Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Families come in all shapes and sizes – but they are still families!

At this time of year the weather is highly unpredictable. However, of late there have been some amazing sunsets that I was able to capture on film as I was standing on our main floor deck having fired up the grill for the first time. April is Colorado’s second snowiest month of the year – March is the snowiest – and we have been watching the thermometer climb and fall on a regular basis. It may very well be spring, but there are times where we just aren’t quite sure what to make of it. On the other hand, there is a growing sense that summer isn’t too far away. Around these parts there are a lot of farmers heading for the fields and there are tractors rumbling down lanes everywhere you turn. 

Grilling time is always a fun time and we have been entertaining a number of guests these past couple of weeks. Neighbors who spent the winter in Ohio have returned to Colorado while others who wintered in Arizona and Southern California are just now heading back – should see them shortly. Other friends elected to fly in from our old stomping ground, Simi Valley, and it was good to catch up with them – and share a steak or two. It looks likely that we will be welcoming even more neighbors by the look of it as no sooner than the home built to the immediate east of us has been completed the work commenced on a home to the immediate west of us. 

With the coming of spring, there is always a thought or two about rationalizing what occupies parking slots in out garage. And in case you may have missed it, in our fevered endeavor to downsize from five cars to four, we actually grew to six. We have had six cars once before, but we were scattered across three locations including Omaha, Nebraska, as well as Boulder, Colorado, and Simi Valley, California. What triggered the dramatic changes was our decision to return our beloved BMW i8, as its lease will come to an end in May. While out driving one day near Boulder, Margo caught a glimpse of an F Type Jaguar and after the appropriate ooohs and aaahs were expressed, we stopped by the local dealer. In a very short time we left with the gray F Type in the picture above and this was the subject of a previous post. 

On the other hand, while buying F Type Jag, we spotted and were intrigued by the Range Rover Evoque convertible taking center stage on the dealership floor. At the time, as much as we began to like the car, we did nothing. The F Type was taken to service over a weekend for a very minor item – syncing Margo’s iPhone to the Jaguar needed a software upgrade – and while it was being worked on Brian, our Jaguar salesman gave us another, not convertible, Evoque as a loaner that we proceeded to drive everywhere that weekend.

On returning to the dealership to pick up our new F Type, to our dismay the Evoque convertible was missing from the showroom floor. Totally disappointed to the point of being distraught, we walked to the coffee machine only for me to catch a glimpse of the Evoque returning from a test drive. Needless to say, we leapt into action and a matter of a couple of hours later we drove away in both the Jaguar and the Range Rover. These Evoque convertibles are being discontinued in 2020 and this bright orange example was one of the very last Evoques for sale.  Cool – so there you have it; we now have a two seat sports car with a roof and a four-seat SUV with a ragtop!

In many respects, Margo never quite got over the sale of her beloved Mini Cooper S Roadster ragtop. It remained a car she very much loved, I suspect. It was only a year ago that we traded the Mini for the BMW M4, but in time, Margo drew away from the M4 believing it was a little too big and worse, lacked the charm of her Mini. Welcome to the Evoque convertible – a ragtop Mini on steroids! And Margo just loves the darn car. It has a minimalistic power train based on a turbo inline four displacing just two liters but with the nine-speed auto, it seems to pull onto the freeways just fine! For us, the purchase of any vehicle is always an emotionally driven transaction and this time, it was more a Goldilocks situation where the vehicle was just right. And did I mention its bright orange?

It was only a matter of hours after returning from Germany and a couple of days after the really big winter storm hit Colorado that our good friends, Jan and Brian Kenny, arrived from Simi Valley to spend a long weekend with us in Windsor. We picked them up at the airport, still driving the Jeep SRT, brought them home and then celebrated with martinis and fine wine. With the arrival of Saturday, we made plans to drive up to Estes Park for breakfast and the cars of choice were the BMW i8 and the F-Type Jaguar. Mind you, this was just three days after that first “bomb cyclone” descended on northern Colorado so we were anticipating poor driving conditions.

Fortunately, with the lack of humidity and plenty of UV, the snow had melted and the roads were clear. The talk never moved too far from cars and Jan and Brian gave us a gentle poke as they reminded us that, with each trip to Colorado, they had had the opportunity to drive a different car. The Kenny’s are family to us indeed, whenever we receive a test message, the initial response is always, “was that from the family?” We have known the Kennys now for more than a decade and have traveled with them to Australia and Europe and I have covered the adventures that we had in previous posts to this blog. However, it remains one of those gifts of life that an accidental meeting on a Starbucks driveway could lead to such a lasting friendship. We are now looking forward to catching up with them again this summer and yes, RVs will be involved as will time spent alongside the Pacific Ocean.

One major fallout following our latest attempt with the rationalization of our cars is that we no longer have any vehicles with four doors and worse; only the RV can pull our trailer as the Evoque convertible isn’t capable of towing the trailer with a car on board. Particularly when it is our beloved Corvette! We will just have to see how that all pans out and, rubbing more salt into the wound, we cannot even flat tow the Evoque as it isn’t equipped with a transfer case where we can select neutral. Oh well …

Family: It isn’t fair to the rest of our families to suggest that we consider our cars as though they were our offspring. We each have a daughter that we truly love, but it’s true, cars are very much our family too. We are often found opening the door to the garage just to check that the cars are all right! Our kids, OK? The rock group The Who would be so proud of us – yes, the kids are alright, Pete Townsend! And yet, it’s a rationalization that is pretty shallow when you think about it and we have been seeing more of our human kids this month as our American daughter and grandchildren are celebrating their birthdays in April. Having spent three months in Australia we had the opportunity to spend some time with our Aussie daughter, Lisa, even as we welcomed to Sydney yet again, our American daughter Anna and her husband Erich. 

