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.
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.