News from April 2008

Searching for Cars

Occurred April 08, 2008 (Permalink)

Since I no longer own an automobile, I have purchased a Zipcar subscription to tide me over until I buy a car. If nothing else, this will be a keen way to take a Honda Element (and whatever other vehicles are available) for an extended test drive into places where the dealership probably wouldn't let ou go (Columbia River Gorge, say). However, this at the added inconvenience of having to take the bus to the zipcar, as there aren't many up on the hill where I live. My dad snorted "they have time sharing for cars now?" when I told him I was getting Zipcar.

(Well, heck, I don't know what to buy yet, so renting random cars doesn't seem like an outright waste of money...)

Generally speaking, I want a vehicle that's shaped like a station wagon. SUVs are too big for SE Portland, and the Accord sedan had problems fitting anything larger than a medium box. AWD is a nice perk, but not necessary where I usually go with cars. That said, I do remember sliding around on desert dirt roads a few miles out of Bend with the Accord. Fun is fun... sometimes. I also remember getting the Accord stuck on a snow embankment; also, places like Hat Point probably suck rocks off the ocean floor in a 2WD car. I should also note--I never plan to drive to Beaverton (or work) again unless I have to. This means that mileage isn't my highest priority, because more of the potential use of the car shifts to fun stuff... in which case I'll pay for the gas regardless. That said, I am generally aiming for 20mpg or more.

Did you look at the Scion xTupperware? I'm getting one from Zipcar this weekend to move the last of my stuff from Troy down to NYC. I finally got rid of my car last week. what a relief!

I went to the dealership, but I've never driven one. The '09s have huge C pillars, which I don't find attractive or a boon for visibility.

Subaru? Honda?

Occurred April 11, 2008 (Permalink)

After the last car accident, I (made the person who hit me) rent me an '05 Subaru Outback. I don't recall much of that car, though I remember being impressed with the amount of storage space and the holes they'd hidden all over the car for storing stuff. I vaguely recall that it had a non-turbo H4, which was enough to get up the Portland Hills on US-26 still managing a good 58mph. It took the US-30 Crown Point test pretty well too, though I'd bet things have changed since the 2005 model year. (I don't recall if it had stability control... not that you'd need it on dry pavement.) It was roomy enough, though I've noticed that the Outback doesn't have a whole lot of rear seat room if the fronts are adjusted for my legs.

I examined a new '08 in the dealership one late Friday afternoon; the interior matched my memory of it. Granted, these things are expensive--the H6 with all the stuff I want is 32k. Will try to rent one again, but Hertz doesn't have any Outbacks (they're waiting for a new shipment, they said.)

While at the Subaru dealership, I also poked into the 2009 Forester. All-gray interior I'm not wild about, but it _is_ larger than the Outback and a lot less expensive. It also looks like an SUV more than a tall boxy wagon like the old ones did. Comfortable enough, too. Haven't test-driven it.

Tonight and Thursday I'm borrowing one of the Honda Elements that Zipcar has. Aside from being 60 blocks from here, I'm looking forward to being able to examine the car more thoroughly. I visited a Honda dealer this weekend too; the Pilot is too big to maneuver, though the CRV might be manageable. Actually, the CRV is temptingly roomy, though it has the same engine as the Element and weighs even more.

Toyota Prius, II

Occurred April 14, 2008 (Permalink)
Prius Engine
Prius Engine

Yesterday, I returned a 2008 Prius to Hertz. Most readers will recall that I drove one from Portland to San Jose and back last October, and while the gas mileage was phenomenal, I didn't like the trunk taillight bar going across the back window. Well, that didn't change--I still dislike it. I was impressed that I nearly got my tallish bicycle into the back; had I bothered to detach the front wheel, it surely would have fit. The car was generally roomy, and it did fit quite a lot of stuff coming up from the Bay Area, and had enough torque to get over the mountains at the Oregon border. Certainly it works quite well as an economical hauling car though road noise was pronounced.

