A busy, busy weekend is drawing to a close. So much happening, so many developments in so many areas–it has been just busy enough to keep my mind off more sobering thoughts. As the weekend slows down, preparing to transition into the new work week, the sobering thoughts intrude…
For the first time in over two years, I built a brand new desktop computer. Cynthia wanted to be able to have her own separate desktop computer to work on her classroom and AVID activities. While we both have laptops, it’s so much easier to work one large and/or multiple monitors when you multitask. So, Thursday evening and part of Friday, I finally sat down and pieced together the new computer (AMD Ryzen 7 1700 CPU, 16gb DDR4 RAM, a new very fast M.2 boot drive, and an extra 3tb hard drive for media storage — for those interested in such details). It had been just long enough that I forgot the minor aggravations of building a computer from scratch. The tinkering…the having to route wires around things–and maneuver things into the case around the wires. Plugging it all in, thinking it works–and then discovering that one little thing you didn’t notice as you built the computer (in my case, the memory wasn’t completed “seated” in its socket).
With the computers squared away, I decided to put the necessary paperwork together to take a shot at a unique opportunity. It’s amazing how time-consuming that can be–and I only finished about 60 percent of the task. I’m not going to say a lot about the opportunity yet…I want things to progress a little further before making the details public. Suffice it to say, it will be another major change in my life–one mainly for the better.
This was a weekend, right? Therefore movies must have played a role somewhere… Yesterday it was a “date afternoon” as Cynthia and I watched ATOMIC BLONDE. Fun film–lots of action, good music, and solid acting–even if the plot was generally a bit light. The music was good enough that we decided to order the two LP soundtrack set from MondoTees.com — kind of a collector’s set. Second movie–another fabulous Alamo Drafthouse Chandler Movie Party: LABYRINTH! One of our all-time favorite 80s movies (1986 to be precise) with all the crucial elements: Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, David Bowie music, a solid performance by a young, pre-award winning Jennifer Connelly. Always fun to go watch a movie in a great, festive atmosphere. If you’ve never attended a movie party, and are fortunate enough to live in an area with an Alamo Drafthouse, I highly suggest you check the place out. They turn movies into must-see events (and the food is fantastic!).
I decided more than a year ago that my next car would be an EV (electric vehicle). I’ll do my little part to save the planet and conserve fossil fuels, and avoid the pump. I love the look and feel of the Tesla Model S, but the $80,000 price of admission (not to mention the $110,000 entry barrier for the Model X SUV) is way more than my budget can handle. Just thinking about a car, even financed over 72 months with zero percent interest (assuming such a deal is available), that would require payments over $1000/month…it make me dizzy. Back in March, 2016, Elon Musk (Tesla owner/CEO) announced the Model 3, an “affordable” EV with the most important parts of the Tesla line of cars intact. The bottom line of the new Model 3: $35,000 (to start). I jumped on the bandwagon just a few short weeks after the car was announced, putting down a refundable deposit and getting my place in line. However, about eight months in, I decided my deposit money could be better used elsewhere as we prepared to buy our house. I cancelled my deposit and started focusing on a more easily-attainable EV: the new Chevrolet Bolt. Right around that same $35,000 mark, but supposedly a little roomier and definitely available before the end of 2017 without getting on a waiting list.
Fast-forward to the last couple months, as I’ve begun considering the real pros and cons of the Tesla Model 3 versus the Chevy Bolt. Charging? Faster and more generally reliable for Tesla. Cost? Due to how the EV federal tax credit works, buying a Bolt in December would almost definitely qualify me for a $7500 federal tax credit. So, even the $43,000 Premier model of the Bolt would actually only be a hair over $35,000. The base Bolt would only be around $29,000 after the tax credit. With over 400,000 reservations already in place for the Tesla Model 3, it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll ever see the $7500. Depending on how quickly they ramp up production, I MIGHT be able to see the reduced $3750 tax credit…or at least the twice-reduced $1875 tax credit. Most likely, a $35,000 Tesla 3 would still cost me between $31-33,000.
What about range? If you do any research on EVs, you read and hear a lot about “Range Anxiety,” the fear that your battery will run out while you’re in the middle of a drive. If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I have a unique range need for my car, more than the average commuter (putting aside my tendency to take the occasional short road trip to Vegas, San Diego or Los Angeles). While my work commute is a pretty consistent 20 miles per day, easily covered by even today’s smallest-range EVs, my side gig with the Tucson Roadrunners requires something a little meatier. From home to my office to the Tucson Convention Center back to my home is approximately 215 miles. Round-trip from home to Tucson is right around 200 miles. The Bolt is rated at 238 miles on a full charge. The originally announced range of the Tesla 3 was 215 miles. No problem, right? I should be able to make all my trips on a full-charged Tesla or Bolt. Here’s the problem: EV mileage range ratings are very subjective. Can you get 238 miles on a fully-charged Bolt battery? Sure–if you drive the car under optimal conditions: no AC or heat, very little extra battery use for things like music, GPS, charging devices, driving between 40-55mph with frequent enough slowing down and stopping to benefit from regenerative breaking technologies. I have seen reviews where people have been able to get up to 250-260 miles from a fully charged Bolt. However, those drivers aren’t dealing with the extreme temperatures in Arizona that make avoiding AC use pretty impossible from March through October. They don’t often push their vehicle beyond 55-60mph. The drive on relatively flat terrain with the occasional hill (at least when they’re driving in ways that maximize their batteries). On my regular commute days, no problem. I could probably drive a full week without even plugging in to recharge at home. BUT, on those Roadrunner game days, I drive anywhere between 130-175 miles on I-10, where 110-125 miles (round-trip) of that journey are at a 75mph speed limit. “Just slow down then,” people say. It’s not a bad idea–until you consider that it’s not particularly safe to be going 55-60 in a 75 zone, and the speed difference would add precious time to my trip that, on weekdays, I simply don’t have. At 75-80mph on those stretches, it typically takes me 80-90 minutes each way. For a 7pm game, I need to be at the arena around 4:45–so right now I can leave Mesa around 3:15-3:20pm. On the way home, if I’m out of the arena at 9:45pm, I’m home by a somewhat reasonable time of 11:15. Now, factor in that extra time if I’m going 20mph slower to maximize battery: 110-120 minutes. To get to Tucson by 4:45, I’d have to leave before 3. Leaving Tucson at 9:45. I would now get home closer to 11:45. AND, even only going 60mph, it would still put more stress on my battery than 50mph (not to mention the impact of using the AC in October, likely November, late February, March and April).
On Friday night, Tesla officially unveiled the first production Model 3s. The standard battery model gets 220 miles of range (see above), but for $9,000 more, I can get a beefier battery that gets 310 miles of range. 310 miles–that means, even if my driving conditions reduce the battery range by 25 percent, I would still get 230-plus miles out of the fully-charged battery. If I do need a little extra charge? No messing with questionable third-party chargers midway in between Tucson and Phoenix — there is a bank of Tesla-only Superchargers in Casa Grande (about 45 miles short of getting home) where I could get an additional 170 miles of range with a 30-minute charge (so, even plugging in for 10-15 minutes would get me enough juice to easily get home). Heck, with that battery and the established Supercharger stations available, I could even take relatively range-anxiety-free trips to LA or San Diego–and I think even Las Vegas. This all comes at a price–the first available model of the Tesla 3 with the extended battery will run $49,000 (it includes the larger battery as well as a host of other premium features, including a color choice other than black–deep blue metallic is my personal favorite, kind of in-between TARDIS and Cubs blue).
Once I got done reading the reviews/previews from people that got to test drive the actual production Tesla 3s on Friday night and reviewed my budget…I decided to throw down another deposit and get back in line for a Tesla 3. No, I won’t get it until late 2018 at the earliest (possibly early 2019). But in the meantime, I will completely pay off my current car and have enough money saved up to pay off a third of the cost of the car in cash up front–without even considering possible trade-in value of my current car (if I decide to trade it in instead of just holding it for a year or so until Avi turns 16). The new house was built with a Tesla-compatible charging outlet in the garage–so the in-home installation costs will be very minimal. So now, with money down again, I just have to wait… Good things come to those who wait, right?
In other weekend news: the Cubs took 2-of-3 from the now-second-place Brewers and now hold a 2.5 game lead in the standings, the Roadrunners announced the signings of four players (actually, that was late last week, but still…), we have now lived in the new house for over a month–and are still really enjoying our time here, and I discovered that the problem in our TV loft was not a bad receiver or a fluky Xbox One S, but bad or outdated HDMI cables run in the wall (the installers will be back sometime this week to replace those cables).
It’s now just about bedtime on Sunday. I’ve spent some time today looking through my Facebook feed. I’m seeing a trend that may lead to a rough week–lots of Micah’s friends (and parents) talking about college visits. If Micah was still here, he would be 17, starting his senior year of high school. We would be talking about visiting a few schools, filling out college applications, thinking about a major, and the finer points of soon living on his own–or at least somewhat on his own in a college dorm. We would be talking about how he would balance theatre, music and hockey during this busy senior year. We would just be talking…instead of me holding one-way conversations into the ether.
Thinking about hockey… As the calendar turns from July to August, kids and parents alike prepare for the new hockey season. I’ve already seen posts about team kick-off parties, tournament scheduling, final preseason clinics and practices, and organizational details. I just got an email tonight from the local hockey officiating organization talking about up-for-grabs board positions.
