Moving On

My white 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited is parked in front of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.

At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.

An old metal bird feeder in the backyard of our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

My Trusty Mount

My 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited at the Granite Mountain Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I love having pictures of my cars at the places I hike but I almost never remember to take them. This photo at Granite Mountain Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (the park I visit most here in Arizona, though I usually go to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead) joins my pictures from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (the park I visited most in the Northwest), Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, and our home in Portland where Ellie and I started our walks through our wonderful old neighborhood of Irvington.

I bought the Crosstrek new when they arrived in America in 2012, it was the perfect car for me in the Northwest and still a pretty good fit for me in the Southwest. Now that I’m back to driving to work I would like some of the technology available today, especially adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, a better stereo, and Apple CarPlay. I’ve toyed with the idea of trading it in for an electric or plug-in hybrid as my commute could be done either entirely or mostly in electric mode with a plug-in, I’d love the quieter operation. Some of the electrics allow you to pre-cool the car remotely which would be nice when I leave after work (and even before work in the summer) and especially when I’m returning from a morning hike. But I love just about everything else about this little car, it still puts a smile on my face when I get in, so I’m not yet ready to surrender the keys.

Where Do I Live Again?

The snow-covered Subaru logo on the front of my XV Crosstrek

Our winters here in Portland are generally mild, but this fall has packed a bit of a punch at the end. We got a little bit of snow on Thursday a week and a half ago, and thankfully since I have some flexibility with vacation time right now, I was able to take the day off and let our dog Ellie enjoy the snow. But then as so often happens in Portland, we got some freezing rain and suddenly everything is coated in ice and trees and branches started falling all around our old neighborhood. We lost power a few times on Friday but never for too long. While walking Ellie I noticed a tree had fallen on a lovely old Mercedes a couple of streets over, completely crushing the back.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning while we were asleep the power kicked off and we didn’t get it back until that evening. Sadly the house was at its coolest when we lost power since we let it cool down at night, so I piled on extra layers and a hat until we had heat again. The house never got that cold so we weren’t exactly suffering, it was only down to 57 when the electricity returned.

This past week we got more snow, not very much but it arrived right before the evening rush hour and made a mess of everything. Fortunately I had also taken that day off but my wife wasn’t so lucky, since the train she was going to take home got shut down when some switches froze, she ended up spending the night at work. It’s going to warm tomorrow and the remaining ice should be gone, which will make a certain dog (and her walker) very happy, even if it takes the snow with it.

That’s enough winter weather for me this year, and winter hasn’t officially started yet!

Redtail Rain

Redtail Rain

I like to spend each Christmas morning at Ridgefield and in 2012 kept the tradition by making my first visit to the refuge in many months. It poured as I drove out in the dark so I was thankful to be in my new Subaru XV Crosstrek as it handles the rain much better than my previous car. The young redtails at the refuge sometimes hang out on the signs at the edge of the meadow and if you’re quiet, will often let you drive close and watch to your heart’s content. This redtail was soaked through and through and gave me good looks at both its front and back as it kept its eye out for voles in the meadow, and when it turned its head just right let me take a self-portrait of the new car (you can see it reflected in the hawk’s eye).

A Good Fit

Lights, Cameron, Action

I’ve put about 2000 miles on our new XV Crosstrek over the past four months and I have to say, I absolutely adore the car. Somebody at Subaru loves me.

Subaru has announced a hybrid version of the Crosstrek that will come out this fall that, while barely improving the gas mileage, adds a number of other features I like — especially since it looks like it can go short distances on battery alone, which would make it perfect for visiting Ridgefield. Some of the improvements are things that were already available on Crosstreks in other regions of the world — turn indicators on the mirrors, keyless entry and start, and a stop/start engine. Others are new and address a couple of criticisms I have of my Crosstrek — more sound insulation and an easier-to-read speedometer.

While it mostly sounds like a nice improvement on a car that fits me so well, there are a few downsides. Price hasn’t been announced, the gas tank got smaller so range isn’t really increasing, and the wheels are a little more traditional and not as fun as mine. But above all, they abandoned the lovely tail lights of my car (shown above) and went with a clear LED cluster. Whoever designed the lights on my Crosstrek gets top marks as I love both the front and rear light clusters, and that’s rare for me. I’m also glad to once more be driving a car with orange turn signals in the back, another thing I’m going to make mandatory when I’m king of the world.

Despite its inferior taillights, we’ll likely replace the aging Outback with the new hybrid this fall and become a two-Crosstrek family. Assuming the Outback makes it that long, it was out of commission for a couple of weeks for repairs after getting rear-ended while stopped at a stop light. The repairs were expensive enough that I was afraid the insurance company might write the car off, but thankfully they didn’t. It’s been a great car and sold me on the Subaru brand, I hope the Crosstrek serves us as faithfully.

Making A List & Checking It Twice

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My glorious vacation is at an end. I used a combination of vacation and holidays to take a week off at Thanksgiving, go back to work for two weeks, then take four weeks off in December and early January. It has been fantastic, a mix of goofing off and getting things done.

I had a lot I wanted to get done so early on I made a huge list of tasks on a letter-sized piece of paper, both sides, multiple columns, and started crossing things off as I got them accomplished. There were too many things to do even during such a long vacation but I did make good progress.

Two high priorities are shown here. The first was the Crosstrek, I knew it would be hard to find but wanted its all-wheel drive capability as soon as possible since we were into the rainy season, a decision I was already thankful for on my first drive out to Ridgefield as it poured rain. The second was to replace our garage door which had split in half, it looked fine from the outside but was so fragile we couldn’t even risk opening it. The new door has been installed and works better than the old to boot. The wood framing needs to be painted but that will have to wait for warmer and drier weather.

While I love small cars in general, you can also see why the little Crosstrek held such an appeal for us. Ours is an old house, the garage built into the basement level. The driveway is narrow and between two retaining walls, while the garage is small in all dimensions. The other car has to be parked on the street, where a small car is also convenient, so I had little doubt that at least one of us would find the Crosstrek a good fit.

Now the question is: will we end up with two?