August 31, 2017: Day Tripping in Montana

This week I’d like to share some photos from a wonderful day trip that Cintia and I took around parts of Western Montana a few days ago. But first here’s some…

Reader Feedback – another one’s got the phever!

In response to our continuing updates about living with a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle we got the following from a reader named David…

My wife and I have had a PHEV since April and we absolutely LOVE it. Total average since we picked it up is 1.2 litres/100, plus of course electricity. I’ve noticed, (and my wife has noticed) that I’m driving less aggressively, so that has to be a good thing,  😉  as I enjoy getting the best range from the battery, and for example don’t get upset as I used to when we get a red light, (energy goes back into the battery instead of being wasted), yet I still drive at the speed limit, definitely not a road hog.
We feed a lot of solar to the grid during the day for a good FIT, so I charge the car after midnight using a time clock (off peak power) when the grid has surplus- thus treating the grid as a “power bank” of sorts, just like pumped storage. We bought our PHEV second hand, ex dealer vehicle, with only 16,000 klms on the clock, but it was like new in every respect. On the highway, on petrol alone, (ie: after the battery is “flat”) we can manage around 6.3 litres/100, which is great for a vehicle of that size. Around town on electric power, which is most of our driving, I’ve calculated that it’s costing only about $3.60 per hundred klms (will obviously vary depending on what you are paying per kWh.), so less than half the cost of petrol.

It’s an amazingly well engineered and complex machine, with all the technology working so seamlessly that you hardly notice what it’s doing unless you really want to. My wife was a bit nervous initially, but I said “just drive it like an auto, but try to keep the power gauge to the left of the 12 o’clock so you don’t force the petrol motor to start”. Anyway, she’s now totally confident and relaxed with it and loves it as much as I do. And despite the complexity, and going by foreign forums where they’ve sold heaps, it’s amazingly reliable. It’s also very easy to drive with virtually no brake use thanks to regenerative braking- our brake pads will almost certainly last the life of the car.
I rotated the tyres recently, and with 22,500 klms on them now, the pad wear is near enough  to zero!

So there you have it… it’s not just me that enjoys owning a PHEV. I’m pretty sure David owns the same Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV that we do. The most remarkable thing to me about this vehicle is that Mitsubishi doesn’t seem to want to sell it in Australia. It’s the most popular SUV in Europe and yet I’ve never seen it advertised is Oz and most of the people I’ve spoken to at Mitsubishi dealers don’t even know it exists…. very strange! I think a lot of other drivers would love it as much as David and his wife if they could get their hands on one.

Can Science ‘Save Us’?

Following last week’s discussion about hydrogen as a way to store energy we received the following from a reader named Lawrence…

Further to your greenyflat newsletter , I had read an article in New Scientist (page 14 of issue published 12 August 2017) that the scientists at the US army laboratory were testing a high strength  aluminium alloy which when they poured water onto it  it started to bubble giving off hydrogen. Because of the properties of aluminium this was unexpected. As reported , this phenomena  has the potential to transform the energy market & provide an alternative to batteries & liquid fuels.

New Scientist ( 19 August 2017 pages 38-41) reported on the scientific work which is transforming our understanding of atoms & their re arrangement to form new molecules which will transform society. As part of the article mention was made of work which is being done by Michelle Simmons and her team at the  UNSW have been working on coating silicon with a non-stick hydrogen surface then used a microscope to pluck off just the hydrogen atoms covering off the sites where they wanted the phosphorus atom to go. Since their work in 2012 , they have demonstrated a functioning transistor & demonstrated a  two – qubit system, consisting of a logic gate consisting of two phosphorus atoms. Their aim is to build a 10 qubit system within 5 years. Quantum computing will transform our society if we can overcome the climate change problem.
Our society has the capacity to achieve great things, if we can arouse ourselves.

This got me thinking again about science in general and whether or not it actually improves our lives. Here is what I wrote back to Lawrence…

Thanks Laurie,

It’s all fascinating stuff but, to be honest, I question whether science will save us from ourselves. To a large extent I think science is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. There’s no question that science has enabled us to do extraordinary things but has it really improved our lives? I’m not so sure. Without doubt a clothes washing machine makes life better and hot running water is delightful. The rest of it I could happily live without.
Science has also enabled us to mine and drill and bomb and deforest and overpopulate and fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.
The problem I see with science is that we continue to do things like splitting atoms and modifying DNA and making people live longer. Sure, we CAN do all these remarkable things but nobody stops to ask SHOULD we.
So yes, science can do extraordinary things but I’m generally quite happy with the ordinary things. The things I give thanks for every morning are sunshine, fresh air, clean water, sound sleep, healthy food, a roof over my head, friends and family around me and good work to do. I don’t give thanks for my car or my cell phone or my computer and I don’t need science to provide any of the things I’m truly grateful for.
And yes, I enjoy my PHEV and I’m fascinated to see what the scientists will come up with next but I don’t need any of it, it’s not sustainable and, in general, I think science has taken (and is taking) us in the wrong direction.
So that’s my rant for the week. Thanks to all readers who respond to our Newsletters. We appreciate all feedback and encourage you to keep it coming.

