Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Random: Lubbock on a Bike with Leaf Envy, More Temptation, and another Bug

Look who showed up on the porch near all of the olla planters

I finally rode the bike to work today. I love riding in the fall. It rained yesterday, so (thanks e e cummings) the world is mudluscious and puddlewonderful. And, it's staying darker longer, so drivers are more likely to see my strobing lights. And mid-sixties feel good on my skin as I ride. I saw two mockingbirds and lots of great fall flowers. Good stuff. So much better than fighting traffic in my little truck.

However, I did see the Nissan Leaf guy on Utica this morning and felt much more plug-in envy than normal. Work has had me hopping lately, so I have been driving a lot more and biking a lot less. I've had a number of thirty-forty mile days instead of my normal 10. And, back in the National Drive Electric Week, I stupidly opened up a big ol' can of temptation. My wife and went to look at the white Leaf I wrote about. We loved the car, and it was a really great deal, but we did the math and figured out that we are not quite wealthy enough to buy it wisely. But all of this driving has made me want to go electric very badly. And my wife drives that much on most days.

Speaking of temptation, it's time to cut back on it a bit lot. You see, I have way too much stuff and I have a bad internet habit. (The two are closely related.) Every day I check Craigslist for bicycles, motorcycles, electric devices, and battery-powered devices. Sometimes I search solar, barrels, and free as well. Then I go to and look at all of the vintage scooters and parts. Then I go to and check out the used electric bike stuff. A few times per week I go and check out electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and conversion components. Finally, I head to ebay once per week to see what funky vintage electric cars pop up this week. I've got it bad. Each week I find at least one thing that tempts me royally and I spend entirely too much time trying to fugure out how to afford and justify the purchase. So, next week, I am going cold turkey. The only way I will go to any of those sites will be to post things for sale. Please say a prayer for me and/or send over some methadone and near beer.

May you avoid temptation, enjoy a bike ride, and appreciate your neighbors no matter how small (and green) they are.

PS. Do you think I should ask the landlord at work for a big yellow ramp?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Not Lubbock on a Bike: Scotland Vacation on a Trials Bicycle

I've not ridden in a little while. Busy life, blah, blah, etc. I've missed the bike. I have to admit, I am a rather pedestrian biker. I don't ride fast. I don't ride daring. I don't ride to new places. I am getting from one place to another and trying to make sure that I have enough energy to reach my destination.

Even so, I love riding. Time on a bike is something more than the sum of its parts: an overweight middle-aged guy on an old bike in a flat town that lost its lustre (for me) 25 years ago. (No one ever heads to Lubbock to feed their aesthetic soul.) But the bike adds an element of motion and minute discovery. The painfully mundane occasionally sparkles in a way I seldom see through a windshield.

Mostly I ride to and from work - about 25 minutes each way. The hardest part of the day lies between those two rides. Eight hours staring at two wide-screen monitors in a little room with no windows. Some days I need a vacation, but there's little time and less money for that sort of thing, so I sneak off to Scotland for 8 minutes of trials biking.

Yes, I know it's not a real vacation. I know I am not a fat, middle-aged guy on a skinny bike hopping about the mythically beautiful highlands, but I often forget that I am a fat, middle-aged guy sitting in a chair in an office building. I enjoy the music, I enjoy the scenery, I enjoy the camera angles, and I enjoy seeing what a man with a bicycle can accomplish under the right circumstances.
My perspective shifts a bit. My heart rate slows a bit. I am ready to face a few more hours in this chair. And some little spot in the back of my brain is planning a trip to Scotland. Another little spot is wanting to study filmmaking. Yet another is planning a leap over something monstrous (like a curb or a pallet or a beer can). A fourth part is modifying an old mountain bike frame into a trials bike. A fifth tiny little spot goes back to work, stops staring at the beige and lifeless wall like those lone and level sands that stretch far and away, or something like that.
May you occasionally get away!

Carbon Munching Garden: Lessons in Ollas, Self-Wicking, and Aquaponics

[Warning: This post contains almost no wheels and no electric vehicles.]

