Bruce Garrett Cartoon
The Cartoon Gallery

A Coming Out Story
A Coming Out Story

My Photo Galleries
New and Improved!

Past Web Logs
The Story So Far archives

My Amazon.Com Wish List

My Myspace Profile

Bruce Garrett's Profile
Bruce Garrett's Facebook profile

Blogs I Read!

Wayne Besen

Beyond Ex-Gay
(A Survivor's Community)

Box Turtle Bulletin

Chrome Tuna

Daily Kos

Mike Daisy's Blog

The Disney Blog

Envisioning The American Dream


Ex-Gay Watch


Joe. My. God

Peterson Toscano

Progress City USA



Fear the wrath of Sparky!

Wil Wheaton

Gone But Not Forgotten

The Rittenhouse Review

Steve Gilliard's News Blog

Steve Gilliard's Blogspot Site

Great Cartoon Sites!

Howard Cruse Central

Tripping Over You
Tripping Over You


Commando Cody Monthly

Scandinavia And The World

Dope Rider

The World Of Kirk Anderson

Ann Telnaes' Cartoon Site

Bors Blog

John K

Penny Arcade

Other News & Commentary

Lead Stories

Amtrak In The Heartland

Corridor Capital

Railway Age

Maryland Weather Blog

Foot's Forecast

All Facts & Opinions

Baltimore Crime



Page One Q
(GLBT News)

Michelangelo Signorile

The Smirking Chimp

Talking Points Memo

Truth Wins Out

The Raw Story


International News & Views


NIS News Bulletin (Dutch)

Mexico Daily

The Local (Sweden)

News & Views from Germany

Spiegel Online

The Local

Deutsche Welle

Young Germany

Fun Stuff

It's not news. It's FARK

Plan 59

Pleasant Family Shopping

Discount Stores of the 60s


Photos of the Forgotten


Comics With Problems

HMK Mystery Streams

Mercedes Love!

Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz TV

Mercedes-Benz Owners Club of America

MBCA - Greater Washington Section


Mercedes-Benz Blog

BenzWorld Forum

October 5th, 2023

A Timeline For Further Discussion Here Later. . .

My trip to Oceano was not entirely uneventful. Nor was my finally getting the car its emissions recall work done. I posted the following to my Facebook page and I feel like I need to hash it out more here, because…well…To Be Continued…

Pay notice to the part where I discover the SCR catalytic converter wasn’t actually installed.

July 17: Car throws a check engine light in Grand Junction. There is no Mercedes dealer here to look into it, but tomorrow I should be able to make it to St. George Utah where there is one. I put it down to possibly the extreme heat and high altitude I was driving through.

July 18: On the way to St. George Utah the car begins a countdown, so now it’s definately an emergency. Made it to St. George leaving the car running at rest stops so as not to use up my starts.

July 19: Dropped car off at the dealer here and got it back soon after with the error codes cleared. I’m told it needs a very expensive set of emissions system parts, the SCR catalytic converter and NOx sensors, but all that is free to me with the big emissions recall which I’m planning on finally getting done this trip at the dealer in San Luis Obispo.

Somehow they tweak my car’s system into turning off the check engine light and stopping the countdown so I can get to Oceano and have the emissions work done.

July 20: I arrive in Oceano.

July 21: Ask the Mercedes dealership in San Luis Obispo to get my car scheduled for the emissions recall. As usual, can’t be scheduled until the parts come in. This time they’re saying it shouldn’t be more than a couple weeks. I’m staying this trip until at least October so maybe I can outlast the parts delay this time.

July 24: Have an oil change done at Bavarian Auto Haus, which I always do after the cross-country road trip. They use the good Liqui Moly oil and I’ve had them do this before. This time one of the guys there who seems to be either the owner or the Man In Charge tells me he’d like to dump every diesel car into the ocean because “you just can’t clean up diesel exhaust.” This will be the last time they touch my car.

August 23: I finally get the car scheduled for the big Mercedes diesel emissions recall. I had to come back twice to check if the parts had come in because nobody calls, and this second time the clerk at the service desk found out the parts were there after all. So now I’m scheduled but the soonest it can be done is September 7.

September 7 (Thursday): I drop the car off and get a nice loaner. Should only take two days but I might not get the car back until Saturday.

September 14 (the following Thursday): I finally get the car back. Big delay was attributed to needing to install OS on new main computer and configure it for the car. Also DEF quality sensor needed to be calibrated.

I get the car back to my brother’s house and then have to take it back in when the Check Engine light comes on.

September 15: I get the car back again. Explaination is the SCR Catalytic converter wasn’t installed.

September 17: A countdown starts but there is no Check Engine light. Also, the battery dies.

