Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time makes the heart grow fonder?

An article on discussed American consumers’ thoughts on the US auto industry. Buried amongst the common sense calls for scrutiny and accountability in exchange for a bailout, and details of the benefits of buying American, there was this nugget:

By buying foreign cars, "You might as well be laying off the American autoworkers yourself and handing their paychecks to those foreign automakers personally," says Diaz.
The American auto industry can be turned around if top executives renew their focus on quality construction and better materials, says Diaz.

"I believe Americans want cars to be as durable as they were 20 years ago. No cutting corners."

Mr Diaz, I would suggest you think about that for a moment. American cars in 1989 were pretty much garbage. Poorly assembled, unappealing, unreliable dreck. Of course there were exceptions, but come on! Yeah I sure miss the good old days of cruising around in an opulent, well built Chevy Beretta. Or perhaps my old Dodge Omni with its high quality Philippine carburetor and corrosion induced passenger compartment ventialtion is more to your taste.

But hey, maybe chronic rust and engines that barely run are your idea of durability.

In my opinion it is just the last few years that Detroit has started getting some things right. Don’t get me wrong, the big three have all screwed up big time. Going all in on the SUV craze (created by their own marketing, not actual market need) proved to be a potentially fatal gambit. But they are actually producing some very good, reasonably priced cars nowdays that are very reliable. And heck, some of them actually look good too! They didn't get into the mess they are in now by making unreliable cars, they got here by making vehicles that most people do not want to buy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back From the Desert

The lovely wife and I just returned from an extended weekend in the Phoenix area. Unfortunately for us temps were below average the whole time we were there. Of course “below average” in Phoenix this time of the year is still in the mid fifties to mid sixties. No real complaints after dealing with this particularly cold and snowy winter in Minnesota.

My plan on Friday was to rent a bike and hit the trails in South Mountain Park. I had contacted DNA Cycles in Mesa (the city where we were actually staying) ahead of time and told them where I was from and what my plans were. They said, “come on down” and that they had plenty of bikes.

So Friday morning my father in law and I head over to the shop to get a bike. I talk to the guy at the counter and he informs me they can’t let me take a demo bike because I have an out of state driver’s license. Even though I had told them on the phone I was from Minnesota and they told me there would be no problems they stood by this “store policy”. Nice. The guy behind the counter was at least nice enough to provide the name of another shop that might be able to help me out.

In retrospect this worked out better.

We headed over to South Mountain Cycles which is, it turns out, just a mile from one of the South Mountain Trailheads. This was a really cool shop. Tons of really nice bikes and super nice people. They hooked me up with a Stumpjumper FSR Expert, drew me up a map and sent me on my way.

It was soooo nice being able to hit some singletrack after a few months of hibernation. The weather was perfect and I was on a very nice bike. Too nice actually. Noticeably better than my old warhorse. Lighter, stiffer, better climbing and better handling. Oh well. The trail system there is great. Accessing the trailhead by riding up a dry canal was kind of cool. The terrain varied from patches of sand to ultra rugged rocky sections. The bike handled everything with ease. I wish I could say the same about my lungs. Lots o’ fun. I wish I would have had more than a couple of hours to explore.

On Saturday the wife and I hit the road and headed south towards Nogales. We spent a few hours in that rather scummy Mexican town, had a great meal, then headed back into the U.S. for a night’s stay at the Esplendora resort in Rio Rico. Nice place, but I have a couple of gripes. In this day an age I find it remarkable that a place that charges $175 for a room actually CHARGES for internet access! Seems to me that a luxury resort should have the “amenities” included in the cost. They also tacked on an $8 “resort fee” for paying the security guards and grounds keepers. Ummm, what does my room fee pay for?

Now we are back in the Twin Cities counting the days until we get to skip town again.

Thursday, February 5, 2009