Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Other Things We Have Been Up To

New Mexico

Last weekend, J and I went to New Mexico for J's grandpa's 95th* birthday! We drove down to Farmington on Friday afternoon and drove back up Sunday afternoon.

It was such a nice trip! We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, which was pretty new, and very pleasant. We had breakfast Saturday morning with J's parents and some of his other relatives. Lots of fun. It turns out, one of J's cousins that he doesn't know very well actually has goats. He's into a lot of the same things as J is, and J just had no idea until his aunt was telling us about it.

We went out to J's grandpa's orchard for the birthday celebration. We talked with him for a little while, and he told us some neat stories.

J's dad grew up on the farm, and he took us for a tour on Sunday morning. It was neat to see a lot of the things I had heard about when I interviewed J's dad for my class last year.

One of J's uncles is a private pilot. He offered to take us up in his airplane to see the orchard from above. It was fun! He gave us a demonstration of weightlessness--he had us each put something out in the palm of our hand, and he went up and then dropped down, and our stuff floated above our hands. It was pretty intense. He also let me fly the plane a little.

We went to dinner at Tequila's, which is J's dad's favorite Mexican restaurant, because they have amazing salsa.

Those were some of the highlights.

[Warning: you may not want to read this.]
We made an appointment for the calves, with Circle V (in Spanish Fork), which is where some of our neighbors process their meat. We were supposed to take them down to Circle V last Tuesday, except that J didn't want to drive his dad's truck after our experience with the new truck on Monday. So we rescheduled for Saturday morning.

Friday evening I went outside and everyone was crying, and I thought I could hear Stew mooing from back behind the chicken area. Sometimes the calves get into the chicken area and a couple times they've gone back behind the barns from inside the chicken area. There's kind of a corridor between our barn and the wall in the back of our yard. When the calves get back there, they can't figure out how to get out and they moo.

Stew was kind of echoing, though, which was weird. When I went back to lead him out, I found him back in that area, but instead of being in the corridor, he had fallen into one of our irrigation wells. We have two wells, and we use them to switch the direction water flows when we're irrigating; they're square-shaped cement holes that are about 3 1/2 feet wide, 3 1/2 feet long, and about that deep, too. Anyway, Stew fell front-first. His front legs were at the bottom of the well, his neck was towards the bottom but bent up, and his back legs were sticking up out of the top. Poor guy. He was mooing and mooing. He was pretty scared, and he had feces all over, because animals do that when they're scared.

I tried to shift Stew a little to help him get up, but he didn't budge. He mooed some more. I scratched his neck and rubbed his head for a few minutes, and told him everything was okay. (It wasn't.)

J got home about then, and I had him come back behind the barns to see if we could pull Stew out by his back legs. We couldn't. He didn't even budge. Well, maybe he budged, but that was it.

What next? We decided we would need some men to help us get him out. We went to our neighbor's house to see if he would help us. He said he was in the middle of planning his wife's funeral** but if we would give him some time to finish up, he would be right over. He could bring his mare and we could put straps around the calf and have her pull him out, maybe.

We went back home, and Stew wasn't mooing anymore. He wasn't moving anymore, either. Poor guy. The weight of his own body broke his neck. What a terrible feeling--he was such a nice guy! What an awful way to die. Plus, after raising him for 10 months, and bottle feeding him 3x/day for two months, and spending lots of money on food, we were not going to get any meat from him. It was all a waste.

Our neighbor came over and he was all suited up for the task, and he brought some ropes and stuff, and we let him know that Stew didn't make it. (What a great neighbor though, eh?) We let him go back home to be with his wife.

We called a large animal vet to see about having him removed. After all, people have horses die and they have to do something with them, so there must be people who can do that sort of thing. When J explained where the calf was, the guy wanted J to get a bunch of guys out to our house to help him pull the calf out. (Uh, the reason we were hiring you is so that we don't have to ask our friends and family to do it.) So J wasn't sure the guy knew how to get the job done, and it was going to cost $150 (ouch). The guy was going to come the next morning.