September 18: I talk to the dealer and then call AAA for either a new battery or a tow. The don’t have a battery for my car so it is towed to the dealer. Later I hear they’ve put in a new battery because the one in the car (it was six years old) failed a test so it was definitely bad and they put a new one in. Also the countdown started because the DEF quality sensor had not been calibrated.

I was told I would be called at 2PM to either get my car or get a loaner. I got no call until nearly close of business which was when I was told the problem was the DEF quality sensor still needed calibrating.

September 20: Dealership gives me a ride back to them, to get my car back. This time it looks like all is well, but I will need to give the car a few shakedown drives just to make sure.


by Bruce | Link | React!

September 7th, 2023

A Two Day Service Job At The Dealership

The diesel emissions recall service I was finally able to get scheduled after a year of trying starts this morning. It’ll take two days to do all the work. I’ve emptied the car of all my stuff, including the Mercedes fitted trunk liner because under that is the DEF tank and probably a bunch of emissions related things they’ll be needing to get at. And just now I disconnected the locking Kayo GPS dongle from the CAN port because for sure they’ll be needing to get at that.

So the car is ready to get this done. Finally. I’ll get a loaner from the dealer.

I’m getting the oil cooler seals replaced while this is happening too, since that’s something you really want to have done while they’ve already got the top of the engine apart. 400 bucks extra, but it’s 5k to do the work as a one-off. So…yeah…get that done too.

I’ll still be hanging out here in Oceano for at least another month. I’ve got my first ever visit to Disneyland scheduled for the 24th. It gives me time to run the car and drive it here and there and make sure nothing was broken during the big two day job, before I drive back home to Baltimore.

The plan is not to go back until the daily temperatures get below 90. This part of the California coast is just lovely during the summer months. I think I’ll stay out here every summer from now on.

by Bruce | Link | React!

March 5th, 2023

Glad I Bought Mine When I Did

In the current issue of Consumer Reports I see that Mercedes automobiles are on their shit list again in terms of reliability. There entire US lineup is rated below average reliability. It’s like they’re back in the later 90s/early 2000s again. What a shame. On the other hand when it comes to used cars the E Class from 2013 to 2019 is in their “Used Cars We Love” list for better than average reliability. Those are the W212s, which mine is…a 2012…and it was always getting top marks on reliability, but CU isn’t going back that far in time now. I’m getting close to 180k on the odometer and the car is still a champ. But I do the maintenance.

I’m taking Spirit back out to California this spring. This time I want to try driving through a bunch of northern states bordering Canada that I’ve never been to. The big open road trip is what these diesels were made for. Hopefully I’m still up to it.

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 22nd, 2022

Mercedes Love…

…still in it.

Along with the all weather floor mats, the trunk liner, and the fitted front window sun shield, I bought the factory fitted car cover when I bought the car. It’s for those scorchingly hot days when I don’t want the car baking in the sun. Which it is currently here in Charm City. As I write this they’re calling for 100+ this coming Sunday.

It’s UV blocking as well as being very reflective…not simply white. I only use it during severe heat waves, and sometimes when the pollen gets heavy. They’re actually not good for keeping rain off as they’re not waterproof but only water resistant. So eventually they get wet and then they’re holding water against the car body and that’ll get rust started.

It’s by Mercedes for this specific model. Does it have a pocket for the hood ornament? Of course it does.

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 10th, 2019

A Marriage Saved

Took the Mercedes out for a long drive up into Pennsylvania and around and back, in anticipation of the coming snow and ice that might make it impossible to drive it for a while. Since I had the DEF tank heater fixed and several tire valves that wouldn’t hold air when the temperatures dipped replaced, the car is back to not caring how cold it gets, and it’s a pleasure to just hop in and drive. If I wander far enough there are always some roads I haven’t yet explored to detour off from all the roads I have. I was particularly pleased to see an ice cream stand where I was treated rudely some years ago gone now. I figured I wasn’t the only one. Treat your customers right and they’ll come back.

When I started out it was all warm-sh, bright and sunshiny. By the time I got home it was all grey and and a bone chilling cold was settling in. So good thing I took the opportunity when I did. The car is still a pure pleasure to drive and wander around in. You can stop showing me ads for new cars now Facebook. This marriage has been saved.

Which is good…because…

Prince Philip ‘voluntarily’ gives up driving following car crash

London (CNN)The Duke of Edinburgh has surrendered his driving license, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday, weeks after the 97-year-old was involved in a car crash that left a female driver injured.

“After careful consideration The Duke of Edinburgh has taken the decision to voluntarily surrender his driving licence,” the palace said in a statement.

