Friday, March 27, 2009


Another birthday

Last Sunday Pat and I drove south to Auburn to attend a birthday party to celebrate the 12th birthday of my oldest granddaughter, K. I can't believe that she is almost a teenager already. She was born while my older son was on his first deployment in his Navy career so she was about three and a half months old when he first was able to hold her. The Navy lets those sailors who's wives have delivered babies while they were deployed be the first off the ship, and B was about the second of the bunch of a dozen or so.

K is now 12 and I guess that makes her kind of still a kid but not yet quite a teenager (I know teenagers all think they are adults but we know better.) I have no idea what a girl of that age wants in the way of birthday presents so I took the easy way out and got her a gift certificate for a store where I know she likes to shop. She did get quite a few gifts and I think mine was the only gift certificate, but much of the rest of the family lives closer so were able to know more about what she would want. I did take a few photos-

12th birthday party 1
Here's the birthday girl looking through a bag with a number of gifts inside. Yep, she is still enjoying this opening gifts thing.

12th birthday party 2
This is the card from Pat and I. It is a funny one. She is still young enough that funny birthday cards work, but she is young enough that they are not "aren't you getting old" themed. It was fun picking it out.

12th birthday party 3
She sat across the table from Pat and I for awhile and I got what I think is a pretty cute photo of her snuggled against the shoulder of her other Grandpa. When she was a small baby until when Annie & I moved to Mount Vernon, K would spend most Saturday nights with us and go to sleep on my lap in my recliner chair. She was so cute and sweet then. She is still cute and sweet, but not small enough to go to sleep sitting on Grandpa's lap in a recliner. One more year and she will be a teenager.

I guess wonderful memories like that is a part of the fun side of growing older.

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Friday, March 20, 2009


Blogrolling (again)

Well, I finally got onto Blogrolling a couple of weeks ago after they reworked their system, and I thought I'd fixed my links display. It worked fine for awhile but now for the last week or so it has only been showing ten links. I just looked at the Blogrolling site and there are 18 of them listed there in my Blogroll. I tried to contact Blogrolling but they are requiring an "enter the letters you see" thing in order to send a contact note and none of them worked for me, so I was unable to get the question sent. I haven't gotten the paid version, just the free one and maybe that is best as I guess I'll have to drop them and use something else.

My blog is on Blogger and I understand Blogger now does have their own system to make this kind of a link list on a blog. Are there fairly clear directions on how to do this located on the Blogger site? Do they allow listing of regular web sites and blogs that are not with Blogger, like those on WordPress? It would appear that it is now time for me to change, after being happy with Blogrolling since Feb, 2006.

By the way, has anyone noticed how similar in appearance my new Smart Car is to the Wheego Whip electric car? The two posts are one after the other with photos of both cars. The Wheego Whip is built on a Chinese copy of the Smart Car. So it is no wonder that they look a lot alike.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


Well, I did it, BUT got Smart

Last Friday my son, M, and I drove down to the big city of Bellevue to see and drive an electric car known as a Zap Xebra. It is a 3-wheeled vehicle, carries four passengers and under Federal definition is a motorcycle because of it's 3-wheeled configuration. It was interesting and sure gets a lot of looks as you are driving around but I was afraid of a couple of things. With its Federal motorcycle category, I could find it defined that way here, too, and if that were the case I would have add a motorcycle endorsement to my drivers license in order to drive it and other people would not be able to drive it who didn't have that endorsement. That, plus a few other considerations caused me to decide not to get one.

BUT, the same company, The Green Car Co., has a few of the European versions of the Smart Car. This car was developed by Mercedes Benz and I understand that it very popular in Europe where you can buy one with either a gasoline or diesel engine. The car is sold here in the US but those imported here have an engine produced by the Japanese company, Mitsubishi. I don't know why, but it does not get the same mileage as the original version. There were about 3000 of these cars imported from Europe that are the actual Mercedes Benz powered ones and this company had four left. M & I drove one and I fell in love, at least as far as you can with a car, with it. It drives very nice, has plenty of room for two people and will even carry some luggage or other items behind the seats. And it will go a lot farther than the 25 miles the Xebra is rated to go on a battery charge and operate at speeds much higher, so that you can drive on freeways and other highways. That Wheego Whip electric car I posted about earlier is built on a Chinese version of this car.

