It Begins

For a partime luddite, forming a blog is not something to be taken lightly. The decision was prompted from discussions in the oddest of places-the veggie board of . That no doubt warrants some explaining and I will get to it in time. But for now, the rub of the matter-which is this here blog. I am in my early thirties, I live in a subdivision, have 2 beautiful children, a lovely wife, and work for a Fortune 500 Company. So far that describes a significant cross section of the citizens of this country and isn’t worth writing about let alone reading.

So let’s spice it up a little-we’re all different and few of us likes to be pigeon-holed-me least of all. I graduated from the University of South Dakota with a BA in Philosophy, specializing-as much as one can in an undergrad- in military ethics for no reason other than that is where my interests took me. I figured a career would find me-and luckily enough it did. It was there that I became addicted to speed, first in motorcycles, later after attending a SCCA Pro Rally in Houghton, MI it morphed into all wheel drive turbocharged imports. So despite starting a family I sold my practical Jetta Wolfsburg and purchased a well used ’92 Eclipse GSX, dubbed it the Smoke Banshee, and ventured yet again on the quest to prove that PHD toting engineers with million dollar R&D budgets really have no idea what they are doing-and that I can better. So I gutted the interior, modified the turbo, suspension, etc until I could outrace vehicles ten times as expensive. You see I have this particular mania that forces me to leave no stone unturned-I have modified every vehicle I have every owned-every repair is viewed as an opportunity, not to fix-but to improve. As it turns out-this particular arrogance (I prefer confidence) is easily applied to virtually anything-houses, gardens,-but I get ahead of myself. I loved that car as only a nut can-it was my Falcon and virtually every man dreams of being Solo.

But then there was that family thing going on. It wasn’t that we needed the space to haul my son around-we had a Forester for that and it fit the bill perfectly. Nor was it money-the Eclipse was dirt cheap and my blood and sweat were free. No- it was that blasted conscious of mine popping up. You see somewhere along the way I had acquired a distinct love of nature-my parents are from good WI farming stock, and I spent my youth fishing and walking the woods with my father. I learned to track deer in the forest preserves of suburban Chicago (not too hard as they are all but tame) and later would count coo on elk, big horn, and bison in Custer State Park in SD. This love was fanned into full blown environmentalism during the courtship of my wife. As a wiccan she saw things differently than I ever had-and I wanted to know what she knew, so as to know her better. Tack on top of this my latent tendency to take things to logical conclusions that had been tempered to a ringing steel in my philosophy lessons and I had serious misgivings about breaking the 400hp mark of my Eclipse. See power takes fuel, and the best catalytic converter in the world can’t make a 400hp rally car green. Was my dream car making the world a better place for my son? Um-no. Hell no infact.

So despite having just installed a kevlar racing seat and 4 point harness, I sold it to an aspiring freak from MI, who bought it sight unseen. I love autotrader. Still stinging from the loss, but empowered by doing the Right Thing I went straight to my Honda Dealer and blunked down coin on a blue Civic VP sedan. We looked at a hybrid, but $19k was too rich for our blood and the VP gets 37 mpg every tank no matter what and rated an ULEV. And blue is my son’s favorite color. I kept that car for two years, but it had no soul. I have always, for good or ill, felt that a car says alot about you. As one of the single largest purchases of your life it makes a statement about what you hold dear. And while I switched to the Civic for good reasons-it wasn’t, well… me. So with greater regularity I was searching the web for another race car. See I have few hobbies-rather introverted, fiercely devoted to my wife I spend virtually all my free time at home and don’t regret a minute of it. I don’t golf, loathe television and major sports, and rarely go out for a beer-preferring to read at home. What I hobbies I do have I follow with passion-prior to autoracing it was MTB racing and backpacking. Both those became less practical with my new family, but motorsports was something we could still do together, and my son was pretty good at handing me tools in the garage-good Father Son stuff right? Sounded like rationalizing to me too.

