Having spent the better part of the past decade being a one car family, Retta and I decided that it was time to acquire a second vehicle, one that would be smaller and more fuel-sensible than the diesel powered uber-truck that we presently rely on for all our transportation needs. When I read that many manufacturers were offering excellent incentives on remaining new 2006 vehicles, I investigated the offerings and settled on the vehicle in the following photograph.
We selected this vehicle due to the fuel economy it offered, it’s styling and creature comforts, performance and reliability, and the fact that Ford was offering super financing (0%-APR for up to 72 months, no cash required – great terms for a cheapskate like me).
When I checked the inventory at my local dealer, I found they were out of stock on this model. I proceeded to check the manufacturer’s web site in order to search for this vehicle on-line. While Retta had color preferences, we really only had 2 “must-have” options for the model we had selected; side-curtain airbags, and 4-wheel drive (a necessity for us in the winter). Our search led us to three frustrating conclusions:
1) Because it is the end of the 2006 model year, and this is a popular vehicle, the pickings are pretty slim at the present time.
2) Side-curtain air bags are an option that dealers do not think is important to order for their stock vehicles. Most all of the vehicles we tracked down omitted this option. People are apparently willing to spend $1000 for a moon-roof, but not $500 for an option which just might save the life of a loved one.
3) The time-honored method of automobile marketing which revolves around the local dealership needs to be revamped to coincide with the advent of web-literate consumers.
Picture this scenario – Ford has shed tens of thousands of jobs this year alone. The company has stopped production of vehicles for the remainder of the year due to bloated inventories at the dealership level. Ford Motor Credit Corporation is financing vehicles at 0% APR for up to 72 months in order to shrink inventories.
Now add to this scenario a customer who wants to buy a specific Ford model, equipped with side-curtain air bags and 4-wheel drive. This customer is willing to buy from any dealer in the continental United States. The customer requests from Ford (via their Personal Consultant service) a list of dealers in the United States who possess such a vehicle, so that the customer can purchase said vehicle. Ford cannot produce such a list. Or should I say, Ford will not provide such a list. I know they can produce it, probably quicker than I can type this sentence. Because Ford would not provide a list of stocking dealers, I was confronted with only one option if I wanted this vehicle – search each and every individual dealers’ websites to check their stock. This meant searching over 5000 websites, one at a time, to find our vehicle.
I think most people would give up at this point, but not us. Retta, having test driven the vehicle, fell in love with it, and because I have owned and loved many Ford vehicles over the years, we decided to devote the next several days to searching dealer inventories via the Internet. I was bound and determined to buy this Ford product, despite Ford’s best efforts to keep me from it!
After a long and frustrating search, we located potential vehicles in Seattle, Washington and Raleigh North Carolina. After several telephone calls with each dealer, we finally made a deal with the dealer in Raleigh, NC. And thus we were to be the owners of a new vehicle, and proud supporters of the workers in Kansas City, Missouri (a state reported to exist somewhere north of Arkansas).
Now we faced only one remaining problem – how to get the vehicle from Raleigh to our place here in the heart of the Ozarks. After receiving quotes from several vehicle transport companies, I decided that I could fly to Raleigh and drive the new vehicle home for much less than the cost of trucking it home.
It wasn’t until I looked at the map to determine the mileage I would have to drive, that it dawned on me – I would be traveling through one of the BBQ meccas of the world, North Carolina and Tennessee. What could possibly be better for a dyed-in-the-wool BBQ fanatic such as myself? So, stocking my travel kit with plenty of TUMS, I mapped out all the BBQ joints along my route (182 within 5 miles of my planned route).
I will spare you all the gastronomic details, but let it be noted that I consumed, among other things, scrumptious hickory-smoked pulled pork, course-chopped pork with lots of “brownies”, pork spareribs, beef ribs, cole slaw, hush puppies, beans, stuffed jalapenos, pickled green tomatoes, and fluffy biscuits. I had my fair share of Eastern NC style BBQ, which is pulled pork, highlighted with a tangy, mostly vinegar sauce. I also managed to get my fill of Western NC (Lexington) style BBQ, which is also pulled pork, but the sauce tends to the more western style sweet tomato base, and the cole slaw not quite as tangy.
Not only was the food delectable along the way, but the trip allowed my to drive through some of the most beautiful countryside you can hope to see. Driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains is a wonderfully scenic experience. The western portion of North Carolina and the eastern portion of Tennessee consists of lush green forest, combined with rugged rock outcroppings, offering superb vistas at every turn. It is well worth taking the drive if you have the opportunity. And don’t forget to sample the BBQ ;)