Fall just started. We had a little rain yesterday. I have been watching the garden begin to wither, and I realize how much I will miss it over the next months. We still have foour strawberries and seven tomatoes ripening, but I think that will be it for this year.

The ollas have been a success, and I am very much a fan of that approach. The self-wicking pallet planter had its struggles, but it has turned into a success as well. My wife made spaghetti sauce with roasted tomatoes (from the planter) last night. And it was delicious.

I have learned a lot of things from this year's experiments.

Get bigger planters!!!
With the ollas - use Gorilla Glue!!! Everything else I tried eventually broke down. Also, start with better soil and feed that regularly with good compost. And, no matter what, use bigger pots! It's just like an aquarium - the bigger the container, the larger your margin for error can be. Overall, I am a big fan of ollas in big containers!

Before compost
The raised-bed, self-wicking, Food-is-Free-Project, pallet planter? I learned two major lessons there. The first was the importance of soil that allows water to wick. I used soil with a high clay content, and the water could not travel through it. And the garden barely survived it first six weeks.

After compost

Things did get better when I mixed in good compost with lots of organic matter. The second thing I learned (and it seems really obvious) is that it is smart to add wicks to your self-wicking garden. A piece of cotton rope or  shoestring reaching from the bottom of your planter directly to the roots of your plant - it's a straw for your plant to sip from. Good stuff!

The Aquaponics setup - not a success - I hope to take another approach at that in the relatively near future. I blame the failure on poor lighting and lack of water quality monitoring.)

One other incidental lesson, move slowly near pollinators. The wasps love the garden and were ever-present. I was stung by three wasps this summer, but none were in the garden. Two, somewhat ironically, happened when riding a Vespa scooter - "vespa" is Italian and Latin for wasp. The other sting happened on a bicycle. Speed near wasps equals pain, but they love it when you bring them flowers slowly.

What's next? I am prioritizing projects. I would love to throw together a small greenhouse and keep the momentum going, but it looks like a better time to pursue minimalism. There's too much stuff - no money, time, or room for projects. (I am hoping to find some people who have decided to pursue maximalism so we can all feel good about our stuff.) So the greenhouse (and a much more productive garden) may need to wait until next season.

May your experiments thrive and grow (great food)!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Misters Rogers and Carter again? MH looks back a bit.

I wrote yesterday about an electric car on a 1981 episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I wrote about it as a mirthful sidebar, a novelty to be enjoyed by you, dear reader. However, the whole thing has been fermenting in the overactive brain.

1981 was the beginning of the Reagan era and the subsequent denouncement of the eco movement. (I was 13 years old at the time.) We were headed into a time of hedonstic self-focus, a time to forget about electric cars, gas shortages, and environmental damages. It was a time to put off such worries...

...until now. Here we are, just beginning to recognize these massive climate changes that are swirling all around us. We are seeing species disappearing at an alarming rate. We are seeing the oceans rise and the snowcaps melting. We keep driving our gas-powered cars and keeping ourselves distracted by electronic devices powered by coal-generated electricity. But we have cat videos and more apps every day. We worship at the altars of the NFL and Apple unless we are rebels, then we worship at FIFA and Droid.

What if we had paid more attention to hippies like Mr. Fred Rogers and Jimmy Carter? What if we had paid less attention to the message that told us America needed to spend its way to self-serving economic greatness? In 1985, the Reagan administration had had enough of that silly clean energy and had Mr. Carter's solar panels removed from the White House. Where would be now if we had continued working toward a sustainable future then?

May we learn from our past. May we preserve and enrich our fututre.

Monday, September 21, 2015

More ElectroPigeon Progress!!!

It's been a great Saturday morning! An hour of coffee/writing/blogging followed by two hours of shop time - I feel quite wealthy today!

ElectroPigeon 1 is now a frame and fork. I was excited to learn that both Pigeons are rare birds - they both have front brakes!!!! (You probably have to be me to be that excited about it.)

The EVT 168 came out of storage...

...and went on a drastic diet.
All that so that we could get to this - a 10" brushless hub motor (48 volt), a disc brake, and a swingarm. This will be motivation and stopping for the pigeon.

