Dallas won this at Kelly & Jeff’s holiday party a few years ago. We came across it in the Jeep when we traded it in. I could throw it away…… or donate it to a museum! I tried to give it back to Kelly when she was visiting but she wanted nothing to do with it!
Dallas and I have had our hand-me-down Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo for the past two years and it has really served us well, but it is 13 years old and starting to show its age. I especially was not totally trusting it any more after the breakdown I had between Chicago and Milwaukee over the summer. How much money in repairs should we put into a car whose value is only a couple thousand dollars at the most? Also, when would the next break down be? And how much would it cost? And we’d have to repair it if we wanted to sell the Jeep. Can’t sell it broken down, so we were probably for sure in for another repair if we didn’t decide to sell it now.
Over the past few months we did a ton of online research into what type of vehicle we might want if we got a new one. On summer road trips to Wisconsin we looked at every car and talked about what we liked, how they looked, along with the research we’d done on each model. We decided we wanted a crossover, which is built on a car platform but combines features of an SUV with features from a car. But which crossover? Just about every car manufacturer makes a crossover these days. They’re very popular. So we made our lists of our top picks. I liked the Honda CR-V and the Nissan Rogue, maybe one of the Hundais. Dallas liked the CRV and the Mazda CX-7. He also liked an Acura, but they tend to cost a bit more than we could afford to spend.
This past weekend we finally had a free day to go out and test drive. We’d done as much on-the-street and internet research that we could do and we needed to get into the cars and drive them, see what they feel like. So, we got up early and drove out to Golf Road in Schaumburg, where we could try all of the cars in one general place. Golf Road has a ton of dealerships. We started off at Schaumburg Honda, since we both liked the CR-V. The CR-V was a big upgrade from the Jeep, which we were used to, but something about it… it was missing a luxe element. Something seemed cheap to me. Which, btw, I was totally fine with, if the price tag matched, if it was the economy option, but it didn’t really seem to be. Next we visited Woodfield Nissan to drive the Rogue. I really liked this car. The Rogue just felt different than the CRV. It had more design elements. It had a bunch of extras like a rear view camera and keyless entry and start and satellite radio for the exact same price as the CRV. It just felt like you were getting more with the Rogue.
Let me just say also that these two dealerships, Honda and Nissan, were really cool. No pressure, really friendly and knowledgeable salesmen. Very attentive. Very happy to just have you look at the vehicles and drive them and get to know them better. No pressure to get you to the desk and start wheeling and dealing. And then, AND THEN, we went to Napleton Schaumburg Mazda where we couldn’t find anyone to help us. Granted, the place was really busy, but no one even said hi or acknowledged we were there. Dallas was ready to leave without even driving the CX-7, but I got aggressive and just grabbed a guy walking by. This was a mistake. We should have left. We took a test drive with this guy but he didn’t know anything. Dallas was telling him things about the car. And all the guy really wanted to do was tell us how great the dealership is and sit us down to price out financing. Ugh! Dallas really liked the CX-7, but I was having a terrible time separating our bad salesman/dealership experience with the car itself.
So, I was still liking the Rogue the best. Dallas was liking the CX-7. We got lunch at Buona Beef and randomly ran into our friend, Adam, whose girlfriend, Christine, owns the Rogue. I’d talked to Christine previously and she seemed happy with it, but Adam said he thought that after 2 years it was running clunky. He didn’t know how to describe it, but it wasn’t as great as it used to be. He didn’t recommend we buy the Rogue. I took this advice with a grain of salt, but I did really want to look at the CX-7 again. Somewhere else. On the drive home we looked up the Mazda dealer in Highland Park and drove all the way up there only to find out that it’s now a Honda dealer. We were both kind of ready to give up, but I looked up one more Mazda dealer that was sort of on the way home, it was the Autobarn in Evanston. I’d never even been to Evanston before!
Ok, so let me just say. This Mazda dealer was about a thousand percent better than the other one. We worked with Andre and he was very knowledgeable and nice. We drove the CX-7. He left me alone for a while while I sat in the car and took it in, playing with all the options and really thinking about whether I liked it or not. I did. I liked it a lot. I liked the design and all the options. I thought that it seemed like a more serious car than the Rogue. The Rogue was fun, but it seemed kind of fey in comparison. And Adam’s comments made me wonder if they were trying to wow people with fancy extras but maybe the core of the car wasn’t up to par.
