Interior Trunk Release: Not Just for the Kidnapped, Apparently!

Everyday Adventures

I can’t be the only one that thought that was the sole purpose of those get-out-of-trunk-free pull tabs under the lid, right?

I'm sure this is one of those features you never hope to need...

I’m sure this is one of those features you never hope to need…

Sole purpose until Wednesday night, that is.

You see, I did something fairly dumb on Wednesday: I left my lights on and completely drained my battery. It’s not the dumbest thing ever, of course, and I know people do it all the time, but this is the first time in all my years as a car owner to do it, and yes, it’s dumb.

Especially because I’m usually religious about checking the lights when I get out of the car.

But Jenn, isn’t your car new enough that it makes noise if you open the driver’s door when the lights are on, I hear you ask?

Yes, yes it does. It’s also the same chime that the car sounds when you open the driver’s door with the key still in the ignition. And Electra and I don’t always agree on that fact.

See, Electra is a 2007 Saturn Ion 2. And Electra gets very possessive over the car key, often not wanting to give it up, especially in the summer when the steering column gets overly warm. It’s just the way she is. When she got her ignition replaced as part of that big GM recall I thought that would solve the issue but, no, apparently the attachment goes deeper than that.

To convince her that it’s okay to release the key, there’s a dance that involves recranking the car, jiggling, jostling the wheel, or releasing the car from Park and putting it back, sometimes forcefully, to give her peace of mind.

At any rate, more mornings than not, key in my hand, Electra still tells me with that strident chime that the key is still in the ignition and no I will not let you use the power locks to lock the driver’s door, you don’t want to be locked out of the car, do you? And more mornings than not I manually lock the driver’s door and make sure the light are turned off just in case.

Except that morning, obviously, and the poor battery was so dead I wasn’t even getting clicks. And I was the last to leave the office. Of course.

But it’s okay, I pay for roadside assistance as part of my car insurance, so I’ll just call them up and make use of it.

Or not, as the muzak that played while I was on hold was some Lovecraftian love-child of a 14.4 modem and a cassette tape being played backwards. It squealed and squelched and assaulted my ears. Just in case someone was listening/talking I shouted into the phone that I couldn’t understand anything over the caterwauling. But I sat there on hold for 5 minutes before it cut out on me.

So I called back, went through the phone tree again for another 6 minutes of less-screechy “music” before getting disconnected. There’s also been a voicemail from the insurance company trying to figure out if I needed assistance or not, so I called AGAIN and held for 23 minutes. Long enough for their ‘you’re call is important to us, please hold/higher than normal call volume/we’ll keep playing music til someone picks up but won’t keep making these announcements’ spiel three times. Judging from my phone history those are 8-minute loops.

About that time, though, one of the guys in the building behind my office came out to move his car and I flagged him down and asked for help.

Him: What side is your battery on?
Me: Neither, it’s in the trunk.
Him: Really?!

Do you know that it never occurred to me that the trunk release button on the underside of the dash required at least a little juice from the battery. I mean, you can use that button without the car being on at all, the key nowhere near! But apparently the Ion2 puts the car in severe lock-down when the battery dies, because I was also unable to remove the key from the ignition. And that aforementioned dance? Yeah, I couldn’t get the stick to move. No matter how hard I pressed the break or pulled the shifter, it wasn’t budging.

So, um, how was I going to get into the trunk to the battery?

That once-ridiculed interior trunk release, that’s how!

Granted, I had to get into the trunk to use it, but my backseat folds down in two sections so it’s possible. Except for the fact that the latches that keep the seat backs in their upright and locked position are released from–you guessed it–the trunk.

Thank your celestial deity of choice that the last time I put the back seats back up, one had not fully engaged its latch. And then blame Murphy for the fact that it was the smaller of the two sections that would open so that I could shimmy through. A barrette and a piece of my dignity were the only things lost in the process.

Because sometimes the thing you most need a picture of take place when no camera is handy...

Because sometimes the things you most need a picture of take place when no camera is handy…

Let’s also say a thank you to whatever still, small voice prompted me to wear pants that day–the first time in weeks. If I’d been wearing my usual dress or skirt ensemble… well, it’s probably best not to go there.

