Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Waiting Game

Electro Automotive said it would be 4-6 weeks before I get most of the parts for the electric engine, but it would be nice to get some sort of status report from them. I have e-mailed and called them a few times over the past few weeks and have not heard a single thing from them. Looking at other blogs, they are not known for being quickly responsive to inquiries, but when I send a $12,000 check to someone, it's a little disconcerting to hear nothing from them. The tone of my phone messages and e-mails is getting into the angry range, which is probably not productive. I think if I call again, I'm likely to lose it a little on the phone, so I'll hold back for now, try to keep it out of my mind and get working on my yard. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back From the Home of My Ancestors

This is not really on the topic of electric vehicles, but while I await my parts from Electro Automotive (with whom I left a polite message today by phone and will also politely e-mail), I thought I'd do a "what I did on my Italy vacation" post.
One thing I will say about electric vehicles is that Rome could certainly benefit from a change to electric scooters. The crazy streets of Rome are filled with the gas powered variety and they are quite noisy and polluting.

We started our trip in Rome and hung out for a couple of days near the Roman Forum, which was the center of ancient Rome. The ruins are quite amazing. Roman Emperors each would try to top their predecessor and build a new addition to the forum, which served as the main meeting place for Romans for markets, baths, religious ceremonies, important speeches ("Friends, Romans, countrymen' speech of Shakespeare fame) shopping, etc. It leads all the way down to the Colosseum and it's worth spending most of a day seeing all of that. We also managed to see the Vatican. I doubt there is a finer museum than the Vatican's. It ends with a tour of the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's famous ceiling. Pictures are forbidden, although I was one of the few who followed that and the "no talking" rule for the Sistine Chapel.

After 2 days, we headed down to the Amalfi Coast, where we stayed in the seaside town of Positano. If you head down that way, I recommend making this the base for your stay. It is a great little seaside town (albeit touristy), with an adequate beach, and easy excursions. We made two. The first was to the island of Capri, which is reached by a ferry. This is an amazingly picturesque island, but is absolutely jammed with tourists. Lisa and I quickly tried to run off on our own to get away from the crowds.

In one quiet little spot, we ran into this couple. We soon realized that he had just proposed to her (she answered in the affirmative). It was kind of embarrassing, but a nice moment.

Here, a cat lounges in the Garden of Augustus on Capri, licking its paw and seeking a moment of solitude before the onslaught of more German tour groups.

Our other excursion was to Ravello. I was quite excited about this, not only because Ravello is known to be stunning, but because I had rented out a scooter for the day and was going to ride the winding Amalfi Coast all the way there, with my wife holding on for dear life! I found out that morning that there was going to be a bike race along the coast and they would be closing the road for several hours. I was quite annoyed and tried to get through before that happened. Unfortunately, I had to stop at the town of Amalfi, just before the turn off to Ravello. This turned out to be a blessing, though, as Amalfi is a nice town for a break and a stroll.

Pictured here is the cafe we stopped at, which you could call the cafe with nothing. In the background is our waiter, who I think is the hardest working cafe waiter in Italy. The usual reason to stop at such a cafe, in addition to coffee of course, is to use their bathroom and get something to eat. This place didn't have a bathroom and very little to eat. The trick for the waiter was to get you to sit down and order something - anything. The American couple on the left asked him before they even sat down for "due prosciutto e fromaggio panini" (Basically, 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, which I'm sure they were quite proud to order in Italian). "Si, si," said the waiter, seating them. The woman then asked to use the bathroom and the waiter came out with a key, handed it to her, and directed her to a bathroom across the square. She walked off, dazed. My wife and I then watched as he ran over to a nearby panini place and apparently purchased two sandwiches. The couple didn't even notice when he brought them back in wrappers, went inside and put them on two plates, coming back out as if he got them from the back. I will say that they made my wife a great cup of hot chocolate (hot chocolate there is more like melted chocolate with a little milk thrown in).

After a nice walk through a local market, where I was able to buy 4 pair of very cheap underwear to make up for a packing oversight, we walked down to see if we could catch a little of this bike race that was delaying our trip. As it turned out, this was the "Giro d'Italia", which is one of the biggest races in Europe. It was quite a production, with corporate sponsors and a huge crowd lining the street, just like you see on TV.