So, we started talking about me getting a Smart Car. I guess SMART is sort of an acronym where the S stands for Swatch, the watch people and the M for Mercedes Benz. The car is very customizable with different color panels and many accessories, kind of like a Swatch watch. I added a few of the accessories but actually like the "standard" Mercedes Benz silver/gray color best so stayed with it. I did add rubber floor mats of course (I live in an area where it has been known to rain) and couldn't get one without the double cup holders to have a place to put a mocha. Then I like having a tachometer so you know how fast the engine is turning over and that also comes with a matching analog clock, so I added that. The roof is clear so sunshine comes through and I thought the sliding sunshade would be needed on those days in the summer when our sun does shine, or if we take it into Eastern Washington where the summer sun shines a lot. The stock oil pan doesn't have a drain plug so the old oil has to be sucked out of the dip stick hole. They now have a replacement oil pan with a drain, so that will go onto the car when it gets it's first oil change.

My Smart Car 01
Here is my car, sitting in our driveway. It is just over 8 feet long and not quite 5 feet wide. As I said, the seating is very comfortable for two. You sit up fairly high rather than dropping down low like both the Miata and Saturn, so I think Pat will like it better.

My Smart Car 02
Here's a straight on front end view. Some have told me that it looks kind of like a smiley face. I have never had a car with this kind of headlights but they seem okay. I haven't driven the car yet after dark- I forgot to bring my gate & garage door openers from the Saturn so will have to wait for them to come from the dealer via mail, hopefully tomorrow. Right now with Daylight Savings Time it doesn't get dark here until well after 19:00 and our gated community closes it's gates at 18:00. After that you need the clicker.

My Smart Car 03
This three quarter rear view shows how close the rear wheels are to the back of the car. It's engine is in the rear and drives these wheels through a Tiptronic 6-speed transmission that can be manually shifted or let run in full automatic mode. There is no clutch even when manually shifting- it is just like those used in European race cars. The glass part of the rear hatch hinges up and the solid part hinges down. I think I will be able to carry my RC airplane with that upper part open so it can stick out a little. I haven't tried that yet.

My Smart Car 06
A closer view of the labels on the rear of the car.

My Smart Car 04
You are looking inside through the driver's door. The seats are cloth- leather is available but I really prefer cloth. I've still got a lot to learn about the controls, etc. This morning I got the rear windshield wiper going, making a swipe every 11 seconds or so, and had a hard time figuring out how to turn it off! It was easy once I discovered the answer and I suppose this car with it's blunt rear end will get that window pretty dirty so having the washer and wiper will be handy. Now I'll have to find out where I fill that fluid in that rear washer.

My Smart Car 05
A closer view of the dash board. The tach and clock show up well. The radio is a Sony AM/FM with a CD player and it plays MP3 files. There is also an input on the front of the radio for axillary devices and the sound is pretty good. I was out with it this morning, filled the fuel tank and since it was only about 35 degrees F I got to test the heater & defroster. I'm glad to report that they both work well. It also has air conditioning which we sometimes use here more to de-humidify the air in the car during our rainy season than we actually do to cool it in the summer. Since it doesn't get above 80 degrees here very often, we do not have a big need for AC systems.

Smart Car engine
This photo was not taken in my car but it is the same. The engine is small and located in the rear of the car under the floor of the storage area where it drives the rear wheels. It looks to me like things are pretty well crammed in there but that seems to be the way many cars are built these days. The designers don't seem to really think much about those having to work on them.

Smart Car medallion
This photo was one taken Friday and of a different car but they all come with this medallion on each side and the only difference is the different VIN number on each one. This tells a bit about the car. Like I said earlier, I don't know why these versions are not the ones imported by Mercedes Benz but I am glad that I was able to find an original. It had 8 miles on it when I bought it but is now getting close to 100.

I will miss my Saturn. It was our tow vehicle to take along behind the motorhome. Now we need to buy a car carrier trailer that we can drive the front wheels of the VW Bug up onto and will take that car when we travel. This one would have to be put fully up onto a trailer to take it along. Anyone want to buy an aluminum tow bar and a toad brake system?