Cars are like family…  On the other hand, and perhaps not too unexpectedly, as soon as a vehicle becomes high maintenance then it is out of here, know what I mean?  So, not only will the i8 come off lease in May but just this past week, we sold the Jeep SRT seeing as it had recorded 125,000 trouble free miles over the course of five plus years. And the Evoque has taken up residence where once the Jeep had stood – and it’s so much smaller! Did I mention that, too?

It is also a sign of the times as the vehicle characteristics have changed too. When we had V10s and V8s all with manual transmissions parked in the garage, today it’s a mix of inline Four, an inline Six and a V6. No longer will you find 500 and 600 hp cars just wanting to be unleashed but rather, 300 and 400 hp cars. Gone too are the naturally aspirated vehicles losing out to a mixture of turbocharged and supercharged engines. Ignoring the soon to be departed i8 with it’s true hybrid powertrain, we now have AWD across half of the cars parked in the garage and ignoring too our track-focused Corvette Z06 parked offsite, it’s also a sign of the times that fuel tanks have become so much smaller even as the range has increased. We haven’t given up on performance mind you as all the cars go really well. It’s just that the garage now better reflects the changing times for choices in vehicles.  

Talk of families brings us back to the Kenny’s, whose grandson, Colton, set the record as the youngest ever Indy driver to win an Indy race – the Indycar Classic held at the Circuit of the Americas. As a rookie in only his third outing in an Indy car and on a circuit where he tested just a few weeks earlier (with much success), he took out his first win before he turned 19. Watching it all unfold on television was hard to do but as he crossed the finish line, there was much jumping up and down in the Holen-Buckle living room. The kid is alright, for sure. We have been following his career since we first saw him driving carts on the parking lot of the Rio hotel in Las Vegas and for the longest time, Colton’s only ambition was to become a professional Indy car driver. Having now watched him a couple of times, he is the real deal driving with a more mature attitude than you would normally expect from a teenager. 

Unfortunately, having worked his way up to second place in the championship just a short time ago, engine and fuel line trouble at Barber, Mississippi and then hitting the wall at Long Beach, California has seen him add little by way of padding to his points and he has dropped to tenth place overall with only a slim margin between him and second place in the Rookie Championship. But there’s a long way to go and next month it will be all about Indianapolis where he won all three events last year driving in the Indy Lights series. All we can do is wish him the very best, but all the same, who could have predicted him enjoying success this early in his career.

The Kenny family was in attendance for the event and kept us posted with updates all weekend. While we saw Colton go on track with the Indy cars for the first time when we visited Sonoma late last year, it’s clear that the union between the Herta family and that of George Steinbrenner IV and the subsequent creation of the Harding Steinbrenner Racing team has created a stable platform from which Colton will learn a lot and already, the relationship between driver and mechanics is already the talk of the paddock. There certainly was a lot of upside from Colton spending two years during his early teens racing in Europe. As a footnote, the Herta family’s tradition of heading for tacos whenever Colton had a win has led to a local taco vendor sponsoring his race this weekend – King Taco! 

The highlight of practice at Long Beach, in the lead up to the latest Indy race, however had to be a tweet from his dad! When Colton topped the practice charts Sunday morning he did so at the expense of his father’s, Bryan Herta’s, driver Marco Andretti. It is hard to imagine what the senior Herta is going through as he focuses on his own team and driver even as he faces real competition from his son racing for another team. Family dynamics are something the Holen-Buckle family is only all too familiar with, but the ups and downs we experience on a regular basis pale into insignificance when it’s all business. I am not sure whether we could handle that development all too well, but fortunately, with our daughters at this stage in their lives, it’s not a topic we need dwell on for too long.

Spring isn’t too far away and that will bring with it more road trips. We are already scheduling an RV outing that will take us to a major industry event in Las Vegas before we head further west to California. We are also anxious for a trip of exploration back up into Canada that will include spending time back in Banff and Lake Louise – the last time we took that trip, we drove the then-new 2004 Corvette convertible. So long ago, but if we were to ever point to an occasion where we first began to think about having multiple cars in the garage, it was standing at a payphone outside Banff where it all began. A chance call from our architect asking whether we would like to buy his Porsche 911 before he turned it back in to the dealer as the lease expired.

We didn’t proceed with the purchase, but what happened next is now history. All those years ago we had the red Corvette we still own to this day as well as a BMW 740 and a Yukon Denali SUV. It was the fall of 2003 and now, fifteen plus years later, we own no more sedans just sports cars and grand tourers (and track cars) together with a sort of SUV. No matter the style or the engine size, these vehicles are still very much appreciated as if they were our children and while we aren’t accumulating trophies or enjoying the accolades of cheering crowds, the opportunity to simply jump in a car and drive remains our primary form of entertainment. And with our grownup kids all doing fine, I guess it’s safe to say that it’s not just what trip we will do next, but what will be the next addition to our family … and with that, one last look at what's inside the garage today!