Road Trip

Texas-Landscape-Photo

Driving Through Flyover Country
Watching the weather reports of the cold front moving down from Canada into Texas brings thoughts of the great weather we had on our road trip to Austin a couple of months ago.

It’s always nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the coast and head into the wide open spaces of the southwestern desert. Some places are exactly as they were 20 years ago and some places belie what travel will be like in the future. In California and Arizona we have security check points now. Cars and truck funnel through a gauntlet of cameras aimed at every angle possible to scan the front, back and side of each vehicle and the passengers inside. It might be fun to wear one of those fake noses with a mustache just to mess with the facial recognition cameras.

The only problem we had on the road was getting a flat tire just outside of Lordsburg, New Mexico. A nice fellow on a motorcycle on his way to Waco stopped to help Floyd change the tire. Other than that, we had a great time at the lake, the Tommy Bahama outlet store, Cabela’s sporting goods store and the new barbecue joint we found. Life is good.

Time to start planning our next road trip.

Enjoy some southern rock by JJ Grey & Mofro – Brighter Days:

The beautiful photo of Guadalupe River State Park is by Laura Vu.

Christmas

Winter Road through the Forest

Hitting the Road for the Holidays
The AAA projects 93.3 million Americans (29.5 percent of the population) will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holidays.

Those who choose to travel by air will find the planes a bit more full and prices slightly higher than last year. Oh, and the joy of either being zapped by an x-ray machine or having a total stranger put his hands in your pants.

That said, we don’t have to drive anywhere this year because we are having the family here for Christmas. I checked the long-range weather forecast and we might have rain, but the weather service, that used to be quite accurate, is now wrong most of the time. Go figure.

Anyway, I won’t plan on having dinner on the patio just yet.

Enjoy Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas:

Autumn Road Trip

Tesla Model S

Time to Bring Out the Classics
We are in the slow season – the weeks before the busy holiday season kicks in. The weather is great, people are at home, so it’s time to take advantage of those wonderful, winding back roads that are so much fun to drive.

Here in California we are dealing with gasoline price manipulation – yet again. We still hear the baloney about the winter blend at the refinery, but back in 2008 when
the price at the pump  was under $2, they never mentioned the winter blend. Hmmm. See here.

Now the price is 2 1/2 times what it was 4 years ago. So, where are our representatives who are supposed to represent our best interests? Oh yeah, stuffing their pockets with graft from the lobbyists. See here.

Anyway, before the road trip becomes too pricey and we have to dodge self-driving cars, it’s time to take to the back roads, turn up the music, open the sun roof and drive!

Enjoy Conductor Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra  –  Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 Molto vivace:

The Fall Equinox

Aurora Season
Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere. It’s the day we leave summer behind and move into fall. A great time for enjoying the outdoors! The heat wave has finally broken so we are enjoying dinner on the patio once again.

Because the monsoon effect is still hanging around we’ve had some fantastic sunrises and sunsets. Pink skies in the morning and gold and orange skies in the evening.

One thing we don’t get to see here in San Diego are the northern lights. But for those of you who live in the northern climes, it’s the beginning of aurora-watching season.

Spring and autumn are peak times for the auroras because geomagnetic storms – disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field (solar wind gusts and coronal mass ejections) are strongest around the time of the two equinoxes.

There should be some fantastic light shows over the next several weeks as we  approach the peak of an 11-year cyclical in solar activity. Time for a road trip up to Canada.

Enjoy Jose Feliciano – Light My Fire:

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Photo by Judy Graeme/LA Observed

Levitated Mass
It seemed like it would never happen but the long-awaited exhibit known as Levitated Mass opened to the public last week at the LA County Museum of Art.

Suspended over a 456-foot-long concrete channel, the granite boulder gives the illusion of being suspended in air as visitors walk 15 feet beneath it.

The 105 mile journey of the 340-ton boulder from the quarry to the museum took 11 days and passed through 22 cities making the journey an event in itself – see Laundelles here, here, and here.

LACMA is one of the most visited museums in the world and the new Michael Heizer exhibit will keep the crowds coming. In fact, I’m planning to be one of those visitors this summer.

In the meantime, enjoy the Rolling Stones from a 1990 performance – Rock and a Hard Place:

Road Trip

Green Fuel or Snake Oil?
In 2009, environmentalist and film maker, Josh Tickell decided to make a film to promote the latest and greatest idea – algae fuel.  It didn’t matter that the cost to take algae from the pond to the gas tank would be prohibitive at this stage of development. This guy just wanted to make a feel-good, look how wonderfully green I am movie. Who wouldn’t want a car that runs on algae?

Under the stimulus bill in 2009, billions of dollars in federal grants were given to a few of the world’s biggest oil and chemical conglomerates to develop alternative fuels. So far, we don’t have a cost-effective algae product that is close to coming on the market.

But that didn’t bother Mr. Tickell. He decided he would create the world’s first plug-in-hybrid vehicle that could get 150 mpg by using algae.

First, he bought a plug-in hybrid Prius. No modifications to the gas engine were needed. Then he took 95% premium gasoline and mixed it with 5% algae to run the gasoline engine for the car. What you have is a plain old hybrid that runs off plug-in power and gasoline.

So what would a gallon of actual biofuel from algae cost right now? About $32.81 a gallon, according to Bryan Wilson, co-founder of Solix, an algae biofuel startup.

The only way to make algae fuel affordable is to reduce production costs. A bi-product of the fuel is animal feedstock. Profits from selling feedstock could be put toward to oil production. Two thirds or more of the body weight of wild algae is proteins and carbohydrates – not oil. Algae that is genetically modified produces a higher percentage of oil but it takes longer to grow, so it would be a trade-off.

Anyway, in Feb. 2009 Solazyme said it would be capable of producing competitively priced fuel from algae in 24 to 36 months. Well, that was 36 months ago. If the company was close to bringing a product to market there would be lots of buying activity for the publicly traded company. I checked the price of their stock today and found in the past 7 months the price of their stock has dropped from $27 to $12.52. Guess they are crying a green river.

Enjoy John Fogerty – Green River:

Where’s the Rock?

Road Trip
The LA County Museum of Art and earth artist, Michael Heizer have been waiting for the arrival of a 340 ton boulder.

For five years the artist has been planning an exhibit called ‘Levitated Mass” which will open – hopefully, before the holidays. Heizer actually conceived the project back in 1968. That’s right, 43 years ago!

What took so long? The problem was finding just the right boulder. Heizer spent years (decades) searching quarries and finally found what he was looking for at a quarry near Riverside, CA in 2006. The artist paid $120,000 for the rock in addition to $100 a month storage fee for the last 5 years.

Installing the museum’s latest exhibit isn’t as easy as hanging a painting on the wall. There are two parts to the project. The first part, was installing a concrete trench – which was completed earlier this year. The second part of the project will be the installation of the boulder which will be suspended over the trench. Once the rock is in place, it will straddle the 456-foot-long, 15 foot deep concrete walkway. As people pass under it, the boulder will have the illusion that it is floating unsecured above them. Not to worry, California seismic officials have signed off on the project and are comfortable that no one will be squashed by the boulder should we have an earthquake.

Dig a ditch, suspend a boulder over it. Sounds simple enough until you consider the boulder is one of the largest monoliths to be moved since ancient times. That’s right – think pyramids of Egypt.

A team from Emmert International built a special transport vehicle with 196-wheels and 44-axles around the 21 foot tall, 340-ton megalith that is strong enough to carry more than a million pounds.

So how many people does it take to move a 340 boulder? An entourage of some 60 drivers, steerers and police escorts. The move will take 9 nights at the speed of 6 miles an hour to travel over 120 miles of roads.

Although the transport vehicle is as wide as three freeway lanes and nearly as long as a football field, it will only travel a few hours each night when traffic is lightest. People along the route will be told in advance that it’s headed their way.

Originally scheduled to arrive at the museum on Oct. 3, we are still waiting for the rock. I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of waiting.

Segue…

From 1965 The Kinks -‪ Tired of Waiting‬: