First blood

Every car enthusiast at some point becomes curious enough to start to work on his car(s) himself. Tooling around on your own car is practically a rite of passage, after which you gain a better understanding of what cars are and how they eat and breathe, so to speak.

Your new-found mechanical knowledge also leads you to better evaluate different cars and thus form a stronger, better-informed opinion.

Inevitably, though, the 'mechanic's companion' shows up: just as you will sooner or later start messing with the spark plugs (for instance), you will – sooner or later – inadvertently leave a bit of biological tissue somewhere on your beloved chariot.

Now it's official

After clearing customs and the shipline this past Friday, I arranged a trucker to come by the port, pick up the container, and take it to their warehouse, where we would unpack it (!). The port is never open on weekends, and Monday was a today it was.

We arrived at the warehouse this morning and met up with my contact at the main office. He told us that there was a lineup at the port and it would take longer than expected to get to the container.

No matter...there was a Starbucks nearby.

Developments, part VII

Lucky seven (VII), it seems. I say that because the car is here.

Yes, you read that right. My Fića has finally arrived.

The picture you see above are the car's spare tires inside its container. There will be more news soon, after I take care of what's left of the import process. Keep an eye on the blog.

Or if you like, the car has a case of seasickness and jetlag, so it needs to rest...

The embargo still goes for now, though.

Review: 2010 Volkswagen City Golf

As far as my real estate knowledge takes me, it is next to impossible to find a townhouse that is not part of a complex. To preserve the uniformity of these house clusters, every complex is governed by a 'strata,' which coordinates (read: decides on) at least every aspect of the exterior appearance of every residing unit.

When it comes time to renovate the complex, the strata evaluates the weight of the porcelain swine-look-a-like that has eaten all of the members’ monthly fees and subsequently decides how good of a company they can hire to swap out the insulation, re-blacken the roofs, and apply new plastic boards onto the outside of every unit.

Not only do I happen to live in such a complex, but also my group of houses has taken the big step and asked some people with white vans to give the place a once-over. By the looks of things, though, my complex’s pig wasn’t quite fat enough. Allow me to elaborate…

Developments, part VI

In Serbian tradition, when a baby is first brought home, a red string is tied around his wrist which protects the little guy from bad luck and bad people.

Alternatively, a red ribbon is tied on the top of the baby's crib so that when people with an evil eye enter the room, they first spot the ribbon, which absorbs their malevolent gaze before it has a chance to get to the baby.

Many people laugh at all this, citing it as useless superstition, but somehow all babies end up having either red strings or ribbons...

Developments, part V

Before you can register a car or renew its insurance in Serbia, it has to take and pass the safety inspection. It's done every year (every six months if the vehicle is a taxi), and inspectors check everything: bodywork, emissions, engine, battery, seat belts, airbags, lights...notice how they aren't satisfied with just sticking a tube on your exhaust for two minutes.

Usually, people with much older cars fear the inspection like an evil sorcerer in a particular grown-up children's book. It's moments like the safety inspection when you are glad you laid down the cash for a full restoration.

Fortunately, the process of finishing the papers for the car was also far from horrible, not involving any unplanned requests for cash (these aren't as rampant in Serbia as you might think)... But every bureaucratic adventure cannot be without its obstacles. It's physically impossible.

Developments, part IV

Most people enjoy doing what they are good at. Therefore, if your profession entails law, you most likely will enjoy filing paperwork to some extent. If you aren't a lawyer, though, the process of paperwork promises to be tedious and overwhelming.

Naturally, when it's all over with, the feeling of relief is endless.

This time around, I am one of those people. Not a lawyer, but somebody doing paperwork. This is much easier said than done.

Developments, part III

(VW Golf Harlequin)

Back in the day when I was a kid, coloring was all the rage. We were all required to have a full set of pencil-crayons for school, so that we could do all the assignments that mandated making rainbows of provincial borders.

As the years progress, and as one learns the true value of pencil crayons, they become quite the commodity. Those that had them reveled (well, not quite), those that didn't, borrowed, and those that didn't borrow, stole. Thankfully, one innovative grade-school teacher came up with the idea of 'collateral', so the integrity of those willing to share was ultimately preserved.

Road Trip Take Two, Wrap-Up

(So close, yet so far.)

Typically, the first time one visits a particular place, their impression is either extremely good or extremely bad; it's most common to have a positive one. Exploring an interesting place for the first time evokes a feeling not unlike that of certain people who came to these lands on wind-powered wooden rafts hundreds of years ago.

Therefore, the sense of exploration is vast, and more so is the sense of accomplishment. As a result, happiness increases and your impression ends up being very polished.

