Ur personal canvas indeed. Yesterday mrs. a-go-go and I went to have a look at some other vehicles that might take us across the country. We have not had any encouraging words (let alone discouraging, really haven't had any words at all) from Ford or their representatives so we're thinking it's time to consider plan B. Actually there are many plan B's. The idea of some car company being interested enough in our trip to want to make us a swell deal on a new car was a direct result of my fascination with the Ford Transit Connect and its unique features. The price tag of the new van (and that used ones are not yet on the market) was what drove the idea of getting help from Ford in the first place. We're used car people really. I've never bought a new car and mrs. a-go-go's investment in Rodney, a 1999 Rav-4, was an anomaly; her cousin talked her into it. Plan B is likely to be a low mileage used vehicle that could get the job done or to spend some dough on long term maintenance for Rodney. All the plan B's we could afford on our own would eliminate the possibility of (comfortably) sleeping in the vehicle, the initial goal. Eh... we're flexible.
Now that we have been bitten by the bug of sponsorship we feel the need to try again with another company (and vehicle) that would want to be a part of our weird little world of cooking on the engine and calico curtains. Call it plan A-and-a-half? After some internet shopping we decided to take a look at the Kia Soul pictured above, the Nissan Versa hatchback, and the Nissan Cube. All are priced low and the Soul and Cube are marketed to the young and the restless. That might work to our advantage considering our bizarre pitch. These smaller cars would require that we figure on tent camping as sleeping in them is out of the question except under dire circumstances like lighting storms. A roof cargo box would be necessary to keep the inside from becoming a sardine can.
First we headed out to the Kia dealership. It is wedged in a narrow lot near the LA river in Glassell Park. Traffic was nutty and the parking lot is tiny but when we walked in we were greeted right away and shown to the car we were after. The salesman left us alone with the car for a bit and didn't lay on the hard sell. Thumbs up. So far we really like the Kia Soul. The steering wheel seen above is from a fancy one with all the audio controls on the wheel, but we're likely to go for the base model. It's rated at 31mpg on the highway with a 5 speed stick. mrs. a-go-go isn't thrilled about moving to a manual but she will be brave if that's what we can get.
I did some measuring and the space is similar to what we have now in ol' Rodney with a little less height. If we get our hands on this car I would remove the rear seats and the cargo deck. With those out the space is down right cavernous for a li'l car although not long enough for a bedroom. The front seats are comfortable and we imagined ourselves driving all day in it. In a pinch the reclined front seats could be our dry, out of the wind place to sleep. Kia crams a bucket load of standard features even into the base model. Particularly the safety features like stability control, air bags all over the place, and anti-lock brakes. All thumbs up. For mileage, interior space, nice front seats (the back ones are good too but we wouldn't be using them for the trip) an MP3 plug, and a long warranty the Soul would do us dandy. Plus the exhaust manifold (the really hot part for cooking) is right in the front of the engine compartment, has lots of head room between it and the hood (no squishing), and it's a level surface! Our camp cook pots will fit perfectly. Hot water for tea? No sweat! Steamed potatoes and vegetables? Easy peasy!
Next we visited a Nissan dealer in Glendale. Erg... The sales guy looked at us like we were asking to use the bathroom and he couldn't wait to go somewhere else. I like being left alone for a while with the car I came to see, but he really seemed to want us to go away. The Versa is neither well laid out for our needs nor as comfortable as the Soul. The mileage is better but the engine has NO cooking room. Nissan capped everything under the hood with plastic that is supposed to make it look like a high tech race car under there. Poo. Plus mrs. a-go-go stabbed her hand on some mystery object when she tried to open the hood. The Cube is kookie enough looking to be appealing but it suffered from all the same problems as the Versa. Oh well...
There are a few other vehicles I have in mind as possibilities but for now the Soul looks good to us. We would like to go back and test drive the different engine and transmission options, but chiggers can't be boozers. If the Soul comes as a gift (or even a fabulous at-cost deal) from Kia we will take it with glee regardless of transmission or advertising plastered on its sides. So, how am I going to talk Kia into coming along for the ride?