Category Archives: Car

Road Trips with Cats

Before embarking on a long road trop between Northern and Southern California with my two cats, I did a lot of research. You can find a lot of advice over the internet so I don’t want to write down every possible bit of information. I’ll just write about what I’ve learned and what I do.

I don’t know for sure if it’s possible to “train” a cat to handle long car rides. It was one of the factors I took into consideration when I decided to adopt a cat. I knew I would make frequent trips visiting my family in Southern California so I needed a cat that could handle it. I figured I should get a kitten so I could take it on long trips when it was young. I ended up getting two kittens. :)

Since my cats are indoor only cats, I don’t have both of them wearing collars all the time. However, before I take them outside for any reason, for a car ride or even just a walk, I put on their collars with identifying information. I’ve written a blog post about Boomerang Collar Tags.

I think just about anyone who has ever transported a cat has a cat carrier. I have one each for my cats. They’re fine for taking them to the vet, but too confining for long road trips. So I got a kennel that would fit in the back seat of my car. Actually, when I first bought it, I intended to put it in the front seat next to me. But it turned out to block my view so for safety sake, I put it in the back seat behind the front passenger seat. That way, I could look to the right to see how my cats are doing. Fortunately the kennel is collapsible since I have a coupe.

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Freaky parking experience

I went to In-N-Out for my almost weekly burger and fries. As I pulled into the parking spot, I found a bunch of empty spots near the front. Sweet! I proceeded to maneuver my car so I could park backing in. As I pressed on the brakes to stop the car from reversing as I eased into the spot, I saw that there were people in the SUV parked in the spot on the passenger side of my car.

All of a sudden, I felt my car lurch backward and accelerate in reverse. My foot was already on the brake pedal so I didn’t want to move it off lest it made things worse. My car had gone out of control! I braced myself for the crash but it didn’t come. And the car finally stopped moving. Then I saw the SUV that was parked next to me leave its parking spot.

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Kudos to CA DMV

Last Friday as I walked to my car after work, I noticed that the year sticker was missing from my license plate. :( It either fell off (unlikely) or it got stolen. I’ve heard of people stealing tags but geesh! I doubt that it occurred at work but I couldn’t exactly remember the last time I saw the tag intact. The most likely place would be in San Francisco when I parked on the street.

My dad had told me to use a knife or something to slit the tag in places so if someone were to try to remove the sticker, it would be in pieces. I am unsure if I did it for the tag but I’ll be sure to do it from now on.

Fortunately, my license registration was up for renewal and the DMV had already sent the renewal form asking for payment 2 months in advance. I am usually a procrastinator and wait to the last moment… and have had to rely on the one month grace period for expired tags… This time, I wasted no time. When I got home, I checked the DMV website to see if there were any Saturday openings. Some offices are open on Saturday but only once a month. Unfortunately, the DMV wasn’t open that Saturday.

So I did my registraton renewal online. I saw at one point something about “5 days”. I thought, “yeah right, maybe they’ll look at it in 5 days.” For the following days, I had to drive in fear that I would get pulled over by police for not having the tag.

One week later–5 business days –I got my new registration and tag. Maybe it was in my mailbox earlier but I don’t check my mail everyday.

Yay for the California DMV for quickly processing and sending out the registration stuff! Just in time for the 4 day weekend. :)

Update: When I put on the new sticker, I saw a corner of the previous sticker under my license plate frame. By “under”, I meant that the frame hovered over the sticker; it didn’t keep it in place. If the sticker had fallen off, there would have been no way that everything but the corner fell off. Someone had definitely intentionally taken my tag. :( What a world we live in.

On the bright side, it’s much better that they stole the tag instead of the car itself.

Gas saving techniques

Since filling up my Honda Accord coupe costs $50+, I have had to modify my driving habits and they seem to help. With my previous tank of gas, I was getting 19/20 mpg, according to my GPS system’s trip information thingamabob. First, I tried to resist the urge to be Racer Chick, where I would try to get my car ready before the green light and take off–I love the feel of acceleration. I got that tip from an Edmunds article We Test the Tips. I didn’t see much improvement in mpg but I figured that it was due to my starting past the halfway point, so that more of the mileage was based on the “aggressive” driving and thus lowering the average. I was still using my sunroof to and from work, an 8 mile drive.

One day, the weather wasn’t conducive to having the sunroof opening. By the return trip, I noticed an increase in mpg, maybe around 21mpg, where it had been stuck at 19 and 20. The improvement must have been significant for a couple of trips with closed sunroof to make a dent on mpg. That made me very sad. I love driving with my sunroof open. The weather is so gorgeous this time of year in the SF Bay Area. With such high gas prices, I couldn’t justify that bit of indulgence.

The next day, I went to San Francisco, about 40 miles one way. My average mpg went up to about 24mpg. Highway driving (without the stop-and-go traffic) definitely helps. Since I don’t live that far from work, I take mostly local. In the morning I avoid the freeway and take the Expressway, which has stop lights. In the evening, I take freeway for about 3 or 4 miles. When I drive between Sunnyvale and Los Angeles, I can get about 27 mpg. My car is rated for 30mpg Highway.
With my current tank of gas, I was able to see if it would make a difference if I did the above from the beginning of the tank. Driving with gentler acceleration and sunroof closed, my car now averages 22+ mpg. With 16-gallon fillups, that’s a savings of about 32-48 miles per tank. That’s about 2 gallons of gas, which last cost me 3.21/gallon. So I’m saving about $6 per tank by changing my driving habits.

I still miss my open sunroof. :(

in-car GPS Navigation

My love affair/dependency with GPS navigation started way back when I used a bluetooth system that sent GPS data to my iPaq, which I connected to my car’s audio system so I can hear the directions.

Then I bought a new car that included GPS Navi. I had to pay for more than just the system because only Honda Accord models that had leather seats and sunroof would have it as an option. It also included XM Satellite radio. Although I initially didn’t want either, I have grown to love leather seating and XM, and want them in future cars. So things worked out in the end and I don’t regret the couple thousand extra I paid. I am listening to XM radio from my entertainment system as I write this entry, by the way.

There are the obvious uses for GPS navigation, like getting directions when going to a totally new place. However, I make it a habit to activate the system almost everywhere I go, including when I go to work and home. Although I know my path to work, I like to have the system ready if I encounter a detour and want to quickly reroute. The system is also great at showing me different routes that I either wouldn’t have known about or wouldn’t bother trying because it would be too much info and I’d end up getting lost. Since I have the system always ready, I can vary my route based on if the light at certain intersections are green or not, so I can turn right instead of wait for the green light to go straight, for example. Continue reading