Birthday Eve

Sunday, March 22nd 2020 at 6:40 pm
by Jonah

Tomorrow is my birthday; I turn 46. I was looking forward to going to Carlos’ Bistro. Usually, he’s closed for the month of March, but he announced a couple weeks ago that he’d be open starting March 18.  Now he’s closed.  Every restaurant in Colorado is closed.  But even if the restaurant were open, we wouldn’t go now.

Fortunately, we have enough cake flour from last year for Berck to bake me a cake.  It’s only been expired for like a month, which counts as fresh in my house. Berck cooks me whatever I want for my birthday, and this year I chose meatballs, because Berck doesn’t like meatballs and won’t cook them normally.  Meatballs are one of those things that can be really bad… or really good.  I love good meatballs.  Heck, I love decent meatballs.  My favorite sandwich at Subway is the meatball sandwich with everything except olives, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, yes, banana peppers, yes, jalapenos. But I only get it if if I can eat it sitting at a table because it makes a huge mess.  We fortunately have enough ground beef to make meatballs.  Our vegetable options, on the other hand, are limited.

We’ve self-isolated since Friday, March 13 and have been working from home. We have plenty of toilet paper because I bought a Costco pack a couple of months ago.  We’re running low on milk.  This morning I put in an order at the grocery store for pick up, but the website said I couldn’t pick it up until Wednesday.

I haven’t been allowed to return to work because I have a sore throat.  Other than a sore throat and some congestion first thing in the morning, I’ve felt fine.  I’ve been working remotely 8 hours a day on weekdays.  I’ve been trying to get sunshine and exercise (shoveling snow).  I’ve been leaving Zip-Locks of sourdough starter outside for neighbors to pick up after a discussion the neighborhood Facebook page because everyone is bored and staying home.  I wipe the Zip-locks down with alcohol before I leave them outside.

But today I don’t feel good.  I feel like I just want to lie in bed and read.  I feel cold.  I’m not coughing or running a fever. But I have no appetite. I don’t even want meatballs. 

I’m not afraid, and I’m not anxious. I moved most of my 401(k) assets into bonds and money markets a couple of years ago. I have a full pantry and fridge.  My cheese drawer is as intimidating as always. I am ashamed that we are out of peas and kidney beans (though we have dozens of cans of all the other beans).  Last year Berck bought a UPS for the pellet stove and a generator.  I’m also not afraid to die, though I was kinda hoping I was only halfway through life.  The news keeps talking about how young adults, age 20-45, are less likely to die of COVID-19.  Which means tomorrow I am more likely to die.  And am no longer a young adult. 

Which I find a little insulting. 


Monday, March 9th 2020 at 7:44 pm
by Jonah

We have two tickets to fly to Rome, Italy in three days. But Italy just imposed a country-wide quarantine because of COVID-19. This comes as a relief, as we bought airline tickets, a rental car reservation, and hotel and AirBnB reservations months ago. We were planning to go anyway up until today, though it was getting more difficult to figure out how we were going to arrive in Rome and somehow make it up to Zurich without driving through northern Italy. When the quarantine was expanded to all of Lombardy, I contacted the hotel in Como to ask for a refund. They e-mailed me back today and said:

“We are afraid for the actual situation in Italy and in particularly in Lombardy. We hope to quickly reach healthcare solution.

“We accept and confirm the cancellation of yours reservations, without any penalties.”

I hate planning trips because I’d much rather be spontaneous and go with the flow. But this was a trip that Berck had promised to take his mother on, and he made me plan each day and night between Rome and Zurich. I worked really hard on this trip.

But maybe we can cut and paste for next year.

We’ve spent the evening cancelling our AirBnB reservations. In Italy AirBnB will let us cancel them for full refunds because of the Coronavirus. So far they’re only giving us half refunds for Switzerland, so we’ll see what happens there.

My mom has been e-mailing me articles about the Coronavirus daily, and my boss told me I needed to talk to the other two partners about possibly self-quarantining once I got back. Berck and I have been watching the news carefully, since it changes by the hour. I worked from home all day yesterday to try to make up for the two days I was going to be gone this week. I was going to work late every other day this week, but Berck texted me the BBC article tonight, and I turned out of my office light and went home.

