My first blonde!

Well, technically, she's "Mojave Beige Mica", but I've been to the Mojave more than once, and whatever else I was thinking, it wasn't beige.

Sandy, for those of you who are sensible enough not to read my daily logs, is my new ride, a 2000 Mazda 626 LX, replacing her older sister Molly, who had apparently grown weary of me after a couple of years — though as relationships go, this is actually one of my longer ones.

Some might consider Sandy a, um, stripper. Only three options on this car: floor mats ($85), cassette deck ($250 — CD is standard, but I wanted both), and the infamous Ford CD4E automatic transmission ($800). Of course, Mazda throws in a lot of stuff for the $18,245 base price, including items both useful (the famous 626 oscillating center vents, coyly labeled "SWING") and inexplicable (the ceiling-mounted holder for one's sunglasses). Unlike Molly, she doesn't have a moonroof; I drove another 2000 626 which had one, and when the road turned into great-grandma's washboard, I banged my head more than once on the sunshade, so this particular feature had to go.

So far, the results are mostly positive. Sandy is a very mannerly sort of vehicle. Her on-the-road demeanor is crisp, businesslike, and free of slop. In fact, she may be too polite; at the stoplight, she's all too willing to let everyone else go first. The engine, Mazda's trusty old two-liter FSD, has grown to 130 hp — Molly's mill had 118 — which still isn't enough to motivate a mid-size sedan with any degree of verve unless you really push down on the loud pedal. Fortunately, like all Mazda powerplants, the