J called some of his family to see if he could get help, but they couldn't or didn't answer or something. He called our home teacher, and got voicemail. He called the next day; he couldn't come. J called one of our neighbors (who used to be our home teacher), and he agreed to help! He came across the street within five minutes or something. He had a "come along" which is a tool that you attach to something, so that you can lift heavy things, or move them. He hadn't used it yet, but he thought it might be good for this task.

It was.

They hooked it to a tree over the well and eventually got Stew out. There was no way even 4 or 5 guys could have done it. Stew weighed about 400 lbs, but he was also caught on something.

They pulled him out to our truck; I put a tarp in the bottom of the truck. They used some wood to make a ramp and used the come along again to get him up into the truck.

What a friend, though. We really felt like we needed help, and it was such an awful task, but our neighbor just stepped right in, and he didn't complain once. It was such a relief to have the help; it really meant a lot to us.

Saturday morning J and me drove Stew to the dump. And then we drove him to the county dump, because it is the only one that accepts dead animals, we found out. The inspector there was super helpful.

Then we went back home because we were supposed to have Chuck down to Circle-V. J got the trailer attached to the truck, no problem, but Chuck didn't want to get inside. (Even with food to lure him in.) J put some grain bags down, to make a little ramp up. Chuck was still not interested. He's big enough that you can't push him or pull him.

I had the idea that he would probably step into the trailer to suck on his bottle. I went and grabbed one of the (empty) calf bottles out of the garage. It worked.*** J and I got out of the trailer and closed it up. We drove down to Circle V.

They don't actually slaughter on Saturdays or Sundays, so we put Chuck in a pen behind the building. We glued a little label onto his rump so that they would know who he was, and we poured some grain for him to eat, and then we left him there. It made me kind of sad. I liked our calves.

I feel less bad about eating our own meat when animals die and go to waste. It just seems like life is so fragile, and either our animals can die and rot and become dirt or they can nourish us, and sustain our life, and they can be a gift to other people, and nourish them, too. It's almost a beautiful thing, looking at it that way, that they can go to so much good, instead of just decomposing. When the dog kills chickens, or Stew dies, it seems like their lives were just wasted.

Anyway, enough about all that.

We're thinking we will probably get another calf this winter, since we will only be getting 1/2 the meat we were planning on.

My Little White Bird
Do you see the little white bird in the first picture of the calves? She is my Silkie chick. After Chalcy killed her buddy (the rooster), she didn't have a flock anymore. So last week she started hanging out with the calves. She would cuddle with them when they were laying down (they were warm!), and follow them around when they walked around the pasture. It was pretty cute. Also, isn't that sad? She lost her rooster buddy, and then she lost her flock of calves, too. Now she kind of hangs out with the goats. A lot of times she comes over to me when I go outside. I like her.

I was asked not to say much about this**** but after orientation, hours of interviews, and a pretty thorough background check (they actually called 5 people), I am now volunteering with an organization! When my background check came through, they called me and let me know that they had a couple matches for me in the program. I picked one, things were approved, and we have been moving forward. I'm really excited about this. (Is that vague enough? It seems like it is going to be a pretty big part of my life for at least the next year, and probably longer, so I wanted to at least mention it.)

Our dog is doing well. Lately she loves to chew on things. Usually she does not chew on things she is not supposed to, but she really tears her toys apart.***** I think for her, pulling stuffing apart is kind of like popping bubble wrap is for people.

Chalcy is also a teenage puppy, and she is testing all of her boundaries. Sometimes she runs around our house and climbs over our bed. NO. Or she bugs the trash. NO. Or she steals napkins and rips them up. NO. (I'm such a fun-hater.)

Chalcy LOVES her bell. We put a bell on the doorknob so Chalcy would let us know when she needed to go out. For a long time she wouldn't touch it, because I accidentally got her toes when I "rewarded" her for ringing the bell (by opening the door). Now she rings the bell and takes a step back. And waits. And rings it again. I let her out, and half the time she just wants to play. We leave her outside sometimes, because otherwise we're in and out, in and out. When it was snowing it was even worse, because the snow was SO FUN, but it was COLD. So she would ring the bell to go out, she would play, and then I would bring her in because it was too cold for her to stay out. She would warm up for, oh, 2-3 minutes, and ring the bell again.

