Travelogue: How I Got Home From My Road Trip To Chicago…Seriously

Greyhound at the Loring Park Art Fair 3

Sure, getting there was half the fun. Going home is a different story.

This last road trip was, at best, interesting. I saw a friend in Madison and went around the place I once called home. Then, took in Chicago a day early to add a new experience on my way to close the baseball blog, The Heirloom.

The GMC Terrain paved the way for this trip to happen. However, I did not drive home. The vehicle was based in Chicago, so I dropped it off there. I ended up coming home a completely different way.

Normally, I would fly out of O'Hare. On a short notice, airfares were not in the offing for my budget…even out Midway. Amtrak was an alternative, but I had to be back on a contract site early the next morning. The late arrival of Amtrak into St. Paul would not work there, either.

The Shiny One In The Middle

2012 GMC Terrain 23

The question is no longer "what is a crossover." It is "what size do you need?"

Since petrol prices scaled up to $4.00 a gallon nationwide earlier this year, the North American automotive market saw a general shift towards smaller, more efficient vehicles. Benefitting from this downsizing shift is the small crossover segment. If you scour over the sales charts, you will notice the astounding growth in sales of these smaller utility machines.

It is also a field that is getting a bit crowded. On the top of the segment's charts are the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. These three vehicles practically boosted this segment's profile from the onset. However, it appears that almost every manufacturer that sells vehicles in North America has at least one to offer.

As a byproduct of the growth in small crossover sales, there are now niches within this segment. While Toyota, Honda and Ford rule the more mainstream sections of this class; there are now luxury models available for the more discriminating consumer. Even the luxury models are experiencing boosts in their sales figures – evidenced by staggering month-to-month increases by the greatly improved BMW X3.

When you have two distinct sub-segments within a market class, no one seems to be concerned about "the middle." After all, the North American market had been divesting away from the middle of the market by eliminating entire brands – Mercury, for example.

The arguments are plenty as to the reasons behind diverging away from the so-called "middle." Still, consumers want something that is not too pretentious…and not too plain, either. The BMW X3 is a wonderful machine, but it can be priced too dear for most families. The Toyota RAV4 may offer three rows of seats, but some consumers complained it's too cheap and plastic for their tastes.

There is good news, however: The "middle" still exists and it lives right in the heart of the small crossover marketplace.

Frankfurt 2011: Fünf Lieblinge von IAA

Oh, to be in Frankfurt in September…

Frankfurt? Why would I want to be in Germany, let alone Europe? I have not been to the old world…ever. Is that a bad thing to say?

Opportunities…I had a few. But, I stuck to my "discover North America first" travel mantra for too long. I'm not a young man, anymore…

Welcome to Victory & Reseda 2.0

V&R's Own Randy Stern 4

Now, why would I change the site? Why does it look like this? Why the grays and reds? Am I out of my bleepin' mind?

To explain, this eventually had to come to this. To become more in-tune with future readers (this could be you), I wanted to transform my site from a personal blog-looking one to something more…well…automotive.

Travelogue: Epic Relocation

The Capitol 2Wisconsin State Capitol 2

At what point does a relocation became a classic road trip?

Moving is a lot of work. We all know this. We pack what we can into our vehicle – our own or a rental truck – and head off. It takes a high level of effort to ensure that nothing is broken, destroyed or stolen.

When I moved out of California, I packed what I can in four bags and flew out on a red eye from Los Angeles International Airport to Dulles Airport near Washington, DC. That was two days after Thanksgiving in 1996.

Four years later, America as about to go to the polls to vote for George W. Bush. The Clinton era was effectively over in Washington. The white gloves of contract officers were wiping up enough dirt to re-compete contracts and lay off semi-essential workers. I left my IT procurement contract position at a defense agency in September of 2000 and hoped for the best.

A 21st Century Celica?

2011 Scion tC 20

Twenty-five years ago, I lost my father to a heart attack due to complications with diabetes.

In retrospect, my relationship with my father was, at best, interesting. I wanted a relationship with him, but he was more interested in his own life than the lives he helped create. It took me a long time to realize the disconnect that he had with my brother and I.

To pay our final respects to him, my brother and I had to go to the San Francisco Bay Area for his memorial. I arrived a day or so later and rented a vehicle for us to get around in. When I arrived at the National Car Rental counter at San Francisco International Airport, they put me in a somewhat appropriate vehicle: A black 1986 Toyota Celica GT Liftback.

Granted, it is appropriate color-wise. The car? I have to admit to having a bit of fun in it. Though I should heed the words of any good human being: It's not Kosher to arrive at a memorial service for a relative in a sports coupe.

Driving that Celica did confirm one thing: How much I loved them! That began when they first came out – a Japanese reinterpretation of the original Ford Mustang. Still, the small coupe left an indelible impression at various points in my life. There was a story my mom told how I was brought into the main office of my elementary school to be asked by my principal what car he should buy. Inadvertently, I said the Celica. He bought one and kept it for well over a decade. That was in 1971.

It Was a Good Day…

Tweet A starting point – 2011 Chevrolet Volt. All photos by Randy Stern In a single day, I met various GM executives, employees, interns…

When GM Comes to Town

2011 Chevrolet Volt 2

This weekend provided a quandary for the automobile enthusiast. Should one head to Southeastern Michigan, making the pilgrimage to Woodward Avenue for the Dream Cruise? Or, should one live it up on the Monterey Peninsula at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance?

Me? I can't afford either journey.

Yet, opportunity knocked at the right time. My regional media relations contact for General Motors mentioned via e-mail about the Open House events the company are sponsoring at three dealerships in the Twin Cities. He invited me to check it out, provided that I meet with him when they throw the doors open on Saturday morning at one of the events.

I accepted his invitation. And, I'm glad I did.