If you look at this picture squinting your eyes and count to 10, you have a pretty good idea of what the race looked like as a spectator. It's hard to figure what all the fuss is about, but it was fun to experience this little slice of Italian sporting life. With that, we were off to Ravello. Ravello is a picturesque town in the mountains with a view of the sea. It used to be a real hangout of for the rich and famous. I don't know if that is still the case. The highlight is the ruins/museum/art gallery/garden called Rufolo.

Here I am in the gardens of Rufolo. If my smile seems a little forced, it was because I had just confiscated my wife's scooter helmet after she dropped it on the cobblestones for the second time.
I believe this is the best part of Ravello, although our trip was cut a little short when it started to sprinkle and we hustled back on the scooter back to Positano.
After 4 days in Positano, we were very sad to be leaving, but it was time to head back to Rome. This time, it was a very different experience. I was meeting family, new and old. My father wanted to celebrate his 70th birthday in Rome and he came with some of our family and friends. In addition, we were meeting Italian relatives (sons and grandchildren of my grandfather's brother). My grandfather left his small mountain village in Southern Italy (Isca, Calabria) when he was 17 and headed for the U.S. via Ellis Island. He ended up working the coal mines of Pennsylvania for many years and eventually owned his own small grocery store. He put his brother through law school back in Italy, which helped pull them out of poverty. I think they feel a bit of gratitude and, like all Italians, welcome family with open arms. This made for a fun time in Rome, where we were able to get off the usual tourist trail and "do as the Romans do." I will never forget it.

Left to right: My father, his "new" cousin Franco, Franco's wife Rosella, and their son Saverio. Franco followed in his father's footsteps and became a lawyer (although rumor has it his real love was soccer) and Saverio added a third generation of Italian lawyers.

From front to back: Stefania - Saverio's fiance, Franco's daughter Teresa and her boyfriend Luca. They are journalists in Rome. An old American/Italian friend of our family - "Antonio" Salvato, my wife Lisa and family friends Pat and Elaine. Not pictured: Sal, my mother Janet, and Pat's wife, as well as my Uncle Ernie (anyone else on the trip who took better shots, please send me one). These were taken at a very old time Roman restaurant in the Trastevere section of Rome. It was decidedly untouristy affair beginning at 8:30 and going to past Midnight, with another hour wait to catch a cab.

Here is an old Moto Guzzi of the "cafe racer" variety for bike enthusiasts

The NBA is apparently popular in Italy, but maybe the details aren't as important to this Los Angeles "Lokers" fan.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Off to Italy for a couple weeks. Hopefully, I will have some of my parts in by the time I return and I can get started on the electrification.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Side Projects

As I wait for the electric engine and parts to arrive for my conversion, I am trying to do some other small projects on the Porsche. One of those was to repaint the engine compartment lid. It's a little tricky to paint, even removed from the car, because of the "PORSCHE" lettering on it. Originally I planned to remove the letters, spray paint it and then put them back on. However, when I tried to take the first one off (the letter "P", of course) it felt a bit difficult and fragile and I thought it might break off, becoming "ORSCHE," so I decided instead to tape the letters individually and just spray paint right over them instead. This required some attention to detail and some annoying fumbling with some masking tape. I got into a good groove, though, because of the CD that was playing. The band is called "Fat Freddy's Drop". They are a New Zealand based band, with various influences (reggae, hip hop, soul - kind of mellow) and quite popular there. Just before Lisa and I left New Zealand, we rented out a camper to see some of the far North Island. That was our only CD and we must have listened to it 30 times over those 2 weeks. I never got sick of it. It's also nice for adding a little romantic ambience in an otherwise cramped little camper van... If you can get their CD ("Based on a True Story"), grab it. Anyway, here is my tape job (I used that not-very-sticky blue tape - regular masking tape would probably be easier):

I used and wore out an exacto knife to do this, but I think it was worth it. Here's the end result:

The paint's still a bit wet in the picture. I'm quite happy with the result. It takes a few years off the apparent age of the car - better than botox. The gold lettering stands out much better now, as well. I used a semi-gloss black spray paint and I think it was just right.