Category Archives: Rodal

What’s in a name?

There have been a few additions to Casa Bustamante that require some Proper Names.

On Saturday, I replaced Rodal, my 1999 VW Jetta, with a newer, flashier model. I’ll formally introduce the newbie at a later date. After it’s gotten its shots and, more importantly, been named. Rodal was the perfect name for my Jetta. My high school French teacher—Mme. Rodal. Jetta Rodal.

Before Rodal, there was Alvin. A late ’80s (or early ’90s?) Cadillac Seville. Why Alvin? Because of the fateful Alvin and The Chipmunks episode where the boys are sent to army boot camp. Alvin, lagging at the bottom of the hill and caving under a heavy backpack, gets yelled at.

“Move it along, Cadillac!”

“It’s Seville, sir.”

“I don’t care what kind of car you are!”

So you see? My new car needs the same thoughtful consideration before being named. I know this much:  I’m getting a masculine feel off him. No sissy names that ends in a -y or an -ie. Until I arrive at the right word with the right amount of gravitas for the German beast, he shall be known as Rodal 2.011.

Proper Name No. 2

There’s a new puppy at Casa Bustamante. He’s 3 months old and is a Chihuahua/terrier mix. He looks like a little wolf with huge pointy ears and an extremely long tail. Since last night, all he’s done is run around the old geiser dog Coco (actually just 2 years old) and cry A LOT.

¡Llorar! ¡Chillar! ¡Fregar!

One of my brother’s friends needed a new home for the puppy. It was either us or the shelter. So that’s how we got Rudy. Yep, Rudy.

What did I just say about cutesy names that end in -y. VETO!

I think the pup is young enough to not get an identity complex from a little nip/tuck in the Proper Name Department.

PHOTOS: Official pic of my new Jetta. PUPPIES!!


Drama don’t come cheap

I understand that the Thanksgiving holiday can be quite stressful for families getting together. The hours leading up to the full-fledged meal. Liquor flowing freely. Tongues even more.

My Thanksgiving stress came two days after the big sit-down meal. After I made a big to-do about being grateful for my family.

Before I knew it, everyone minus the damn dog, was on their way to downtown Los Angeles to see me get my new car. The madness!

After a 30-minute trip in a packed SUV to downtown, fending off the silly USC game traffic and construction. We pulled into the dealership.

“Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you guys at home.”

Damn, didn’t work.

After doing my thing with the salesman, test-driving a car and deciding on a specific model… the drama began.

My dad wanted a better price.

The guy showed him the Costco invoice.

My dad said, not good enough.

The guy said, It’s the best I can do.

My dad said, you’re lying.

The guy said, I’m not, sir.

My dad said, What about the Costco price?

The guy said, That’s what I’m giving you.

I said, Ok, that’s enough. Let me do this.

The guy said to me, He keeps asking me questions. What should I do?

I said, Avoid him.

Dad said, blah blah blah.

Guy and me hide in the car while paperwork is processed.

Guy said, Thanks for getting me in this mess.

I said, Maybe you should take an early lunch?


PHOTO: Downtown Los Angeles skyline

EX-CEL-LENT, he says

The search is on for Rodal’s replacement. I’ve taken some pretty big preliminary steps and am ready to make the move to driving off lots and testing out the vroom vroom.

1. Registered Rodal

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s very hard to part with $144 to register a car that you know you won’t be driving for the full year or even a quarter of a year. Also, it sucks to throw down that much money when you’re adamantly trying to save your pennies for a new car and realized long ago that you were done even spending $$ on an oil change for the Ol’ Girl. If she needs oil, she’s gonna get it a quart at a time at gas stations.

2. Got my credit score

Like everything else I avoid, I hadn’t checked on my credit score for some time. Considering the mountains of student loans, maxed out credit cards and closed accounts, I figured I already knew what the number was going to be—Awful. Oh, is that not a number? How about… Terrible. Subpar. Presents serious risk.

With a stiff drink in one hand, I took a deep breath and clicked my way through my *free credit score. (Free, my arse! Is $1 free? Is $4.95 free? Is $24 a month free?) But, alas, HUGE mistake on my report and one I’m in no rush to fix.

It seems yours truly has EXCELLENT credit. That’s right, fools. Jealous? Superb. Outstanding. A-OK. EX-CEL-LENT, as Monty would say. Truthfully, I don’t know in what Twilight Zone universe I end up with excellent credit, but I’m going to let it slide until someone tells me different.

With my EXCELLENT score in hand, I’m going to strut on car lots this weekend and see what kind of steals deals I can finagle. I am a prime person to sell to. They’d be happy to make comish off me. It’s great to be in this position for a fraction of my life.

I’d rather be… driving a busted-up car

For the last week, I’ve chosen to drive this beauty instead of my v-dub. Of course, it doesn’t still look like this. It’s put together, more or less, after my younger brother crashed into a dumpster. Yep, a dumpster. Let’s move on, that little chistesito is a whole different story.

I started off driving the busted up 4Runner out of necessity. Needing to take a 60-mile road trip, I knew my car would have been the wrong choice for that journey. Plus, with expired tags, that’s a lot of real estate to travel and avoid cops. Of all the times I’ve been pulled over, 90 percent have been for expired tags. It’s one of those things I never get around to in a timely manner.

At first, I had trouble adjusting to this car. All the dashboard lights are out of whack. Had to double check I wasn’t driving with the emergency brake on. Had to figure out how to stay in my lane. Had to come up with a plan B for changing lanes since I couldn’t see through the blacked-out windows.

But then, I realized something profound. I loved riding around in this behemoth. Not needing to worry about shifting in traffic. Changing lanes when I want to because I’m huge. Seated up high I can see around other cars. Dark windows so no one can see and steal my dance moves.

I doubt I’ll trade in my Rodal for an SUV. This is a fleeting summer fling I’m having. Nothing serious. I know it won’t last and I’m not looking for it to last. In the week I’ve been driving around in it, I’ve already had to make a couple trips to the gas station. That’s lame.

If anything, this has made it clear that I have to start looking for a new car. Also, I shouldn’t put off registering Rodal. I’ve missed two deadlines so instead of paying $77, now I have to shell out $144! That’s too much for a car I’d gladly ditch for one that looked like it’d been through a meat grinder a few months ago.

PHOTOS: (top) Morning after hitting the dumpster, the 4Runner looks a hot mess; (left) cinder blocks and cracked wheels; (right) dangling eyeball lights.

Happy birthday, Rodal!

Happy 11th birthday, Rodal! We’ve made it through half the day already.

My present to you today (provided you don’t leave me stranded on the side of the 405) is a car wash!

Yeah… good times.


  • July 14, 1999: Rodal and I rolled off the Bozani VW in West Covina with 11 miles.
  • July 14, 2010: Rodal and I rolled off the driveway this morning with 178,864 miles.

PHOTO: Rodal in greener pastures with birthday hat and balloons.

Ten signs its time for a new car


You find yourself giving your car a pep talk before turning it on. “Come on, Rodal. You can do this. You’re stronger than you think. It’s only one little hill and 20 miles until we’re home. That’s nothing for a beast like you.”


You’ve added a new step to your routine. Seatbelt, check. Shades, check. Ignition, roar. Hazards, yep.


After the pep talk, after the hazards, but before you start that now-treacherous 20-mile commute. You make a preemptive emergency call. “Hey, I’m on my way now. If you don’t see or hear from me after an hour, you’ll know why and whereabouts to find me.”


Continuing to show its age, your car decides now, in the winter of its life, to SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL uncontrollably. Every stoplight, stop sign and yield, serves as a reminder to get your emergency kit in order. Hey, it could also be a public-service announcement to other passersby. Silver lining, folks!


Suffering from incontinence, you notice your car is leaking fluids and burning through gas like no one’s business. You’re filling her up more often with less miles than in her glory days. But now, your trips to the gas station also include water and oil checks. Sometimes, twice a day.


Everyone has that moment. The time when your CHECK ENGINE light comes on and you have no idea why. After an amusing quest to figure it out, you realize you’ll just have to live with it. My light, the one that’s been on for months—nay years—just started blinking.


Unlike the annoying Check Engine light that never burns out, everything else goes. One right after the other. Newest victim: BACKUP LIGHTS. Both of them. An easy fix to be sure, but one that won’t be replaced anytime soon because the trunk won’t open.


Enough said.


Since your car won’t/can’t go much faster than 60 mph without dragging and jerking, what’s the point of shifting into fifth gear? You’re comfortable cruising in 4th, in the slow lane, with your hazards on and your windows up. Why? Because…


Apparently, your car is toxic. It’s best not to inhale any of that. “Better out than in,” as Shrek always says. Now, there’s no conclusive evidence yet; however, a certain passenger has complained that fumes of God only knows what aggravated her eyes. There may or may not be some eye drops involved. Oops.


You’re scared to write/speak ill about your car for fear of vehicular retribution.


PHOTO: Cartoon by Andy Davey of The Sun.

Nearing my limit on that un-New Car Smell

A couple of days ago, I took this photo of my car parked right next to another burgundy-colored Volkswagen Jetta. It was an underground parking lot at 10:30 p.m. on UCLA campus. The lights are bouncing all over the place, which helps my car out a little.

The moment I spotted my car and then this neighbor, I started laughing. Really?! Of all the spaces in all the parking lots in all of UCLA, this newer, fancier, CLEANER version of my car had to park right next to Rodal. It was as if Kismet wanted me to see what a burgundy VW Jetta was supposed to look like.

It’s bigger. I’m shorter. It’s sleek. I’m boxy. It’s color is deep and shiny. Mine’s faded, scraped, scratched and unmatched in a few places. It has chrome. I’ve got aluminum alloy. Better yet, what I have left, is alloy/plastic.

A detailed list of everything that’s wrong with my car would take up all my available space here. Suffice it to say there are parts missing, parts broken, parts that don’t open and others that can’t close. There’s duct tape keeping some parts together and the will of God on the rest. A drive-through window or parking garage instantly transforms into a dangerous game of chicken because my car dictates when and where it plans to roll the windows up.

On July 14, Rodal (named after my hs French teacher whose first name was Jetta) will turn 11 years old! That’s 77 in dog years and decrepit in Claudia-driving years. I’m not the best or most attentive owner. I stay too long in a gear without shifting. I fly over potholes like they’re my personal playground. I’ll race some Valley punk with a suped-up SUV even as I can hear my alternator about to bust. I easily forget oil changes and wait for the rain to wash away the grime. That or when my dad gets fed up with how gross it looks, whichever comes first.

All this to say, the time has come for a new car. Believe it or not, this is the first time in all these years and all these problems (oh, I forgot, broken a/c in desert summer) that I am seriously considering trading in Rodal for a newer model.

It is a bittersweet moment. I am excited about getting a car that’ll at least have a CD PLAYER in the dashboard. My CD CHANGER is in the truck and I only have that because it was a gift. Rodal’s basics were bare bones.

But I’m also getting sentimental about all our road trips and life experiences.

I learned to drive stick with her that first summer. My skills and her emergency parking brake were put to the test quickly. I was working as a merchandise sales associate (fancy title for souvenir hawker) for $5.75/hour at Universal Studios that summer. Any locals out there or die-hard Studio heads: Imagine that steep hill as you turn into the park from Lankershim. I needed a running start for that. God forbid there was traffic on the hill!

Like on that other hill I started driving that same summer: The 405. Rodal and I left for college together, grew up, grew old and came out the other end.

RODAL gets her own category for sticking by me for so long. Oh the stories we could tell.. and I will.

PHOTOS from top: Rodal and new version parked next to each other in Lot 2 at UCLA campus; Universal Studios fountain; View of 405 Freeway/Sepulveda Pass.