Diagnosing RPM Idle Issues in a MINI Cooper

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Back in 2012 I bought a 2009 MINI Cooper hatchback to replace the aging 2004 BMW 330i ZHP that was rapidly approaching the point where a bunch of expensive work would be needed on a regular basis. Bimmer was a wonderful performance car but at 130K miles it was definitely a liability. I wanted to replace it with something sporty yet “frugal” and after multiple test drives of different makes and models I decided on an R56 MINI Cooper with a naturally aspirated non-turbo N12 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. If you search for “MINI Cooper problems” you will find enough to run the other way. However, if you do a bit of digging you’ll find that most issues discussed ad nauseam on various forums are mostly for a Cooper S i.e. turbo engine. Since I wanted something reasonably reliable and easy to DIY, I decided to go with a base model known as “Justa” as in “Just a Cooper”. After 4 years of ownership the car proved to be as reliable as a Toyota Corolla…until now. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 7

This is a final installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama61

Day 7

Staying up till 2AM and then trying to catch a 6AM boat ride back to mainland sucks. Hungover and half-asleep we managed to get to the water taxi station on time. Thirty minutes later we were greeted by our rottweiler lady friend, paid for parking and started packing our bikes for a long trip back to Panama City. The rain started coming down pretty hard and it wouldn’t stop until we made it to the other side of the mountains. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 6

This is a sixth installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama51

Day 6

Today is our last day before we begin the return ride to Panama City so we decided to take it easy again and do some sightseeing. Bocas del Toro has a lot of small islands and the best way to explore is by doing a boat tour. All you have to do is walk down to the water taxi area and you’ll find chalkboards advertising different tours. Or you can have a hotel or a hostel make the reservations. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 5

This is a fifth installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama40

Day 5

It doesn’t matter that January is dry season in Panama – it rains all the time in the province of Bocas del Toro. We were drenched by the time we made it to the other side of the mountains yesterday and this morning was wet and foggy as well. It’s a nice change of pace from the oppressive heat in Panama City but it does get old rather quickly when you are on a motorcycle. Luckily all we had to do today was ride down to Almirante just a couple of miles away where we’d part with the bikes for 48 hours. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 4

This is a fourth installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama23

Day 4

One thing I liked about Costa Rica was that no matter how hot it got during the day it was always comfortable after sundown. Panama has a similar climate. Everywhere except the mountains it was in the mid-90s during the day and low to mid-70s at night. Our airbnb house in Las Lajas didn’t have air conditioning, yet we had zero issues sleeping at night. Each room had a fan and with the windows open it felt cool enough for a lightweight blanket. In the Mid-Atlantic where we live now the nights are usually not as comfortable in the heat of the summer. I still manage to do most of the cooling with box fans but the AC gets turned on more often than I like. If we lived in Costa Rica or Panama we wouldn’t even need air conditioning. Definitely something to consider for our early retirement! Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 3

This is a third installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama18

Day 3

So far we’ve stayed within 60 miles from Panama City. We saw some nature, lots of city but we felt like the real Panama is still out there waiting to be discovered. After an 8-hour $120 stay at the Holiday Inn it was time to get on the road that would take us cross-country. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 2

This is a second installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

MotoPanama8

Day 2

It’s amazing how easy you wake up when there’s something exciting to do in the morning. Or you simply don’t have to go to work. This morning we had both. Hanging out in Panama City is fun but that’s not why we’re here. As my friend said – if we were here to hang out, our wives would be with us. The only reason it’s just two of us on this fine 85-degree morning while our better halves are shivering back home is because we’re doing something “dangerous” and “risky” – riding adventure bikes in a foreign land full of “crazy drivers” and “bad roads”. We could die. Continue Reading

7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 1

MotoPanama1

I’m back from a bucket list trip to Panama. Short version – my friend and I wanted an adventure and adventure is what we got! I decided to document our experience riding from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro right here on the blog. First, it’s a good way to remember where we went and what we saw a couple of years down the road when we’re reminiscing about the good old times over a couple of beers. Second, I thought it might benefit those looking for a similar adventure. When I was researching a week-long motorcycle trip to Panama I didn’t find a lot of information. Sure, there were the usual Top 10 Places to Visit in Panama -type posts but it’d be nice to see something geared more towards riding bikes across Panama. With that in mind let me share some notes and pictures from a trip that both my friend and I have been referring to as “epic” ever since we came back. Not hardcore by any stretch of imagination, but pretty epic for a couple of 9-5-cubicle-dwelling-family-men nevertheless. And if you don’t ride a motorcycle or have no desire to ride one across Panama – no worries as you may still find this interesting… Who says you can’t have a similar adventure in a rented car, for example? Continue Reading