Chalcy thinks I'm around just to be friends with her. All day she follows me around and tries to stuff toys into my hands.

Chalcy stayed with Heather and Josh while J and I were in New Mexico, and we really appreciated them letting her visit for the weekend.******

Our next trip is going to be to California, and we're bringing Chalcy with us so my family can meet her, and so she can try traveling with us. It should be fun.

Chalcy is BIG. She can't stand up all the way in her crate anymore. I think we're going to try to get her a dog bed and see if we can transition (and get her huge kennel out of our living room!), but I don't know if she will be obedient enough for that to work yet. I guess we'll see.

Okay, I'm about as caught up with blogging as I need to be for now, so I'm going to cross "Blog about Subaru" off of my list, and get back to doing other things.

* He is old.
** How's that for bad timing? She has cancer, and it's terminal. She just has one of her lungs now, and she's not doing too well. It's really too bad. They're a very, very nice family.
*** How sad is that? All he wanted was a bottle. He had nice memories.
**** On Facebook, which probably also means on blogs.
***** Remember "Sid" from Toy Story? It's like that. Fox only has one eye and one ear left, and I stitched up his face. Chalcy pulled Lobster's eyes off (because they poked up), and that pulled his head open. Giraffe's ears and horns and tail were all gone the first day, its hooves were gone the next day, and by now Giraffe has stubs for legs and only part of its head. Squeaky Bear doesn't squeak anymore because Chalcy bit his head off.
****** Seriously, thanks so much, guys.

Car shopping wraps up.

I knew it wasn't fair to keep wanting a Subaru Baja because there are almost none of them listed for sale, and almost none of them listed for sale in Las Vegas, and the same even for southern California.

Plus, Bajas were kind of more than we wanted to spend, unless we got a 2003 one that wasn't turbo, with tons of miles. And then how good of an idea was that, really?

So we started looking at trucks again.

J wanted me to test drive a Ford Ranger, since that was one of the types of truck we were considering before the whole Baja thing.

Last Monday there was a KSL ad for a Ford Ranger that was a pretty good price. It was up in Bountiful, but J wanted us to go up during his lunch break to test drive it, so it wouldn't sell before we had a chance to see it. (A couple of the other serious contenders sold before we could get to them.)

He called, and the lady told him someone was coming from Logan with cash, but she said she would call back if the Logan person didn't buy the truck.

She did call back (the guy just didn't show up), so we drove up to Bountiful in pouring rain to go test drive the truck. It was immaculate. They had it detailed every year, the lady told us. J and I both test drove the truck, and it was fine. The tires made a bunch of noise, but the lady's husband warned us that they would, so it wasn't any surprise.

I liked the truck all right. It was similar to a Tacoma, because it was kind of a narrow truck, so it didn't feel like I was driving Noah's Ark. It was nice because it had four wheel drive and a V6 engine, so the truck was capable of doing the truck things we wanted it to, but it was also comfortable to drive. Really, it was a pretty good compromise for J and me, because it was a TRUCK (instead of a vehicle shaped like a truck that has about the same power as a car...what's the point of that?), but it was pretty inexpensive, and it had 4WD like I wanted, and it was not so huge that I hated it.

We decided we were ready to take it to a mechanic and then, as long as everything was fine, we would buy it.

The lady didn't want us to take the truck down to our mechanic, because Bountiful is not super close to South Salt Lake, and she didn't want her insurance to be responsible for such a long drive. Fair enough. We took the truck to her mechanic (Evans Automotive?) instead, in North Salt Lake.

CJ (at the auto shop) had the truck lifted on one of their lift things, and had one of the mechanics start checking it out. We talked to him for a little while about trucks, and towing, and just a bunch of different things. It was pretty interesting. Then he took us out to the shop to see some things-- the front brakes really needed to be replaced. The back ones still had some life. The tires were worn really weird.

We went back inside for a bit, and they lifted the truck higher so that we could walk beneath it. It was in pretty good shape, he said. There was some rust, but it was better than average, for its age. The owners maintained it very well, because the... fuel filter? had been replaced. And when people don't replace fuel filters, you may end up with a problem with some pump that could end up needing to be replaced or causing problems, or something. But this truck was fine that way.

