Personal Log  #30

June 9, 2002  -  June 26, 2002

Last Updated: Sat. 2/15/2003

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LMPG after 33,333 miles.  It's 44.5 now.  I don't expect it to fluctuate much in the future.  That number has been 44 something ever since the end of August last year.  With so many miles in the equation at this point, it would really take a huge change to budge the average in either direction beyond 44.  That's a good number.  I'm happy.


Alternate Tires - 2,175 mile status.  I can now confidently recommend the Goodyear Allegra tires as alternates to the Bridgestone Potenza tires that come standard on the Prius.  Handling is great.  Noise is pretty typical.  Ride comfort is nice.  Wear is almost non-existent.  42 front / 40 back PSI easily supports the extra load.  46 MPG has been my average lately.  And the fact that they are the same size (175/65R14), they are quite a bit less expensive ($54.98 each), and they are expected to last 2.5 times longer (75,000 miles) as the originals pretty much seals the deal.  No need for any further research.


80,000 website hits.  There are more Prius on roads throughout the world than I've had visits to my homepage.  Cool!


There's that Prius again.  While out on a walk, I abandoned a friend to catch the attention of a Prius passing by.  He saw me run up to it and give a big thumbs up.  The people inside the Prius were surprised I had noticed them.  We resumed our walk chatting about the excitement from that sighting.  Two short blocks down the road, there was that Prius again!  But this time, they were pursuing me!!  Having shown so much excitement before, they figured it would be pretty easy to ask me for directions.  When the window opened, I handed the passenger a website card.  Preoccupied with trying to find their way, he didn't look at it.  I bet afterward, it shocked them to see I have given something with a photo of a Prius on it.  I think I demonstrated yet another method of stealth!


FutureTruck Competition 2002.  A press release summarized the situation well: "Using a bio-diesel hybrid electric advanced technology system, a team of students successfully managed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a 2002 Ford Explorer without sacrificing performance or safety."  The team that took first place (from the University of Wisconsin-Madison) reduced emissions by 50 percent and increased efficiency by 45 percent.  According to General Motors, the maximum achievable improvement for a large truck or SUV is roughly 12 percent.  How come these students were able to significantly exceed that?


No More Steering Shudder.  They replaced the steering-rack and aligned the front-end.  The power-steering recall included Prius built before July 1, 2000.  My Prius was actually built on July 1, 2000.  So they didn't do the replacement initially. Very mild symptoms (the shudder when turning right and a soft cluck sound after hitting a bump) appeared at 22,000 miles, but became unnoticeable shortly afterward.  At about 29,500 miles they reappeared.  At 32,301 miles, I brought the Prius in for a checkup.  They ordered parts for me.  At 33,051 miles, they replaced the steering-rack (which was internally worn) with a pleasant attitude and a smile on their faces.  I was never charged for any of the work (about 5.5 hours overall).  And it never impaired driving at any time.  So I'm quite pleased.


The Electric Misconception... again!  An introduction to a presentation on fuel-cell vehicles stated electric vehicles were unsuccessful because they were slow and lacked power.  Hearing that really upset me.  That's not true at all.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  Electric motors deliver incredible torque and are astonishingly responsive.  The limited range, very slow charging rate, and dreadfully expensive battery replacement cost is what scared most customers away.  Duh!


Convertibles.  They're fun to encounter at intersections.  But today, being 2 vehicles too far forward, I missed an opportunity... or so I thought.  While waiting for the red light to change, I saw the driver and passenger focus their attention on the Prius.  And sure enough, they made a valiant effort to catch up to me when the light turned green.  Then the passenger yelled out a question with great excitement.  She asked if it was really electric.  I replied with a thumbs up (since having a conversation at 45 MPH with all the windows open tends to get a bit noisy).  She responded with a big smile.  Being so brief of an encounter, maybe that generated some curiosity.


4 Sightings in just 1 hour.  I stopped by to pickup my dad.  To my delight, I noticed another Prius parked near by.  Then only a few minutes later, another appeared.  We got out on the highway and spotted an Insight.  As we got close to home, there was yet another Prius.  Seeing that many hybrids in such a short amount of time was great! 


