An Apple Car?

Have you missed me? Winter wasn’t harsh, just miserable enough to keep me inside and depressed.

It’s a well-known fact, at least within my family, that I’m an Apple fangirl. Doing stuff with an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and two Macs is what keeps me marginally sane during the miserable months. I read media reports; listen to podcasts; keep track of my meager shares of Apple stock; and watch company events in real time.

The most recent item to incite the Mac Nerd media (some of whom are friends) is Motor Trend’s Apple Car Exclusive: Experts Look At What Could Be A Game-Changer. I’ve only heard of Motor Trend; does the publication usually focus solely on design?

Apple Car front three quarter render

The missing image icon above represents one view of the Motor Trend’s speculative Apple car that was previously here, but is no longer available to this site. If you wish to view their images, click on the link above.

From my perspective, with the car being at least a few years from realization, appearance is irrelevant. More important factors are: 1) Will each wheel have a separate electrical motor, or will the entire vehicle will be powered by a single driveshaft? 2) Will engineers find a way to efficiently translate wheel rotation into electricity that charges the batteries sufficiently that range is extended to a number worth reporting? (I admit to being a perpetual motion junkie) 3) Could solar cells be molded into an attractive exterior of the auto that would contribute to battery charge when not providing environmental control for the interior?

To that last point, the Solar Impulse 2 is a completely solar-powered aircraft in the midst of circumnavigating the planet. It zips along at about 28 MPH with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747, hardly worth mentioning, but it proves the concept that solar cells on a vehicle have the potential to contribute to overall electrical power.

When Apple released the iPhone, the size and shape resembled other smartphones of the day; the genius of the device was what it could do. In the same fashion, a vehicle made by Apple will resemble other cars. It will have a pointy-ish nose to minimize drag and a cabin that will accommodate however many people, and their stuff, Apple decides the car should carry. It will be stylish, as befits any design influenced by Jony Ive, not the rounded box Motor Trend proposed.

An issue not addressed by Motor Trend is self-driving cars. I agree, it’s a topic for another decade. Despite the extensive research currently being conducted, there’s no reason to believe implementation won’t require at least ten years. On the otherhand, there are cars currently in production with “autopilot” capabilities that will track within a lane and adjust speed to match the vehicle in front.

On one podcast, (The Accidental Tech Podcast, I think) the guys surmised Apple could budget a BILLION dollars, an amount that wouldn’t make a noticable dent to the company balance sheet, to study the feasibility of producing automobiles without breaking a sweat. I think an Apple developed car would be awesome. Whether it comes to fruition or not, an Apple engineering team will advance the science of automotive electrical propulsion. I hope I live long enough to see what they bring forth.

Crossing the Mackinac Strait

A Great Lake was calling; we chose Huron and the town of St. Ignace, a place that a local restaurant bills as a “Drinking village with a fishing problem,” St. Ignace is the touristy gateway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it sits on the Mackinac Strait, which divides Lake Huron from Lake Michigan. The most important thing we needed to learn is that Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw by the locals—they look at you funny if you mess that one up.

Among its many charms, St. Ignace has direct ferry boat access to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel, the filming location of the greatest chick flick ever, Somewhere in Time. Visiting the island was high on our agenda.

The 500 mile drive from Cincinnati took just over eight hours with a rest stop to eat the lunch we’d packed, then a very quick pit stop for gas a hundred or so miles further. As we pulled into St. Ignace we began looking for our hotel, where we’d be staying the next three days. The Holiday Inn Express was quiet, well situated, reasonably priced, and, delightfully, our room overlooked Lake Huron. The ubiquitous seagulls were noisy, but otherwise not a problem unless some idiot decided to feed them. Pro Tip: Do not ever feed seagulls. They’re perfectly capable of finding their own food.

After cleaning off the road dirt we headed to a restaurant where we thought we’d eaten our last time here, 10-12 years ago. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as the last time; or, was it even the same restaurant? Jen and I are in disagreement about which. My prime rib was good, Jen’s lake perch, one of the reasons for coming, wasn’t good at all, and the service pretty well sucked.

After dinner we strolled the boardwalk that runs along the shoreline. The highlight for me was the Municipal Landing, where many grand boats, both large and small, were docked. Our favorite was the small sailing vessel with the wood trim. municipal landing

Upon returning to the hotel we found an orange full moon rising over Lake Huron. Photography ensued. orange moon rising

We’d had a long, exhausting day. Jen and I had a final glass of wine on the hotel room deck then slept like the dead.

Day One — Mackinac Island

We were up and functioning by about 8:30. We threw on some clothes then went to the lobby for the provided breakfast. I found the turkey sausage to be excellent, although the scrambled eggs were a bit watery. Afterward we hung out in the room for a bit, drinking coffee and reading the day’s news, then prepared for the day ahead.

We wandered around town on foot for a bit, poking into shops and looking at real estate notices. We got ourselves to the Star Line terminal before Noon for the uneventful boat ride to the island.

Approaching the island we were able to see the previously mentioned Grand Hotel. Grand Hotel

As we disembarked the morning overcast was beginning to burn off. We decided to wander the tourist-trap main street of the island. We went into a few t-shirt shops, most were trashy; our primary goal was to ride bicycles around the 8.2 mile island. Note: The red line on the image running along the perimeter of the island is the walk/bike path.