Just in case you were wondering, this used to be the Pigeon's motivation - a 4-stroke 4.5 horsepower motor.

There is a little welding to done, but the EVT swingarm fits in pretty nicely - definitely better than expected. And, using a hub motor definitely leaves a lot of space for the batteries and controller. It also helps to keep the center of gravity low.

The original front inner tube - it's red rubber! A Yokohama - made in japan!

May your projects flourish!

Vintage Electric Car in Mister Rogers' 'hood!

Blogging for me is one step closer to a 25-year dream that I have clung to - the PBS life. I have watched guys like Rick Steves (travels in Europe with an all access pass), John Viehman (mountain biking the Great Divide, kayaking rapids, and sea kayaking with orcas), and Bob Phillips (driving around Texas talking to crazy interesting people) navigate lives that any overactive brain would kill for on the PBS or [plug in your favorite adventure travel channel] sponsor budget. And these guys have one thing in common - they are boring guys living exciting adventures. I want to live the PBS life!

Today, I found another example of the PBS-life adventure in a very unlikely locale - Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Green Car Reports featured an episode of MRN where Mr. Rogers visited an electric car factory, Electric Vehicle Industries, and was allowed a test drive. From the accents, I'm thinking the cars were built in Massachusetts or thereabouts. The episode aired in 1981. I found myself on youtube right away. Oh, the envy! (I tried to tour the Zero Motorcycle factory once, but I never had much luck communicating with them. Life has been much less frustrating since I sold my Zero.)

Mr. Rogers Electric Vehicle and Divorce (complete episode from youtube)

The vehicles in the show were powered by 16 lead-acid batteries (96 volts) driving a GE motor coupled with a front-wheel-drive transaxle. Very ugly-cool machine. Ironically, the episode deals with divorce, electric cars, and excessive airplane fuel consumption. If I brought this particular car home, my wife might consider jumping on a plane and filing for divorce. (Just kidding - my wife is entirely too supportive of my ugly electric car obsession.) Mr. Rogers even talks about how cool an electric airplane would be.

May your neighborhood be filled with people who care enough to drive electric!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

National Drive Electric Week: Final Post

It's that simple. We are doing unprecedented damage to the ecosystem that allows us to live, breathe, and thrive. It's not really about driving electric - it's about not driving gas (or diesel).

So, any step you take away from extracting or burning fossil fuels is a step in the right direction. To jump on a cliche' - if you're not part of the solution...

May each of us choose to be a part of the solution.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A party, guilt, goals, and a photogenic bug

The day started with a party. Actually yesterday ended with the same party. The college kids across the alley like to party on Thursday nights, and this week was no exception, but they turned it up a notch this time. They were louder and rowdier at 5:45 AM than they were at 10 PM. And it got me to thinking about the importance of self, ego, society, and all kinds of fun stuff.

As the brain meandered about, it settled on an article I read yesterday on eco-guilt. The brain latched on the eco part and I stayed there a while.

I know eco-guilt well. Each time I fire up a gas engine, drink from styrofoam, or carry garbage to the dumpster, I feel a disturbance in the eco-force.

I figured out quickly that guilt was no good, so I switched over to the goals channel and came up with an overwhelming list of nitpicky goals. No good there either. So I stepped back a bit and found that I really have three eco goals:

Carbon reduction
Water conservation
Waste reduction

And then I thought of a fourth goal - spread the word.

So, how about you? How do guilt, goals, and self combine in your eco-self? What are you struggling with or working toward?

May you have a great Friday and find your answers!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

(Not So) Personal Carbon Reduction: the Global Apollo Program

'Sorry about that.

I know, there've been way too many wheels around here lately. National Drive Electric Week has been Mesquite Hugger's Shark Week. And I fear that we may have already jumped the Leaf. So let's get back to our most recent focus - Personal Carbon Reduction, or even better, Global Carbon Reduction.

I just learned about the Global Apollo Project, and I am pretty excited. Rather than bore you with my ramblers, let's go straight to video:

And then to the letter sent to world leaders in prep for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris:
Really, I just wanted to share this organization with you. May we create hope, action, and results by working together to create a better world in which to live and thrive.