Update: I have learned that there are only about 1065 of these European Smart Cars that were imported and of those, 750 are the Passion Coupe, like mine. I thought I had read somewhere that there were about 3000 but that is not true. The one officially imported now by Roger Penske is quite a bit less expensive but there is also a long waiting list to get one. And it doesn't get as good of mileage, at least partially because of its larger engine.

I haven't had the car yet quite two weeks and it has 199 miles as of tonight. I love it.

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Monday, March 09, 2009


I may buy one of these!

I've been toying with the idea of buying what is called a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), an electric car with a legal top speed, in my state, of 35mph. Why you ask would I want something like that? Well, think about most of the trips you make with with a car, or at least those that I make, with my car. I don't usually go on roads with a speed limit over 35, although I do sometimes hop onto the freeway to avoid more concentrated traffic areas. Most of my trips are not over 12 or 14 miles, round trip. Short trips like these are hard on fuel powered vehicles and our VW is diesel powered so they are probably even harder on it. Last summer the price of diesel fuel here got to $4.999 per gallon although it is down now, just as gasoline is but I don't think that will last long. A car that costs pennies to charge the batteries sounds good. And it is good for the environment, at least here, where most of our electric power is generated by water power so there is no coal burned to make that juice.

Anyway, I started this out thinking about a Zap Xebra. Some friends who live in the Eugene, OR area have one and Deb says that she loves it. But, it is a 3-wheeled vehicle so is legally considered to be a motorcycle. I'd have to get a special motorcycle license and then add a trike endorsement, just to drive it, and almost no one else would be able to do so. Legally. I continued looking and found one called the Zenn, which I guess stands for Zero Emissions, No Noise. It is a two seat car but does have 4 wheels, so is considered a car. It is based on a small French made car that over there is gasoline powered. The body is shipped to Canada where it is set up with it's electric package. It looks pretty good but I did talk with a gal in Anacortes who owns one and she isn't too happy about the life of the batteries nor the help with her problems she has been getting from the manufacturer nor the dealer in Seattle. I have continued to look.

Yesterday, I found this (these photos were downloaded from the Wheego web site):
Wheego Whip 01
It is called the Wheego Whip and is from a company in Atlanta, GA. The body is made in China and shipped to California where the electric package is installed. They have a few on the road now and will start shipping them to customers in May. The price is about the same as the Zenn and unfortunately the dealer in Seattle is the same one, but hopefully the factory will be more supportive. I've exchanged email with them and they seem to respond quickly. Maybe that would continue after one buys a car from them.

Wheego Whip 12
Here is a photo of the interior. It is a two seater but they do look to be comfortable. There is a choice of outside color but all of the interiors are the same.

Wheego Whip 13
The instrument cluster is a bit different. The speedometer only goes to 40 but that is okay with a car that isn't supposed to be driven over 35 and most states limit them to 25. The other two gauges relate to the battery power and how much power you are using. The car does have an AM/FM radio with a CD player & a USB connection for MP3 files. It has most of the things you'd expect in a regular car like power doors with remote access, power windows, power adjusted outside mirrors. A/C is available but I would not need it living where I do but I will use the heater/defroster and the windshield wiper. The back opens up like a station wagon and there is a pretty good amount of storage space there which is over the batteries. So it is very practical for runs to the store, over for a mocha, etc. Almost everything you would do with a regular car but not to the gas station. It has AGM batteries and they say its range is about 40 miles although it will probably make 50, but all that depends on how you drive it, how many hills there and what the outside temperature is. Batteries don't work as well when it is cold as they do when they are warmer.

Wheego Whip 18
Here in this final photo you can see the "gas cap" door. The battery charger is built in and the extension cord plugs in here.

I have also found one called a BG that looks good, so I need to learn more about it.

If I buy one I will probably go ahead and sell my Saturn along with it's towing system and the brake system I use when pulling it with the RV. Then I'll need a toter trailer that I can drive the front wheels of either this car or our VW New Beetle to take along on RV trips. I will also have to start locating places where I can plug in to recharge while eating meals in restaurants, etc. Kind of a new way of thinking about getting around, but it sounds like fun and if fuel prices go back up to the $5 a gallon range, one that will be much easier to afford. Anyone want a low mileage clean 2000 Saturn SL1 that is all setup to tow behind a motorhome?

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