Friday, December 28, 2007

You Odyssey the Entourage

Since my SUV vs Minivan post, we've looked at a few of the higher rated models out there.

The first two we saw were the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona, and we discovered that they're actually both the same company. We liked the Entourage better anyway so Kia got kicked off the list. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to see the Honda and Toyota that day and very shortly after that, Connor arrived.

Last weekend we finally felt back up to going car hunting again and had planned to go see the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and the Honda Odyssey. We were kinda biased against the Odyssey, mostly because Misha's not thrilled with her current Honda (Accord) and because I've never been one to root for the winner. Still, I wanted us to get to know it so that we had a bar to measure against with all the others out there.

The Dodge was a gadget freak's wet dream. Bluetooth, 20GB of Media storage, 2 DVD screens, Satellite TV, a touchscreen media system that turns into a backup camera... it was all there. But then we drove it and discovered why someone invented sway bars. The thing cornered like it was about to derail. Add to this that it wasn't very large-feeling inside after you factored in the low ceiling (and the DVD modules which brought the center ceiling even lower) and the fact that both the Stow-and-Go and Swivel-and-Go seats weren't that impressive* and we quickly dismissed it from our finalists. And since the T&C is basically the same car but a bit more posh and $1,000 more... that was gone too.

*(Stowing was harder than it should have been and required you to move the driver's seat completely forward with no memory option to reset it and Swiveling meant that you and the people in the third row now shared about 8 inches of knee space. Kinda like flying backwards on Southwest without the witty overhead addresses.)

We finally got to examine and test drive an Odyssey on Wednesday and it was a surprise. We liked it and it drove better than the Accord. The rear seats folded down in a really easy and completely different manner. The controls seemed well laid out (though there were a ton of radio buttons thanks to the XM Radio) and my only gripe was that the seat warmer buttons were low enough to be foot activated. I really liked the 2nd row center seat and the reconfigurable captains chairs that could be made into a "bench" without the center seat. Getting in and out of the third row wasn't as nightmarish as I thought it might be and even when I gave myself legroom in the front and 2nd rows, I was still able to sit comfortably in the 3rd row (which is important since the 3rd row can't adjust forward or backward). The suspension was solid, if a bit stiff and the ride was comfortable.

From Honda, we drove over to Hyundai immediately to get as close to a side-by-side test drive comparison as possible. We figured this would tell us clearly who was the winner, but the ended up liking both cars pretty equally. The Entourage has smoother suspension without swaying and also has some high-end features that would have required us to move to the Touring model on the Odyssey (at least $3,000 more than the EX-L).

At this moment, we're leaning toward the Entourage since it has almost everything the Honda has, plus a motorized tailgate, adjustable pedals and memory for the driver's seat, pedals and side mirrors... all for $2,000 less. Sure, it doesn't come with XM, but since I don't have XM currently, I'm not missing anything (yet). And the few other features (center 2nd row seat, MP3 player jack, rear climate control, etc) are all non-essentials. The only real benefit I saw was that Honda has an engine management system that shuts off 3 of the 6 cylinders when coasting and only uses 4 when cruising, which saves gas and the environment. Hyundai, on the other hand, has received stellar safety ratings from the IIHS and they just gush about this at the dealer. If one more person tells me about the breakaway engine mounts...

Any thoughts from the fray? Too late to talk us out of a minivan at this point. I'll admit that the Odyssey is a great vehicle with a solid fit & finish and some nice options, but the Entourage is just solid enough to make it a true competitor and leave us with a few dollars to put towards Connor's college fund.

Reflections on 2007

In no particular order:

- Moving across the country with your wife and 2 pugs in a Honda Accord is both an adventure and a nightmare.

- Sometimes it's necessary to leap before you look in life.

- There is no good Mexican Food in Charlotte, NC.

- Friends are precious things. Good friends know this about you too.

- You cannot hide a fart in a Herman Miller Aeron Chair.

- Who you know will get you through the door. What you know will keep you inside.

- Actually finding *The Home* is both a shocking and jubilant moment, especially when it's about the 127th home you've looked at.

- The prospect of going back to college at 33 is daunting.

- I can't believe I'm 33.

- I can't believe I'm a dad (though it's beginning to sink in diaper-by-diaper).

- I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is actually pretty good.

- Someone out there is in my ______, _______ing my _______.

- I want to travel more.

- I want to weigh less.

- I need to worry less.

- I need to sleep more.

So on that note... good night!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

When in Rome...

Well, not exactly Rome, Italy... more like Rome, Georgia.

I walked into a Starbucks today for the first time since moving to North Carolina and saw slices of red velvet cake in the dessert case.

My mom (visiting from SoCal) didn't even know what red velvet cake was when I asked her if she'd ever seen it in a Starbucks display in Los Angeles (she's much more of a Starbucks goer than I am, in fact we were only there to buy coffee for my dad who flew into town today, so I figured she'd know more about what's in the dessert cases out west than I would.)

She asked me what's in it and all I could tell her was "a lot of red food coloring."

Add to this the fact that you can buy sweet tea by the gallon from McDonald's (branded as "Mickey D's Sweet Tea") and you can share in my amusement over how much local influence there is over cuisine in national chains (McDonald's also has a "Southern-style Chicken sandwich here that's basically copied straight from Chik-fil-a.)

And yet, despite all the strange foodstuffs, I'm still unable to lose weight. Go figure. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Wow, this is quite a ride.

Connor's almost 3 weeks old and I can't remember the last good night's sleep I had. Of course, the truth is that Misha's been up in the evenings more than I have, but I like to think I do my share by rotating with her whenver possible.

Also, he's mostly been a little angel, causing only a few completely sleepless mornings (defined as midnight to 6am) and pretty much keeping to a standard, albeit frequent, schedule of pee/poop, eat, pee/poop, eat (top off), sleep, repeat.

We even found time to take this holiday photo while he was taking a nap. It would have been fantastic to have had his eyes open, but it was enough to try to get the dogs to stand still and not shake off their antlers.

So a wonderful season of happiness and a prosperous new year to all of you out there.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I promised ya pics...

We're back home now, and whoa has it been a wild ride so far. The nurses really spoiled us and this cold turkey thing is just no fun.

So now that I'm not being corralled by the hospital's draconian wireless access system, I can post some pics:

First day on the job...

Simple Math: Happy Baby = Happy Mommy

It really hasn't completely hit me yet...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

He's Heeeere!

Connor Raine Gomberg
Born 12/6/2007 at 11:13am
7 pounds, 2 ounces
21 inches
Apgar Scores 9, 9

Well, the big day finally came. We actually knew what day it would be, since we had an induction scheduled at our last doctor's appointment, but we'd hoped that he would have made an appearance before it came to that.

In true first parent form, I've got a full play-by-play of the entire event written down on one of the notepads by the phone in our hospital room. Since blog entries ar supposed to be short - and since I've posted a few doozies already - I'll spare you the details.

Suffice it to say, Mother and baby are well. Misha's recovering nicely from her C-section (if you really want the details, e-mail me) and Connor's feeding and sleeping and pooping - which is what infants do best.

Me? I'm completely beside myself. I've seen plenty of babies in my day but there's something totally different about looking into the eyes of your own child. I've heard about this connection, I knew it would be there, but nothing can prepare you for what it really feels like. It's truly awe inspiring.

(The hospital's wireless network is making it impossible to post photos... I'll get one up tonight.)