Author Archives: Augustus
Author Archives: Augustus
I guess I’m stuck with actually flying with United.
With 127k miles on the clock, my 2010 runabout was courting some major repairs. I’ve been topping up the AC more frequently now as there is a slow leak happening and with summer rapidly coming up, I needed to do something about it. Besides, the poor old thing is looking a bit battered having survived a deer hit, a wild pig hit and a few other scrapes. Being a realist, I decided it was time for a new car.
The problem with buying a car is that I detest the car dealers and their sales gimmicks.
To prepare myself, I wanted to go in knowing roughly what I wanted, what I was prepared to pay and how I was going to pay for it. I researched different options online, I read reviews, I checked out what prices were going at in different sales channels and looked at what inventory was out there. I’d even pre-arranged an auto loan with my credit union where I surprised to find no difference in rates given for new vs used (They used to be slightly better for new.) Continue reading..
Since I’ve talked about AirBnb in my previous post, I should amention that I’ve been a user of another ‘sharing economy’ darling in the past few months : Uber.
I used Uber to drop me home after getting rid of the MB leased car.
I used them to take me to the airport where I was going to Milwaukee for thanksgiving and to avoid the parking nightmare. By co-incidence, the driver was from Wisconsin so I got a few tips from him of what to see etc. As a side note, the officials at Hobby Airport pounced on him for documentation as soon as I got dropped off and even after I’d checked in my luggage about 10 minutes later, I could see out the window he was still being questioned. Not sure what that was about.
I used Uber in Milwaukee to get to / from downtown. The ability to send the driver a text – when the GPS address for your restaurant is nonsense – worked great. On the app map showing the driver, you could see them driving to you, then obviously overshooting and going the other way.
One feature I liked was the quote before hand to do a ‘what if’. I wanted to know the price of an Uber from Milwaukee to Midway airport – around ~$120. I compared it to AVIS one way where the car rental gave me ( with a very good AWD#) and it was around $55. Obviously with this, I went to AVIS. When I checked the car in, I was dismayed to find out that they’d charged me per mileage charge where bill came to $108. Bloomin’ bunch of Sock cutter$. If I add in tolls, gas and CDW then Uber would have been cheaper. Even if it had been cost neutral, I would have not had the hassle of driving for 90 minutes and getting to the MKE airport to pick up the car.
As for AVIS and the discrepancy, I later I checked out why I had not flagged this earlier as I darn well knew about the potential for one way add ons. I looked and the AVIS booking site was blank about mileage but when I looked at the confirmation email, it calls it out as $0.40 per mile. Buggers. Today, I just looked at the same AVIS website today, and it does now call it out (@ $0.28 per mile). So Caveat Emptor (or Emperor..) and all that with my miscalculation on the 1 way rental but it still illustrates why bother with that option : Just get an freakin’ Uber assuming their prices stay where they are. I mention this as they continually monkey with fare structures.
The thought of getting a regular taxi driver when Uber is an option, does not appeal any more. I’ve had my fair share of rides with filthy cars overflowing with cigarette butts going to a destination with no idea what the final charge will be and they’ll only take cash at the end. The days of taxi’s are done in areas legally serviced by Uber, Lyft or their counterparts.
Long like the revolution !
PS: I am not ready to give a full thumbs up to Uber as I don’t trust Mr Kalanick past the future IPO.
When we went to Nashville over Christmas, I used AirBnB for the first time. Christmas in Nashville is the calm before the New Year party storm when prices in hotels go nuts around 28th. We were visting the Daughter I and her family with Daughter II plus family coming in for a few days
There was plenty of accommodation in hotels around $100 per night for the dates we wanted 12/22 to 12/28. To do something different, I even thought about checking out Gaylord resort to see what it was all about. After reading some of the devil in the details from some reviews and with it being about $200+ per night plus all the tacked on fees, I decided against it.
As so it was that I seriously looked into AirBnB and saw a nice 12 bed house not too far from where daughter I lives. Price was around $200 which with 12 bed which meant that daughter II and her family could stay with us. However, by the time our wider family got our act together, it was already booked.
Liking the idea of AirBnB, I continued to look with houses around $200 or less. Looking at the maps, I found one 8 bedroom that was for $118. I almost skipped it thinking is must be a hovel but curiosity go the better of me..I looked at other dates outside my desired times and saw that it was normally double this price. I just happened to be looking for my dates and the owner had bombed rates to fill an empty block. It was in East Nashville in the 5 points district and reviews were very positive. Boy, it looks like for once being dysfunctional meant we’d lucked out !
The house turned out to be better than our expectation: Mrs Caesar, the kids, the grandkids and our dogs (I forgot to mention that I brought the two Roaman hound dogs) all loved the house. A two story with 4 bedrooms with all the mod cons that in some instances were better than our home. The 5 points is a mixed neighborhood that it is being progressively gentrified. It had a back garden that we took advantage of – the weather was 73F !
