Sunday, March 29, 2009

Go Go Go (to the other Auto Show)

Place: White Castle
Lunch: 6 White Castles (turned into three doubles by discarding the bottom buns and pairing two together), regular Fish Nibblers (with tartar sauce), six piece chicken rings (with ranch), ice water

At exactly 4:00 this morning, I awoke startled due to a heavy pressure feeling in my chest. A feeling that had sort of a rumble.

Then I realized it was Chester. He was sitting on me, purring, staring at my with his big cat eyes.

I shut my eyes again.

No good. I'm not going back to sleep.

So I get up. Chester jumps off and runs to the top of the stairs, where Maggie is also awake, looking excited. They both run down the stairs, expecting me to follow. But I don't. I walk into the bathroom.

They gradually come back up, looking confused.

This is not abnormal. We go through this same routine every morning. Just not usually this early.

When I finally do go downstairs, they're running ahead excitedly. Maggie jumps on the kitchen island and Chester runs for the fridge. Both are meowing. They want treats.

I pull out the Greenies. Maggie loves the Greenies. Chester, not so much. He's holding out for deli ham. He isn't getting any, so he regretfully accepts a Greenie.

I'm wondering what to do with what promises to be a super boring day. Then I remember that it's the last day of the auto show. But I've already been to an auto show this year. So? I haven't been to THIS one.

So at 0-dark-30, with a minimal amount of sleep, I decide to drive to Minnesota. The cats are looking at me like "You can't leave! We have your whole day planned!"

Sorry, kitties. Checking out cars is fun. And there's only once...okay twice...a year to do this in one place.

9:30am: I'm hanging out in the Greater Minneapolis Convention Center, waiting for the ticket booth to open (at 10). It was a beautiful morning for a drive.

The Greater Minneapolis Auto Show claims to be the nation's 7th largest. It is a bigger show with more cars and more fun concepts. Maybe I'll get to see the stuff that was conspicuously absent in OKC.

I am not disappointed.

Audi - Audi was not present in OKC. They're here in a big way, though, including their new Q5 CUV. Essentially a Tiguan with a V6 and a really nice interior. It actually feels SMALLER than my Rogue. It feels TOO small, frankly.

Lexus - Lexus was also absent in OKC. The much ballyhooed 2010 RX is here. I'm not familiar enough with the old one to know why it's better. It has all those token luxury touches, I guess. What's the deal with sloped center consoles? Why do people like these?

VW - Remember the Heaven Blue Metallic New Beetle? Well they have a Heaven Blue Metallic New Beetle Convertible on display. Quite lovely.

Porsche - The Cayenne instrument lighting is YELLOW? Like the Saturn Vue? Well...a little more mustardy than the Vue. Brownish mustardy. Like Grey Poupon. "Pardon me, but do you have Grey Poupon instrument lighting?" "But of course!"

Revenge of the Muscle Car - Dodge had no less than FOUR Challengers out. Two red, one white, one orange. Make mine lime green, please. I would totally consider getting one in lime green. Chevy had three new Cameros out. They were not getting near the attention of the one in OKC. Somebody commented to me that they didn't like the black wheels, which I originally thought were dummies (not for the production model), but I might be wrong there. Have you ever noticed that Minnesotans will strike up a conversation with anybody? Ford had the redesigned Mustang on a turntable. Look close and you MIGHT see the differences.

Mazda - As I was walking through the display, a Mazda guy asked "Have any questions?" I refrained from saying "Yes. When is Mazda going to come out with something new and interesting?"

Subaru - Speaking of uninteresting...

Pontiac - Pontiac's slogan should be "Why do we bother". Solstice aside, this is one tired, boring product lineup. There's no point in GM continuing this division. Considering they've been consolidating the GMC, Pontiac, and Buick divisions into single dealerships over the past couple of years, I'm thinking this has been the plan all along.

Nissan - Nissan had a Cube here, but it was roped off. The OKC show had one you could get into. This was one of only two advantages the OKC show had to this one (the other being free parking. Oh...and state fair corn dogs. Fine...three.)