On the US-30 to Crown Point test it generally handled the curves quite well, even when taking 15mph turns at around 25 in the dark. The handling was tighter than the Accord, but that's no surprise. But, the poor rear visibility dissuades me from buying it. Last weekend, I looked at a bunch of other Toyotas (RAV4, Matrix, Scion xD). Rear window visibility was ok, but the rear quarter view was terrible--they've made the D pillar so large that you can't see what's hanging out near your rear fenders.

Test Track

Occurred April 16, 2008 (Permalink)

Some people have asked me what exactly this "US-30 test track" is that I've referenced both in IM conversations and on this blog. This is a route map (offsite).

The track involves roughly 120 miles of various kinds of driving that I tend to do on a somewhat regular basis to see how the car performs when going most of the places that I go with the car. It does not include any off-roading at all, unfortunately, except for the odd unpaved road within the city limits.

A-B: Home to Work: The first leg of the trip starts out at the Fred Meyer on NE Glisan St. Actually, it starts at my house, but I'll not publish that kind of detail in a public forum. Typically I park the car in the garage, turn the lights on, and take pictures all around and inside the car. What I'm looking for are the things that do not show up in the car brochures--little details that I notice, wear marks, how easy the controls are to reach, etc. I also look for things like how many bends there are in the intake/exhaust ducts on the car (more twists means more turbulence, which detracts from engine power), how easy it is to check the fluid levels, reach the oil/air filters, battery and headlights, change the wipers, and any other basic maintenance. I also look for things that annoy me.

From there, I head out to work. The freeway onramp at NE 58th Avenue has a fairly steep slope, which gives me a chance to evaluate heavy acceleration... if I'm not stuck behind a line of people merging on the freeway at 33mph. Once I'm on the freeway, the twisty curves on I-84 and the Marquam bridge let me test how well the steering responds at high speeds. I know, the Terwiliger curve in S. Portland is nastier, but takes me out of my way.

After curving around downtown, I end up heading west on US-26 towards Hillsboro. The freeway climbs 400 feet in about a mile, and if you're in the fast lane the cars seem to drive between 57-63mph. I consider this to be a decent test of hauling ass up a mountain, as it were. The backside of this slope lets me test the rolling resistance of the car--can I coast down the hill with my foot off the gas? Generally speaking, no. Then I go to the office and, erm, test the parking spaces. Given that the office is in Beaverton, this gives me ample opportunity to test performance going in and out of red lights (lights are never green in this town).

B-C: Work to Angel's Rest Trailhead: After work, get back on the freeway and return to the east side. Usually this is after work, so I get some dinner and get back on I-84 heading eastward somewhere around NE 60th Avenue. The merge ramp there is short but becomes an exit lane, so one can use it to test flat freeway acceleration from low speeds--the road going to the onramp is 25mph and they have cameras to enforce that.

The I-84 route takes me east through Gresham, Fairview, and Troutdale. The concrete on these parts of the freeway are in bad shape, what with heavy SUVs with traction tires wearing deep ruts into the road surface, and the state not having the money to repave or at least grind the road surface until it's smooth. Result? Lots of road noise. The nicer the car's interior, the more of the engine I hear and the less of the tires on the pavement.

After leaving the metro area, the speed limits increase to 65mph. Needless to say, drivers usually speed up to about 70-75mph. I can pretend to be a Californian and go fast. Usually I do this stretch in the dark, so I have an empty freeway to figure out how well the low and high beams show me the road. Once I get to exit 28, I get off the freeway.

C-D: Angel's Rest Trailhead to Crown Point: Now we're actually on US-30. The old Columbia River Highway follows the freeway westward for a few miles but gets progressively steeper and curvier as the road climbs the wall of the Columbia River Gorge to get to Crown Point. The speed limit is 40 despite the curves and the high chance of tree debris over the road, so this road is best done after 9:30pm with high beams on and no traffic. I slalom up the hill to the Point (an old WPA monument/rest stop, turn around, and slalom down.

