Winter Driving

Bhavna and I had a stressful weekend of travel for the Holy Days. On Thursday, we set off in our Acura RDX to pick up our daughter Kiran from her last day at college - she'd completed her undergraduate degree a semester early! We were thrilled to be helping her get ready for grad school, where she'll study Library Science at the University of Illinois.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't cooperate on Friday: it was a winter storm like no other (a bomb cyclone) that ended up making what should have been an easy trip more challenging than expected due to snowfall and bitterly cold winds that filled the air with snow flurries. We did our best to be upbeat. We didn’t want to dampen the excitement over helping Kiran move onto this new phase in life. We arrived in Oberlin safely and had a quick dinner with Kiran and her friend Fawad.

Friday23 December 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1300 sec,ISO 5000 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR at f/5.6

The morning after arriving in Oberlin, Bhavna and I decided on an early breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Sheffield Lake. The roads were still full of snow and ice. The fifteen-minute drive from the hotel to the Cracker Barrel was nerve-wracking. Our top speed was twenty kilometres per hour.

I had never dined at Cracker Barrel and was amazed that the restaurant was also a store and somewhat of a museum. The proper name is Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Our host seated us in a large room with a large fireplace. The walls were decorated with lots of Americana. While we waited on our food (I ordered grist, eggs and bacon), I walked around "the Americana History Museum", fascinated by the old-timey products and photographs of people. Before we left, we stocked up on classic American candy and soda pop.

Friday23 December 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1180 sec,ISO 5000 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR at f/4.0

After breakfast, we loaded the last of Kiran’s things into the trunk and drove toward Champaign, Illinois. Our route would take through Indiana, stopping near Fort Wayne to fuel up and get something to eat. It was an unbelievably frigid journey, with the weather being nothing more than a multitude of grey clouds and dismal temperatures between -23°C (-9.4°F) to -19°C(-2.2°F). Visibility was, at best, 100 feet which sometimes dwindled to 10! Like sharp knives, the wind cut through our clothes, making refuelling unbearable. New Jersey law requires a gas station attendant to operate a gasoline pump. I missed that privilege.

We had one heart-stopping moment when the Bhavna hit some ice, and the car slid toward the side of the road. She panicked, hit the brakes and overcorrected her steering, and the car almost went into a slight spin. She recovered control, but the anxiety level in the car was intense for the next few miles.

After arriving safely in Champaign, we unloaded Kiran's belongings from the car before enjoying dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was Christmas Eve, so only a few places were open. We found seating at a restaurant just 30 minutes before the kitchen closed.

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room at the nearby Courtyard Marriott. I looked a bit worn. I think we’ll stay at the Hyatt on our next trip.

We awoke the following day to realise that all the water bottles in the car had frozen solid inside during what little respite we got overnight! I am relieved that we didn’t forget our iPads in the car overnight. The "L" in LCD is for liquid.

The return trip on Christmas Day was stressful since the only thing open was the gas station. We ate junk food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The winds were still blowing, and pumping gas was still an unpleasant experience. But at least the roads were mostly clear of snow and ice.


Sunday25 December 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1/1000 sec,ISO 320 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR at f/6.4

On the return trip, we stopped every four hours to refuel and swap drivers. Each time we stopped, the gas tank was at a quarter tank (25%) before we filled up. The Acura averaged about 280-300 miles on a full tank.

I was concerned about how we would make this trip in an EV. The EV can lose about 20% of the range in icy conditions. With temperatures below freezing, the cold weather would certainly affect EV range and charging speed. How would the extreme cold affect EV battery life? The thermal management system (within the battery) may limit the charging speeds to keep the battery safe. How much longer will the charge take? The Idaho National Laboratory study found that at 0°C (32°F), an EV battery took in 36% less energy than when the battery management system charged the battery for the same amount of time at 25°C (77°F). This means the colder the weather, the more time the battery needs to charge. How much longer would our 14-hour return drive take? 16 hours? 20 hours?

If we had to sit inside the EV for 30-60 minutes while the battery charges, can we also run the heat? If we keep the EV cabin heating off/low to conserve battery use and sit in our thick winter coats, how much more uncomfortable is that long-distance drive? We saw a lot of stranded motorists. What if those stranded cars were EVs? What different things (stress) do we have to consider with the EV versus the ICE car?

Our hotel did not have an EV charger. Our daughter's apartment (a room in a house) does not have an EV charger. There is no way to warm up the EV while charging.

The Acura RDX got a 450-480 kilometre (280-300 mile) range on a full tank in the extreme cold. Would the average EV still get a 480-kilometre range in the extreme cold?

Oberlin and Elyria

I visited my daughter Kiran at Oberlin College and stayed in a charming Airbnb. While finding the town unremarkable, we enjoyed dining at local eateries, including a Thai restaurant and a brewery in a town nearby.

Kiran started her Oberlin College experience in the fall of 2019. That first semester weekend, we had Oberlin College's fast and furious tour for first-year students. We returned to New Jersey with thoughts of exploring the town and the college campus later. But then COVID ruined those plans, and she transitioned to remote instruction from our home in New Jersey. However, Oberlin College allowed fully vaccinated students this summer, and Kiran took the opportunity. The summer session ended, and Kiran opted to stay on campus until the fall semester started in October. But she needed her fall and winter clothes. We agreed to make the drive over the Labour Day weekend, and Kiran decided to give us that campus tour we never had.

Bhavna and I rented an AirBnB off North Main Street on the edge of the Oberlin College campus, about a block away from downtown Oberlin. It's a beautiful 1900s house which our host, Linda, has sectioned off into upstairs and backend guest rooms. We had the top level with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a private bathroom, and a small deck area. It was way more than we needed, but Bhavna thought it might be more fun and convenient than a hotel room at the Marriott in Elyria.

Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 2500
Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 115 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 6400
Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 5000
Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 112 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 6400
Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1250 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 160
Linda's AirBnB | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1250 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320

After getting Kiran settled in one of the worst-maintained college residence rooms I have ever seen, we walked over to Aladdin's Eatery for dinner. The owners were too clever with the menu. Instead of keeping it simple, with recognisable names, the menu played off the Aladdin theme a bit too much. We enjoy eating Middle Eastern food and are familiar with the food names. The menu at Aladdin's had some idiotic name substitutions for simple items like felafel. I had to read the ingredients to understand that the item was felafel. They were also out of the only Lebanese beer on the menu, so much for providing an immersive experience. I ordered a glass of water. I'm too much beer snob to drink the piss water (aka. Budweiser or Miller Lite) that some Americans call beer. When all the baby boomers are dead, maybe restaurants will stop putting that garbage on the menu. The new generation of beer drinkers won't drink that swill.

After dinner, we took a quick stroll through Downtown Oberlin before returning to the house to shower and relax.

Aladdin's Eatery Oberlin | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1/1600 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Tappan Square | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 2000
Corner of Tappan Square | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 160 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 1000
Aladdin's Eatery Oberlin | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 160 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 2500
Oberlin Bike Shop | Friday 3 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 160 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 4000

Oberlin is a boring town. Most small towns in New Jersey have something unique about them that makes them worth visiting. Princeton has the University. Hopewell has some excellent farm-to-table and vegetarian restaurants, an award-winning distillery and a micro craft brewery. Montgomery Township, where I live, has beautiful parks and hiking trails. Ringoes and Asbury have wineries. Oberlin offers none of that. It's bland. Generic. This annoyed me the most.

Allen Memorial Art Museum | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 32.1 mm | 160 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 38.8 mm | 170 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 44.1 mm | 180 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 1000
South Main Street | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 30.2 mm | 150 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 400
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 30.2 mm | 1105 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320

The downtown is two square blocks just off the southeastern section of the Oberlin College campus between West College Street, Main Street, South Professor Street and Vine Street. These streets are mainly lined with old town shop front ends and restaurants. I woke up early the following day. I walked downtown and photographed what I thought might be interesting, but overall, the photographs could have been more exciting. I photographed the early morning light of the storefronts on West College Street, going down to East College Street and then back to South Main Street.

Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 42.7 mm | 170 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 21.3 mm | 130 sec at f/11 | ISO 400
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 31.1 mm | 1110 sec at f/11 | ISO 320
Gibson's | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 35.3 mm | 155 sec at f/11 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 32.1 mm | 145 sec at f/11 | ISO 250
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1340 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 25.7 mm | 1/1250 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
The Feve | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 30.2 mm | 1/1250 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320

I was waiting for the coffee shop, Local Coffee, to open at 8 AM. Honestly, I was annoyed. Most coffee shops in the Princeton area open around 7 AM except for weekends. If you open your coffee shops at 8 AM, you will find that most people are already well on their way to work. Even with remote work, at 8 AM, I have already drunk my first cup of coffee, eaten breakfast and am sitting at the computer catching up on blog posts. The other coffee shop in Oberlin opens at 9 AM.

I walked into Local Coffee, ordered a cappuccino and was immediately disappointed that they could not make me a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Argh!

The Local Coffee & Tea | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 24.9 mm | 1180 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320

Bhavna and Kiran joined me a little later, and after breakfast, Kiran gave us a tour of her campus.

Unfortunately, Oberlin College has chosen to use the short break between Summer and Fall sessions to dig up the campus ground outside all significant buildings and install pipes for their Sustainable Infrastructure Program. The campus is an absolute mess, with construction equipment, mud, and dirt everywhere. I photographed what I could, but the scenery was different from the beautiful campus that Kiran described.

Oberlin College claims that all faculty and staff have been vaccinated. But they won't let anyone tour the buildings unless they are vaccinated and wear a face mask. If everyone in the tower is vaccinated, I refuse to wear a face mask. It serves no purpose. After this visit, I couldn't believe that the administrators of this college were educated, rational people. We did not tour the inside of the buildings. I doubt it would have made much difference. The architecture of the structures is some of the least interesting I have ever seen on a college campus. I don't care if your college was founded in 1833 if your oldest buildings look like they were built in 1933.

Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1/1600 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 47 mm | 1150 sec at f/6.4 | ISO 160
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1100 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1/1100 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1180 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 175 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1950 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1340 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1220 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1220 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1950 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 400
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1680 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 180 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1125 sec at f/3.6 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1680 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 320
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1220 sec at f/5.0 | ISO 320

After we toured the Oberlin College campus, we toured the downtown, and Kiran showed us some of the murals she had discovered.

Oberlin Mural
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1450 sec at f/9.0 | ISO 160

I noticed the colourful mural on the wall of the outdoor space of the Thi Ni Thai restaurant. Then I saw the tuk tuk. We all agreed it was beautiful and wanted Thai food for dinner.

Thi Ni Thai
Thi Ni Thai | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1550 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Thi Ni Thai
Thi Ni Thai | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1/1250 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Thi Ni Thai
tuk tuk | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1850 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 160

Kiran had ordered some ice cream from her favourite ice cream shot, Cowhaus Creamery, which had relocated to Elyria from its usual downtown Oberlin location because of the pandemic. We picked up the ice cream and put it in a cooler. It was lunchtime, so we drove to a gastropub in Elyria, Foundry Kitchen and Bar, where I had an excellent beer. I chatted with our wait staff, and we learned that there was a brewery, Unplugged Brewing, a short walking distance from the gastropub.

The food and the beer at the Foundry Kitchen and Bar were excellent, and walking to the brewery allowed us to burn off some of the calories we had just consumed.

Foundry Kitchen and Bar
Foundry Kitchen and Bar | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1350 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320

Working from home over the last two years of this pandemic, it can be easy to forget how fortunate one is. Some of the restaurants and shops in Princeton did not survive the lockdown, but most did. Some even thrived as residents filled their outdoor spaces. But the many empty, boarded-up storefronts in Elyria made me realise how fortunate we are.

Downtown Elyria
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1450 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Downtown Elyria
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1/1600 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Downtown Elyria
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1600 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Downtown Elyria
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1900 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160
Downtown Elyria
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1900 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160

I would never walk into Boomers for a craft beer.

Boomers, Elyria
Boomers | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1/1000 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320

Unplugged Brewing was a farther walk than I anticipated. The friendly taproom staff served us a flight of some pretty delicious ales. Kiran is still young, but we agreed to take her on future trips after her birthday in November. We bought some canned beer to bring back to New Jersey.

Unplugged Brewing Company
Unplugged Brewing Company | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 190 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Unplugged Brewing Company
Unplugged Brewing Company | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 400
Unplugged Brewing Company
Unplugged Brewing Company | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 150 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 160
Unplugged Brewing Company
Unplugged Brewing Company | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 170 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320

We left the brewery and went back to the house for a shower. The showers in the student housing where Kiran was staying for the month between summer and fall and the shower were, to use her words, "disgusting", so she used the shower at the house.

Unplugged Brewing Company | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 180 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320

Dinner at ThiNi Thai was delicious. The Thai phrase translates to "is here". The owners of The Feve, a popular restaurant on South Main Street, opened the restaurant at the beginning of January 2020. They were inspired by a trip to Chiang Mai, a city in the mountainous northern region of Thailand, where they met their tour guide and friend, Aon Krittathiranon, who helped them develop the menu. Aon is a co-owner and moved to Oberlin to join the project as the restaurant's chef.

I ordered a Tuk Tuk cocktail. We sat outside on the "patio" under the mural dragon. We talked with Kiran about the upcoming school year, her internship, early graduation and what to expect after that.

Bhavna
Bhavna | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1210 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Kiran
Kiran | Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 155 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 160
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 160 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1480 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 1250
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 1600
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 175 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 160
Thi Ni Thai Restaurant
Saturday 4 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1100 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 320

On Sunday, Bhavna and I went home. The flowers below are from Linda's garden.

Sunday 5 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1140 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 320
Sunday 5 September, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 | 1300 sec at f/8.0 | ISO 160

Last week, we had a lot of rainfall in a relatively short period. Many towns flooded. Many basements were destroyed. Lives were lost. I'm sure you've read about it.

52 Week Smartphone Challenge: Week 5: Symmetry

📷 Last weekend I was in Ohio at Oberlin College to return Kiran for her second semester of freshman year. The week prior was a blur with the contractors finalising the kitchen project and getting Kiran packed and ready to return. The 52 Week Smartphone Challenge fell off my priority list, and it wasn't until this morning that I could review my images from last week.

The featured image is the only image I have that come close to the week's theme of symmetry. I noticed the Apollo Theatre a few times on previous trips to Oberlin, but this is the first time I had an opportunity to photograph it. I was a very early morning on Super Bowl Sunday, and the town seemed deserted. There was minimal traffic, so I was able to stand in the road to fill my frame. I intended to frame the Apollo between the buildings on either side.

The image isn't as symmetrical as I had hoped. Bhavna wanted to leave and get going back to New Jersey so I was in a bit of a hurry and didn't stand in the right spot.

Submitted for my 52 Week Smartphone Challenge.