One who is so bold as to return to the same place a second time commonly finds that the very same setting is not so appealing as it was, and the opinion that time around is face-down.

However, there are cases where the first impression is proven to be very accurate and it does not morph the second time around, but is cemented further.

Simply put, my own second-impression experience fits into neither of these. Considering the scope and nature of the project which this blog is mainly about, you probably aren't surprised to read that.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 10

(Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?)

The last bit of driving to get 'back to the start' was effectively the same as it was in the last road trip, save for some much sunnier weather. Most of the time.

I'd be repeating myself if I discussed driving back on the I-5 in detail, so I'll swerve in a different direction: things here in the US are different.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 9

(Clear skies, clear roads.)

As much as it is highly interesting to slowly arrive in California, it is as painful to leave at the same pace. While you tear through the striped black stuff, the place that you found to be so awesome erodes away in front of your eyes at a painfully slow pace.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 8

(Crafty Romans and their glass pool!)

It would be a shame to have such a huge fortune like W.R. Hearst only to have descendants spill it away in a week. Besides having constant ideas on how to furnish his estate, Hearst also dreamed of the future, when his grand-kids couldn't be bothered to work but wanted to buy a Ferrari all the same. Why not just sell one of "grampa's" old statues? It would be just one...nobody will even notice.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 7

It would be odd of me to keep repeating the fact that there are all sorts of things to see along the PCH and not actually visit any of those things. Precisely that was on today's itinerary, helped by the fact that the weather was very pleasant. It was so pleasant that it erased all memory of chilling grayness.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 6

(Neptune Pool in Hearst Castle)

Remember how I mentioned that there are a variety of towns and attractions along the PCH? So did we. That's why today we went further south along California 1 and kept going until we reached Hearst Castle.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 5

(Where Dirty Harry buys croissants.)

The Pacific Coast Highway is more than just a good driving road. There are an infinite number of interesting places to stop and look besides the common ocean-side pullouts. The PCH periphery offers a multitude of interesting towns which have their own character and attractions.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 4

(Clear skies above San Francisco...can you feel the irony yet?)

Thus far, we haven't been involved in any large fires, so I assume that's a good thing. I say "assume" since they – as I mentioned – are related to warm weather, which is the polar opposite (see what I did there?) of what there is here in San Francisco. People are in coats and scarves. In August. I'm not joking in the least bit, though I wish I were.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 3

(Coitus Tower)

Don't be fooled into thinking that San Francisco is a sunny summer destination simply because it's in California. Just as it has its own brand of people, architecture, and city planning, it has its own weather program as well.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 2

(Long time no see...)

Traveling the old-fashioned way certainly has its benefits. Just like people tearing up the miles with horse-carriages, you get a great sense of satisfaction when you get there. Though, traveling thousands of kilometers with a horse-carriage also has a dangerous aspect. Not a problem when your carriage is a car, then.

Road Trip Take Two, Day 1

(Traffic? What traffic?)

Usually one tries to avoid rush hour at all costs, even when one plans to be in it. We pointed the car in a generally southbound direction sometime after five o'clock in the afternoon.

Now, it may seem like the two above statements are in complete contradiction, but I assure you, there is some sense to be had.

The empire strikes back

While describing my California road trip, I may have mentioned at some point that despite all that was seen, there was more that wasn't. Combining many things with little time will usually do that.

When presented with the opportunity to correct this, most people would grab it with their hands and feet. I just used my hands... As a result, I shall be pointing the car southbound once again, but just not as much.

Namely, the itinerary calls for San Francisco and the (greater) bay area. Further details are yet to be posted, as the entire trip will be blogged, just like last time.

I shall answer the road's call tomorrow, so stay tuned...

How hard can it be?

Restoring something – be it a car or a relationship – is not for those lacking a drive for accomplishment. There is so much to keep track of and so many aspects which must be dealt with very delicately.

Many people eventually abandon the attempt, unknowing to the fact that they were probably 99 percent of the way there. Those that do manage to patch up a tarnished relationship can finally enjoy the benefits, especially if the type is of the romantic variety.

Road Trip, Wrap-Up

(Las Vegas, San Diego, or both?)

Time is infinitely useful: it can heal wounds, create bonds, and form perspectives.

Over a week's worth of time has passed and the drops are still dripping. They are all rather intriguing, but each in its own way. Some boggle the mind, and others are little more than novelty.

Road Trip, Day 14

("America" is subjective.)

Waking up in Roseburg, Oregon meant that today we would eventually be back where we started. Therefore, driving down the I-5 meant getting one last look at the multiple dimensions of Obama-world.