There's a Prius.  A group of us went out for lunch.  I drove.  There was another Prius owner with us.  He complained because we hadn't spotted one on the road.  I replied with a "There's a Prius".  He looked up and saw it over in the adjacent parking lot.  That put a smile on his face.


Lot's of feedback from owners.  A number of Prius owners sounded off about the "21st Century Children" they encounter.  They said their siblings are very much aware of the technology.  In fact, they are so fascinated with it that those sons & daughters routine provide short presentations for their young friends.  The knowledge & excitement is being spread from the children of owners.  Sweet!


Summer MPG.  I compromised the aerodynamics of my Prius on this week's tank, yet I still got pleasing results.   For the first 111 miles, I had a bike on back.  Dragging a bike sideways on the highway at 65 MPH with the A/C running half the way resulted in the Multi-Display showing 44.1 MPG overall (I filled the tank on the way out).  Seeing that was a bit depressing.  It's Summer now.  MPG is supposed be the highest during this time of the year.  Fortunately, afterward was a definite improvement.  The next 302 miles made the value climb to 47.8 MPG.  It calculated to 46.2 MPG at the pump.  Seeing that was nice, especially when you take into account the new alternate tires cause a MPG to drop too (since that aren't LRR).  For awhile there, I must have been getting close to 50 MPG to end up with that high of a result.  Cool!


Naked Driving!  I was riding my bicycle on a trail in Southern Minnesota.  A wall rain was approaching.  I still had 2.5 miles of the 26 mile trip left.  There was nothing I could do.  It hit me without mercy.  +40 MPH head winds pounded sand-sized hail into my bare arms (which quickly turned red & swollen) .  I had to dodge airborne debris.  The temperature plummeted from 81 F degrees to just 59 F.  I was dripping wet from head to toe.  Hypothermia became a genuine concern.  Reaching the Prius would be my salvation.  Thankfully, I did (and rather quickly with such a strong incentive)!  Then I very quickly loaded bike on back and jumped into the Prius.  I wasn't looking forward to an hour long drive in cold, wet clothes though.  I had suffered enough.  So... off they came!  I had a dry shirt available, but no pants!  So I just laid a blanket over my lap and drove away.  Dry, warm, and without the constraint of clothing below the waist felt wonderful.  It added a whole new dimension to hybrid driving... perhaps even the meaning of the word "stealth"!


21st Century Children.  Leaving the coffee shop, I saw the headlights of a Prius fly by.  So I punched it, slowed down next to them, then honked.  It was filled with teenage girls.  The driver looked barely old enough to drive.  I quickly got the impression they were having a night on the town using mom & dad's car.  They couldn't care less that I was in a Prius too.  Can you imagine what their perspective is like?  The incredible technology under the hood probably doesn't mean as much to that generation, they expect humanity to continuously deliver improvements.  It's the 21st Century after all.  Advancements like that are suppose to be normal, right?  All the science-fiction movies have portrayed the future that way...  The harsh realities of politics and profit-margins don't become apparent until later in life.  But in this case, the children will hopefully never need to know about the nightmare battle we are currently fighting to make hybrids common.  It would be great to see the history books refer to revolutionary improvements right around the turn-of-the-century.


Dealer Support.  While out on the bicycle, I decided to swing by my dealer.  To my delight, there were 6 new Prius on the lot and 1 on the showroom floor.  5 were well loaded (Cruise Control $250, Daytime Running Lights $40, Side Air Bags $250, Carpet Floor Mats $86, Compact Disc Desk $335, Glass Breakage Sensor $147, Wheel Locks $55).  And the sticker price of $21,643 was discounted to $20,997.  Having a dealer close by that's really into selling Prius is wonderful.  I haven't been disappointed in the least about the service they provide either.  I hope all the Toyota dealers eventually become like that.


Polished the Prius.  I used "Nu Finish".  It's a once-a-year polish that has proven very, very effective.  Not being able to reapply polish for a minimum of 6 months in Minnesota (far too cold) demands long-lasting protection.  Using it on my Taurus through 7 salty & sandy Winters confirmed there was a noticeable benefit.  Having that kind of success already made the choice for my Prius simple.