Nat. Drive Electric Week: Buying vs. Building plus more Leaf Temptation

[I apologize - this one is a bit of a rambler.]

More about this Leaf further down the page

One of my favorite on-line places to hang out is It's (mostly) a forum for people who are involved with electric bicycles. A really common thread on E-S is a newbie who asks which new electric bike to buy - the question is normally answered by a chorus of Build Your Own Electric Bike for Half the Price - and End Up with a Better Bike in ten-part harmony. For those of us who have more mechanical skill and time than money, it's a very valid piece of advice (for electric bicycles.)

I feel pretty safe in saying that you cannot buy a decent quality electric bike for less than $1500, and it's quite possibe to build a very competent electric bike for somewhere around $800. Also, it can be done in very little time. One of the plusses (to me) is the amount of knowledge you gain by building (and repairing) your own. (I rode my electric bike smugly yesterday because I had just repaired the charging port and spent about $5 doing so.)

Back on the road!

Another online place I love to hang out is It is mostly for electric cars, especially the DIY conversions, but it, like E-S, has a little bit of everything. I love seeing the motorcycles, scooters, and bikes there. Lots of labors of love appear on there, and lots of shop-time epiphanies show up there too. And it links to EV Tradin' Post - dangerous stuff!

For many years, if you were an average joe or josie and wanted to drive electric, you had to build it yourself. That's no longer true.

I mentioned earlier this week that I would go drive a new Leaf for part of my own NDEW pursuits. So yesterday I jumped online and found that our local Nissan dealer does indeed have a new one in stock, a white 2015. And it is deeply discounted. And it is eligible for 0.0% finincing and a possible $5000 financing discount. And it's eligible for a $1500 Texas discount and a $7500 federal tax break. When all is said and done, the Mesquite Hugger household could have a new Leaf and a fast charger in the garage for less money than almost any new car on the market. And it could replace our primary driver that costs us $50-75 dollars per week in fuel plus lots of maintenance. (Like me, its age and mileage have made it much higher maintenance.) We could fairly easily put a huge check mark on our Personal Carbon Reduction checklist.

Oh the temptation! But then I step back. Times are tight. There are educations to pay for. We have done our best not to create new debt, and the jobs become steadily less secure. It's really not time for us to buy a new car, and like I keep telling myself, the best way to avoid temptation is to avoid temptation. I guess I had better not test drive a Leaf this week.

Maybe I could cancel the internet at home and give up the smart phone (upon which I am writing this post), cancel Netflix, and quit buying a $3 coffee each morning. I could also sell Lucy (sniff). All of that combined could help make Leaf payments.

The conclusion? Yes, it makes good sense to build your own electric bicycle, but it does not work out the same way for a car in most cases. Used (and even some new) electric cars have dropped into the range of attainability for the common person and are often much less expensive than building your own. (It's not hard these days to find a lightly used Leaf for $9000-$12000 - you will be hard pressed to build a quality electric for less than $12000.) As an added bonus, you can be driving your car during the two years you would've spent building your own. And it may even have a warranty still attached.

An electric pickup? Now that's another story. Until Nissan or Mitsubishi offers one up, you are probably better off building your own. Speaking of which, does anybody out there want a Mazda pickup that's halfway there? I may need some down payment money for a white Leaf...

May you avoid temptation unless it leads you to a better place, snagit!

PS. If you want a really cheap electric car, look at buying somebody else's conversion. These low gas prices may be hard on electric car sales, but they do wonders for electric car cheapskates. (I hope you are a good mechanic/electrician/plugger-inner.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

National Drive Electric Week: Popular Mechanics and Vintage DIY WeirdCoolness

I didn't know it, I was just a kid, but I grew up in a heyday of electric cars, and the charge was all documented and promoted in Popular Mechanics magazine. My grandfather kept a subscription, and I loved reading the magazine and checking out the ads in the back. For an 8-12 year-old, the electric vehicles were truly droolworthy stuff!

