Ode to the Cadillac ATS

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After buying a house in Aptos, Ashley and I realized we needed to get a second vehicle. There are shuttle options from Santa Cruz, but getting to those bus stops would be a nightmare with only one vehicle. Unfortunately, there were no good public transit options to get to the coach stops and it would have been quite a trek on a bicycle. Additionally, I was in charge of dropping Max off at daycare in the mornings. We didn’t want to buy a vehicle. We also weren’t sure what would be the best option purchase-wise (after just buying a house). We opted to lease instead.

This was our first lease. I had heard and read about the process. I had also been raised to believe that renting or leasing was a “waste of money”. I understand the argument, but I also don’t believe that rushing into a large purchase is necessarily a good idea for the sake of “saving money in the long run” (sort of like selling a house that you bought in Aptos two years after buying it…). I put together a list of possible vehicles. I had decided I wanted something a bit more premium, but not ridiculous. I also didn’t want a huge vehicle. A small sedan seemed practical. The list was shortened to three makes: BMW, Jaguar, and Cadillac.

The Cadillac brand has always held a special place for me due to nostalgia and my family. My family always believed that a Cadillac was a symbol of status: you were doing well for yourself if you drove a Cadillac. After test driving those three, I deliberated. Even though the Cadillac was Ashley’s least favorite, it was my favorite. Seeing as how this was going to be “my” car, I opted for the ATS.

For a bit over two years, the ATS was my commuter car. I did not always drive over the hill from Santa Cruz to the office, but I at least had to drive it from Aptos to Scotts Valley almost every week day. Once we decided to move back to Nashville, I realized I wouldn’t have a need for a commuter car anymore. We decided to ship it with us to Nashville anyway. After adjusting to our new setup in Nashville, we also realized that we really don’t need two cars (or at least, not with any regularity). We knew that once the lease was up, we’d return the Cadillac.

I knew the day was coming, but it still made me a bit sad to hand over the keys. It only took a few minutes to complete the process. I hand them the keys, they do a quick visual inspection, then have me sign some paperwork. The paperwork basically details that I’m not lying about the mileage on the odometer and that I’m turning over the vehicle back to GM. There is a more involved inspection that I did a few weeks ago to determine if there were any damages to the vehicle that would warrant extra charges (to which there were none warranted). I believe the thing that affected me the most was how attached Max seemed to be. He even had a nickname for my car (🚀). Fortunately, he understood and handled it well; I had prepared him for the car going away a few weeks before we turned it in.

It was an interesting process. I would definitely consider leasing as an option in the future if the situation seems appropriate. It’s basically a long term rental of a vehicle. I believe that long term rentals are appropriate in certain circumstances and not always a “waste of money” as so many in my circle attempted to impress upon me.

One Year Later

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It was Memorial Day weekend 2018 when our house shopping in Nashville began in earnest. Ashley and I adored the real estate agent we had used to buy (and sell) our first home in Nashville and had reached out to her months before. She was familiar with our style and we knew which neighborhoods we wanted to focus on. She had put together an automated email of listings that Ashley and I used to help point out what we did and did not like. (Side note: one of my weird hang ups is that I love sidewalks and I almost always consider it a non-starter if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.) We planned a trip back to Nashville for Memorial Day weekend so that we could physically see houses. Our families would come visit that weekend and take Max to different places so that Ashley and I could focus on the task at hand: finding a new home.

The culmination of this process was a long road. Ashley and I had decided months before that we were ready to move and live closer to family. There were things we liked about living in California, but one of the hardest things about living out there was being far away from family, especially with Max wanting to spend time with relatives. We both agreed that we wanted to live in a city. So we looked at cities relatively close to western Kentucky. There were cities we ruled out immediately. We were left with two options: Louisville or Nashville. I went to school at the University of Louisville and I love the city. I will probably always have a longing to live there again. Ashley has no connection to the city, other than visiting me during college. I tried to convince her that we should give it a chance.

During our holiday trip to visit family in December 2017, I convinced Ashley to come with me overnight to Louisville. I thought the best way to sell her on the idea was to show her what it was like and hopefully my adoration for the city would rub off onto her. We rented an Airbnb and spent a day with a realtor looking at some of the different neighborhoods in the area. Over the course of the following month after our visit, we continued to look at home listings for Louisville. Eventually it became obvious that Ashley was not as excited about the prospect of moving to Louisville as I was. My pitch landed flat. We discussed our options and landed on Nashville as our future destination. This led to us contacting our realtor in Nashville and to us scheduling that home finding trip over Memorial Day weekend in 2018.

I sometimes still wonder what it would have been like moving back to Louisville. I love Louisville. I love Nashville too. I believe Nashville became the better fit for us because we were both comfortable with the city, having lived here previously.

Anyway, that is what is on my mind this Memorial Day: what brought us to this point.

Getting out of Your Comfort Zone

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One of the most difficult transitions for me is to know when it is time to get out of your comfort zone. There are many of these transitions throughout life. There are many of these:

  • Is it time to get married?
  • Is it time to have children?
  • Is it time to change careers?
  • Is it time to try a new project?

You can try to reason whether or not you are ready. You can create a list of pros and cons. You can dwell on your choice. You can talk to friends or colleagues and ask their opinions. You can dwell some more. However you decide to approach one of these decisions, there is really no way of knowing whether or not you are ready for it until it happens and you start to adapt. I always find it impressive at how capable humans are at adaptation. When we are presented with challenges or changes, the opportunity to overcome those challenges becomes motivation. Once you are able to push down the “Woe is me” thoughts, you are able to accomplish great things.