Gathering Photos.  The photos turned out terrific.  The ideal weather portrayed our ideal attitude rather well.  It took quite awhile to choose which ones made the cut though.  And the White Prius glowed very bright in contrast to the others, so quite a bit of editing was required to properly balance each photo as a whole.  But of course, it's worth it.  These will become the "classic" gathering photos.  (There will be a gathering on the east coast in a week that's expected to have triple the attendance, full picnic meals available, a building to meet in, and dealer sponsorship.  Having something similar here could become a real possibility.)  Pay particular close attention to the photos with the owners included.  We struggled to get everything setup perfectly for all the different cameras.  The effort paid off.  There's 12 photos for you to view here:  photo album 31


Aggressive Prius Pursuit.  While patiently waiting for a large pickup to merge onto a two-lane country highway, I saw a Prius drive by.  It was the first I had ever seen (besides my own) with bikes on back.  Cool!  The pickup pulled out.  My turn came.  At the moment I hit the accelerator, a creepy "sometimes wrong" feeling overcame me.  The pedal hit the floor.  I shot past the pickup.  Now just 2 vehicles separated us.  The highway widened in a short distance.  I waited.  1 vehicle merged over, the other was still in the way.  I swerved back & forth to creep the guy out and see the Prius better.  Both worked.  The guy got over and I discovered there really was "something wrong".  I could see the Prius's driver-front tire sinking!  The rim was approaching the road.  The pedal hit the floor again.  I honked.  It was necessary to hold the horn rather than just giving a friendly toot.  They saw I was also in the Prius but at the same time noticed the worried look on my face.  Following my finger-pointing, they opened their window and heard me yell "flat tire".  There was a gas station just a short block from there.  Rubber marks indicated exactly where the tire had been.  We stopped.  I jumped out.  Standing next to my Prius wearing a shirt with a Prius on it and having just flagged them down left a "what the heck?" feeling.  Seeing the now bald, completely flat tire with the rim resting on it and a trail of rubber behind was probably a bit overwhelming.  I walked over introduced myself then touched the tire.  It was hot and had a few very soft spots.  Tearing through the tire could have happened just moments later had they not stopped (for the nut in the other Prius).  It was quite a sight seeing all that rubber missing.  His other 3 tires were still in fairly decent shape.  Hopefully, seeing my alternate tires and hearing that getting a full-size spare helped provide a bit of reassurance.  That was certainly a Prius sighting I'll never forget.


Steering Shudder Fix.  I arrived early in the morning.  They asked for a details about what I had experienced.  Then I walked away, got a coffee, setup my laptop computer in a cubical in the dealer's area, and worked on the website.  An hour later, the steering had been adjusted (it's very smooooth now) and there was a replacement order for the EMPS (since my Prius missed the official recall cutoff by just 1 day: 7-01-2000).  In short, all went extraordinarily well.  The replacement should take place early next week when the part arrives.  Meanwhile, I think I'll go for drive.


Tall Trunk Benefit.  When it's sweltering hot out, you're truly grateful when the ice is still in solid form. So when I bought a cooler recently, I got one that was double-insulted. (It's a Coleman "Extreme", the big gray one I had at the Gathering.) For the cooler to still be practical, the extra thickness couldn't be allowed to reduce the internal height. If it did, you wouldn't be able to stack 6-packs or keep bottles up right. That means the cooler has to be extra tall. Even so, it still (just barely) fits in the trunk of the Prius.  For "bigger" cars, that supposedly have "bigger" trunks (like a Ford Taurus), the cooler doesn't fit. Those "bigger" trunks are deep, not tall. That also means you have to lay down suitcases, making them less accessible sometimes. In a Prius, the extra tall interior will allows some suitcases to be packed upright, making them easier to get at later.  More and more, the adventures with my Prius are turning into a story of "the little car that could!"

6-09-2002 Relaxed Bladder.  That's in reference to the Prius of course, not me.  The temperature was in the upper 50's when I previously filled up.  Today, it was 86 F degrees.  To no surprise, more gas fit in the tank than usual.  It must truly be a sign that Summer has finally arrived when the bladder completely relaxes like that; however, it makes my short-term MPG look disappointing.  The Multi-Display said 47.9 but my calculations worked out to just 43.7.  The real number somewhere between.


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