Mother Earth News Fair
We have the engine!
The tidy little package arrived a few days ago in a very big truck. Thanks to all who have contributed; campaigning Dirigo is truly a diversified effort. All I have to do is keep shifting the gears and talking to people.
We'll begin the swap late next week, and hope to have it on the road for testing before we leave for the month of July. If need be, the crew will continue tuning in July. We will be exhibiting at the Maine Boats and Harbors show in Rockland Aug 12-14, and the following weekend is the One Gallon Challenge. Part of Boston Greenfest, it is a 100 mile mpg competition finishing in downtown Boston where all the cars are on display for the weekend in a great festival celebrating all things green and progressive.
Stay tuned for reports.
We're raising money for a new *turbo* version of our terrific Diahatsu diesel. Our incremental improvements in the car itself have yielded some mpg improvements, but to get over the 100mpg hump we'll need the turbo. Our engine was old to begin with, and didn't have an easy life. The fact that it's done what is has is testament to the quality and durablity of the Diahatsu.
The goal is forty-five hundred dollars by the end of May. This will put us in good shape for a summer of campaigns!
So please head on over to the PayPal department and give us your best shot!
Thanks, Bill and the crew
Green Grand Prix 2011
Sometimes I think that many people have never had a chance to allow "100mpg" to enter their concousness. When I discuss fuel mileage with people who have come to ask questions about Dirigo and that expression come up often they don't know what to say next. Time is needed to digest the concept. I do remind them that we haven't yet attained 100mpg, but are getting close. Speechlessness is a common reaction.
On the way to the Green Grand Prix, there was a guy who followed me off the interstate into a rest stop where I was in dire need of the facilities. He came wide-eyed up to the car and managed to tell me he was a designer, but aside from that he just didn't know where to start. I knew that I had pressing business elsewhere, but the mission is to engage the public and have these discussions. Fortunately another couple walked up and I was able to get them chatting while I politely but rapidly made my exit. When I got back there were still more people around the car, but my speechless friend had found his voice and we had a delightful conversation about automotive design, of which neither of us were an expert. The beauty of riding on the interstate with Dirigo is that at our cruising speed of 65, cars pass slowly but not at inconvience to them. There is just enough time to look, wave, give thumbs up, and snap a few photos. It happens constantly. I like to imagine that live on the highway is generally rather boring when along comes this cool little car and everyone looks out the window. The one with the smart phone sees the web address on the Dirigo's flanks, goes there, and revels the rest of the folks with technical details and exploits from the cross country trip last summer. How long does this joy and inspiration last? Who knows, but we do get this response. I relate it to the reaction from a work of art: an emotion is touched and a thought process engaged.
We dropped down from I90 in New York to the old east-west Route 20.This was the route of our maiden voyage on the last trip to Watkins Glen when the tow vehicle broke down and Dirigo took us the rest of the way on it's untried tires. The road was again virtually empty, passing through small towns, becoming more prosperous as we approached the Finger Lakes. I stopped in Senneca Falls to call ahead to my host, and a car passed in the other direction, made a u-turn, and came back to park nearby. I know the drill by now, so got out, handed the couple a card, and had a delightful conversation. His parents had driven Chevettes in the seventies and he swears they regularly got 50mpg. Even if it was "only" 40, production cars are just now beginning to approach that.
