Jack's Last Blat '08: Oregon <--> Monterey
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Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 27, 2008, 2:10 am ]
Post subject:  Jack's Last Blat '08: Oregon <--> Monterey

The weather here is currently too rotten to get much done--the governor has the National Guard delivering potable water to outlying areas and it seems like every couple days a new county gets declared a disaster are--but it was nice two weeks ago, when I went to Monterey for The EG (it stands for Entertainment Gathering). I got invited on the coattails of Peter Diamandis, who founded the X PRIZE Foundation, and they wanted to have a real live running driving functioning high mileage Progressive Automotive X PRIZE car on display. I told them I could get from Southern Oregon to Central California on one tank, and that tickled them, so I showed off a bit by topping off in Grants Pass, 50 miles north of the border, where I had a doctor's appointment the morning I headed out.

The trip down was lovely, it kept getting warmer and nicer as I kept getting souther, and the fuel was hanging in there so I skipped the city driving through San Jose and sayed on I-5 well past Sacramento, to Los Banos and then west over the Diablo Range (really more of a ridgeline) into Hollister, then on south to Monterey. It added about 100 miles to the trip, but I knew that roadster weather was about done with for the season so I took advantage of the opportunity.

The only excitement was I busted one leg of a headlight mount bracket while going through Pacheco Pass, I could see the headlight wobbling so I pulled over to see what I could do about it (I think any time you're too far from home to walk back, it's a good idea to have a basic tool kit) so I removed the headlight and gambled that I could make it to Monterey before the last radiator shop had shut for the night. I won that bet, and got the mount brazed back together about 4:56 PM. By the time I got to my hotel it was too dark to mess aroiund with wiring, so I hunted up my friend Andrea who had come up from Laguna Niguel for the event, and we cruised town one-eyed for the evening, trying not to attract attention. Hah!

You would have loved the trip down. You would have loved The EG. You would have hated the trip back--I know I did and I'll tell you about it soon.

File comment: Looking down from the doc shop on my way out of town, here's one reason the Locost gets good mileage despite its aerodynamics: it really is a lot smaller than most other vehicles.
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File comment: Pacheco Pass was fun 'till the left headlight started wobbling. I carry a tool kit in that antique leather doctor's bag for just such an occasion. The blue Makita bag is for my socks and toothbrush.
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File comment: The valets at the Marriott were cool--they kept an eye on my Locost overnight, next morning I put the headlight back on.
EG00Arrival.jpg [ 62.16 KiB | Viewed 11412 times ]

Author:  Off Road SHO [ December 27, 2008, 11:32 am ]
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Sounds like you had a blast, albeit without a lot of light. So what kind of mileage did you get? I assume you keep the manifold in negative pressure to get the best mileage. I know that in my dune buggy, the gas guage needle moves in unison with the boost guage needle.


Author:  veilside180sx [ December 27, 2008, 3:48 pm ]
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I can guess that rain and snow = not a fun drive on the way home. As our stuff up north is finally starting to melt away by PDX.=)

Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 27, 2008, 4:24 pm ]
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Hi Tom, I got 60+ mpg on the way down, and I wasn't babying it too much--cruising in the 60s, used 8 gallons of petrodiesel and about a gallon of mixed canola and olive oil.

Man, those EG folks treat their presenters right! They gave me a wonderful room in the Marriott, a ticket for me and an accomplice (Andrea Esty, my friend for more than half her life and almost half of mine) which at four grand a pop was a significant motivator, some amazing graphic support, fabulous food, and the opportunity to pitch Kinetic Vehicles on stage to a captive audience. Man what a deal...but I paid my dues driving home.

So the next morning, I replaced the headlight, fetched Andrea from her motorhome, we breakfasted and then drove to the Monterey Conference Center, where I parked in front so I could go in and find out where to park. Metermaids and valets alike said "No problem," the folks at registration called a guy over (one of the producers of the conference, it turned out) who said "You can leave it there for now, we'll find a place for it." I swear this Locost got better treatment than a limo full of movie stars.