48 | Random Acts… of Autos

64 Arts

This post represents a slight detour in our exploration of the 64 Arts…

Since we’re talking cars right now, I hope you’ll indulge me as I dig into my archives to pull out a bit of fun for this week’s installment. Back when I first started drawing comics a publisher of comics magazines and anthologies liked my style and offered me a spot in his publication, Satyr. Happy to have my work in something I didn’t create myself, I ended up with comics in three issues, and the first, Satyr #8, Winter 2008, was the below story about my history with cars. This is the first time it’s been available online.

I’d been drawing comics for a touch over a year when this was done, my style has changed a bit since then and my anatomy and posing have gotten a lot better, but I always believed in showing the progress, and I liked that I could look back through my archives and see just how that constant practice was paying off while still giving readers a chuckle and not waiting until it was “perfect.” It’s never gonna be perfect, it might not even be “good enough” some days, but if you keep trying and working at it, it’s definitely going to get easier and probably going to get better.

Anyway, enough about that. Here’s Random Acts of Autos:

jvanderbeek_ra_autos-1 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-2 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-3 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-4 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-5 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-6 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-7 jvanderbeek_ra_autos-8Of course, if you’d like to see more of my comics you can check out the archives at The site needs a full overhaul, but the comics are still there. And the “06-?” on page 1? Yup, that’s still the same car I’m driving now.

Electra got her name because she used to shock the daylights out of me every time I’d get out of the car. The car guys told me it was the static not being discharge by her low-whatever tires–supposedly more eco-friendly, just not passenger friendly. And once we started replacing them one at a time as they gave out pretty quickly, the static stopped, too (though I was given the option of attaching a chain to my rear axle to drag the ground to discharge said static).

And this brings up a good topic for discussion if anyone’s game: do you name your cars?! I’d love to know what and why if you’d be so kind as to leave them in the comments 🙂

Okay, next week it’s back to beautifying our chariots!


48 | Pretty Is As Pretty Does

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing exploration into The 64 Arts; continuing our discussion of “decorating chariots.”

And that goes for cars, too!

Before getting fender-deep in automobile beautification, I think there’s something to be said for the inner workings of our favorite mode of transportation! After all, beauty is only skin deep.

No Bare-footin’ Here!

As much as I love shoes, you’d think I’d have no problem buying fancy footwear for my car, right? Wrong!

Tires–their fragility, their expense, and their maintenance needs–have always caused me a fair amount of anxiety. You’d think something that the entire car rested upon would be made tougher, right? Would be built to last longer and deal with more abuse? And wouldn’t need so many trips to rotate, balance, etc. Buying new tires was always a scary expense, especially back in the day when I was barely living paycheck to paycheck, and I was torn between my need to bargain hunt and my fear of being taken advantage of. When I bought my first brand-new, 16-miles on the odometer car and it came with a tire warranty, I thought I could finally relax a bit about this part of car maintenance.

Once again I was wrong. Within a few months one of the tires had a substantial leak so I dug the warranty info out of the glove compartment and went on the hunt for who to take it to. I’m sure no one is surprised that I was greatly disappointed to find that the warranty was only for manufacturer’s defects, so it didn’t matter who I took the car to as no one would do anything for such a simple issue as a leak under the warranty.

I ended up at Discount Tire and it ended up being the happiest accident of my entire car ownership experience!

First, because the car was so new and still had so few miles, they let me buy their in-house warranty for all four tires before looking at the problem tire. That meant that the replacement tire I ended up needing cost me only the $14.05 or whatever it was under warranty, saving me a bundle. Soon, another tire developed issues and it was the same, small fee to take care of it all.

Rotating the tires is something I was never good at doing with previous cars, though it’s supposed to be done every 6-8,000 miles or, in practice, every other oil change. Because the Discount Tires warranty included this service, it was a lot easier to make the time for it, so I forsee sticking with Discount Tires for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of Oil…

Oil changes are the other primary maintenance that I used to be really bad at–mostly procrastinating due to cost–but one I was determined to improve upon with the current car.

In high school I was made fun of for a bit when I admitted that I thought you had to change the oil through the small hole the dipstick fit into. My understanding of car maintenance has improved a bit, since then, thank goodness!

Now, if you’re inclined to change your own oil and have the time and expertise, more power to ya! I have never felt so moved, though my first husband insisted on doing it himself rather than paying someone else to do it for him. I understand the basics of changing the oil, but auto repairs are one of the few things I opt not to DIY, preferring to embrace the awesomeness that is specialization.