So we knew we would need all new tires, and new front brakes. Plus we were going to put a tow package on it, because it just had a tow hitch on the bumper (and those are pretty much the same as not having a tow hitch because they can carry almost nothing). CJ said in Salt Lake vehicles usually go for 10-15% below Blue Book values. He recommended asking the lady to cover the cost of brakes and tires, and he told us it was safe to buy the truck, but that it's usually a good idea to go home and think about it first. Mmkay, thanks.

I ran a CarFax* on my phone, and it came out great.

J called the lady back and negotiated with her, since the tires were worse than we realized, and they hadn't mentioned the brakes to us at all. She took a few hundred dollars off, and that was a compromise that we were fine with.

We all met at our bank to set up a car loan, and things went fine. We had already submitted paperwork** when we thought we were buying the Subaru, so things were ready to go.

After we officially bought the truck and the lady signed the title over, we went to follow her back up the hill to her house, to remove the truck's plates, to pick up our little red car, and to get her "Truck" file, with all of the maintenance records.

We drove out of the parking lot, turned the corner, J began to accelerate after the turn, AND!


Oh no, oh no, oh no.

The truck swerved into the oncoming traffic lane. J corrected*** and it skidded towards the curb on the right side. J corrected again and the truck slipped back towards the oncoming lane. He corrected again and it went towards the right curb again. J corrected one more time, and the truck began spinning forward down the street.

There was just no way to avoid an accident. (RIGHT right after we bought it!) The truck kept not gripping the road at all. We just never got any traction at all. J was not pressing on the brake or the gas, because he thought that was the right thing to do. It was just what I was afraid of, and just the reason I didn't want a 2WD truck. But I didn't think it would be a problem with this truck.)

The street had a 30mph speed limit, so the cars coming toward us could see that we had lost control of the truck. They stopped in their lane, 6 cars all lined up.

The truck spun across the road and finally landed in the oncoming lane, right where all of the cars were lined up. When the truck stopped, we were facing our lane (at like, 5 o'clock position from where we started).

J and I didn't really feel the truck hit anything, but J opened his door to survey the damage. The we had stopped spinning 3 inches from the line of cars. It really was a miracle--we didn't even hit mailboxes or parked cars, or anything. J closed his door, and got us back into our lane that we belonged in. We pulled over as soon as we could, because we were both so shaken from the experience.

The lady we bought the truck from came back, and parked in front of us. She had been a little ways ahead, but in her rear-view mirror she saw us spinning in the middle of the road. She said nothing like that had ever happened to them while they had it. ["This. Truck. Needs. New. Tires," I told her, super irritated and shaken. Because when you just buy a truck and then it spins out and you wonder what you've gotten yourself into, you feel irritated and shaken, and it's ok if you let the person who just sold you the truck know you feel that way. "I was actually going to wait until next spring to replace them," she said.]

We put 4 wheel drive on (it had been in 2WD, because you're not supposed to need 4WD for just rain...) and followed the lady home very, very slowly.

Our warm-fuzzies for the truck were gone, and neither of us wanted to drive it all the way home from Bountiful. I agreed to drive it, because it was supposed to be my truck, and I worried that if I didn't drive it, I would be afraid to drive it in the future.

I took State Street home, instead of the freeway. I drove slowly, and accelerated slowly, and I don't think I ever went faster than 35 or 40mph. I kept it in 4WD the whole time.

We had already planned to replace the tires and brakes ASAP, but those tasks became even more urgent. Neither of us were going to drive it again until the work had been done. Also, in the maintenance records, the top record (from September of this year) had a highlighted note about checking the brakes and alignment. Heyy.

So I price-shopped and compared different things, and ended up taking the truck to Big O Tires, since I think like 7 people have independently recommended them to me, and their prices were reasonable. We got all new tires, new front brakes and rotors, and had the alignment corrected--it was wayyyy off. (The wheels were pointed outward, so...no wonder we had problems.) Plus, the truck had 10 ply tires, and it was actually supposed to have 4 ply tires. That means that the tires were wider than they were supposed to be, and that means that the truck was less stable because the weight of the truck was distributed over more square inches of tire than it was supposed to be.

