No Need To Go To Mexico

After Saturday morning’s impressive snow fall in Albuquerque, people were cross-country skiing in the Sandia Mountain foothills.  We went on a very nice hike in foot deep snow.  Then just 24 hours later I was riding my mountain bike in the same area, wearing biking shorts and a t-shirt.

Sandia Mountain Foothills Saturday Morning

Seeing so much snow vanish in this timeframe caused a bit of mental dissonance.  While biking I thought about our hike the previous day, and remembered a trip to Mexico one winter.  Sunday afternoon it felt as if I had just debarked off a plane after flying for hours from the New England to Los Cabos, Mexico.  The contrast between Saturday’s snow and Sunday afternoon’s hot sun and the warm air was just as great.

Sandia Mountain Foothills Sunday Afternoon

So I decide that this was a gift from above in more ways than one.  We got to experience two different seasons during the same weekend and I got to participate in two really fun activities. The land and the aquifer both received some much needed water.  Once again I felt fortunate to live in a part of the country with such amazing diversity of culture, weather and outdoor activities.  This place really is The Land of Enchantment!

Mountain biking in Sandia Foothills on Sunday

Mountain biking in Sandia Foothills on Sunday

Saturday Hike With Dogs

Saturday Hike With Dogs

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Keeping the Cost of Automobile Ownership Low, Sustainably

This post is about one strategy to get the total cost of ownership of an automobile as low as practical, while being safe and environmentally responsible. Of course there’s more than one way to ‘skin the cat’ so to speak, so this is only one approach, but I hope you’ll find it interesting. Since you might be among those that don’t want to make car payments forever, this post will give you an overview of the lessons learned and provide some resources for learning more. You’ll also find concrete steps you can take to reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO) and carbon footprint to levels so low, you might expend more getting a motorcycle or a Prius. Oh, and one last bit before you read further, if you’re in a long-term relationship make sure you have your significant other’s buy-in before giving him or her the keys to something unexpected and a bit out of the mainstream. The cost of the divorce would otherwise offset any potential savings.

It could be argued that automobiles define a part of our culture, but there’s no argument that they are expensive and a significant part of most people’s budget. Our family has one for each member, and at times I’ll even purchase an extra vehicle when I see an orphan in need of a little love. That means that we bear the costs of operating, maintaining and insuring at least four vehicles. So for us to manage our TCO aggressively, is probably not a waste of time.  And the less we have to work, well the more time we get to visit really beautiful places.

New Mexico Road

New Mexico Road

First let me get some disclosures out of the way. I’m very opinionated about cars. I think there’s more effort spent on showing off wealth (real or not) than keeping it, or staying away from debt, both by the public and the manufacturers. I do have one advantage and it is that I enjoy fixing and maintaining things myself, and a family that doesn’t mind driving in nice but older cars.  But, while that’s a good way to reduce your TCO, it’s not the only way. Also interestingly perhaps, I’m a computer engineer and I don’t like computers … in my car that is. I’ll explain more later, but if you are enamored by today’s automotive technologies and are happy to pay for it, this blog post might not be for you. Also I’m not entirely rational in my auto choices. While I don’t like a lot of computers in my car, we once owned a 2007 Toyota Prius, with more computing power than a Hal 9000. The Prius has since been sold, but I’m still keeping a 1990 Jeep Cherokee 4.0 in the stable. Reason is, the Jeep takes us on some nice forest roads that I’ve tried with other cars and cringed the whole time, or gotten stuck. Don’t ask about our rainy-day trip to Chaco Canyon in the 1981 300SD. That day-trip turned into a day+night trip.

Chaco Canyon Wash

Chaco Canyon Wash

Speaking of memorable experiences if you currently drive a full-size SUV and you’ve been in an accident, you might shudder at some of the choices on Mr Money Mustache’s 10 Cars For Smart People. But that’s not entirely rational. I think that the Money Mustache list is one of the best. Most of these cars are safe, practical and reliable hatchbacks. The top three of the list include the 2009 Honda Fit, the 2007-2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring and the ’06-’09 Mazda 3, all fairly compact cars. Our family owns one further down the list, a 2003 Toyota Matrix. But while it’s true that size matters, driving defensively matters more. Stability control won’t make up for poor driver attention, and airbags won’t keep your neck straight in a rollover. A compact car is far less likely to rollover in an accident than an SUV or pickup-truck.  You know who currently has the best stability control and accident avoidance system is in the world?  You do, your brain.