There were 42 cars on the track at Watkins glen the next day, all working to maximize their economy line through the turns. Except one guy in an old Porsche who figured he'd spend the seventy-five dollar entry fee just to tear around the track until he was black-flagged. It didn't take long, but from the look on his face it must have been worth it. Fuel economy was measured by weight. The cars without mpg computers were weighed befor and after the event, the difference being how much fuel was used in pounds. Dirigo consumed eight pounds, just over a gallon, to go 95 miles, which worked out to 85mpg. Not as good as our 89mpg last time, but not too bad. A few of us had dinner later at a lake front restaurant which was having happy hour. I flaunted all the parking rules and pulled up right out front. In a few second I was surrounded by curious drinkers, inhibitions gone and in full wonder mode. We eventually found a seat in the back. but for quite a while after we would catch tidbits of conversations from the bar with words like "diesel, motorcycle, three wheels, wood body, from Maine, etc." Following is the AP report which made most national papers:
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Flanked by an array of unique vehicles, Bob Gillespie stood in the chilly morning air at Watkins Glen International and spelled out the rules in a drivers’ meeting like no other at the famed road course. “There’s no drafting, no tailgating, stay 50 feet behind the car in front of you, and there shouldn’t be too much passing,” Gillespie warned Friday before the start of his pet project, the Green Grand Prix. “Drive safely. I don’t want anybody going 30 m.p.h. or even 33 m.p.h. at the top of the esses. And if you have to take a potty break, there’s a porta-john over there.” Kent Johnson shrugged in fake dismay, then smiled as he settled behind the wheel of a Honda Insight. “Painful,” said Johnson, who is more accustomed to speeds of 140 miles per hour racing Ford Mustangs around the Glen’s 2.45-mile short course that Nascar uses every August. The Green Grand Prix is a celebration of sustainable transportation that promotes awareness of environmentally friendly vehicles and fuels through motoring events and educational activities. Billed as the only road rally for alternate-fuel vehicles and hybrids in the United States sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America, it was staged for six years on two-lane country roads in and around Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The rally was moved to the storied track this year and the track president Michael Printup said he hoped it would become a fixture. This was no place for Sprint Cup cars that get four and a half miles per gallon, even if they are using 15 percent ethanol fuel this season. “This was right down my bowling alley,” said Printup, the chairman for green initiatives at all 12 International Speedway Corp. tracks. “This is my 300 game right here.” Two fuel-economy rallies were run simultaneously Friday, with one group covering 50 miles and the second 100 miles. The goal was to average 45 m.p.h. — and may the most fuel-efficient car win. Bill Buchholz, one of 44 drivers to compete, could not wait to hop into his three-wheel Dirigo. It was parked right next to Roo Trimble’s Roopod, another three-wheeler with this to offer, “Two people, two gallons, two hundred miles, one hell of a trip.” “I think it’s good to get all these cars together,” said Buchholz, who made the 500-mile trip from his home in Camden, Me., in his Dirigo and has driven it to California. “You feel a little bit lonely sometimes in these odd cars trying to promote fuel mileage, and here’s a whole critical mass of small cars doing it. “I hope there’s a political component here as well that people express the need that we have to take these cars further and get them out to the public. The public should demand high-mileage cars from manufacturers. That’s the ultimate goal.” The Dirigo is powered by a three-cylinder, 950cc diesel motor that generates all of 20 horsepower. Its front end was fashioned from a Kawasaki off-road vehicle, its wheels are from a Volkswagen Beetle, and the body is made of western red cedar “because it’s very light, carbon neutral and you can build nice shapes with it,” Buchholz said. The Dirigo also has a slick cruise control made from a contraption used to hold sails in place on a sailboat. The vehicle remains crude at best — the windows use zippers, and the fumes from the engine are noticeable with the windows zipped. But it works. “We’re beginning to believe that there’s a market opportunity here for a company to design something that’s high-mileage but not dorky,” Buchholz said. “I think that cars can be high-mileage and cool at the same time, and it’s pertinent to where we’re at today.” Indeed. The price of gas is hovering around $4 a gallon and is not likely to go down soon. “I think $4 a gallon gas is a big psychological hurdle,” Buchholz said. “You can see $3.95, $3.98, but when it’s $4.01, all of a sudden it’s $4. I think now people might begin to start to react to that in a different way.”
Trimble hopes so. He spent three years developing the Roopod, which is powered by a two-cylinder, 480cc diesel that provides all of 13 horsepower but still can reach 55 m.p.h. “When I started building this car, it was sort of an epiphany moment,” said Trimble, 43, an industrial designer from Massachusetts who is looking for sponsors. “I was looking at my Volkswagen Beetle and I started thinking that when I’m driving it, nine parts of my gallon of gas go to hauling the weight of the car around. I wanted to make a car that had a better ratio. “The goal is almost met here,” said Trimble, who weighs about 260 pounds. “When there’s two of me in that car, the car and me are almost the same weight, so it gives you a 1-to-1 ratio.” Cornell University entered its Custom Redshift, a diesel-electric hybrid with a license plate number of CU100MPG, in the 50-mile race. Matt Robison, a masters student studying engineering and business, was behind the wheel as the professor Al George lamented that the car would have to try to make it all the way on battery power because of an electronic problem. It did as George pondered the future. “I’m a grandfather now, and basically my grandchildren’s grandchildren are in trouble,” he said. “We’re running out of energy. We cannot afford to keep doing what we’re doing. Each person in the United States is using twice as much energy as people in Europe. We just can’t do it. We don’t have the resources. “We have to improve our vehicles, our home heating, everything we do. People have a very short view of where the world’s going. It’s really a shame.” This was the second time Buchholz competed in the Green Grand Prix. He took second place in his class two years ago at 89 miles per gallon but did not make the podium on Friday. West Philadelphia High School’s Factory Five GTM nailed top honors at 160 m.p.g., and a Chevrolet Volt finished at 129 m.p.g. The day was not painful at all for Johnson, who is the chairman of the automotive department at Alfred State University. He took top honors in his class at 89.6 m.p.g.
