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Taking Stock of Fort Stockton

Last week Betsy and I drove out to Fort Stockton, Texas. In many ways, the drive was a complete disaster. I-10 was shut down due to a pretty horrific accident that delayed us by an hour and a half. In order to make up time so that we wouldn't be late to our lunch meeting, we had to pick up the pace which was a strategy that was not appreciated by a Texas Highway Patrol Officer outside of Sonora. I didn't think a Prius was physically able to get a speeding ticket. Apparently I was wrong.

Despite that, some rain, some hail and a plague of locusts, we somehow managed to pull into Fort Stockton just as the meeting was getting underway. We'd been asked to help the Fort Stockton Community Theatre develop concepts for a new performance space and we wanted to meet with area stakeholders to talk about the current role of the theatre in their community and what they would like to see it become. It was a great wide-ranging discussion about big goals and it was incredibly helpful for us to understand how this group defines itself and how it imagines its new theatre could play a larger role in the Fort Stockton community.

Architecture can't do everything but it can provide the framework for change to occur. The people we spoke with see their new theatre as a way of improving their city - a way to introduce people to the arts who might not otherwise be interested in such things. We feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of this effort and we look forward to working with them to create a facility that fulfills their functional needs while at the same time creating something more something unique to Fort Stockton. We what to help them create a place where young and old like to go to see a play; a place where the rancher and the oilman likes to take their family; a place that is uniquely suited to Fort Stockton; a place that is in the words of one of the participants of the lunchtime discussion, is "West Texas Cool." 

I am now officially one of those drivers

The solar roof on my Prius is awesome.  And yes, I am a nerd.

If you will recall, I lost my car in January.  The "preowned" vehicle we bought to replace it has since been driven by my wife, leaving me to drive her old 2001 Honda CRV, a vehicle I came to despise with the intensity of a hundred suns.  The exterior of the car displayed the scars of its 12 years of hard living and its interior smelled of putrid death.  I do not prescribe to the notion that we are defined by our cars, but driving this one always left me feeling diminished.

With its transmission failing we decided it was time to replace it as well and so a month or so ago I traded it in for a 2010 Toyota Prius.  Yes, I am now one of those drivers.  I accelerate slowly, coast at the speed limit whenever possible and begin to slow down a mile or so before I actually need to stop.  In a remarkably short period of time I have become incredibly frustrating to drive behind, but on the upside I have consistently averaged 50 miles per gallon.

The combination of an electric and gasoline engine along with a regenerative breaking system is what technologically allow the Prius to achieve its high gas milage.  But it also provides the driver with important information about their driving habits that most people do not.  I now know now what the cost is in efficiency for driving over the speed limit on the highway.  I now know how much gas is wasted on sudden starts and stops.  I now know how adjusting my speed relative to the terrain can save a significant amount of fuel.  I still get to where I'm going and more often than not I end up right beside the For F-150 driver who passed me in disgust because I had the gall to do 30 in a 30.

The other thing that's really cool about the particular model I bought is that it has the "solar roof" package.  Basically a small photo-voltaic panel on the roof of the car that powers the air conditioning fan when the car is parked.  The array is in no way powerful enough to charge the car's main battery, but it does help keep the interior of the vehicle slightly cooler when parked in the sun.  Although this could be said to be little more than a gimmick intended to appeal the the "eco-conscious" consumer that makes up a large number of Prius owners, it does illustrate what can happen when a single idea is allowed to drive a design.

Anyway, I like my new-to-me car and hopefully it will serve me like my previous care for a decade or more.  Or at least until I can afford a Tesla.