Truth is, I have visited the local rink four total times since early April: a half-hour meeting to answer questions about the job of equipment manager for my replacement (who, by the way, is doing an awesome job from what I’ve heard) in mid-April, a ten-minute visit in late June to donate some of Micah’s old gear to the house program, an hour or so to say hello and watch a friend’s kid play in a summer house league game in mid-July, and a couple hours at the rink last weekend to announce a charity hockey game. To the outsider, this sounds like more than enough time at the rink during the off-season. To me, this is practically hockey abandonment. I can think of few times over the past ten years–even last summer, the summer after Micah died–when I was away from the rink for almost two solid months. Now, in 2017, this will likely become the norm.
Gone is my goalie son. Gone with him are the clinics, camps, early season practices, regular season practices, games, tournaments, and everything else that was part of the hockey parent experience.
Gone is my involvement with the Arizona Youth Hockey League. After five years running or helping run the state’s travel hockey program, spending hundreds of hours organizing, meeting, arranging, scheduling and just being there for Arizona’s hockey kids, it was time to step away. (Feel free to scan back through my blog posts to about February-March, 2017, for all the gritty details.) Gone are the meetings. Gone is the scheduling. Gone are the debates, arguments, and agreements in the name of growing the fantastic game of youth hockey.
Gone is my involvement with the local youth hockey organization. I tried last season to continue being a team manager–on a team where I had no child on the ice. I found it difficult to focus on my duties for a team where I did not have a direct connection, outside the friendships I had formed with some of the parents and coaches. I found the constant reminders that my son was NOT on the ice to be increasingly painful. My love for helping organize things was rapidly dying. My only incentive had become a small stipend for my efforts. The amount of stipend was not the problem–the fact that it was the only reason I was taking myself to the rink was. I had to step away before the youth hockey pilot light went out for good. Gone is working on tournament schedules for the organization’s three annual tournaments. Gone are the organizational meetings to help get things done, get jerseys and other gear sorted and distributed, get late-add kids sized and their gear ordered.
Gone is the majority of my hockey scorekeeping. This is actually the culmination of a gradual process over the past two years. I initially got into scorekeeping as a way to stay productive around the rink when Micah played. I cultivated the position as a way to help pay Micah’s hockey expenses. I became pretty good at it…and then Micah started wanting to see more of me in the stands and less of me in the scorer’s box…and then Micah died. There was no real reason to work games to help pay for his hockey–there were no more hockey fees, no more travel expenses, no more clinics and camps to pay for. I continued working games because, on a limited basis, it was fun to do so. I enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids and their parents when I announced their names. I loved watching the crowds rocking back and forth and singing along with my musical interludes. I enjoyed announcing in general (still do). It’s that love, that enjoyment, that has kept me scorekeeping in some capacity to this day, but gone are the days of scorekeeping hours on end, or multiple days of the week. Gone are the 10pm Adult League games on weeknights. Gone is the little check mark on the scheduling website that says, “Ready to be scheduled.” Now, I will scorekeep and announce a few select games as my schedule allows. I will announce a good number of Phoenix Knights Junior A games. I will announce a few home games for a couple teams that contain many of Micah’s old friends and hockey teammates. I might even pop up at a tournament or two to work a few championship Sunday/Monday games…but there will be weeks, sometimes multiple weeks, where I will not darken a rink’s doorstep…
As many of Micah’s old friends and teammates themselves move on to bigger and bolder experiences, signing to play hockey in other states with Tier I teams, I think about another step that Micah will never take. Maybe Micah would have moved on to Colorado, or Washington, or California, or Utah, or Illinois, or Minnesota to play hockey. Honestly though, I doubt it. Micah never liked the idea of leaving home. We talked about it a bit in the months leading up to his death. He was starting to really make friends, had a girlfriend, was comfortable with his choir program… He had lots of reasons why he just wanted to stay in Arizona, stay at home with us.
Micah would have always been welcome to stay home. We told him time and time again that he was only playing hockey because HE wanted to. We were never going to be those parents that pushed him to do something he really did not want to do. We just asked that if he planned to stop playing hockey, he at least did something to continue to be physically active–that was it, our only condition. So maybe Micah wouldn’t even be playing hockey at this point. We would have still loved him the same and been just as supportive in anything he wanted to do instead. It’s hard for me to personally believe that he could have just walked away from the sport that he so loved playing, but that would have been his ultimate choice.
Now, I sit in the quiet home that Micah will never see, will never sleep in, will never experience. His number is on our doorpost. His music and goaltending highlights fill my new computer’s hard drives. But his hockey is gone…and the realization that my time at the rink without him needs to go now as well.
It’s going to be a tough week.