And lots more cool plans! (My fave is the Boonie Bug)
When the world is all crazy for Leafs and Teslas and Volts and so forth and so on, you may be wondering why I chose the Popular Mechanics article for today. Well, Craigslist got me again. I went to see what motorcycles were lurking around the area and found this little three-point diamond:
And now my overactive brain is scheming and dreaming. At 72 volts, this could be a mean green machine, at least as mean as you'd want in a delta trike. Oh the possibilities. Someone please buy this beast, yank the VW motor out, and make the Leaf and Volt drivers green with envy at next year's Lubbock National Drive Electric Week! If you build it, I will host the event!
May your journey to green be anything but boring!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

National Drive (Ride) Electric Week: A Moustache on an E-bike and some MH faves

found on pinterest

Generally speaking, NDEW events focus on electric cars, but there are other electric vehicles out there that make a lot of sense, especially to those of us who are hoping to save money while saving the earth - electric bicycles.

If you've spent much time around this blog, you know that the MH staff is pretty crazy about electric bicycles. And we love to list reasons why they make so much sense, but don't take our words for it.  A while back we re-posted a trying-out-an-ebike blog post from Mr. Money Moustache - a blog based on financial wellness and living a better life. Well, MMM has now posted a follow-up to that original post - and it sounds like the verdict is very favorable for electric bikes. Check it out:

Here are some of my favorite e-bikes in the less than and equal to $2000 category:

The Radwagon $1700 ($1400 if you act soon) (drool)

The Daymak Beast ($2000 for base model - yes, it's a stretch, but it has pedals. :-)

Do you want to learn more about factory-built e-bikes? Check out Electric Bike Report.

 Do you want to learn more about building your own e-bike(for a lot less money)? Check out the Endless-Sphere forum.

Do you want a low-carbon and inexpensive commuter that won't drench you in your own sweat? Check out an e-bike!

May you find yourself enjoying your commute, saving the earth, and treading lightly!

Bonus link from Mr. Money Moustache: Curing your Clown-like Car Habit (It may make you sputter and blush.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

National Drive Electric Week: I found my dream car! (Again!)

All roads lead to Johannesburg Anacortes, Washington. To start, JG, my work buddy, has an Aunt who lives there and drives a boring little brown four-door sedan, a Tesla Model S. Next, my buddy Chris (the Kanadian Kneivel) likes to take the ferry from Anacortes to the land where he grew up - Vancouver Island, BC. Knippa (who appears on these pages often) recently sent me a Craigslist ad for a mobile scooter rental shop for sale in Anacortes. Considering the fact that I live in dusty Lubbock, Texas, it's strange to me that Anacortes - a small town located on the very northwest corner of our country - should keep popping up like that.

 The Mesquite Hugger dream - right there near Seattle!

And this morning, Anacortes just popped up on my National Drive Electric Week radar in the form of a bright yellow citicar (the Mesquite Hugger unofficial representative of all electric cars) is for sale on Ebay. I think somebody is trying to tell me something...

American Electrons - my kind of patriot!
May you never stop dreaming AND may you find your own electric dream car!

Friday, September 11, 2015

It starts Saturday - National Drive Electric Week! (But not here.)

Fellow Lubbock people, if you want to attend the nearest NDEW event, you need to leave home early on Saturday, September 19. It's a five-hour drive east to Gapevine Mills Mall in Grapevine, Texas - the Dallas area.

Click here for more info on the Grapevine event

Yep, Lubbock is not the place to hang out if want to see, learn about, and possibly test drive electric vehicles. I posted a few weeks ago to gage interest in NDEW locally and one person sent up a +1 (Thanks, AK!), so I plan to celebrate NDEW in my usual way - by posting stuff on the internet and by cruising around on the electric Vespa and maybe work on ElectroPigeon 1. I might even swing by the local Nissan dealer to see if they have a Leaf in stock that I can test drive.

As for the posting part - let's get things started with a movie marathon. Here are trailers for three films I highly recommend if you are considering driving electric: (All three are avaialable on Netflix and various other outlets.)

Who Killed the Electric Car? (A great film about a big step back)

Revenge of the Electric Car! (A happy sequel!)

Charge (Trailer for electric motorcycle racing documentary - Go, Cedric Lynch!)
May you enjoy your time in the seat!