Hybridfest and Beyond, 2007

This is merely one of many accounts of hybrid enthusiasts "coming home" to
Hybridfest this year.  In only its second year of existence it has already
become a high-profile event that draws participants, membership, and sponsors
from all over the country.  Or, as I kept telling those around me, "Sturgis for
hybrid owners".  There are many other extensive reports on the event itself
linked to from CleanMPG, including lots more pictures.

As usual, most pix are links to larger ones, and there are many embedded links
referencing additional material scattered throughout.  Enjoy.

This year I agreed to do a set of talks on the inner workings of the Prius,
since I've been making a fairly deep study of it over the past couple of
years and have recently turned a lot of that into a training course.  So I
needed to bring plenty of demo toys and material, as well as set up the rig
to sleep in the car if needed over the long haul.

Loaded up.  My canopy and flyer card-table fit down the left side, leaving
just enough room to crawl into the berth on the right.  I finally removed
the bumps of plastic around the LATCH fittings on the rear seat backs and
bent the attach points themselves down by pounding on them with a big-ass
hammer, so the surface across the bed is much flatter now.  It's not like
I'm ever going to install a child seat in there, and things are easily
restorable for a future owner if needed.

The transmission demo piece just barely tucks in under the leaned-down
passenger seatback.  This holds it securely in place without having to
mess with seatbelts, and since it and all the rest of the heavy iron and
such is over 100 pounds, having all of it on the right helps balance my
own weight on the left.  The stuff is too heavy to just put in on the plastic
rear deck, which would probably bend down under the on-road pounding and
be more in the way when trying to sleep.  Fitting it into here is a little
funky due to the long baseboard that Mike mounted it on, but the planetary
gearset wrapped in a rag tucks nicely underneath to support the raised end.

So after the first leg of about 8 hours, I arrived here at O&K Truck to
see Swede's corner of the universe near Buffalo NY.  Very nice shop with a
well-outfit training facility in the back.

Finally, I got to see the "brake board" which condenses the air braking
system from the full length of a semi into two easily-reachable parts -- the
left half is the cab, and the right one [mostly hidden] is the trailer.
Hook up shop air, push the pedal mounted above the shop logo, and watch the
actuators move.  Play with the glad-hands, create and diagnose problems, etc.
Good stuff.  They've also got the usual ABS, ignition, and alternator demo
setups too.

Once clear of Buffalo the next morning, eep!  I'm about to fall off the edge
of the world...

Well, only into the endless flatlands of Ohio and Indiana, really.  The most
notable thing about the morning's part of the leg was the indicated Suburban,
which passed me about three times and each time the occupants were giving me
a big thumbs-up.  Now *that's* weird.  Guess they had to stop for gas fairly
frequently, and then managed to catch up with me again.  There's some profound
irony here.  Maybe it's the "ONE LESS SUV" sticker on the back of my car...

Kind of an odd sight... fortunately, it *was* moving away from me.  I guess
trucks from Mars roll backwards.

On a brief stop I thought to check some underhood temperatures and make a
phone call, and found this poor thing wedged into the lower grille.  It was
still moving slightly when I picked it out, but then died shortly thereafter.

After most of that day in the heat, the inverter felt fairly cool [I'm not
monitoring its temp sensors at the moment, so the "finger sensor" has to do],
the return radiator hose to the engine was definitely cool to the touch, and
the main hose from the block wasn't all that warm either.  It's nice when an
engine runs so efficiently that normal underhood airflow is almost enough to
cool it by itself.  I had been maintaining a 61 - 62 MPG average pretty much
all day, at about the same MPH, which people refer to the efficiency "crossover
point".  This was on the interstates with over 100 extra pounds of crap *and*
headwinds, so I can't complain too much.

On the call I found out that my timing was such that I wasn't going to detour
into South Bend as I might have thought.  So I continued toward Gary IN and the
long final haul around the end of the lake and around Chicago [not through it,
made that mistake last year], and about an hour out from Wayne's place ran into
some *amazing* thunderstorms.  I finally slogged into Wayne's house where his
wife plied me with yummy food and pointed me at the shower.  Other people
arrived a little later, and the bunch of us -- Billy, Dan, Chuck -- sat up
yakkin' until Wayne got home from work at like 2am and later on, we finally
got to sleep.

The next day, Dan and I headed out in a little Prius-convoy toward Madison,
taking a more direct albeit leisurely "country" path up Route 12.  We got
separated on the way but still arrived in plenty of time for the unofficial
pre-Hybridfest event in the next town over -- cruise night!
This is a weekly Thursday night gathering at the Quaker Steak & Lube
in Middleton WI, very similar to the one I'd recently discovered in my own home
town and partially shown here.  As part of the restaurant chain's motorsports
theme they routinely host related events; for the cruise-in they cone off part
of the parking lot and let in anything "vintage" brought there for display
purposes.  And a lot of very strange [and shiny] stuff shows up.

Classic car enthusiasts still vastly outnumber hybrid owners, but for this one
they'd arranged for a section to showcase hybrid cars in advance of Hybridfest.
Even though it was sort of separate from the classics, it was reasonably well-
trafficked with people asking questions [well, it *was* right in front of the
restaurant's open-air bar area].  But several flyers disappeared from my table,
indicating that passing people wanted more information.  The joke CD I had
prepared with the '68 Mustang idling noises didn't really work out, because
the car's stereo just isn't LOUD enough!  But the irony of that noise coming
from a Prius was not entirely lost.

Dan from Texas and his ride.

Classic land yachts, squeaky-clean engines.  As a friend put it long ago,
"six feet between the headlights!"

Harrison Ford, eat yer heart out.

The next morning, a small detachment of us went out to a Toyota dealership,
Smart Motors, to pick up a couple of Priuses that they were loaning to the
press to take their own MPG Challenge runs in.  Their service guys didn't
even bat an eye when we asked them to air up the tires to 45 PSI -- a true
rarity among dealership tech departments, most of which quake in fear of
lawyers any time you head north of what the door placard says.  Drew and I
then drove them over to the park and got them nicely warmed up, and thought to
force-charge the batteries to give the newbie-driver press folks a nice little
burst of "free energy" onboard before they went out for their runs.  It helped;
with that and expert tutelage from the people they went out with, they came
back with some pretty good numbers.

Olin-Turville Park is gorgeous, overlooking the lake between it and the rest
of Madison proper.  A great place to just hang out while the MPG Challenge was
going on.

Bradlee, one of our fearless leaders, doing more management-via-cellphone as
he did over much of the weekend.  The pavilion behind him is in *very* high
demand, mainly for weddings, with reservations scheduled over a year out.

As Linda started the drivers' meeting, she was swarmed by the ABC crew and
other press.  [Too bad they got so many of the facts wrong, especially on the
"good morning america" segment -- they HAD eight or nine hours to listen to
why we were doing this and the real-life benefits; it's inexcusable to dwell
on a few very infrequent "hazardous" practices like they did or make flat-out
inaccurate statements about "overinflated tires" and "holding up traffic".
Really, that reporter sounded like she was breathlessly trying to jam in some
little personal rant about tire pressure at the end -- to what purpose??]

The idea was for each contestant to come up the driveway and turn around to
point downhill ...

before getting reset and clocked out for their run.  A nice little downhill
engine-off coast to leave the park, in fact -- provided random bicyclists
or boat-trailers didn't get in the way halfway down!  But for some, that hill
would turn into their nemesis at the end.

Wayne returned from his run totally sweat-soaked, being firmly of the
"windows tight up and no A/C" school of thought.

Delta Flyer back from his run, although he had to borrow an Insight since
he hadn't brought his own car up.  He was having too much fun in Dan's Prius.

The other contestants are probably documented in those various other piles
of pictures, which I still haven't had time to wade through entirely.

The not-quite-final results board.  I got my ass handed to me; three other
Prius drivers did significantly better!  But up in this territory, very minor
factors can easily come into play.  I was nicely above 99.9 for the first third
or so of the course, but as I started an uphill climb on one of the faster
county roads it started to drop and as much as I tried to recover and do all
the right things, it never got back out of the hole for the rest of the run.
Did a bird crap on my windshield?  Maybe it was the full tank of E10 gas I had,
where Jerad had found the ONE "pure gasoline" station in the area and had maybe
2 gallons in his car?  The Hydroedge tires, which at least when they were new
were probably taking a ding out of my MPG and despite being up close to 60
PSI that day, may still be a factor?  But it's a poor carpenter that blames
his tools, so the real problem must simply be my right foot.

Nonetheless, we all had fun, and after everyone was back in the Hybridfest
crew reset things for a yummy dinner [catered by Quaker Steak & Lube!] and
awards presentation.  That's amply documented here.

As we returned to the hotel, I found a great opportunity to park for one of
those "prius vs. hummer" shots -- and he's surrounded by hybrids!

Instead of trying to get back over to the park for the fireworks over the lake,
we found that the 8th floor of the hotel provided an amply clear, if a bit more
distant, view of them.

The next morning was showcase day as part of the fair.  We all lined up in
specific groups, for the long parade into the fairgrounds before it opened
to the public.

I never really got to wander the fair itself, but it was very large.  Dane
County does this every year.  This rather amusing act was going on nearby --
the guy driving it can use the wheel's inertia to loft himself completely up
and over the top by sitting on one of the crossbars.  The 8-foot blue plastic
robot thing from last year with a guy on stilts inside also returned, sporting
a speaker in the chest playing VERY loud tinny music which made it impossible
to have a conversation when it was nearby.

While traffic near my car and demo setup was brisk, I did manage to get away
and explore the hall inside a little.  [Huge thanks to FireEngineer for
watching my spot for a while!]  Again, there are *many* other and likely better
sets of pictures from that day.  This is Toyota's traveling "highway to the
future" expandable trailer, done up inside like a fairly well designed museum
exhibit with buttons to push, driving simulators, blinkie lights, and quizzes.

Bad shot of inside the trailer.  I asked the attendants if the simulators
would teach people how to hypermile.

The hall sported many vendors and groups, several more than last year.

Ted Bohn and his crew at Argonne are going after the hybrid Camry these days.
This inverter is smaller than the Prius one and yet handles about twice the
power to the motors, so it's clear that Toyota is getting even better at
building these things.

As things wound down that afternoon we moved back over to the hotel, and I
needed to bring my demo stuff inside for the private pre-run of my talk for
the MPG "clinicians" who would be offsite the next morning and miss it.
All the bellhop carts were in use or hiding; the only thing with wheels that
the hotel had left was this, so here I officially present ... the Hybrid
Synergy Drive wheelchair!

The show in the Alliant Center continued on Sunday, so after I was done with
my two runs of tech-talk I got back over to the hall to try and catch up with
what I missed on Saturday.

A couple of bad shots of the Hymotion plug-in conversion done for Wisconsin
Public Power by the guys from Pat's Garage.  Evan Fusco took many more
shots of the process; he was all over the procedure from inside the crowd-
control ropes.  His stuff is linked off the CleanMPG thread above, and there
are some additional bits over at Priuschat.

Finally, the show was over.  I helped the HF crew clean out the "war room" a
little, and all the stuff got loaded into cars.  It was handy for them to
be able to drive across the show floor right up to the office.

We all headed out to a nearby Culver's for dinner.  During discussion a
mild challenge was issued that Wayne couldn't pull 75 MPG out of someone's
Classic Prius with 300,000 miles on it, so of course he had to try.  By doing
circles around a nearby empty parking lot, he managed over 80, but it took a
little while.  Meanwhile a cop had pulled into the restaurant and then back
out into the same parking lot, retiring to the far end of same and we were
just waiting for him to accost Wayne to find out why the heck this little
Prius was going in endless circles around the lot.  Here, as Wayne drifts
past on another loop, Bradlee's out there explaining what's going on.  The cop
was simply amused, and said he'd just eat his dinner while watching the show.

We made the 2-hour slog back to Wayne's house afterward, and boyhowdy were
we tired.  The next day I headed out, down across the bulk of Indiana to
go see Steve at Auto Be Yours.

Gas seemed to be substantially cheaper in Indiana, as someone on the forums
had been telling me!  While here I priced the rentable showers -- $9.  No
wonder there's an unofficial institution of asking truckers for the spare
shower credits they get when buying fuel -- one for each $50 spent, which
would take a Prius over a thousand miles if you could rig a second tank on
it to hold all that gas.  [Conjure up "road warrior" visual here...]

Upon arrival in Scottsburg, I took Steve's recommendation for this little
campground a couple of miles down the road.  There was nobody in the office
but a bell-button to push for service.  The lady who runs the place came out
from a house off to the side riding a *lawn tractor* to meet me, and after a
little initial confusion in which she asked "where's your unit?" and I pointed
to the car, gave me a spot for $10/night which included access to a much-needed
shower *and* a safe place to park.  With the option for more nights since
frankly I didn't know how long I was going to stick around.

I really like having the bed rig in the car.  It's my little 60-MPG RV that I
can sleep in just about anywhere, with full shelter and bug-proof ventilation
and without the size overhead of the other monsters around me.  It was
fortunate that I was set up for in-car snoozing, because apparently there's
some oddball restriction against tenting that this park is subject to --
something about zoning or insurance, I dunno.

I started to fold up a few more flyers to restock the envelope that lives
in the car, and the guy from the next RV over spotted me and yelled over,
"90 miles per gallon, right?" ... to which I answered "more like 60" but
he came over and I gave him a website flyer and we started having a pleasant
conversation.  I think my mini-RV really amused him.  Just then Steve drove up
in another Prius, and I said "see?  The pods are coming, they're everywhere,
they're taking over!"  Steve had even brought me ice cream, the saint.  As
twilight fell we all chatted for a while before Steve had to run off to fetch
his daughter, and I happily settled down for the night with the prospect of
going to see lots of mangled Prius parts the next day.

Part 2: A totally killer summer job?

_H* 070729