Personal Log  #17

November 4, 2001  -  December 1, 2001

Last Updated: Mon. 11/26/2003

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Oh, an accident.  Usually people get upset when there's a significant delay caused by a traffic accident.  Today when I encountered one, I said to myself "that's fine".  Your attitude changes when you own a Prius.  Having the engine shut off so you can creep through the slow, endless traffic in stealth-mode is rewarding.  So you really don't mind much.


November MPG stats.  There's a noticeable difference:  November 2000 MPG = 42.5    November 2001 MPG = 46.3  I think in this case it's very safe to say the better performance was due to warmer weather.  The accumulating snow didn't arrive this year until the final week.


Warmest November in recorded history.  Two months in a row we've broken the all time highest average temperatures.  I would much rather have "normal" instead, if there is such a thing anymore.


There's an electric scooter.  I saw one zip by on the sidewalk.  That would have been an exciting event if I didn't own a hybrid-electric.  Prius has raised my "coolness" standard.


User-Guide progress.  I'm still working on the updates everyone contributed.  (Thanks again.)  Going is slower now.  Burn out was a reality.  So I took some time off last night and pursued a pleasant distraction: Prius Photos!  I feel better now but don't know when they'll be published since I'd like to be able to provide a final (or so) draft of the guide later this week.  Hang in there, eventually you'll see both.


Not a good idea.  An article published today pointed out how vulnerable our oil pipelines are (to terrorists) and how dumb it would be to create even more of them.  Well, my response to that is: Duh!  And we really don't need more anyway, now that hybrids have been proven a realistic alternative.


Stealth Crossing.  For the very first time I got through the entire commute river jam without the engine running at all.  Every morning traffic clogs up at the Mississippi River bridge then backs up for about two miles.  I can easily glide down the river valley part, it's that minor climb uphill beforehand that's the problem.  Speeds that far back are rarely steady.  So the engine will always startup somewhere along that stretch and run for just a few seconds to provide a brief boost of thrust.  Today I did the whole thing using just battery power.  And I bet no one even noticed!


Winter has arrived.  The first accumulating snow is falling now.  It looks like the northern part of the Twin Cities will get around a foot of the wet, heavy, white stuff.  The drive home from work averaged only 35 MPH on the highway.  That resulted in a MPG increase, despite the fact that it's colder now.  Hurray?


Tested the full-size spare tire.  The dealer had done just a quick, simple check to insure the spare tire I had built would actually work on a Prius.  Knowing that dry, clean days will soon be just a memory (until at least March), I said "what the heck".  So I removed the passenger-front tire, replaced it with the spare, then went for a drive.  That resulted in several discoveries.  First is how easy changing oil myself will be.  There's a perfect spot for both the jack and a stand, plus the oil pan is offset (very close to the tire rather than near the center like virtually all other vehicles).  That means simply lifting a corner of the car, instead of the whole front, is all it takes.  Second is gripping the tire is almost effortless.  The large spokes on the aluminum rims act like handles, they're the perfect size.  No fumbling around like with tires on other vehicles.  Another advantage of that design is how easy it is to see what's going on behind the tire by looking through the spokes.  It makes lining up posts simple.  Lastly, I got a good look at the plastic protecting the wheel-well.  The noise from driving over sand has been a source of concern for some people, thinking damage may be caused due to the soft tires picking up so much.  It turns out that the placement, shape, and thickness of that plastic covers the spray area really well, but that design amplifies noise.  Oh well, the Prius is still quieter than other vehicles.  So anyway, I went for a drive with spare on.  Everything performed just fine, except the tire is no longer brand new anymore.  At least I feel good about having tried it in a test situation rather than the real thing.


On the History Channel.  I miss my early Sunday morning routine.  That cable channel use to show documentaries on the evolution of the automobile.  They were very entertaining because some of those retrospective shows were 20 years old themselves.  That made them informative too, several perspectives all available at the same time... much like now with the introduction of the hybrids.  Hmmm?  It makes you think.  I'm actually contributing to that next step right here, right now by documenting this history.  Sweet!  (So much for being humble.)


