Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday 2011 Shopping in Louisville

For Black Friday 2011we decided to get out of Indianapolis and shop Louisville, one of our favorite cities just 90 minutes from Indy.  We had considered trying to get some of the great Black Friday deals, like a $199 flat screen, but after seeing the line of people camped out (literally - with tents and picnic tables) in Greenwood, we thought we'd go to Louisville for a fun day at some of our favorite places.

We got to Clarksville just in time for lunch.  Clarksville is on the Indiana side of the river just north of Louisville.  We love good BBQ, so you won't be surprised to find out we ate lunch at Famous Daves, one of our top choices for BBQ in Indiana.  We like the lunch specials at Famous Daves that let us have a great lunch for only about $20.

After lunch we headed to Bass Pro in Clarksville.  Bass Pro is a great outdoor store with camping, fishing, hunting and even lots of golf equipment.  Just walking inside this Bass Pro is an adventure.  They have a two story tall water feature and they do fishing demonstrations pretty much daily.  For those of us old enough to remember, the Bass Pro in Clarksville is actually in what used to be an old festival mall.  Bass Pro took over and remodeled an entire wing of the mall, making this one of the largest Bass Pro shops in the country.  Even if you are not much of an outdoorsman and you think there is nothing for you at Bass Pro, this place is really spectacular and worth a visit.

From Bass Pro we headed into Louisville, which took a little extra time because of traffic on the 65 bridge.  The 64 bridge is currently closed for emergency repairs which is creating some real traffic jams on the 65 bridge, especially during rush hour.  About a month ago we sat in traffic in Louisville for almost an hour waiting to get across the bridge and come home.  Because Black Friday is pretty much a holiday traffic was light and we had just a few minutes of a delay.

One of our favorite places to visit in Louisville is Bardstown Road, which is an incredible pedestrian shopping area filled with independent shops and restaurants.  This area is filled with antique stores, coffee shops and boutiques, and we always go to a Tuesday Morning store that is at the loop.  Bardstown Road is a lot like historic Frankfort Avenue.

Eventually we made our way to our favorite malls out on Shelbyville Road, Oxmore and Mall St. Matthews.  Oxmore has a really great three story Macys - much bigger and better than anything we can find in Indianapolis.  At St. Matthews, Dillards has two gigantic stores, with one for men and one for women.  Dillards has fantastic sales, often discounting their sale and clearance items another 40-50%, so we've learned to always visit on holidays.  Oxmore and St. Matthews might be a little like Keystone and Castleton in Indianapolis, but we think they are so much better we don't mind a short 90 minute drive.

We had a great Black Friday 2011, and even though we weren't in Florida, we always love a trip to Louisville.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons learned from our Carmax nightmare

By now most of you have seen us in our new 2005 Crown Victoria Sport.  We started driving the Sport after our 1997 Crown Victoria stopped running at 325,000 miles.  The truth is that we had put off buying a new car for a long time.  The old Crown Vic just kept going and going, which made it easy to turn down new cars.  But when we got stranded and found ourselves on and off of buses and in and out of rental cars for nearly a month, we got in a real hurry to get a new car.  We got the 2005 at Carmax, and in the process we have learned a few lessons we want to share with our friends.

Update: Hold the phone! We finally got a refund check for some of the repairs.  Find out what Carmax gave us back and what they said wasn't covered near the bottom of this post.

Lesson #1: Never buy a car from Carmax that has obvious problems after a five minute test drive.  Seriously, this one is a non-negotiable and we botched it because we were just so beat from riding the bus and renting cars for nearly a month.  We might have an excuse, but we never should have bought this car.  During the test drive we heard the right side catalytic converter rattling and buzzing under the car.  We knew the non-stop door chime was the sign of a broken part in the key cylinder.  We were underwhelmed by the loose pieces in the trunk, and the scratches we could see were a real warning of what our Carmax friends were hiding from us under the wax they'd slopped on like butter.  They told us it was returnable.  They told us it had a warranty.  All that might sound good, but they also told us they couldn't even hear the buzzing catalytic converter, and those things are expensive to replace.  Bottom line, there are a lot of used cars on the market, so if you drive one that makes you nervous, no matter how long you waited for it or how much money you paid to have it shipped, walk away.  Leave it behind and go have a cookie and juicebox.  We caved to the pressure of the salesperson de-prioritizing our concerns by saying it was a six year old car, and jeez, for the fourth time buddy, that non-stop chime is perfectly normal.