Toyota Matrix

Toyota Matrix

There are very few « Smart » lists that include pickup-trucks. Unless if you’re in the ranching or construction business, it’s pretty tough to justify a pickup truck. Maybe you’re a guy that wants to attract girls that like guys in pickup-trucks, and that’s cool. But if it’s to haul stuff from time to time, did you notice that most truck beds are shorter than eight feet? Our Toyota Matrix routinely hauls back some 8-foot long items back from Home Depot, with the seats down and the rear hatch closed. What about that bedroom set you might purchase on Craigslist? Well for that I have a hitch on one car and a 8×4 folding trailer in the garage, up against the side wall. It gets used once or twice a year to haul larger items, and take stuff to the dump. Put it this way, I’ve never been in a situation where I wished I had a pickup-truck and had to rent one, which of course is always an option.

Now let’s get to the really cool stuff. Getting your total cost of ownership even lower than the cars on Mr. Money Mustache’s list. For that you’ll need to choose the drive-train first and then the chassis, and be maybe prepare for an alternative fuel lifestyle. By-the-way the drive-train includes the engine and the transmission. It’s no fun to have a vehicle with a fantastic engine and be spending a lot of money on transmission repairs. When you focus on the drive-train first you’ll find many models that share the same components but only look different on the outside. A nice example is our Toyota Matrix, that shares the mechanicals of the Pontiac Vibe. Both use the venerable Toyota made 1ZZ-FE four cylinder also used on the Corolla.

Mercedes

Mercedes

But the « pièce de résistance » is not the Toyota 1ZZ-FE, but a Mercedes OM-617 turbo-diesel. The OM-617 is a masterpiece of engineering from the 1970’s and 80’s that will put up with the harshest conditions and even neglect. According to Wikipedia “The OM617 is considered to be one of the most reliable engines ever produced with engines often reaching over 1.000.000 Km without being rebuilt and is one of the key reasons for Mercedes’ popularity in North America in the 1980s » But wait, there’s more … this engine will run on any oil, as long as the viscosity isn’t too high. Of course biodiesel, but you could also purchase a conversion kit to build a dual-tank system and run your car on used vegetable oil (VO). You read that correctly, you would only need regular diesel to start up on a cold day, and then drive using renewable fuel all day once warm. The OM-617 gets between 27-30 MPG combined, and when running on VO who’s counting? An experimental petroleum-diesel/VO hybrid trip to Las Cruces once when I wrote A Vegetable Oil Diesel Conversion Guide yielded the equivalent of 480 MPG on regular diesel. The MPG on VO was 27.5 MPG.

Running biodiesel or VO is sulphur-free, carbon neutral and certainly smells better. According to the EPA it’s also significantly less polluting.  While it’s true that we use fossil fuels for farming, the plants temporarily capture carbon that ends up in the atmosphere wether or not we burn the oil. The only way to avoid the oil decay process that puts carbon back into the atmosphere is to keep oxygen away from the oils, and that’s not easily done. Just ask the dinosaurs about anaerobic decomposition. Filtering oil can be the hardest part of the process, and there are not many businesses that offer used but filtered vegetable oil for refilling professionally. You can check the U.S. DEO Alternative Fuels Database, or find a licensed business that pumps filtered and certified straight vegetable oil (SVO) fuel.  The cost will typically be 2/3 of the price of diesel, and meet the strictest standards.  Some folks end up doing this in their garages, but what if you don’t have a garage? Fortunately there’s guidance from Tonya Kay here for you Running Your Car on Waste Vegetable Oil, but check your local laws first.

Now going back to the drive-train choice, don’t overlook your long-term needs when selecting the body style to go along with your OM-617, or whatever your research turns up as the most awesome engine/transmission. When I did so I was commuting to Santa Fe and thought a long-wheelbase car would be best. But that job didn’t last for long and I found myself wishing I had purchased a wagon with that engine instead. The venerable W123 wagon is what I wish I had purchased instead of the W126.

W123 Mercedes Wagon

W123 Mercedes Wagon

Mercedes-Benz W123 T-Modell rear 20090430” by Rudolf StrickerOwn work. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons.

I mentioned in the beginning of this article that I don’t like computers in my car, and I don’t think you will either in the long-run. Not only is it additional complexity and future maintenance cost, but there’s really a TCO disadvantage. Manufacturers used to place engine control systems in cooler places like the passenger compartment, or in a specially heat-protected enclosure. Today manufacturers are doing everything they can to reduce their materials costs, especially with copper wiring.  I have seen the Engine Control Unit on 2014 models installed in the engine compartment, just inches above the exhaust manifold.  Hmm, I wonder how long that unit will last?

