Sept 8, 2017: Project Progress, Yellowstone, Etc

Hello again from smokey Missoula, Montana. My dear Cintia left yesterday to return to Mittagong for the firing of the Anagama wood kiln at Sturt Pottery. The day before she left, on the spur of the moment we decided to visit Yellowstone National Park which is about four hours drive east of here. It was a long day but well worth the effort as you’ll see from the photos towards the end of this week’s Newsletter. Meanwhile my son, Sam and I have been making some good progress on the renovations to his house. The number one priority was to get rid of the smelly, old carpet in the living/dining room. But the floor’s pretty wonky so the trick was to figure out what to replace it with. We decided on sheet vinyl (‘lino’ for the Aussies) but we were told that we’d have to put down a thin plywood underlayment before we could lay the vinyl. So we bought a bunch of 5mm plywood, liked the look of it and decided just to use that for the flooring and finish it with a clear coat. It was less than half the cost of the vinyl and has a nice, warm look to it. Here’s a photo of how it turned out.

Oscar the big white dog enjoying the new floor

‘Oscar the big white dog’ enjoying the new floor

You can compare the photo above to how it looked when we started by checking out our Newsletter from August 4th when we first arrived. We also added new trim (crown molding, skirting and architraves) around the whole room and gave everything a new coat of paint. I’m happy to say it looks, smells and feels MUCH better now. We also replaced the old glass case with a new one. Sam is a glass artist and uses the case to show customers his beautiful glass work. For anyone who’s interested you can check out his online store on Instagram at alderson_glass

The new glass case which we just installed today.

The new glass case which we just installed today.

Tomorrow we’ll be driving eight hours east to visit Sam’s grandfather’s ranch on the Tongue River in Eastern Montana and staying for a week or so to help with moving their cattle.

Coal-powered Electric Buses

Another thing I did today was to visit the University of Montana’s transportation department to find out more about their electric buses. You may recall from our Newsletter two weeks ago that I was very excited to discover that UM has two of these electric buses which they use to ferry students around town.

The University of Montana's new Electric Bus

One of UM’s new Electric Buses

The sign on the back of the bus says it’s a ‘zero-emission battery electric bus’ so I was keen to find out more, particularly where they are getting the power from to charge their buses. Unfortunately, as I suspected, they are simply using grid power for charging. In Montana, the majority of grid electricity comes from coal-fired power stations in Eastern Montana (not far from the ranch in fact). So, far from being a zero-emission vehicle, these buses are actually coal-powered, with the emissions occurring about 500 miles away from Missoula. I expect that overall they still produce lower emissions than diesel buses and they’re certainly much quieter. I still have more digging to do to find out for sure and I now have the name and number of the head of the department who I plan to call for more details. The lady I spoke to today suggested that their plan is to buy green power but they aren’t yet. I’ll find out for sure because it really bothers me when people call electric vehicles ‘zero-emissions’ if they’re using dirty power to charge them.

New and Improved Electric Vehicles

According to this article from New Atlas, the new Chevy Bolt EV is now available in the US. With a range of 238 miles (383km) and a price starting at $37,500 it is, apparently remarkably fun to drive and might give the new Tesla Model 3 some real competition.

The ne

Putting the new Chevy Bolt through it’s paces

But, according to this other New Atlas article, Nissan has also just announced the upcoming release their improved version of the Leaf EV with a range of 235 miles (378km) and a price starting around $30k. If that’s true it will be cheaper than both the Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 and, according to the article it is a much better car than the previous version of the Leaf. So the competition is really heating up in the electric vehicle market, at least here in the US. Given our government’s apparent lack of interest in EV’s, it might be a long time before we see much action in Australia.

Yellowstone Gems

As mentioned at the start, we made a whirlwind visit to Yellowstone National Park a couple of days ago. It was the first National Park in the world (followed closely by the Royal National Park just south of Sydney) and it still provides plenty to interest the millions who visit every year.

Being a builder, I have to say that the most remarkable thing for me at Yellowstone is the 113 year-old ‘Old Faithful Inn’ which, apart from being the most gorgeous and amazing log structure I’ve ever seen, was built in less than one year by a team of about 50 carpenters who worked all through the winter of 1903-4 to have it ready for guests the following summer. Winters in Montana are not like winters in Australia and Yellowstone park is higher than the top of Mt Kosciusko so they were likely dealing with several metres of snow and temperatures down around minus 20-30degC. Which all goes to make the Old Faithful Inn one of the most extraordinary feats of carpentry in the world.

The six-storey atrium of the Old Faithful Inn

The six-storey atrium of the Old Faithful Inn

In spite of my builder’s bias, the natural wonders of Yellowstone Park are also quite remarkable.

The 'Grand Prismatic' thermal spring

The ‘Grand Prismatic’ thermal spring

Detail of the 'Grand Prismatic' thermal spring

Detail of the ‘Grand Prismatic’ thermal spring

More detail of the 'Grand Prismatic'

More detail of the ‘Grand Prismatic’

The 'Mud Volcano'

The ‘Mud Volcano’

A pair of bison

A pair of bison

Bison meet tourists

Bison meet tourists

Bison fighting

Bison sparring

The last time I visited Yellowstone was just after wolves had been reintroduced to the park. At that time there were thousands of bison and elk covering every clear space in the park. Now (about twelve years later) the wolves have made a remarkable difference to the ecosystem. We hardly saw any elk at all on this trip (apart from a few in the very centre of the town of Mammoth Hot Springs where they are safe from wolves) and far fewer bison than last time. Bison are very dangerous and difficult for wolves to kill so you can still see them in the park but the other wildlife has become much more scarce and wary.

The 'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park'

The ‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park’. The water in the Yellowstone river flows out of Yellowstone Lake, over these falls then travels 3000 miles via the Missouri and the Mississippi before entering the Atlantic Ocean at New Orleans

Full moon rising over Yellowstone Park

Full moon rising over Yellowstone Park

Thanks for reading.


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