Friday, August 10, 2007

Me and my Prius

This spring I passed the 100,000 mark on my Toyota Prius. Russ keeps track of the mileage, and for the car's lifetime we've averaged slightly better than 50 mpg, darned good considering the cold associated with Duluth winters. In 2004, during the huge owl invasion, the car took lots of out-of-state birders here and there looking at our spectacular Great Gray Owls. Three Atlanta birders were along on a day when the temperature started out at 40 below zero and never did warm up much--we saw plenty of birds, and if the car wasn't quite toasty warm, we were comfortable and the windows didn't steam up. This past winter, while driving home from the Isabella Christmas Bird Count during an ice storm, a moose suddenly galumphed onto the road from the ditch. I barely had seconds to stop on the icy pavement but my trusty car managed the trick, and I sat in awe as the moose walked just a few feet beyond me, steam blowing out of its nostrils as it breathed, its legs millimeters from the front bumper. When I finally caught my breath from the near miss, I was thrilled at the close view--this was the closest I've ever been to a moose! This March, I had to go down to the Houston County Owl Festival in a blizzard, and because flights to La Crosse had been canceled, I had to pick up our keynote speaker at the Minneapolis Airport en route. The storm was bad enough that the Minneapolis Airport closed a few minutes after we left. But the car did just fine, even on the slippery, winding country roads to tiny Houston, Minnesota.

My Prius has taken me to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota, and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, as well as myriad other wonderful places. I've seen at least 300 species of birds on trips with this car. I feel guilty about how many miles I drive, but having a car that consistently gets better than 50 mpg makes me feel a lot better about it.

We bought the extended warranty when we got the car in January, 2004. It's worked so beautifully that it's required ZERO work on all those miles, so we were actually refunded the $1500 we'd paid for the warranty.

Our son Joe needs a car, and so this seems like the right time to drive down to Florida and "sell" him our Prius. So we're looking for a new one right now. I'm fixated on that gorgeous blue model. I badly want GPS because of all my traveling to unfamiliar places, and we don't want leather seats because our daughter is a vegan and anyway, leather is too sticky in summer and costs too much. So we have pretty specific desires as far as a replacement car goes, and since this is the end of the model year, we may be in for a long wait. But like a new baby, a perfect car is worth waiting for. And we're hardly suffering since we still have our trusty Holly Go-Lightly for the duration.