After railin’ and rantin’ about billion dollar boondoggle bridges, trains, and sports teams to nowhere yesterday I figured it was time for some positive comments on low buck ideas that work. Hang out the stockin’s, here they come!

Biofuels: Yea, I know somebody in the back row is about to start his rant on the evils of ethanol now, but what fuel can we never run out of? And doesn’t require fracking or tearing up half of North Dakota? Or steaming the stuff out of freezing sands or trillion dollar wars on the other side of the planet? Yup, I know that people don’t like living next to an ethanol plant any more than they like living next to a brewery… But then again, some people like being close to breweries.

Tech Days: Take the mystery out of the innards of classic bikes and whatever- have a tech day. Besides having a lot of fun and friviolity, it’s a lot easier to learn wrenchin’ from watchin’ and doin’ than from a manual alone.

Passenger Rail: No, I don’t mean those boutique “light rail” pods that cost millions and require their own overhead electrical system. I’m talkin’ about good old Old Skool 110 MPH trains like Amtrak and commuter agencies run on plain old train tracks all over the country. Proven technology that can go just about anywhere there’s tracks, and able to carry hundreds of riders in speed and comfort. And cost? Take away the Amtrak HQ overhead in DC that it’s financially hobbled with, and the Empire Builder is breaking even. Want to add routes? For a billion dollars you can have 10 miles of light rail line, or a 2000+ mile “North Coast Hiawatha” from Chicago to Portland via MSP, Fargo, Billings, and Spokane. Cut out the duplication of that route with the Empire Builder on the east and west ends, and you could do it for half that.

Craftsman hand tools: Guaranteed forever and mostly american made, and at bargain prices. Watch out for imported junk creeping in though- the $40 three drawer box from Costco looked good but is going back ‘cus it’s Hecho En Mexico. My nephew will be getting a 150 or so American made Craftsman tool set with box instead, all for less than $100.

Cheap new bikes and cars: All too many manufacturers are headed upmarket to cater to the 1% all too quickly. As a result “economy cars” now carry $20+K stickers and BMW’s “entry level” bikes are pushing $10k and beyond. Fortunately you can still buy some quite usable new bikes like the KLR650 and DR650 for around $5k if you shop around, let’s keep it that way. Unfortunately the car makers see life differently, and expect us to spend $10+k for hundred thousand mile used(up) cars. Forget it, automakers- When I can buy three new bikes for the price of the cheapest 4 wheeler, it’s time to swear off four wheelers!

The internet: Some of us old farts remember the dark old days when you had to hang around campfire conversations and read greasey old manuals to obtain the knowledge to keep your vehicles running. Nowdays, such info and more is just a google search away. Let’s keep it like that.

Gotta run, got to keep headin’ north for an exclusive interview with the head of a major worldwide logistics provider tomorrow…

 

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