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My RAV4!
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Well, after I totaled my last car on a rain slicked stretch of crappy Los Angeles road, I needed new wheels.   This time I'd no friends to fall back on for an interim set of wheels and thus the pressure was on to get a replacement.  A replacement that was an expense coming when I was already five months into my latest unemployment stretch.  Yeah, it was a fun time.

I asked around and got some excellent advice from Brian about the various types of cars he thought would work best.  That winnowed things down to choosing between a Honda CRV and a Toyota RAV4.  The Mazda CX-5 was also in the running as it was very much in the same class.  A call to the mechanic I took my truck to, Hubert at South Bay Car Care, clinched it - the RAV4.  He agreed that the cars were essentially the same but Toyota was a bigger company, sold more cars, and thus there'd be more parts available for it and they'd be available for less than its competitors.

With that in mind I was soon down at West Coast Toyota in Long Beach and was discussing things with Jonathan Rosado.  I'd checked their inventory online and they had a 2015 RAV4 XLE at about my price point - $18K.  From the recommendations I'd gotten thus far and from my own research I knew pretty much exactly what I wanted and how much that would cost.  This one fit all of that nicely.  So, with little further effort it became mine.  Well, mine, the bank's and so on.  $10,000 down significantly lightens the monthly car payments for the next four years.

So, on Friday, March 9th 2018 I showed up at the dealership and drove off with my very own RAV4.

Picking up my RAV4

Yes, I made a point of dressing for the occasion.  This, being proof that I can learn from experience.

I'll have more photos of my new wheels within the next few days.  Right now I'm trying to get used to having a "modern car."  Compared to my '96 Ranger this thing is like a damn starship!  Electric everything and fully digital too boot!  I've already hooked my phone up to charge it via the built-in USB port and simultaneously had the sound system on the car play the tunes I'd on file on my phone.  Syncing my phone to the car so I can make hands-free calls with my car is the next step.

I was rather amused going through the reviews about the RAV4 on Consumer Reports as they all noted the stiffness of the seats and the "overly firm" quality of the ride as being negatives - if only mildly so.  Coming from driving a twenty two year old pickup truck, this thing feels like a luxury car and handles like a Ferrari in comparison!

Mine All Mine!

Well, I finally got her home and am quite happy with the results.  I think my new ride looks great as she sits there parked in my driveway.

Mine All Mine

Quite the difference from the last car parked there, eh?

It's now been over two years that I've been driving my RAV4.  I like it.  I like it lots.  I'm still exploring what I can do with it.  As far as hauling things around it's not as easy to do so as was my Ranger.  Pickup trucks are like that, hatchback SUVs aren't.  Still though, I've figured out how to mount up my bike inside the back of my car.  Thus it not only keeps the airflow over the car smooth it also keeps the bike more secure in the process.  Perhaps in the coming year or two I'll do some camping with my RAV4.  But that will remain to be seen.  No true road trips with it.  Yet.  Just haven't had the opportunity - i.e. that combination of both the time and the money - to make such happen.

The Big Dent

The summer of '20 I found that someone had bumped the back of my car "something fierce" - as we'd say back in Massachusetts.  And that left a big ol' dent in the rear hatch of the RAV.  

Big DentThe dentee had left a note under the windshield wiper up front apologizing and included her contact info.  That was very unexpected and I was grateful for the effort.  I'd my doubts whether she'd follow through however.

First things first though.  I began hunting around for what it would take to get the dent undented.  Turns out there's now a sort of body repair known as "paintless dent removal."

A bit of rooting around on the InterWebs later, and I figured this'd be worth the shot.  I found a couple of "PDR" outfits nearby, via Yelp, and called them up for quotes.

Shortly thereafter I 'd settled on Fix A Dent and placed the call.
Big Dent Up Close

As per my Fix A Dent Yelp Review:

"I got hold of Sharif and sent him some pictures of the dent that got put into the back of my RAV4.  He soon responded with a cost estimate and a promise of an 85% improvement in the appearance of my dented in back hatch. 

I then made an appointment for the work to be done on my car and right on time David showed up promptly and got right to it.  

In surprisingly short period of time he'd worked out the dent to be almost invisible.  This seems much more than a mere "85% improvement."  

I can still see some slight dishing in the hatch near the corner of the license plate recess.  But that's because I know where to look for it.  Otherwise, it looks good as new.  I am quite pleased with the results and have no qualms about recommending Fix A Dent to others.  

Good work done on time and within estimate."
Dent Undented

Fix fixed, I finally decided to get in touch with Tammy, she who left me that note. She was very apologetic even after more than a month had passed since the Big Dent. I sent her a copy of the receipt for the repair and within minutes there appeared a deposit in my PayPal account for the $350 it had cost me to become UnDented.

She had asked me if I had Venmo but I'm still a bit old school about such things so basic PayPal sufficed.

To say I was pleased with this would be understating it.

My vehicle is whole again. And the complete stranger who was responsible for damaging it owned up to her responsibility without any equivocation or weaseling at all. She did it, she notified me immediately that she'd done it and then she made immediate recompense once I contacted her.

Yeah, it's a small thing in the scheme of things. But it is nice to know there's still such good and honest people who can act as adults should.

And that, in the end, is what I wanted to share here.

August of '20 turned out to be eventful for more than just getting that Big Ol Dent in my RAV4.  It was also the month I paid off the car loan for the RAV4 as well.  Yup, seven months early.  All paid for.  I got the title to her now in full.  Considering where I was when I drove off the lot with this car and where I am now, I'm really pleased with that progress.  "Mine. All Mine" indeed!

The Bike Rack & Stuff

Stowed and Ready

I ride my bike a lot.  It's good exercise.  I enjoy riding.  With my Ranger it was a simple matter of plopping my bike in the bed of truck off I'd go.  I found a spiffy padlock sort of thing that attached to the bed of the truck and to which I could then secure a cable through it and my bike to keep some lowlife from unplopping my two wheel bit of joy and riding off with it himself.

But I no longer have the Ranger so some new means of hauling my bike around must needed be found.  Initially I just stuffed the bike in the back of the RAV after I folding down the seats.  It was simple but not optimal.  The bike shifted round too much and I knew I could do better.

After wee bit of Google-fu I found what I was looking for - a Sunlite 45347 Fork Mount Bike Block.  This essentially duplicates the quick-release mechanism on my bike's front wheel hub that clamps it into place on the front forks of the bike.  The Sunlite unit comes with a mount that you can sink bolts through to secure it to a base.

I quickly worked up a board cut to length that just fit the width inside the back of the RAV.   Then I figured out where my bike would fit and got the Sunlite bolted into place.
Sunlite Fork Mount Bike Block

Slot and Thumbscrews   I noted a couple of slots / depressions moulded into the sides at a certain point.  I cut some wood down to fit into those and then bolted those pieces to the board running across the floor in back there.  Then I used some more of my "go to" bolt solution hardware, the threaded screw inserts, and also got some thumbscrews for one side of this attachment.  I need to keep the whole thing secure so that it doesn't shift and thus allow the bike to shift.  But I also need to be able to remove it to get the spare tire underneath where the board crosses over.  Hence the thumbscrews.  They're easier to undo then getting a wrench in hand.

With everything in place, my bike was nicely held in place.  There's almost no clearance between the front of my handlebars and the rear window when the hatch closes.  But there's clearance enough for it to close and that's all that's needed.  I did notice the back tire of the bike would start would start rubbing against the inside of the back seat door on the passenger side there.  A simple stop or bumper would suffice to hold it away. Instead of coming up with anything complex for that I just took a length of two by four and attached some hook Velcro to it.  That adhered sufficiently to the cloth lining on the back of the folded down seat to hold the block in place.  And that served to keep the back wheel in place.  Simple and effective.

Looking at the overall picture above it might seem as the goods in back could shift around at lot, once the hatch is close there's actually not much space for them to do so.  Thus, things pretty much stay in about the same place as they are in that photo.

I've got exactly what I need to go biking all right there.  The front wheel fits right where it is.  The full size bicycle tire pump helps keep the wheel in place.  The tires need pumping about once a week so it's handy to have full size floor pump to do that with.  My bike helmet - with digital video recorder attached - is right there as are my gloves.  I've found that on cold mornings - yes, there are such things even here in the Land of Endless Summer - it gets pretty unpleasant for my hands heading out into the self-made breeze and it takes too long for the heat I'm generating pedaling away to work its way down to my digits.  I've got full-up winter bike gloves I could use.  But I found that the "shop gloves" I've got will both fit over my regular bike gloves and do quite well keeping my fingers warm enough on those early morning rides.  And as I already have those shop gloves stored in back for general use, I need not break out the winter bicycling gloves.

Lastly is that whisk hand broom.  I usually ride on beach paths in the mornings.  Either along the Shoreline Way by the ocean in Long Beach or along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail along the ocean in front of El Segundo.  That can mean for no small amount of beach sand left on my tires if the morning is wet enough for that sand to stick to the pavement on the trails.  Rather than have that sand wind up in my car I brush it off before putting my bike inside it.

If you would like to learn more about me – just ask!   Drop me a line and we’ll see what happens.  I can be reached
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  Page Last Updated On: 14 August 2022