Bought a Squeegee.  Normally during the Winter, I'd clean the windows every time I fill up.  Not having to go to the gas station as often actually creates a problem.  I can't wait that long.  The windows get too dirty in the meantime.  So cleaning will now be at home instead... in the comfort of my garage.  That will nice!


Prius USER-GUIDE.  That's the name of the new project.  It's an 8 page document now.  The emails filled with suggestions keep flooding in.  I've got me work cut out for me to make all those updates.  It's worth it though.


Another Silver Prius.  Wow!  Two in the same day.  I honked.  They didn't notice.  Bummer.


Whoa!  There's a Prius.  An Avalon aggressively approached behind me.  I wasn't too thrilled.  But when it passed, my attitude quickly changed.  The now behind me was a Silver Prius and the occupants were excited to see mine.  They quickly pulled up along side me and all waved.  Cool!  That was quite a surprise.  It was going the same direction as me too.  So I got to follow for a few miles.  Then we both got to an intersection with a red light.  I debated about jumping out up of my Prius with a few Info-Sheets and Cards.  I decided not to.  We parted at that point.  I now regret not having taken that extra step.  Oh well.  That missed opportunity will probably inspire me to do something else.


Prius on "Thieves".   This new television show keeps having Prius appearances, and I continue to miss them.  Tonight's episode was especially disheartening.  Posts popped up on the discussion-group quickly afterward commenting how great it was.  I wish I would have remembered to watch (and record) it.  Now I'm going to have to wait for a rerun.  More Prius waiting.  Dang!


Started a new Prius project.  For a year and a half we've been sharing information in the group & club.  Several online attempts have been made to summarize what we've learned, but none were intentionally designed for offline use.  The Info-Sheet project was very successful.  Countless printouts have been distributed by Prius owners throughout the country.  I wondered if a document to compliment that could be created.  There's a lot of creative and resourceful people willing to help.  So posted a message stating my intentions.


I feel like a director sometimes.  When my thoughts wander back to photos, I think about all I've learned from listening to so many director's commentaries (the voice-over sound-track available on DVDs for many popular movies).  Directors mention how they're forced to cut favorite scenes for the benefit of the movie overall.  I go out and meticulously take 300 photos then end up deleting all but 15 of them.  Choosing which ultimately gets published is a rather painful process.  But the collection of Prius photos I now have offers quite a wide variety, so I'm really glad I was able to part with so many.


Morning temperatures are in the 20's.  Reality is setting in now.  Snow & Ice will been a common sight soon.  That means I won't see 50 MPG tanks again for quite awhile.  It also means keeping the Prius clean will be extremely difficult too.  Oh well.


Broke another weather record.  We had an 11-day average warmer than any other during that same period in November since 1895.


Harvest photo #8.  I had to point out this particular photo because it has a surprise in the background.  The farmer just happened to drive by the top of the hill.  That caught my eye as a great opportunity.  So in a panic, I realigned my shot to include the tractor.  It worked out fantastic!  Not only did I get that, I was also able to catch the light from the setting sun just right to get the Green Prius paint to illuminate to a bright Emerald color.  It's pretty sweet!  (So in other words, I got extraordinarily lucky.)


11 new HARVEST photos.   This set is truly unique.  They're what I've looked forward to taking since last Spring.  I drove all over (a pleasure in itself) looking for tall, yellow, dry, corn still standing.  I found a lot more than that, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect (sunny and 20 F degrees above normal).  So there's quite a variety of photos.  During many different times on two separate days I took photos with corn in various phases of being harvested while proudly displaying my Prius in the foreground (which meant I had to do a little off-road driving, something the motor handles exceptionally well).  I'm quite pleased with the way they turned out:  photo album 26


3 new FALL photos.   These created a whole new category in the collection.  I captured what it looks like after the vibrant colors are gone.  The results are surprisingly appealing:  photo album 26


Warmest October in recorded history.  Back in 1895 we started documenting temperatures. Last month will now be known as having the highest average October in Minnesota for 106 years.  We keep breaking records.  That's reason to be concerned, or if nothing else more attentive.