Engine Control Unit

Engine Control Unit

Today most people think that the technology is necessary, but it doesn’t seem to have been applied in the right places, at least when it comes to fuel economy. A fews years ago I purchased a 1997 Mercedes E300D with the intention of converting it to run on VO while writing a guide to cover the steps involved. It was a very beautiful diesel, much quieter than my 1981. But wait, its MPG was about 27, and it had a hybrid vacuum and electronic control system that I felt I would not be able to maintain easily as the car got older. I sold it for the same reason I sold the Prius. I want a vehicle I can maintain myself for the next 20-30 years. So if I purchase a 30-year old vehicle it had better have a 60-year life expectancy. How many vehicles can you think of fit in that category?

Mercedes W126

Mercedes W126

So we still drive the 1981 Mercedes 300SD known as a W126, and although it is much bigger car than I would liked it gets decent mileage. In fact it gets better diesel city mileage than the 2015 Mercedes E250BlueTEC Sedan, which is also rated at 27 mpg.

Strange, no? How little progress we’ve made with technology after 34 years of diesel engine development!  Oh, and don’t tell me that other manufacturers are doing any better.  I used to own a 1986 VW Golf that managed 45+ MPG, about what today’s 2015 VW Golf model is getting.  The 300SD is an even bigger car than the E250, and mine gets 28 mpg around Albuquerque with a purely mechanical fuel injection pump and absolutely no engine electronics. I know that because I once drove back from Santa Fe with a dead alternator and a discharged battery. While a new car looks all shiny, why would anyone who cares about TCO purchase a new vehicle? Besides, if we get the Zombie Apocalypse I would place my bets with the 1980’s models.

With each passing year it seems that the 300SD purchase made in 1999 seems smarter. For one the resale value is basically unchanged, and has actually increased for some models.  At the time my new purchase had 110,000 miles, and today with 280,000 miles it is still averaging much less than $500 in annual maintenance, and that includes fluids, pads, oil changes, every kind of repair over 16 years of ownership including an unexpected major engine overhaul (due to a previous mechanic’s mistake). For comparison Edmunds TCO Maintenance and Repair Costs for a 2009 Toyota Matrix is $1,968 per year, after 5 years of ownership.  I’ve not found a single contemporary vehicle that I can keep running for less than $500/year.

Most owners ditch their cars after their first repair over $2000, but forget to average the cost over time. Even sticking with the higher maintenance costs of a more modern looking model from Mr. Mustache’s list, isn’t it better to make a car payment once in a while, rather than every month? But if you don’t care what people think about your old car, the biggest headaches you can expect with a 1970’s or 80’s Mercedes will likely have to do with window regulators, door checks and driver’s seat springs. I’ve since purchased another, a 1980 model. It also has the OM-617 engine with 120,000 miles.  Brand new basically.

W123 Sedan

W123 Sedan

The bottom line is don’t necessarily look for a 1970’s or 80’s Mercedes wagon, but look for something with an amazing drivetrain and a hatchback body so you don’t need a pickup-truck. Look for a super reliable machine that you can keep for decades, and since you’ll be buying something at least a decade old to avoid too much expensive and fragile technology, you’ll be needing a car with a 50 year life-expectancy. Oh I almost forgot, people ask me where I get parts for the 80’s cars, as if that was a challenge. I buy original new parts online and sometimes the dealer if for some strange reason I can’t find it on online. Once in a while there’s something being parted out on Craigslist too, and that can yield some amazing savings. No matter your source, it’s important to avoid cheap after-market parts in something you want to serve you for several decades. I see my 34 year-old car as being middle aged, and hope it serves me for another 34 years. Well, unless if I find a W123 wagon with an OM617 turbo before you do.  But you’d better hurry because I’ve noticed that prices have started rising quite dramatically, instead of falling as one might expect with a newer so called “modern car”.

If you have any cool ideas for reducing your own TCO, please leave them in the comments below.

Happy driving!

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Safe Fun in the Sandia Mountains

I should write more about one of my favorite pastimes which also happens to be a great workout, and that is going for hikes and picnics in the Sandia Mountains. Not only do I want to share the beauty of the Sandias with others, but I have some safety tips to impart others, so that they may enjoy the natural beauty without too much difficulty. A recent comment from a friend that volunteers with Search and Rescue made me think to write this and provide some tips.