D-E: Crown Point to Vancouver, WA via Ainsworth State Park: Once back to the Angel's Rest trailhead, I keep going east on US-30. The road is flat here, but very narrow in places. Consider that the highway was designed for a low volume of narrow tall 1920s automobiles, and suddenly driving a big truck on that road becomes a scary endeavor indeed. But it is a good test of whether or not the car can fit in a skinny lane next to a wall of rock... and how well I deal with driving said vehicle.

I then get on 84 heading west back to Portland, drive to 205 and go north into Vancouver, west on 14 to 5, then south on 5 back to Portland. If there's a breeze on the Columbia, crossing the river lets me assess how much the car suffers from side-to-side sway.

E-F: Vancouver, WA back to Fred Meyer: I get off 5 somewhere in North Portland and drive around on city streets back to the Glisan Fred Meyer. If the car has a gas mileage indicator I can get a rough estimate of city vs freeway. At Fred Meyer, I pick up some groceries and stuff them in the back. In the 12 blocks to get home from Freddy's, I go fast up a steep hill and make some tight turns to see if I can make the groceries slide around.

Honda Element

Occurred April 17, 2008 (Permalink)
The Element's Suicide Doors
The Element's Suicide Doors

Initial impression of the Honda Element: It's big, roomy, and very configurable. The rear seats fold up along the sides or completely come out of the car. The rear suicide doors open wide enough that two can get in at the same time, though the suicide doors don't open if the front doors aren't open--same sort of door wriggling games you get with extended-cab pickups and coupes. Gas mileage was awful--16mpg over the length of the entire test track, as compared to 47 for the Prius, 23(?) for the Outback and 24 for the old Accord. Granted, this was a 2005 Element, whereas the new Elements have an extra gear in the transmission, so its likely that the new ones won't tach 3000rpm going 72mph on a flat surface with not much wind. Honda claims that the 2008's overall mileage is 22-23mpg. On the other hand, maintaining 58mph on the US-26 hill kept the engine at 4000rpm for 1.5 miles, causing me to burn 1/8th a tank of gas just getting to work(!) My guess is that of Steven's, that the vehicle's drivetrain has to be programmed that way on the hills to overcome air resistance and weight. Parallel parking wasn't that hard, though it never is in Portland because we don't squeeze the way people do in, say, San Francisco. The back seats had excellent legroom, however; Alexis was very happy that she could stretch out in the rear seats on our way to lunch Thursday, and that's even with patman (6'4" guy) in the front. My boss said the floors were sturdy enough to survive the high-heels test. On the way home from Freddy's the food cans broke loose from the plastic bags and slid all over the floor from the front to the back, with an annoying RRR RRR RRRR WHAM noise every time; cargo nets would help with that. This is, however, the only car so far that has passed the bike test.

Update: I nearly forgot--I almost creamed a Corolla that was passing on the right because the Corolla is too low and the Element too high to see it out the windows, and the same apparently goes for the right rear mirror. Actually come to think of it, the Corolla was hanging out alongside the mirror, which meant that the mirror didn't see it and the windows were too high. I only saw it after it shot ahead of me. Typical elephantitis syndrome of large trucks/SUVs, I guess?

Zipcar

Occurred April 18, 2008 (Permalink)