To make a long story short, we haggled, we haggled a lot, we had to be ready to leave. I absolutely hate the “game” but we played it. I thought I was going to barf, I thought I was going to cry. I almost did cry. We almost walked. We second guessed our decision. I didn’t like the way that this dealership played the game, but does anyone like this? It’s terrible. I always feel violated. We spent three hours going through the motions at the Autobarn… but, again… long story, short…. this is our new car!
I believe we got a good deal on it. I know we did. And Mazda is offering 0% financing through the end of the month, so that will really save us some money. But neither Dallas or I have had a car payment for about 10 years, so it will be an adjustment to our budget. I have to admit, after being put through the ringer all day, I almost started cry while leaving our Jeep as a trade in, but it will be worth it. The CX-7 is fun to drive, safe, and will give us the peace of mind we were looking for. We plan to have this car for like… ever. So it was a big decision for us, but I think we made the right one. After a couple days, I’m almost over feeling violated and can actually enjoy the new car smell. Almost. If you know me, this isn’t a surprise. haha
Last weekend was my 3rd annual visit to Miller Park to see the Cubs take on the Brewers. Sara, Kristin and Cousin met me at my house for the drive up to Milwaukee. Alden was at his parent’s house in the Milwaukee suburbs and was going to meet us at the game. Except, when I went out to the garage to leave, this is what I found:
Ok. Plan B. Kristin drove to my house so we took her car to my brother’s house. Then we switched cars because his fit all of us in it and he had a premium parking pass.
Note to self: Don’t place the jalapeno poppers on the grill this way. We lost a few!
My brother also bought and prepared all of our tailgating stuff and we threw in money on it. I was expecting a few brews, a few sausages, some cheese curds… but he went all out! We had fresh, homemade guacamole, brats, Italian sausages, some jalepeno poppers, three kinds of cheese curds, a ton of chips and all the condiments. We had not only one, but TWO grills! Also, not one but TWO kinds of cookies. I made a chocolate mint one and some snickerdoodles.
Also, my brother didn’t just grab a case of Miller Lite and call it a day. He brought so many different Wisconsin microbrews. I took photos of some of them. I think there were a few more that I didn’t get. A Leinies one for sure, but I can’t remember which. These are the ones I know for sure:
We mixed the Sand Creek Hard Lemonade together with the New Glarus Belgian Red and it was so delicious. It tasted like a tart juice.
Richard, Rachelle, Danny
Danny and Caroline were tailgating nearby with Caroline’s parents and they came over to visit for a while. I meant to go visit their tailgate but got caught up in our stuff. Sorry!
Sara & Alden. Check out all the Cubs fans!
The weather was perfect. A little windy, but sunny and very comfortable. My brother brought his urban horseshoes/washers game and we played that for a bit. Somebody (not me) managed to toss a washer down the sewer, but otherwise it was a fun game. I guess a sewer hazard is appropriate for urban horseshoes. Sara had never tailgated before and had never played urban horseshoes and had never been to Miller Park, so it was fun to show her the ropes!
AAA to the rescue!
After two games of urban horseshoes it was time to head in for the baseball game. We packed everything into the car and my brother was going to roll the window up… well, I mean press the button that puts the window up. Time for car problem #2! His battery was dead and we couldn’t put the window up. We tried to have the guy next to us jump our car (note to Alden’s mom, he didn’t jump ON our car), but it didn’t work. We tracked down the free AAA service at Miller Park and somehow the guy got our car started. We then had to run it between 10-20 minutes to make sure it would start later on when we wanted to leave. We ended up missing 2 innings of the game, but at least we got it sorted out.
On the walk to the stadium, we found this file folder on the ground. For some reason it was HILARIOUS. Someone had made this folder, slipped in their tickets, and filed it somewhere up until VERY recently. The 7 almost looks like a 9. Very dangerously close to going on the wrong day! We made up a lot of stories about this folder before throwing it back on the ground.
Ok. Inside the park, finally, we were headed for our seats when we ran into these degenerates:
Lycke, Trent, Biefel
And I mean degenerate! They had been drinking since about noon (it was a 6pm start for the game) and it showed! I ran into them a couple times, actually. They didn’t have seats even. Just standing room tickets.
Miller Park at Sunset
Miller Park Scoreboard
Sara had a hankering for some ballpark nachos so we asked a lady where she got hers and scoped it out. They were no ordinary ballpark nachos, though. They were piled high with meat and peppers and everything. We picked up a couple Lites and a couple Leinies Honey Weiss while we were up. Actually, that was the only beer I had all game. One beer, because I thought I was driving back to Chicago.
Miller Park Sausage Race
Miller Park Sausage Race
It was a gorgeous night in the ballpark. I brought a light long sleeved shirt but I didn’t even wear it. During the 6th inning, the sausage came running out right in front of us.
Miller Park Sausage Race
I cheered for chorizo like always, and Sara cheered for chorizo as well. Too bad he got spanked! Polish sausage smoked everyone!
Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Roll Out The Barrel
During the 7th inning stretch they played Take Me Out To the Ball Game, but the people who’d never been to a ballpark in Wisconsin were surprised with the Roll Out the Barrel follow-up song!
A few notes on the players:
1. I really wish the player called Corey Hart would play Sunglasses at Night for his at-bat song.
2. Alfonso Soriano was fielding right in front of us and gave Sara a nod when she was screaming “FOOOONNNNZIIIIEEEEE GO FOOONZIIIIIIIIEEEE!!!!” I don’t know much about Soriano, only that he wears the tightest pants in the MLB.
Miller Park Scoreboard
3. I love the scoreboard at Miller Park, which is new this year. It shows a huge photo of each player when they’re at bat and shows the stats so far for each player. Sara taught me what Strikeout Looking is when a guy’s stats said at one at bat he struck out swinging and at another turn he struck out looking. She definitely knows a lot more about baseball and the Cubs than I do, but the big board definitely helped me keep track of what was going on and helped me get to know the players better.
The Wrigley Field Road Tour
In the stadium there must have been a hundred(s?) of people wearing this same red tshirt. They’d biked to Miller Park from Wrigley Field in Chicago for The Wrigley Field Road Tour. I think I’d have been sleeping in the stands if I’d done that.
In the end, the Cubs lost 4-6. They made a rally in the 8th inning when they made 3 runs, but it wasn’t enough. The Brewers actually swept the Cubs in the series. But that’s ok. We all still had a great time.
Miller Park at Night
After the game I had to go to the bathroom so I said I’d just meet people at the car. I didn’t even make it to the car when I found that everyone I was with had made new friends and was drinking all their beer. After the game is pretty much like another big tailgate. We’d run out of beer, so how convenient that these fans were willing to share. They didn’t want to share with the Cubs fans, but they were convinced when I broke out the extra cookies I’d baked. Also, they liked that Alden and I were from Wisconsin. Also, we met a couple from Milwaukee whose daughter lives a few blocks from Alden in Chicago. Alden asked if the guy would put in the good word with his daughter, but the guy said the daughter was getting married in a matter of weeks. He said he’d let Alden know in October if it didn’t work out. He also asked that Alden please refrain from stalking his daughter now that her location had been revealed!
Sobriety isn’t an accident, but getting drunk many times is!
I drove the car back to my brother’s because he’d had a few too many. On the way Alden was texting his mom and she invited us over for more drinks, but I vetoed that plan. My brother and cousin and Alden were all for it. Of course, because they were the drunkest ones! My brother was busy typing Alden’s parent’s address into the GPS and when it was shouting out instructions it was so confusing to get back to my brother’s place! It would have been fun to visit the Almagro family, but it was getting late, especially since we still had to drive to Chicago. At my brother’s house we all made a pit stop. Alden had a special moment with Milo, the dog, and then we were off to Chicago. I thought I’d be driving but Kristin insisted. We all knocked pretty hard on wood and it worked because that car made it home without incident. I think we got home at about midnight? Long night, but so fun! Thanks to all my friends for making it a fun day and special thanks to my brother for organizing the tailgate and getting the tickets for us! A new set of washers in IN THE MAIL!!!
To further celebrate Jen’s birthday, this past weekend Jill, Kristin, Jen, Jen’s mom Nancy and I all headed up to Kohler, WI for a pampering girls spa weekend. I’d never spent a whole day at the spa and I’d heard a lot of things about Kohler, so I was excited to check it out.
Note: You’re not allowed to take your phone or electronics around the spa. Which makes sense, because you’re there to totally relax. The photos of the spa and our hotel are from their official websites.
On Saturday afternoon we left for our 2.5 hour drive. I did not want to take my Jeep, since the breakdown was a little fresh in my mind, so I borrowed Jen and Chad’s Smart Car and drove that. Jill rode along with me. Kristin drove the others up in another vehicle just in front of us. In Pleasant Prairie we stopped for a late lunch. I’d already eaten, so I just got a small scoop of the flavor of the day: Backyard Smores. YUM.
We arrived in the late afternoon and checked into two connecting rooms in our hotel, the Inn at Woodlake. Ironically, this is no quaint inn by the lake. Well, it is by the lake, but it is a very modern hotel. All the rooms were wired up to the max. At one point we turned the TV on and Jill was in the hallway, she thought someone was in the bathroom, but we quickly realized that there were TV speakers in the bathroom!
