Camping II

It turns out that our two camping trips will instead be one long trip with two different groups of people. Millersylvania State Park is where the Writing Center booked its one-night overnight excursion for summer staff, and Amanda and I decided to extend that out to the 8th. So we will arrive there on the 8th, stay through the 10th, then switch campsites and stay on through the 11th.


Not quite the break I had hoped for, but it should be relaxing anyway. I’ll need it, considering that I’ll be driving back and forth to Bellingham a number of times before school starts (probably three or four, minimum).


Amanda and I are trying to get another camping trip in before the school year starts, and it looks like we might actually get two. The first, if memory serves and without having my calendar in front of me, is between September 6th and 9th at a location that is yet to be determined. The second is a trip being planned by the Writing Center’s summer staff on September 10th as a wrap-up to all the summer work — sort of an “end of the quarter party” like we usually have during the academic year, only an overnight camping trip instead.

We’re trying to find a decent campsite for our trip earlier in the week that isn’t too long of a drive from Olympia — Amanda’s picking the place, and I told her that the maximum drive time was probably about three and a half hours. We’ll see what that nets us (since it definitely allows for a number of possibilities). The Writing Center’s trip, I’m told, is to a site no more than 20 minutes away.

Pulse and Glide

Coming home from Snohomish today, I decided to use some slightly different driving techniques to see what I could do in terms of maximizing my tank efficiency. I had just filled up earlier in the day about an hour before departing, then driven about 5 miles to my parent’s house.

I didn’t decide to try anything until about halfway home in stop-and-go traffic in Tacoma. There are two driving techniques that are not unique to the Prius but that are particularly useful in increasing MPG: pulsing and gliding. The best explanation of this comes from Yahoo’s Prius-2G list (specifically, this message):

Think about riding a bicycle. Pedal until you get up to speed, and then just stop pedalling
and glide. When you slow down, pedal again, then glide again. That is exactly what “pulse
and glide” is.

One fine point – the glide. Gliding is possible mostly at less than 40 MPH, when the
engine is warmed up and the battery charged. You mentioned taking your foot off the
pedal and coasting. That is a start. While watching the “energy” screen, after you take
your foot off the pedal, with a very light touch step on the pedal slightly until the arrows
all go away. That is gliding, with no electric motor, no gasoline engine, and no
regererative braking. You will notice the car glides a good long way.

Switching to the energy screen and doing some trial-and-error, I managed to do a couple of fairly long sustained glides under 25MPH, though, due to the activation of the internal combustion engine at higher speeds, the ability to glide becomes progressively harder. I did try, and managed to do it for a split second once near 55, but it’s not easy to sustain.

By the time we got back home, we had attained 62.4MPG with some heavy boxes in the hatch area and 89 miles driven. Not bad, but that MPG number would be more impressive with a higher number of miles. My goal for this tank is to beat the best displayed MPG of 55.8 for a single tank by at least 2.2MPG, resulting in a 58MPG screen or better. We’ll see if this happens – so far, an average tank takes me a little less than 340 miles per tank, with a wide range between 207 and 464 miles on a single tank.

I have to point out, however, that my refill policy thus far has been a little panicky, as I haven’t always waited for two bars on the gauge — this is my new policy and I don’t intend to break it if I can help it. Thus, my average tank length will likely increase over the next five to eight tanks or so as I’m careful to make sure that that policy is followed.

Graduate Work

One night, doing a Google search, I ran across the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, which offers an MBA in Sustainable Business. This really piqued my interest, since sustainability, business, writing, and computer science are some of my more enjoyable academic topics.

I’m going to see about going up there for an open house sometime later this year, just to check it out. This will likely be towards the end of September, at the start of Evergreen’s academic year.

I’ll have to look into taking the GMAT and the GRE sometime in the next year or so. Of course, I’m not ruling out the possibility of doing graduate work in writing or computer science, but I will have to do a lot of deep thinking about where my priorities lie in order to decide which of those I follow.