Ford - You know how they have F-150 special editions, like the Eddie Bauer special edition? Well now they have an F-350 Cabela's special edition. It's Cabela's green. It's freaking huge. They also had something called the F-150 Raptor. It looked like a seriously obnoxious aftermarket job.

Chrysler - Chrysler brought a concept vehicle called the Eco Voyager. Remember the Plymouth Voyager (aka the Plymouth-badged Chrysler minivan)? This looked nothing like a minivan. It looked like a big Prius with a Cadillac front end.

Lincoln-Mercury - They had a REALLY nicely appointed Mariner with a deep purple paint job and a two-tone leather interior. Probably the most beautiful Ford Escape I've ever seen.

Chevrolet - Chevy DID display the new 2010 Equinox here (albeit roped off with no inside access allowed). It's hideous. Absolutely hideous. The outgoing model had kind of a cool looking front end. The thing actually looked mean. This looks like a tall Malibu. And the back side looks like the previous generation Saturn Vue. I hope they at least fixed the steering.

Cadillac - It appears Cadillac is getting their own version of GM's Theta-platformed CUV. The SRX looks far better than the 'Nox and has neat accent lighting that may or may not act as the DRL's. It was on a turntable, so it was hard to see what the interior looked like. It probably has lots of fake looking wood paneling with easily broken plastic compartment tabs. Speaking of which, I tried breaking the tab in the Escalade the way I did in OKC...and I succeeded! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

GMC - I'm sitting in the Acadia, marveling about how something this big can have the same design flaw my little Rogue does that restricts my left knee space, when a GMC dealer rep comes up and asks "So how do you like it?"

Me: "What color do the instruments light up in?"

Dealer Guy: ""

Me: "I should just go to a dealer and ask?"

Dealer Guy, agitated: "No! I'm a dealer! I'm just having a brain...moment..."

He asks another guy, who says "I"

Huh. I would have guessed blue. Most GMC's use blue lighting.

GMC is also getting their own version of the GM Theta CUV, which was once labeled a "transfer" of the Pontiac Torrent to the GMC line (as the 2010 Terrain) but it's not here. The Terrain is officially being debuted April 5, apparently, so showing it here would be HORRIBLE and TRAGIC. I guess.

And with that, my feet are tired.

Oh...You know what the coolest feature is in new cars today? Mood lighting. It's essentially one or two LED diodes (I'm assuming) in the overhead center console pointed down at the cup holder area, giving a slight illumination to them. My Rogue has a single orange light that does this task. It is ridiculously awesome. I don't think I'd own a car without this feature again.

Seriously. Check it out when looking at new cars (in the dark). You'll be hooked.

Friday, March 27, 2009

MIA Spring

Place: LJSA&W
Lunch: Two fish, two chicken, cheese curds, A&W draft root beer in a frosty mug (just the way God intended)

No, it's not a law's a Long John Silvers/A&W combo store. It's the best LJS in town because you can substitute cheese curds for fries in your combo (and for some reason, A&W has really awesome cheese curds), and the fish and chicken are better here than any other LJS I've been to. Maybe they use a different cooking oil, I don't know. It's always hot and tastes just out of the fryer too, not like it's been sitting in a warming drawer.

Spring is here, but I don't feel it in the air. It's 27 degrees today and it's supposed to snow. It was in the upper 50's last weekend. I even found some 60's and had the sunroof open.

I wish my Venture Bros Season 3 discs came in the mail today. I could've stayed in all weekend and had a marathon.

Maybe they'll come tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Soda Synergies

Place: Jason's Deli
Lunch: Pastrami melt, Texas chili, chips, pickle, mini garlic toasts, mini muffin, ice cream cone, Dr Pepper

Sounds like a lot on paper, doesn't it. But you get half a sandwich with a cup of soup for one price, then they put chips and a pickle slice on the plate, and you have access to the garlic toast and muffins while you wait. And there's free soft serve at the end. It's all very diabolical.