It is time to push down those feelings. It is time to adapt.

Forget Self-Driving Cars. Bring Back the Stick Shift.

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A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving.

I learned how to drive, initially, with automatic transmissions. The first car that was “mine” was a manual transmission though. I loved that car and I loved driving it. I later purchased another vehicle with a manual transmission in college. I loved that vehicle as well. In 2014-2015, I started looking at a larger vehicle. The Volkswagen Rabbit was a bit small for a carseat and dog crates. I remember scouring Edmunds, desperately looking for a manual transmission option. Alas, there weren’t many large vehicle options for a manual transmission. Worse, I never taught my wife how to use one. So we always needed a vehicle with an automatic transmission on road trips so that she could drive, if necessary. To make it easier on both of us, I opted for a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

I still dearly miss driving vehicles with a manual transmission. I absolutely adored the feeling of shifting gears. It was incredibly rewarding whenever you were able to cleanly take off on an incline without over-revving the engine. I haven’t given much thought to the idea that I might have been a safer driver in that vehicle as opposed to my current one. I will admit that I have started to rely on backup cameras and the sensors too much. If I get in a car without a backup camera, it’s jarring when I start to backup. I’m not sure if we should completely stop the improvements we have made, but it’s worth considering the consequences: if your brain isn’t focusing on the act of driving, your brain will most likely find something else to occupy itself.

Cross Country

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After three years in California, we moved back to Nashville, Tennessee. This was not a choice taken lightly. We never fully acclimated to California. We never felt “at home” there. We missed our friends. We missed our families. Surprisingly, I missed Nashville. When we made the choice to relocate, I did not appreciate how much Nashville had grown on us. I did not appreciate how much Nashville felt like “home”.

Ashley and I weighed our options carefully. We finally made our choice. We spoke with our employers and came to an agreement. We planned the move. We bought a house in Nashville. We sold our house in Aptos (selling a house within two years of buying it is pretty difficult and not much fun; I wish that we had been renting instead, but we did not plan on moving back so soon). I scheduled movers to pack our belongings onto a truck and ship them to Nashville. I scheduled a vehicle transportation service to load our automobiles onto a trailer and haul them to the Volunteer State. I scheduled a pet moving service to assist in moving our pets as well.

There was never a question as to whether or not our two dogs would be coming with us. Our miniature Dachshund, Millie, was thirteen years old at the time. My wife brought her home as a puppy before beginning college. She had lived at her parents house through college and had lived in our home since our wedding. Our Beagle, Porter, was a little over a year old. We had just adopted him earlier that year as a rescue. Interestingly, he was taken in by a Beagle rescue from a research facility.

We used a pet relocation service on our move out to California. I knew we needed one on the way back. I can’t imagine taken two crated dogs through an airport with a four year old and luggage holding enough clothes to last a few weeks for three people. This service would pick up our dogs from our home in Aptos and drive them to the airport in San Francisco. They would ensure they were boarded onto their plane. At the destination, they would have someone pick them up from the airport in Nashville who would then board the dogs for us until we arrived in Nashville.

It’s easy, at this point, to suggest that I knew something was wrong when my phone started ringing and the caller ID revealed the boarder’s phone number. After answering the call, my heart began to sink. It continued to sink until I hung up. Porter began to get scared and anxious during the thunderstorm. I’m not sure if he had ever been in a thunderstorm before. Someone opened the front door to enter. Porter bolted through temporarily open door. They searched, but Beagles are fast. I would surmise that a scared Beagle is even faster.

The helplessness I felt at that moment was devastating. It felt like I had taken an unexpected punch to the stomach. I quietly explained what had happened to Ashley. I was scared to tell Max. I tried to remain as optimistic as possible. I wanted to get to Nashville as quickly as possible. I wanted to search and drive around; to call all shelters. He was chipped, surely there was something we could do. Except there wasn’t. Microchips are only useful if the animal is found. They are not much help if the animal is on the lam.

We arrived a few days later in Nashville. After the boarders brought our one remaining dog to us, we drove to the neighborhood Porter was last seen. Looking around at the suburb and seeing the vast farmland just beyond those houses, the hopelessness became deeper. We called around. Ashley started following lost and found pet sites and Facebook groups dedicated to reporting seen dogs. She still checks these sites every day. When I see her checking these sites on her phone, it just reopens the wound. I can’t ask her to stop though; I still hold out hope for a miracle even though it seems improbable.

It’s been hard on us. It’s been hard on Max. If the topic of our pets comes up in conversation (which it does, frequently, with other families), Max happily explains that we have two dogs: Millie and Porter. The latter is followed up with an explanation about how he is lost. Occasionally he tells us that a park ranger or farmer is going to find Porter and bring him back to us. I hope he’s right, but I don’t have the heart to tell him he might not be.


After much deliberation, we visited the Nashville Humane Association last week. We had narrowed down our selection and ended up adopting another Beagle. Her name is Brie. Max was adamant that we could not adopt more than one. More than three would be too many dogs. He seems to have really taken an interest in Brie and the interest seems mutual.

I still hope we get that call. Every time my phone rings, I look at the caller ID. If it’s a local number, I get hopeful; the automated voice on the other end devastates me every time. Part of me will always hope that we get that call. The worst part is not knowing a definitive. He could be out, enjoying ultimate freedom (which is what Ashley and I like to believe). I just want to know he’s okay.