Second Saturday on July 13 would have been great, but my car broke down on Friday, so I decided to just skip it. I had planned to see the CD release party of the Californios at Barber’s Auto in Midtown. The band is important to me because it represents the development of great local songwriter/musicians Michael and Laurie Anne Blanchard. I’ve seen many shows in the past with Michael in Tattooed Love Dogs and Laurie Anne in Her 6 Daughters. They are both very talented and keep getting better, as their videos reveal on YouTube. Jay Shaner is also a talented singer/songwriter who opened the show on Saturday night.
Then today I walked passed a light rail station and realized I could have gone after all, for just a few bucks. The train even runs until about 11pm on Saturday night. I’m not sure why I forgot about light rail since I support the concept of mass transportation. I used to ride BART all the time when I lived in the Bay Area. Somehow I had an image in my head that people who ride light rail are mostly DUI violators who lost their licenses, which probably isn’t true. It’s just one of those images that stuck in my head because I do know people in that situation. Seeing light rail gave me the inspiration for my latest SacTV video.
The story of my car is a joke in itself when you consider I really don’t need a car for anything anymore since I do most of my work at home online. Part of moving toward this work at home lifestyle is due to the fact that I don’t like paying high gas prices. When I look at what caused the most strain on my finances and the overall economy for many years, it was always the car, whether it was due to auto repair or high oil prices that drove up all other prices, especially food, since shipping is a part of the cost.
When I look at what bugs me the most about Sacramento, it’s a combination of air pollution, traffic congestion and rip off artists. The air has improved due to environmental regulations, but Sacramento still ranks as one of the worst cities in the nation for air pollution. The traffic congestion has gotten worse since I returned to Sacramento in 2007 after living in the Bay Area then Palm Springs and San Diego. Rip off artists have included local car dealers who have misrepresent the cars as "low maintenance and high gas mileage" vehicles, which I have made clear are my two most important criteria. Gas prices vary all over town, as the gas map on SacTV reveals.
I bought my latest car at 100,000 miles two years ago and since then I’ve only added 11,000 miles. The car salesman told me the car would get 33 mpg, but it’s closer to 15 mph. I was also told that the car was in top shape and would not need any major maintenance for at least another 100,000 miles. Well, less than a year after buying the car it needed a new timing belt. By that time I was told that the car salesman "no longer works here." The owner of the dealership, who I went to high school with, wouldn’t take my calls. Now the car has broken down and needs about $500 in other repairs. I actually got opinions from 5 different shops, who each gave wildly different quotes. Unfortunately, the state lemon law does not protect buyers of used cars.
I have found that the moral to most disappointing stories the past decade has been to use the internet. It’s how I make my living, writing articles for various websites, including some prominent people in the real estate and construction industries. Using the internet not only cuts down on travel costs, it also cuts down on pollution. It has been the key to finding better deals on everything. I do not intend to ever buy a car again from a local dealership, since AutoTrader or CarMax provide better opportunities and I can look up Kelly Blue Book prices instantly myself online instead of trusting a car salesman.
The internet solves many problems, but one thing it can’t really do is get me from point A to point B. Sometimes I do like to go Downtown, which is about 10 miles from where I live. I can actually walk that far in about 2 and a half hours on the American River bike trail. But when I walked passed the light rail station, I realized that it is a pretty decent low cost form of transportation that’s cleaner for the environment than driving a car. So even though I’ll get my car back later in the week, I really don’t need it for much. I plan on driving a car less and less until electric cars become more affordable. In the meantime, I will consider light rail or perhaps a bicycle – when I need to travel further than walking distance.