OK, one more post starring my new ride and then things’ll get back to normal around here. Yesterday it had 42 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the dealer’s lot. Sunday evening it had 696. Nothing like getting those break-in miles outa the way. Got about 22 miles per gallon on the first tankful, and 24.5 on the second, which is not too shabby considering I had climbed three mountain passes and ran the air conditioner most of the way.

We got up early Sunday and were out of the house by 8. The plan was to head out to the Sierra, check out some scenery and drive back all in the same day. It’s a nice all-day haul with only a bit of drudgery on the last couple hours back to the Bay Area.

Along about here, Melissa saw her first marmot — a large, high-country critter that looks like a ground hog’s third cousin. It ran off into the rocks before I could get a picture. This is on State Highway 108 near Sonora Pass.

Sonora Pass is just a tad over 9600 feet. Gorgeous country out this way.

Abundant snow on the high peaks.

Not far from here I tripped over a rock, lost my balance and dropped my camera hard. It froze up good and I figured I had killed it dead, but I managed to get it going again after I got home. That was the only consolation after driving cameraless through some of the most stunning mountain terrain I’ve ever seen. Scenery’s gets better once you get off the road, which tells me I’m gonna have to do some hiking up here soon.

Overall the Element did fine. Handled the mountain roads well, didn’t heat up despite a few wicked climbs. Road noise gets a bit obnoxious on the Interstate above 70 mph, but tooling down an empty two-lane at 60 or so is quiet and comfy.

Another thought: If you’re on the fence about whether to try satellite radio, I advise going ahead and getting it. XM has like 200 channels that stay tuned in for hundreds of miles. The only caveat is that you can lose the signal in deep canyons or tree cover. We drove over some of the most rugged paved-road terrain out this way and carried a signal almost the the whole way. It really takes the drudgery factor out of long drives. I can’t speak for Sirius, the other satellite radio provider but my hunch is it’s probably pretty good too.