Jason's Deli was one of the early chains to eliminate trans fats from their foods. They make a big deal out of making food...more wholesome, I guess. They have a lot of signs up about things being organic now. Most recently, they've been working to eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from their menu. Food-wise, they've apparently accomplished that. Coca-Cola aint budging, but Jason's is now apparently buying all their Dr Pepper syrup from Dublin Dr Pepper...the oldest operating Dr Pepper plant in the world. Based in Dublin, Texas, Dublin Dr Pepper never switched to HFCS. They're still using Imperial Sugar.

HFCS exists because it's really cheap to use compared to real sugar. It's been replacing sugar in a significant amount of sugary substances since the 1970's in the US. In recent years, Mexican soda bottlers, who were still using sugar, started making the switch. The Mexican government, concerned about their sugar crops, put a big tax on HFCS drinks. Problem solved.

The HFCS debate has been hot in recent years, with the anti-HFCS crowd looking to get rid of the stuff. Claims have HFCS increasing the aging process and raising bad cholesterol, among other things. The corn industry has responded with an "anti-scare" television campaign claiming HFCS is no big deal "in moderation". So what's moderation? An 8 oz soda instead of the 44 oz one you get at the convenience store every morning? Can I have one a day? 13 a day? Nobody seems to know for sure.

What I drink ultimately comes down to taste. What tastes best?

I was introduced to Dublin Dr Pepper a few years ago in Texas. It took a single can of the stuff to hook me. It tasted smoother, less sugary, and it didn't leave my teeth feeling like they were covered in film. And one 12 oz can satisfied me. So every six months or so, I make a run to the Walmart in Stephenville, TX, and bring back about a six month supply of 12 oz cans. Recently, I bought a can of HFCS Dr Pepper out of the office vending machine. I couldn't finish it. It tasted horrible. I'm far too used to Dublin Dr Pepper. But that's a unique example.

The thing about soda is that the taste profile changes not only based on the sweetener used. The source container plays a role too.

Plastic bottles: I can't drink pop out of plastic bottles. It's horrible. It's almost always flatter than cans. But I CAN drink Pepsi from a 2 liter bottle that has been poured into a glass. Something changes there.

Aluminum cans: Pepsi is fine. Dublin Dr Pepper is great. But have you seen these aluminum bottles that some Pepsi plants use now? (I guess this started with beer.) Don't like it.

Glass bottles: The holy grail of pre-packaged soda containers. I could get US-produced Pepsi in glass bottles until just maybe ten years ago locally. You'd think the hippies would be campaigning to outlaw the plastic bottles the way they are with bottled water, wouldn't you. Especially since everything was in place to reuse glass bottles recently. There's lots of gourmet sodas on the market in glass bottles, but I don't really like any of the ones widely available. Dublin Dr Pepper is available in them, but...go figure...I prefer the cans.

You can still get glass bottles with real sugar Coke or Pepsi in them at better Mexican grocers. You know what? I'm not so fond of real sugar Pepsi. I think I actually prefer the HFCS version.

Fountain tap: Soda from fountains tastes nothing like the pre-packaged stuff. Never. There are SO many variables, including the quality of the source water and the quality of the filtering on the dispenser. Plus the mix of carbonated water vs syrup is never identical. I remember a late night soda run at a Road Ranger where the Pepsi tap was freely dripping pure syrup. That was one rich Pepsi I got that night.

I can drink Coke from a fountain, but I can't stand the stuff in any pre-packaged format...even a real sugar version from Mexico.

The tap Dublin Dr Pepper is radically different than the regular version. Much more mellow. I didn't like it the first time, but I did after that. Yet I can still drink HFCS tap Dr Pepper too.

So what did we learn today? Probably that I drink too much pop. HA HA HA HA!

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Nation's Statio...never mind

Place: Quizno's
Lunch: Mesquite chicken with bacon (extra pickles), Lays potato chips, Pepsi

Quizno's is using my local market as a test for new sandwich sizes...Half, and Whole.

They used to have Small, Regular, and Large. Basically, they've dropped the Regular and renamed the others.

Regular, of course, was my size. Yet another move in the diabolical plot the world has to take everything away I like.

