Working on a Comics Story for Portland Monthly

Got another last-minute assignment (actually, two) from Portland Monthly. This one required interviews with Mike Richardson, founder and president of Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, and Helen Spalding at the Portland State University library. Both were great interviews, and it reminded me that I needed to pick up my stack of comics in my slot at Bridge City Comics on North Mississippi. Don’t tell Mike, but there weren’t any DH comics in the stack this time.

Why I Love My Job

I just got back from driving a Maserati, a Dodge Viper, a C63 Mercedes-Benz tuned by AMG, and the Audi S5, among 15 others, through the mountains of Central Oregon. I drove faster and pushed harder through corners than I probably ever have, and the people on the rally were as nice as the cars.

Fellow auto journalists Jeff Zurchmeide and John Vincent put the route together, and it was perfect — right down to the clear, blue skies and 85-degree afternoons. Perfect for driving in the drop-top cars. I was glad that the Maserati rep brought ball caps, though, since I forgot to put sunscreen where I part my hair the first day and burned a pink line right along the top of my head. Cute.

Now I’m back in my office, catching up on emails and making appointments for interviews. I’ve got a story due for Portland Monthly next week that I’m looking forward to writing.

Two Days of Driving — for Fun

I leave bright and early tomorrow morning to join my fellow Northwest Automotive Press Association members on a two-day jaunt through Central Oregon in a string of fast cars. The organizers lined up everything from a Mazda MX-5 (that’s a Miata) to a Maserati, with the likes of Audi, Volvo, and a Dodge Viper thrown in.

The route is one of my favorite drives in Oregon, along Old McKenzie Pass. The bummer will be the wildfires raging near Mt. Adams in Washington. We’re supposed to drive home on the Washington side of the Columbia River, but it may be smoky and nasty, especially in a convertible.

EV Awareness Day 7-5-08

I went to Pioneer Courthouse Square Saturday morning to check out EV Awareness Day, held by the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association. There were about a dozen cars and trucks there, from a squared-off Citicar from the early 1970s to a Prius converted to plug-in hybrid technology.

I overheard a woman tell her husband, “He’ll let me take a picture in it!” She led him away, so I followed. She was giddy at the idea of sitting in the driver’s seat of a little, green Fiat 500 that had been converted to run on DC power. They took pictures with the door open, with the door closed, with her leaning out, with her holding the steering wheel … she was really excited.

Shorepower was there, too. These are the guys making the charging stations that Portland General Electric will start installing around town soon. They had a charger/meter on display, which they explained to all comers, including a woman who works for the nearby city of Gresham who wanted to know how to get them in the budget and on the streets.
Even at 11 am on a Saturday morning after a late-night Jazz Fest on the waterfront, there were quite a few people checking out the cars from every angle and talking to their owners. Spectators ranged from guys in shorts and tucked-in polo shirts who crouched on the bricks to better see under the cars to skate punks with facial tattoos asking questions of the engineers who converted their Porsches 911s and Honda Insights to all-electric power.

Lunch with Lutz

Had lunch with GM honcho Bob Lutz on Tuesday in Seattle. It was interesting to talk to Mr. Lutz, as he’s on a kind of PR tour to counteract the negative image people have about the company. Also, the restaurant used fresh local berries in its desserts. Tasty. Read about Mr. Lutz’s comments (and not a word about the food) in my post on on Friday, June 20.

Article in Latest Portland Monthly — Thanks to Mrs. Peterson

My latest piece for Portland Monthly’s Mudroom section is a short one, on Electrathon America, a race for electric vehicles designed and built by high school and community college teams. I started the first draft of the short article during a visit to Mrs. Peterson’s class at Spring Mountain Elementary School. I talked to the kids about being a writer and how many revisions are necessary, and they asked me to demonstrate a first draft — live and in person. I’m glad they did. I think it turned out well — four revisions later.

Oregon Press Women’s Conference

I spent all day Saturday — the warmest, sunniest day Oregon has seen all month — inside at the Oregon Press Women’s spring seminar. Luckily, the windows in our upstairs ballroom opened to let in fresh air.

The seminar asked four speakers to share their ideas on the future of writing and journalism, which ranged from changes in grammar and usage to newspapers in an Internet age. More importantly, I met other women who have been freelance journalists for much longer than I have, and they have no intention of quitting or retiring, either. Two years down, thirty or forty to go (if I’m not run over and killed by a silent EV before then).

Thanks to the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon

Last night, at the invitation of fearless AROO leader Marty Schneiderman, I gave a presentation entitled “Sports and Collector Cars in the Eco Age, or Why You Won’t Have to Give Up Your Alfa Any Time Soon” to the members of the club. Marty warmed up the crowd for me by running the regularly scheduled meeting while the rest of us ate barbecue. It was a great time, I met a lot of new people (not all of whom shared with my interest in alternative-fuel technologies), and I wanted to say thanks to Marty and give the club a plug.

If you’re wondering how I got invited in the first place, you can read my article about Alfa’s 2009 return to the U.S. market, which was published in the December issue of Ultimate Northwest, here.

TV and SUVs

I spent two days last week evaluating 28 SUVs for the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s annual award. Also during those two days, fellow NWAPA member Tom Voelk filmed me talking about women and SUVs. Tom produces Driving Northwest for Northwest Cable News. As soon as I know times and channels, I’ll post them on this page.