I know this day will come for me eventually if I live long enough. And when it does I’ll give it up without a fight. Hopefully I’ll still have the wherewithal to take the train to places I want to visit, or to fly or take a cruise ship if I want to go overseas. But it won’t be the same. I could not begin to tell you all the things I’ve discovered unexpectedly while on the road. Wagon wheel ruts from the old Santa Fe trail, the spot of the Sand Creek massacre…I could bore you for hours with all that I’ve seen that I never would have, thanks to the automobile. I began my love affair with the open road when I was a teenage boy the day I got my driver’s license. John Steinbeck put it into me when I was 14 and read Travels With Charley. I couldn’t thank him enough. Within a year of buying my first car, a 1973 FOrd Pinto, I’d explored almost all of Montgomery Country Maryland, and the following year I’d taken my first cross-country road trip in it with a couple of classmates in a Dodge Van we’d worked on converting into a camper. My little Pinto went up the highest paved asphalt road in the world in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove through Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon, and alone I went all the way to California to visit family and back. It’s a memory I still take intense pleasure in recalling. When the day comes that I can no longer safely drive it’ll feel like my life is over.

So until then, I’m going to keep wandering the road, to see what it might show me, and for the pure pleasure of driving. I’m 65 and I might not have it much longer. Already I’m finding myself taking the train more often, when driving to a destination isn’t going to be fun anymore, or the weather looks sketchy. If this country put more effort into its passenger rail infrastructure I might not feel such despair at the thought of giving up my driver’s license.

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 2nd, 2018


December 20, 2011, I took delivery of the car I’d wanted since the summer of 1971 and I was a teenage boy, bedazzled by my uncle’s Mercedes-Benz 220D. Just this moment I finally paid it off. They say I’ll get the new title papers in the mail in a couple weeks, because for some reason even though the bank funds can transfer at the speed of electricity nowadays they still take a couple weeks to complete the process. So it won’t be officially mine until the Maryland DMV says it is, but I’ve made my last payment, and that’s a big chunk of money off my monthly budget now.

A Mecedes-Benz ‘E’ class was more expensive, and truth be told more car than I really wanted to take on. What I wanted was one of the little ‘C’ class diesels. That would have been the right size car for a single guy and it would have got amazing fuel economy. But Daimler wasn’t importing those (and as of last summer and the Germany diesel emissions scandal they’ve stopped importing their diesels altogether) and I figured I had a chance to finally own my dream come true car and so I went for it, and now I’m glad I did. You get one life. If all your dreams can’t come true, at least some of them can.

It’ll feel real when I get the new title. But it feels pretty real now. I want to go somewhere and celebrate tonight.

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 22nd, 2016

Mercedes Love

…still in it.



Took a wee day trip into Pennsylvania to wander around a bit with my cameras, finish off the roll of color film I started on the road trip last June, and hopefully clear my head so I can get back to work on A Coming Out Story. On the way home I saw a signpost advertising a scenic overlook beside the Susquehanna river and I turned off and started climbing. You really notice how nicely a diesel engine’s torque helps navigating  a little twisty state park road when the switchback curves don’t even bother trying to smooth out  the elevation gain. The car simply did not care how steep it got.  

The view at the top was lovely. In retrospect I should have brought out the color film camera, and I did consider it, but then I thought of the millions of other photos everyone had probably taken at that same spot and I figured I couldn’t add anything to it so I didn’t. But I did snap off a few with the iPhone for memory’s sake that I might post later. Then as I turned  back to the car I saw the sky doodling all over Spirit and I had to snap a shot of it.

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 30th, 2016

Flashback: Topeka Car Wash Voguing

I didn’t buy Spirit, my Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan because I wanted a status symbol. What I wanted was a Mercedes-Benz, because I believe them to be the best built, best engineered cars made, and I like having solid things in my life. It’s a pattern that runs all through my life. When I was a teenager and I needed a new tool I bought Craftsman. I couldn’t afford the entire sets so I bought the individual tools one at a time. When I turned 40 and I finally was able to afford an apartment of my own and I needed a vacuum cleaner, I bought a Kirby. That was back in 1993 and I still have it, it still does its job without complaint, and all I’ve ever needed to replace on it besides the bags is the roller brush and some belts.

When I was a teenager, the saying was the first hundred-thousand miles on a Mercedes diesel is just for breaking it in. I was looking at a news article a couple months back about a man somewhere on the Mediterranean coast, a taxi cab driver, still plying his trade with the Mercedes diesel sedan he bought new in the 1970s, that had nearly two million miles on it. And it was no junker; there was a photo of the proud owner standing next to it, and from the look of the car and with the old Mediterranean buildings behind them you’d have thought it was taken in the 70s. Building a car, building anything, to that level of quality and durability (provided you take care of it) costs money, which is why they’re expensive.

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them. -From the article, Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

I appreciate that the purchase price makes them status symbols in the eyes of some. They have no art in their souls.

I posted this to my Facebook page while on the road last month…


Gave Spirit a run through the best car wash in town. They did an excellent job inside and out. Because while the driver may accumulate road dust as the miles go by, the car must always look its best.

