April 2012

First Run

Good thing i thought twice about calling in that drone strike on Segway of Oakland because when i got home Saturday night the day’s mail included a check from them repaying me in full for the amount they’d charged to install the new motherboard that didn’t quite last its entire first trip. So i called ’em Monday and suggested that they cancel that check and send me a smaller one that deducts their labor for installing the motherboard that didn’t work.  They agreed that would be fair.

I slept in Sunday morning and woke up to the realization that i had driven 900 miles the day before without a single chocolate milkshake.  Sure never did that before.

So after sipping a cup of coffee i stumbled down to the wounded Prius and found both my camera and the Segway keys.  So since i finally, finally again have a working Segway, what better trial run than down to the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, which i’ve hardly visited for a month owing to the transportation difficulty.

And while i’m at it, stop by the library to pick up my reserved copy of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, an attack on the AMA and the rest of the medical establishment for their support of low fat diets for the past forty years and an argument in favor of a low carbohydrate diet.  I’ve been doing a little advance reading on the subject and am already convinced to cut back even more on carbohydrates, which my doctor has been pushing for the past couple of years, although i’m also going to try not to wolf bacon the way the Atkins dieters did.

Oh, and while i’m in the market area i could swing by Pearl Deluxe Burger and have their half pound of bloody beef between two thin buns.  Hold the bacon and cheese.

Except that when i got to the market and was giving Catherine and her young assistant sample size bottles of my Dandelion Chocolate-enhanced chocolate sauce i happened to glance at the power gauge on the Segway.  Aieeeeeeeeee!

Well yes, the new Segway had been meticulously maintained and exceeded expectations in every other way, but i cannot imagine why i might have thought it would come with a new set of batteries.

So now my life is somewhat recomplicated in that i’ll have to use Muni and BART to help extend my Segway range until i can deal with figuring out how to ship the old set of lithium batteries off for rebuilding, which means tracking down the hazmat packaging requirements and then meeting them.

I’ve been too occupied to take pics recently on sunny days, so i’ll have to share this indoor sight that i captured when i realized that while it seems perfectly reasonable here in the People’s Republic of San Francisco, it might elevate an eyebrow elsewhere.











Filtered through what? i wondered.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Palmdale Adventure, Part II

The drive from Mojave to Bakersfield across the Tehachapis was all the lovelier for it being the first really green area i’d seen since leaving the Bay Area through Altamont Pass…and some irrigated fields and orchards in the valley. California has had a very dry winter, and the drought has been especially pronounced in the south, which is already desert to begin with, so it’s looking really barren this year.

And the drive up 99 from Bakersfield is at least different from I-5, which i’ve traveled so many times that i’ve seen everything it has to offer. And since 99 runs straight up the valley floor, just like I-5, so the boredom potential is high.

But just as the fact that i’d been behind the wheel since 8:00 AM began to sink in somewhere north of Fresno, i was snapped back to reality by bleating sounds from my console and flashing lights all over the instrument panel. Hmm, i thought, why not take this exit?

And rolled into the parking lot of a Long John Silver’s. Hadn’t been in one of those since i left Midland in the seventies, and remembered their fish and chips as being fairly good. I’m cutting back on my carbohydrates now, so i skipped the chips, and as a public service i want to warn everybody that no matter how hungry you are and how dreadful looking the alternatives, under no circumstances should you ever eat the fish at Long John Silver’s.

But while i was choking it down since i’d paid for it, i dug into the owner’s manual and read the pages dealing with the instrument panel icons i was seeing. The first couple were adamant that the driver should immediately evacuate the vehicle and stand at a safe distance while it was airlifted by trained personnel to the nearest fully authorized Toyota dealer. And then i read a little more and decoded another icon and gave a great sigh of relief.

It was just the brakes.

And maybe also the automatic vehicle stability system, which is apparently intertwined with the brakes. Not an insurmountable problem, i decided, certainly not compared with being stuck in Modesto on a Saturday night and Sunday and then Monday at a garage, especially since i was unwilling to let any of those Central Valley bestiality-prone farm boy mechanics touch my Prius there or anywhere.

But to confirm my diagnosis i opened the hood and sniffed cautiously.

Everything smelled fine. I mean, clearly nothing was overheated and the radiator cap was barely even hot. And since i was in there i went ahead and checked the oil level.

And then rolled around in the parking lot stomping on the brakes repeatedly until the security guard started acting twitchy, so before he drew on me i eased back out onto 99, prudently remaining in the right lane and keeping my speed below 60….and occasionally tapping the brakes out of curiosity.

