November 2013

Listen to Your Dog: Safety and Travel Ideas

by The Car Family

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Diary Entry 21000.7

I have asked my care giver for a walk or ride every day this week without luck. I have tried to remind him that the new Persian carpet is tempting, but he has ignored my threats. I have developed new plan: guilt.

Dairy Entry 210001.8

After reading about the Jewish Guilt Syndrome I have decided to give it a try. I think it has a good chance since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, probably for the last time in a million dog years. I have practiced my beaten dog look in front of the floor length mirror. I just have to remember not to be saucy.

Diary Entry 21000.9

It almost worked. He fetched my leash, checked two websites for good places to walk when suddenly the plan fell apart. Apparently, the Center for Pet Safety researched dog restraints and only one model they tested passed and I didn’t have it. On the other hand, the big guy did promise he would buy one. In the meantime, he grabbed a handful of his fast depleting cache of plastic grocery bags and took me for a walk around the neighborhood.  It felt good to make my marks in and proud to be a quadruped.


Diary Entry 21001.0

Life is good. I saw the big guy looking for ideas where to take me. I decided to help out and suggested he use the Yelp website. I love that name. He typed in the name of our city and asked for dog walks and out came the results with reviews and even photos.

I was pushing for the Cold Creek Trail and he caught my drift and agreed. Better yet, he ordered me the highly rated harness that The Center for Pet Safety mentioned. All I can say is that after looking at the restraint he bought me I was glad to be color blind. Oh, he did mention that since I was pushing a (muscular) 60 pounds that if I was not correctly fastened I could become a 2700 pound projectile if the car was in a crash doing 35 mph. I could have lived without that image. No wonder a thrash my legs when I nap.

Best Dog Friendly Cars

Diary Entry 21011.2

A new scent in the garage. I had noticed that the recycle bin had been especially full of colorful brochures of late and I can recognize images of cars. Good grief, I chased my share of them before I was picked-up by animal control and neutralized. Luckily, my new caretakers rescued me before long and here I am writing this post, which in my case, is a very clever title from a dog’s standpoint. Anyway, he narrowed the decision to three. The Mazda 5 is fairly inexpensive with easy to open slider doors and a low hop over entry height. I also liked the air outlets for the second row and the gas mileage was exceptional. The Mitsubishi Outlander has a third row of seats that can be folded down to provide ample storage space for a dog crate. This bargain priced SUV was another finalist until I advised the big guy that being in a crate wasn’t such a good idea as I could still be tossed around during an accident despite the 30 plus miles per gallon rating and noteworthy pricing. The same could be seen for the underrated Dodge Journey. Great value, plenty of features and room, and surprisingly easy to buckle-up in.  The finalist, much to my delight, was a Subaru Forester. Coincidentally, Subaru has several dog friendly options and sponsors The Center for Pet Safety. The Forester was fun to ride in and the all wheel drive opened up the possibility of reaching more adventurous trails. It also carried a 22/29 mpg rating. The elevated seating made it easier for me to check on what other dogs were cruising. And trust me, there were a lot of dogs, if you get my scent. My keeper loved the hill holder feature that held the car motionless on grades even with a stick shift, enabling the Subaru to start jerk free. And being jerk free is always a good thing. By the way, the local Ontario Subaru dealer refused to let me have my picture taken in at the dealership. We walked around the block and the Mazda dealership was happy to let us there. Thank you Romero Mazda and move Mazda into the top spot for dealer friendliness.

Best People Gift

Diary : Today

I decided to splurge on a gift for my keepers and pointed out the MapMyDogWalk free app to them. It tracks the distance I drag them, locates dog parks and they can even share my deeds with others. In the meantime, I think I’ll go outside and sniff around for Tribbles.

