2007-10-31

I think I got me some autox wheels

Posted a wanted ad on MSCCNC forum and found some stock 14" the same day. Aluminum "daisies" with tires that should still have a few races in them, all for a hundred bucks!

Will try to pick them up when I'm back in town next week. Really, really itching to go to an event now.

[edit: Sat, Nov 10, 2007. Picked up wheels on Friday evening. Indeed, there *is* a way to fit four wheels in a Miata: One in the trunk, one behind the seats, with the top up, one behind the passenger seat, and one in the passenger seat. Here they are]

Pumkins are so passe

I clicked on the stylized Google logo on my iGoogle page a few minutes ago...and it came up with a "Halloween" search.
Here is what the image search has returned:
Intrigued, I clicked, and got here: http://www.fabrica.it/blog/2006/10/pumpkins_are_so_last_season.html

Happy Halloween, everyone!

2007-10-30

Note to self : Avoid AAA cervice center at all cost

...and I do hope some AAA quality assurance person reads this.

AAA, which I am a member of, had a promotion--a 70-point (or something like that) free safety check at any of their car care centers in October. I thought it won't harm and I went to one close to work in Raleigh, NC. Used my lunch break for it. Got some takeout, brought the car in, and ate my food waiting.

I came in to pick it up, it's ready, and they have a report for me. Besides finding my b0rked wheel alignment and all tires A-Ok (that was before I noticed that tread wear and had the alignment fixed) they suggested to:
  • Flush coolant (which I just had changed together with the radiator less that 3000 miles ago, when my old radiator leaked);
  • Flush transmission fluid (also changed about 15,000 ago)
  • Change all belts (just changed them all 20 miles ago, should have another 40K in them)
  • Change brake rotors and pads (according to Harry the mechanic, my car's attending physician I should need new pads in about 7K, but rotors are fine)
  • and--get this--Throttle body and fuel injection system cleaning!
As supporting evidence for the latter they showed me a dark greasy smear on the work order and said, "Our mechanics just stick their finger in the throttle body and smear on the paper, and if it comes out dirty, you need a cleaning."

All this with a straight face. To an owner of a Miata without any symptoms of fuel delivery problems.

Findings: they overlooked existing problems with alignment and tread wear, but tried to sell me on unnecessary work.

Conclusion: avoid at all cost.

2007-10-29

Welcome to the club

I got this '99 Miata, (a.k.a. MX-5) and she is my favourite pet. I've had Bonnie for just over a year and 20K miles now. She's my very first car, me being a Euro immigrant and all.

So from my last visit to Europe I brought back a 5-quart canister of some super-duper synthetic 5-40 motor oil I got there as a present. I could not wait to put it in my car. It says on the canister (in German) that the oil should be good for about 30K miles or 2 years, whatever comes first.

When it was time for the oil change, Harry, the mechanic of my unconditional trust says that he does not really care what the Germans have written on the package, and that I will gunk up my engine if I follow these instructions. So after much bickering, we agree that he will let me keep the oil in there for 7K mi, and we'll change the oil filter at 3,5K.

Time flies, and so here I was, getting my oil filter changed. My car's on the lift, and I see a nasty tread wear pattern on the inside of the right rear tire.

I had that tire blow out on me last October, and so I assume that the wheel must have gotten out of alignment then, and that the nice people at the Sears auto center I got towed to from Nowhere, VA must have forgotten to align this wheel, even though I asked them to.

So I ask Harry if he knows someone I can go to for alignment and stuff, and he recommends a place close to where I live, which I call that same afternoon and make an appointment.

I have to note here, that a bit before I had the tire blowout, I also smashed up two of the Helium alloy rims that came with the car, and was using some semi-light Konig Reasons while I saved up enough money to buy and replace the Heliums. About six weeks ago, I got two new Heliums, and so I wanted to get them installed now as well.

I got there, new rims in the box in the passenger seat, and went in. The owner was just wrapping up with an earlier customer, so I stood and looked around idly. On the literature rack, I notice a sticker of the Tarheels Sports Car Club--the one I went to autocross with.

So as soon as he turns to me, I ask him if he's in the club. Turns out he is! We start talking. He tells me he's not been to an autocross for a while now, because he is into track events now. Me as a novice, I'm just standing there in awe.

After a while, we also get to the car and what needs to be done on it. He says that to get all this done, I'd need to leave the car with him for a few hours. All would be well, but I am on a lunch break, 5 miles from the office, and my only means of transportation will be on the lift in a few minutes.

I am trying to figure out who to call at the office to pick me up, when he says that if I, a Miata freak, would not mind driving a Beemer, I could take his, just get back here by six. Wow. That was nice. Really nice.

When I got back, six on the dot, the car had four same-looking wheels which now also were properly aligned, for street with a nod to autocross. Can't wait to try out this setup now.

Accident on I-40 : Extreme rubbernecking

Alright, I am driving home from Charlotte, taking I-40 to Raleigh. Enjoying my little bonnie car and some music. Not too much music, as anyone who was in a sporty convertible going about 75 would attest. Love your Miata, love the road noise.

About an hour down the road, there is a sign warning that there was an accident in about 10 miles, with two right lanes closed. A couple of miles later, the traffic slows, then all but stops. The road has four lanes: two closed, two stuck. I'm in the "fast" rightmost lane. Ahead of me is a CR-V with a Christian fish magnet and "EVANGE" license plate. Two people in it, having an engaged conversation.

In a few minutes we're at the scene of the accident, crawling at 2 mph. People are trying to get out of the congestion fast. I know from experience they tend to overlook Miatas easily, so I concentrate on the road and don't pay much attention to the accident.

Seems to be bad though. Several rescue vehicles are on site, I thought I saw at least one rolled car, but could not tell for sure. My Christian friend changes into the *slower* right lane, which is closer to the scene as we pass it...

I shrug and drive on.

Two minutes later, the CR-V passes me on the right. Go figure. Mustn't have been so exciting an accident for the gawker after all.

Charlotte : More cluelessness

It is the morning of my biometrics appointment.

I set out to walk to the USCIS office. They don't let you bring in your cell phone, or any other equipment, so I think I'll just leave my travel bag with the hotel front desk, like I have done a bunch of times before.

The answer is, "Sorry, we don't do this after nine-eleven."

Okay, so I ask them to keep an eye on my Miata, which I park in front of their office in a spot sprinkled with broken car window glass--very reassuring--and head over to the fingerprinting place.

It's only down the block and to the right from the hotel, and I walk fast, but even in this short time I manage to attract more cluelessness.

A green sedan cruises up, the window rolls down, and a guy leans out.

"Hey sex, what's going on?" he then inquires.

I look at him, then look ahead, never slowing down.

"I was talking to you babe!" he demands.

"So what?" I blurt out and walk away.

Fingerprinting is then done fast and without incident, and I thought that would be the main event of the day.

So I get back to my car, find all my belongings still intact and drive off.

Days Inn : Charlotte : Cluelessness

I got a biometrics appointment at an "Application Support Center" in Charlotte. Nice speak for having my mugshot and fingerprints taken. I am applying for permanent residence.

So I drive down to Charlotte after work. It's past nine when I finally hit the Days Inn just down the street from the USCIS office. Check into my room, head out for dinner. Irish pub across the street is way too noisy after a 2,5 hour drive in a Miata, so I head back to the Mexican I first ignored. They share the parking lot with the hotel. And have about seven customers, which at this point is a plus.

I sit down at the bar, get a Margarita and some bar food, and this waiter starts to chat me up.

"Where are you from?"

Me, vaguely, "From the hotel."

"You work there?"

"Nope."

I stare at my mediocre quesadilla while he fails to take the clue.

"Do you work for the American Airlines?"

Surprised, "N-no..."

I finish my food fast, pay with my card and leave.

Get to the hotel room with a little buzz from the cocktail and happily fall asleep listening to my MP3s.

Then my room phone rings. It's 11:55. Yes, P.M.

"Hello, who is it?"

"Hi, it's your friend!"

I recognize the voice of the guy from the restaurant. Too sleepy to curse, I say good night and hang up. Try to go back to sleep, when I realize that he must have used my name from the credit card receipt to call me up at the hotel!

I call the front desk. Sure enough, he called there and used my first and last name to ask to be connected to my room. I tell them to please not put any more calls through to my room and fall asleep a few minutes later, wondering how this guy's mind must work.