Zipcar is the time-sharing car service that I've been using to get around town since the end of the Accord when I don't feel like taking my bicycle. You sign up for their service ($25 application fee and either $50/yr or a $50/mo commitment) and they mail you an RFID card. When you need a car, you make a reservation and wave the card at the reader to check it out. Supposedly there's an interlock between the RFID card reader and the ignition so that it's safe to leave the key tethered to the dashboard. However, I find it odd to have to use RFID to get in the car when it's locked. The RFID card doesn't always work on the first try; it will beep to say it recognizes that there's a card, but the doors don't unlock until you try again. It's also annoying to have to take the bus to get the car, because there really aren't any Zipcars in my neighborhood. The car comes with a gas-only card for filling the tank. Other than that, it's quite nice--$8/hr or $67/day to rent a car with unlimited mileage and gas. In all honesty the cheapest rate level ($50/yr fee and no usage commitment) might even prove an adequate complement to owning a car. That said, I'd probably go nuts having to walk 15 blocks to a car when it's 25 degrees outside. In good weather, Zipcar is less of a pain than, say, Hertz. Hertz+AAA is cheaper for a full day rental; Zipcar is cheaper for rentals shorter than about ~8.5 hours per day. Hertz could be easier if one goes for the "they drop it at your house" option but I'm sure that makes Hertz more expensive than Zipcar. Also, it's nice that Zipcar amortizes gas among all the users with the gas card.

if your major complaint is location, I think I'll go for it. there are a billion locations in nyc ps- nice comment-posting "password", I hope the bots don't find out ;)

They haven't yet.

Electric Cars

Occurred April 19, 2008 (Permalink)

Yes, I actually went to Ecomotion, a green-car dealership on Sandy Boulevard. In addition to "good enough mileage" cars (Civics, Hybrids, and other small cars) they sell a 4-wheeled electric box^Wwagon by Miles and 3-wheel Zapcars. I didn't really have an opportunity to test them--the Miles EV claimed not to go above 25mph ("government regulation" claimed the sales lady) which made it impractical to test anywhere near Sandy (35mph speed limits). That said, it looked like it could (just barely) seat four. Crash protection might be minimal--none of the usual manufacturer brochures of "look at the frame, it will keep you alive when you ram something at 70!" The Zapcars are classified as motorcycles due to the three-wheel design; though they claim a top speed of 40mph, I was off-put by the lack of sheet metal. Maybe the car was made from fiberglass? In any case, the range on those cars was not more than a few hundred miles. This did not come as a surprise to me, so I conclude--gasoline is still a great fuel, because it packs a lot of energy into an easily portable format. Electricity is a great idea, but admittedly the all-electric cars remind me of 1920s autos in terms of speed and range. Oh well, some day.

20s cars are great if they come with cute blond flapper chicks

Subaru Forester/Outback

Occurred April 20, 2008 (Permalink)
2005 Subaru Outback
2005 Subaru Outback

Today I went to a Subaru dealership to test drive as many Subarus as I could. Unfortunately, the only pictures I have are of the 2005 Outback that I rented a few years ago. As far as I can tell, the exterior styling is mostly the same, though the instrumentation seems to have changed a bit in the past three years.

The first car was the 2009 Forester. From what I can tell, the engine and the AWD are the same as last year, and everything else has been updated, from the 2008 Impreza, no doubt. There's more legroom in the back seat, though the Forester remains taller than the Outback. Past versions were shorter, but this new 2009 seemed to be almost the same length. Unfortunately, being dealer cars, I wasn't able to take it much further than out to 33rd (about 27 blocks and back), much less on my usual 130mi test track. The acceleration on the freeway was good (though admittedly the onramp to east 84 is downhill). Generally speaking the ride was solid and pretty quiet, though I did observe the engine taching pretty high even to get up to 65. But as I've said to a few people now, I don't much like the grey-on-grey interiors; new model year cars also make me leery.

The 2008 Forester, by comparison, is smaller than the 2009. Accordingly, the rear seat has precious little legroom--if I adjust the driver's seat to fit me then I can barely squeeze into the back. This makes it a non-starter to me; anyone I haul around should be able to fit in the car, regardless of how long their legs are.