Road Trip, Day 13

(Sand dunes in Monterey)

A very obscure saying goes something like "all things must come to an end." The faster the end comes, the harder the shock is, and the sadder one becomes.

There are many advantages to taking the car to a destination close to three thousand kilometers away, and among them is the fact that the end does not come nearly as quickly.

Namely, instead of taking a flight and ending it all in a few short hours, you have two whole days to readjust and prepare yourself for the daily grind that will erode you once again.

But you have an ace up your sleeve: two weeks in a much more interesting place not only recharges your batteries, but gives your exterior a olive-tanned re-finish that will take longer to erode...

Road Trip, Day 12

(Remnants of a different time.)

Time is a moody companion. During the first half of the trip – i.e. before Los Angeles – days were endless and well beyond interesting. Now, having left Los Angeles, the return to monotony is becoming ever clearer. At least there will be rowing...

Road Trip, Day 11

(Turns out his head is much bigger in person...)

Perhaps among the reasons why all rooms of the Queen Mary are not open for exploration is that it would simply be too much to explore in a reasonable amount of time. The whole ship would be very interesting, but there would be too many things to view in one day; one could not see everything during their short stay aboard the liner.

Oddly, this would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles, because it is indescribably huge. Larger still is the amount of attractions that there are to visit. Bus tours last four hours alone! Three days is not enough to see – let alone take in – even half of what LA has to offer.

Road Trip, Day 10

(Rivets galore.)

With the Lego adventure thoroughly fulfilled, it was time to move on to ocean liners. Happily, the Queen Mary is permanently docked in Long Beach, therefore a visit was in order.

It's worth mentioning that if you do not wish to take the freeway to get to Long Beach, you have to drive through Compton. Yes, that Compton.

Road Trip, Day 9


The first day in Los Angeles started out in front of the hotel room, which has french doors in the back that open up to some lounge chairs by the pool. Like San Diego, it feels like you are in a Mediterranean resort, though in its own way. The thirty-two degree weather helped achieve the effect as well.

Road Trip, Day 8

(Historical Balboa Park)

All things must come to an end, and such is the case with our time in San Diego. We took advantage of this last day and took in an older part of the city, after visiting the automotive museum.

Road Trip, Day 7

(Capitol hill, smaller than it tends to be.)

We went to Legoland.

As you go down Legoland Drive, you pass huge Lego letters spelling out a welcome message, ending at the toll booths. Yes, like San Francisco's bridges, Legoland has toll booths, where you must pay parking.

Road Trip, Day 6

(This bird has over 40 different calls.)

The talk of the town is the new immigration law that threatens to outlaw the hiring of Mexican illegal workers. I see this as contradictory: Americans are saying that the "illegals" are taking all their jobs, yet the same "illegals" are doing jobs that no Americans want to do. The first people that this law would negatively affect would be the Americans themselves! What are they going to do when there is no more housekeeping? Clean their rooms themselves? This could get entertaining...

Road Trip, Day 5

(San Diego, as it once was.)

Things are never as one expects. We woke up in Bakersfield, the second 'stopover city' in this road trip, and a phenomenon has repeated itself: the hotel was exceptional...the smaller towns have a more than competitive offering.

Road Trip, Day 4

(Pelican's Lair, from the hills of San Francisco.)

Funny how things change after a little bit of time.

Having completed yesterday's tour allowed today's touristic wandering to be more decisive. Due to the respective management's thirst for tourist blood, the Pelican tour will have to wait for another opportunity; the rest of San Francisco, however, was all ours.

Road Trip, Day 3

(The pelican's lair.)

When planning a vacation, many people like to find information about their future destination. They 'Google' their hearts out to know what people recommend that they visit, what parts of town are safe, and overall get an idea of what they should do.

Kinda takes the fun out of discovery, doesn't it?

Road Trip, Day 2

(San Francisco's Pacific coast.)

Waking up at the crack of dawn (or what felt like it), we had the very basic continental breakfast and prepared to leave Oregon. What we didn't know was that Oregon was not done with us just yet.

Road Trip, Day 1

An appropriate beginning.)

One would think that an entire day spent behind the wheel would yield no stories, but the opposite is true: you see quite a bit of interesting things as you observe people performing one of the most complex tasks that they do.


As you read this, I will be heading down the west coast on my way to California! Such a detail will result in a change in the regularly-scheduled programming for the time being.

Considering that this is an automotive blog, I will be doing the appropriate thing and driving down to my destination, blogging along the way. Stay tuned...

BMW Innovation Drive, part IV

There’s a reason why cars like BMWs cost as much as they do.