Lesson #2: If you have a five day return policy, return the thing in less than five days.  We literally burned three of our five days of the return policy with our new car sitting at the dealership repair center.  Why was it at a dealership repair center you ask, when that wicked helpful Carmax salesman said they couldn't hear anything and the chime was perfectly normal?  Because that salesperson was wrong.  The morning after we bought the car we took it to a Ford dealership.  The technician diagnosed the failed catalytic converter while sitting in the drivers seat.  And that non-stop chime?  No problem at the dealership.  They can replace that failed part in the key cylinder for less that $200.  Your friendly dealership can also make you a valet key, since you didn't get one from Carmax, and they can determine the five digit key code for the keyless entry, since you didn't get that from Carmax either.  And when it takes three days, Ford gives you a TAP.  This is dealership lingo for a loaner car.  Basically, we got our fourth rental car in as many weeks.  So right after we buy the car, we drive the TAP while the dealership fixes the car we just bought.  Seriously.  Instead of repairing a car you just bought, observe lesson #2 and return the car you just bought.  And for those in the back of the room waving your hand wanting to ask why we didn't take it to Carmax for a warranty repair, remember those experts couldn't hear the problem, so there was no getting them to fix it, warranty or no warranty.

Lesson #3: Warning signs are actually signs of bad things to come, not a signal that a miracle will happen.  We had a shopped a long time for a car.  Back in 2010 we actually found a car at Carmax and had it shipped to Indianapolis so we could buy it.  Problem was, the car was at a price our lender wouldn't approve.  You see, Carmax had priced it at premium, and wouldn't negotiate the price.  Carmax of course offered us their own financing, but an overpriced car is an overpriced car, so we turned it down.  And then when they dropped the price of the car more than 10% within about a week do you think the salesperson bothered to call us?  Heck no, they sold the car we had shipped to someone else.  So because we didn't learn lesson #3, we had another car shipped.  We waited and waited for this one.  They told us it was scheduled for pick up and transport, then gave us a new date.  When our bank called our salesperson for information, they didn't even return the call.  And this was our bank needing to confirm details for the financing, not window shopping.  We were trying to buy a car and they wouldn't even call our bank back.  Talk about a warning sign.  So here is our service list for the first 30 days:

  1. Replaced right side catalytic converter at Ford dealership, luckily covered by manufactures warranty.
  2. Repaired key cylinder to stop that non-stop chime Carmax said was normal.
  3. Paid for a new valet key that we didn't get, and paid to get the keyless entry code set.
  4. Got the tires balanced.  This car was shaking like nobody's business going down the road.  We finally figured out, after checking everything else, that the new tires slapped on at Carmax hadn't been mounted properly and balanced.
  5. Our regular mechanics drained the water Carmax put in the windshield washer tank and actually filled it with wiper fluid.  What a novel idea.  We also got new wipers.
  6. Got the oil changed, more as a precaution than anything, so make sure that was right.
  7. The best one we saved for last: the radiator and coolant system was actually filled with water!  We got the car all the way to the Keys to find this one out.  So we paid $100 to have the system flushed and filled with antifreeze.  Had that water frozen in the radiator and cracked in the Indianapolis winter, well, you can just imagine what we would be saying about that.
$500 in service and repairs later this car is finally starting to earn some credibility with us. But seriously, water in the radiator?  Water in the wiper fluid?  Sorry sir, but we can't hear that rattle under the car?  And that chime that won't stop, that perfectly normal, I swear.

We did call Carmax about all the repairs and service we were having done to the car, and we were told to submit the service invoices for possible reimbursement.  We submitted just under $500 in service bills.  Carmax reimbursed exactly $197.35.  They reimbursed the repair of the key cylinder that was done at our Ford dealer, but that was it.  Carmax sold us a car with a radiator filled with water, and when we had that water drained and replaced with real antifreeze, they refused to pay and said it was routine maintenance.  Apparently for  Carmax, selling cars with radiators filled with water is such common practice it doesn't even get their attention.  Those severely out of balance tires -  not a Carmax problem.  The fact that they didn't give us the keyless entry code - not their problem again, and don't even think Carmax is going to reimburse the $40 Ford charged to determine the entry code, or pay for the valet key that didn't come with the car.  And don't even get us started about the broken locking trunk release button and the missing panel fasteners on the front fender or in the trunk.  Fact is, Carmax claimed to have inspected the car.  This is the same car we drove off the lot with a failed catalytic converter and a radiator filled with water.

Carmax goes on and on about their detailed inspection, described by our salesperson as going over the car with a fine-tooth comb.  We find it hard to believe this car got inspected.  Either Carmax filled the radiator with water, or they didn't find it during their so-called "inspection."  In any case, we think our experience with Carmax has been a nightmare.  We think they misrepresented the car to us, and had we been smart and followed our lessons, we would have either walked away or returned it.

With all that said, Crown Victoria Sports are hard to find, so we are hopeful to get everything sorted out with this one so we can enjoy it.  As the Sport goes down the road, you'll read about here on Josh and Joe Travels.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Watching cruise ships come in at Mallory in Key West

Lately we've been watching more cruise ships as they come and go in Key West.  A lot of cruises stop in Key West.  We especially like the Disney Magic, and the fact that it plays When You Wish Upon a Star instead of blowing a horn when they are ready to sail.  We've seen the Magic a few times in Key West.