Sculpture in the Wild

As mentioned at the start of this Newsletter, I’d like to share with you some photos from a wonderful road trip through Western Montana. It took us from Missoula north up the Blackfoot River valley, across Flesher Pass to Helena (the capitol of Montana), south through the old copper mining town of Butte and back to Missoula (about six hours of driving).

Map showing our route through the Rocky Mountains

Map showing our route through the Rocky Mountains

Unfortunately the air was very smoky due to some bad forest fires in this part of the world so we didn’t get to see the full glory of the Rocky Mountains. However our route did take us to three very different places that provided delightful experiences. The first was the tiny, backwoods town of Lincoln where it was a complete surprise to find one of the best sculpture experiences I have ever had. I’m a big fan of good sculpture… art that draws you into a place and helps you appreciate it in new ways… and that’s exactly what the ‘Blackfoot Pathways’ sculpture park did for me.

The second was Boulder Hot Springs, one or many places around the Pacific Northwest where hot water comes bubbling straight out of the ground (one of the few advantages of living on top of a volcano). Some of these hot springs, like Boulder, were developed into health resorts back in the 1920’s. Many became run down over the years and some, like Boulder, has been restored, if not to their former glory, at least to a clean, functional and enjoyable place with a sort of cowboy-shabby-chic atmosphere that is charming in its own way. It feels wonderful to soak in completely untreated natural hot water especially at places (like Boulder) where the water hasn’t picked up a sulfur smell from the volcano beneath.

The last stop on our journey was in Anaconda which, along with neighbouring Butte (pronounced ‘Beaut’, not the way it looks) was, at one point in the early 1900’s, one of the richest places on earth due to copper and silver mining. This allowed for some gorgeous buildings to be built in the area and the crown jewel of these is the Washoe Theater in Anaconda. Here’s a bit from Wikipedia on the subject

The Washoe Theater in Anaconda, Montana was the last theater constructed in the United States in the Nuevo Deco (a form of Art Deco) style. The theater was designed in 1930 by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca. It was almost entirely finished by 1931, but its opening was delayed until Thursday, September 24,[2] 1936 because of the Great Depression. In 1936 dollars, its construction cost was a grand $200,000. The Smithsonian rates the Washoe as a national treasure due to the lavish interior. In 1982, the Washoe was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places for architectural significance.

What Wikipedia doesn’t tell you is that this lovely movie theatre has been owned by the same family for about 80 years. It hasn’t been ‘restored to it’s former glory’, it’s just been beautifully maintained and preserved. A ticket still only costs $6 (or you can choose to sit up on the balcony for an extra 50 cents). There’s still an intermission half way through the film to encourage you to go and buy more popcorn. And, apparently, in winter, they flood the park across the street so you can have a picnic and go ice-skating outdoors before warming up with a movie. I think you’ll agree from the photos below that this is well worth a visit. In fact I would encourage anyone visiting Montana to make the exact same day trip that we did… it could only have been better if we could have seen the mountains through the smoke.

Sign explaining the purpose of the sculpture park

Sign explaining the philosophy behind the Blackfoot Pathways sculpture park

Teepee Burner

‘Delaney Mill Teepee Burner’ by Kevin O’Dwyer. Teepee burners were used in saw mills as a way to get rid of unwanted wood waste.

Interior of Teepee Burner Display Space

The interior of the Teepee Burner has been converted to an educational space

Interior of Teepee Burner Display Space

Looking up inside the Teepee Burner

Rusted patina on exterior of Teepee Burner

Rusted patina on the exterior of the Teepee Burner

Climbing the spiral log stairs to the log seat was delightful

‘Gateway of Change’ by Jorn Ronnau – climbing the spiral stairs to the log seat was quite delightful

Sinuous wall made from log posts and thousands of recycled newspapers

‘Hill and Valley’ by Steven Siegel – a sinuous wall made from log posts and thousands of recycled newspapers

Picture frame from a distance

‘Portrait’ by Jaakko Pernu

Picture Frame up close

‘Portrait’ up close

Picture Frame from the back side

‘Portrait’ from the back side

Ponderosa Whirlpool

‘Ponderosa Whirlpool’ by Chris Drury

Into the earth

‘East West Passage’ by Sam Clayton and Mark Jacobs

makes you see things at ground level and look more closely at the grasses and other details that are easy to miss in a forest of tall trees

‘East West Passage’ makes you see things at ground level and look more closely at the grasses and other details that are easy to miss in a forest of tall trees

Simple log furniture and rusted steel signs

Simple log furniture and rusted steel signs enhance the experience without distracting from the beauty of the place

Boulder Hot Springs

Boulder Hot Springs would have been even more enjoyable if it hadn’t been 97 degrees (37C) when we arrived

Washoe Theater foyer

The Washoe Theater foyer

Washoe Theater - a national treasure

The Washoe Theater – a national treasure

That’s all for now. Thanks for looking.

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