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It’s been over a year since Terra Nova started work on my landscaping, replacing my traditional lawn with this no mow meadow garden. It’s come along nicely and I think it suits this property well, blending in much better with the surrounding wild landscape:
Earlier this week, Darlene and I made a little two-day, round-trip bike excursion to Monterey and back from Santa Cruz. It worked out to about 101 miles round trip from my place in the hills near Scotts Valley. We had actually intended to go down on Monday, hang out on Tuesday and return Wednesday but as we weren’t really ready to go until late Monday afternoon, with two hours of sunlight left…. oops! So, Tuesday morning we finally headed out.
It’s a common route and except for a couple of miles around Moss Landing, you stay off of Highway 1. And in fact, there’s a great bike trail that runs from Castroville all the way into Monterey which we didn’t know about until we stumbled on to it en route.
We had great weather both days and a lovely ride and stayed overnight at the inexpensive but nice Cannery Row Inn – across from San Carlos Beach and The Breakwater (a popular SCUBA diving spot).
Pictures from a Halloween night out in Palo Alto – left to right, Martha, Maryanne, Darlene, me, Rachel and John:
Okay, well… half a Tesla. ;-) Tesla Motors supplies the battery and drivetrain for this vehicle, Toyota’s second generation RAV4 EV.
Hey, but it’s shiny! And fast! And it goes much further on a charge than my 2011 Nissan LEAF: folks say they get 120+ miles even at highway speeds. This will be much more convenient since I currently give up half my range in my LEAF whenever I want to make a round trip over the hill from Santa Cruz. And it has a 10 kW charger on board as compared to my old LEAF’s 3.3 kW (or 6.6 kW in 2013 or newer LEAFs). Unfortunately Toyota chose not to include support for any DC fast charging.
Update after a couple of days: Yup, it does 120 miles easily! It’s great to drive the 40 miles to Palo Alto from Santa Cruz at normal highway speeds of 65-70 mph, picking up friends along the way, and find you still have 80+ miles of charge left! Particularly when you see that the charge stations in downtown Palo Alto are all occupied anyway!
Or, as another example one month later, to drive the 95 miles to Fairfax at 70-75 mph (two passengers, two bikes and gear on board) and have 25+ miles of margin leftover. Then plug in at a public charge station while out for a mountain bike ride and a meal and be fully charged for the return trip. And using the heater all the way back seemed to only affect the range by about 10% – still plenty of charge leftover after getting home. It’s so sweet to be able to easily make a 190 mile day trip without needing to burn any gas! Looking forward to the clearer air as these gradually supplant most of those silly, old-fashioned internal combustion engines!
This second generation Toyota RAV4 EV has an MSRP of about $50,000 before rebates. However, Toyota has been offering large cash back deals over the year from between $10,000-14,000 off the list price (purchase vs. lease), then you also get $2500 back from California as part of their program to encourage EV adoption and, lastly, up to $7500 off your Federal taxes if you purchase. All this brings the cost down to the mid-30′s before taxes – cheap compared to Tesla Model S, but still expensive compared to Nissan LEAF. But when you also take into account that there is no gas to buy or oil changes or regular engine maintenance, any pure EV becomes even more enticing. Driving around without ever needing to burn gas and on power generated or offset by your own solar panels is a lot of fun! Of course, the LEAF has all these EV advantages too and it is both a much more affordable and a more efficient vehicle.
As for the Tesla Model S, it is a beautiful car but it’s way too big for my tastes. Ideally, I’d like a reasonably-sized, sport-performance, four door hatchback with AWD (for traveling in the Sierra winter). Something like my old Audi A3, but all electric! (And maybe a little bigger.) The LEAF is a good size and is fun to drive (all electric torque!) but this RAV4 will let me go further (and faster) while I wait for something more ideal. But yes, this does mean I will be selling my cute little red LEAF… awww….
Unfortunately, my 240V Nissan LEAF charge cord (upgraded by EVSEUpgrade) isn’t compatible with the RAV4 (there is a known compatibility issue with these older units – a missing signal) so I’m having to rely on the Toyota-supplied 120V charge cord and, oh boy, is that slow! It takes over two days of continuous charging at 120V to get back to full from empty. In other words, it still isn’t fully charged from when I brought it home on Tuesday night even though I’ve been keeping it plugged in as much as possible. But this is temporary. I’m getting one of Tesla’s universal mobile chargers (instead of a wall-mounted unit) and have it adapted to use the standard J1772 plug that the RAV4 uses. Then my charge times will become very reasonable and I’ll be back to being fully charged whenever I want to go out — and it will give me extra flexibility when away from home. A lot of RAV4 owners have done this because the Tesla mobile unit is really compact and convenient: It’s small and portable and yet it will charge at whatever the appropriate amperage is based on the plug adaptor you use. (12 amps @ 120V vs. 30 or 40 amps at 240V, based on NEMA plug type)
Update: Have the Tesla cord now. Seems well built and it has a hefty, secure-looking wall plug. And I can now gain somewhere around 30 miles of charge back per hour. Hardly necessary for overnight recharging, but handy when topping off between day trips!
After our week in Scotland, we were off to see a bit of Norway! (September 19th-30th, 2013) Our first day was just an air travel day from Edinburgh through Heathrow and on to Oslo, with some extra time lost having to return to the airport to pick up our delayed baggage. But the next day we would travel from Oslo to Bergen on one of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tours with Jane, Janie, Darlene’s sister Shel and her extended family before picking up a rental car to explore more of Norway on our own.
I’ve organized these pictures and videos into five separate galleries:
These are pictures from a weeklong trip touring central Scotland (September 12th-18th, 2013) with Darlene and her friends, Jane and Janie, before continuing on to Norway. I’ve organized the Scotland portion of the trip into three separate galleries:
Here are some pictures of Darlene and I trying out my new toy, a latex vacuum bed, from Kink Engineering. I’ve long wanted to try one of these! It’s a “bed” made of latex that you slide someone into and use a vacuum hose to suck out all the air, leaving your volunteer/victim shrink-wrapped and pinned in position. You can’t budge a finger! And the thin latex sheet amplifies every sensation so that running anything, fingers or feathers or whatever feels wild and amazing. And of course it feels and looks super-sexy shiny!
So here she is, my beautiful shiny girl in blue:
And of course I had to try it too – it feels awesome!
Just a couple of pics from an afternoon last Friday checking out the Loch Lomond reservoir and park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And yes, we were the proud crew of that fuchsia paddle boat! We also hunted for a while for a nearby geocache but came up empty.
Darlene and I camped out on the east side of Pinnacles National Park this past Sunday to watch the Perseids meteor shower. We had some fairly dark skies as Pinnacles is in a somewhat remote location. The glow of lights from Hollister and Salinas (about 25-ish miles away) were apparent to the north but the Milky Way was still quite visible. And the crescent moon set nice and early. We spotted probably several meteors per minute. There were a few clusters of four or five.
I made a little video of some time lapse images I captured during the night:
As it was a Sunday night, getting a campsite was easy – most of the sites were vacant — not so on a Friday or Saturday night! There was lots of wildlife though… of the more natural variety. We had multiple visits from human-habituated deer, rabbits and a coyote in our campsite. (I don’t count the yellow jackets!) We went for a hike to see the nearby talus caves and saw a couple of bats but part of the caves were still closed to protect the bat colony. (Talus caves are formed by rocks and boulders falling into a narrow area to form a ceiling and block out the sky.) On Monday, we hiked the High Peaks loop and happened to run into an old coworker from FileMaker. We also saw some turkey vultures and possibly some California condors.