Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not The Tar Balls

The Coast Guard has examined the tar balls and they aren't from the spill. Hooray. For now. I feel a lot better.

Tar Balls Are Here

The US Coastguard is reporting Park Service workers have found 20 tar balls , presumably at Fort Zachary, between 3 and 8 inches in length. The discovery was reported by Yahoo News and as incredible as it seems, we appear to have the first globs of oil from the Gulf spill in the Keys already. They had been talking of another ten days before the stuff was supposed to arrive. Nothing we have been told about this spill appears to have been truthful.

Ford Fusion

I managed somehow, in an off the cuff comment, to set the automotive geeks to twittering when I suggested my new-to-me 2007 Ford Fusion SEL managed to roll down the Florida turnpike at 75mph at 2,000 rpm. Apparently the 160 hp, 6 speed four cylinder engine (EPA rating 31 mpg on highway) was going beyond it's brief and though repeating this feat on the rather slower posted roads of the Florida Keys is a bit tricky without running the risk of getting a speeding certificate I did manage to a) get up to 65mph and b) photograph this feat while c) not wrecking.

I think it is fair to extrapolate that when loaded with two humans, a Labrador and their impedimenta the 2007 Ford Fusion blah blah blah will hold 75mph at about two thousand five hundred rpm. Enough of geek talk before I lose my mind.

It happened that I overheard my wife talking on the phone one day explaining patiently to a friend that no, we had replaced out Nissan rocket ship with not another Japanese car but one from the house of Ford. She spent some considerable time explaining why Nissan's Altima failed to meet our needs: too big not economical. The Toyota Camry, ditto and not apparently reliable. Honda's Accord got terrible specialized automotive reviews and the Civic is a little too small. The Mazda 6 uses the Fusion engine but we found the interior not to our (her) taste. The Fusion it was, and it was an easy choice. Here's why. I made a point of inquiring why she sounded so defensive about buying a Ford. She shrugged, "I guess it's a generational thing. We always buy Japanese." Not anymore, we share a Chrysler Sebring and the Fusion aforementioned. The convertible is a rather crude car by comparison, it creaks as the bodywork struggles to keep the four seater following one line down the road, the gearbox is clunky and the automatic transmission lurches like an uncoordinated horse at the gallop. The seats are adequate and the interior even with the electric roof up is noisy. But the car is divine with the roof down and the sun or the moon up and the wind in my wife's hair. She loves puttering around the Keys in it. That it has heated seats makes converting her car easy even in cold winters and she remains astonished by the number of people who pay extra to buy or rent convertibles and then leave the roofs permanently closed. That the Fusion has a sunroof delighted her, a reminder of her Mazda she owned when we got married and which was replaced soon enough by a convertible even when we lived in chilly California.The Ford Fusion has been around apparently, in it's current incarnation since 2006 and no reviewer that I read has anything bad to say about the car. My mechanic Donnie on Big Pine says his mother drives one and he was encouraging about the car. Ours, with 33,000 miles on the clock is solid, creak free, and very comfortable. The cloth seats are like half-bucket seats which wrap around you and give proper support all the way up your spine. They are very different from the Maxima but they work exceedingly well and after three hours driving I could have turned around and gone back to Miami without a twinge. This little note on the fuel cap gives me an ironic twinge every time I fill the tank. At least they are now claiming they have started to sort out the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher...I was bummed I was moving "down" to a four cylinder from the Maxima's smooth 265hp V-6 but the 160hp 2.3 liter four cylinder does a nice job of moving the car along. The Fusion was "upgraded" for 2010 with a few new touches and a little more horsepower from a new 2.5 liter engine to induce people to buy brand new cars, but for my money my lightly used Fusion will do fine for my kind of driving. It has a slightly raucous exhaust note when pushed but the car picks up and goes when I need to accelerate to pass on Highway One. The trunk is enormous and has no inside struts to complicate loading it. One reason we needed a slightly larger car is the fact that this car will be our family's going to mainland vehicle. If we want to jump in and see my sister-in-law in Asheville this will be the car. To visit my wife's rheumatologist in Miami means a trip to various stores, Costco, outlets, Macy's etc... and a capacious trunk is a requirement. The instruments look a bit funny to my eyes with the silver accents but at night they are well illuminated and easy to read. The info computer works easily and trip/time/mileage displays are easy to access. The instruments sit exactly where they are easily seen by the driver.Because the Fusion is a little smaller in all physical dimensions than the Maxima Cheyenne gets a little less room in the back but this remains a four person car, if not five as sometimes claimed by the manufacturer. I am not used to the modern interior appointments of the Fusion which has two 12 volt outlet plugs and numerous nooks and crannies to put stuff, like this odd but functional second glove box on the normally wasted space on the dash. Notice the rather nice analogue clock below the air vents.Open...and closed. These days cars no longer come with cassette players but the Fusion, even this 2007 model takes MP3 discs and has an "input" line for outside devices, the like of which I will probably never use. The air conditioning controls are a little confusing for me but I stick on automatic and crank the fan and I get the car cold by brute force. The fact this car comes with a sunroof is a bonus as my wife really likes the convertible option. The other funny option that comes with the SEL designation is wide wheels which I guess are good for cornering in places where there are corners, but in Florida on our crumbling roads the Fusion rides smoothly and tracks straight across the bumps and holes. It really is quite a pleasure to drive. I am slowly learning to figure out the excessively subtle and complex air conditioning controls. Even the manual (yes, yes, I read the manual dammit!) is rather vague on how to make the thing work in something other than full blast or all off mode.
With two 12 volt outlet plugs up front my wife need never worry her iPhone will run it's battery flat as she talks her way to Miami. My cell phone, in keeping with my anti-technology impatience is in black and white and fulfills the function of a phone, not a command center. It also fits in small spaces as seen below.Our plan is to pack the car with camping gear this summer and take a couple of road trips, one shorter trip to take Cheyenne to meet my sister-in-law's family in the mountains of North Carolina, and the second longer trip to show Cheyenne the beauty of the California Coast in a cross country trip. There's lots to organize to get that done but at least now we have the car suitable for the journey. Complete with extra cup holders, standard, in the doors. I am hoping this delightful car will live up to billing and be more economical than the Nissan Altima and more reliable than the Toyota Camry and so far it has proved to be quieter and more comfortable than the Honda Accord. Quite the deal.