Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why I Decided to Buy a Toyota Camry Hybrid and How I Prepare for the Camry Hybrid's Oil Change(s), Both Locally and Out of Town

Toyota Highlander HybridBefore I was a "broke" University of Saskatchewan student, I had dreamed of someday buying a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. This was in 2008, when I decided that I would someday want a hybrid car. At the time, gas prices were much higher than they have been since the prices crashed over the past couple years, and those who were in the oil business in Alberta were still living the good life, to an extent. Today, I own a Toyota Camry Hybrid and never did buy that Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

At the time, I was driving a 2001 Toyota Camry that my mom previously owned. It was tiny to me, and the new XV40 (2007–2011) generation had been redesigned... and its defining feature to me was that it took up more space than previous generations. What I liked most about that generation at the time was that it was bigger, and there was more space between the top of my head and the roof/ceiling. The other cool thing about the generation was that Toyota had introduced a hybrid version of the Camry, and simply called it a Toyota Camry Hybrid. The only problem with that generation was that the Camry and Camry Hybrid were both... ugly.

At the time, I decided that I would one day acquire a Toyota Highlander Hybrid once I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, whenever that may be. As I progressed through my university career, the Highlander Hybrid became more and more unappealing for a number of reasons. Here are some of those reasons:

  • The design was getting dated. As it turns out, the 2014 model was redesigned and would look way cooler.
  • The price was quite high, and was one that I could not justify.
  • While the idea of having a hybrid SUV with 4x4 capabilities sounded nice, I couldn't figure out what I would do with such a vehicle besides driving it around. I don't like camping or the outdoors, and lugging large things around would be rare, at best.

After some soul searching, 2011 rolled around and I had stumbled upon this video of Toyota Motor Corporation's President Akio Toyoda teasing the new 2012 Toyota Camry:

Sure, all you could see was one of the headlights of this new Camry, but I liked what I saw. I then eagerly waited for the new 2012 Camry to be unveiled.

Shortly thereafter, the 2012 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid models were unveiled, and I loved what I saw. Eventually, the company said that Camry models sold in North America would be built exclusively in the United States. Prior to the 2012 model, the Toyota Camry was built in the United States (mainly in Georgetown, Kentucky). Should they not be able to keep up with demand, some Camry units would be exported from Japan to the United States. The decision to stop importing vehicles from Japan into North America, however, was a decision based on money, as described by USA Today: "Rather, it comes as the company is trying to boost production in the places it sells cars in order not to get caught in a bind due to exchange rates. The weak U.S. dollar makes American manufacturing a lot more important to maximize profits."

As a Toyota owner, the company's decision to stop importing vehicles from Japan to North America also benefitted me down the road. When I drove a 2001 Toyota Camry, Toyota was still importing a number of Camry units from Japan to North America in addition to their American production. As a result, I drove a rare model that was assembled in Japan. While a Toyota Camry built in Japan and one built in the United States largely looked identical, there were some differences inside. For example, the wiring and the way components were connected to each other were not exactly identical. In some situations, my local Toyota Dealer, Ens Toyota, had to ask me if I had a Japanese model, or an American model. Right off the bat, the fact that Toyota decided to stop importing the Camry from Japan eliminated the need to worry about production differences in the future.

In February 2012, I stopped by Ens Toyota and test drove a 2012 Toyota Camry LE (not a hybrid, unfortunately). I instantly fell in love with the interior and the way it felt. At that point, I knew that I wanted a new Toyota Camry. Eventually, I started doing some more research on Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system and learned even more than what I already knew, especially in comparison to Honda's hybrid system. There was a lot of technical jargon, but what I learned at the time was that Toyota's hybrid system could allow your vehicle to move without consuming gasoline under certain conditions (the engine shuts off), while Honda's hybrid system only shuts off the engine when you're stopped and would start up again the moment you move.

After that initial research, I was sold on the Toyota Camry Hybrid. My next step: picking a colour and trim. After months of research, I decided that the lowest trim available in Canada would be best: the Toyota Camry Hybrid LE. My next step would be figuring out which colour I preferred. However, since I wasn't anywhere close to being ready to acquire such a vehicle, that step was moved to a later date.