After finally geting sick of having to manage two separate ways of viewing the same pieces of mail, I broke down and tried to find a way to transfer my e-mail into Gmail without causing too much pain. I found it in the form of Mark Lyon’s GMail Loader (GML).

I still wish IMAP had been available. GML doesn’t import messages quite the way you would expect — the date information is preserved, as is the sender information, but GMail displays the recieved date as being whatever time the e-mail was imported. Thus, messages from 2004 are now all labeled as being received within the last few days.

Most of the mail seems to have imported flawlessly, but I’m still confirming every message, just to be sure – pulling it up in GMail, then finding the copy of the message on Thunderbird. It’s a tedious process, but worth it in my eyes.

This has also allowed me to forward my Evergreen account and make my GMail account the only one I have to check, period. This might mean some updating of records in various places, but that’s okay. Hopefully, this makes everything a little easier.

Prius Experiences on Bainbridge Island

I also wanted to make note of the Prius’ performance on construction lots, since I had the chance to try it. Some friends of my parents are building contractors building a temporary home for themselves, and Amanda and I went over to see the construction. The driveway was a wheelbarrow type where there are two thin cement strips intended to assist trucks getting up and down the hill. Cassie handled this with no problem, and also handled the offroad parking and the tight turn needed to back out of the lot. Not once did I lose confidence in my ability to get out of the lot (though a tree got a little close to the hatch in order to get out, even with the wheel cranked — didn’t get close enough to do damage, just close enough to make me wonder).

The person who showed us around was also quite impressed with the car and seemed to enjoy the ride. Bonus!

Prius Experiences at Mt. St. Helens

I had a very interesting time with my Prius, Cassie, during our camping trip.

I keep up on Prius mailing lists via Yahoo fairly regularly, and before the trip, I had read a little bit about the “B” gear on the Prius. Basically, the “B” gear is equivalent to low gear on a standard automatic or an exhaust brake on a semi – it utilizes the engine as a braking mechanism to take pressure off of the brake pads. This is one of the rare things on a Prius that should almost never be used, since it can decrease overall MPG. However, anytime you see a low gear or hill sign, the “B” mode can likely be used quite effectively.

Forest Road 25 had a couple steep areas in which I was able to use “B” mode. Surprisingly, it doesn’t actually slow down the vehicle when used exclusively (though I suspect it does slow down the overall rate of acceleration). However, using it takes a bit of pressure off the brake pads so long as the battery doesn’t reach its full charge capacity. Once the battery reaches capacity through regenerative braking, braking results to the brake pads to slow down the car.

Shifting to “B” mode causes an interesting change in the engine noise to a fairly low-tuned hum and that hum lasts for the whole time in “B” mode. This is something I don’t recall from my test drive of an ’05 Prius, when the salesman (rather stupidly in terms of efficiency and demonstrating rather astoundingly his lack of Prius knowledge) switched to “B” mode in the middle of I-405, explaining it as a “battery-only” mode. At that point, I didn’t bother correcting him, since I didn’t know much about it either.

Cassie kept up very, very well during our trip. I never once had a concern about whether the car would break down or whether she would survive – we did the whole trip on a tank of gas which produced an astounding 75.45MPG tank (though the display calculated the tank to 53.1). This was after refilling the tank with roughly 4 gallons and filling a few days after the trip with nearly 7 gallons. Keep in mind that she was also loaded full in the back with cargo on the way to and from the campsite (though the day trips were done with very little cargo in the back seats).

The other nice part was the ranger in charge at Iron Creek, who started asking questions as I waited for Amanda to check us in. I explained that it was a Prius and that it was, in fact, on. He was quite surprised when I told him it was a hybrid and was fairly appreciative after that — appreciative enough that, when we went to make sure we didn’t need to do anything to check out, he thanked us for having “the quietest car in the campground”! That was the first time I had impressed anyone with this car, though I’m sure this will happen more.

Mount St. Helens 7/22-7/24

We left Friday morning (after packing the car the night before and doing some additional loading before leaving) and stopped to have breakfast at the McDonald’s across the street. After eating, we hitched onto highway 101, then southbound I-5. An hour or so later, we coasted into the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, about 15 miles outside of Castle Rock, WA.