The third car was a 2008 Outback 2.5i Limited. This car is powered by a 4-banger and a 4-speed automatic transmission (4AT). Merging onto the freeway, it was, shall we say, gutless. Not that one needs guts to drive down a hill onto a road that goes 50mph, though passing felt a bit slow. The steering and suspension felt more solid than the Forester, though I felt that I had to turn the steering wheel further to go around the same corners. Storage space in the rear of the car was more generous than the Forester; as the sales guy explained to me, Foresters are tall and short whereas Outbacks are shorter and long. The Outback doesn't have door frames, though I didn't observe wind or road noise being particularly noticeable. Given that these Subarus cost a bit more than the other vehicles I looked at (Prius and Element) I'd expect them not to rustle as much. Leg room in the back was acceptable but not as good as the Element; on the other hand, I don't see my food rolling around even if I don't spring for cargo nets. Overall it was a decent car and inexpensive. I did not have a chance to try SportShift on either Outback.

The fourth car was the 3.0R Bean Outback. Ignoring the foo-foo designer interior logos (Subaru says they're dropping the L.L. Bean for 2009), this car impresssed me. The engine is a 6-cylinder version of the regular Subaru boxer engine; the transmission is a 5-speed automatic with a knob to switch between three different modes: intelligent gas saving, regular sport, and sport-sharp. Getting on the freeway in gas-saving mode was a bit gutless ... but then I tried it with Sport-Sharp mode turned on, and did we ever zip down the road. The gas mileage was probably horrible, but the car accelerated so much more quickly than the Accord did that I was soon racing along 84 at Californian speeds. Passing was a breeze, as this car (even in regular Sport mode) clearly has plenty of power to spare. This car also comes with an oversized moon roof, which was pleasant to open up and enjoy the tiny bits of sun that evaded the clouds. The mirror turn signals weren't as bright as I'd hoped, though I do recall thinking that they were plenty bright when I saw an Outback XT downtown a few weeks ago. Heated seats and dual climate controls were nice amenities that reminded me of Woodley's Volvo. Only drawback? You pay for the extra performance.

What about the test track, you ask? I took the '05 Outback on the test track back in 2005. At that point didn't have the 205-14-5 spur into Vancouver, but the rest of it was there. I don't remember a whole lot about the experience other than it handled well on everything the road threw at it. Food did not roll around, and even if it does it'll stay in the cargo area. Visibility was excellent.

Honda Civic Hybrid

Occurred April 21, 2008 (Permalink)

Monday night I rented a 2007 Civic Hybrid to get myself to dance class. Regrettably, it was raining heavily and dark, so there are no pictures. If you want to see one, have a look at Honda's web site. Really, the point of this exercise was to compare the Civic Hybrid against the Prius, since I'd bought an Outback earlier in the day.

The Civic Hybrid, from what I can tell, is a more or less standard 4-banger with an electric motor attached to provide the motor with low-end torque. This means that the car will run, albeit slowly, if the battery dies; this also means that the engine never seems to shut all the way off. As one might expect, the gas mileage is lower than the Prius... but the Civic Hybrid looks like all the other Civics. Actually, there are some differences--the Hybrid has turn signals in the mirrors, just like the Accord Hybrid did.

The Civic handled the test track as well as the other cars in the roundup; the engine ran at lower RPMs going up the US-26 hill towards Beaverton than the Element, and had an easier time going 70 on 84 out to the Gorge. Despite the rain and the tree debris all over US-30, the car felt perfectly ok. There is no hatchback version of the Hybrid, which means that the Prius feels like it would do a better job of hauling cargo. Road noise, however, was much quieter in this car than the Prius.

Subaru Impreza

Occurred April 23, 2008 (Permalink)
2007 Subaru Impreza
2007 Subaru Impreza

I am a practical person. Because I wasn't 100% sure that I'd really be buying the Outback on Tuesday, I made a Zipcar reservation for an Impreza to get to SCD class on Wednesday. This left me in the funny position of having a car... and renting a car. So, we get a drive report for the Impreza even though I'd already taken posession of the Outback.