The trip home was tough, with rain and a very strong headwind all the way to central Mass. Thankfully the rain tapered off, not that it was a problem, just that the Lexan windshield takes a beating from all the grit suspended in the clouds of water drawn along by big trucks. The exhaust system failed fir the last time in Lowell, as the car and muffler parted ways. I ran back to get it, tossed it in the back, and drove the rest of the way in full Harley-Davidson mode. After the last fuel stop in southern Maine, I decided to have no mercy and abandon all attempts at mileage. The cruise control was pulled full on, and we tore along at over 70mph for the rest of the trip. I'd never done this before, but have always been curious. The engine didn't miss a beat, temperature gauge didn't budge, and we made it home in time for dinner. Great car!
Rally Green 2010 Finish
Michael and I loaded Dirigo into the trailer on Sunday afternoon for the non-stop run back to the East Coast. We arranged a small bunk in the back of his truck and we swihched off driving every three hours for the next fifty two hours, arriving in eastern Pennsylvania late Tuesday night to a motel and some good honest sleep. We both had hopes for an early departure, but didn't see the light of day until after eight.
Then, like a soldier limping home from battle, Dirigo finally began to show a bit of wear and tear on the final 500 mile leg home to Maine. The front brakes began to act up, the exhaust pipe cracked completely open, and we were down to only one headlight. The driver's door lost a hinge pin which I replaced with a birch twig. It was raining most of the day, and the closer we got to Maine the stronger the Northeast wind became. Oh me of little faith kept looking for safe spots to break down and wait for help but Dirigo just kept on going and we arrived home just as darkness fell. The single headlight certainly was better than nothing.
Overall mileage for the 3000 miles was 62.3mpg. Not great, but a good mark to try to beat next time.
Jack McCornack finally showed up in Marin, but not with MAX, who was out with serious overheating. Jack was with us the whole way in spirit, and in constant cell phone contact, so we really felt he was a part of the event. He had a good look at Dirigo and had this to say:
I found, both riding and driving, Dirigo reminds me a lot of a Citroen 2CV, except Dirigo has more pep and has a lot more room for the driver and passenger. I think my biggest surprise was how spacious Dirigo is. It's sedan-size in the front and has huge storaage space behind the seats, it has a bunch more elbow- (and luggage-) room than a Miata, for example. Most high efficiency cars are pretty dang snug (MAX is a prime example) but Dirigo is like cruising around in a living room. Great visibility, minimal wind through the cockpit, cushy seats and a comfortable ride, who could ask for anything more? Congratulations on a job well done. Now write up some plans so other folks can build their own Dirigos.
Thanks to both Jay and Jack for their tremendous efforts on behalf of Rally Green. Also to Michael and Steven for driving the support vehicle and helping Jay get the good miles he did. Jay would have been lost without his team of his incredibly supportive wife and son Vicki and Jesse. At last report Jesse was about to attempt crossing the Mojave Desert in the Stealth. Check out www.trihybridstealth.com for details. Keep track of Jack's progress with MAX on his blog at MotherEarthNews.com
Twelve hours of delightful driving brought us to the Pacific and the end of the Rally. Jay had hoped to drive the last few hours to the finish, but had clutch troubles, and as if he hasn't gone through enough troubles already, he lost a tooth. In spite of their consistent breakdowns, the Stealth team kept high spirits and a positive outlook throughout. They were awarded second place in Rally Green on a cliff above the ocean on the dramatic Rt One.