Defrost scared me.   I'm used to stealth at intersections.  After silently sitting still for a minute, the Prius needed more heat for the defroster.  So it turned the engine back on.  Suddenly there was noise and vibration just like all the other vehicles around me.  That startled me a bit, but it sure beats running all the time.


Prius CVT is like Green Ketchup.  That color on your french fries makes your eyes crazy despite the fact that your mouth says they taste just fine. The smoothness of the Prius CVT (continuously variable transmission) has the same effect.  Your brain knows it's working perfectly, but your senses don't agree because there isn't anything to feel.  Not having the surge of RPMs changing and gears shifting like in traditional vehicles is a bit disappointing to new Prius owners, at first.  But later, they realize how rewarding smooooth can be.  (Hey, be thankful I didn't compare it to this quote from "Wayne's World".  Garth said, "It's like new underwear.  At first it's a bit constricting, then later it becomes a part of you.")


Rain & Thunder?  I was prepared for that white, cold, slippery stuff to start accumulating; instead, we're getting a summer storm.  It might be safe to say these routine recording-breaking warm temperatures might have something to do with emissions.  It's a good thing Prius is so clean.


"Pick Up Jason" advertisement.  Here's another new Prius promotion from Toyota:  ad scans 2


Bladder Effect.  The calculated MPG results are starting to fluctuate now.  That means it's cold enough for the bladder inside the gas tank (used to significantly reduce vapor emissions) to contract, which reduces the capacity.  (In the dead of Minnesota Winter, the size is about 1.5 gallons less than in the Summer.)  This causes the "full" value to change making per-tank calculations inaccurate.  Fortunately, the Lifetime MPG value remains correct overall.  So temperature has both a true and a perceived effect on performance, see:  personal data 4


Rollercoaster ride.  Thank goodness the Prius is smooth, gas prices certainly aren't.  A few days ago, a gallon got all the way down to $1.06.  Then it spiked to $1.29.  Now it's at $1.15. 


October MPG stats.  Now that I'm on the second year, I actually can do comparisons:  October 2000 MPG = 44.2    October 2001 MPG = 46.5  I wonder how much was temperature effect and how much was break-in (both the Prius and my hybrid driving skills)?  Whatever the case, my lifetime is now:  22,559 miles / 508.348 gallons = 44.4 MPG


15 more Fall Prius Photos.  I took this set of photos 150 miles further south almost 2 weeks later and spent the whole day doing it.  So these add to the variety.  I'm quite pleased I took advantage that warm weather and all the great colors.  (It could be quite awhile before an opportunity like that happens again.)  Pay particular attention to photos 55 & 56; they were taken at SES, the site of the August Gathering.  The huge valley of trees made a nice background with so many colors.  Hope you like them:  photo album 25


Triggered Stealth While Climbing Uphill.  Whoa!  I got quite a surprise this morning.  What a great way to start the new week.  While driving up the spiral in the parking ramp to get to a higher floor, the engine shut off!  I routinely do that climb at 8 to 11 MPH using just the motor anyway. But if the engine is running when I start, it always stays running... until today.  I guess the Prius trusted that I would be able to maintain that exact power level, so it decided to save some gas.  Sweet!


New Corny Photos.  Having the temperatures now 20F degrees above normal is really nice.  I drove all over today enjoying that beautiful very late Fall weather.  My goal was to find fields of dry, unharvested corn for photo backgrounds. It took a lot of driving (oh darn) but since I'm willing to go off-road with the Prius (which the motor makes a pure joy) I wasn't disappointed.  I also found a few ponds that were quite appealing too.  Needless to say, there's a bunch of a new type of Prius Photo on the way.


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