There are three or four bike rental vendors within a quarter-mile of each other; we chose the closest and rented a couple 21-speed bicycles for a few hours. This sounds routine, however the last time I was on a bicycle was April 2014 when I broke my left elbow and right hand in an accident. I’m not prone to fear, but I will admit to apprehension while donning elbow pads. When properly equipped, we hopped on the trail and headed out of town.

The “trail” was two-lane and paved, and importantly for two out-of-shape older ladies, mostly level. Mackinac Island bike trail

Early in our ride we came upon small mounds of stones and pebbles, called rock cairns, whose tradition dates to prehistory as a means of marking trails. Today they’re mostly a means of self-expression. There are hundreds of cairns along the perimeter trail. Cairns

For us the most striking feature of the island was the absolutely crystal clear water along the shoreline that photographs don’t do justice. clear water

We finished the three hour ride in about as good shape as we started, but we were getting hungry. We decided to go to the best t-shirt shop we had seen, buy a couple shirts to commemorate our ride then look for reasonable food. The shirts were easy, reasonable food—not so much. We split a hotdog then made our way back to the dock for our ride to the mainland. rooster tail

After arrival at our hotel, we made a modest effort to clean up then went to dinner at a place we’d seen the night before. Once again Jen had lake perch that was not exactly what she wanted. We realized Lake Huron perch was going to be served differently than Lake Michigan perch in Wisconsin. After eating we headed back to our hotel room and waited for the moon to rise again. Of course it did, but not as photogenically as the night before.

Day Two — We Don’t Got No Stinking Beaches

Jen awoke with a stuffed head and chest congestion, coughing and sneezing—not a good sign. We went to breakfast anyway; it wasn’t as good as the day before. Afterward we putzed around the room for a bit then put on our bathing suits and went in search of a “public beach,” as in a sandy place we that would allow us to sit in the sand and get wet in a Great Lake. Apparently folks in the Mackinac Strait are more interested in pulling fish out of the water than getting wet in it. Despite repeated attempts, none of the locals could direct us to a sandy beach. Frustrated, we went back to the hotel where Jen took flu medication and tried to nap. I found a place in the lobby conducive to reading.

Eventually, needing sustenance, we tried our third different restaurant. We avoided fish and ordered hamburgers that turned out to be so awesome that we splurged on dessert. Due to Jen’s illness, day two was pretty much a bust. When you go on vacation you take your chances; after almost twenty years together this was our first that ended badly.

Day Three — Get in the Car; Drive Forever

After breakfast we loaded the car for the dreaded eight hour drive home; we were on the road a little before 9:00 am. The first 2 hours were awesome. I set the cruise control at 79 MPH and all I had to do was steer; there was hardly any traffic. But the further south we got the more cars were on the road. We stopped for fuel and food near Flint. The most difficult part of the trip was after crossing into Ohio, dealing with traffic due to accidents and construction-narrowed lanes. It was a very stressful nine hours plus to get home. The relief upon our arrival was palpable.

Aftermath

The flu made Jen miserable on the drive home. She was a trooper, hanging in for the long journey. For some reason I avoided getting sick until Saturday, when I was in the middle of a round of golf. I survived, shot 90, then dragged my body home. Jen in the surf We thought we might find property we could purchase, use as a vacation rental until Jen retired, then live there several months of the year. Due to the lack of any beach that’s unlikely now. The Upper Peninsula is still interesting. We’ll find another excuse to go there one of these days, if for no reason other than Mackinac Island still has places we haven’t explored.

Requiem for Ravioli

In August 2006 I purchased a previously-owned, red 2002 Toyota RAV4. We nicknamed it “RAVioli.” RAVioli took us on many adventures, exploring local treasures and driving hundreds of miles to see what other places had to offer.

RAVioli took me to golf tournaments and outings in far-flung locations such as Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Blairsville, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; and Masillon, Ohio. For over eight years RAVioli carried me safely on my daily commute, fifty miles per day for most of it, in almost any imaginable condition — rain, snow, sleet, and ice; as well as blistering heat and humidity — in wonderful comfort. It carried all my golf equipment, I have a lot, as well as groceries, travel paraphernalia, and most of whatever we could stuff inside, and it did so without complaint.

Among RAVioli’s many traits was its amazing good looks. It turned heads; iceravI know it did. It was always easy to find in a grocery store parking lot; it stood out in a crowd.

But now it’s gone. The alternator quit. When I got the call from my local mechanic I was told that there were some other items that needed attention — a significant oil leak and brakes led the list. The projected total for repairs exceeded the resale value of a 13-year-old car in fair condition. It was time to let RAVioli go and move on to the next vehicle. It was with a heavy heart that I traded in my beloved RAVioli for a pure white 2012 Camry — I have entered the character-free zone.

Yes, the new girl has technology better than I’ve had in a car, but it has no soul. What could I possibly name it — Snowball? iCar? Who knows? I’m confident the Camry will take me anonymously, and in comfort, wherever I choose to go. But that’s no fun.