Without the racing I had very little outlet and it was eating at me. Recent promotions and my wife reentering the workforce, albeit part-time so one of us could stay home with our now two children had given us some free money. When I saw a black Evolution 8 for $4k under blue book I cracked and did something rash. My son cried for 20 minutes as we drove away from his beloved blue Civic, but I had my dream car. 300hp, carbon fiber aerodynamics, and a suspension that will literally out handle some Ferrari’s and it was mine.

For a time. Until now I had been able to meet or beat the EPA on virtually every car I had owned. Even the Banshee could be over 30mpg if I stayed off the turbo and the Forester was good for 31 mpg on the trips to the inlaws in SD. The EPA says the Evo can do 27ish. Even driving it like my Civic I only ever saw 22mpg-and when I was racing or testing out new settings it got down to the low teens. Driven daily, as it was, I was seeing 19-20. That meant filling up weekly with premium. Combined with gas at/over the $3 mark this was all but eliminating my annual budget for modifications and race fees. Tacked onto that the rising natural gas prices and our monthly budget was losing its wiggle room. This past January we did a 3,5, & 10 year budget-something we started doing when we had kids. That extra money wasn’t just taking the mods away from the Evo-it was making the chance of taking the kids to Glacier next year doubtful, and the dream of us buying a 3-5 acre plot in 3 years almost impossible. My dream had become the family’s dream.

Then there was my little 4 year old conscious. We have raised our son to hold hold certain things dear, but to make his own decisions as much as a 4 yr old can. When he asks why some people drive Big Trucks-we explain that they may need to tow heavy trailers, etc. or maybe they just like to have a big vehicle. When asked why we drove a Forester (our 3rd…) instead, we explained that we didn’t need to tow anything big-and that all four of us fit in just fine. Anything bigger would be wasteful. This was becoming a theme in our teaching-fitting in with why our house isn’t as warm as our friends, why we don’t eat meat, and why Daddy’s lawn mover has no engine. So when my son asked me is the Evo was wasteful it hit home. How do you explain compromises to a 4 year old? I tried, but it was weak and we both knew it. The seed was planted-and given the long term budget situation it fell on fertile ground.

Within a month of our budget work-really only 2 weeks- I was haggling over the phone with Honda Motowerks in LaCrosse WI on a 2001 Insight Hybrid. Impulsive? Heck yeah, but so was buying the dang Evo in the first place. The reasoning being that the Insight had soul-it was quirky enough for me, and had enough cutting edge junk stuffed into it to make the Evo seem archaic. Add into it that it is the most fuel efficient car sold in this country and I was All In. The Pod came home this February-Blue, 58,000 miles and a lifetime mileage a respectable (my how perspective changes!) 58.9mpg. As importantly-the move is saving over 10,000 lbs of CO2 annually-I had a quantifiable impact on my impact.

To date my best one way commute mileage is an astounding 80.6 over 19 miles, and I see mid sixtites on every tank. Loves it.

However, it has always been the dichotomy that I have loved about me. The SCCA Eco Freak doesn’t fit into a pigeon hole. The discussions at work revolved around how the Evo had kept me sane-kept me safely back from The Edge. With the Evo gone-where was the anchor in the Real World? I remember a discussion with my wife on the way home from the dealership-something about asking her to look back over our shoulders. See That? It was The Edge and this car just drop kicked us off it. Sure is cute though.

I am interested to see where the plunge takes me-and look forward to sharing the trip with you.

One Response

  1. I am thrilled that Beo has decided to start blogging his journey. This man has a plethora of ideas in his head at any given time. People who walk into our house are subject to lessons on permaculture, lectures on the environemntal ethics of diet, or a critique of Beo’s book of the day, depending on his mood. I think some people keep coming back just to further their education. This blog gives Beo a way to share these ideas in a broader format, for the potential betterment and enlightenment of the many. Oh, and Yes, I do know how lucky I am to have this guy. He’s amazing.

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