Scenic Views

Scenic Views

One of my favorite hikes is a loop that I now complete in about two hours and a half. It used to take me much longer, but as I’ve become more familiar with the terrain and in better shape my time has dropped. It’s the best workout for the body and mind. The views are amazing! I encourage everyone that enjoys the New Mexico outdoors to recharge their mind and body with a regular hike in the Sandias.

Overseeing Albuquerque

Overseeing Albuquerque

There are not that many cities in with World with such a magnificent backdrop as Albuquerque has. Not only do we have miles of amazing walking and biking trails in the foothills, but there are many trails that head up into the wilderness, some going all the way to the crest. There are many great trails, and I’ll choose one depending on how much time and energy I have. But I won’t go without the essentials.

One essential for the Sandias is a great pair of hiking boots. The terrain tends to include a lot of loose sandy gravel, really small granite bits that can cause you to slip suddenly in steep parts of the trail. For this you won’t believe the difference that aggressive tread on a pair of running shoes, or hiking boots can make. I don’t exaggerate much when I say that you’ll want to buy shoes/boots where the tread looks like the tires from a monster truck. Take your time shopping because good shoes can mean the difference between a safe hike down and a scary one, or worse.

Soapweed Yucca

Soapweed Yucca

Speaking of shoes, one gotcha for unsuspecting or new hikers is what I call “Sandia tied shoelaces”. It’s not really having your shoelaces tied, but it will feel just like it if you step on the stem of a Soapweed Yucca with one food and try to walk through with the other. This plant is often found on edges of trails and has stems as strong as rope. There’s no give and you might take a very dangerous fall as a result, especially when walking downhill.

In case an out of town visitor is reading this, please don’t head up with just a T-shirt and shorts, no matter how warm it might seem at the time. The temps drop with altitude, and then continue to drop with time after the sun sets. So another essential is layered clothing. A windbreaker can be packed in a tiny fanny-pack and really help if the weather turns unexpectedly.

Steep Trail

Steep Trail

Water won’t seem that important to bring along until you start to feel dehydrated. I’m not a physiologist but I’m pretty sure experts will agree that dehydration can effect your mental state. There’s not much water in the Sandias, except after it rains in some of the nooks on certain rocks. There are springs and the stream along Domingo Baca Canyon, but Murphy’s law says you’ll be lost somewhere else when you didn’t bring water.

There are other things to bring depending on where you go, and your personal needs. Be mindful that letting others know is a good idea, no matter how short you think your hike is going to be. It’s possible to sprain an ankle no matter how careful one is, so you might have to sit around and wait for help. Having a small LED flashlight, or headlamp would make being found much easier. Also people do get lost or disoriented in the Sandias every year, and cell service can be spotty in some parts of the mountain. Search and Rescue (SAR) participates in a rescue every other week on average according to my friend.

Hiking Companion

Hiking Companion

But once prepared you’re less likely to need SAR’s help. And then the best thing to bring along is a friend either human, canine or better both. You can even persuade them to carry your picnic lunch and water for you!

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Free TV Plus Netflix on Chromecast Beats Cable

Today I’m going to write about cutting your monthly costs by replacing your cable TV subscription with Netflix and free broadcast TV. Why pay the cable company when you can turn your TV into a “Smart TV” with free local channels? You do this by connecting your TV to the Internet using an adapter made by Google, and replace the cable connection with a digital antenna to receive local broadcasts.

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

It’s actually inexpensive to turn your regular TV a “Smart TV”. Google sells a device called Chromecast for $35.00. Once plugged in to your TV’s HDMI port, you can stream movies, music and just about any content on the Internet. You can use your Android or Apple phone or tablet to choose movies, browse shows, listen to music, watch Youtube and more. There are hundreds of apps available on the Play Store and the App Store that are Chromecast compatible.

After June 2009 when TV broadcasters switched to digital signals from analog, most analog antennas found their way to the trash bin, or recycler. As people replaced their TVs with digital ones, most opted for cable since it was still relatively inexpensive, and they weren’t also paying for several data plans.

But, today each family likely pays for Internet, cable, more than one wireless phone and data plan, and quite a few still keep their land-lines well. Adding each of these monthly expenses and then multiplying them by twelve to see their total yearly cost can be eye opening. So, it makes sense to see if you can watch movies over the Internet instead of cable.

