If it feels like an eternity since I last went hiking it isn’t too far from the truth, but at least since I’ve been able to work at home a few days this week I was able one evening to go to a nearby park for a quick one mile hike with my wife. Nobody on the trail but us, perhaps not surprising given it was a weekday and near sunset the heat hovered around 100 degrees. I’ve always liked when I get a glimpse of my car through the trees on the way back from a hike, this time I even remembered to take a picture.
The car goes in for its first scheduled maintenance tomorrow, in Portland courtesy of the light rail it would have taken me two years to drive 5000 miles rather than six months, and only then if I took a road trip. I tend to keep my cars for a while so I haven’t bought many over the years, and strangely enough I don’t photograph them very often. Usually at trailheads like this one, taken before sunrise with smoke from a distant fire rising over the mountains, a faithful companion waiting for me to return while I hike into the places I love. I was rather nervous buying it as it had big shoes to fill but I rather love the little thing. It’s a much more relaxing cabin on the commute, is fun to drive slow and yet gets great mileage, and during the brutal summer temperatures thanks to the ventilated seats I no longer arrive at my destination with freezing hands and a back drenched in sweat. Still in the honeymoon phase but so far it’s been a joy.
The rain is supposed to continue on and off throughout the week, and while in general we always appreciate rain in the desert I in particular love it. So it’s a little sad that it is only supposed to last until Friday, be sunny on the weekend, then rain a bit next week. I don’t want to drive in it, I want to walk in it! Why wasn’t I consulted?
Even though Cavalliere Park is the closest to us I didn’t initially think I would visit as my favorite trailhead lies further up the street with a diversity of trails beckoning. But my mind changed when I discovered the small multi-use park has an advantage the other local parks don’t have: you can stay through sunset (and even later). Probably not something I’ll take advantage of during the high heat of summer but on this winter evening it let me photograph some birds in the last light of the day. I took this quick picture of the car as the light was rapidly fading, I was always happy to see my Subaru after a long day at work or a tiring trek on the trails and thankfully I quickly came to feel the same way about the Lexus.
After a month of ownership the Lexus tipped past the 1000 mile mark on the way home from work yesterday. Life is different here, there were occasional times in Portland that would have been a year’s driving for me (most years I drove double or triple that). I upgraded the car for several reasons but I hoped to improve my fuel economy in the process, which was harder than it sounds as my Subaru was getting 32 MPG (about 30.5 in the summer). I expected the little hybrid to beat that but I wasn’t sure by how much given the nature of my commute, but thankfully it’s improved my fuel economy by about a third. This picture is from Saturday, we got heavy rains in the morning but it began to clear in the afternoon so I paid a quick visit to a little city park near our house I hadn’t visited yet, George “Doc” Cavalliere Park.
My Lexus went on its first hike to the same place my Subaru went on its last. It wasn’t planned, rather I was tired, the trailhead is near the house, and the trail is a favorite with good wildlife viewing and lots of saguaros. I was tempted to wait for the sun to come up to photograph the car at first light but wanted to get on the trails, and thankfully so, as while I didn’t know it yet I had an early appointment with two lovely kestrels. The car has been a joy so far, though to be fair I’ve only driven in conditions I hoped it would excel, my commute to work and local parks.
I was rather taken with the brake lights on the Lexus UX when I saw them at its introduction, they turn up into winglets on each end and taper into a thin line that runs the width of the car. Unfortunately as the driver I don’t get to see them so I’m thinking of installing an elaborate system of mirrors to run up and over the car so I can see them in their full glory. I don’t see how that can cause any issues for myself or other drivers here in the Valley of the Sun but I’m going to sleep on it before making a decision.
With the sun getting low on the horizon I took a few pictures of my new car, the 2020 Lexus UX 250h. My wife and I fell in love with its predecessor the CT 200h when we first saw it at the Portland auto show years ago, but while it was high on my list when I was car shopping in 2012 the newly introduced Subaru Crosstrek was an almost perfect fit for my needs at the time. I have an irrational love for small hatchbacks, a love cemented in the 90’s with my first new car, the 1992 Honda Civic Si. So perhaps it’s not surprising that of the three excellent cars that topped my shopping list this go-around it was the UX that won my heart. I have high hopes for the little hybrid, I adored my Crosstrek but think the UX will be a better fit for my life here in Arizona.
In late December as I returned from a joyful hike in the rain on my first visit to Cave Creek Regional Park, I stopped as I pulled out of the empty parking lot and positioned the car for a quick shot in front of the desert in a downpour. I knew our time together was coming to a close and while it would take me another month to finalize my decision, yesterday morning the Crosstrek and I went on our final hike before I traded it in that afternoon. I loved this car so much, not for what it could do but for what it allowed me to do. We went to the Columbia River Gorge, to Mount Rainier, to the rain forests and mountains and beaches of the Olympics, to the Oregon coast, to the redwoods, to endless trips to the auto tour at Ridgefield to sit in silence watching bitterns and listening to the ducks and geese and swans. It ferried all our pets but Templeton to the vet. It brought three worried cats and one worried driver on a three day trip from Oregon to Arizona, with my wife and pup following in her Crosstrek. Here in Arizona it took me to work each day now that I have to drive and to many local hikes, somewhere around 150 in our almost two years here.
The Crosstrek was my little mountain goat, equally at home in our urban neighborhood in Portland as it was on rutted gravel roads leading to my favorite places. My deepest thanks to everyone who played a role in bringing this car to market, back before small crossovers were cool. I measure cars not in specs but in smiles and this one brought a lot of them. The new car has big shoes to fill.
My rain-soaked Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack waits to be loaded into my Subaru Crosstrek after hiking in the rain for a few hours in late December, a scene that seems more apropos to my former home in Oregon than my current home in Arizona. I may seek out a rain cover at some point but for now I still pack it the way I did in Oregon, everything inside that needs to be protected from the wet gets stored in plastic bags, as the pack shucks off lighter rains without issue and I like easy access to water and food and clothes. I have rain gear from my time in the Northwest so funnily enough I was drier after this hike than many others (apart from my hands, my gloves aren’t waterproof) since I wasn’t sweating in the cool weather.