And so it did. The car wash wasn’t all that far from my motel, and when I got there I could see it was as popular with the locals as the Auto Spa is here. And like Auto Spa, the run through the wash was only a first step. After the cars came out, they were parked out front and attended to by a bunch of energetic youngsters, with portable vacuums, electric buffing tools, spray on tire treatment, and so forth. People brought their cars there to give them the works. I didn’t see a single car while I was there just roll out of the wash and drive off. Nobody was getting the budget wash, at least not that day.

We all sat in the Please Wait Here section, outfitted with vending machines and places to set and watch the finish work being done on our cars. It was an impressive operation. I glanced around at the faces among us, all watching the process raptly, even as they were chatting with their neighbors. Every one of those cars was its owner’s baby. I chatted briefly with a young lady who’s mini SUV came out just before mine. She’d just bought it and was the happy new car owner. A new model Mustang convertible came out after mine and I glanced around to see which face lit up. It was a middle aged guy who had more the serious minded businessman’s look about him than a Mustang owner. It’s not unconditionally true, but if you see a car that’s being meticulously taken care of, it’s the owner’s inner self. Yes, I am a Mercedes diesel sedan kind of guy…

“The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words “Mercedes diesel” conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school…” –Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver.

Just before they finished with Spirit, an absolutely huge pimped out pickup truck came out of the wash. I was surprised it even fit. Jacked up, oversize tires, painted in a gaudy two-tone orange and red, spotlights on the front, on the top, blue sideboard running lights…you get the picture. I looked around. Next to me a thirty-something young guy in khakis and a polo shirt smiles at me. “You like it?” he asks. “It’s mine.”

“Impressive” says I, smiling back, trying to be polite. Insulting someone’s car is on a par with insulting their mother. And really, whatever floats your boat is fine with me if I can see you’re really into taking care of it.

“It’s for sale.” he says.   Ah, thinks I, this is why he’s here…to make it look nice for the classifieds. For a moment I feel sad for the pickup. It’s one of the big GMCs. Under all that makeup there’s probably a pretty solid American made truck in there. But he’s found another love and needs some money. But I am not a potential sale.

I point to the lovely metallic blue four door Mercedes-Benz in the lot. “That’s mine” says I. Mr. Pimped Out Pickup’s smile kinda freezes on his face.

“It’s got just over ninety-four thousand on it,” I add. “Almost broken in.”



by Bruce | Link | React!

January 13th, 2015

Second NOx Sensor Replaced…

Got Spirit  back from the dealer yesterday evening. In addition to the check engine light work they also did my usual between services oil change (I change the crankcase oil in all my cars at least twice as often as the factory recommends) and adjusted the emergency brake. I noted in the loaner car I got, a 2015 ‘C’ class, that emergency brakes are now electronic push button controlled. What could possibly go wrong?

Again I’m told it was the NOx sensor, but now I’m told  there are actually two of them and so this time they replaced the other one. Fine. Let’s have no more of this now, at least for another 70k miles. K?

So now I’m seriously thinking about buying another extended warranty when the current one expires. The next extended warranty on offer would be a 100k plus one and  I’m told, the dealership will offer one then. But a 100k plus warranty can’t be anything but expensive. I won’t be needing it until late this year at the earliest, but I’m already thinking I probably need to start a new pot of savings Now just to pay for it. I’ll have to look hard at the cost/benefit.  A Mercedes diesel sedan is not supposed to cause trouble if you take care of it and do the maintenance, even after it’s got hundreds of thousands of miles on it. That’s no blue sky exaggeration, that’s the actual history of these vehicles. They make taxi cabs out of them elsewhere in the world. And I’ve met other Mercedes diesel owners who’ve put nearly half a million miles on their cars and were still in love with them.

But the new cars are vastly more complex than those older models too. Case in point, the emissions control system in mine that got all hysterical on me in Oklahoma and Texas while I was in the middle of my Christmas road trip. One factor in the legendary longevity of older Mercedes diesels is very likely how simple they are mechanically. Superbly engineered yes. Built like a bank vault yes. But still simple compared to the same gasoline powered versions, and way more so than the car I have now when you factor in things like the twin turbochargers that give it a surprising (for a diesel) capacity for sudden acceleration, plus all the various computer controlled subsystems. This is what I worry about going forward.

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 11th, 2015

You Promised…

I’m spending the weekend here at Casa del Garrett with a loaner car from Valley Motors, a Very Nice new model Mercedes-Benz ‘C’ class, while Spirit is once again having a check engine light issue worked on, that dogged me back and forth across the country last month. That was a road trip I took to the ancestral Garrett lands in Oceano California, to spend the holidays with my empty nest brother.  Check Engine in Spirit, my Mercedes, means there is a problem with the emissions control system.  Thing is, that should have been fixed a couple months ago when my dealer installed a new NOx detector after the last Check Engine light event.