Antenna/Cable Connection

Antenna/Cable Connection

The most difficult part here is probably not going to be getting Chromecast to work, unless if you have an Internet service that requires two logins, which I covered in my Tech Blog. Most likely you’ll find that getting your local channels will be a more challenging. You’ll need to either get an indoor antenna that supports digital channels, or a roof mounted outdoor antenna in certain locations where the signals can be weak. In any event you’ll simply replace the cable connection with the digital antenna.

Cable Connection

Cable Connection

I previously tried an indoor digital antenna with a built in amplifier, but found that some channels were not coming in at all. So I purchased an antenna online and installed it on the roof. Connecting it to our TV was easy because I was able to unplug the cable company’s connection outside the house and plug in the outdoor antenna in its place. This way our TV simply stayed plugged into our cable wall outlet. Depending on your setup, you may not have such a simple installation.

Which is why you’ll like installing your Chromecast. The installation is as east as 1-2-3. You plug Chromecast into the wall or a USB outlet for power, plug it into the TV’s HDMI port, and wait for the WiFi connection to connect.

Chromecast Installation Instructions

Chromecast Installation Instructions

I hope that this post helps you reduce your monthly costs, while not feeling like you’re cutting the cord completely. In fact you might discover a whole new world of entertainment with your new “Smart TV”.

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Interstellar Trip, No Lifeboats

The 2014 film Interstellar might have us thinking that if we deplete the Earth’s ability to support life, we’ll just find another planet to move to. The film depicts a heroic attempt to save humanity after the climate on Earth has become unfit to support growing crops. In this post we’ll take a high level view of this issue, figuratively speaking, from space.

Interstellar Film

Interstellar Film

I’ve noticed from both sides of the climate change argument, the idea that we’ll simply find a technology solution to the problem, if it is even a problem. Everything from Geo-Engineering that scientist now say might harm billions of people to Space Colonization is being considered. Geo-Engineering will very likely take the concept of “Unintended Consequences” to far greater depths than anyone can imagine. Space Colonization has the same chance as a virus spreading from someone stranded on a desert island.

The bottom line is that we have evolved as a species and matched for life on a unique and irreplaceable ship that travels through space. This ship revolves around its own virtually unlimited power source, which English speaking inhabitants call “Sun”. That power source delivers about 1000 watts of power on every square meter of the spaceship’s surface closest to the equator. There’s ample power and according to Sandia National Laboratories, we would need to use 4.4% of the ship’s surface to capture 15 terrawats of purely solar energy.

If it’s going places that we’re after as a species we should note that as the Earth revolves around the Sun, the Sun is itself moving through space around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour (792,000 km/hr).

The ship Earth itself has its own Star Trek like shield that prevents some really nasty stuff from the fusion power source from reaching the surface.

Shield's Up!

Shield’s Up!

The Earth has its own self regulating atmosphere, that of course given the size takes a long time to change. Food and water are provided on the ship for all occupants requiring only a reasonable amount of work to manage and distribute. While there are conflicts around how to resolve localized food shortages, living off the Earth has proven to be far more difficult. We’ve endeavoured at great expense to support life off Earth for just a few people, without trying to support life for hundreds. Besides, if we can’t figure out how to end famines on Earth, what makes us think we can do so in space where things are just a bit tougher.

Earth's Protective Shield

Earth’s Protective Shield

We’re learning that human beings are not cut out for life in space. None of the things that we take for granted on Earth would be readily available in space. We fancy life on nearby planets such as Mars, or in spinning space stations, while not giving much thought to the sustainability of future generations in these environments. Just how would we expand a space ship heading to Proxima Centauri to handle population growth? Oh, I shouldn’t have asked, that would obviously not be an option and perhaps a touchy subject.

The film Interstellar compels us to examine our fate as a species. In the film we destroy our only home and go looking into a magically appearing wormhole for another. The film is excellent and I won’t give you any spoilers here, except to say that you should watch closely what Dr. Mann does to place his individual needs ahead of mankind’s. There’s just a little symbolism there.

However the film doesn’t examine whether we’ll treat any newfound planet better than Earth. It’s actually an important question, because if we simply deplete one planet of resources and life, then we are acting more like a deadly virus strain. Actually in this case a virus has better odds than mankind, since it has other nearby hosts to spread to. A virus species is not dependent on a « wormhole strategy », or Geo-Engineering for survival.