Still, because I owned my current car for over 6 years without putting more than 50,000 miles on it, I tended to stick with the 3,000-mile rule, even when it would extend to 5 months instead of 3. Of course, now that we’ve moved and my daily commute is closer to 70 instead of less than 20, I foresee my oil changes being far more regimented!

Air filters and fuel clean-outs are also things I try to keep up with to get the maximum fuel efficiency–especially now!

Proper Automobile Nutrition

Which, of course, brings us to the subject of fuel. Probably the largest single expense, I find it hard to believe that when I was still a teenager Mom could send me in with $2 to buy 2 gallons of gas to get us through until payday. $10 could fill our little hatchback for at least a week. Now? Well, everyone knows that gas has skyrocketed and that alternative fuel sources are becoming far more attractive.

Some people suggest that you only get your gas from the same gas station or company to prevent possibly screwing up your car with different levels of additives or a bad batch here or there. While I like to use the same gas station for reasons of convenience, I’m more concerned about my gas gauge going lower than 1/4 tank, so whatever is most convenient at that point is where I pull in.

That last quarter tank always seems to run out quicker than the first quarter, though it doesn’t make much sense why that should be true!

Of course, with the move and additional mileage, I’m working on getting discount codes set up for the stations I’m most likely to stop at to offset the additional cost. It helps that gas is usually a few cents a gallon cheaper here in Georgia than it is in Florida (most weeks) but those extra .05 off a gallon definitely add up!

The Unexpecteds

It can be easy to forget, especially if you have a fairly low-mileage car, that manufacturers recommend certain maintenance at certain mileage points. I’m not 100% convinced it’s not to pad the dealership’s pockets a bit, but I suppose preventative maintenance and regular check-ups serve the same purposes in a car as they do a human.

Another thing I’m horrible at is regularly washing and detailing the car. While my first car looked as if I lived in it (and sometimes, especially those years working full time and going to class until 11pm, 4 night a week, I almost did), I’ve gotten successively better at keeping the clutter down to a minimum. When that aforementioned first car was rearended and I had to clear out the trunk for them to repair the damage, it was a bit embarrassing to have to deal with it with the rental company there (the damage prevented the trunk opening and closing, hence the last-minute thing). Still, when it was totaled a few years later (it had really bad luck, I swear there was a target painted on it!) I had a couple of orange crates of stuff to get out of it when I said my final goodbye.

Now that we’re no longer parking under a pine tree, I might spend some time getting any remaining pine sap off the body and windshield and do some paint touch-ups. But as long as we were at the last house it was a loosing battle that I just opted not to fight.

Finally, recall notices: don’t ignore them. Not only do the issues they represent usually mean major safety issues are at hand, but also it’s a chance to get in there and get some “free” labor out of the dealership. As much as I hate them trying to sell me a new car each time I have to take it in, I do like getting even those small upgrades (so far it’s been a fuel line and, yes, that big GM ignition switch service, in addition to a not-a-recall-but-a-surprise-extended-warranty-so-we-don’t-have-to-admit-true-fault power steering fix) without having to pay out of pocket.

Okay, that does it for the under-the-hood bits, next time we’ll get back to the fun stuff!

48 | Decorating Chariots… as you do!

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing exploration of the 64 Arts

I’ve been looking forward to this next art for quite some time and have a really fun project planned for it! But first, let’s start at the beginning.

48 | Decorating Chariots with Flowers

Sure, chariots have existed for millennia, but they might be a bit hard to come by these days. The last time I had anything to do with them is building a model chariot back in Latin class in high school. Sure, it was fun, but hardly worth decorating with flowers. Needless to say, we’ll be playing a bit fast and loose with the concept of chariot, just like we won’t be hindered by the floral limitation, either!

Choose Your Chariot

Car? Bicycle? Motorcycle? Public transportation via bus or train? Even a skateboard or scooter work. If you own the vehicle in question, customization and decoration is up to you, but public transit might be a little tougher. Of course, the city buses is Tallahassee (at least used t0) have some in the fleet with painted panels for different holidays and seasons, so there’s always that to look into. Either way, keep it legal, okay?

I’ll talk more about cars since that’s what I’ve got to work with, but if you’ve got a bike, maybe it’s time for a new basket or set of saddle bags? Maybe you’ve got a horse that could use a new saddle blanket, come to think of it.

