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Well we finally did it. I had been looking at (and dreaming about) a Mercedes-Benz SLK320s for almost 10 years and when I saw this one for sale on EBay in the beginning of December 2007 I decided I had to have it. With encouragement from Heather and some creative short term financing we were able to buy it. It is a 2001 SLK320 that had only 25,800 miles on it when we picked it up in Pampano Beach, Florida. It is not in perfect condition but almost. 

These cars are convertible hardtops. They have a built in mechanism that removes the hardtop and stores it in the trunk at the touch of a button. When you want the hardtop back on you press the button again and the top is removed from the trunk and placed back onto the car. The last picture shows this in action.

This is the nicest car we have ever owned and/or driven. It is only a two seater with no possibility of carrying more people. The trunk is large enough to carry a couple of duffel bags when the top is stored there which is plenty for short trips. Heather has named this car Gold Member in tribute to Austin Powers. To me the car feels like I am driving a James Bond car because of the European appointments and performance. Saying this car is fun to drive is an understatement. It is amazingly fun. It has enough acceleration to push you back in the seat which allows you to pass anyone very quickly. Also, you don't really have to brake for corners as this car is very sure footed.

Getting the car was fun as well. On the day the EBay auction was going to end, I decided I didn't want to loose this car to someone else so I called the dealer in Florida and ask him how much he was asking for the car locally. The figure he told me was less than I thought I would pay in the auction so I told him I wanted to buy it right then. He was OK with that and stopped the EBay auction will me as the high bidder.

This started a whole chain of events in motion. Heather and I would have to get to Florida to pick up the car so we decided to make a little vacation of it. The dealer needed his money in no more than five days so we had to act fast. After sending him a deposit to hold the car, we got on the Internet and booked our whole vacation in about an hour. We decided we wanted to see the Florida Keys and the Everglades and, if possible, to see the space shuttle take off which was scheduled for December 6th. So the following Monday we flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the next day went to the dealer. After inspecting the car which seemed to be in very good condition we finished the paper work and it was ours. We put a new set of tires on the car while in Florida because the existing tires didn't have much tread remaining. We would be driving the car back to Colorado in the winter and didn't want to take any chances.

So after picking up the car our mini vacation began and it was great fun. We first drove from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and stopped at a Gorden Biersch Restaurant (my favorite brewing establishment) and had lunch. Miami has an incredible skyline just like we see in the movies. Then we were off to the Florida Keys for a nice long drive to check out the car. The evening finished with a very nice dinner in a restaurant on the beach followed by a night drive with the top down back to our hotel on the main land. We now see why people flock to Florida in the winter time.

The next day we got up and drove into Everglades National Park and had a very nice day. We started with a ranger walk through the swamps and we saw an incredible number of  birds, fish, turtiles and gaters. The daytime temperature was a perfect 80 degrees; quite a bit different from Colorado the day we left. We even had a chance to paddle a canoe in the park but we didn't see many animals there. Here again we put the top down for the drive in the park.

The next day we drove up the east coast of Florida to Titusville and checked into the hotel we had booked. Upon arrival we were told the shuttle was scrubbed that day due to problems with fuel sensors but that they were going to try again the next day. We had some Thai food that evening and some of the bubbly in our room. We ended up in the hot tub with a some other people who were there to see the shuttle lift off as well. We found a liquor store in Titusville that had an incredible assortment of Belgium beers including Rodenback; we were in heaven.

The next day we went to the Kennedy Space Center and took the whole day tour. We were hoping to see the shuttle take off from there but the problems with the fuel sensors had not been fixed so they scrubbed that day as well.

We were surprised how expensive it was to get into the Kennedy Space Center. It costs us about $120 to get in. Good thing the tickets were good for multiple days. There is a lot to see  for space buffs like Heather and I and it took us two days to see it all. Highlights include a full size fully restored Saturn 5 rocket they have on display. This is the rocket that took the astronauts to the moon. You have no idea of the scale of this thing until you are standing next to it. It was huge. We also got to see the VAB or Vehicle Assembly Building which is the biggest building in the world. It tall enough to have the Saturn 5 or the Shuttle upright inside. We didn't get to go anywhere near the Shuttle launch pad as it was poised to fly. We could see it pretty well though. We also got to ride the space shuttle simulator and see two IMAX movies which was fun.

With the launch scrubbed twice we decided to stick around another couple of days just in case. When launch was scrubbed on the forth day we decided it was time for us to leave since we had a 1600 mile drive to do and the weather in the mid west was getting nasty. It also seemed NASA was no closer to finding the problem on the fourth day as it had been on the first day so we were pretty sure the launch would be postponed. We were correct and NASA is now saying a launch of STS-122 won't happen sooner than the beginning of January 2008. We had made a good decision to leave.

We drove almost directly home but stopped off in a few places to enjoy the sites. We visited a club we had read about called the Flora-Bama at the border between Florida and Alabama. It's a place whose sole purpose is for adults to misbehave. The rafters of the main room are covered with womens bras. We saw a really good female singer and guitar player while we were there. They only serve beer in cans so we didn't stay too long.

We also took a ferry ride (Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island) around Mobile, Alabama and had some incredible boiled shrimp fresh out of the pot in Slidell, Louisiana on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

We stayed as far south as we could and only turned directly north at Dallas, Texas. We wanted to stay out of the snow for as long as possible. As it turned out we didn't hit snow on the road until we pulled into Colorado Springs. The Mercedes did surprisingly well in the snow for a rear wheel drive car due to its traction control system.

The vacation was excellent as is the car. Both Heather and I had a good time despite the long drive home. The Mercedes is safely parked in the garage and probably won't get driven a lot until next Spring. Ask us and we will take you for a ride.

 The most beautiful car ever!
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