Also, I didn’t really think about it beforehand, but every bathroom in Kohler and the surrounding areas is all rigged up with top-of-the line Kohler products. You should have seen how many jets our shower had!
While we were settling in to our rooms we cracked open a bottle of wine that Kristin brought along. Our rooms overlooked a putting green, a bocce court, an outside seating area and a small lake (I’m assuming Wood Lake). Since the seating area was empty, we brought our wine outside and enjoyed the evening before dinner. The photo above is of the seating area/event space in use, but of course, while we were out there, we had it all to ourselves. Nice and relaxing, next to the lake, which is pretty much where that guy in the back, standing up is pointing.
For dinner we took a very short drive over to Sheboygan and ate at Osteria Nonna Maria. This place was great! Delicious, down-home Italian cooking. Our waitress was Kim and her grandparents own the place. And we got to meet them. They went all out to help us celebrate Jen’s birthday. I’ll have more on this in a separate post, because the restaurant is one place I did take photos.
So, the next morning we headed over to the Kohler Waters Spa. Our hotel offered a free shuttle to anywhere in Kohler that we wanted to go. So convenient. And there was no wait either. When we had the concierge call, it took about 3 minutes for the shuttle to arrive. I was not getting a massage until 11:00, but decided to head to the spa early with everyone. If you were getting any services there you were able to hang around the spa all day and take advantage of the relaxation pool with a waterfall, whirlpools, sauna, steam room, rooftop relaxation room with a huge whirlpool and fireplace, and refreshments like fresh fruit and nuts throughout the 4-story building.
We checked in, got our robe and spa slippers, changed into bathing suits, put everything else into our lockers and then headed our separate ways. I spent a couple hours on the rooftop reading a book on a luxurious lounge chair nearby the fireplace. I switched off between reading, napping and taking dips in a whirlpool all morning. The funny thing is that in the hotel the night before I was reading a Kohler magazine and saw a photograph. I held the magazine up and proclaimed, “I want to go to there!” Guess where I was the next day? Yeh, I spent almost the whole day in the room I had seen in the magazine. So awesome.
At 11:00 it was time for my massage. I didn’t know what kind I wanted to get, so I got the massage sampler. This was 50 minutes of several massage techniques in sequence, including warm stones, stretching, ah-shiatsu (barefoot massage), and sinus pressure relief. I loved the stretching and the warm stones. The barefoot massage was .. uh interesting.. The therapist actually stood on the massage table and held onto bars that were attached to the ceiling while she massaged me with her feet! It was interesting. You couldn’t really tell it was feet. I had a hot compress under my neck and a cold compress on my eyes at that point and really you just feel the pressure the same way you do with hands/arms/elbows. And yes, she did wash her feet right before the procedure!
At noon we all met back up for lunch. We’d pre ordered lunches when we checked in. I had a salad and a glass of wine. Actually, I think everyone got salads. After Culver’s, an Italian dinner and birthday cake the night before, we needed to detox with vegetables!
So everyone else was staying up in Kohler until Monday, but my vacation time from work is severely limited for the rest of the year because of all the vacation time I took for our wedding. So, I needed to head back home in the Smart Car on Sunday. I’d originally planned to leave after lunch, but I realized there was nothing I really needed to be home for. Dallas wasn’t even there, he was in North Carolina. Plus, I was having so much fun at the spa, I didn’t want to leave. Everyone else had afternoon spa services scheduled, but I didn’t because I had planned to leave. I decided to just hang out for the afternoon. I laid around and did more napping and swimming and reading and loafing around. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
When everyone was done with their spa services we all met back up.. for… you guessed it! More laying around! The spa was just so relaxing and beautiful. I never wanted to leave! But, alas, I had to get on the road at some point. I took a shower at the spa and we all left to go back to the hotel. I quickly packed my things and was about to fly out of the room, but oh man! Kristin and Jill were setting up a cheese plate to have pre-dinner snacks and wine. They were eating at the Whistling Straights restaurant. Fancy! I guess my wallet wasn’t going to miss that, but they do have an awesome looking scallop dinner on the menu that I would have loved to try. Oh well.
My drive back to Chicago was pretty uneventful.. until I got close to Chicago. I left Kohler around 6:15 p.m. and expected I’d be back to Jen & Chad’s by 9:15. Around the part where the tollway ends and merges to the Edens I hit some major traffic and was stuck there for something like 70 minutes. More than an hour. Just stopped. Crazy. It did give me time to call my dad for Father’s Day, though! I had seen him a week then and given him a gift (Kona Brewing beer label tshirt of the beer we had at our wedding!), but it was still nice to chat quick on the actual day. Anyway, I didn’t end up getting to Jen and Chad’s to get my car til late, I didn’t get home til after 11 p.m. I was so tired! Monday morning came early!