Hubble Spiral Galaxy Image

Hubble Spiral Galaxy Image

Ultimately if we are to continue to neglect our stewardship role on Earth, we should not delude ourselves with Science Fiction. Interstellar is awesome, but we need to keep an eye on the big picture, and that can only come while seeing our incredibly unique and awesome Earth-ship from a different perspective: As if it was in fact a ship carrying us on a journey through space, with perhaps no working life-boats.

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Traveling Around North America in a Veggie Powered School Bus

Today we met a couple traveling through the country in their waste vegetable oil powered school bus. We spent some time getting to know one another as we helped pump vegetable oil into their tanks. This was a chance for us and our teenage kids to hear and share stories with some foreign travelers and learn about other amazing lifestyles.

Justin & Rachel

Justin & Rachel

Man and Woman's Best Friend

Man and Woman’s Best Friend

Justin and Rachel are from Canada and they have converted a retired school bus into an almost fully carbon-neutral form of transportation and lodging. Their main goal for doing this is to minimize their impact in the environment, and of course to travel for extended times and distances on a low budget. They also are continuing to use a vehicle that would have ended up at the junkyard, or being recycled, which can be quite energy intensive. But it’s the opportunities to meet other creative folks that make the adventure for more memorable than traveling by traditional means.

Time to Socialize

Time to Socialize

Pumping oil

Pumping oil

As Justin and Rachel travel through the United States, they routinely meet other alternative fuel fans and hobbyists. They shared a story about driving along the Bible Belt one night looking for reclaimed vegetable oil that sounded quite exciting.  I hope they will post the story on a blog someday. Then there are the stories of what can happen during nights spent parked at Las Vegas casinos and Walmart parking lots in various states. We were happy to hear that their stay in New Mexico had been uneventful, and as we saw firsthand they are traveling very comfortably.

This is not your kid’s school bus, and the interior is far more inviting than one expects. The first impression blows away any notion that there was once a sterile row of bench seats running down front to back. The interior looks more like what one might find in a custom made R.V. (recreational vehicle for our foreign readers). Very personal and very comfortable.

A nice setup inside

A nice setup inside

IMG_0194

From the outside the leading sign that this bus is not on official school business is the drapes along all of the side windows. An alert observer might spot the additional tanks mounted underneath the bus, not all of which are used for storing vegetable oil. We were fascinated to learn that one of the tanks is used as part of a grey water system. In case you’re not familiar with grey-water system, it’s basically a way to catch not-too-dirty water and instead of flushing it down the drain, hold it in a tank for later recycling.

Solar panels on roof of bus

Solar panels on roof of bus

“Very nice!” says Jen

The roof of the bus houses 800 watts of photovoltaic (the kind to make electricity) solar panels. I didn’t get to ask, but I can tell you that this is more than enough to power an efficient refrigerator, various water pumps, fans, electronics and other amenities. For example we own a 12V/24V Japanese made portable refrigerator that only needs about 40-60 watts. Justin is quite the handyman and he mentioned that he installed the solar panels “while on the road”, in an installation that looks as good as something that I would do while “at home” myself.

A Breaking Bad moment

A Breaking Bad moment

Checking the solar panels

Checking the solar panels

So this Thanksgiving morning we were grateful to be part of their adventure for a few hours. We spend the time under an unusually warm New Mexico sun talking and working together. We wish Rachel & Justin a safe journey back to Canada.  I hope that their story inspires others to find ways to enjoy life and be able to travel for extended periods of time, sustainably and inexpensively.

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Let Heat Out From Under the Hood

Friends that have been in my garage have noticed that my hoods are usually open. It’s not because we drive clunkers, altough I suppose that’s a relative term, but no it’s to free the heat!

Let the heat out!

Let the heat out!

Did you know that your car’s engine electronics and wiring will last much longer if you open the hood when parked in the garage? Modern cars have their more than their fair share of plastics and electronics in the engine compartment, and excess heat is not good for their longevity. The difference between having to replace sensors and control modules after a few years on a new car, and having them last a decade of more, could be due to avoiding repeated heat spikes.

When you’re driving around the heat in your engine compartment is carried away, and when parked outside the heat also gets carried away by air currents. However, in your garage, especially in the summer, there is little air circulation and your engine compartment becomes a virtual oven. With a closed hood components will be heated to very high levels, and they will remain hot for a much longer than usual time.

Now I know that some people get a new car every few years or lease their vehicles, so they may be thinking that this doesn’t apply to them. We’ll, while they may not have to pay for the repairs they could consider the next owner. That would be good carma, pun intended.

Now go open your hood, and save money. Does it need to be said that you should close it securely before driving away the next day?

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