The Impreza 5-door is a hatchback version of the Impreza sedan, and quite a bit smaller than the Outback. Shorter, lower, etc. However, upon driving off in this car I figured out why it is that people love to rally with them-- despite the 4-banger, these cars' transmissions are tuned to give you lots of low-end torque without even having to press the pedal much! Even with the normally aspirated non-turbo version! Probably not a match for my 3.0R in S# mode, but they'd be close. In any case, merging on the freeway was downright delightful, and going up US-26 towards work was just plain snappy.

Because all Subarus are AWD, I took this Impreza for a high-speed spin on the US-30 part of the test track. Throughout the entire path, I kept the speeds at or exceeding the local speed limit, cruising around the 15mph curves at 30 in heavy rain and never felt that the car wasn't up to performing. Time to the top and back was 20 minutes, whereas with other cars (which I'll admit I wasn't driving as aggressively) it would take 30. Driving on the freeway the engine tach'd around 2500 for 70mph.

2008 Subaru Outback

Occurred April 25, 2008 (Permalink)
2008 Subaru Outback
2008 Subaru Outback

After all that fuss, I bought a 2008 Subaru Outback 3.0R. A road report will be posted just as soon as I get around to taking it out for a spin. Funny, since I bought this car on Tuesday but somehow haven't gotten around to driving it yet. [Now posted below. --Ed.] Lucky for me, I had the foresight to go home Sunday, poll all six area Subaru dealerships for bids, and get Carr and Wentworth in a bidding war for this blue and grey car. Also lucky that the 2009 Outbacks are coming in about three weeks and the economy is bad, so they were both willing to undercut themselves just to unload the car.

Test track highlights: Heading up US-26 towards Beaverton, the powertrain is generally gutless until you push it from Intelligent to Sport# mode. That wasn't a huge surprise, since the 2005 Outback was permanently in Intelligent mode and suffered from that problem too. I had to be a little lead-footed to maintain 60 in Sport mode, but had no problems doing 60 in Sport#. The gas pedal and the brake have a firm feeling--unlike a lot of drive-by-wire cars where you nudge the accelerator and the car goes, I have to give both pedals a healthy push to get much of a response. Of course, in Sport# mode alleviates those complaints for the gas pedal, but the brake is always like that. It's not a critical problem since the brakes clearly stop the car, but it will take getting used to.

Heading east on 84 out of town, I noticed another thing--this car is a drive-by-wire car. Since there's no throttle cable, when the cruise control is engaged the pedal doesn't remain where you left it when you engaged the cruise control. Instead, it rises back to the top position as soon as you ease off the pedal. The car, of course, does not slow down, but if you want to use the pedal again you have to push it as hard as you normally would push it until the engine revs up to tell you that you've found the old position. I vaguely recall the Prius having the same characteristics. The engine tach'd around 2300 to maintain 70, 2800 to maintain 80, and 3200 to maintain 90.

Going up US-30 to Crown Point, I had a chance to turn all the lights on: head lights, high beams, and fog lights. The headlights by themselves are really quite bright, possibly due to their projector lens assembly. However, there is a sharp cutoff between dark areas and headlit areas. The cutoff seemed to be aligned to show the reflectors atop the concrete center median, which was useful. The high beams appear to be as bright as the headlights, but are aimed higher. The fog lights lit up the bottom periphery that the foglights did not catch. The daytime running lamps may or may not be useful, though I have never had a DRL car so I do not know.

The Outback's performance on the US-30 curves was pretty good. I could keep the car at close to posted speed limits and didn't feel like the car was going to lose control. Being a heavier, longer, and higher-ground-clearance car than then Impreza, the Outback did feel a bit clumsier and heavier going around the curves. That said, I was going almost as fast as I was on Wednesday, but it was more fun in an Impreza. I'll try it again in a few months to see if it's the car or just the fact that it's still probably breaking itself in. The transmission seems to be a bit noisy, too. I checked the ATF levels, and they were ok, so maybe it will go away with time.