I would later test drive a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid during the summer of 2013, and once again fell in love with it. I even paired my phone with the vehicle's entertainment system. Sadly, the first person that I would call was my mom, as I had no girlfriend at the time. That would be the first test drive out of five test drives. Between that time and January 2014, I had test driven the Camry Hybrid a total of five times over various seasons, as I wanted to see how the vehicle would perform in the winter. In order to get a good feel of the vehicles, I took the vehicle(s) on routes I'd usually travel, whether it was going to work, or going home. As a result, I took all of the different vehicles I test drove back to my home and parked it on my "driveway." During one of those test drives, I even stood on my "driveway" and stared at the Camry Hybrid and daydreamed of one day having one... and I stood there for about four minutes. At this point, there was no question that I wanted my next vehicle to be a Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Now that I have explained to you why I went from wanting a Toyota Highlander Hybrid to buying a Toyota Camry Hybrid, I can now explain why I go on out-of-town trips to get my vehicle's oil changed. Please be warned that none of it makes any sense.

I ordered a 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE in Cosmic Grey Mica on February 1, 2014 at Ens Toyota. Before ordering the vehicle, I used my excellent Paint skills to determine how ridiculous I might look in the car with my favourite orange sunglasses...
Final Car
As you can see in the above picture, my hands are sliced by the steering wheel somehow.

On August 12, 2014, I took my 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid to the new Ens Toyota in Saskatoon, which had just relocated from a much smaller facility about a month earlier. It was a beautiful new facility located at 627 Brand Court, and I was excited about the fact that Toyota Express Service was something that was available at this location. Previously known as Toyota Express Lube, Ens Toyota no longer provided that option at their old location and all oil changes required appointments, which would have been more difficult for me to participate in a nonsensical scheme I came up with later that day.

On that day, my vehicle's odometer approached 7,990 km. From what I could remember, it would be approximately 10 kilometres to travel from my home to the new dealership. As such, I made the journey from my home to Ens Toyota after work. When I arrived at the dealership, the odometer reading was 7,999 km. After thinking that it would be fun to arrive with an odometer reading of exactly 8,000 km, I decided to drive down Brand Court and return.

When I arrived at the dealership, I was practically greeted like royalty. What was new at the time was that the new dealership had a sophisticated computerized device that checked on your vehicle's tire tread depth and would also inflate/deflate your tires to an optimum range, among other things. I then left the dealership with an Ens Auto package of swag. I also didn't pay a cent to have the oil change completed, as I paid for the Platinum Plan with the company's Extra Care Protection.

When I got home later that day and realized that Club Toyota (no longer a thing) would eventually list my entire service history, including which dealer I visited, a nonsensical idea came to my head. That idea would be to visit every Toyota dealer in Saskatchewan for an oil change, having already visited Taylor Toyota in Regina and Moose Jaw Toyota (not for oil changes though). After all, if I visited a dealer for just an oil change, I would hypothetically be able to drive in, wait for the oil change and drive away without paying anything. At this point, I began looking through the maintenance menu on the company's website.

What I realized was that if one failed to follow the maintenance schedule, one could risk voiding the manufacturer's warranty (and even the Extra Care Protection in some situations). I also decided that if I were to visit these dealerships across Saskatchewan, it should strictly be for oil changes only. As a result, I was looking for situations where not much work would be required. If something like "Maintenance Service" and/or "Brake Service" were scheduled, I'd do it locally in whichever city I happened to be in. With this nonsensical criteria in place, I set myself the following "foreign dealerships" schedule:

Rainbow Toyota (16,000): Failed
With a successful first oil change behind me, I planned my next oil change that would occur at approximately 16,000 km. At the time, I was working shifts and had agreed to switch shifts with a co-worker, giving me a three day weekend. With this in play, I called Rainbow Toyota and scheduled an appointment for an 11:00 am appointment on December 15, 2014. My friends also said I should try to arrive at the dealership with an exact odometer reading. I tried (not really hard) and failed miserably in this regard. At the time, I valued my dating and social life much more. However, I did look up Rainbow Toyota on Google Maps, which indicated that the distance from my home to that dealership would be approximately 144 kilometres. As a precaution, I added two kilometres to the mix, telling myself that I'd stop driving the car and leave it at home once the odometer reached 15,854 kilometres. On December 14, 2014, however, a friend (let's just say she was a pretty female) called me up and asked if I wanted to hang out. Not wanting to waste such an opportunity, I decided to go shopping with her, and we went to Costco Wholesale. As a result of this lack of discipline, I arrived at Rainbow Toyota for my appointment with an odometer reading of 16,029 km. However, the person who greeted me wrote down the incorrect reading, and Toyota Canada has it recorded as 11,629 km, which would suggest I waited way too long for my first oil change.