There were some great bars and restaurants that within 5 minutes walking distances: Thumbs up to 5 point pizza (we went there twice) and Drifter’s Tennesse BBQ. I got a kick out of seeing “I dream of weennie” – a hot dog van that has some great ratings – but it’s opening times and our schedule didn’t work out this time.
The owner of the house was very customer orientated. I think the only thing we wanted for is milk for the coffee.
Overall, my first experience with booking with AirBnB was very positive. It was a very cost effective for groups if you stay for a few days. The cost threshold will be the one off cleaning fee which in our case was $140. I especially liked it that it was a far more personable that a hotel.
I will do AirBnB again but only the ‘complete house’ option. Can’t see I want to do the rent a room or even a couch.
Postscript 28th Jan 17: Maybe it is a sign of their perceived success or economic arrogance, but the same house is now asking for $292 per night on AirBnB. I think that is a a bit extreme for what we got.
After over 30 years on the road, I blew my clean driving record by running into the back of someone in my car.
I was taking off from red light and looked down to put my hot drink in it’s holder and when I looked up, the traffic had stopped. I slammed on the brakes but knew that it was not enough distance to stop.
Wham . Thankfully no airbag.
Behind me I heard screeching of brakes and I braced for impact. The skidding sound continued and a white car mounted the median and its front appeared right next my door.
I wait a few seconds to make sure nothing else is happening then look all around and with it being silent I get out.
I first walk around to check on the driver in front of me is who was driving an old black Honda. After confirming he is unhurt and like me, pretty shaken up, I apologized and shook his hand. He was a 20 something hipster with two massive ear plug piercings.
I tell him, I’ll get my insurance details. Meanwhile I walk back to my car and see the female driver behind me inspecting it so obviously, she must have hit mine. I’ll come back to her I thought.
I gave the hipster my drivers licence and insurance card. He takes photos on his phone and since it was obviously his first accident, he didn’t know what to do next. He started routing around the car for his insurance details and said something about it being his wife’s car and didn’t know where his documents were. I told him that since I’d run into him under Texas law, there is no need for that as I didn’t need them.
We went out to inspect his car. It was surprisingly undamaged. He pointed out a few things on the back bumper and admitted that they were already there. We looked at mine and it was similarly undamaged.
Meanwhile, I looked at the driver behind me. She’d left the scene. So much for getting her details then.
The hipster didn’t seem to want to call the cops and since I was at fault, I wasn’t going to suggest it either.
He took one final picture of my number plated for his records and I sent him a text with my phone number on it. I said that if he was to go want to claim for repairs, then contact me before hand as if it was a relatively low dollar amount, I would want to settle with him in cash rather than go through the insurance. He said he’d do that.
It’s been over a week now and I have not heard any more so I presume he isn’t going to take this further.
This bring back a memory where a few years ago, I had a young latina run into the back of me at a road junction in the same car. I suspected she was texting (or was a bit stoned since she was rather not with it). I exchanged details and photo’s of the small amount of damage with her and since I was not hurt, I did not call the PoPo.
Later in the day, her father called me to apologize and asked me if I could get it repaired ‘by knocking the dent out’. He said he would pay for that and since his daughter was new to driving, he didn’t want her driving record to get an insurance hit so early on. I agreed to look at it since it was not much damage.
I took it to some places and it became clear that to get this small amount of damage in-situ repaired was not possible: The only option was a replacement of the plastic housing and quote given was north of $1000 with labor etc. Suspecting a repair rip off, I took it to a different place came in at the same ball park amount.
After thinking about it, I decided to cut the young texter a break. I already had some damage on the front from hitting a deer, then a few days later, a wild pig. So why was I then bothered about a relatively small dent in the back. I had daughters in the same age group so forget it: I was not going to push further on the claim as > $1000 was clearly a ridiculous amount.
So perhaps this is my crash karma and I am benefiting from my no-claim it backward. Hipster, you are next.
Maybe it is because they are saving their denarii for the upcoming Superbowl but Houston did not put on any official celebration activities to see in the new year.
Perhaps this is why so many people headed to Sugar Land city center for their “New Year’s eve on the square”. Friends of the Caesar’s suggested we go out to dinner then take the kids down to see the Children’s celebration which would end with a kid’s firework display at 9 am.
We ate Mediterranean food which everybody liked including the fussy kids, parked near Macy’s mall* and walked about 10 minutes which got there around 8:30. The street entertainment was something different and we liked it.
9 o’clock came and the fireworks started and they were impressive. Then it all stopped after what felt like about 1 minute. No build up. No finale. It just stopped.
Huh? While it was billed as a ‘mini’ firework display where the main one (the ‘adult’ one) to begin at midnight, it was an anti-climax.
It reminded me of the San Diego July 4th 2012 firework display where someone buggered up the wiring so where the entire 18 minute display went up simultaneously so it lasted all of 15 seconds ! See the LA Times:
The Big Bay Boom is advertised as one of the largest fireworks shows in the nation, and boasts about attracting half a million spectators. The pyrotechnics are launched from five barges in the San Diego Bay, and this year’s show – the 12th annual spectacle – was advertised by the port as being “bigger and more intense than in past years,” and organizers set up free buses and shuttles to handle the crowds of spectators. About a dozen bayside hotels offer special Fourth of July rates just so customers can watch the show from the comfort of their rooms.
The explosion was so bright and loud that some viewers initially thought the barges containing the fireworks had caught on fire. “Oh my God. Look at that. Is that supposed to happen?” said one person, whose comments were captured on a YouTube video. “I think a yacht blew up,” @BENBALLER tweeted, along with a photo that appeared to show a breathtaking number of fireworks simultaneously exploding.
“I waited 3hrs in the cold and payd $12 for parking & got one little explosion?” tweeted @aj521z.“Best part about #bigbayboom fail is that EVERYONE has always wondered what would happen if all fireworks went off at once,” tweeted @richandcreamy.
In a statement issued before midnight, the port said that just before the fireworks all exploded, technicians sent a signal “to the barges that would set the timing for the rest of the show after the introduction.”
Garden State Fireworks, the firm producing the show, “will be working throughout the night to determine what technical problem caused the entire show to be launched in about 15 seconds. We apologize for the brevity of the show and the technical difficulties,” according to a statement posted on www.bigbayboom.com.
Still, this is not the only time for some mal-event for happen on NYE ‘celebration’. In no particular order:
Now that I think about it the older I get, the more I want to stay home on the circus known as NYE but that has it’s own complications. Good luck finding a good countdown or celebration on a Texas TV channel. Many don’t even bother or get too lazy and just show New York’s celebration which sounds great except for that time zone problem.
However, this year I was disappointed to not have caught Mariah Carey doing her own San Diego 2012 firework blow up. I would have loved to have seen her lip sync dissaster as it happened. It would have been a great way to see out 2016.
We should have got an inkling of how bad this was going to be when the Diva was reported as asking beforehand ” What time does the ball drop?” and based on this,they had set up special arrangements to make sure she got to Time Square on time. [Daily Mail] Based on her performance or lack of, they shouldn’t have bothered !
Still it is what it is. As Rabbie Burns said ‘We’ve wandered mony a weary foot, Sin’ auld ang syne.’
Happy New Year.
PS: back to the Sugar Land event and parking. I’m glad we didn’t listen to officials saying to park in Football stadium and get a free bus ride to the event. The lines to catch that same bus back were monstrous. Something I’ve learned over the years is to plan your exit. Park just a bit further away to avoid traffic jams getting out. For big sporting events, parking away will be much cheaper.
It’s over. I finally got rid of our Mercedes CLA250 after it’s three year lease end. Multiple attempts by MB to get me into a new lease were rebuffed.
To be honest, I never loved the car. It was ok but it never wowed me and I thought it rather a noisy ride especially on the freeway.In some ways, it was my fault I got into this situation. I agreed to get it to keep Mrs Caesar happy who needed a car at that time and the CLA250 was the new offering to America.
Having had favorable experiences in leasing BMWs before, I thought this would be similar.
There were a few things bothered me at the time of leasing that I should have acted on before signing up.
However, I was in time crunch to get Mrs Caesar mobile again before I left on a long business travel so emotion took the better side of me and I violated one of my own rules about car buying – Sort your finances out before you set foot in the dealership . To reduce the monthly payments, I put down a much larger down payment than what I had envisaged before visiting.
In the beginning, Mrs Ceasar loved the car and how she could go around the dealership at Boerne to get the car washed anytime where we only lived a few miles away. Of course, that had to be scheduled but it was still free and she could get coffee while she waited. However, in the back on my mind, there was a thought I was overpaying to be driving it.
Then the first problem happened with the tires. A nail in the tire required some action. MB service adviser said I’d need to replace it. Goodyear tires said it could be repaired once if the sidewall was not damaged. So I had it repaired.
Some time after we moved back to Houston area, I hit a particularly big pothole that took out a different tire. Within a minute it went from 35 PSI to 0. It did it’s job of running flat and I drove home at slower speed but the next day, I found how difficult it was to get a direct replacement. Even Goodyear didn’t have them in stock and would have to ship them that would take a few days. The dealer had them in stock but it would be 5 days before I could get into MB Sugarland. I was blown away : 5 days just to get one tire changed. After phoning around, I ended up buying it for over $300 and taking it to Discount Tire in Cinco Ranch to them to fit it. By the way, Discount Tire got future business from me on my other car in the positive manner they treated me after this initial very small business.