Oh yeah--I nearly got creamed by a semi while merging onto 84 west. To escape this predicament I engaged Sport# mode, floored the car, and went from 35 to around 80 in about 5 seconds. The large moonroof might have been great for watching the stars, but I wasn't stopping because of recent police reports about armed robbers driving around the Gorge towns to stir up trouble. Heh, that's just like West Oakland.

The interior is very comfortable and soft. I was also impressed that all of my car emergency tools fit in the black hidey-hole under the main floor of the cargo area. The tonneau cover appears to hide the cargo area's contents from public view, provided they aren't too big. I like the radio's ability to read MP3/WMA files off a CD. The car came with a couple sample defects--rather a lot of dirt caked in the engine, a rattle in the front passenger door, and a few dirt streaks here and there. But other than that, I still love the car.

Tulips

Occurred April 26, 2008 (Permalink)
Orange flowers!
Orange flowers!

Oh! I nearly forgot to put in a link to pictures of this year's crop of flowers. Returning from last year are red, purple and the yellow/red tulips; making a debut this year are a couple of orange ones and the small yellow globules of the Oregon grapes. Regrettably, the daffodils died before I could get any pictures. There are a ton of the little globular blue flowers too. I think the carnation came and went before I noticed, sadly.

Wauna Lookout Point

Occurred April 26, 2008 (Permalink)
Wauna Lookout Tower
Wauna Lookout Tower

Today: A blessed sunny Saturday! With that in mind, I decided that it was time to use the Outback for some outdoor activities, so I flipped through the red Sullivan book for a good hike and came up with Wauna Point. There are actually two versions of this hike--a moderate one up to the Wauna lookout point and a hard one up to the top of Wauna Point itself. I chose the first and was glad, because it turns out that I'm rather out of shape having lost most of April to car shopping.

The path out of the parking lot is a bit confusing--it's a paved bike path that goes alongside the freeway and an electrical transformer, before joining US-30 (now a footpath) that wanders up into the mountains that I-84 cuts through. Just before the end of the path there's a stop sign; from the stop sign the not-very-obvious trail heads up the Gorge wall. About 0.8 miles later there's a fork in the path--go left to the lookout point or go right to the top of the Point. I went left, wandered up through a bunch of steep switchbacks, and soon acquired the lookout point. There was even a big concrete pillar to note the end of the trail at 1050'. I took some panoramas from there, and looked way up to the real top of the Point. The real top looks to be less of a hike than Ruckel Ridge, but fearsome nonetheless.

I descended and wandered around US-30 for a ways. Ignoring the landslide blocking the road just west of Tanner Creek, US-30 becomes a hike-and-bike path running alongside I-84. I don't know where it goes, because I got bored and went back to Tanner Creek to look at waterfalls. Might be fun to return with a bike, but the bike hitch doesn't get installed until Wednesday.

The Tanner Creek loop trail follows the creek about a mile upstream to a series of waterfalls. Due to it being a sunny day, there were a lot of kids and dogs running around all over the place, and a number of heavyset people in the parking lot. Ihe eastern fork of the loop was more technically difficult, because it wound high into the creek walls instead of following the creek like the west fork did. The trail ended with a dramatic waterfall that was probably 70 feet high.

After that, I got back in the car and took it to the ice cave to see how it handles the off-road areas. On ice the car seemed to handle ok despite the weird noises coming from the undercarriage; I stopped to have a look and realized that was just the slush being thrown up by the wheels--with 8.5" of clearance, the underside was completely dry! I kept going towards the ice cave, but the height of the snow got higher and the gap between the snow walls kept getting narrower until ... I encountered the spot where no snow plows had ventured past. At that point, I got to make a 3-point turn in the snow, which the car executed beautifully, despite the fact that I was basically using the bumpers as a snow plow. I then took the car onto some dirt roads and tried to make it slide around at 35mph; no such luck with this car. It would appear that Subaru is serious about the fancy AWD in the 3.0R. A day gone, I hit up the Charburger in Cascade Locks before heading home.

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