When the ships come in there is a ton of pedestrian traffic on Duval, and the trolley's and Conch trains are buzzing all over the island.  We're fascinated by how such a big ship can come into port, and how the Sunshine Key shuttles just buzz through a tiny opening at the docks.

The bad news is that these cruise ships can entirely block the view of sunset from Mallory Square, so if you are visiting and see a ship in port, you might get to Mallory early to get your spot.  Otherwise, you might consider watching sunset from the fort or another location.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Key West, the Party Goes On

Given the events of October, it was an odd feeling to be in Key West during Fantasy Fest, which is the city's biggest street fair and festival with close to 100,000 people.  Fantasy Fest is the Mardi Gras of the Florida Keys.

Fantasy Fest has changed a lot over the years, so we were both really charmed to hear a band playing in Sloppy Joe's that we first heard probably ten years ago.  Like most of Fantasy Fest, the lyrics of the song really don't fit the family-friendly format of our blog.  Still, some parents think Fantasy Fest is fun for the whole family and we see them and their strollers on Duval late at night.

Fantasy Fest really revs up as the week goes on, capped off by the big night parade on Saturday.  Fantasy Fest used to be all about the beads, but now that Captain Morgan has become the main sponsor, body paint rules on Duval.  We joke about how the Fest has changed, how the streets are lined with grandparents freshly painted and worn out from their Harley ride down US 1, happy to be in the Fantasy Zone where they can walk around with an open container worry-free.

Locals break out the real costumes for the Mascarade March, basically a costumed beer crawl from the historic cemetery to downtown.  Our neighbor has led one of the two routes for several years, and we were amazed by his jellyfish man of war costume.  He made it out of a an old umbrella, some fabric and paint, and it was wicked cool.  By Friday night though, we needed a break.  So instead of heading downtown to fight the tourist, we went to see a movie.  We saw In Time, which was a good movie but maybe not the best choice.

Key West is a magical place.  The nonstop party on Duval is a way of life and for most of us it is hard to imagine how they do it everyday.  But it is also a good reminder.  The party must go on.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunset in Key West

Key West is famous for sunsets.  There is a great scene in the movie Running Scared when Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines visit Key West and they repeatedly ask a tourist what everyone is watching at sunset.  At the end of their visit, there they are, watching sunset, just enjoying the moment.  Sunset is probably one of the most iconic parts of any visit to Key West.

Most people watch sunset from Mallory Square, which is at the end of Duval where all the street performers set up along the water.  Mallory is also where most of the big cruise ships come in, so on a busy day some of those boats can really block the view.  In addition to the street performers, Mallory is also a good place to pick up some local handmade Key West art.  There are several good art galleries on Duval with local Key West art.  We've started collecting Pam Hobbs prints.  We even talked with Pam at one of the galleries and she told us about how someone sold their house because of her artwork.  The buyers toured the home with the artwork in place and loved the house.  Once they bought it and moved in, they tracked Pam down in Key West and purchased new artwork.  It is a really neat story.

We try to watch sunset just about every night we are in the Keys.  We probably watch most nights from Mallory, but there are lots of places around the island to watch the sun go down depending on the time of year.  Here are a few of our favorite pictures of sunsets in October.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our October Journey

We love to travel, and as many of you know, we especially love road trips, and we have been blessed to go on many of our adventures in our 1997 Ford Crown Victoria.  The Crown Vic has been with us through a lot, through the good times and the bad, and it never once left us stranded.  Our friends have seen that sky blue Crown Vic parked everywhere from the Oklahoma State Fair to the flea market on Big Pine, and it took us and the cat and the hat back and forth to the Keys enough times that we stopped counting.  We didn't have to keep track of the miles because the Crown Vic kept track of those on its own, and you might even remember our blog post celebrating when we turned over 300,000 miles.  At about 180,000 miles, a Ford dealership service technician told us "that's half a life on a Crown."  The life of our Crown stopped at 325,000.

In September we started the process of finding our new Crown Vic, and we will be posting a lot about that process and the surprises as the months go buy.  Joe believes things happen for a reason, and even in the hard times, looks for things that give him a sign that we are making the right decision.  So when we ordered a 2005 Crown Victoria Sport in September to be shipped to Indiana, it didn't take us more than a couple weeks to take it back home to where it's first owner called home in South Florida.  There is a good chance we even shop at the same Walmart.  So while the Sport now has Indiana tags, it gets to see home a lot.

We got the Sport with about 47,500 miles, and as of this posting, we've got about 52,000.  It was a fast few first miles for the Sport, black flag and pointed South, and we could have never in a million years anticipated the coincidences we would encounter with the Sport.  So keep reading as we take you on our October journey, with a couple pictures to give you some hints.