September 14, 2016

Today’s post is sponsored by Dr. Batty’s For Your Health
Asthma Cigarettes.


Innovations are a funny thing, much like fads. What is
considered latest and greatest in one era isn’t even talked
about decades later. Much like Dr. Batty’s cigarettes. I’m
sure the FDA would not approve his cigarettes today as a

Other innovations that made life more enjoyable are now
combined into one gadget. Growing up we didn’t have a
computer but we did have transistor AM radios, calculators,
and black and white TVs. Now one doesn’t even need said
computer as the new smart phones have all the functions of
the above in one small device.

Bicycles have been around since the 1800s and have had many
stages of development. The industry has advanced through the
use of ball bearings, chain driven sprockets, tension spoke
wheels, and pneumatic tires. Enthusiasts have added gasoline
engines, electric motors, jet engines, and even sails.

By now you are probably wondering where I’m going with this,
so here it is. As I was cruising the information highway I
came across a website that extolled the virtues of a hemp
based pedal electric vehicle with three wheels and removable

It is called the PEBL, seats two, has a top speed of 20
mph, and prices start at around $6,000. The Better Bike has
a hemp and soy composite body, reverse and cruise control,
full lighting, is fully enclosed, and as mentioned can seat
two adults.

At first I thought it was a Smart Car on a diet! I found
this an interesting concept and if you’d like to see the
web page, or are interesting in learning more, go here.

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.
Comments are always welcome.

Local treasures

September 4, 2016

Every day people pass things things without a thought
that others believe are treasures. To prove my point I’ll
mention a local bridge that has always fascinated the wife
and myself.

The Arsenal Bridge, which locals call the Government
Bridge, connects Davenport, Iowa to Arsenal Island and is
one way to get to Illinois. The current bridge is the 4th
at the location it is currently located. The original
bridge was finished in 1856 and was the first railroad
bridge across the Mississippi river.

The current bridge was opened in 1896 and uses the same
piers as the 1872 bridge it replaced, As you drive over
this bridge you may notice you are a mere 15 feet above
the normal water level. It has two levels with cars and
light trucks on the bottom level and two trail tracks on
the upper level.

But what we really love about this old bridge is the 365
foot long swing span over the locks. This span rotates a
full 360 degrees to allow river traffic to go through the

360 degree swing spans are unusual, but necessary, as it
helps close the span quicker to re-open it to vehicles and
trains. It also is just east of the dam and the south end
spans the locks.

Here is a video showing the bridge and the lock part of
Lock and Dam 15. To the right is Arsenal Island and to the
far left is Davenport, Iowa. The video shows the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers vessel Mississippi at the locks.

Our city leaders here on the east coast of Iowa are
always saying we need things to bring people to our area.
We think this old swinging bridge is as good as any we’ve
heard lately. Enjoy your Sunday, and since it is Sunday
we’ll end with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson-

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
Comments are always welcome.

The merits of fishing

August 22, 2016

It is said necessity is the mother of invention, and that
may be true, but this tale will take a different path. If
you have heard of William Albee you may already know this
story but for the rest of you, here goes.

Mr. Albee went to Alaska in 1950 to do some fishing when
he noticed some villagers pushing a heavy wood boat up a
muddy bank atop what he thought were balloons. He found
out said balloons were actually inflated seal skins. It
seemed like this practice made a tough job easier.

When the fishing was done Mr. Albee went home to
Monterey, California and founded the Albee Rolligon Co.,
which produced the very first low pressure off-road tire
and later a vehicle to use them with.

His tires had to be manufactured specially for his use
using fabric and rubber that absorbed bumps and other
obstacles. He was so sure this would work he allowed
himself to run over by one of his vehicles using his tires
to prove a point.


The formula to make his tires changed over time but that
formula is about as secret as the recipe for Coca-Cola. So
his Roligon vehicles, equipped with his tires, saw some
success. In the 1970s three of his vehicles took a test
run to the oil fields of northern Alaska and went all the
way to Prudoe Bay in the harsh winter months.

His vehicles and tires are being used to this day in the
oilfields of Prudoe Bay. I guess the moral of this story
would be don’t put off your fishing trip, because you
never know what game changing idea you may come
up with.
Comments are always welcome.

Of forms and hand trucks

February 16, 2016


The desk portion of our computer hutch has been
littered with important documents, bank information,
military records, empty candy wrappers, and coffee
stains for about a week. But, I am now enrolled in
both Social Security and Medicare while keeping some
semblance of sanity.

So tomorrow I will try to remember where all this
information was stored and return it to the folder in
which it belongs. This has been a crazy week and it’s
only Tuesday.

Until today I don’t believe I had ever heard of a
business called Makinex. But now that I have I will
remember the name. They came up with something called
a powered hand truck.