Then I got hustled into a room with a portable photo studio, where a remarkably talented man (as I later found out) asked me about the trip and the car and what I cared about (he needed to know this to take a photo?) and said, "No, put your jacket back on, it adds to the adventurer look," and when we got back to the car, they had made this promotional banner that was 10 times cooler/professionaler than anything we could whip up, and when we got back in the conference center there were these standing panels with 20" x 24" monochrome portraits of the presenters--amazing portraits, and one of them was me...Andrea took a photo of my photo (among others) and I said to her, "oh man, I'd better give them a good five minutes."

File comment: &quot;Mess with this Locost and you'll never park cars in this town again.&quot; I don't completely get it, but nobody ever yells, &quot;Hey, you can't park there,&quot; when I'm driving MAX.
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File comment: After the event, they let me keep the banner and the display stand, so you'll be seeing this at car shows for the next 20 years.
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File comment: If I ever write a spy novel or an adventurer's autobiography, this'll be the photo on the dust jacket. &quot;Although Mr. McCornack regrets never having punched cows nor working on a tramp steamer...&quot; Me and Ernie Hemmingway, the lens just loves us.
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Author:  Dauntless [ December 27, 2008, 4:52 pm ]
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JackMcCornack wrote:
Hi Tom, I got 60+ mpg on the way down, and I wasn't babying it too much--cruising in the 60s, used 8 gallons of petrodiesel and about a gallon of mixed canola and olive oil.

Good job, Jack, and congrats on the Escape win!

FWIW, at 55mph our Golf TDI gets 63mpg. If you are getting that mpg from your aerodynamically challenged MAX at 60mph, you're doing it right! :D

Author:  a.moore [ December 27, 2008, 10:25 pm ]
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Nicely done Jack - sounds like a great trip.

Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 28, 2008, 2:00 pm ]
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Yes Andrew, it was great so far...but this will be the last "great trip" entry. Next post we'll cue the forboding creepy organ music.

Friday morning it was time to pay the piper. I knew I couldn't really shine as a performer (the standards were amazingly high) and I figured everybody in the audience had enough invested in gathering for entertainment that I should spare them Yet Another Pitch, so I told them about how much fun it was to run Escape from Berkeley, and how much I missed the do-it-yourself magazines (when I was growuing up, anything that had the words Popular or Illustrated in the title told you how to make things, now they tell you where to buy things...in the popular press, Mother Earth News is the only how-to mag left), and why MAX was a minimalist car and I am a minimalist designer. I got a nice "Aha!ha ha ha..." when I gave them my definition of minimalist: A pessimist says the glass is half empty. An optimist says the glass is half full. A minimalist says, "We're using about twice as much glass as we need here."

I was followed by a spokesman for the Lake Havasu Physics Lab, who explained the things they still needed to invent to get 100 mpg from their "Green Giant" SUV and a spokesman for ZAP! explained how they'd changed the world already by making electric cars legal...both the teams have loftier goals than Kinetic, but the Green Giant came on a trailer and the ZAP Alias came in a hatbox (yes of course they had working prototypes, but this model was all they wanted to reveal at this time) and I was spending my break time giving people rides, so I think we won the credibility wars.

File comment: There's me simulating confidence on stage, the Escape from Berkeley homecoming on the screen, with Sharon Wescott riding shotgun, fending off the paparazzi.
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Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 28, 2008, 3:19 pm ]
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Andrea and I spent the rest of Friday and all of Saturday watching amazing presentations (I can't do it justice--go to www.the-eg.com for a taste of what was going on), I spent the breaks giving people hot laps through downtown Monterey (a wise man once said, It is more fun to drive an underpowered car hard than an overpowered car easy) but Sunday morning it was time to say goodbye--I needed to get home so I could ship parts on Monday.

I rose on Sunday, December 15 (which I'm giving as a reference in case someday the kids ask you, "Granpaw, where were you during the Winter Storm of '08?") to see it had sprinkled overnight, so I clipped on my windshield wiper.

Andrea joined me for breakfast, we visited my folks (long time residents of Monterey), my mom gave us some apples for the road, plus half a dozen garbage bags to keep my belongings out of the rain. The weatherman had dire predictions for I-5, so I decided to go home up the coast. I drove Andrea to her motor home in light drizzle, and found the rood worked pretty well in drizzle. "A little rain won't hurt me," I told Andrea, and she rolled her eyes and directed me to Big 5 Sporting Goods, where she bought me a rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof gloves. "I don't think this is going to be a 'little rain'," she said as we said goodbye.

Boy was she right. It rained buckets from Moss Landing (just north of Monterey) to Daily City (just south of San Francisco). I stopped in Los Gatos (about the halfway mark between those towns) to buy some twine at a hardware store, to pull my windshield wiper motor back a bit--the wiper blade had been aquaplaning through the worst of the deluge. The rain lightened up in San Francisco long enough for me to get a nice shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, but looking back at the photo I see that 'light rain' is relative. By Petaluma the rain had quit, but it was getting dark and I clearly wasn't going to make it in one day, so I got a motel room, glad to have the nasty weather behind me. Hah!

Two lessons from that first day on the road: first and most important, in foul weather, clamshell fenders are a huge improvement over cycle fenders--it's a pity they're so draggy, because they work great at keeping rain and road grime out of the cockpit. Second, if it's raining, stuff everything in garbage bags (including the seatcovers if you can).

File comment: Just a little drizzle, but by the day's end, I was glad I'd come up with that windshield wiper mount. Previously I'd just carried a squeegee and reached around the windshield to squeege.
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File comment: My mom is a lot shorter than I remember her from when we moved here, but that was fifth grade. She's hanging in there, and looking good for someone...well, someone old enough to be my mother.
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File comment: The &quot;bikini top&quot; roof makes weather like this tolerable--my face stayed dry, I didn't get rainwater down my neck--but a Se7en is still a four wheeled motorcycle, and weather is not to be ignored.
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Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 28, 2008, 6:51 pm ]
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Next morning while loading the car, an older man told me he wouldn't go north in a car like that and a younger woman said she would. Both were speaking hypothetically (they had cars of their own--real cars, with doors and windows and everything) and before jumping to any conclusions about age/gender/spirit-of-adventure, it should be noted that she was going to Sonoma CA and he was going to Brookings OR, and that, indeed, older sometimes means wiser. When I was checking out, he was in the office, signing up to stay another day. He told me today wasn't a good day to drive north in anything, mcuh less MAX, I told him I had responsibilities and no other way to get home, he told me it had been nice knowing me.

Twenty miles later I saw my first snowplow. "A snowplow?" I thought. "The weather up north must be pretty bad if they're bringing snowplows from all the way down here." That illusion lasted me another dozem miles. The road climbed a bit, I noted a light scattering of snow on the hills and then whammo! We were in it.

We climbed, the weather got colder, and unlike rain, snowflakes came in the cockpit and swirled around in a manner which would have been delightful in a movie but was distracting in real life. The snowplow started doing its thing and we went to single lane. Then we came down a bit, the snow didn't let up but it got wet and clumpy, and I found that my cool hot rod windshield wipers couldn't keep up with it: the blade would start to slide over the tops of the clumps, then more snow would pack down and the blade would ride even higher, and I'd be reaching around with my squeegee, breaking the snow loose in big hunks.

Fine, so far so good...for me at least. Novice SUV drivers littered the roadside, no doubt going astray shortly after shifting into 4WD and telling their spouse, "See honey? Aren't you glad we invested in something that could handle this kind of weather?" Me, I took it real easy, swearing to buy chains at the first visible town and noting that a high rubber-to-weight ratio isn't always a good thing--MAX kind of floated over the snow but I didn't let it float too far before I did something about it (something besides hit the brakes, which would have parked me over there with the new SUVs).

It didn't get scary until we came down to a slushy altitude, and people started passing. I had to stay where I was--I didn't have enough weight to penetrate the slush, but by golly, the 18 wheelers sure did. Their tires hit the ripe slush and hurled walls of snow, water and road sand three feet in the air, or in other words, right at eye level. The first one that passed me knocked my glasses off with the first wave, and that was the little one, off his front wheels. Then it was slam-slam-slam as his drive wheels and trailer wheels came by, I was muttering "Helen Keller is my co-pilot" and trying to remember where the road went. Two other trucks passed me on that route, and though they were memorable, I'd learned quickly to protect my face with my left hand, steer with my right, and before the truck came parallel with me, make a clear mental picture of the road ahead so I'd have something to inspire me during my moment of weakness. I'm sorry I don't have any photos of that but I was very busy.