Decor Decisions

Probably one of the easiest ways to decorate a car–flowers or no–is with bumper stickers and decals. I admit, I’ve never wanted to put a bumper sticker on any car I’ve owned. Mostly for the same reasons I doubt I’ll ever get a tattoo: permanence just doesn’t sit well with me, especially if I’m espousing someone else’s ideas that I may decide I no longer agree with later on down the line. Sure, stickers come off, but that’s a step I don’t have to worry about if I keep them off my car to begin with.

I’m just not sure I want my car to be a wheeled billboard for anyone but me.

Vinyl decals are becoming more and more popular now than they used to be, and a lot easier to come by (which came first?). Is the proliferation of monograms on everything truly a “Southern” thing as I’ve been led to believe? I know I see an awful lot of monograms on the back of SUVs every morning on the way to work, and, of course, there are the ubiquitous family decals. Now, just because I get a chuckle out of the ones that show a spaceship attacking said stick-figure family doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some of the more amusing options out there.

Car of a Carnivore, as spotted in the Trader Joe's parking lot

Car of a Carnivore, as spotted in the Trader Joe’s parking lot

Of course, decals don’t have to be run of the mill.  A graphic artist I know designed this large-scale decal and had it professionally printed and applied to her car and I think it looks fabulous. So much better than just a personalized license plate, right?

A car as a canvas... interesting thought, no?

A car as a canvas… interesting thought, no? (pardon the dust on my windshield)

The only custom decals I have a head-tilt issue with are the ‘In Memory Of’ ones. I mean, I get planting a tree or dedicating a bench in memory of the dearly departed, but a car as a moving monument? Doesn’t compute for me. Partially because of how easy it is to bang up or wreck one, but there’s also a disconnect when I think about trading in a car for another. You just traded in the “memorial” to your granny and now someone else is going to drive around in it?

Have you ever noticed them and do you think it’s normal or not right?

Spotted in traffic: some pretty cool congratulatory

Spotted in traffic: a cool congratulatory in windshield marker!

Granted, not all decorations have to have even the staying-power of those sorts of decals. Take the decorating of the getaway car in all it’s Just Married glory as a prime example. I’m definitely in favor of markers specifically for window-art, less in favor of the shaving cream and random other tools that well-wishers have been known to use in the past. (And the less said about popping corn under the hood, the better.)

Weren’t There Supposed to be Flowers?

Oh, right!

image via

image via

The first thing that comes to mind with the combo of cars and flowers are the clip-on bud vases that seemed to be introduced when Volkswagen revamped the Beetle several years ago. You don’t have to have a Beetle to have one of these clip-on cuties, but I’m not sure how well anything but faux flowers would hold up in the heat of summer trapped in a car.

Still, if you were looking to surprise someone on their birthday or anniversary and timed it right, this could be really sweet!

I thought that maybe succulents would work as car-plants but, again, temperatures might be an issue. Cacti might be a better option in the summer months, or maybe just stick with faux flowers. Paper and ribbon flowers might be a step up from the basic silks, but a nice touch is a nice touch.

After all, we’re not decorating Rose Parade floats or anything, right?

50 Shots of America–Indiana


The Hoosier State became the 19th state of the Union on December 11, 1816. It was in their constitution that the first state-funded public schools were called for, even if it took over 30 years to follow through with the plan.

What is a Hoosier? I still don’t know, I’ve read so many possible explanations. But Abraham Lincoln (moved there when he was 7), James Dean and David Letterman are examples of famous ones.

When I think Indiana, I think Indianapolis and the Indy 500. It’s the largest single-day sporting event in the world and just underscores the state’s place as the “Crossroads of America.” Cars, highways (more per square mile than any other state) and manufacturing that has fared better in these times of auto-industry downturns and upsets due to specialized skill centers in smaller towns are all part of what keep Indiana moving fast.


The Quick Shot

1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Melon Liqueur
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
Tonic Water

Combine gin, liqueur and vermouth over ice and shake like your rushing down a court towards witness a beautiful 3-point shot. Strain into a cordial glass and top with tonic water.

Melons and grapes are two of the state’s top crops (behind feed-corn and soybeans) but as much as I wanted to use Pepper Vodka to give the drink some speed it was just too harsh so we went with a gin base–it’s got its own version of pep. The tonic water helps bring out the different flavors the same way salt enhances a sauce.