definitely got the best of me. I stayed up on the hill only long enough to take 1-2 pictures of downtown (see below), before climbing on the Incline and riding back to the foot of the mountain.
When I got back down, it was nearly dark, which meant it was time to climb back in the Volvo and drive the four hours back home. I decided not to go I-68 back to Virginia as I had tortured the poor car enough for one day, but rather to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The first way station outside of Pittsburgh is nearly an hour and a half on, so get gas before leaving Pittsburgh if you're concerned about fuel level. Ironically, when I got back to Breezewood, I ran into a tour group who was staying at my hotel in the days before. They recognized me, I didn't recognize them.
The only issue on the way back home was just south of Frederick on US 15. They were resurfacing the road between Frederick and Point of Rocks, MD which means 15 had gone from one lane in each direction to one lane in one direction. After about a 5 minute wait I was moving again, and ended up pulling back in the driveway promptly at 12:20 AM.
It was a spectacular trip. There's a lot more in Pittsburgh to do that I didn't get to do, which means that a return trip is already in the works!
Ending Mileage: 114,711
Total Vehicle Expense: $69.74
Total Mileage for the day: 468
A link to the route taken is here.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Today was spent mostly sitting around waiting for my car to get out so I could get that nasty rejection sticker removed from the windshield.
It ended up costing $252.16 to get one tire, and the headlights adjusted so I could keep driving for yet another year. Believe it or not, in 20,000 miles it's going to be time for new tires all around anyway. So this single tire I purchased is somewhat of a band-aid. The good news is since I replaced that one tire, the ABS/TRACS light has stopped coming on around corners! Maybe that was the issue rather than the ABS sensor (read: VERY expensive) that my mechanic said needed to be fixed.
After retrieving the vehicle, I went to Embassy Auto Wash here in Sterling and paid another $7.75 to get the car washed. It was clearly time. The only thing I'm upset about, now that I've finally washed the car it almost guarantees rain in the near future.
Finally, I had a round trip commute today. Not a good day for photos, but we'll get some up tomorrow!
Ending Mileage: 114,243
Total Mileage: 57
Total Vehicle Expense: $259.91
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Today’s Starting Mileage: 113,757
Today was a relatively busy day for an older, high mileage car. I started out at about 1:00 AM running out to Leesburg to my editor’s house for a quick consult about his restaurant review website. I returned home at about 4:00 AM to continue working on packing for my move. In case you wonder, the 24 hour McDonalds location in Leesburg, Virginia starts serving Breakfast at 4:00 AM sharp. If you want French fries at 4:01, you are out of luck.
I slipped over to the Target store near my house to get some more tape at 7:40 AM. Target opens at 8:00. I had to kill about 10 minutes before the store opened.
I had a lunch meeting in Reston, Virginia at 11:00 AM, followed by another meeting in Alexandria, Virginia at 2:30. The person I was supposed to meet with in Alexandria was late. Two hours late. I had to spend $9.00 to park in some underground parking lot who wouldn’t take a card. I had to drive around to find an ATM machine because the attendant would not let me leave the car while I was looking for cash.
After the meeting, I was supposed to go to a campaign event, but since the meeting ended up finishing at 5:00 (2.5 hours behind schedule), and the political event started at 4:00, I had to skip out on that. After listening to WTOP Radio’s afternoon traffic reporter I decided that rather than sitting for hours in Washington DC Beltway traffic, I should take the scenic route home on the George Washington Parkway and Georgetown Pike with a short stop at Gravelly Point to watch the planes land (Pictured).
Gravelly Point is one of my favorite places to go in the Washington DC Metro area. Planes landing at Washington’s Regan National Airport fly merely meters above your head as they touch down. Not all of them get it in one try either. One Delta MD-80 in particular had to go around four times before finally settling in.
After leaving Gravelly Point, I drove north on the GW Parkway to the Capital Beltway, continued one exit south to 193/Georgetown Pike, and followed that west all the way to Hwy 7. The weather today was perfect for open-sunroof, wind in your face driving. I briefly considered another pit stop at Great Falls National Park in Great Falls, Virginia but realized at that point it was 7:00 PM, my energy level was fading fast, and I had a review deadline to meet.
I arrived back in my parking lot at 7:23 PM.
Today’s ending Mileage: 113,873
Total Miles: 116
Total Vehicle Related Expenses: $9.00
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
On the way home from work today, I was thinking strongly about what I know well enough to write about. As I sipped my Grande Skim Latte, I looked around at all the shiny new vehicles around me, and realized my 1996 Volvo 850 T5 Station Wagon (pictured) has many benefits that these cars did not.