Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beauty in Green Tech

A week or so ago,  I made a mad dash up north for work.  In the middle of Michigan's lower peninsula, there were miles of new windmills that weren't there one year ago.  It was a windy day, so these quiet giants were turning in together in a huge dance over the flat landscape.  White blades turning in the sun.  Really quite beautiful.

The internet says that there are 133 windmills stretching over 4 townships.  Gentle yet strong.  They just make me smile.

On the way home later that evening, it was long after dark and I had forgotten about the windmills.  At one point, I started seeing red flashing lights above the horizon.  As I got closer, I could see many of these lights on the top of the windmill towers and they scattered over the countryside like a red flashing blanket.  Of course, all of the red lights on the towers flashed in unison.  It reminded me of a giant's dance, perhaps a dance for the Scottish Giant, Fingal.  Or perhaps a signal to intelligent beings somewhere in space. 

 It's strange that these windmills seem so much more majestic than similar windmills out west where they are often mixed into mountain passes and brown country.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tim's Request

I received a comment from Tim C. requesting an update on the Fiat 500.  Rather than just publish the comment, I skipped straight to the post.  Tim, thanks for the suggestion.

Here are a couple of shots of Guido in winter plumage.  The amount of dirt and salt are embarassing, but it does no good to wash it off.  The first few miles would return the salt and dirt.

I get a lot of compliments on the wheels.  The silver painted steel wheels have an old school sports car feel and they stand out as different since every other car has boring aluminum wheels.  The tires are Hakkapeliitta snows which are a touch overkill for lower Michigan's occasional snow.

So what is the overall verdict after 25k miles and 1.7 years. 

My favorite car that I have owned is Gidjet, an Austin Healy Sprite that I owned for over 30 years.  The Fiat is my second favorite.

The reasons are very similar between the two cars.  Both are light, precise, and responsive handling.  Before modifying the engine on the Sprite, both were a little underpowered with good shifting manual transmissions.  I truly like a car that is a little underpowered because you are always reving and shifting.  I find myself constantly involved in the act of driving which is just fine.

My friend, Mike, has been riding motorcycles for 50 years (still riding at 70) and has owned lots of motorcycles.  He says there are no bad motorcycles.  Some motorcycles are OK, some are good, and some just make you grin.   For me, the Fiat 500 makes me grin everyday.

The engine was a little tight when new, so this fun character wasn't as clear for a few thousand miles.  After about 20k miles, the exhaust seemed to loosen up a bit giving a little stronger engine note.  The engine just says, "Here I am.  Let's have a little fun."

So what else is there to like?

Quality has been near perfect.  I had a body clip on the rocker cover that popped out, but the dealer took care of that quickly and painlessly.  Their service has been excellent.

For me, the car has been very comfortable, but others have found the seat and/or seating position to be uncomfortable, so judge for yourself.  I like the stereo (not my home stereo, but good enough to sing along with), the built in USB and stereo jacks for inputting your own music, and the bluetooth/hands free phone.

Although it is a very small car, I've surprised myself with how much stuff I can haul with the seats down.  And, of course, the fuel economy has been good.  Lifetime, with lots of short runs, I've been averaging 37 mpg.  When driving on a 2 lane highway at 60 mph, I'll get about 43 mpg.  75 mph on the freeway, it drops down to 37 mpg.

If I had to complain about one thing it would be that the ride is a little stiff.  Call it European or call it sporty, it would be fine most places, but Michigan's broken roads make it feel like a younger man's ride.  In the end, it is something I have accepted as the price paid for the rest of the fun.

The big decision for me is whether to keep it when the warranty is up.  At the moment, I leaning toward keeping Guido with me for a while.