Back home, surfing the web and Facebook, I chanced across the following article…

Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

Mercedes-Benz wants to ensure that your car is operating in as close to ideal circumstances as possible, and that means using the parts your car was built with. Mercedes-Benz is famous for its engineering for excellent reason, but that means they have to design custom parts or engineer seemingly-common parts to very specific tolerances, or it will affect the performance of the car.

Even seemingly-generic parts are built to a much, much higher standard than many other brands on the market. Thus, Mercedes-Benz builds their own parts, engineers them to an exacting degree, and carefully inspects them, selling them with a warranty that ensures any certified Mercedes-Benz repair facility can replace the part free of charge if a defect escapes their inspection.

The work currently being done on Spirit is completely covered…which is good considering it would cost me about a thousand bucks total if it wasn’t. Add that to the $950 the last NOx detector work would have cost.  But this is what you are paying for when you get that work done at an authorized factory trained service center. These cars are Not Cheap, not simply because they are luxury cars but because they are engineered to a higher standard, and that costs money.

The article I linked to is mostly about body work, but it really applies to everything about cost of maintenance and repair for a Mercedes-Benz: the parts are expensive, because Daimler specifications are higher, tolerances lower. Even down to the wiper blades and oil and air filters. I’ve seen side-by-side comparisons of Mercedes OEM parts and good quality third party parts and it really leaps out at you. It’s not even close. Everything about these cars is more  substantial. Everything. This means maintenance and repairs can seem atrociously expensive.  But it isn’t just throwing  money at it for the sake of showing off how much money you have to throw:

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them.

This is what we who love these cars value them for. This is what was true back in 1971 when my uncle drove to visit us in his brand new Mercedes-Benz 220D, and it’s what I’m counting on being true now: that spending money on this car is a long term investment in a vehicle engineered like no other, that is solid and substantial, safe and utterly reliable, that I can drive to and from the grocery store or to and from California whenever I want to and not worry about it falling apart because it was made to fall apart so you’d have to go buy another.  That was Detroit’s model. That is not the Mercedes way.  The Mercedes way is to build a better car first, then add the bells and whistles on top of that. And that is how it feels to drive Spirit.  I read a user on one of the Mercedes-Benz forums I frequent, describe his ‘E’ class diesel as feeling as solid as a locomotive, yet nimble and sure footed on the curves.  That’s it. That’s the experience you get driving one of these cars.

But… They really screwed it up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I would not own any Mercedes-Benz product made between 1997 and 2007. It’s the worst of both worlds: expensive cars that break down more than they should and require expensive parts to repair. I’ll give them this: it seems every German car maker had the same problems during that time frame.  So every time a problem arises, you wonder if this is just a random event, or the beginning of a downhill slide. And I can’t afford a downhill slide on a car that’s this expensive to repair.

I have two years and 20k left on the warranty. I bought an extended warranty…which I’m grateful for now given the cost of the work that’s suddenly had to be done.  Figure by the end of this year I’ll be over the 100k mark given how many miles I put on a car. So this second Check Engine fail is worrisome enough that I’m considering ditching the car if it needs another 1k+ repair before the warranty runs out, and just go with a cheaper ride.  I’m fast approaching a time in my life when living on retirement funds and social security makes any sort of high dollar spending very problematic.  I don’t mind paying a premium for regular maintenance, so long as that buys me a car I don’t have to worry about between maintenance. But it has to do that or I can’t justify it…

…even to own the car of my dreams, the car I’ve wanted ever since I was a teenager.

In 2008, when the new models designed under then new CEO Dieter Zetsche (one of the few CEOs today who I greatly admire) started hitting the showrooms, Daimler began running a series of ads, admitting to past failures to live up to the standard they’d set for themselves, and promising to do better. The slogan was, “Because we promised you a Mercedes-Benz”. I’m holding them to that promise.  So is the kid I once was, and he does not forget a broken promise.


by Bruce | Link | React!

January 21st, 2014

Mercedes Love

…still in it.


I fine powdery snow fell over Charm City this afternoon and my workplace closed at noon due to the inclement weather.   Knowing it was coming I’d walked in and walked back.   As long as the roads are bad my 60k dream-come-true diesel Mercedes that I’ve longed for since I was a teenager stays safely put. City life is good. I can walk to everything I might need, including the Institute, and I have this theory that a car makes a better parking space saver than a lawn chair.

I shoveled my backyard deck just now, and a path to the alley to put the trash out.   The stuff is so light and fluffy I could have used a broom.   I’d say we got about four to five inches in this neighborhood but it’s hard to say because the wind has been blowing the stuff around.   The side of the car facing into the wind is almost completely clear, the other side is covered fairly deep.