File comment: She said she could sell scads of these in Sonoma, though maybe not this time of year. Note she's wearing sandles in December, so she may be tougher than most.
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File comment: &quot;Thank you for driving safely.&quot; The weather didn't get really bad for, oh, another hundred yards.
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File comment: This trip taught me more than I ever wanted to know about winter driving in a Se7en. If snowstorms are on the schedule, take a different car.
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Author:  gtivr4 [ December 28, 2008, 7:10 pm ]
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I am taking solace in the fact that you are writing this now, so I know you are still with us! I know how much I hate driving in snow storms in Vermont, and thats with studded snow tires, good headlights and good windshield wipers!

Author:  veilside180sx [ December 28, 2008, 7:10 pm ]
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I was afraid that's what you were going to say had happened...knowing what the weather was like up here during your trip.

Author:  olrowdy_01 [ December 28, 2008, 7:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Snow vs: sand

Thanks for the description of your trip Jack.

This is a great illustration why I say, "If it snows there I don't want to BE there!"

I'm used to driving dune buggies on soft sand and I found that driving in snow is very similar. But it's a lot more fun to be wearing a swim suit than a snow suit.

Author:  dhempy [ December 28, 2008, 8:11 pm ]
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veilside180sx wrote:
I was afraid that's what you were going to say had happened...knowing what the weather was like up here during your trip.

I dunno...his narrative hasn't gotten him back home yet... :shock:

Helluva story, Jack...can't wait to hear the rest. I think.


Author:  weconway [ December 28, 2008, 9:08 pm ]
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I'm on pins and needles. I'm interested to hear how this one ends.

Glad you're back in one piece. I guess you've earned the Hemmingway-esque mug shot.


Author:  JackMcCornack [ December 28, 2008, 10:20 pm ]
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There was no snow on the roads in downtown Ukiah (to quote from Wikipedia: temperate Mediterranean climate...Light snowfall occurs about every other year. The greatest recorded snowfall was 1.5 in (3.8 cm) on March 2, 1976) but that didn't fool me. I pulled into the wet-but-not-crunchy parking lot of the first tire store I saw and checked my tire size...and wouldn't you know it? There was a nail in my left rear tire. I'm glad that was the tire I looked at, but it meant I wasn't going to beat the UPS truck to Cave Junction. and in fact I'd barely be home by dark. I left town an hour and a half later with a fully inflated tire and what may have been the first set of tire chains ever carried in a Locost--and four more gallons of diesel in the tank. I'd topped off in Monterey, which was probably plenty for the trip, but I wasn't going to take a chance on racing the sunlight over the coast range on fumes.

The biker guys say there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. I was warm and dry (thank you, Andrea, xxxoooxxx) and so were my belongings (thank you, Mom :-) ) and the trucks has stopped coming by (it's possible that the truckers of the day before were just trying to put me out of my misery), but the 220 miles to Crescent City sure was slow going. We were driving in long convoys behind snowplows, then when there were weather lulls, we'd zip along and catch the next snowplow. Still, the guys who were pushing hard probably didn't save much time in the long run, what with time spent waiting for the AAA truck and time spent filling out insurance paperwork.

Watching where the snow stuck and where it didn't was an interesting lesson in Locost aerodynamics. The back half of the front fenders doesn't get much airflow, nor does the back half of the hood.

I got to Cresent City just about sunset. Only 58 miles more to Cave Junction, according to my GPS. I could make it home if I drove through the snow in the dark, as the temperature dropped and the wet spots on the road glossed over with ice, and provided I didn't skid off into a canyon where I would remain unseen until May. I'm exaggerating--they would probably find my body in a couple days--but every year or two around here somebody takes a shortcut, or decides a backroad drive would be a wonderful wintertime family adventure, and they end up with their name in the papers. So I found a $58 motel and decided that a buck a mile was a good price for finishing this drive tomorrow, in the daylight.

File comment: As well as noting the nail, note how clean and dry the side of tire is. Ten minutes earlier and 800 feet higher, we'd been in five inches of slush. Don't like the weather? Wait ten minutes.
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File comment: Sharon's leather cap over my ski mask, I was toasty warm, driving in a winter wonderland. If the weather never got worse than this, I'd drive my Locost all year long. Of course, it does get worse than this.
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File comment: See that slush building on the bottom edge of the fender? That's slush that's not getting in the car with me. Good fenders, these. Note the convoy in the rear view mirror.
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