Why a Prius is my perfect retirement car

 

Toyota HybridAny “perfect” car is an individual choice and can really start a debate among car people.

The Mileage

Of course, the mileage is the big selling point of a hybrid like the Prius.  After over three years of ownership I can honestly say that I average well over 50 MPG without even trying, and sometimes as high as about 58.  I will say that in the coldest part of the winter here in eastern Pennsylvania that figure drops to the mid 40s, probably because I use the heater a lot.

I know that there are other cars that are less technologically complex and that still get pretty good mileage.  And they cost less.  It’s again a personal choice and when I weigh all the factors a Prius makes sense.  You are entitled to think differently!

Good for the environment

Ok, I do care about the environment, maybe more than average, but I’m not a tree hugging crazy.  My other car is a pickup, but I don’t drive it much.  And yes, I’ve seen the stories that the energy it takes to produce a Prius is way more than it saves.  I figure I can mitigate that by keeping it a long time.

Reliability – lasts forever

Toyotas have a reputation for lasting a long time, and the Prius is no exception.  I see stories of Prius’ being used for taxis and still in use after 500,000 miles!. I don’t think mine will last that long but 200K is not out of the realm of possibility.  I’ll keep up the maintenance, treat it gently, and hope for the best.  I’ve had other cars with nowhere near the reputation of a Toyota last for well after their expected lifetimes.

Lots of room

This is one area that surprises a lot of people.  A Prius is small on the outside but quite roomy on the inside.  I am not a little guy, and I fit fine.  It is more like a midsize than a compact.

Hauls a lot

This is another area that is pleasantly surprising.  With or without the back seats folded down there is quite bit of room back there.  As I mentioned I have access to a pickup, but unless I’m hauling sheets of plywood the Prius will often suffice.

Performance

A Prius is not going to win many drag races, nor was it meant to.  However, I personally find the performance completely adequate.  Getting on freeways is not a problem, nor are Pennsylvania’s hills.  I don’t live in the Rocky’s so I can’t speak to real mountain driving.  I may give that a test with a cross country trip, so I’ll have to provide an update!

A transportation appliance

I’ve hear a Prius described as a transportation appliance.  It is probably meant for people that appreciate technology, but don’t want to think about it too much.  I’ve done my own maintenance on my cars for most of my life, but the Prius is an exception.  It is complex and there are some bright orange wires under the hood that can carry lethal high voltage.

I think the Prius is a good choice for your only car, or the car that you use the most.  The all electric cars coming out now are very interesting but I’m not sure I want to mess with plugging them in, and most are even more expensive than the Prius.

As I said in the beginning a car is a personal choice.  What are your thoughts?

 

 

The joy of a travel trailer

Travel trailer being towedJoy is always a relative term so what we are talking about here is my personal experience.  My wife and I have been looking at various RVs for years and finally took the plunge.  All kidding aside it has really been a good experience so far.  I am by far not an expert and we have yet to take a big trip but so far so good.

Why a travel trailer?

If you start reviewing the various RV sites and forums online you’ll see all kinds of advice on RVs.  An RV can mean anything from a tent camper to a million-dollar touring bus and everything in between.  Even among the category of travel trailers there is a great variety, from pop ups and teardrops that be towed by a Prius to giant mansions on wheels requiring a locomotive to tow.

For us a travel trailer made sense because we have a place to keep it for use in the summer months.  It costs much less than powered RVs, and even though we bought a pickup to tow it, that could be replaced when the truck got old without throwing out the trailer.  (And a pickup is so useful!)

Do you need a new vehicle?

Of course, the answer is “it depends.”  We looked at some of the teardrop trailers that can be towed behind anything, but decided a full size made more sense for us.  Even though we ended up buying a pickup that purchase will have all the advantages of owning a truck.  You do have to watch your weight ratings.  We almost took the plunge on a really big and heavy trailer but backed out when we figured out we would need a really big truck that probably got about 9 mpg.

About maintenance and costs

I did quite a bit of research on the Web regarding maintenance costs before making a purchase.  One thing I quickly learned is that things do go wrong.  Most travel trailers are built for occasional use and as a result the construction and components are sometimes less than ideal.

The first maintenance cost is where you keep the trailer.  Unless you are lucky enough to have enough space at your home to keep it you will need to rent a space.  This is especially true for northern climates where the trailer needs to be winterized during the colder months.  Inside storage is quite expensive.  Outside is less.  We were fortunate enough to have a piece of ground to keep the trailer and I dealt with winterization myself, a reasonable process if you do your research.

The Achilles heal of RVs is the roof, and they need to be resealed annually to minimize the chance of expensive leaks.  This winter I tried putting a big tarp over the roof to protect it from the ice and snow in Pennsylvania.  We’ll see how that works.

And other things do go wrong.  We had a water pump go bad after about a year, and others report things like refrigerators, water heaters and air conditioners giving occasional problems.  An extended warranty can help with these, just review carefully what the warranty covers.

Future plans

We haven’t taken any long trips with our trailer yet.  However we have thoroughly enjoyed having our little home away from home sitting on a beautiful piece of eastern Pennsylvania.  I’ll have to do an update after some trips…

How to keep a journal

Writing in a journalI am terrible at keeping a journal

Writing this article is good for me.  I’ve tried to keep a journal.  I have fancy notebooks.  I’ve downloaded software.  I have started with the best intentions, but always eventually give up.

Something always seems to get in the way.  If I try to write in the morning something will come up that appears urgent and off I go and the journal never gets updated.  At night I’m too exhausted to write, or at least I think I am.

And I feel even more guilty after reading some stories on the web.  I read that members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were prolific journal writers.  They returned with over a million words of notes and observations.  They accomplished this with incredible hardships and often while fearing for their lives.  So, what is my excuse?

You need a plan

The key to keeping a journal might be having a plan that is so compelling you can’t start or finish your day without writing in your journal.  It needs to be a part of your daily life.

Here’s one plan.  Most of us at least make a list of things we need to do.  So maybe if you are trying to write your journal in the morning you start with a “What I need to do” section in your journal.

Then you add a “What I accomplished today (or yesterday)” section to be completed.  Then that might lead to a “What I’m thinking about” section, or a “How I feel” section.  Maybe a “What good things happened” or a “What bad things happened.”

The idea is to build up a set of standard topics that you care about and help you plan and think about during the day.  Pretty soon the journal becomes kind of indispensable and you feel something is missing any day you don’t complete your journal.

Paper or Digital

People seem to be undecided on this, and there are advantages to both.  We all do so much on our computers that digital seems to be the way to go and your writing can be password protected to keep it private.

Paper journals have that “feeling” that you have accomplished something and it is special because it was written with your real hand.  It probably feels good to fill up a paper journal and start a new one.

So, I guess it all comes down to personal preference and the action of keeping a journal is more important that the method.

Famous Journal keepers

A quick Google search reveals many famous journal keepers.  Below are just 10 I picked out:

Anne Frank

Ronald Reagan

Charles Darwin

Thomas Edison

Marie Curie

Mark Twain

George S Patton

George Lucas

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

How to Start – Just Start

So how do you start keeping a journal?  Just start now.  Grab a notebook (you may even have a “special” notebook laying around from the last time you tried to start.  Or open a document on your computer and start writing.  Just name the document something you will remember and put it in a place you will remember, you can always organize things later.

Maybe use some of the ideas mentioned above or come up with your own plan. Keep it simple and let your journal evolve.

But just start…