Fleet Registration

Friday, January 24th 2020 at 7:36 pm
by Berck

I love Andrew, but he’s full of shit. It’s one of his many endearing qualities. I don’t believe anything anyone says, but when Andrew says something, I especially don’t believe it.

In some ways, this isn’t fair. He probably spouts truth at a rate that far exceeds the general population, but I also don’t talk to the general population. Many of them voted for Trump. I can’t imagine that Andrew is organized enough to vote, but if he were, he wouldn’t vote for Trump.

Last year, I bought a Formula Vee, and Andrew, who is one of the people that is privileged enough to be able to see my position on Google Maps whenever he likes, asked why I was in Denver. When I told him it was to buy yet another car, he told me about fleet registration.

I went so far as to look it up in the Colorado Code of Regulations (also known as Creedence Clearwater Revival) and found that there is, in fact, a provision that allows the owners of fleets to register them all at once. There are two sorts of fleets, according to CCR. One requires that you get fleet plates, and the other allows for bathrooms on the right.

I dutifully filled out form DR 2194 and then found a mailing address that seemed vaguely appropriate and sent it off. The form is the least promising of government forms that I’ve ever seen. It does not appear to require much information at all, and there was no information in CCR 204-10 RULE 5 about what would happen after I filled it out. I expected nothing to happen, but dutifully checked the mail whenever Jonah deigned to bring it inside… just in case.

Today, this appeared in the mail!

My form 2194 mailed back to me in a hand-addessed envelope, but with the “Department Use Only” block in the lower right-hand corner filled out.

I have no idea what’s next, but it’s Car Girl’s move.

Damsel in Distress

Monday, January 13th 2020 at 10:01 pm
by Jonah

Even when I can handle it myself, I’d say my favorite perk, by far, of being female is having males come to my rescue when I have automotive problems.  

Also, sometimes it’s unwarranted. Berck needed to take the Focus today, so that left me with trying to get the Miata up the hill.  My first attempt left my wheels spinning, so I needed to back up off the icy tracks and onto the snow on the edge to get some traction.  Unfortunately, right at that moment, our neighbor Al drove up behind me in his white van.  That left me less room to back down our one-lane alley.  Then I suddenly saw Al in my rear-view mirror trying to push my car.  I opened my door and stuck my head out to tell him I needed to back up, but before I could, he told me that I might have better luck if I backed up off the icy tracks and onto the snow on the edge to get some traction.  I sighed and said I thought that sounded like a good idea.  He also told me to use the emergency brake and hold the button in to keep the wheels from spinning as much, which actually worked pretty well.

During my lunch break today, I thought I’d be nice and go wash Berck’s car.  I drove over to the nearest car wash and then waited for an eternity for the four morons in the car wash bays to try to figure out the payment machines. Finally, it was my turn.  I did a thorough job and used the brush all over the car, even the wheels.  Then I headed back out onto the road hoping I’d have enough time to run by the grocery store.

The car wash is on a little road that empties out into an on-ramp onto South Circle.  It’s a tight curve, and you have to try to accelerate quickly into oncoming traffic.  I take this curve a lot, and as long as I’m not driving the Land Cruiser, I’ve never had any problems. But today was not one of those days.  I don’t know if it was because my tires were wet and soapy or the snow tires just don’t have as much grip.  I made the curve and then just kept rotating, sliding off the road to the right and spinning around backwards.  There’s no curb there, and the ground is flat.  I headed forward, and the car seemed fine.  I waited until there wasn’t any oncoming traffic and pulled out into the right lane.  But the car was not fine.  Unfortunately, that stretch of road is an overpass, and there is no shoulder.  So I limped along until I came to the first turn, which is an entrance into a trailer park.

