A history of transportation

The first car I ever owned was a 1956 Plymouth Savoy, just as you see here. It had been my grandmother’s but when she died my parents gave it to me in 1967. I was married with a kid, so it was much appreciated. My first wife and I were living in a rental in Uptown New Orleans, and our only transportation was the St. Charles streetcar, and we had to walk a few blocks to get to the streetcar line.

The streetcar was a fun way to get around, but for convenience a car is preferred. This photo was probably taken about 10 years before we were streetcar regulars on the same route.

The Plymouth carried us a few years, but in 1969 I got a decent-paying job on the New Orleans newspaper. I don’t remember what happened to the Plymouth, but I bought a mid-’60s VW Bug convertible and, boy, was that fun. I found this photo online. I don’t know who the blonde is.

When my first wife and I divorced in 1971, I left the Beetle with her, and she fairly quickly destroyed it by neglect. I moved to the French Quarter, and a bicycle became my transportation until I bought a BSA motorcycle which I shipped to Puerto Rico in 1973. The BSA stayed in Puerto Rico when I left the island about a year later.

Yep, me.

In New Orleans again, I was back on a bicycle, but later I bought a 1977 Harley-Davidson Sportster. I met my second wife-to-be in the mid-’70s, and her 1975 Toyota Corolla became “our” car for years.

Then another Corolla, bought used, and then yet another, also used, when she totaled the previous one while racing a stoplight.

After 19 years we parted company in 1995 and again I had no car. That’s when I bought my first-ever new, four-wheeled vehicle, a 1995 Ford Ranger, a pickup I kept five years until I moved to Mexico.

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Mexico

Here I purchased four new cars over 14 years. First, in 2000, a Chevy Pop, a sweet, little thing not sold in the United States. It was a Geo Metro clone with no AC or even a radio that we drove all the way to Atlanta and back in 2003. Then, in 2004, a Chevrolet Meriva, also not available in the United States. Then, in 2009, a Honda CR-V. Then, in 2014, we bought a Nissan March for my child bride.

We still own those last two, which brings me to the purpose of this post. What’s gonna come next? I have a system.

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My Honda CR-V has been the best car I’ve ever owned. Twelve years and not a single problem of any consequence. The thing runs like it did the day I drove it out of the dealership in the nearby capital city in early 2009. I’d never owned a Honda before.

Looking ahead to the day when I may need a new car due to an accident, robbery or an expense so high it’s better to just buy a new car, I like to have the next vehicle chosen. I would prefer another Honda, but the CR-Vs have doubled in price since 2009, and I won’t pay that.

I don’t have a job.

I turned to Kia, specifically the oddly named Soul — good reviews and, though I am quite tall, I can get in and out with ease. So that was my backup for a couple of years till I discovered its rather meager ground clearance, not good in a nation loaded with speed bumps.

Sticking with Kia, I turned to the Seltos, which only appeared on this side of the world relatively recently though it’s long been wildly popular in India. It was my top alternative till just a few days ago when I visited a dealership and sat in the HR-V, a relatively new addition to the Honda line that was upgraded this year. Wowzer!

The mid-model I like costs 403,900 pesos, which is about $20,000 U.S. right now, plus selling my CR-V would trim that down a bit. You cannot haggle at Mexican dealerships like you do above the border.

It’s not as large as the CR-V, but it’s large enough, plenty of headroom. And it’s a good deal less pricey than the CR-V.

It’s my new main man. But I need a reason to buy one aside from just wanting to, like a teenager. Maybe I should drive my current Honda into a tree because I don’t think it’s ever going to wear out.

It appears that when you buy a Honda, you have it for life.

The new Honda HR-V is not a Plymouth Savoy.

Gimme a hand, por favor

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What I want. A new Kia Soul.

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What I have. A 2009 Honda CR-V.

I AM ON THE horns of a dilemma. Feel free to chime in.

I’ve been thinking of buying a new car, but I can’t come up with a very good reason to do so other than it would be nice to have a new car. Does that justify the financial outlay? Not really.

The 2009 Honda CR-V we have owned for almost a decade runs great. It’s never given me a lick of serious trouble. Honda makes wonderful cars.

In the last year or so, two large plastic covers have come loose beneath the car. They were easily and cheaply reconnected, but is that a hint of more serious trouble ahead?