Another example of this is WLW Cincinnati (slogan: "The Nation's Station"). No, this heritage AM station is still on the air, but as of my birthday, it was dropped from XM Radio.

It was weird that it was on XM at all, I suppose. No other local stations were. But WLW owner Clear Channel, who manages programming on a certain number of XM's channels, decided a more generic national format would better suit the overall listening audience. So far, said format is nothing more than a simulcast of another XM station.

WLW was one of two channels on XM I listen to with any regularity (the other being NHL Home Ice, which I'm sure they're going to chop next now that they know this.) WLW was a fascinatingly depressing station to listen to, especially during football and baseball season. Cincinnati is a city that really has nothing left but to make fun of itself, and WLW is the center of such antics.

Hopefully, they'll at least continue broadcasting Bill Cunningham and Mike McConnell's shows on one of these generic stations. But it's obvious (to me) that Clear Channel's mission has been to destroy anything that makes sense in radio for years, so who knows.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Place: Whataburger (there's one near YOU)
Lunch: the Peppercorn Ranch Whatachick'n sandwich (no tomato), onion rings, Dr Pepper

Among the ingredients on this sandwich are: Bacon, ranch sauce, pepperjack cheese, and a deep fried crispy chicken patty...and it's served on a wheat bun.

Between the standard lettuce and tomato, is the wheat bun supposed to somehow tip us toward the perception that this deep fried chicken and bacon sandwich is somehow healthy?

I just found that odd...

I was bored last night and decided to make an evening snack run at the Freddy's Frozen Custard (home of the original FREDDY steakburger) across the main drag and up the frontage road.

I walked out of the motel and noticed the condition of the motel's parking lot...all the good spots were taken. If I left, I'd definitely be sacrificing my choice parking space. So I decided to walk. It's a beautiful warm breezy evening, after all.

The walk involved a circle drive up to the main drag, a traffic light crosswalk to the Walmart parking lot, through the Walmart parking lot, up the rear drive behind the Walmart, and a walk down the frontage road. Amazingly, almost none of this walk has any sidewalks. You'd think a road called "Riverwalk Drive" would have sidewalks, wouldn't you? And the crosswalk light doesn't work. Nice.

None of this is a big deal, and the walk is made in 15 minutes time. What IS a big deal is all the crap in the grass along the walk.

Why do people just throw their trash anywhere?


There's cigarette butts. Cup lids. Straws. Candy wrappers. Bottles.

You probably don't notice all this when you drive by, but try walking sometime.

This is one of the most obvious examples of how selfish people are...that they can't even be bothered to toss stuff in a trash can. The Walmart had them in abundance in front of their store. Most businesses do. They're not that hard to find. I used one on my way back to discard my empty pop cup.

What is wrong with people?

Honestly...If people can't be bothered to even make this one little gesture, there's little hope for humanity.

It was a good thing I walked. When I got back to the motel, the entire lot was full, and a car was circling hoping somebody would leave.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Go Go Go (to the Auto Show)

Place: Taco Cabana
Lunch: 3 tacos (no tomato), tortilla soup, water with lime

My birthday weekend usually means a trip to the Twin Cities International Auto Show...but for some reason they've scheduled a couple of weeks later in the year than usual.

So I decided to go south instead.

As fate would have it, the Oklahoma City International Auto Show is happening this weekend. Weird coincidence, huh. I wish I knew about this yesterday...I would have gone Friday afternoon and avoided the big crowds.

Oh well.

OKC holds theirs on the state fairgrounds in three buildings. You buy your ticket and they stamp your hand so you can cross the three buildings at will. Parking is abundant and free, unlike Minneapolis.

The first building I entered was 2/3 GM product, the highlight of which was a red Camaro that was fully accessible. You could sit in it and everything. People were crowded around it. I found this sort of ironic because I remember the Twin Cities Auto Show back when the New Beetle first came out, and the last "new" Camaro was being launched. The Camaro was on a pedestal with a model who was standing there doing her sales pitch to an audience of ZERO because everybody was crowded around a nearby New Beetle. I may even have a picture of that.

