Sunday, November 23, 2008


I am outraged over this!

Yesterday I bought a DVD movie that I just watched. It is a documentary titled, "Who Killed The Electric Car?" from Sony Pictures. I had heard of the General Motors EV-1 cars but didn't know much about them. Now I know a bit more about the cars and about how they have been removed from the marketplace in 2001 and some of the maneuverings of various US car companies, oil companies and others in the industry of transportation to kill them.
Here is the cover of the DVD and I suggest that everyone should buy (mine was $9.99 at Fred Meyer) or rent this to watch:
Who Killed the Electric Car DVD movie

These cars were affordable and with the later batteries they had a good range of miles that could be covered. It would appear that they were removed from the marketplace by GM because they didn't want people to be able to buy them. The petroleum industry seems to have also been against them as they used very little of their product, mostly only lubricants. And the large auto repair/maintenance industry was against them- no more oil filters, spark plugs, oil changes, etc. The dealers who did work on them (GMs Saturn dealers) said about all that they did to the EV-1 was to have them come in every 5000 miles to rotate the tires and fill the windshield washer fluid. Of course there would be wheel bearings to pack, tires and brake components to replace as they wear out, etc, but that would be pretty small amounts of work compared to other vehicles.

Our government was also a party to this. They did offer a tax incentive of up to $4000 for the purchase of electric/hybrid vehicles but much larger tax incentives, at least for businesses, on large SUV type vehicles.

These American car companies are now all close to failing. The government has already given them $25billion in tax payer money to help finance their "move" into smaller, more economical vehicles. They HAD them in the EV-1 and others from Ford! Now these same company executives are going, in their private jet aircraft, to Washington DC to beg for another $25billion in order to "save" their businesses. I am really beginning to think we would be better off if they all file for bankruptcy, restructure themselves and come back with new leadership and perhaps a different outlook on what they should be doing.

If you would like to see more on this subject (the EV-1 and electric cars) go to Who Killed The Electric Car to learn more about this film and Plug In America dot org to learn more about pure electric cars. It might also be time to contact your senators and representatives to express your opinion on this bail out.

Now I'll get off my soap box and go myself to explore those two web sites. And write my letters.

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Monday, November 17, 2008


First flight for my airplane!

My NexSTAR 46 airplane was finished, checked out and ready to fly this weekend and yesterday Pat's son-in-law, J, his son B and I went flying. The weather was about as good as it gets in the northwest in the winter. No rain, no wind and a temperature in the low 50s, so it was pretty comfortable. J & B had taken J's trainer out for a couple of flights before I got there about 12:30 and we flew it twice before moving to mine. After mine was checked out but before flying it we took some photos of me with it, just in case it was not still in one piece later. Here is the proud owner with his NexSTAR 46:
First flight 1
It is a pretty good sized plane, with a wingspan of almost six feet. It is a trainer so there are some design features that make it easier for a new pilot to fly and it is not as fast as some of the low wing planes, which also is better for the beginner. We put the wing on in J's shop, then added fuel and started the engine. When they are new you should run them rich on fuel as they are two cycle, so the lubrication is mixed into the fuel and you want to lube it well until it gets broken in. J adjusted the engine to where he felt it was rich enough yet still would give us enough power to fly satisfactorily.

First flight 2
We did a bit of taxiing around in the yard just so that I could get the feel of it and how the control box moved, although I had used this box on the simulator so actually did have a pretty good feel for how the controls move. This plane has tri-cycle landing gear and the front wheel steers when it is on the ground, moved by the rudder control on the control box.

First flight 3
We taxied the plane to a corner of the lawn and got ready for takeoff. Here is J with his son, B, and the plane just starting it's run. The most danger to a plane is at takeoff and landing so those were done by J and then I flew it once it was in the air. One thing we learned is that I need larger wheels if it is going to be flown from lawns. The propeller was cutting grass and the wheels sink pretty deeply into the grass, even though J had mowed it just the day before.

First flight 4
After taxiing all the way across the lawn it finally lifted off. You can see the smoke from the exhaust- that is because it is running so rich on fuel. But it is flying! The pasture behind their back yard belongs to the neighbors and you can see some of their cattle grazing out there. They didn't pay much attention to the planes but J's three horses in their side pasture sure did and didn't come very close to us!

First flight 5
Here we are in what seems to be the standard position of an RC plane pilot- looking up. I am flying it with J standing close by but I actually did fine and he didn't need to take it over until it was time to land, which came up fairly quickly as we had burned a lot of fuel setting the mixture, then taxiing on the ground. The tank holds 7 fluid ounces of fuel which should be good for about 15 minutes of flying time, when it is broken in & leaned out. The plane was fairly high when it ran out of fuel and the engine stopped.

First flight 6
At that point I handed the control box over to J and he flew it in, dead stick. He said it flies real well and is easy to control, even without power. The neighbor house isn't as close as it looks here- this is a fairly long telephoto lens. The cattle are still ignoring us. The attitude of the plane is perfect and it came in and set down just as well. Notice that the prop is not turning.

We decided that we wanted to fly again so filled the tank with fuel once more, this time from my supply, which does not have as much oil in it as J's did. We also decided that we would try flying from in front of the house where we could take off & land on the road. They are the end house on a private road with four other homes. The road is gravel but it has been well packed to where it's almost like paving. It worked perfectly and the plane was up flying right away. I don't have as many photos of this flight as J's wife who took some of the others with my camera had gone inside, along with Pat, and I did a lot more of the flying this time. But I did get a photo of it as J buzzed the road before looping around to land:
First flight 7
You can see the plane coming toward us probably 15 to 20 feet high. The pasture behind the white fence in the background is their horse pasture and the horses had retreated to the other end of it. Across the road we took off from is another of their pastures that is probably close to 20 acres in size and is perfect to fly over. This is a good place to fly these planes.