I’m concerned about the airbags that have been packed tightly in there somewhere for 10 years. Will they still deploy correctly if needed? Mexicans drive like lunatics, so airbags are wise south of the border. It was the primary reason I bought the Honda in 2009. Our previous Chevrolet Meriva lacked airbags.

There is the matter of the Honda depreciating every year, and a new car increasing in price every year. Would it be cheaper to switch now? Most likely.

The Blue Book value of the Honda currently sits at 125,000 pesos. The price of the car we would buy, a 2018 Kia Soul EX TA, is 332,000 pesos. The difference between those two at today’s exchange rate is a bit over $10,000 in U.S. bucks. I would use dollars from above the Rio Bravo.

The exchange rate is very favorable now due to Trump and AMLO, and may it continue that way at least until January.

I would have to wait till January to make a purchase due to Gringo tax issues. The 2019 Kias would be available then, one supposes. Maybe I can get a deal on a leftover 2018.

What would you do in my spot, and why? Gracias in advance.

Dentists, dust, cars, maids, Lent, etc.

WE WENT TO the dentist yesterday, both of us. Actually, it was two dentists. One for her, and another for me.

My child bride was to get, after three months of waiting for the posts to set in her jaw, her four new implants. She ended up getting three. There was some detail with the fourth, and she’ll be returning in about 10 days to get that last one.

While she was doing that for over three hours, I drove about 10 blocks away to a specialist who does root canals. That went well, if longer than usual, two hours in the chair, and then I returned to the other dentist to pick up my better half.

A friend in Arizona told me yesterday that he needs a root canal, and his dentist’s fee will be $2,500. That’s U.S. dollars. My root canal cost $3,200 pesos, which is about $172 in U.S. dollars. This cost difference is astounding.

We have no dental insurance, but we don’t need it. Unfortunately, my friend in Arizona does not have dental insurance either, and he does need it. Just one more example of how life in Mexico is superior to life above the Rio Bravo.

* * * *

THE SEASON OF DUST

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Veranda shelves where dust and bat poop accumulate.

This morning, like most mornings, I swept the downstairs veranda and wiped off the shelves. All the shelves were dusty, and some harbored bat turds that had dropped from the roof tiles where bats doze during the day.

We’re heading into full-tilt dry season, which means lots of dust, inside and out. The dust inside drives my child bride nuts. We really should hire a maid, but we never do. The minor reason is that we don’t want another ongoing household expense. The major reason is that we don’t want anyone underfoot here.

In the years we’ve lived here, we’ve had two maids. I forget why we fired the first, but we fired the second because she was unreliable. For months after she departed, we noticed things had been stolen, mostly clothing and music CDs. If we ever hire another maid, we will not leave her here by herself, which is another reason not to hire a maid.

* * * *

CARS, CARS, CARS

Unlike so many Gringos who make the wise decision to move over the Rio Bravo, I did not bring a car with me. Delta Airlines provided my transportation.

I bought my first car in September 2000. It was a little Chevy Pop, something that was not sold in the United States. It was almost a clone of the Geo Metro, a very nice little ride. Four years later, we bought a 2004 Chevrolet Meriva, another car that’s not sold in the United States. It was made in Brazil and sold in other nations around the world as a Vauxhall, sometimes an Opel. It too was a very nice car.

A bit over four years later, we bought our 2009 Honda CR-V. Aside from some design flaws that only the driver notices, this is a very nice car, and it’s still serving us well.

About four years later, again, we bought my wife’s 2014 Nissan March, and yet again, it’s a car that is not sold in the United States. It is small and sweet.

The Honda is almost a decade old now. It’s been great. However, a large plastic part  where the front bumper should be — why do cars no longer have bumpers? — fell off recently in the state capital. No huge issue, and a mechanic reattached it for free.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will we be tooling down the autopista through avocado groves and narco hangouts toward the sands of the Pacific when something else falls off or simply stops functioning? It’s a concern.

I don’t know when I’ll buy it, but I have decided on its replacement: the Kia Soul.

soul

It’s smaller than the Honda CR-V, but it’s far roomier than it looks. We went by the dealership in the capital city recently to see if my tall, lanky, aging self could get into the Soul with no problem. It was a piece of cake.

The front seat is incredibly spacious. The back seat not so much, but we never sit in the back seat. The safety ratings are good, and so are customer reviews.

