Saturday, October 14, 2006


Frustration. I had two paragraphs written, and firefox "unexpectedly quit". So I start again...

Yesterday morning I got up at 3:50 am and was on the road to Asheville North Carolina by 4:30. It was the first roadtrip in the new car. A couple of months ago, after I hit a road alligator (the peeled off retread from a semi) on the way to Philadelphia, we traded in our grey Honda Odyssey minivan for a new midnight blue one. I didn't write about it because, well, it's a minivan. How excited can you get? I see now I was wrong and it is time to wax rhapsodic.

4:30 in the morning is a dark time. BB (Before Book), I never got up that early unless I had to catch a plane and I HATED it when I did. Now I get up regularly and willingly at O'Dark Thirty, and I find I have an affinity for the early quiet and lack of light. When I set out yesterday there was a half moon in a clear bright sky. The moon kept me company on my drive through the (applicably named) moonroof on the minivan. Now when we got it I snorted loudly when informed it had a moonroof. Yeah, I had a moonroof in my Accord LXi many moons (hah! such a punster) ago, but in a minivan?!? C'mon! I am here to tell you that it is a cool feature no matter what kind of vehicle you have. Listening to "Gimme Shelter" and rolling through the dark, southern woods with the moon high above you is, dude, sweet!

Oh yes, and I was listening to "Gimme Shelter" directly through the Honda's sound system from the iPod connected to Honda's built-in Pod Music Link adapter. Not being a read-the-manual kind of gal, I just plugged it in and went yesterday morning and figured it out on the way. First big downside: you can't use the iPod wheel and button controls when it is plugged into the Music Link--you have to interact with it through the stereo controls (no wheel, no info on-screen, no way to do anything but go forward, go back and shuffle). This is a pain. I ended up just putting on a playlist on random shuffle before starting the car.

Today I actually read the manual, installed the software and sat in the car for an hour trying it out. It's not the suckiest interface I have ever seen (and heard--the car speaks the names of the artists, albums, playlists, etc.), but it's close. And I couldn't get it to list my audiobooks at all. It looks like to switch between books and music I will need to pull over, unplug the iPod (it takes two hands), put on what I want and plug it back in... like I said, not the suckiest interface BUT...

As I look back through what I have written it doesn't look very rhapsodic. Looks more... whiny. So let's get over the whole iPod-controlling tech not so hot and jump right into the SOUND. I have been listening to my iPod through the FM radio with one of those adapters that snarfs an unused station. Quality is, well, not. Directly linked to the magnificent Honda sound system... it swells, it soars, it loops and dips. Between the well-insulated interior of the car (absence of road noise) and the quality of the sound system I was even able to listen to classical music--historically impossible in the car. It's also nice to be able to move forward and backward in the song list by pushing a button on the steering wheel.

Other things about the car... We did not get the surfboard or snowboard accessories (shown above), but we did spring for the built-in DVD player in the back. It came with two pairs of cordless headphones and a cordless remote. Of course I couldn't use it yesterday, but it will make the upcoming trip to Chicago in December with J a joy instead of an are-we-there-yet ordeal.

So the drive up was very enjoyable: No traffic, moonlit road through the woods, great tuneage, and the realization that tomorrow (today, now) is our 11th anniversary... whoopsie daisies! We had already decided to postpone it to November 28, but it was very disconcerting that I completely forgot the day until the day before it.

At the end of the drive was Asheville, which itself was... not what I expected. I had heard of this incredible artists' town, beautiful, quaint, chic. What it actually is is Aurora Illinois, maybe a little bit bigger. This is not a bad thing--I like Aurora, but it's about expectation. The buildings are a hodgepodge of 19th century brick, 1920's/30's deco chic, and 1960's/70's industrial grey low-rise. It felt like 30% of them were vacant and vandalized in the way of many city downtown areas post-advent of the suburban malls. Yes, there are many art galleries--you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting one. And there are restaurants, and independent bookstores and toystores. And it is hilly. Where Aurora has a river for central interest, Asheville is hilly. And I could see where the fiercely loyal residents would think it special. But (finally the 'but') it's not all THAT cool. Like I said, Aurora, or maybe a slightly more rehabbed St. Louis.

I did have the best Mexican-Caribbean meal I have EVER had at Salsa (called by one reviewer his "favorite fusion burrito joint"), and a world-class custard French pastry at Old Europe. All three restaurant/cafe/bakery places I stopped in were highly touted to be "organic", which was cool, but seemed a bit disproportionate in number.

The drive back was, well, hell. I'm from Montana. We get on the freeway and drive across the state rarely seeing another car. We like it that way. I left Asheville at 1:30 pm and was stuck in heavy, moronic traffic all the way to Atlanta. Yeah, there were a lot of cars on the road, but the real problem was the basic selfish stupidity of the drivers as evidenced by the view when I topped a hill and looked down at the ribbon of highway stretching in front of me with ALL THE CARS BUT THREE IN THE LEFT LANE. No wonder it was slow. There were many times we were all going UNDER the speed limit in the left lane because some old geezer parked his big old Buick there and refused to move to the right for anything. Doesn't anybody read the "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs but me?

But the real highlight of the drive back came when I looked at the gas gauge 30 miles out of Atlanta and the needle on the gas gauge was completely under the orange line next to the E. I drove slowly and rehearsed what I was going to say to Dave when I called him to tell him I needed him to take the train home, get his car, get gas, and drive through rush hour traffic on I-85 on Friday night BOTH WAYS because I ran out of gas. Oh lucky me born under a blessed star, I made it to a gas station without incident. I was even home in time to give J a kiss and a hug before D took her to the Y for Fun Friday. When he got back we had pizza and champagne and watched three Firefly episodes before he went out again to bring the J home.

And now it is Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm. I am still in my jammies, I haven't worked at all, and I'm contemplating a nap. How bad would it be to just take an actual day? Can I *really* not afford it? Or will it make me more efficient tomorrow and next week if I just... rest... today.

I think I'll sip a little more chai and think about it.


Bill Paley said...

I used to work at a summer camp in Hendersonville, NC, near Asheville, and I'd fly into Asheville through Atlanta to do it. I don't remember much about Asheville, as we rarely ventured there.

Jodi said...

I love, love, love my new car, but I have to say the one thing I miss about my old Jetta is the moonroof. My Scion has an iPod connector thingy too, but hey, I don't have any iPod. Luckily, it does also have an input for my non-iPod mp3 player, but I have to control it from the unit itself. But, I do love the radio/cd controls on the stereo. My husband has a '95 Scion and is jealous of those (his doesn't have them!)

Brenda Griffith said...

I wish I had the input jack instead of the cable thingy. My in-laws have the input for their iPod in their minivan and they just control it normally. That's what I used to do with the FM radio adapter and it was fine. The input and the cable thingy have great sound, but the cable thingy is difficult to use because of the voice-driven interface.