pandemic car purchase
Tuesday, April 28 2020
It was a beautiful sunny spring day, which was a good one for driving. As it happened, Gretchen and I would be driving out to Sharon, Connecticut to pick up a Nissan Leaf being delivered by a pair of gentleman from Crowley Nissan, a car dealership in Bristol, Connecticut, some 83 miles away. They'd arranged with us to meet half way between Hurley and Bristol so as to reduce how far we would have to drive. Driving there, the route was surprisingly familiar even though I hadn't been on those roads since the early aughts. (I used to occasionally do computer work for WKZE back when its broadcast studios were in Sharon.) Our rendezvous was at the Shell station in the northeast end of the village, and we arrived just minutes after the guys bringing our car. In an effort to be spotlessly sanitary in the deliver of a car in the midst of a pandemic, they'd worn masks and gloves in all their handling of the car, and after arriving, they also wiped down surfaces. The car would be entirely in Gretchen's name, so she dealt with the paperwork while I pumped gas into the Prius. The hose seemed to be delivering the gas unusually slowly. A woman wearing a black mask was pumping at the same time, and she commented as she finished that it had been going in only "a tablespoon at a time." But once she was done, the gas in my hose seemed to flow at a much faster rate.
After going around back to piss behind the dumpsters (partly to avoid touching doorknobs), I walked over to have a look at the car we were buying. The Nissan Leaf isn't the most beautiful car, with what looks like an unnecessary bulbousness in the back. But it's straightforward and practical, with a hatchback and all the latest modern vehicle features such as backing camera and a bluetooth-equipped audio system. This particular Leaf (a grey car from the 2017 model year) appeared to be in perfect shape and even had some lingering new-car smell. After our business was finished, Gretchen gave me the honor of driving our new car on the first leg of our return trip home. Since the Nissan Leaf only has a range of about 100 miles on a single charge, we wouldn't be driving it all the way home. The plan was to charge it in Rhinebeck while eating falafel sandwiches from Aba's Falafel.
For whatever reason, my stupid cellphone couldn't managed to find a usable cellphone signal not only in Sharon, but also anywhere on the route all the way back to Rhinebeck. I was forced to rely on signs and my faded memory of the area. This caused me to drive through downtown Millerton, which isn't the way Google Maps had had us drive on the way to Sharon. But eventually I was on Route 199 and knew my way, with the only bit of ignorance being how best to drive into the middle of Rhinebeck. (I guessed that I should keep heading west on Route 308, and that was correct.)
Because my navigation wasn't working, I missed the ChargePoint chargers behind Rhinebeck town hall by a block. But when we got our Nissan to a chargepoint station, we couldn't managed to get the charging cord loose from its receptacle. The app on our phone said we were ready to charge, but the damn cord refused to release. At that point were hangry, so we eventually gave up and went Aba's Falafel, operating (as all businesses are) under pandemic rules. Fortunately, there is a little garden just east of Aba's, and there was a sun-drenched bench seat waiting for us. Cathy, Aba's owner (and friend of our household) came out and chatted with us about various things, mostly pandemic and running-a-business-in-a-pandemic-related. Our pita sandwiches were so delicious that we ordered a second round to go.
Back at the ChargePoint station, my app either refused to connect or connected and then wouldn't release the charging cord. Then, in a moment of insight, after being told I could begin charging, I ran over to another ChargePoint station and grabbed its unused charging cord. Amazingly, it came loose immediately. Evidently ChargePoint was confused by our GPS data and thought we were standing at the other station, some 15 feet to the north. I don't know why they don't post this possibility clearly on ChargePoint stations, because, given the limited accuracy of GPS, it probably happens all the time. Another thing they could do is detect which station has people standing near it and assume that is the one where a charge is being requested.
The car still claimed to have 21 miles worth of driving in its battery, and home was only 16 miles away. But to be safe, I wanted to give it about ten miles more charge. While waiting for that to accrue (the charger was both fast and free), Gretchen and I walked around the block. It was a beautiful spring day, and people were out either strolling or doing yard work. Nearly everyone was wearing masks or had them at the ready. An old woman walking with a walker was wearing a mask as she did so, as was the somewhat younger woman at her elbow. I often joke about how much I hate Rhinebeck and that one time Gretchen and I walked with her parents slowly around the village at an hour when most of its businesses were closed. We thought of that today as we walked around the block, and, as it has been that time (this time because of the pandemic), most of the businesses were closed.
Gretchen drove the Leaf for the final leg home. She got a good head start, but as I was turning off US 209 into Hurley, I looked over and saw her and the Nissan charging at the free ChargePoint station near the Hurley Town Hall. I pulled in to see what was up, and Gretchen explained that the mileage had gone to "ten miles remaining" down to just three dashes, and this has caused her enough concern to decide to top-off the battery at the Hurley charging station, which conveniently was available just as she needed it. I told her I'd meet her back at the house.
When Gretchen next tried to drive the Leaf, it evidently had too few miles in the battery to agree to start rolling. And then the ChargePoint station refused to start a new session so soon after concluding one on the same account. Gretchen sent me a message about this situation, and I tried to research what the minimum battery charge a Leaf needs in order to be driven, but I couldn't find an answer, not even on pages that claimed to answer all Leaf charging questions. After five minutes, ChargePoint allowed Gretchen to resume charging the car, so she walked down to Nancy's house for a random visit while waiting for a substantial charge to occur. When she finally drove it home, it claimed to have 50 miles in the battery.
Once Gretchen and the Leaf were back at the house, I immediately hooked up the meager 120 volt "trickle charger" we'd gotten with the car. It appeared to fill the battery at a rate of about four miles per hour, which was plenty fast. Gretchen wouldn't need the car until tomorrow.
The two guys who sold us our Nissan Leaf, with it in the foreground.
Notice how low gas prices are these days, at least in Connecticut. $1.879
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