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?


I am disappointed by the results I get when using 35mm colour film stock for portraiture.

I am disappointed by the results when using 35mm colour film stock for portraiture. The conventional wisdom around the Interweb is that Kodak Portra 35mm film delivers spectacular skin tones with exceptional colour saturation over a wide range of lighting conditions. However, when photographing darker skin tones, my experience with Kodak Porta 160 and Kodak Portra 400 falls short of my expectations. From what I read, the later update that improved the rendering of dark skin tones from Kodak's colour films wasn't necessarily a consideration for properly photographing darker skin tones but rather the by-product of solving an advertising problem - the proper colour rendering of dark wood and milk chocolate.

While looking at and adjusting the tone curve of scans from the roll of Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow that I exposed in September on the streets of Sandusky, I realised that for 35mm film portraiture. I prefer the results from black-and-white films. I've captured Bhavna's portrait on Ilford HP5 Plus 400, Eastman Kodak Double-X 5222 400 and Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow. The results have been to my liking due to the forgiving exposure latitude of these 35mm film stocks.

Sandusky, Ohio · Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow · Saturday 3 September 2022 · Minolta X-700 · MD ROKKOR-X 45mm F2

Cocky Little Asian Guy and Small City Taphouse

We visited CLAG, a brewery that I think is one of the best in Ohio.

On our first night in Sandusky, when the owners of Sandusky Wine Merchant found out that Bhavna and I were craft ale fans, they recommended we visit [CLAG Brewing]. There is another brewer within easy walking distance of the hotel, but Alana and Kevin were adamant that CLAG was the one to visit.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

I met a short Asian man outside the brewery just as we entered the building. I told him that he looked like the owner's photograph on the website. I asked if that was him. He gave a vague answer, and our conversation continued until we got to the taproom, where Emilia, our taproom attendant, confirmed that the man I met at the entrance was indeed the owner.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
CLAG’s owner, Kha Bui · Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

CLAG, an acronym for Cocky Little Asian Guy, is owned by the same family that owns Small City Taphouse, one of Ohio's premier craft beer bars. The owner, Kha Bui, and his business partners, including his brother An Bui, invested about $1.2 million to start Clag Brewing Co. on Columbus Avenue. Kha’s brother, An, owns The Answer Brewpub in Richmond, Virginia. The Answer Brewpub is a 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalist. The Bui family has a history of creating popular eateries and pubs. The Buis are natives of Vietnam who have lived in the USA since the 1980s.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

We are used to the small spaces of many micro-craft breweries in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, usually located in former industrial sections of old towns or restored barns on historic farm properties. The size of the space is enormous. The brewery and taproom are in one building, and the restaurant, the Small City Taphouse, is in the adjacent building.

The beer is excellent and is the best beer I’ve had in Ohio, although, to be truthful, I have not had a lot of beer from Ohio’s breweries. I was told that Dong is pronounced just as we would that vulgar word in English. Few brewery owners put their faces or likeness on their beer labels, but Kha is a brewery owner like no other. Kha continues with his tongue-in-cheek nature in the names of his IPAs, among them One Million Dong, Two Million Dong, Three Million Dong, and One Floppy Dong, with a caricature of his face on each label. We also tried his Hoppy No Ending, Juicy Bui and Yellow Moon ales.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Kha isn’t the only Bui to grace a CLAG beer label. Kha’s parents have their beers named after them: Mama Bui triple IPA and Papa Bui double IPA. We didn’t try these beers. While both have been available on tap dating back to CLAG’s grand opening, Mama Bui and Papa Bui are now released in cans once a year on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, respectively.

We spent the rest of the night at the bar, hanging out with Kha and some of his friends, staying hours after the taproom had officially closed. Kha told about how he opened the Small City Taphouse and then, inspired by his brother’s success in Richmond, bought the adjacent building, and knocked out a space in the wall between them to connect his brewery and tap room to the restaurant. Kha has plans to renovate the top floors of the building to create a boutique hotel.

Thursday 1 September 2022 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

It was a very late night, and perhaps because the conversations were so enjoyable, I didn’t take any photographs of the restaurant space in the Small City Taphouse. But we returned the next day for an early dinner. The photos I took of the tap room don’t quite show the enormity of the space, nor does it include the hundreds of bottles of spirits that line the wall from top to bottom.

I found the menu at Small City Taphouse overwhelming, full of succulent and authentic Asian cuisine, which features something for just about anyone. I wanted something with intense flavour. Our server suggests the Spicy Lemongrass Sauce with Onion and Pork. It was delicious.