I got out and investigated.  My newly cleaned car was now filthy from spinning around in the dirt. But more importantly, the left rear tire had come unattached to the wheel.  I texted Berck and then opened the trunk to get out the jack and lug nut wrench.  That’s when a gentleman in a pick-up pulled up as he was exiting the trailer park and asked if I could use some help.  Of course I could, and he took over, undoing the lug nuts with his own drill and socket he had in his truck. He had my spare donut on hardly any time at all.  Berck still hadn’t responded, so I drove back to my office.

When he finally saw my message, Berck told me to take the disassociated wheel and tire to Rex Tire, where they determined the wheel was fine (whew) but the tire was toast. I went back to work and waited for Berck to come, since driving 30 miles home on the donut was not advisable. Berck had just given a set of Miata wheels and snow tires to his buddy at work, so he borrowed one of them back and met me in the parking lot at work.  I got to watch another man jack up my car and replace the tire, this time while I at least could be helpful by holding a flashlight.  Berck complained that I’d let some stranger over-torque my lug nuts.  Then he took me out to dinner.

Maybe I’ll wash the car again tomorrow.

Yolanda Hayes

Monday, December 23rd 2019 at 6:32 pm
by Berck

Colorado doesn’t have a DMV. We have a County Clerk & Recorder with a Motor Vehicle Department (or sometimes Division) that everyone calls the DMV. The one in Woodland Park is maybe the best DMV in the country.

I’m a car guy with some income that I dispose on an ever-growing fleet of used cars, so I’m always going to the not-DMV. I don’t mind. In Teller County, there is no line; there is merely three women sitting at desks.

I’m not entirely sure what the protocol is. There are signs that tell me that I’m not to use my “cell phone”, which is presumptuous for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that there are no cell phones left in the world. But I get the meaning. Otherwise, I don’t know what the rules are.

The first time I went in, there were people at the first two desks and the young woman at the far end was free. She greeted me, and then jumped into an excited discussion of Subaru vs. Ford when she saw that I was registering Jonah’s new Focus RS. There aren’t many car girls in the world, and I certainly never expected to find one working full time at the not-DMV.

Every time I’ve been to the not-DMV since, the woman at the first desk greets me when I walk in, while Car Girl sits at the far end and does not look up. I’m guessing it’s possible that I could simply walk straight up to Car Girl, but I don’t know the protocol and it seems odd to bypass not one, but two perfectly nice and efficient women just to visit my not-DMV employee of choice. So instead, Closest Woman helps me with the exact sort of polite efficiency and lack of obtrusive questions that I desire in all transactions while I wonder about the banter with Car Girl that I’m missing out on.

Today, I headed to the not-DMV with a renewal reminder for Simon and the paperwork for my latest Audi disaster. I was delighted to discover that Closest Woman appeared to be on vacation and Middle Woman was busy with another customer. I headed over to Car Girl’s desk.

She raised an eyebrow about the dealer I’d purchased it from, “Golden Motors,” and I assured her that it was every bit as shady as she might be imagining, without going into detail about the Russian proprietor who seemed like he’d rather be doing anything other than selling cars. “Well, I hope the car is good,” she said. “Oh no, it has a blown head gasket and is in pieces in my garage.” She comisserated then pointed out that there was no need for me to register the vehicle today if I’m not driving it. “But I thought I only had 60 days to register without late fees?” “That’s true, but we automatically wave late fees on all dealer sales.” Super useful information! I went ahead and renewed Simon’s registration (one day he’ll be a full-on race car and I won’t have to bother), and asked about fleet registration. She said I could only do that with the state and that it’s a fairly involved process. She also mentioned that if I had a fleet that I should consider something called broad form insurance. I hadn’t heard of it, but told her I’d research.

I’ve often wondered why I have to insure each of my vehicles and can’t instead just insure the ones I’m actually driving at any given time. It turns out that terribly-named broad form insurance will actually let me do just that–insure drivers rather than cars. It means my cars won’t be insured if other people drive them, and it’s not legal in all states, but it is in Colorado. It would be a clear win if it were just me, but I’m married and want Jonah to be able to drive all the cars, so that means buying two broad form policies…. but it still looks like it might save me $200/year or so, and for that I thank Car Girl!