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outlanderside                                             2013 Mazda5

Mitsubishi Outlander                                                         Mazda 5


2013 Dodge Journey

Subaru Forester                                                    Dodge Journey

Cadillac ATS 2.0T: Angular and Sharp

by The Car Family

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A handy Cadillac? Yep, the ATS is eager to please, a snap to park, gets around 26 mpg in mixed driving and makes driving truly unCadillac like. But it is this sedan’s angular exterior, that proves to be eye candy for those tired of the jelly bean designed competition. The powerplant is equally appealing as the rear wheels on our test vehicle being powered by an optional turbocharged 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine. A chassis that sparkles as it soaks up bumps, carves up canyons, and handles tax dollar deprived pot holes with equal aplomb is the final adornment for this action-oriented Cadillac that clearly is marking its territory with little concession to the competition.


Mom’s view: Understated elegance; this is no ordinary entry level luxury sedan, it is the rare combination of good electronics, appearance, performance, interior design and safety. For about what you would pay for a Prius Plug-in, albeit without the 65 mpg average, you can own one with a plethora of air bags, stability and traction control, excellent headlights, ABS, and even tire pressure monitoring. Also available is OnStar with its myriad of reassuring uses. I would recommend all optional safety equipment anyone of which could save you from an accident . Cadillac offers a Driver Awareness package that provides a forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, rear seat side airbags and more. Add to that the Driver Assist packages with adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. I especially liked Cadillac’s collision mitigation with brake assist that can actually stop the car in some emergency situations. This is very reassuring while driving through thick coastal fog or desert dust storms. The ATS simply sparkles and leaves the competition struggling to match its ride and appointments. Although I have been spoiled with luxury cars for decades, this is one of the few that combines so many features with a vault like feel and enough performance to melt mountain passes. If I wanted additional acceleration, I would order the optional V6 engine, but it will cost you about ten percent more at the gas pump. A good time to buy American.

Dad’s view: We tested a fairly basic ATS 2.0 and it was far from basic. I frequently had to remind myself that this was a Cadillac. The trunk and glove compartment are on the smaller side, but I liked the turbocharged engine as it combines the best combination of fuel economy and performance and sips regular unleaded, although it is not Lexus quiet. Three engines are available for the 2014 Cadillac ATS. The base 2.5 has a four-cylinder engine that produces 202 horsepower. Our test vehicle had the 2.0 Turbo with its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 272 horsepower. The more upscale model’s 3.6-liter V6 is much more powerful providing 321 horsepower. If Cadillac ever decides to add a V model with a V8 engine you might need a pilot’s license to drive it. All the engines use a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission, but you could also have a manual with the 2.0. All-wheel drive is optional for the more powerful models. Getting to 60 mph was a 6.5 affair and look for the V6 model to be about a second faster. I never felt acceleration lacking whether passing on California 395, taking the back roads to Arrowhead, or visiting Mt. Wilson. There are an abundance of rivals in the ATS niche, but none have its cache. The six-speed standard transmission had short shifts and a solid feel. Finding reverse took practice, but the car had enough power to skip from first to third without lugging. A very athletic car and the steering is superior.

Young working man’s view: The Cadillac’s voice command functions work quite well, but an ancillary set of knobs for more commonly used functions would be a benefit. An option worth considering is the CUE or Cadillac User Experience with its surround-sound system that comes with a HD radio and CD as well as an eight-inch touchscreen, and a ten speaker Bose sound system. You operate the system using your fingers to tap the screen and when you can feel a small pulsing feel. I like this option, even though it takes a while to master and can be slow to react at times. In the early days, Cadillac was known for its advanced features and the ATS does not disappoint right down to an available active aero grille. I am not sure my age group is even aware that Cadillac exists, which is a pity considering its playful nature and utility.


Working woman’s view: The ATS is a five-passenger, luxury-oriented sport sedan and comes with an exceptional limited warranty and enough options to frustrate an Affordable Care web designer. Getting in and out is typical for the class, meaning you have ample room in front, but the rear seats are a bit tight for those who have drifted out of the average American demographic for weight and height. The trunk holds a little over ten cubic feet of space and so ordering a model with a folding rear seat is well worth it. The elephant in the room for the ATS isn’t Chris Christie, its the BMW 3 Series. No question the small German sedan is a true road runner, but Cadillac’s interior, unique features and dramatic looks provide a choice American consumers now have the luxury of making.