At the time of leasing, I got the sell for tire insurance which I calculated at 2+ blown tires and on the BMW, I’d never had one so I figured I’d take the chances. Over the next year, we had another tire that went flat and needed to be replaced. Another was dangerous due to a bulge in sideball so that needed replacement also but not wanting to hunt down an expensive tire, I put on a regular tire as an interim fix.
The first service with MB Sugarland was an eye opener in that cost of maintenance and what they will try to slip in. When asked if I wanted them to rotate tires and some other minor inspection, I said sure. After printing out the pre-work contract, it would cost me $230. What for I asked as I had pre-paid maintenance. These tire rotation and inspection was optional services I was told. If that was the case, then I opted not to get them. Over $200 to f’ing rotate the tires which most other manufacturers include for free and then to perform a mechanical inspection on something that would be covered by warranty anyhow. What the heck? No wonder why they are called stealerships. This must be how they pay for all the swanky waiting areas and coffee baristas.
It cost me another $3K to close out the lease where I had to replace all 4 tires (get a bulk discount compared to individual tires as if that made it easier) since the lifetime of the tires (20k miles) is much less that lease duration. The rims had to be reworked to polish out the scratches and finally there was the 4,000 over mileage fee which was expected.
Overall, I did not enjoy my ‘luxurious’ experience with MB and was glad for it to end. I was surprised to find that 67% of Mercedes are leased [Source : Cartelligent] but it not for me. No more run flats either.
We realized it would happen to us eventually. And so it is today fellow Roamans, that I must inform you that it has finally happened.
Like all important worldwide sites, we’ve been Wickedleaked and our intimate discussions are revealed to the world.
We strongly suspect the source of the leak are Parthian hackers who are trying to influence Roaman empire politics.
Nevertheless, I must fall on my own virtual sword and confess that what has been leaked is likely true : Our Emperor colleague, Caligula is a person of interest behind this story.
We have discussed it with Caligula and even though he denied it was him, he apologized profusely. He said he doesn’t remember anything and if it was him, it must have been a locker room typo that he has put behind him that even though it is only a few days ago, it no longer reflects who he is today.
We are pleased to accept his apologies and move on.
When in Roam, do as the Roamans do and being in Roam, we did -we’ve been Roaming.
In the past few months, we’ve been to Europe : Germany and the UK. We’ve also traveled within the US to Alaska, Austin and Dallas.
Some of the Emperors have had a staycation watching the world go by from the triclinium. It’s a tough life you know being fed oysters, dormice and grapes laughing at the modern world of today.
We did feel a small bit of guilt about not posting but only a small bit and to be honest, we were enjoying ourselves too much to tell you about it all. Emperor’s privilege and all that but to show how magnanimous we are at Roads-2-Roam.com, we will give all our online subscribers from 49BC, their money back.
In case you’ve been asleep for the past month, the people of Britannia voted to leave the European Union by a slim majority. All the polls predicted they would stay but nope, Plebs being Plebs didn’t listen and voted out.
The person who agreed to allow the vote and managed a poor campaign, David Cameron, has resigned. Since then some of the pro-leave advocates Farage, Boris and Gove have all left the political stage.
A new dawn beckons where Teresa May is going to be the new Prime Minister. She will be the second female PM after Thatcher.
It is not looking good to the Opposition either, where there is a Labour party backlash against the Uber-Lefty leader, Corbyn who may not survive.
It is now up in the air about what happens next : trade, work visas and others as there is no transition plan.
Also, ‘Leave’ means uncertainty about the long term survival of Great Britain as an political union with the Scots making noises about wanting a second referendum on independence. Scotland voted majority to stay and claim that the 2014 referendum was based around Britain being a member of the EU. Since Britain is now Brexiting, they are saying not so fast we want to stay in. This is not easy in the Spain, for example, doesn’t want to allow countries to split up like this as Catalonia may have similar ideas.
Over Wine, we emperors of Roam were tittering where we thought it funny to think that around 1600 years ago, it was Romans who had the original Brexit around 410 AD. Back then Emperor Honorius wore the purple.
The situation had parallel to today’s Brexit but in reverse. Back then we had:
Anyhow, back to today. We at Roam have no idea how this is going to turn out.
For the Traveler, this period of uncertainty has led to pound dropping from ~1.50 to the dollar to around 1.30 and probably going lower. This may put the great in Great Britain if you going there but it may also lead to price increases for items that are imported. Go visit soon while the Union Jack T-shirt means something.