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Since 2014, The Rock Father™ Santa Holiday Toy Delivery Program has been something that I've looked forward to every year. It's an opportunity to give back to my community through a hyper-local, extremely focused effort to provide holiday gifts for the children of families that could use a hand. For our fourth annual run, I changed things up a little bit - reacting to a sub-par effort in 2016 (donations were way down) by starting preparations earlier. The ultimate goal is simple: to provide toys to as many local children and families as possible, as served by our local township. While there's plenty of bigger organizations that do great work, I wanted our families' efforts to have an impact on our immediate community - friends and neighbors that we may not really know, but people we may be crossing paths with every day. For Avon Township, which serves the villages of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Heights Grayslake, Hainesville & Third Lake, Illinois, a recent estimate was that 4,000 people were being served by Avon Cares Food Pantry each month. I have no idea how many children are in that number, but if I could help all of them, I would. This year, we provided gifts for 72 of them.
Test driving a vehicle can be a lot of fun, but I've long-held the belief that nothing beats the opportunity to really use a new ride to get the full experience. That said, I was able to put the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD to good use during the midst of a long-awaited project here at Rock Father HQ - the tear-down and rebuild of our sizeable 27-year-old deck (more on that project in a feature down the line). Now, we're not talking heavy hauling here, but for supply runs and tool rentals, the RAV4 was up to the task, in addition to being a really comfortable family ride. Let's take a look...
When I really started working with cars on a frequent basis a few years back, Mazda was a nameplate that didn't immediately strike me as interesting. For some reason, the cars of their past were largely stuck in my head - images of the 1980s that I just couldn't shake. But once I had a real chance to experience what Mazda is now, I really became a fan. In fact, I love their CX series - with last year's CX-9 ranking among my favorite vehicles of the year. Now comes a look at the 2017 Mazda6 GT.
I've always been fairly straightforward in admitting my love of the Lexus brand. When it comes to their vehicles, my affection tend to be toward their cars, so when the folks at DriveShop delivered one of their bigger rides to Rock Father HQ on-loan from Lexus USA, I was excited to see what an SUV under the Lexus nameplate had to offer. As the name implies, the 2017 Lexus GX460 Luxury is just that - a luxurious option for some big hauling and power.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Lexus in general, so I was excited to drive the 2017 CT 200h F SPORT when it arrived here at Rock Father HQ some weeks back. Packing Lexus style and F SPORT performance into a small, hatchback package, the immediate draw of the CT 200h is that it's a hybrid - a fuel-efficient, gas-powered luxury vehicle that carries a combined fuel economy of 42mpg.
Last month, while the folks at Mazda USA were in Southern California doing an unveiling of some of their upcoming rides for 2017, I was here in Northern Illinois enjoying one of their most recent releases - the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD. Now, I think a lot of readers might not be familiar with a mid-model-year update, as it's far less common these days as it used to be. Quite simply, the CX-5 received some updates to carry the '16 into '17, and hence the 2016.5 moniker. Thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures and some suburbs-to-city adventures I had planned (the Nintendo Switch launch, for one), I was able to spend a solid week with the car, giving it a hands-on evaluation in several conditions. More importantly, I got some real family time in this one, using one of its Mazda siblings (and one of my favorite cars of the past year) for some comparison... the CX-9.