Kept checking the instrumentation and saw that the main battery was being replenished properly and both engine and motor seemed to be functioning normally and as time passed i stopped looking at the readouts. Well, until darkness had fallen and i was ascending the east side of Altamont Pass and noticed i was losing speed. And that even depressing the accelerator to the floor only slowed the loss. Oh dear.

At 35, i pulled onto the paved shoulder and ran along there, checking the instruments and determining that the the motor had stopped working because the main battery was no longer being charged and had been depleted. I crested the pass on the engine alone at 30 and then immediately started gaining speed and got back out into the slow lane. But fairly quickly had to tap the brakes to slow down since the motor was not engaged and spinning in reverse to generate electricity and coincidentally provide some drag.

Do you know how much it hurts a Prius driver to be coasting down a long, steep grade without generating a single damn watt of electricity? My screams frightened the coyotes.

But i made it through Oakland, over the bridge, and home although it was touch and go up Noe Street, a far steeper hill than Altamont Pass, and i limped in at 10 at 10, MPH and PM, respectively.

And when i was unpacking the car couldn’t find my camera or the keys for my new Segway, but i took care of that problem with a double gin and tonic, a cyclobenzaprine, and two lorazepams – which went to work rapidly.

Here’s what the hunter came home with

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Palmdale Adventure

Yesterday i drove down to Palmdale and bought a used Segway. Turned out to be quite an adventure and enjoyable except for the last part.

The adventure started last Wednesday when i came back to the City from my last futile attempt to get the old Segway repaired and stopped on the way home at Electric Bicycle Outlet at 660 Bryant and talked with Len again. This time i inquired about hill climbing power and he sent me out on a loop down Bryant and onto a tiny little vertiginous street named Rincon, where i could white-knuckle it to the bottom and then turn around for the ascent. The Hebb that i’d liked before would not budge me on that little hill, which is not a bit steeper than Noe, so he sent me out on a 500 watt bike that didn’t feel as good as the Hebb and still needed some peddling to get up the hill. And also, since i spent more time on both bikes, i felt less and less sure that an electric bike was the right vehicle for me. I mean, too much bike and not enough electric.

And since Segway of Oakland didn’t have a used first-generation Segway they’d sell me and i strongly prefer the first-generation ones to the new ones, on Thursday night i went looking on the Internet. Absolutely nothing in the Bay Area, but when i checked to the south, i discovered three first-generation models for sale, at $2300, $2500, and $2600. The middle one was in Palmdale and the ad had a good feel. So Friday i called the number, talked with Kirk, and we agreed that i’d drive down Saturday and meet him at his place at 3:00PM. Saturday morning before i could call to confirm, he called to make sure i was coming, as someone else had called him Friday night and also wanted to see it. I assured him i’d be there and set out immediately, realizing that this was not a good time to be late and reassured that i was dealing with an honorable man, which took a lot of tension out of the trip.

The ride down on I-5 was pretty much as usual. Nuthin’ new to see through there although i did stop at Lebec near the bottom of the valley and discovered that it is now possible to stuff $50 worth of gasoline into a Prius. Then i roared up over the crest of the grade, hung a left at Gorman, and headed straight east to Lancaster, passing up once again the opportunity to take tiny little Old Ridge Route Road, which heads more of less straight east southeast to Palmdale. But as much as i love my tiny little unnumbered roads, i feared i wouldn’t be able to get to Palmdale on time. Smart move, i was only thirty minutes early, and Kirk was waiting.

And so was his Segway, which was gorgeous. A model i180 from 2006 that had been meticulously maintained and had clearly not been used to break several of its rider’s bones like my ancient 2003 i67. But still a first generation model, which i greatly prefer. Kirk wheeled it out into the driveway and handed me the keys. It sprang to life perfectly, i did a fifteen second loop in front of him, and i handed him a two inch high stack of twenties that i’d had to raid five ATM’s on Friday to get. I was so pleased i even let him give me a hand getting it into the back of the Prius rather than demonstrating my virtuosity at this.

And then to celebrate decided i’d take 14 back north through Lancaster and Mojave and then west on 58 through Tehachapi to Bakersfield and then north on 99 up the valley, a route i’d not taken in many years and a thoroughly enjoyable change of scenery.

Radiolus grandifloraOh, and speaking of changes of scenery, everybody knows how fascinated i am with agaves and other desert plants like the “Century Plant” that have spectacular bloom structures even though the Century Plant is common as dirt. Well, as i passed through Lancaster i was blessed by a sighting of the extremely rare Millennium Plant (Radiolus grandiflora, and astonishingly, in full bloom. Needless to say, i took the next exit and drove back on surface roads so as to take this pic of a sight few have been privileged to see.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment