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Day 8, Sunday 9 August 1998

Today turned out to be the second longest driving day so far; in part this was because I left Charleston heading in the wrong direction, and didn't turn around until I reached the toll plaza fifteen or twenty miles down the road! I had enough fuel that this wasn't a problem, and enough time that I was only a few minutes late for my first stop, at Automotive Research Technologies, Inc., in Morgantown, WV.

This trip has been quite an education for me, and this visit had to rank as one of the most interesting so far! ART is an alternative-fuels system design, installation, and training firm; they are also leasing part of their facilities to West Virginia University for use as the center of the National Alternative Fuels Training Program. There are fourteen regional centers, mostly at community or other colleges, that provide training in a variety of technical areas related to several alternative fuels: converting, servicing, testing, you name it. The one with which I am most familiar is at College of the Desert in the Coachella Valley Clean Cities Coalition's territory; all of them teach a curriculum developed here in West Virginia. The focus at this location is on training the trainers; they have classrooms, labs for working with the components of an alternative-fuel system...

ART shop

ART light-duty dynamometer

... and a light-duty dynamometer with extra space and computer monitors around it so students can gather around the vehicle under test and study the process of making a "treadmill" emissions test, as pictured here. There is also another dynamometer here:

ART heavy-duty portable dynamometer

the humongous blue thing in the picture is half of the heavy-duty dyno, which is capable of running tests on vehicles (buses and large trucks) up to 60,000 pounds gross vehicle weight! (The other half is a mirror image, so two vehicles can be tested at once, side by side.) The silver wheel next to the rollers bolts to the hub of the vehicle's drive axle, so you don't have to worry about tires slipping on rollers. The most amazing thing about this dyno is that it is portable! The whole assembly jacks up on built-in hydraulic lifts (the blue towers closest to us in the photo) and drops on caissons to move from state to state, or country to country, as a trailer, along with a portable gas chemistry lab to measure the emissions of the vehicles to be run on the dyno. There are two of these, both built here; the other one was out on the road!

Jody Stirewalt of ART, Clayton Huber and Lisa Ware of Hope Gas Co., and Bill McGlinchey of the National Alternative Fuels Technology Center were on hand to meet me and show me around; I wish I could have stayed for a lot longer, but I had underestimated the time to get to Pittsburgh as it was! They presented me with baseball caps from ART and Consolidated Natural Gas, the parent company of Hope. They also gave me a die-cast model of "Natural Gasser II", the dragster sponsored by Consolidated Natural Gas and campaigned by Joe Mezquita before he won the Super Comp class at the Fram Nationals in June 1998 with "Natural Gasser III", as I mentioned a couple of days ago. You know you've hit the big time when they make an action figure of you, or a die-cast model of your car! Thanks to you all for a most enjoyable and informative visit, and thanks also to Jeff Herholdt of the West Virginia Clean Cities Coalition, who got us together. There was a TV reporter there to talk to us, but I seem to have lost the piece of paper where I wrote down the name of his station...

Equitable Gas station sign

My next stop was in Pittsburgh, and as I mentioned above I underestimated the travel time from Morgantown; then I got lost among the construction detours on the other side of the river, and so I ended up arriving over twenty minutes late at the Equitable Gas refueling station (the fine print in the white circle on the sign says "Today's energy, tomorrow's environment"). There was a team from KDKA TV channel 2 there at 11 a.m., when I was supposed to arrive; they left, but they came back later and recorded an interview with us which I was told later was very good publicity for the Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities and Equitable Gas. My visit fell on a weekend of Ozone Action Days, so the tie-in with clean air and the substantial local efforts to achieve it was pretty solid.

In addition to the gas company fleet, several local companies (including UPS), municipal fleets, and the University of Pittsburgh have significant numbers of natural-gas vehicles, so this station had been expanded twice since it was first built. How's that for "build it and they will come"?

Pittsburgh group portrait

Thes are the folks who met me there: from left to right are Keith Spitznagel of Equitable Gas, Natalie and Nicole Sebula (the latter portraying Freddie, the Equitable Gas mascot, and the former her dresser and helper-over-high-steps-and-other-obstacles!), Mary Dunn of Equitable and her husband Steve Dunn, and Steve Sabol of Equitable. Thanks for your patience with my late arrival, and for the nice sweatshirt!

entering Maryland

Next I drove back to the south, through Maryland, to Washington, DC. They didn't need me to help them drum up publicity, so I just refueled (using my VISA card) at the Shell station in Greenbelt. Then, because it seemed like an awful waste to be this close to the nation's capitol and not at least drive around the Mall and look at the buildings and monuments, I did just that. I was able to park near enough to the Capitol building...

U.S. Capitol

Smithsonian "castle"

... and to the old "castle" of the Smithsonian Institution, "America's Attic", to get some photos. I actually was not able to sort out the streets well enough to find the White House... Oh well. I haven't had a proper visit in DC for about a decade; maybe next time I can go in some of those doors!

As I noted at the top, this was the second-longest driving day so far (and no longer ones are scheduled), so I was pretty beat at the end of the day. I decided I wanted to be a bit more alert when I wrote up a most interesting day, which is why this diary entry is a day late. Sorry--I don't think that will happen again (the only other late entry was on the longest day of the trip!).

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new 10 August 1998, revised 13 August 1998