Yorkton Toyota (24,000): Success
My next trip was for the 24,000 km interval. For that trip, I decided that it would be Yorkton Toyota. It would also be the farthest I'd ever travel for an oil change. At the time, I had agreed with two friends that we'd go see a concert in Edmonton in July of 2015. The trip took place on April 25, 2015 and both of them came along. One of them was from Comox, British Columbia and wanted to see more of Saskatchewan... and had never been to Yorkton. The other was from Saskatoon and wanted to see how painful road trips with me could be potentially be. Determined to be successful in this nonsensical road trip venture, I decided to keep track of each kilometre that the vehicle travelled. This meant that infamous spreadsheet that I still use today became a thing...

My goal in this situation was to arrive with an odometer reading of 24,000 km. My goal was also to make it possible to make up for "lost kilometres" should I arrive with an odometer reading that hadn't reached 24,000. This was ensured by adding a "buffer zone." I used Google Maps to determine the approximate distance between my home and Yorkton Toyota. I then modified the route to include a Starbucks visit that I had pre-planned as well as including my friend who wanted to see what road trips with me were like. I then added six kilometres to what Google Maps told me the distance would be, which meant that I would need to leave my house with an odometer reading of 23,660 km. Prior to taking off for a nonsensical visit, I had determined that an appointment was not necessary, which meant that I was in no hurry to get to Yorkton and could take my sweet time.

The road trip was fine, but there were also some struggles. As it turned out, the buffer zone I added was way too many kilometres. When I arrived at the dealership, the odometer reading was 23,988 km. To make up for it, I took what my friends called "unnecessary tour of Yorkton." I reset the "Trip B" odometer and drove around it reached 6.0 km before returning the same, but opposite route to the dealer. When I returned, the odometer reading was still 23,999 km. Again, I went for another trip. I then declared that another nonsensical tour would be necessary. I was ready to drive down the road to the nearby Walmart Supercentre, but the odometer reading reached 24,000 km as I was leaving the dealership's parking lot... and I returned to the dealership feeling triumphant.

At the end of the day, I was happy for more than one reason.

Of course, being in Yorkton, I also accomplished two things in addition to the oil change: I was able to say that I had visited every Real Canadian Superstore location in Saskatchewan, as well as set foot into each Toyota dealer in Saskatchewan. Since that time, a new Real Canadian Superstore has opened in Regina on Albert Street, but I've already visited that store.

When I returned to Saskatoon, it was snowing after all or most of the snow has already melted... and my car got stuck in a friend's driveway after visiting them.

However, both of my friends may have told their mothers that they were kidnapped... so that was kind of rude.

Frank Dunn Toyota (40,000 km): Success with Many Risks
Hoping to avoid the fact that I was off by 12 kilometres during my last out-of-town oil change trip, I decided that the trip for 40,000 km would be different. In this situation, I looked up the distance between my home and Frank Dunn Toyota, located 3601 4th Avenue East in Prince Albert. The distance, according to Google Maps, was 142 km. I then added a "buffer zone" of two kilometres to make it 144 kilometres. This meant that I had to leave my house and drive to Frank Dunn Toyota using a predefined route when the odometer reading read 39,856 km. This plan was going well until my mom called me and said she needed a ride somewhere the day before my nonsensical trip that was scheduled for December 29, 2015. When I returned home on December 28, 2015, the odometer reading was 39,859 km.

On the morning of December 29, 2015, I drove to Frank Dunn Toyota worried that I would arrive at the dealership with an odometer reading of 40,001 km or something like that. As it turns out, the two-kilometre-buffer-zone would make more sense, but it was still off. When I arrived at Frank Dunn Toyota, the odometer reading was actually 39,998 km. As a result, I decided to head north on 4th Avenue East, east on South Industrial Drive back to Marquis Road, then west on Marquis Road and made a left returning to the dealership. By then, I was still off by a single kilometre. I then reset the "Trip B" odometer to zero, and headed south on 4th Avenue East until it read 0.5 km before making a U-turn and returning to the dealer.

When I pulled into the parking lot and found a single parking spot, I moved into that spot. When I did, the odometer reading finally read 40,000 km.

While my nonsensical oil change scheme was more successful in Prince Albert, it was a "close one."

After this trip, it was time to "relax," as another trip like this wouldn't occur until September of 2016.

Taylor Toyota (56,000): All That Work, But No Recognition
On September 19, 2016, I called Taylor Toyota in Regina and asked if they had an express service where no appointment would be required. They informed me that it would be not be the case. Instead, they made appointments in intervals of 15 minutes. At that point, it was determined that I would bring my vehicle into the dealership at 11:00 am on September 24, 2016.