Inexplicably, when I tried to sit in the significantly larger Kia Sportage, I cracked my skull on the top of the door opening. Kia, a South Korean firm, has been making a big splash in Mexico the last couple of years.

When this change will take place is unknown. Currently, the Honda is working fine. I recently bought new floor mats and had it waxed for the first time. Soon, I’ll need four new tires, no small expense. But when a new car is purchased, I’ll become a Soul Man.

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BEEF AND WALKING

I wrote the above this morning before heading out on my daily exercise march around the neighborhood plaza. The butcher shop in the next block, run by another Felipe, was closed due to its being Friday during Lent.

Semana Santa is just a couple of weeks away, so he’ll soon be able to sell again on Fridays. That won’t affect me, however, because I rarely eat beef, being more of a chicken and salad man. It always amuses me that Catholics think God worries about what they eat.

And Jews think God wants guys to cut off the tip of their dingus.

I’m sure he has more important things on his mind, like how to get the Mohammedans to see the light and put down the scimitars.

Cars, cars, cars

I WAS 50 years old before I bought a new car. It was a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup, so not really a car but a pickup.

Before then I’d always purchased used vehicles and darn few of them too. Not a car guy.

Shortly after marrying my first wife in 1965,  I inherited a 1956 Plymouth Savoy from my granny. About three years later, I bought a VW Beetle convertible, used. Now that was fun. But I left it behind when we split in 1971, and I continued sans car.

I had bicycles and motorcycles.

My second wife had a 1975 Toyota when we met in 1976, so that was what we used until about 1985 when we bought another Toyota, used. Later, we bought a third Toyota, used. That was our ride when she dumped me in 1995.

Her current car is a Prius. She votes Democrat.

And that was when I purchased my first-ever new car, er, pickup, which I drove until I moved to Mexico five years later. I sold it in 2000. Most people who move to Mexico bring their cars  — and as much gear as they can manage, foolishly — but the pickup would not fit into either of my suitcases.

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2014 Nissan March

It was after moving to Mexico in 2000 that I shifted into high gear and began buying new cars. I have purchased four in the past 17 years. All from dealerships, all paid in full, in cash. The last was in late 2013 when we bought my child bride’s 2014 Nissan March, a model that isn’t sold in the United States.

I bought new cars, in direct opposition to the fact that it’s smarter to purchase relatively new used cars, because I did not trust used cars in Mexico. I have since altered my tune, and were I to buy another car it would be a “pre-owned” from a dealership. I still wouldn’t buy one directly from a local.

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2000 Chevy Popular (Pop)

My first car here (2000) was a Chevy Pop, very much akin to a Geo Metro from the turn of the century. It was a real honey, and we kept it till we bought the Nissan March in 2013. We sold it to a nephew, so it’s still in the family.

The Pop had become my wife’s gym car. It had no AC, no airbags, not even a radio. It had squat aside from reliability. We once drove it from here to Atlanta, barreling down the U.S. interstates with the windows wide open in springtime.

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2004 Chevrolet Meriva

But the Pop ceased to be our main car in 2004 when we bought a Chevrolet Meriva, another vehicle that’s not sold in the United States. It was sold in other parts of the world as an Opel or Vauxhall. It too was a gem, but it had no airbags, was a stick shift, no cruise control, not so basic as the Pop, but eventually I wanted something more suited to an old coot.

So we bought a 2009 Honda CR-V with automatic transmission — the first automatic of my life — A-C, of course, cruise control and airbags front and side. Mexicans drive like lunatics, so airbags are not optional equipment.

The Honda got its 170,000-kilometer service yesterday, and the mechanic informed me that the front shocks needed to be replaced. We’ll do that next week. The cost — parts and labor — will be 7,300 pesos, which is a bit over 400 bucks.

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2009 Honda CR-V

It’s the first repair of any consequence I’ve had to do with the Honda, which is a pretty good car.

Maybe we’ll buy another car one day, depending on how long I keep breathing, but if we do it’ll be a late-model used one from a dealership. I’m thinking Nissan.

Or maybe a motorcycle.

* * * *

(Note: Until recently, Gringos living in Mexico could tool around in cars with long-expired U.S. plates, and Mexico looked the other way. But a few years ago, rules were changed, and you’re not supposed to do that anymore. Most don’t.)

(Another note: I was surprised to learn recently that Renaults and Peugeots are not sold in the United States. They’re popular down here, especially Renaults.)