Anyway, after that I had an emissions test, registered it, had a tow package installed (by U-Haul****), and I insured it. Now it's just great. It feels completely different to drive. J and I both feel safe driving it.

This past Saturday we used my truck to tow the DOOOOMSBUGGY. No problems. It towed like a champ.

One final thing: want to see something funny? Look at the second picture on this post. My truck is the one in the back. The one in the front is our neighbor's truck. We have the same truck. They look almost identical. Except if you look closely, the neighbor's taillights look black. And our neighbor has a black plastic thing across the very front. But they're the same truck, both white, both with an access cab, both 4x4s, etc. Pretty funny.***** (Also, if you look closely at the picture, Paley is in the driveway and her eyes look creepy.)

* A real one this time.
** Banks want a ton of paperwork from us--full leases for all of our rentals, etc.
*** Over-corrected.
**** Poor guys! We were talking to them about whatever that thing is that you put a ball on, and then you stick it into the tow thing with a pin...? We wanted to take our tow ball off of the bumper and put it on the new metal thing, because the ball we already had was a 2" ball, and that was what we wanted anyway. They volunteered to go out and take our ball off of the bumper, while we were inside paying. Except, the ball was rusted. And they really couldn't get it off, even with their spray stuff and their tools. They decided to take the tow package off, so they could access the bottom of the ball better. So they actually installed our tow package twice. Thanks! (It was nice, though, because we never would have been able to get the thing off by ourselves, without impact tools.)
***** J sent him a funny text about how we like his truck, but please don't park in front of our garage, ok? Or something like that. It was kind of funny, except our neighbor never replied to the text, so then it just became awkward. I'm sure they must have noticed our truck by now, so maybe he was just confused when he got the text.

The Subaru Baja from Auto Maxima

I worried about this happening--I write cliffhanger blog posts! Since I never finished my story about our floor, I knew I really needed to wrap this car story up. Did we buy the Subaru Baja? Did our mechanics find anything? I'll finish the story in THIS post, ok?

[If you forgot what was happening, this story is continued from part one, part two, and part three.]

So remember, I had decided to keep quiet about my suspicions that Auto Maxima was doing some shady things. If there was really a problem, our mechanics would reveal it, anyway.

Not long after that, J texted me:

J: Turns out the subaru has been in a very minor accident, Gustavo just disclosed. Hmmmm. We'll see what the mechanic says about it (Wed Oct 27 12:11pm)

I replied:

E: I've been very curious. I think many of their reviews are fake. I think some are real. I think the mechanic will be able to let us know more. Can I call you? (12:14pm)

So I called J, and I explained why I was pretty convinced that some of the reviews were fake. J agreed that it was pretty likely. We decided that we would tell Action Auto Repair to especially watch for accident-related damage, because we suspected Milla and Gustavo were not being straight with us. J said Gustavo was delaying taking the Subaru in--he was supposed to take it at 10 or something that morning, but he was just now getting to it. He said Gustavo mentioned the accident pretending that he had already mentioned it before. (Uh...we would have remembered that.) It was just a minor accident, though, he said. The airbags were not deployed, or anything like that. Nothing serious. Gustavo was also going to e-mail J a copy of the CarFax report. J said he would forward it to me as soon as he got it. Great.

J texted me: Bill warns that subarus are unusually vulnerable to undetectable engine damage when hit from the front. (12:32pm)

He also forwarded the CarFax to my e-mail...

Except that it wasn't a CarFax report; it was actually a report that eBay does for all cars listed on the auto portion of their site. Still, it had useful information. The report indicated that the Subaru had never been in any accidents...BUT it was not driven between February and May of this year. And not driven much since May, either.

So the Subaru was listed on eBay Motors. The seller had 302 transactions and 100% positive feedback. Hmm. That's a lot. So maybe they were not as deceitful as they appeared? If they had sold 302 cars and everyone on eBay gave them positive feedback.