At the time, my friend, Patrick, who constantly changes his name on Facebook, wanted to try some of that delicious Mary Brown's Famous Chicken & Taters. As a result, I recruited him to come along. This time, I no longer remember how much of a "buffer zone" I gave myself... but I ultimately arrived at Taylor Toyota with an odometer reading 55,993 kilometres. With seven kilometres to drive, we headed approximately 3.5 km south on Broad Street and no longer remember where I decided to turn back. When I arrived at the dealership again, the odometer reading was still 55,999 km. As a result, I headed east on 1st Avenue for a bit before returning when the odometer finally reached 56,000 km.

I was in and out of the dealership in approximately 20 minutes. However, the Service Advisor I spoke to said that the technician wrote down an odometer reading of 56,000 km, which seemed unbelievable to him. While he was friendly, it seemed like he dismissed all my hard work.

Moose Jaw Toyota (72,000 km) - August 17, 2017
Tomorrow, I will be heading down to Moose Jaw for various reasons. One of them will be to obtain an oil change, as seen in the maintenance schedule of a 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid at Moose Jaw Toyota:
72,000 km

While I'm in the Moose Jaw area, I am hoping to see the "Passage to Fortune" tour at the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. At this point, I'd like to have lunch at the Dèja Vu Café as well, which was featured on an episode of You Gotta Eat Here!

Of course, I'll also be visiting the Real Canadian Superstore and Starbucks in town (it just seems obligatory). While I'd like to visit the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw, time may not permit me to do so.

After three years, I am pleased, but a bit saddened to complete my nonsensical challenge of having my Toyota Camry Hybrid's oil changed at every Toyota dealer in Saskatchewan. While the vehicle is sitting on my driveway, there is no doubt that I will be successful in completing this oil change tomorrow at the exact 72,000 km interval.

In addition to this nonsensical challenge, here are some other fun facts:

  • I have been to every single Real Canadian Superstore in Saskatchewan as of April 2015. Another store in Regina opened at 3806 Albert Street on April 28, 2017. As a result, I paid a visit to that store to maintain this "fun fact."
  • I have been to every single Toyota dealership in Saskatchewan. However, having my oil changed at every dealership has yet to occur. By the end of August 17, 2017, I will have visited every dealership in Saskatchewan twice (or more).
  • The Saskatchewan Information and Library Services Consortium is a network of most public libraries across Saskatchewan. If you borrowed something in Saskatoon, you can return the same item in an entirely different city and library system, like the Regina Public Library. Basically, your library card at one system gives you access to all library systems across the province. I can honestly say I've visited at least one branch out of every single library system in Saskatchewan as well as every branch of the Saskatoon Public Library. As for the Regina Public Library, I've been to three branches with the George Bothwell Branch being my favourite thus far. One of my friends, Amanda, who will soon be moving to Regina, has indicated that she will likely visit every branch of the Regina Public Library, thus allowing her to say she's been to every branch of the two municipal libraries in Saskatchewan. With this in mind, I feel like I should try to do that before she does!

What will my next nonsensical challenge be? Because my mind works in mysterious ways, it's a mystery. However, the idea of visiting all four locations of the Western Development Museum sounds really intriguing, as I have only been to the Saskatoon location. The other three are in North Battleford, Moose Jaw and Yorkton... and I have no interest in returning to Yorkton or North Battleford at the moment.

While I'll agree that is may be "crazy," this nonsensical challenge has given me at least one somewhat-valid excuse to visit regions of Saskatchewan I would otherwise never have visited in the first place.

2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid

As for my 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid, it has been a wonderful vehicle for me. It is difficult for me to even imagine parting ways with it, and I will continue to service the vehicle at a Toyota dealer... though not to the extent I have been doing so in the past three years. Sure, I'll follow the maintenance schedule... but I won't be leaving town for those trips anymore. Instead, I'll visit my local dealership wherever I am. For the time being, my local (and only one in Saskatoon) dealer will be Ens Toyota for the foreseeable future. As you can tell, I love this vehicle.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Rejuvenation! Rebirth! All That Crap!"


It has been at least two years since I have posted anything new! I have redesigned this website and started a blog from scratch. All previous "articles" I wrote that were from my old website have now been merged with this new blog. As for my old blog, I used the same blog for 11+ years as a personal blog... and decided it was time to start "fresh," or as fresh as could be.

With this in mind, I am hoping to use this blog. While I would like to say I will blog more often in 2017, I am not sure I will keep that promise. I am committed to discussing all sorts of cool stuff in the future though, including politics. After all, we are living in interesting times... and some (okay, only one person) people have asked for my opinions on the new Trump administration down south.

Thank you for your concerns.

Wondering where that phrase came from? It's actually a shorter version of what George Costanza once said: