The new beast


One of the things that has happened while I was off the blog was that I traded in the Subaru for a new beast. The Subaru was the best car I’ve owned in a long time, but at 120,000 miles, it was clear I had to either invest in it to deal with age-related maintenance, or replace it. my estimate was $2-3000 in 2013 for brakes, struts and shocks and the regular maintenance and fluid changes — at best.

So I decided it was better to put that into a newer car. And then that got on hold when the refi on the house stretched out, because you don’t want to sneeze near anything that might tweak your credit rating. That’s why when the refi closed out on a Friday, I spent Saturday at the Ford dealer, and drove out for Christmas in SoCal on a Sunday in a car I literally hadn’t driven more than 10 miles or filled with gas yet. What’s this button do? Well, we’ll find out as we go…

But it all worked out. The new beast is a 2012 Ford Escape, bought certified with 30,000 miles on it. Buying certified instead of new dropped the price a chunk, plus it got me a 2012 model, which I preferred over the 2013 — the trend with SUVs is to “car-ify” them, soften the ride and give them curvier lines, so they handle the road more comfortably, but don’t go off-road well and generally don’t haul as much. I wanted an SUV that still acted a bit like an SUV, without having to resort to one of the hard core off road vehicles like the Toyota FJ.

The Escape fits the bill. Where the Subaru was “two adults and two kids”, the Escape’s a bit bigger, and I can fit four adults into it without feeling like I have to apologize constantly. it hauls a bit more, although with the seats up, the cargo area is actually close to the Subaru’s. So far, it’s been to LA once,  Morro Bay twice (including a stop on the way back from LA) with a day trip into Carrizo Plains, a day trip out to Merced, another day trip out to Colusa and Staten Island, and some short drives around the homeland.

To my surprise, by buying not-quite-new, I was able to get one with 4WD (and a moon roof! woo!); one thing I really liked about my Subaru was the all wheel drive because in bad weather or on unpaved roads it held traction well. I haven’t put the Escape into snowy conditions yet, but even in some of the legendary Carrizo mud, it did okay with just a bit of sliding — I can’t believe the Outback would have handled it better.

So the early results are quite positive. It’s a more comfortable drive for me overall; sometimes the Subaru left my knees stiff and sore, and that hasn’t happened with this beast. The upgrade from 4 to 6 cylinders fixes the feeling that sometimes I was a bit under-powered — but the Escape gas mileage is equivalent to, if not a bit better, then Subaru. that I didn’t expect, but I’m seeing 24MPG real world reliably. The gas tank is about a gallon smaller than the Subaru, which is making me have to relearn my “standard” fill up spots on the trips I take.

As far as I can tell, the Subaru Outback is the standard car for nature photographers who don’t want a truck. I can’t argue, mine got me where I was going without a whimper for years. But this Escape seems to be all that, but a bit better set up for what I want. So far, it’s met all my expectations, and then some.

So if you see me the beast out at one of the refuges, pop on over and say hi.