Anyway, it's slick. It sits low and has a very retro feel to the instrument panel.

I also sat in an Escalade and immediately broke it. It has these cheap plastic tabs you push to open storage compartments. Well I put my finger on the top of it and attemtped to slide it back, and it popped right off.


(It also snapped right back on, but the cheapness of it was immediately apparent. HOW much do they charge for these things?!?)

The disappointment in the GM stand was the absence of the forthcoming new Equinox and its GMC sister. They didn't even bother showing the old Equinox either. Isn't this what everybody wants? Smaller SUV's? If GM can't even comprehend something that simple, it's no wonder the viability of the company as a whole is questioned.

Mazda, Hyundai, and Toyota were also in here and had nothing notable. There wasn't a whole lot of new anything from anybody, really. I did sit in a Prius and kind of chuckled at its cute little dash-mounted shifter.

There was a race car in a Texas Motor Speedway display. It was the Interstate Batteries car. I know nothing about racing, so I don't know who drives that one. They also had an authentic Eleanor. That drew a lot of attention.

The second building had the majority of manufacturers who bothered to appear (Audi was noticeably absent, among others.) The first one inside the door was Nissan. Nissan has pulled out of a lot of auto shows, which made their massive appearance here kind of strange. They had a LOT of cars here.

I sat in the Rogue. The only difference between it and mine was that it was clean.

Nissan has a coupe version of their Altima available now. This just might be the car that satisfies the Monte Carlo faithful. Except that the GM faithful would NEVER not buy a GM. There's going to be one giant mass suicide of rednecks when the government finally stops bailing out GM and lets them go out of business.

The new Z was here in a bright yellow. I loved the dash layout. If you want to feel low and fast, this might be the car. Some Guy walking past as I was sitting in it muttered that he wished they'd opened the hood. So I popped the hood. He jumped, looked at me and said "Well we'll just open it ourselves!" He and his buddy commented that it looked "really crowded in there" (big motor, little space).

The new Nissan Cube was here too. It's Nissan's attempt to capture the market Scion lost when they screwed up the next generation XB. It's...odd.

Next over was the Kia display. They had their own little weird take on the Scion XB, then some passenger car. Then I jumped into what I thought was the Sportage and was noticeably impressed with its upgraded interior. I was comparing it to Volkswagen's interiors...until I realized it WAS a Volkswagen. Kia had just TWO CARS here! Actually, one might have been a Mitsubishi. Anyway, I was in a Tiguan.

You might recall that it was the Tiguan I fell in love with last year and was considering along side the Rogue. I did eventually test drive it, but felt the Rogue better suited me (and the Rogue was WAY cheaper). After sitting in this Tiguan, I stand by that decision.

Behind the Tig was a New Beetle in a new color, and it was love at first sight. The color was called something like "Heaven Blue Metallic". It's a silvery blue similar to a color I used to see on old Beetles in Oregon years ago (a limited edition with blacked out trim instead of chrome), and it was my favorite color then. They also made a Rabbit with a similar color (then called "Frost Blue Metallic") in the early eighties.

I sat in the thing for like ten minutes. It had an all black leatherette interior. It was just awesome. It was like somebody was saying "We've built the dream car of your childhood. It's yours for the taking."

I almost called my VW salesman in Burnsville to tell him to "get me one NOW". Almost.

But I'd have to clear out the junk that inhabits the 2nd space in my garage, because I need the little SUV too. Or maybe I could compliment the Beetle with big ol' late model Touareg. Then I started thinking about how easy it is to change the oil and filters in the Nissan than in the cramped engine compartment in the Beetle. And how VW's require expensive proprietary fluids (even the stupid coolant).
But if practicality triumphed over passion every time, the world would be a very boring place.

Then I dropped into a Rabbit coupe. It had a manual transmission. My clutch foot immediately woke from a year long slumber and popped on the clutch pedal. I SWEAR it was a reflex. And I shifted. I had to. I went through the entire shift pattern. It felt so good. It felt so right.

I miss you, clutch foot.