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 19th, 2013

Mercedes Love

Still in it…

I change the oil in my cars twice as often as the factory recommends…a practice I’ve kept on doing with my Mercedes.   My first car, a 1973 Ford Pinto, got its oil changed every 2k and I am convinced that is how I managed to get over 136k miles out of one of those.   When I finally had to give it to the junk yard it was because everything but the engine was falling apart. When you popped off the valve cover it still looked factory new in there…a thing I was intensely proud of.

So I took Spirit in for an oil change this morning and while I waited one of the service clerks and I chatted about our mutual love of Mercedes-Benz cars and she told me something I hadn’t known.   The steel for every part of the body…the frame, the doors, hood, trunk, all of it…are all cut from the same single sheet of steel.   Where other car makers cut a bunch of doors, or hoods or things that are all destined for different individual cars out of a sheet…bang, bang, bang, one after the other after the other…Daimler cuts the parts for each individual car from the same individual sheet of steel, to insure that all the body parts have exactly identical metal chemistry, exactly identical properties of rigidity and strength.   And this little detail she said, contributes to the overall rigidity of the car.

This is why you pay the extra money for a Mercedes-Benz. It isn’t about the options or the luxury touches. Compared to other makes my ‘E’ class isn’t even all that sumptuous.   You get more dazzle out of a Lexus or a Cadillac.   But not that solid Mercedes-Benz feel.   That is why I bought the car.   I like having solid things in my life.   Solidly built things, that are made to last and that you know the hands that built them can feel proud about.   That solid feel was the thing I noticed right away when I first sat down in my uncle’s brand new 220D back in 1971, and even more so when he took mom and I for a drive in it. I’d never felt a car as solid before then. Back then you were use to American cars, even the upscale ones, being a little loose and rattle prone.   And even nowadays, my Mercedes is noticeably more solid than other cars.   Of course the basic design and engineering matters more, but this business about cutting all the body parts from one single sheet of steel is typical of the attention to engineering detail they put into these cars.   And that is why they cost more.   A little Economy Of Scale is sacrificed in favor of a little more structural rigidity.   It isn’t about spending money, just to be spending money.

Matthew Yglesias tweeted a question a few days back asking what if anything justified spending the extra bucks on one of the “fancy cars”.   I didn’t bother tweeting back as I figured that question probably got him a torrent of replies.   But it depends on the car and what you’re after.   If fancy is what you’re after then go for the options.   If it’s a status symbol you want then go for the brand you think does that.   Alas, that’s all some people see in a Mercedes-Benz, but that’s disrespectful.   I wanted the car they use to say of when I was a teenager, that the first hundred thousand miles you put on it were just for breaking it in.   Because there are so many roads, and so little time in a life to drive them all.

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 15th, 2013

Mercedes Love…

“The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words Mercedes diesel conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school…” –Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver.

“One thing I feel most passionately about: love of invention will never die.” –Karl Benz

“The best or nothing.” –Gottlieb Daimler

“When you get into the car and time stands still for a second…that’s my dream car.” –unknown

…still in it.


by Bruce | Link | React!

June 9th, 2013

Mercedes Love

…still in it.

Something I try to do to Spirit once a month is clean and condition its vinyl and leather upholstery and the rubber gaskets around the doors, hood and trunk. The steering wheel is wrapped in a nice soft leather but the rest of the car is the legendary MB Tex upholstery which a lot of Mercedes affectionados will recommend over the leather because it lasts longer and is easier to clean. But something in my body oils dries up and hardens vinyl severely.

I discovered this effect back when I was a teenager, on the Koss Pro 4AA headphones I happened to love the sound of.   I was always having to buy new ones every a couple years because of what my skin oils did to the ear pads.   Those really nice soft vinyl ear pads would become rock hard and useless after a couple years just from contact with my skin and you couldn’t just buy new ear pads. Eventually even the cable connecting the headphones to the stereo would harden and start coming apart wherever my fingers touched it and then the headphones were finished and I would have to buy new ones.

So, decades later and two years after I bought it, the driver’s seat on my ‘C’ class, Traveler, began to harden and crack where my bare legs touched it in the summer while wearing cutoffs and when I took it in for repair my dealer said he’d never seen that happen to MB Tex before, and I remembered what my skin oils did to all the Koss headphones I used to own.

So now that I have Spirit, my ‘E’ class Dream Come True car, I do a careful cleaning and conditioning of my driver’s seat and while I’m at it I do the rest of the car too.   I have it down to a routine now.

