took the car to the new spot early this morning. the guy listened to what we said had been going on, and what work the other place had already done (timing belt, water pump, thermostat, radiator cap and tune-up).
went to wendy's on the way home for a #8-biscuits & gravy combo meal w/ hashbrowns and a coke. then came home.
a few hours later they called and said it wasn't the temp sensor or the engine fan, but the last place had not flushed the coolant properly and his technician found an air pocket. this was something my brother had suggested earlier, but not something N and i were able to check on our own.
he only charged me the price of the diagnosis so that was cool. $47 later and hopefully it's finally fixed. when we picked it up i popped the hood and checked the coolant level in the reservoir. they had filled it up to the max line, not 2+ inches above it like Gustafson Brothers in Huntington Beach did. that's the spot that did the last two jobs. so now i'm wondering if i even needed the $70 new thermostat since the problem was the air bubble at that time.
i do not recommend going to Gustafson Brothers in Huntington Beach. sure they have a pretty lobby and are nice enough, but they can't fix a car. for the love of god i drive a freakin honda civic-not the most complex car to work on for an "experienced" shop. needless to say, they will be receiving one if my infamous letters.
fingers crossed it is done. we drove around a bit today locally and everything seems fine.