We took off from Carson City and were faced with the east wall of the Sierra Nevadas just as the engine was getting warmed up. Carson is at 4000', which is fine for the naturally aspirated diesel. But very quickly we hit five, six and then seven thousand feet, with the predictable loss in performance. The summit was 7200', and then the long decent to Lake Tahoe. The inner teenager took over and pounded Dirigo through the twists and turns like there was no tomorrow. Again, the voices of the Camden pit crew were begging for moderation but couldn't be heard over the screaming of the gears. Lake Tahoe is an absolute gem, our own version of Italy's Lake Como. The small towns of Incline and Kings Beach had the classic mix of hipsters and wealth that seem to co-exist so well in beautiful places. One more seven thousand plus pass, and it was onto I-80 and the famous Donner Pass. With a little drafting assistance from a semi, Dirigo ate Donner for lunch and began the decent into California's Central Vally.
One of the finest drives must be rt 128 from Winter to Napa. Beautiful twisty roads, some with first gear switchbacks and then gentle rolling through farmland. The Puma river offers a cool dip in fast rapids, and there are the de rigeur winerys. I felt compelled to stop at at least one, imagining that I had penty of time yet: indeed, the day felt timeless. Adding to the general euphoria were four beautiful women in evening gowns coming for a tasting as well. The nineteenth century Nichellini winery was deep in the shade of giant eucalyptus, and the five of us were treated to a history of the family, local wine-making politics and rivalries, and a fascinating tutorial on winemaking in general. It took us an hour to get through the five varieties offered. Our host Greg was the fifth generation to run the place. Needless to say, when I got back on the road I was driving a bit slower, going for style points instead of sports carring. My father tried to drill into me as a young skier to slow down and just make nice clean turns, so it was with gratitude to his early training that I gently dipped and rolled along the twisting ribbon of asphalt with the gentle clunking of bottles in the back.
For once I was the last car in, at Pt. Reyes. We ate dinner and then went to find the ocean to celebrate the finish. Dirigo had 3002 miles on the clock and everyone was in awe of the little car. Attempting to document high mileage on a pedal to the metal cross country event might have been a bit silly, but it was real world stuff. No time for hyper mileing, but these cars should be able to get lost in strange cities, run with the rush hour, be comfortable on the Interstate and still return excellent mileage. I haven't calculated the average mpg for the trip, but it won't be great. But we did it and hundreds of people were turned on to three wheeled cars and had conversations about fuel economy. Not one person told me that it wasn't an important problem. There is a thirst, even deep in farm country, for fuel economy. It just makes economic sense.
So, I think I'll go for a ride around Marin county today, just to wind down. Maybe I'll meet some interesting people...
Puddles in the Desert
We had been dreading the hot August desert crossing between Delta and Carson City, so what a delight to find an overcast morning with scattered showers. Jay called to wake me up and to find his part that we'd hoped our welder had fixed. I ran out to the car to find it, but it was no where to be seen. Only then did I realize that he'd failed to change his watch to Pacific time so it was actually 4:45. But I had a muffler to install, breakfast to eat and a desert to cross, so was quite grateful. The part was waiting for me at the coffee shop next door.
The wide flat basins on US 50 are separated by mountains with passes, and this day we counted ten. The prize for getting across the big flats and climbing the pass was the twisty decent down the other side. As I said yesterday, the handling of the car continues to amaze me. I just don't want to wreck it before we complete the event tomorrow. I met yet another Friend Of Jack in the small town of Ely. Not from the Mother Earth News blog this time, but from his home town. They spend the summer touring remote desert country. Jack had planned to meet us here in Carson City but has yet to turn up. Jay thinks that a leaking battery may have spilled battery acid onto the electric motor which would mean he's done. Michael and the boys are working on it tonight and we are hoping for a nice finish with all three cars tomorrow.
One of the social highpoints of the day was getting pulled over by the Nevada State Police. I've been waiting almost two years for this to happen, so imagine what the cop was thinking as he was not only trying to take in this odd little car, but the nutty driver with the silly grin who was actually happy to see him: really the complete package. I handed him the papers and proceded to explain the Rally, the X-Prize, our small group of dedicated builders, and what great mileage we get at sea level but all he wanted to know was if the State of Maine knew that my "Kawasaki 750" (host vehicle and vin number doner) actually has three wheels, a diesel engine, two seats and a trunk? I couldn't attest to just what the State knows but did assure him that we have an Autocycle sub-catagory in Maine into which Dirigo snugly fits. Then he wanted to see the vin number engraved on the car's frame and I had to confess that we hadn't thought to do it. He pointed out that the registration indicates that the vehicle in question is white, has two wheels and is fueled with gasoline. How does he know this is the registered vehicle. I gave him our card and told him to have a look at the web site. I don't know if he actually did, but he sauntered back to the cruised to run my numbers, and I scrambled up the embankment to get a picture. He was actually a delightful fellow, with a Hungarian name, and he soon sent me on my merry way. Back in Camden, the town office corrected the registration for me, and I ran across the street to get an updated insurance card as I had forgotten to do that before leaving on the Rally. It was expired in Nevada, and I might have too, had my Hungarian cop asked to see the insurance card!