Family conference: There is no shortage of competition with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, and Audi all being candidates for the consumer’s contract, but the mere fact that we are mentioning Cadillac in the same paragraph of those stalwarts tells you the progress this marque has made and it may be the best fun-sized family vehicle Cadillac has ever made.

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One of the Nation’s Most  Energy Efficient Homes


by  The Car Family


Tucked into a cul de sac in Alta Loma is a Spanish style, one story family home that is unique and yet common. For the secret of this 2400 square foot home is that despite its tract house appearance the owners have taken inexpensive steps to make it one of the most energy efficient homes in Southern California with a gas bill that seldom goes above $300 a year and an electric bill that is just a tad over $400 a year and that includes charging the Prius Plug-In nightly.




Let’s start with the facts. First, the house is essentially all electric except for the gas dryer, water heater, and furnace. The back of the house has a southern exposure and is largely glass with a fairly large roof overhang. There is an oversized three car garage attached and the roof has three distinct pitches providing the interior with very high ceilings. Into this mix add a normal sized family, two large dogs, and the usual array of appliances and you have a very typical ranch style residence.



Now comes the interesting part the average gas bill is about ten dollars a month. On extremely cold months this could rise to $35, but the dual pane windows let in an abundance of southern sunlight that heats the tile floor and helps keep the home comfortable long into the night. The addition of the newer windows and doors greatly helps in keeping energy costs down. Southern California Gas and Edison both offer rebates in some cases. During the warmer summer months the roof overhang keeps the sun from shinning into the house. Helping keep the stucco exterior cool is the placement of large bushes on the southside of the house. The large attic acts to “store” the rising heat from the living areas and together make running the air conditioner a rare event. Indeed, last year it was only on twice and this year three times.





The water bill was reduced by the use of drought tolerant plants which require little maintenance, very little care, and no fertilizer. A drip system was installed, but even in hot weather watering twice a week is all that is needed. A grant to remove the grass front yard was given by the area water agency. Although some people hire professional landscapers, the yard was designed by the homeowner to reflect their desire to have a colorful, happy yard. Citrus trees on the property and a garden add to the water cost, but the drought tolerant landscaping has partially offset this and resulted in substantial savings. In addition, the home has low water use toilets and washing machine. The showers have restrictive flow features and the dish washer is never started unless it is full.



The gas bill was dramatically reduced with the tankless water heater and a two-stage furnace. Helping reduce the need for heating are ceiling fans that bring down the warmer air from the high ceiling in the house. Changing the directions of the fans in summer also helps to increase evaporation and keeps the family cooler. Energy efficient fans only cost about three tenths of one cent per hour to operate.



Electricity rates were also kept low by taking advantage of Southern California Edison’s savings plans and the installation of an upgraded SEER air-conditioner. Energy Star appliances, the use of outlet strips that can be shut off ending parasitic losses to devises that are plugged into them, and having lighting systems that use less electricity all squeeze the energy costs. Another important saver is programing the dishwater and clothes dryer to run during late hours. Interestingly, the Prius Plug-in, has a timer that enables it to start charging during off-peak hours. The addition of the Prius has raised the monthly bill for electricity by a measly $4.



There are other things that can reduce energy use that may take more time. For example, having large bushes and trees keep the sun off the house is worthwhile. The west side of the Alta Loma house is shaded by a hedge and vine. Keeping your freezer and refrigerator full and keeping the coils clean helps save running costs and using small solar entry lights can keep your entry lighted for very little cost.



One final tip, on those cold nights when the thought of going to bed unless the home is 68 or higher degrees, is not appealing, use the microwave to prepare a couple of rice heating bags. They can be tucked under the covers a few minutes before bedtime and they can easily take the chill off the bedding and retain warmth for over an hour.



Setting the programmable thermostat at 62 at night and 68 in the day in winter and a maximum in summer of 78 or 80, taking advantage of utility offerings checking your usage with an Edison account are ways you can certainly save yourself some hard earned income as well as help to save the environment.

The bottom line is that this house does not use solar panels because it is so energy efficient it does not qualify. It just uses items that  are subsidized by many energy agencies and water districts.  The energy costs of this house would save a potential buyer thousands of dollars a year so those looking to purchase a home should definitely check the utility costs before making a decision.

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