Some hybrid car owners are starting clubs to socialize and to learn how to squeeze even more miles per gallon out of their fuel-efficient vehicles. The number of hybrid owners is still small enough that the owners feel a little “special.” The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Some hybrid car owners are starting clubs to socialize and to learn
how to squeeze even more miles per gallon out of their fuel-efficient
vehicles. The number of hybrid owners is still small enough that the
owners feel a little “special.” The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Bradley Fons says he already thought about the environment a lot before he
purchased a used hybrid car three years ago. He bought a Honda Insight:
“…And I kind of figured out how to drive it to get the best mileage but there
was no support, no help out there at that point to assist me.”
Eventually, Fons found a group of hybrid owners who helped him answer
some questions about the car.
(Sound of group meeting)
But this year, with some help from his family, Fons has done one better: he’s
organized a hybrid owners club.
(Marie Fons) “…And put your name on one of these little things, for a door prize. I know, work, work, work, work, work. Here, you guys want to work on the
door prize thing?”
Bradley Fons’ wife, Marie, is helping about two dozen people check in. This
is the first meeting of the hybrid owners group. They get to know each
other by their name, their city, and the kind of hybrid they drive:
“I’m Kathy Moody from Racine and I have a ’05 Prius.”
“I’m Bill Vaness from Waukesha and I ride in my wife’s ’03 Prius (laughs).”
(Group member) “At least you’re honest.”
“My name is Sherrie Schneider, I’m from Bristol and I have an ’06 Civic. Picked it up about a month ago and I’m here to learn a lot ’cause I don’t know how to get the mileage you all
are getting but I’m going to learn (laughs).”
And so Bradley and Marie Fons go into teaching mode, offering encouragement and advice about how to get the most miles per gallon from the cars. The hybrid of gas engine and electric batteries usually cost more to buy more than similarly sized conventional cars. So the new owners are anxious about getting the best mileage possible.
Bradley Fons preaches patience. He says for new vehicles, owners have to work through
the car’s several thousand mile break-in period before they get the kind of gas
efficiency the cars can reach:
“So if you’re getting in the forties, ya know, high 40, mid 40, to low 50s in
a Prius and it’s new, don’t worry about it, ya know. It’ll come.”
Fons says some of these cars will get miles-per-gallon in the 60s and 70s. Then there are
the controversial people who’ve become what’s known as “hyper-milers,” getting 80 or 90
miles per gallon through various means that even the hyper-milers concede aren’t
Fons introduces Wayne Gerdes, who tells how to steer a hybrid
in the air draft right behind 18-wheel trucks:
“Hopefully you’ll understand that this close in, is this one car to one and a half second
back, that’s a dangerous area. I don’t recommend anybody doing it, but you’re gonna find
your fuel economy going through the roof on that.”
The hybrid owners club that the Fons family has organized also takes club
members out in hybrids for some lessons on the road:
“So we’ll go down, ya know, another set of streets.”
Bradley Fons sits in the front passenger seat of a Toyota hybrid. He’s
teaching a club member named Bill a driving method called the “pulse-and-
glide.” Basically, it involves only occasionally tapping the gas pedal and coasting
a lot, so that neither the car’s motor or electric battery system is operating much.
When pulse-and-glide is done right, a monitor on the dashboard reports a surge in
fuel efficiency. After some difficulty, Fons helps Bill get the hang of it:
“All right, foot totally off. Now just on a little, there you are. You’re in it, hold it,
(Bill) “Do you take your foot off when you’re in there, though?”
“No, you have to leave pressure on it. Boy, that was the longest glide you did (laughs)!”
It’s moments like these that make Bradley Fons glad he and his family are helping to
spread the hybrid car message. But Fons sees an opportunity for members of his club to
go outside the group and become pro-hybrid activists:
“Hoping dealers get more hybrid cars, working for candidates that push alternative fuels,
sustainable energy, anything that can be done…because at this point in time it hasn’t been
coming from the government. They’ve done some, but our group doesn’t feel they’ve done
Fons says politicians should listen to hybrid owners and hybrid clubs, because they’re
offering part of the solution to America’s oil addiction.