I know this is supposed to be about Dirigo, but what is there to say about a little car that just keeps on pulling day after day? This leg was 450 miles, and the last bit was on freshly paved black asphalt well after the morning clouds had parted. I could feel the weight of the heat squeezing into the car from below. Why don't we add white dye as a knod to global climat change? The car never even thought of over- heatingI, and I managed to get a dip in a cool reservoir just outside of Carson City, but even dressing a dripping wet body offered short relief. But I'm not complaining. While Dirigo isn't exactly open motoring, there is still a great connection to the outside world because there are no windows and no radio. One is obligated to contemplate the outside world as it rolls by. I noticed, for example, the bushes at the side of the road were much greener compared to the rest. Must have been rain running off the road. There is a summer monsoon up here, so there had been a lot of rain recently and the desert was much greener than I would ever had imagined.
And then, in Carson City, on time at four for the first time, was Comma Coffee. As usual, there was no welcoming committee of enthuiastic eco-car nuts, but to walk in to Comma after many days of watery coffee and cowboy culture and bask in the art, the food, and the incredibly hip hangers on was well worth crossing a desert for, in not the entire country. Thanks to June and the kids for an exceptional place! Fuel mileage is better now that we're down at 4000', a bit over 60, but still nothing to write home about but I am regardless...
Big Day to Delta
Everything was big today: Big canyons, gorges, basins and passes. Big weather and wind. The drama of storms over mesas and clouds pouring down canyons with driving rain. Sun in the distance setting distant mountains aglow. I felt like I was driving across the bottom of the ocean in the Utah archipelago. This place must have been a great place to sail before the sea drained out. Dirigo felt very small indeed in this geography, although in keeping with the day's theme of Big, the performance was right up there. I got my car back! Yesterday's huffing and puffing up the pass was gone and we were all about performance, especially as half the day was all downhill. But the mileage wasn't as good as I'd hoped, considering all the downhill: only 80mpg. I think we're still suffering a bit from altitude sickness even though the engine appears to be running well.
Approaching Delta on US 50 we picked up a strong tailwind and were able to cruise along at a good 70 mph will no ill effects. The Camden pit crew would be pulling their hair out in they knew what Dirigo was going through. The valley that comes down from the ridge leading into town is well irrigated and rich with corn, sorgum, and other green stuff I couldn't recognize. There were also piles of huge straw bales that were just waiting to be made into houses. There were longhorn cattle and dairy cows. With all this agriculture it shouldn't have been a surprise to find a welder to repair Dirigo's exhaust. I'd asked at the cafe-hotel where I'd checked in and it turned out he was sitting right outside eating with his buddies with his welding truck nearby. I asked where his shop was, and he said "right here!" He had to run off to a fire and took my muffler with him, but I'm sure he'll have it done in the morning. The fine ladies at the Stateline Immanuel Lutheren Church in Kansas appear to be watching over me...
Jay had his best day yet, with eighty miles before he melted two batteries. Some heat insulation didn't get replaced this morning's repair work, but it was still a successful trial. He'll do another small reconfiguration in the morning and is hoping for even a better run. Tomorrow we meet the elusive Jack, and hopefully we'll all run into Carson City together.
- Day 3 Summary Green rally 2010 Aspen
- Can't wait to find Jack!
- Monday in Colby Kansas
- Rally Green 2010 Lincoln Ne. 8.15.2010
- Sprint Car Capital
- On the Road, Nearly to Knoxville IA, 8.13.2010
- Countdown Time
- The Back Story
- Piece by piece, Rally Green is coming together
- A big boost in Carson City, Nevada
- A New Starting Venue, With Hospitality
- Route Test a Success
- Dirigo's maiden voyage
- One more cool car...
- RV Support
- Preliminary Course Maps Posted
- Rally Entries Are Coming In...
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