Despite the drive home, I had a fantastic weekend. I loved hanging out at the spa. Yes, it was way pricey, but I only got one service and then just enjoyed the free amenities. A big thanks to Jill for coordinating every detail of the trip! She was so organized and prepared that I told her she should be applying for event planner jobs! And happy birthday to Jen. Remember, 40 is the new 30!
P.S. Fun fact I just learned while looking up “Kohler, WI” on Wikipedia:
Many people in Wisconsin refer to drinking fountains as “bubblers,” because the first Kohler drinking fountain was known as “The Bubbler.”
So, back to that Jeep thing. On my drive to Milwaukee for the UPAF Ride for the Arts, the dash started dinging and lit up saying “check gauges.” I looked at all the gauges and noticed that the temperature gauge was all the way to the right, indicating as hot as it can be. I pulled over at the next exit that I could and pulled into a parking lot in an office park. As soon as I stopped the car smoke came billowing out of the hood area. I got out of the Jeep and looked down. Green fluid was flowing out. Lots of it. My parents were already at my brother’s house when I called up there and so my dad and my brother agreed to come down. I checked Google Maps on my phone and saw that there was an auto parts store nearby. I called them and they were open til 10 p.m. My hope was that my dad would come down, realize it was a hose or something easy, go to the parts store and fix it and we’d be on our way.
So, I camped out in the parking lot of this building.
And waited for my dad and my brother to drive down from Milwaukee. I realized that I wasn’t even out of the city of Chicago! I was at Cicero and Peterson, quite a ways north and west in the city, but still, in the city. So, I realized it would take them a while to come down. Luckily, I was not alone. I had this to keep me company:
I was bringing these Half Acre beers for my dad and my brother to try. They were still ice-cold and it was in the high 70s that evening, so I cracked one open and waited.
Then after a while I oriented myself using the web browser and maps on my phone. I realized I was right next to a Whole Foods, so I walked over to the store and killed some time there.
When my dad and brother arrived they took a look at the car. We realized that the leak was not in a hose, but was actually a leak from the radiator. I needed a tow. Well, little did we know that it would be SO HARD to get a tow. Some said they couldn’t get to me for hours, some said they’d call me back and didn’t, some said they were closed (!?), some didn’t answer their phone, some said they didn’t have a flatbed tow truck, which a few told me I needed. I was basically just going down lists of tow companies on Yelp and Google just trying to get anyone to come out.
Finally, I called a guy who said he didn’t have a flatbed but knew someone who did. I was rolling my eyes at this. I’d heard it before that night and it didn’t pan out, but when he gave me the number I called it and a guy said they could come out within 20 minutes and he actually did. I got my tow! For future reference, this was S&M Towing. They were great to work with did what they said, charged what they estimated, right to the dollar. Nothing shady. Also for future reference, the tow was $85 to hook up the car and $3.50 (I think) per mile after that. It came to about $103. Also, while we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I ran into that Whole Foods and bought us all slices of pizza and drinks. It was getting late, I’d been sitting in a hot parking lot forever, and we needed to eat.
My dad rode in the tow truck and chatted it up with the driver. My brother and I followed in my brother’s truck. We towed the Jeep to our regular service station, Nal’s. Dallas’s uncles are good friends with the owner, Al. Dallas has golfed with him before and stuff, but I’ve never met him. I should mention I also spent about a half hour or more calling all of Dallas’s uncles and Dallas, who was in Las Vegas, trying to get Al’s number and find out if I could tow to his shop and leave it. By then the shop was closed so I couldn’t ask them. Anyway, long story short, no one was answering their phone on a Saturday night. We ended up leaving the Jeep on a residential street just south of the shop, where there was no parking restrictions.
After leaving the Jeep, my dad and brother and I drove up to my brother’s house. We pulled in at about 11 p.m., about 5 hours later than I’d planned to arrive. By the time we went to bed it was almost midnight. So, yeh. Late night. And we had to get up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the bike ride! But it all worked out..
When Dallas got back from Las Vegas he brought the keys up to the shop and worked everything out with them. The repairs will end up costing a lot more than I’d have liked – about $600. Stinks! But hopefully nothing will go wrong again and we can stretch out the life of this car. It’s old, but still generally runs good. And $600 is less than a new car. If the Jeep keeps acting up, though, we may have to think about doing a trade in.