The new 5 Series can park itself: the Automatic Parking Assistant sees if there’s a parallel parking spot big enough for the car, notifies you, and with the press of a button, it’ll take care of the steering for you while you only worry about the pedals as the car parks! It even tells you on the screen how much brake or gas to apply and when.

It’s doors can also close themselves, in a way: if you don’t shut the door all the way, it’ll pull it in the rest of the way, so that you don’t have to unlock the car, open the door, and slam it closed again.

BMW Innovation Drive, part III

Standing under a tent on an unusually hot Sunday afternoon, the group of us was about to embark on the in-no-way-modest final module of the BMW “Innovation Drive:” flooring the 2010 335d (diesel) sedan, 2011 335i coupe, and 2011 135i coupe around another test track.

Now when I say “flooring,” I actually mean, “rolling;” it makes perfect sense, I assure you. Let’s take the 135i as an example: this car has 300 horsepower, but it is about the size of a Hyundai Acc(id)ent. To reiterate: three hundred raging stallions crammed into a small soda can.

Most will assume that so much power coupled with so little weight means it’ll outrun a Bugatti Veyron when you squash the unusually-tall gas pedal between your foot and its firewall.

However, most will be wrong: it’s not that simple.

BMW Innovation Drive, part II

Module two of the BMW “Innovation Drive” was putting the new 2011 5 Series through a twisty track. The six “5-ers” we were given to drive were the only ones in Canada for the time being, as this car isn’t on sale yet. Five of them were 535i models (the six-cylinder ones), and one was the 550i (the ones with the V8) that most of us didn’t get to try out.

Before we began, we were briefed on some specifics about the cars. We learned that the servo isn’t actually on until you turn the wheel, that the car has regenerative brakes even though it’s not a hybrid, and that it’s automatic transmission has eight (!) gears. All in the name of efficient dynamics, you see…not because Mercedes recently came out with a seven-speed 'box.

As one of the instructors in module one quipped after making a parallel with bicycle transmissions, “we’re not planning to make a car with 11 gears, but never say never.”

BMW Innovation Drive, part I

On a nice, warm, relaxing Sunday, most people just take it easy. Some go for a drive in their well-cared-for classic cars, others lounge on their decks at home, and others pay a visit to the pool. Not me though: I went to an airport to floor five new BMW’s through what’s essentially an obstacle course…

On arrival, you enter a tent through glass doors, sign in, finish registration and take a survey on a computer. Then you proceed into the waiting area, featuring light food and drinks, some modern looking half-sofas, and a big-screen TV playing some BMW beauty shots.

The event was composed of three modules, the first of which contained a sales presentation about the new 2010 5-series GT crossover and the 2010 X6 ActiveHybrid ‘coupe-SUV’ (not kidding).

Developments, part II

(A souvenir, but not from a gift shop.)

For most non-famous people, it can be slightly awkward when you see a photo of something you own – or yourself – on the internet posted by someone you've never had the pleasure of meeting.

This happened to me recently: it turns out that my Fića is interesting to more people than I thought...someone who also has a taste for "old-timers" (there are in fact more of us mental patients out there) came across my car, snapped a pic, and posted it on the internet.

Since my embargo is truly global, the individual in question was surprised when I told him that it was actually my car. As a wise thinker once said, the internet is a marvel (internet je ćudo – majke mi). Indeed, the truth has been spoken.

Developments, part I

(My Fića is third from the bottom.)

When one plans a trip, one does everything possible to keep negative externalities to a minimum: people like to ensure that they stay at a good hotel and that their flight leaves at an agreeable time (seems logical). When they arrive at their destination, people tend to focus on the experience at hand, blocking out thoughts of unplanned events that are yet to present themselves.

However, rarely does one consider that positive externalities could also occur... So, imagine my sentiment when I learned that the opportunity to visit the Fića in person before it gets shipped was to become a reality.

Review: 2010 Mazda3 GX

In its day, the Fića was an affordable car meant for the masses; today, there are many contenders in that class. Here is my review of one of them.

The city I live in is known for many things: its natural scenery, its relaxed way of life, and its upcoming sporting events. However, something that the mega-hamlet is definitely not known for is the exemplary skill of its drivers. A few weekends ago, I managed to dodge this abundance of road awareness for long enough to successfully meet some friends at a café.

Being the three-leaf clover that I am known to be, I ended up sitting by a window with my parked car in plain view. While listening to stories about the army and electronic book readers, I was subject to the Chinese water torture that was watching how the very thing I tried earlier to avoid was attempting to park itself around my car.