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 6th, 2013

Notes On The Road This Time

I’m just back from one of my semi-annual road trips to California, in case anyone reading this blog was wondering where the heck I went. My job at Space Telescope came with a wonderful vacation benefit, but the workload now on JWST is pretty steady and taking a couple weeks off at one go is getting harder and harder to schedule. I figured the Christmas/New Year’s break would be a good time to take a road trip to California and see my brother and give the Mercedes its first taste of the great plains and the southwest. As we get closer and closer to launch it will become very hard to schedule a long road trip west.

Time was I’d take everyone who reads this blog along with me for the ride.   But these days it probably isn’t the smartest thing to let the whole world know you’re away from your house.   So the blog went silent.   But I’m back now…I have pictures to develop and post…I have stories to tell.   But I also have unpacking to do and some settling back in to my little Baltimore rowhouse.   So for now let me just jot down a few notes while the road is still fresh in my thoughts…

First, a few statistics from my car’s trip computer:

  • Total Miles: 6,420
  • Average Miles Per Gallon: 36.8
  • Average Speed: 60 mph
  • Total Driving Time: 105.59 hours
  • 2917.4 miles from my brother’s house to mine, mostly along I-40.

I’ll total up the fuel chits later.   West of the Mississippi you get highway speed limits higher than 70mph and sometimes higher than 80. You cover distance faster, but mileage suffers. Still, this is absolutely the most fuel efficient car I have ever owned and that’s saying something.   My first car was a 1973 Ford Pinto with the little 1600cc engine and one barrel carburetor.   It did 35mpg tops. The little Geo Prism got high 30s and so did the Honda Accord. For a car this size and this sumptuous the fuel economy is just amazing. At the end of some days on the road this trip I was pushing 39mpg. But when I hit the high mountain passages my averages went down into the low 30s.

Bio-diesel was not a major problem. First bio-diesel pump I saw on the way west was at a Love’s just west of Little Rock. I’d put a tad over a gallon in the tank before I noticed this little sticker…

…and quickly shut off the pump. That sticker, which I saw on every pump selling bio-diesel, is not helpful. But next to it (usually) is a bigger green sticker that does specify the grade you’re pumping. I never saw anything lower than B10 on the road, and nothing higher than B15. Mostly it was B10.

So there I was with a half tank of regular diesel left, plus I’d driven from Maryland with a full five gallon spare diesel can as insurance…that it eventually turned out I didn’t need. The Pilot truck stop across the highway had the same set of stickers on it. But across from the Pilot was a Petro and it had a Chevron station attached to it that had regular diesel pumps and I was able to fill up.

That was pretty much how it went all the way to California and back. Wherever I ran into bio-diesel I was always able to find a station nearby that had regular. But it was completely random as to which brand was a problem. Most often it was the Love’s. But I ran into it at all of the truck stop chains at least once. Usually it was the Shell or Chevron stations that had usable diesel, but I ran into it there too occasionally.   But wherever I ran into it I nearly always found usable diesel right across the street.   Just once in Arizona I had to drive to the next exit.

And there was no noticeable price break on the bio. If anything, the regular was usually cheaper, and sometimes by a lot. At one location in New Mexico there were two big truck stops, a Love’s and a Pilot, both selling bio at $3.95 a gallon. An independent travel center nearby was selling regular diesel at $3.73 a gallon.

My path this time took me well south of I-70. I have no idea how bad it is further north in corn state territory. But for now at any rate, I can drive my car from the East Coast to the West. How long that remains the case remains to be seen.

Truck Stops Are Now “Travel Plazas”. There are five big chains you see all the time on the road, Travel Centers of America, Love’s, Flying J, Pilot and Petro and while the truckers are their bread and butter business, they’re all vying for the long distance passenger car market and some like Flying J/Pilot are even offering us “loyalty cards” now.   Flying J/Pilot is the chain that seems the most determined to remake itself as a general purpose highway “travel center” with a clean, uncluttered common floor plan and mini food/coffee court. I could walk into any Flying J or Pilot from Maryland to California and see pretty much the same layout and after a while you knew where everything was when you walked in the door.   Their coffee bar was especially handy and the coffee was very good, with half to a dozen or so coffee dispensers all lined up with various blends in them.   By the time I got to California I was making it a point to stop at one of these and I ended up getting a “Flying J/Pilot” loyalty card because I was stopping there so often for their coffee and breakfast muffins.

Rest rooms in the big chain truck stops are often Much cleaner than the state run highway rest stops. You need a high tolerance for country music though.

When stopping for the night, make sure your cell phone network isn’t crappy before checking in. Unless you really want to be disconnected from email and the web. I bought into the iPhone when the first one came out and that was an AT&T device only. Since then they’ve added other better carriers, but the one with the best network, Verizon, uses a digital signal that prevents their iPhone from doing both voice and data at the same time. So I stick with AT&T. But its network in the out of the way spots is crappy. The nice thing about cell phone technology is you aren’t dependent on your motel for internet service. But you need to remember to check your signal before you check in.