The Mackinaw is a historic ship that was built during World War II. In June it will be decommissioned. (Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
The historic Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw has docked for the final time. The vessel is scheduled to be decommissioned at the beginning of June, after more than six decades of service on the Great Lakes. The GLRC’s Sarah Hulett visited the ship on its farewell tour of the lakes, and has this report:
The historic Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw has docked for the final
time. The vessel is scheduled to be decommissioned at the beginning of
June, after more than six decades of service on the Great Lakes. The
GLRC’s Sarah Hulett visited the ship on its farewell tour of the lakes, and
has this report:
I’m on the bridge of the 290-foot icebreaker, and I’m just in time for the
daily test of the vessel’s alarms and whistles.
(Sound of bell)
After 62 years, they’re still working.
(Sound of alarm)
The Mackinaw was built in Toledo, during World War Two – when
demand for raw materials from the Great Lakes region exploded.
The icebreaker extended the shipping season through the winter, and
helped make sure iron ore and other cargo could get to the industrial
cities at the center of the war effort.
Today, Pat Pietrolungo and his 80 fellow crewmembers are still keeping
the shipping lanes cleared for commercial transport. They can spend up
to two weeks at a time on the ship, cutting ice during the winter months.
But cruising Lake Superior in the dead of winter can get spooky on those
long, cold winter nights.
Pietrolungo says there are some crew members who think there’s a ghost
on board the Mackinaw.
“Certain little weird things happen. Lights will flicker that shouldn’t,
doors will shut, some of the wheels on the scuttle will turn. I guess it
was a former crew member that died on board.”
But that ghost will have a lot less company soon, when the crew moves
to the Mackinaw’s smaller, more efficient replacement this summer.
The old ship isn’t flexible enough to serve other purposes for the Coast
Guard. And Pietrolungo – the Mackinaw’s machinery technician – says
finding parts for the vessel’s huge diesel engines is getting more difficult
by the year.
“It’s more or less along the lines of a locomotive engine. So you’ve got
to go start searching train museums, more or less, to find the big parts if
we needed them.”
A non-profit group based in Cheboygan, Michigan wants to make the
Mackinaw itself a museum.
Hugh O’Connor and his two young children were the first in line to
board the vessel when it docked in Detroit during its farewell tour. He
says he’ll be sad to see the Mackinaw decommissioned, but he says he
would visit the ship as a museum. Like a lot of boys who grew up along
the lakes, O’Connor says he and his friends knew the names of all the
freighters, and looked forward to catching a glimpse of the Mackinaw.
“We always used to ice fish in the winter, and I remember from our ice
shanty you’d get out and see it going by, breaking ice on Lake Saint
Clair for the freighters. That was when they were trying to run the boats
year-round. I don’t think they do that much anymore though. That was
pretty cool. Back then it was all white, though. Painted all white.”
The Mackinaw’s hull – painted red since 1998 – powered through thick
sheets of Great Lakes ice for the last time this past winter.
An investigation has found that the Air Force used the
Apostle Islands and Lake Superior for bombing practice in the early 1970’s. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has the story:
An investigation has found that the Air Force used the Apostle Islands and Lake
Superior for bombing practice in the early 1970’s. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mike Simonson has the story:
Jim Erickson was hoping to pull in a net full of fish one afternoon thirty years
ago, but his catch had a surprise. The Bayfield, Wisconsin fisherman had
snagged a missile.
“It was about four feet long and had some fins on it. They used to run those runs
outside of Outer Island there during the summer. Target practice, I guess.”
Erickson strapped the missile to the top of his fishing boat and tooled back to
Bayfield, where he handed it over to the Coast Guard. Erickson says he’s not
sure if the missile was a dummy or had live ammo. That’s one missile of three he
knows of that local fisherman pulled in around the Apostle Islands.
An investigation by the nearby Red Cliff tribe uncovered Erickson’s story. The
U.S. Department of Defense paid for that investigation. It is uncovering evidence
of different uses by the military of Lake Superior, including dumping tons of
ammunition after World War II.