It can lift a little over 300 pounds high enough to
load on a truck while only putting 15 pounds of
pressure on the handles. One person can operate it and
a battery charge should last for about 50 lift cycles.
The cost isn’t listed, but if you’re really interested
they can give you a quote on their website.

Personally, I can see some tinkering time out in the
garage with some left over scrap metal and a hydraulic
ram. If that doesn’t work I still have the scrap metal
and the ram and I can hire a kid to do the lifting.
But we’ll try making one first because I have to
finish my sheet metal brake anyway.

We have all our ducks in a row now and are hoping
that none of them get as distracted as we do. Tomorrow
looks to be another beautiful day and we hope you get
a chance to enjoy it.
Comments are always welcome.

Racing to conclusions

February 9, 2016

Yesterday we mentioned the EPA wants to severely limit
production cars that can be made into race cars and
eliminate some parts used. We feel this move proves
that those in leadership roles have risen above
their competency.


Every form of racing has influenced the major
manufacturers in ways that would surprise some and
we’ll mention a few here. Things on our daily drivers
that have been taken from race cars include the basic
design of the engine and where the ignition switch
is placed.

The Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG) is common in today’s cars
yet came from Formula 1 racing. The push button
ignition got its start in many forms of racing.

The suspension of our cars have a racing heritage
with either multi-link or MacPherson struts.

Racing has even influenced how the tires on our cars
are made. The grooves in the tread push water away to
give us better traction and sportier versions may have
less grooves to give more contact on dry roads.

Disc brakes were refined on race cars before becoming
standard on production cars.

Engine air intakes (scoops) had their start in racing.

Aerodynamic styling and the use of wind tunnel
testing is another race technology that made the

Weight reduction. Race cars are light which allows
them to go faster and the car manufacturers utilized
light weight materials to help with fuel efficiency.
Carbon fiber and aluminum come to mind.

The rearview mirror that lets us miss the car in our
blindspot got its start in racing.

Magnesium (mag) wheels are now standard equipment on
some models in the showrooms.

Superchargers and Turbochargers got tweeked in racing
and the technology is still used on some cars today.

Alternative fuels were used in race cars long before
greenhouse gases became a political hotbed.

Even the seatbelts most of use on a daily basis got
their start in race cars. Some say Barney Oilfield had
the first set in his Indycar in 1922.

And if there was no racing these innovations may not
be around today. The EPA should butt out.
Comments are always welcome.

So much for tradition

December 1, 2015

Sitting at the kitchen table this morning sipping
coffee and talking with wife I mentioned how today
was December Day. Since she asked me what that
was I explained.

December Day is a celebration of the coming winter
and the day we dance around the December pole until
we meet near the base and kiss under the mistletoe.
I then told her I had the pole up and we could go
outside and get started. As usual she replied
“start without me”. It’s hard to start any new
traditions in this household.

I do know that on this date in 1913, the Henry Ford
assembly line started. It reduced the time to build
a car from more than 12 hours down to 30 minutes.
In 84 steps the Model T went from bare chassis to
finished automobile while the work moved to the

Because of this improved efficiency, and more
profit, Ford employees were the highest paid
industrial workers in the world by the end of 1914.

Picture courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

His was not the first assembly line, many believe
that was in 1104 at the Venetian Arsenal. Nor was
it the first vehicle assembly line in America. That
honor goes to Ransom Olds who began using one in
his Olds Motor Vehicle Company factory in 1901.

But the claim is that Ford did invent the moving
assembly line and started using it 102 years ago
today. And that gives me hope. Someday one of my
tradition ideas just might pass muster with the
wife. Enjoy the rest of December Day.
Comments are always welcome.

Fast thinking

November 29, 2015

Browsing various sources seeking news that merits
consideration, we came across information on the
Hyperloop. Think of the tubes in the drive-up at
the bank that deliver our business to the teller
and back. But on steroids.

Essentially the system would involve seven foot
diameter tubes elevated on pillars that could move
“cars” full of 28 people and luggage at a speed of
around 800 miles per hour.

These may be solar powered and currently have a
range of around 900 miles. Claim is this could move
people from Los Angeles to San Fransisco in 30

This is in the fundraising phase of operation to
try and raise $100 million. There are also over 100
engineers across the country working on development
in exchange for stock options.

The idea being that Hyperloop would be less
expensive than high-speed rail and better for the
environment. A 5 miles test track is to built in
Quay Valley, California in 2018.

To quote one source: “The concept of the Hyperloop
was popularized by Elton Musk, and not affiliated
with HTT. The project to develop a high speed
intercity transporter using a low pressure tube
train which would reach a top speed of 800 miles
per hour with a yearly capacity of 15 million

HTT is short for Hyperloop Transportation
Technologies. If our discourse isn’t confusing
enough the following video should finish the job,
after a short commercial.

We don’t know if these will ever come to be, but
if they do it would change our landscape as we know
it with elevated tubes beside our highways. It could
get interesting.
Comments are always welcome.