This particular visitor center is one of three along highway 504. Each visitor center presents a progressive series of stories about the mountain, from what I’ve been able to tell – Mount St. Helens, then Coldwater, then Johnson Ridge. The Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center presents the history of Mt. St. Helens – how different cultures and activities have impacted the mountain and a timeline of the 1980 eruption. In addition, it has some information on how the 1980 eruption compares to other historical eruptions, as well as information on the most recent smattering of eruptive activity that began in 2004. Amanda and I took in this exhibit, then headed to the south end of the mountain to explore the Ape Caves.

The Ape Caves are actually a lava flow formed by an eruption of Mount St. Helens several hundred years ago. I’d been there before, but wanted to revisit it and show Amanda around. We visited for a couple hours after spending just about as long driving down there, then had lunch and left for our campground by way of Forest Roads 90 and 25.

Forest roads are a pain in the ass. They’re twisty, curvy, nausea-inducing things that have to be taken at low speeds lest you careen your car off a cliff. I swear that the designers who put these roads in place had a really sick sense of humor.

We got to Iron Creek campground after a couple more hours of driving, which were not really as nice as some of the other driving I’ve done. Iron Creek sits alongside the Cispus river a half hour northeast of Mt. St. Helens and about ten or fifteen minutes south of Randle, WA. It’s a very popular RV spot (attested to by the fact that something like 90% of the claimed slots in our loop were filled by RVs, if not a higher percentage). The only downside was the existence of pit toilets, but I personally hadn’t expected anything better.

Our stay that night consisted of setting camp, making dinner, and sitting next to a campfire.

Saturday, after some snafus in figuring out whether a particular forest road was actually open (it wasn’t) and going 8 miles north when we should have been going south, we followed forest road 25 to forest road 99 towards the Windy Ridge viewpoint. We ended up going all the way to the viewpoint itself, stopping at the Edge viewpoint, the Miner’s Car, Meta Lake, Harmony viewpoint, Donnybrook viewpoint, and, finally, Windy Ridge viewpoint, where Amanda climbed a whole bunch of stairs (I didn’t go – not in the mood to deal with heights, the steep drop-off on the sides of the road on the way in freaked me out enough). After a snack, we headed homeward.

I thought the drop-offs freaked me out on the way in, but they really freaked me out on the way out. We stopped by the Cascade Peaks viewpoint, which had a store selling various merchandise.

Oh, and the power was out.

Normally, that store would accept credit cards, but since the power was out, they couldn’t — thus, the stuff I wanted to buy (particularly a shirt and a DVD) I couldn’t. That basically ensures we’ll have to go back out there. (And yes, I did find it odd that they didn’t have one of the manual card swipers that require ink and hand motions to create a receipt.)

On the way out, I was paying so much attention to the road that I didn’t hear Amanda talking about a steam eruption coming from the mountain. I was too busy worrying about the line of sports cars behind me trying to run me over and trying to make sure that my precious Prius didn’t run herself off a cliff. Thus, I was quite surprised when we pulled off at the Edge viewpoint to let the cars go by and Amanda insisted I look out the back window.

Needless to say, we whipped out cameras and took pictures (though my digital camera’s battery finally croaked at this point). We then continued up to the Bear Meadow viewpoint and took some more pictures from a different vantage point before heading to the campsite.

We took the opportunity that evening to wander around the campground and follow some trails to the nearby picnic area and along the Cispus river. A very pretty area and well worth wandering around in.

Sunday, we headed back via Randle and highway 12. Uneventful, other than catching the beginning of a large backup on north and southbound I-5 after this road rage accident. Everyone, of course, stopped to gawk, so we got to enjoy a mile or two of I-5 at extremely low speeds. I hate gawkers. I try not to be one. It slows everyone down.

It was a fun trip, and we got the chance to break in some new gear, including a new propane camp stove and air mattress. I love Mount St. Helens – both its history and the beauty of the area – and you can bet I’ll be back there again.