SiriusXM Seriously?

Recently my wife and I rented a car with a SiriusXM satellite radio package.

Note: I did not receive any compensation for writing this blog post.

Gotta love car rental agencies

The young lady who walked us out to our car knew nothing about cars. She certainly couldn’t answer any questions about the Ford Fusion that we rented.

We could pay $49.98 to return the car on E and not worry about it. But she didn’t know how many gallons the tank held or what “Flex Fuel” meant. To not worry about it, we took the package.

She was good at selling.

We were going to be driving all over the southwest. A colleague told me to never let the tank get below one-quarter since the area we were going to was remote and we might not see a gas a station for a while. This being the case, tank capacity seemed important.

Then she pitched us on GPS navigation. We were going off into the dessert and mountains, so this made sense to me also. That was an easy sell, but they could have offered it when I made my reservation.

Not adding it to the original quote reduced the price by $153.90.

We could have used our phones for navigation, but they have a funny way of running out of power at the worse time. We were spending three days in Death Valley, so navigation was high on my list of priorities.

XM Siriously?

Then she pitched us on SiriusXM Satellite radio.

I’ve driven loaner cars with SiriusXM, but only for a day or two.

Not long enough to figure it out or to find it’s short-comings.

We were going to be in the dessert and mountains of Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. I love music and know that remote areas often have few choices for music. It’s nice to get the local flavor, but I didn’t want to get stuck listening to country music or The Farm Report.

So we took the SiriusXM Satellite Radio package for $15.00.

Not a lot of money in comparison to what we spent on this vacation. But since I’m paying for something I’m used to getting for free, I get to vent a little bit!

Maybe with the extended test drive we would find out what’s so wonderful about satellite radio.

What we learned about SiriusXM Satellite Radio

You will run out of Channels

Their website says they have 175 channels, but I think we only had 30. Maybe that’s the rental car package or we never figured out how to get the other 140 channels.

If I had thirty solid channels to listen to in Boston I’d be thrilled. Unfortunately we did not have thirty solid channels on the road.

SiriusXM uses themed channels. There was a “Grateful Dead” channel that was pretty good. But I’m not a die hard fan and some of the deep cuts were way beyond me, and my wife doesn’t like The Dead at all.

That channel got about 15 minutes of our time each day.

Then there was a “Jimmy Buffet” or “Parrot Head” channel. Fortunately that was not all Jimmy Buffet all day, but it was that type of music. We may have listened to a song a day on that channel as we searched for something to listen to.

Other channels were themed by the decade. I’m not a big fan of those channels. Each decade has a wide variety of music. If the 80’s channel is playing English Synth pop instead of punk when I dial in it can be a quick stop.

While I enjoy music from the 60’s to today, these channels seemed to have a small rotation of songs.

Short Play Lists

Over 15 days, we listened to some channels almost every day.

We’d listen to a channel and then I’d start to hear the same songs as the day before. I’d change to another channel and the same thing would happen.

The 1980’s had everything from Madonna to Michael Jackson to The Clash and The Eagles. 1,000 bands must have charted at least one song. Some had many top 40 or top 10 hits in that decade. So why repeat?

I thought that SiriusXM would be an endless supply of songs with no repeats. At least not within a week.

Eventually I figured out that there were five or six channels that I could listen to. To keep things fresh I scanned through these channels often.

In Boston I listen to five stations regularly and another five frequently. I’m used to changing the channel, but often this is due to commercial breaks.

Radio Silence

Zion CanyonWhile SiriusXM played some deep cuts, we drove some deep canyons.

I can’t really blame SiriusXM for this one. Some of the canyons we drove through were steep and narrow. FM or AM signals probably would have been blocked also. Often we did not have cell service in these remote areas.

This is a photo from the top on Zion Canyon looking down on the road.

It was still odd to be focused on keeping the car on the road and then realize that the radio was off. It didn’t hiss, satellite radio just goes silent. No signal, no hiss.

Seriously XM?

I must have said this 100 times over fifteen days of driving. When ever songs would repeat or we lost the station or that Dead jam was just too much to listen to.

At the time I didn’t realize we were only paying $1 per day. I thought it was more like $5 or something that seemed way too much for something I usually get for free.

The price of our rental went from $550 when I made the reservation to $849 when we added all of the extras to $770 in a text update to our bill. It was a challenge to figure it out while trying to relax and have fun. So guessing what the radio cost was a calculation I just tossed my hands up at.

What we paid for the rental and what we did with that car is for another post!

Maybe if you get one of their All Access package there is enough to listen to without repeats or songs you don’t like.

On free radio I just hit the seek button when something comes on that I don’t like. I’m just not paying for it.

Run well my Friends,



Broken Down between Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells

Recently while visiting Death Valley National Park I came upon a car broken down between Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells. It was 105F out.

While literally coming down California Highway 190 in Death Valley National Park I came upon a car broken down between Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells.

The road is between 5 and 6% grade in this area, fairly steep. It was also about 105° F around 1:30 in the afternoon.

panamint springs and Stovepipe WellsAs we were returning from a harrowing drive out and back from Father Crowley Lookout we saw a silver car on the side of the road. CA-190 doesn’t have much of a shoulder to pull over on in this location. The silver car was about half way into the outbound lane and halfway into the ditch.

I saw a young guy in front of the car with a gallon jug of radiator fluid sitting on the road in front of the car. Seeing the jug and the condition of the car, I figured that they had over heated coming up the long steep hill.

I decided to stop and make sure they were okay. That is the travelers rule in Death Valley. The place can be unforgiving.

There were two guys in the car and one standing in front of it. I asked if they were okay and the guy standing in front of the car reached into the engine compartment and pulled out a black strip of something. I wasn’t sure if it was a wire or what. He told me their radiator belt snapped.

If they had a radiator leak, I could go get water. With a broken belt, they were screwed.

I was parked on the down hill side of the road heading into Stovepipe Wells and kept my eye on the rear-view mirror.

Panamint Springs CA, CA 190There was no cell phone service in the area and my rental car didn’t come with a spare belt. They were about 12 miles up hill from Stovepipe and 10 or so from Panamint Springs. I don’t think either community had more than 100 residents or a proper auto garage. I hadn’t seen AAA or many US Park Service or any other official vehicles in the park all week.

What could I do for these guys? They were literally in the middle of no where. Even if someone else stopped, they probably couldn’t do anything for them either.

I asked the guys if there was anything I could do to help. I had nothing for them and felt helpless. But I had to offer.

They all said no, and then the guy outside the car asked if I could take a number. I quickly found a pen and a brochure for him to write on.

As we drove off it dawned on me that we had not asked for his name or whose number this was. Was it his, his mother’s or girlfriend? Who was going to pick up and how would they react to some stranger with a New England accent calling them?

We didn’t even take their plate number or make note of the model of the car. It was an older silver hatchback or wagon of some sort.

My attention had been split between them and keeping an eye on the road behind me.

Broken Down between Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells

As we drove off I noted the mileage on the odometer so I would have some idea how far out of “town” they were. Turns out they were over 12 miles uphill from Stovepipe.

I sat in the parking lot of Stovepipe General store and called the number. My wife went into the store to tell the clerk what was going on and see if they could help. She went to three different places and got no where. None of the clerks knew anything.

I called the number wondering what to say and how to say it, not wanting to incite panic.

A woman’s voice came on the line “Hello?”, thankfully in English.

I explained that a car full of young guys was broken down 12 miles outside of Stovepipe headed towards Panamint Springs. She sounded a little skeptical so I added that they were in a silver car.

The tone of her voice changed as she asked where they were. I repeated that they were 12 miles out of Stovepipe headed towards Panamint. At the time I couldn’t recall if it was Stovepipe Wells, Flats, Gulch or what ever. And Panamint? WTF?

As the words left my mouth they sounded utterly absurd. This lady must think I’m on acid or pulling a prank with names like this, I thought to my self waiting for her to hang up on me.

I could tell she was taking notes so I asked where she was. I wanted to get an idea of how far these guys were from home and how big of a pickle they were in. She said “Baker” which meant nothing to me. She seemed to know where I was and said it was about two hours away from Stovepipe!

It was well over 100 and probably over 105° F in the middle of the afternoon.

What else could I do for these guys? Driving back out there wouldn’t help and we had notified family and people working in the stores down the hill from them.

The lady said thank you and hung up. Her tone had gone from skeptical to inquisitive to “what the hell do I do now” in all of three minutes.I felt bad, but I had done all I could do.

As we drove back to our hotel I thought about those guys sitting on the side of that highway in that blistering heat. I hoped that they were okay and that someone had sent a truck to tow them out of there.

I have the number I called in my cell phone. Maybe I’ll call it to see how they made out.

Drive carefully my friends!