I pulled up the listing on eBay so that I could check out the feedback. Only about thirty of the transactions were from this year. AND, all of the feedback was from buying things, not selling. Last year they sold a lot--but still no cars. They sold face cream, and make up, lingerie, and just some really random things. I wondered whether they listed vehicles on eBay just to be able to give out copies of the vehicle report, since maybe the eBay one is less revealing than real CarFax? Not everyone has cars checked out by a mechanic before they purchase, so it would be a good plan for fooling a lot of people.

It was weird though...why would Gustavo tell us that it had been in a small accident if the vehicle report was clean? Didn't that indicate the report was not accurate? Also, I noticed the Subaru had actually been in Texas up until now. Hmm. And it was in an auction. What causes vehicles to be in an auction but not reported for something or another?

J and I e-mailed back and forth.

J's e-mail: I just checked out usedcars.com to see prices of Bajas around the nation. It's easy to see that the deal we have brokered is a very good price relatively speaking. So, there is a discount there for something undesirable like damage. How much that's worth to us or how bad the damage might be will hopefully become clearer to us today. (1:42pm)

My e-mail: Yeah, I'd say it's probably 50/50--it may still be worth it. What does the warranty do, if we were to insist upon the warranty based on new information? Do they replace/repair/refund/or what? Any idea?... This is great fun! If it turns out to still be worth getting, I will name the car Carmen, maybe, like Carmen Sandiego, since we're so interested in where she's been and what she's done. Ha! And I will like her all the more, because she's been on adventures. (1:51pm)

Soon after, J called because he was on his way to the shop. The mechanic told us what we had been waiting to hear:

The Subaru was in a major accident--it wasn't a small hit at all.
- The unibody frame was bent. This would mean that we would wear tires faster. Subarus require special tires, so we would have to buy a $600-$700 set of tires every 10,000 miles. (Ouch.) Plus, it would all just get worse, from being driven.
- The radiator was hit, and it was cracked. A new one would be $300 new.
- The right wheel axel shaft (?) was torn and leaking. It would cost $200-$300 to fix that.
- One of the lights was broken. It would be another $200-$300.
- The rear wheels fell off before. The body was scraped up from it. (Uhhh, that's a lot different from what Gustavo told Jeff originally. When they were first making the deal, Gustavo said the worst thing about the car was a missing hubcap. Hmmm.)

J told the guys at the shop that he was getting it for $4000 under Blue Book. They told him "this is why you brought the car in" and told him definitely, definitely don't buy it. Even way below Blue Book.

J and I agreed that we would not be buying my perfect, favorite Subaru Baja, which I loved so much.

J called Gustavo back. I didn't hear the call, but here is the part of the conversation that I remember from what J told me about it:

J: The mechanic advised me that this vehicle was in a major accident. The unibody is bent.
G: Take it to another mechanic. They each have their own opinion.
J: I am comfortable with their assessment.
G: It's not that big of a problem. It can be fixed.
J: They advised me not to purchase it at any price.

That night, J left a review on Google. He wrote:A couple days later, Milla posted another review:

It's kind of a funny review, because there are hints of the truth, but basically the review is totally false.
- The actual deal was not for $9000...it was for $11,700, with them also including some detail work on our car that we are about to sell.
- J didn't leave a bad review because he couldn't have the car for $9000... like... why would we pay $85 to take it to our mechanic if we hadn't even agreed on a price? (Also, he almost didn't want to leave a bad review at all, because it could be bad for their business. But we decided it was better to leave a review for future people thinking of buying a car from them. But he kept his review all just factual information. They may be very good at detailing cars, we decided...)
- Scott said "there is no frame damage even idiot can see it"? Hmmm. Is Scott a real person? Does Scott work for them? Frame damage isn't exactly something subjective. And Action definitely wouldn't tell us there was frame damage just for fun. Milla and Gustavo do collision repair...but they wanted one more opinion? Why would they want one more opinion? The car probably came to them crunched up to begin with. They know exactly what happened to the car.
- Why would we make up stuff about the wheels? What is our incentive for that?
- Also, they never did provide a CarFax.

They listed the Subaru on KSL as a Featured Ad, and then after a little while the ad went down. I suspect they've probably sold it. Too bad for whoever bought it.