One thing I have wondered is how far is it safe to let the plane get away from the control box. I think I now have the answer and it is not really limited by the radio control box but rather by how far away you can see the plane. This one is pretty good size but when it gets way up there or way out, it is hard to see. We had some small clouds and at times it was above them, literally out of sight. Maybe a bright yellow one would work better to spot but mine is red and white and I thought it would be easy to see. It isn't bad but you do want to be careful not to let it get too far away.

I didn't do any take offs or landings but did get quite a bit of flying time. I feel that I can better control it and have a better understanding how it will react to my controls. Before long I'll at least do take offs (I think I could now) and then soon try my first landing. But I want to buy some glue first.

This is FUN!!!!!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Return to Leavenworth, Washington

We decided to take a couple of days off and go back to the Bavarian look alike town across our mountains called Leavenworth, Washington. The big iffie was what Stevens Pass would be like as to snow and ice as we thought we would rather not go over if the road was dangerous. We set our reservation for Monday & Tuesday nights of this week, at the Enzian Inn where we stayed after our wedding. I checked the long range weather forecast on the weekend and it looked like the temperatures would be staying above freezing although there would be a lot of rain and some wind.

We took our VW New Beetle, after buying it new tires and chains to take along and had an easy drive. The temperature at the summit, which is almost 4100 feet high, was 34 about 11am Mon on our way over. That night the storm dropped the temps and Tue morning there was snow and ice but we were settled in Leavenworth by then. We did stop at our favorite gift/candy store, The Alps, which is six or seven miles west of city limits and purchased some more toads (Pat collects them- not the real thing!) and arrived in town about noon. I thought it was a little early to check into the hotel so we ate lunch at Gustav's, a nice place with good Bavarian food, although we stayed with a local ale (Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon) rather than trying a German beer. We are not big drinkers so we split one glass.

By the time we finished lunch we were able to check into our room. Here is a photo looking west, toward the pass we crossed to get her, taken from the fourth floor of the hotel.
Leavenworth 0 11-08
This photo was actually taken the next morning while we were up there for breakfast and it was raining fairly hard at the time. Some of the coastal storm did manage to cross the mountains, but it dried out soon after and the sun came out for the rest of the day. This photo shows a few of the local homes and some other commercial buildings although we are looking down on them from about the highest place in town. It does show a bit of the setting of this town and you can see how it really does look a lot like a town in the Bavarian Alps. I really like the way the clouds are hanging onto the foothills surrounding town. Notice that there is snow at the higher elevations of these hills. The elevation of Leavenworth is only 1200 feet but the surrounding hills are a few thousand feet higher.

Leavenworth 1 11-08
This street scene is looking west along the main downtown street. This isn't the highway (US-2) that crosses Stevens Pass and the state of Washington (it is one block to the right) but this is where most of the shops are located. There are all kinds of stores here, many selling various items imported from Germany, but there is also an Australian and a Russian store with products from those countries. We have found the prices are very high but you can find things you will not likely find anywhere else. It is a neat place for some Christmas shopping.

Leavenworth 2 11-08
Pat is looking into a store window as she walks down the street. Ahead is a very large beer garden, where we have never eaten. It probably does have an inside seating area but what is visible from outside is outdoors and this is not the time of the year to eat outdoors here.

Leavenworth 3 11-08
One of the most unique stores and one of our favorites is the Kris Kringle Shop where it is Christmas the year round. This is a scene in the store, one of their displays. These various Santas are for sale but expect to pay close to a thousand dollars for one. We didn't buy one. It would have been hard to get into the Bug to bring home (if you believe that is the main reason, let's talk about a bridge I have for sale!)

Leavenworth 4 11-08
Of course we bought things there. Here Pat and the sales gal are ringing up her purchases. Some of you relatives who look at this blog can start to guess what you may be getting for Christmas (NOT the 4' Santa!)

Leavenworth 5 11-08
Downtown Leavenworth at night. They make a big thing out of their annual Tree Lighting event which happens every weekend in December and they have started setting up the lighting displays on the buildings. You can see a little of it here. The town square, with the gazebo and a very tall May pole, are to the right outside this photo.

Leavenworth 6 11-08
This view is looking the opposite direction. The second building with many holiday lights is the Kris Kringle Shop. We found a wine store there that is connected to a winery that is here in our own Mount Vernon area, so through wine tasting, we found a couple of new wines that we can buy locally. How about that, we drove 125 miles to discover something that is 10 miles from our home!

Leavenworth 8 11-08
This is the gazebo in the town square where much of the festivities are centered. As you can see, lighting has started but it is not yet finished.

Leavenworth 7 11-08
And here is one of the hotels in town. You can see the blue lights along the eves in the previous photo. This place is across Hwy 2 from the town center, but our Enzian Inn is only about two blocks away, too.

Leavenworth 9 11-08
A night photo of one of the lighted display windows in one of the shops. I think this may be the Kris Kringle Shop but don't remember for sure.

We had fun and a pretty easy trip home yesterday, although there was a LOT of rain. Our Western Washington area has had very high rainfall and many rivers and streams are flooding. Our own Skagit River came close here in Mt. Vernon and did flood upriver in some of the smaller towns. But today was mostly clear and sunny and that is the forecast for the next few days. All together, we picked a perfect time for a short getaway "weekend" although it was actually Mon - Wed. Remember, as retired folks, our calendar starts with Sunday, then has six consecutive Saturdays. Somebody has to do it.

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