The plan was to spend a day at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis on the way home from Florida. Unfortunately some hot moist air from the Gulf met up with some frigid arctic air along a New Mexico to New England track, dumping over a foot of snow in Kentucky and freezing rain and lesser snow along the rest of the storm track. Precipitation of the solid variety and states south of the Mason-Dixon line do not go well together, so following the most excellent graphical forecasts provided by the National Weather Service I made an end run around the west end of the storm via Louisiana. NWS pegged this storm with their forecast, and following their forecasts I had dry roads all the way… Your tax dollars at work!

Back to the Work Truck Show, brought to you by the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA). In an age when all too many “trade associations” are thinly veiled lobbying operations pimping their industry to the politicians, NTEA is educating it’s members and setting standards all about the art and science of properly mounting the stuff that does the work on the trucks that haul that stuff around. And unlike the Koch and big oil funded “educational charities” that preach climate change denial, the NTEA is seriously green, to the point of offering a two day “Green Truck Summit” that runs just before the show and organizing a green truck “ride and drive” event where the makers can show off their developments and the customers and media can sample them. And last but not least, NTEA appreciates bloggers, giving us pretty much the run of the place just like the traditional media. NTEA, sorry I couldn’t make it, I’ll try again next year.

NTEA does such a great job of helping the media with onsite photos and forwarded PRs that I could have just written a whole story on the show and never let on that I wasn’t even there… Heck, the dead tree media got away with that for decades. Remember my last post of the 4 am e-mail party invite? It was followed by another one at 5:30 before somebody caught that media fail, and it came from a mainstream PR shop that was charged with promoting a truck electrification kit. Such is the high stakes and high hype in the hybrid/electric truck market, where investors and execs with fantasies of being the next Tesla are cranking up the PR voltage in hopes of a market breakthrough. thus the show saw hydraulic hybrid, capacitor hybrid, and pure electric modifications of the near generic Ford step van chassis. Best of luck to them all, but Tesla has yet to attain sustainable market penetration, and Eaton’s reputed tire smokin’ hydraulic hybrid garbage truck drivetrain and their market share leadership will be hard to beat. And while the electric truck maker’s PR machine was braggin’ up a multi unit sale to major step van user Ameripride, a natural gas conversion kit supplier was also bragging up a multi unit sale of their product to the same Ameripride… Clearly, the users are still experimenting and sampling the market before deciding on a technology.

But the small stuff was the big news of the show. For a start, the new (to this market) Ford Transit and Dodge vans are selling well, so every up fitter is making stuff for them- propane and natural gas conversions, cargo control stuff, ladder racks, etc.. There was unexpected innovation to- upscaling the Polaris UTV mounted all purpose “power pack” generator/air compressor/etc. to big truck size, Miller of welder fame is offering a 20 odd horsepower diesel engined multifunction power pack that can do all the same stuff, allowing the trucks much bigger (and thirstier) engine to be shut off. Toward the same goal of keeping that big ‘ol truck engine from idling all day, International introduced a software upgrade for their engines that starts the engine when the cab gets cold or the batteries get low, then shuts the engine down when the cab is toasty warm and batteries topped off. Amazing what can be done with a few software hacks… Now why can’t every engine offer these clean, green, and practical features?

Back on the road, I again tolerated McDonalds in exchange for their WiFi, which is now fairly reliable. The food though, was predictably unpredictable, with almost every single order screwed up in some way(s). With competitors now offering free WiFi along with better food, the flow of red ink at McDonalds is probably only just beginning. I’d almost forgiven Motel 6 for past offenses as they’ve been reflagging some of the conglomerate’s upmarket properties as Motel 6s… $40 a night for a decent room and free WiFi ain’t bad. But in Texarkana I was reminded that the Motel 6 management is still clueless… They’d reflagged an exterior entry motel and given it the standard Motel 6 “upgrades” of cheap ‘n’ cheerful new furniture and flooring. But the building was so structurally decrepit that daylight shown through the door jam and the movement of anything of mass shook the whole structure… The past it’s prime motel proper should have been demolished and replaced with a new interior hall structure with central HVAC and actual insulation in the walls and ceilings! With all the noise and nocturnal noisemaking naughtiness that exterior entry motels promote I didn’t get to sleep ’til after midnight. Thus got a late start next day and drove the final near 900 hours home in 15 hours.

Got the car unloaded, made a Costco run, and picked up the ’15 tabs for the Minnesota bikes. Rode ’bout 50 miles in the 50s today, maybe ride over to the Guzzi dealer and see if I can work a deal on a way leftover ’11 Guzzi Stelvio tomorrow…