Almost any cheap motel room can be a good night’s sleep if you bring your own pillow and a sleeping bag that can double as a comforter. During winter travel you should always carry a good sleeping bag with you anyway, in case of breakdown. Also food and water. Take some good ear plugs (I use silicon ones) and I also bring along one of these white noise generators, because screaming dysfunctional family of five, or selfish TV volume up full jackass will probably be given the room next to yours. Note that these amenities can be found in expensive motels too, so if you aren’t as willing as I am to go with the cheap room you still need ear plugs at least and I strongly recommend the white noise generator too.With these four things, pillow, sleeping bag/comforter, ear plugs and white noise generator, all you really need to care about is is the room clean and the mattress reasonable.

Check the ersatz Continental Breakfast on your way out to see if there’s anything worth taking on the road with you. It’s included after all. Occasionally I am able to make a good breakfast muffin out of the sausage and egg servings. But it’s rare the cheap motels serve meat and eggs in the morning.

And…no matter how tired and irritable you are when you get off the road an into a room, smile and be nice to your desk clerk. I’ve worked late night and over night shifts a time or two in my life. They are not fun. And depending on how far into the sticks you are, that clerk checking you in may be desperately wanting to go with you when you leave the next morning.   Once in a very small town in southern Utah, I was checked in by a young girl who chatted with me for a bit about her dream of getting onto American Idol.   It was going to be her ticket out of there. I tried to suggest and tactfully as I could that her ticket out of there was to just get up and go.   But the Unknown is a very frightening ball and chain on a person…I know this from personal experience, I suppose everyone does to some degree.   Be nice to your desk clerk.   Also everyone who serves you on the road. Especially in the sticks. Notice how they sometimes look at you like you are nuts when you tell them you’d love to move out of the city someday, into some nice quiet out of the way place in the country Just Like This One.

Don’t drive long into the night.   Shift your schedule forward instead.   Get off the highway early, early…like around six or seven. Then get back on the road next morning early. That way you have no trouble at the end of a long day on the road, getting a good room on the ground floor you can back your car up to. And early in the morning traffic will be very light to non-existent, which is a better way to start your day (obviously that does not apply in Washington D.C. or L.A.).   And speaking of traffic…

Truck traffic was very heavy this trip actually.   Which is good, because it means the economy is picking up. My own private economic indicator is train whistles. Here in Baltimore, when I hear them often I know heavy bulk goods are on the move, which is good. Whenever I am stopped for the night in Kingman Arizona (it usually works out that way somehow), I go watch the BNSF main line for a while. When times are good the trains are about fifteen minutes apart. When they’re not so good you maybe see or hear only one or two in a night.   This trip the trains were running pretty constantly through Kingman, but not at fifteen minute intervals.

The new Mercedes loves the open road as much as its driver. 19 degree gale force winds in Virginia and crappy Arkansas highways barely rate its notice. And there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that muscular diesel engine sound in the morning as you repack the trunk, as though the next seven or eight hundred miles ahead of you that day are but a mere trifle on the way to its first hundred thousand miles. I chatted briefly at a diesel pump in Arroyo Grande with a couple young guys driving a very beat up old 240D. It had lost both its bumpers and its paint job was worn almost to the primer and its owner had bought it for $600 dollars and was absolutely in love with it.   Tattered and worn as it looked he said it was the most solid and reliable car he’d ever owned.   His friends he said, told him it was more like a piece of farm equipment than an automobile. But to a Mercedes aficionado, that is a complement. What most Americans don’t know unless they travel abroad, is Daimler is the world’s biggest maker of heavy trucks and buses, and the Mercedes diesel sedan is often seen doing taxi duty in other countries.

To make an automobile that is that heavy duty and substantial, yet also agile, comfortable and beautiful, is a serious work of engineering art. This is the car I’ve been dreaming of exploring the open road with all my life. I’ve owned it for just over a year now and put nearly 30k miles on it. But that was mostly on several drives down to Florida…three to Disney World and one to Key West…which were acceptable to it I suppose.   Most days it’s just sitting in front of my little Baltimore rowhouse.   I can walk to work, and to the grocery store and The Avenue and Cafe’ Hon in Hampden, and I absolutely hate city traffic. For a year now it may have been sitting there wondering if the slovenly pointless life of a computer geek’s status symbol was its fate after all.

No dear…I love you better than that…

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React!

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories,

What I'm Currently Reading...

What I'm Currently Watching...

What I'm Currently Listening To...

Comic Book I've Read Recently...


This page and all original content copyright © 2022 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to:

This blog is powered by WordPress and is hosted at Winters Web Works, who also did some custom design work (Thanks!). Some embedded content was created with the help of The Gimp. I proof with Google Chrome on either Windows, Linux or MacOS depending on which machine I happen to be running at the time.