These three monks walked 1600 miles from San Francisco to the Trinity Test Site. They came "full circle" to extinguish a flame kindled by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima that had destroyed their Buddhist shrine. Keigaku Muchu is in the center. (Photo by Paul Adams)
The obelisk that marks ground zero at the trinity Test Site where the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. The obelisk is made of volcanic rock taken from nearby mountains to symbolize fire. (Photo by Paul Adams)
The McDonald ranch house, built in 1913 by German immigrants, was used to assemble the Fat Man plutonium bomb that was tested at Trinity. The house was several miles from the first atomic test but was not destroyed by the explosion. It is a popular stop on the open house tour at the Trinity Test Site on the White Sands Missile Range. (Photo by Paul Adams)
Sixty years ago the first nuclear weapon was tested in the New Mexico
desert. A month later two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. It brought
World War II to a swift end. There are tourists who are interested in the
history of these weapons of mass destruction. They find the historical
sites of the atomic age are hard to get to and still controversial. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan reports:
Sixty years ago, the first nuclear weapon was tested in the New Mexico desert, ushering in the dawn of the atomic age. A month later, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. It brought World War II to a swift end. There are tourists who are interested in the history of weapons of mass destruction. They might find the historical sites of the atomic age are hard to get to and still controversial. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan reports:
(Sound of monks chanting)
Keigaku Muchu is a Buddhist monk. Since the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese monks have walked back and forth between these two cities with a lantern that was lit by a flame captured from the smoldering ruins of their shrine, which had been destroyed.
In Zen Buddhism, sixty years is considered a sacred cycle. So this summer, they took a new pilgrimage to the Trinity Site in New Mexico. That’s where the atomic bomb was first tested. They wanted to close the cycle from where the atomic destruction started to where it ended in Japan. Keigaku says his journey helped him join spiritually to countless supporters who never want atomic weapons used again.
“So if people in northern America want to come physically to the Trinity site, that’s great too. But if they can’t come, they can be connected. I can connect with them spiritually.”
The monks were not alone on their 1600-mile overland trek from San Francisco in searing desert heat to the Trinity site. This walk was organized by Matt Taylor, co-executive director of the Global Nuclear Disarmament Fund. He says the walk has multiple missions.
“The main thing we’re trying to achieve is bringing the atomic claim that has been kindled from the ashes of Hiroshima back to the trinity site where it began, closing a sixty-year cycle.”
The Trinity test site is located on the White Sands Missile Range. The military holds an open house at the Trinity test site just two days per year. Jim Eckles is a spokesperson for the missile range.
“We get two to three thousand folks during each open house, and they come from all backgrounds, all walks of life, from all over the country. You’ll see young families, young kids, students on a science project, old people who were alive at World War II, veterans who come up and say, ‘I was getting ready to go to the Pacific and this saved my life,’ motorcycle gang members – you name it they come.”
Eckles says the Department of Defense is not likely to stop using the missile range just to welcome more atomic tourists. But the military is preserving the Trinity site.
“It’s significant because it is the first atomic bomb explosion or test site. It did change our lives. The Cold War had a different tone to it because of nuclear weapons and them hanging over our heads. And of course, they are still out there so they still influence us.”
And world headlines about nuclear proliferation still make history a flash point.
At another historic atomic site, the job of preserving is a little more difficult. John Isaacson is a resource manager in the environmental stewardship division at Los Alamos National Laboratories. There, the Manhattan Project was the code name for the top-secret program to build the atomic bomb. Isaacson says we’re still trying to understand what to make of the beginning of the atomic age.
“This is history that is gone through a number of different sort of re-analyses in the past fifty years since the end of the war and it’s still very alive for many people, a very real history for many people”
But there’s a problem. Manhattan Project buildings at Los Alamos are deteriorating. Most are wooden and were thrown up hastily by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Although today, the public doesn’t get to see the site because it’s deep within a security zone, Isaacson says it should be preserved.
“I think the Manhattan Project is a real good example of this very controversial, unresolved historical process that, by preserving the buildings, it allows people to think about it, and it’s important to think about it.”
Isaacson wants us to keep the buildings in good repair for the day when they can be opened to the public. He’s getting some help. The Atomic Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. is helping them and other Manhattan Project sites across the country raise eighty-eight million dollars to refurbish properties that are historically significant to the start of the atomic age.
Urban sprawl sometimes conjures up images of subdivisions sprouting
up in cornfields. But land use experts say the term should also include a
focus on the central cities that are left behind.
(Photo by Lester Graham)
Experts seldom talk about one of the driving forces behind urban sprawl. White flight began the exodus of whites from city centers, and racial segregation is still a factor in perpetuating sprawl. In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the issue that’s often overlooked:
Experts seldom talk about one of the driving forces behind urban sprawl. White
flight began the
exodus of whites from city centers, and racial segregation is still a factor in
In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the issue that’s often
Land use advocates argue that urban sprawl and deteriorating inner cities are two
sides of the
same coin. The tax money that pays for new roads and sewer systems for sprawl and the
investments that pay for new strip malls is money that’s spent at the expense of
because it’s not invested there.
For the most part, all of that investment is made in communities that are
Those left behind in the cities are often people of color who are struggling with
high taxes to pay
for the deteriorating infrastructure and government services designed for
populations much larger
than are left today.
White flight was aided by government and business institutions. Government home
veterans of World War II that made those nice subdivisions possible didn’t seem to
make it into
the hands of black veterans. Banks often followed a practice of redlining. And
brokers also worked to make sure the races remained segregated.
Reynolds Farley is a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Population
Center. Farley says today, when planners and government officials talk about white
segregation, they talk in the past tense. They don’t like to acknowledge that
racism like that
“Well, I think there is a lot of effort to underestimate the continued importance of
discrimination and the importance of race in choosing a place to live. There’s been
decrease in segregation in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, it would be a serious
overlook the importance of race in the future of the older cities of the Northeast
Farley says as recently as two years ago a federal government study looked at real
marketing practices and found there were still “code phrases” that indicated whether
neighborhoods were white or black.
“Subtle words would clearly convey to white customers the possibility that there are
living there, the schools aren’t in good quality. And the subtle words could convey
that they wouldn’t be welcomed in living in a white neighborhood.”
In the North… racism has evolved from overt to covert. It’s a wariness between
the races not talked about in polite society. It becomes more evident as solidly
middle-class blacks begin to move into older suburbs and whites flee once again to
subdivisions even farther from the city core.
Land Use and ‘Smart Growth’ advocates say it’s time to face up to the continuing
segregation. Charlene Crowell is with the Michigan Land Use Institute. She says it
talking about the fears between white people and black people.
“By not addressing those fears, the isolation and the separation has grown. So,
until we are able
to talk and communicate candidly, then we’ll continue to have our problems.”
But it’s uncomfortable for most people to talk about race with people of another
race. Often we
don’t talk frankly. Crowell says we’ll be forced to deal with our feelings about
race sooner or
later. That’s because as more African-Americans join the middle-class, the suburbs
are no longer
“My hope is that those who feel comfortable in moving further and further away from
core will come to understand that they cannot run, that there are in fact black
are in the suburbs and moving into the McMansions just as many whites are. And we
all have to
look at each other. And we all have to understand that this is one country and we
In cities such as Detroit, white flight led to rampant urban sprawl in the
and left huge pockets of poverty and streets of abandoned houses in the inner city.
Wheeler is the Executive Director of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. He says
constituents often worry about more pressing urban issues, he knows that it’s
African-Americans living in the city recognize farmland preservation and urban
are connected. The investment that paves over a corn field is investment that’s not
rebuild the city. But… black politicians largely have not been
involved in land use issues and usually they’re not asked to get involved…
“There is a racial divide on this particular issue. Often times African-Americans,
people of color and folk who live in the urban centers are not present at the
Wheeler says policymakers on both sides of the racial divide need to recognize that
issues are as much about abandoned city centers as they are about disappearing
which could put urban legislators and rural legislators on the same team. That’s a
that could carry a lot of sway in many states.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Urban sprawl doesn't just alter the land in the suburbs. Central
cities are affected by the loss of investment when people leave the cities
and tax dollars are instead invested in building roads and sewers in the
surrounding areas. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Concern about urban sprawl is often limited to the loss of farmland, traffic congestion, and unattractive development. But urban sprawl has other impacts. Building the roads and sewers to serve new subdivisions uses state and federal tax money, often at the expense of the large cities that are losing population to the suburbs. In the second of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham looks at the divide between city and suburb:
Concern about urban sprawl is often limited to the loss of farmland, traffic
congestion, and unattractive development. But urban sprawl has other impacts.
Building the roads and sewers to serve new subdivisions uses state and federal tax
money, often at the expense of the large cities that are losing population to the
suburbs. In the second of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
looks at the divide between city and suburb:
What some people call urban sprawl got started as the federal government’s answer to
a severe housing shortage. There wasn’t a lot of building going
on during the Great Depression. At the end of World War II, returning GIs needed
Reynolds Farley is a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Population
Studies Center. Farley says the federal government offered veterans low-interest
loans and developers started building modest homes on green lawns on the edge of
cities. But because of discrimination, the loans didn’t as often make it into the
hands of African-American veterans. Instead of segregated neighborhoods in the
city, segregation lines were newly drawn between city and
“Very low-cost mortgages accelerated the movement of whites from the central city
out to the suburbs… built upon the long racial animosity that characterized cities
beginning at the time of the first World War and continuing, perhaps up to the
With segregation, there was a shift of wealth. Farley says jobs and purchasing
power were exported to the suburbs with the help of the interstate highway system.
And big new shopping centers displaced retail in downtowns.
People with low-incomes, often people of color, were left behind in cities of
abandoned houses and vacant storefronts that often didn’t have enough tax base to
maintain roads and services.
John Powell is a professor at Ohio State University. He’s written extensively on
urban sprawl and its effects on urban centers.
“So, we move jobs away, we move tax base away, we move good schools away and then
the city becomes really desperate and they’re trying to fix the problems, but all
the resources have been moved away.”
With no way found to fix the cities, whites have been moving out of cities to the
suburbs for decades. And now, middle-class blacks are moving out too. For some
metropolitan areas, leaving the city has become a
matter of income… although Powell says even then African-Americans have a more
difficult time finding a way out.
“Race never drops out of the equation. In reality, even middle-class blacks don’t
have the same mobility to move to opportunity that even working-class whites do
because of the way race works in our society.”
So, segregation continues. But now the line is drawn between middle-class blacks in
the older, inner-ring suburbs, whites in the outer-ring suburbs… and for the most
part in cities such as Detroit, poorer blacks left behind in the central city.
Smarth Growth advocates say part of the answer to urban sprawl is finding a way to
get more money back into the central-cities to make them more attractive to
everyone. That’s worked in cities such as Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis-St.
Paul. But those cities and their suburbs are predominantly white. For Northern
cities with greater racial divides, cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St.
Louis and Detroit it’s different. A lot of white suburbanites don’t want tax
dollars going to blacks in the city. And African-Americans in the city don’t see
urban sprawl as their issue, so ideas such as tax revenue sharing for a metropolitan
region are not a priority. The issue of regional tax equity that
works in predominantly white regions… becomes muddied by racial animosity in
“Buzz’ Thomas is state senator in Michigan who has taken on the issue of urban
sprawl and its counterpart, the deterioration of city centers. Senator Thomas says
if state legislatures can’t find an answer to help cities, sprawl in the suburbs
will continue, paving over green space and farmland.
“You know, poverty and jobs and access to health care and access to quality
education are very realistic issues for cities like Detroit. But, a reality is they
go hand-in-hand with sprawl. As your black middle-class moves out of the inner city
because they’re not satisfied with those resolution to those issues. You know, it
Senator Thomas says legislators from rural areas and from urban areas are beginning
to realize they have a common issue. But before they can get to discussions of
regional tax equity, they first have to talk about the more difficult issue of
“And have a discussion that might make me uncomfortable, that might make those
that I discuss it with uncomfortable. Only then, I think, can we really adequately
figure out how long it’s going to take us to resolve that issue.”
In the meantime, many cities are still losing population and revenue. Suburbs
continue to sprawl. And farms are becoming subdivisions, retail strip malls and
fast food restaurants.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.