I walked through the rest of the building, but nothing stood out. Not even the orange Challenger. Then I moved to the third building, which was all Ford Lincoln-Mercury, the only American car maker who was good enough to say "We're fine, thanks" to the government in leiu of free money. In between these two buildings were a couple of fair food trailers that were open and selling fair food. Yes, you could get a big ol' genuine state fair corn dog at the auto show. How awesome is that.

The Ford Flex is pretty cool. A woman whose husband was wearing a shirt that said "I DO EVERYTHING THE VOICES IN MY WIFE'S HEAD TELL ME TO DO" advised me to check out the "white deluxe one". Indeed, it was quite fancy. These things look odd when you see them go by, but try one out anyway. They're pretty neat.

The Ford Explorer now has a shift knob that looks like a golf club shaft. Looks cool...feels kind of cheap.

The next Ford Taurus was on a turntable and got a lot of oohs and ahhs. It may have been the second most popular new car at the show, behind the Camaro.

I don't think I'll ever understand why people like the Ford Edge.

And so it goes. If you know anybody selling a home with a 12-car garage in my price range, I can probably make all my car dreams come true.

Until then, my clutch foot will probably be dreaming of Heaven Blue Metallic Beetles with manual transmissions.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Don't Watch Watchmen

Place: JR's Family Bar-B-Q
Lunch Slobber Knocker combo (chicken, ribs, sausage, with mac and cheese, baked beans, and a jalapeno corn muffin,) Coke

World Wrestling Entertainment announcer Jim Ross turned an old Krispy Kreme building in Norman, OK into a barbecue restaurant. They must be doing well, because they now have an outlet in Moore.

The chicken and sausage are fine, a bit pedestrian. But the ribs are awesome. Nice and smoky. The sauces are pretty good too.

I saw "Watchmen" today. It's an hour-long plot stretched to three hours via montages. It is absolutely boring and stupid. Avoid it at all costs.

It's a beautiful weekend anyway. Get out and open the sunroof.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Better Bacon

Place: Schroeder's Drive-In
Double Decker, Super Deluxe (no tomato), Pepsi

WOW. I just got in before the church rush. Lucky me. They're churning out burgers from the charbroiler at a feverish pace.

I love Schroeder's.

I also love bacon.

Who doesn't love bacon?

I's bacon, right?

There's good bacon, and there's really bad cheap bacon. I tend to lean on Oscar Meyer or Farmland as the better. The bacon they serve at Waffle House (Bryan's) is about as perfect as it gets.

So last week, I'm passing through the break room and the paper is spread out on the table. I catch an article about Vande Rose Farms "Artisan Dry-Cured Bacon", how it's winning awards. Apparently, it's the most awesomest bacon in the history of bacon. It HAS to be if it has "Artisan" in the name. That's a law, right? Or just a marketing gimmick. Whatever.

The best part of the article was the picture of people eating this expensive premium bacon wrapped around...tater tots.

I bet they weren't even artisan dry-cured tater tots.

You'd think they could have at LEAST wrapped it around scallops.

It's also expensive...a 12 oz package via their website is 12 bucks. PLUS about DOUBLE that for shipping.

But the article says it's also available for a little over five bucks at "most Dahl's and many Fareway" stores.

I'll blow five bucks to try the
most awesomest bacon in the history of bacon.

So I go to Dahl's.


So I go to a second Dahl's.


So I go to a third Dahl's.




Fourth Dahl's.

THERE it is!

Then I went to Aldi and got eggs, because the
most awesomest bacon in the history of bacon should be served with the cheapest eggs money can buy.

So Saturday morning (at like 4 because I couldn't sleep), I made breakfast. The most awesomest bacon in the history of bacon...and cheap Aldi eggs.

The bacon strips are THICK. I don't usually find thick bacon cooks real evenly, and it ends up being tough like beef jerky in the end. I avoid thick bacon.

But no such problems here. Not too crunchy. Not too chewy. Good flavor...not too salty.

This really is some awesome bacon. It may very well be the most awesomest bacon in the history of bacon.

Good eggs too.