You might have noticed the name "JohnMFlores" in the comments over the years—one of our many great regular commenters. John, who is from New Jersey, is completing an epic trip across the country on an electric motorcycle (more about that below), and stopped by TOP Rural HQ yesterday to take me out to lunch. John's a regular contributor to RoadRUNNER magazine, the tagline of which is "Motorcycle Touring and Travel." He's currently retracing the route of George A. Wyman, the first person to cross the North American continent on a motorcycle more than a century ago. You'll be able to read about John's trip (and George's) in future issues of RoadRUNNER.
John Flores on his supercool Zero electric motorcycle
After lunch we stopped in at the Curtiss Museum...which should really be called the Museum of Cool Stuff. It contains cars, motorcycles, and airplanes associated with aviation (and motorcycle) pioneer (and local boy) Glenn H. Curtiss, who is halfway forgotten by history but whose list of firsts is formidable. Curtiss eclipsed the Wright Brothers in the early years because he was a natural at publicizing his accomplishments whereas his counterparts from Dayton were secretive and reclusive—essentially, the world didn't know about Kitty Hawk until years later. Curtiss is known as the father of naval aviation because he was the first to land a plane on water and the first to land and take off from the deck of a ship. He was for a time renowned as the "Fastest Man Alive" after setting a land-speed record on a V-8 powered motorcycle. Curtiss might be better known today but for the fact that his life was cut short by appendicitis when he was only 52.
The museum has lots of very early motorcycles including many Curtisses, and a smattering of examples after that all the way up to the 1970s or so.
The museum traces Curtiss's many accomplishments and interests, which were highly varied—invented the RV trailer and was a major Florida real estate developer as well. It also contains just a whole lot of random stuff, from doll houses to cars to place settings to rowboats to toys to various watercraft, including an extremely long Baby-Gar mahogany speedboat once owned by the Garrett family, of Garrett Chapel fame, that took a local man 40 years to restore. The current exhibit is of costumes from old movies (that's John in the Temple of Doom above). There's a horse-drawn sleigh and a great many models of various sorts and varying quality. On and on. Very quirky and lots of fun if you like machines.
We had a nice conversation at lunch about the skill involved in conceptualizing short written pieces like magazine articles and blog posts. (One of the main skills in magazine writing is coming up with an idea that fits the available space.) Together we conceptualized a satirical piece for me to write for TOP—a spoof "review" of the Canon 80D that would play off the fact that "80D" sounds just like "A.D.D." The review was going to jump all over the place, from topic to topic, as if I just couldn't stay focused on discussing the camera. John contributed the ending: "In summary, the Canon 80D...oh look, a squirrel!"
Alas, as I started to write it, I realized it might be taken as being unsympathetic to people with A.D.D. (or, worse, to people whose children suffer from it), which wouldn't do. So, no "80D Review" for "Open Mike."
John's motorcycle, a Zero (I didn't even get the model), gave me HOPE FOR HUMANKIND. And for a peaceful and quiet future. I'm excessively sensitive to noise—not by choice, I just am—and among my tortures on this Earth are cars, trucks, boats, planes, and especially motorcycles that are set up make an infernal racket on purpose, for no necessary reason other than that some benighted sod thinks loud noise is cool. The Zero made no noise. It is not quite completely silent, maybe, but it goes nine-tenths of the way there. It was amazing to see John maneuver in the driveway with a motorcycle that seemed like it was turned off even though it wasn't. As he left he accelerated extremely quickly (electric vehicles have lots of torque from a standing stop—his Zero has as much torque as a small car*) but with almost no noise.
To say I loved it is an understatement. I probably won't live to see—or rather, hear!—the era when all cars, boats, and motorcycles will be electric, but I wish I could.
Ere I depart, a fun fact, provided by John...there are more museums in America (35,000) than the number of Starbucks (11,000) and McDonalds (14,000) combined. Most are quirky, small, local affairs, smaller than the Curtiss, which occupies one building about the size of a large airplane hangar.
Good to meet you, John, and best of luck on the remainder of your journey. And to John and anyone reading these words, thanks for reading TOP!
"Open Mike" is the often off-topic editorial page of TOP. It is now appearing on Wednesdays on a trial basis.
* "DC electric motors of the type used in the Zero motorcycle produce maximum torque at zero RPM and zero torque at their no-load RPM, whatever that may be based upon the design of the motor.
"As such, their torque curve is best approximated by a 45-degree line, sloping downward from left to right.
"In short, as the RPM of the motor's output shaft increases, the amount of torque the motor produces will decrease proportionally. See here for a more technical explanation of why this is so." [Thanks to JG for this explanation. —Ed.]
JohnMFlores adds: "It was great hanging out and chatting with you yesterday, Mike! To provide some details of the Zero DSR...
- At 55 MPH it can go ~88 miles
- At 70 MPH it can go ~70 miles
- Out in Nevada and Wyoming I often had to go over 100 miles between charges. I was on quiet roads so I kept the speed down to extend my range, either moving over when cars (infrequently) approached or speeding up to reduce the speed differential between me and the approaching car.
- During the day I charge at either car charging stations or RV campgrounds where I used 220v 50amp hookups. Both were located via the PlugShare app and take about 2–3 hours to charge from empty.
- At night I charge at a hotel 110v standard household outlet. It takes 8–10 hours.
- How green the bike is does depend upon how the electricity is generated. Some states like West Virginia and Kentucky still generate a lot of electricity with coal. Other states are more mixed with their power generation. But also consider that the bike does not have lubricating oil or antifreeze and does not produce the aforementioned noise pollution.
- Speaking of noise...at home I have a beautiful Italian sportbike with a stunning titanium exhaust and a 125cc two-stroke racing bike. I do love the sounds that they make and I thought that I might miss it when I first rode an electric motorcycle in 2012. I was as surprised as anyone that I did not miss the sounds at all. And over the past three weeks I've met dozens of folks (motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike) that think the lack of noise is kind of cool.
"If anyone wants to see my photos and notes of the trip, this is probably the best place. Like a blog, the most recent post is on top so you need to scroll down to the beginning of the journey.
"Thanks again, Mike."
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Mike P: "I happen to be a member of a small group of photographers in New Jersey in which John Flores is a member. He's a true polymath, a wonderful photographer, technologist, writer, motorcyclist and a good person all around. He'd be a great addition to the 'staff.' His recent trip, which I have been following on FB and IG, has been amazing in it's ability to compare and contrast America as it is today to as it was over a hundred years ago. I can't wait to read the finished piece in RoadRunner."
Albert Macfarlane: "You repeat the allegation that Glenn Curtiss died of a 'botched' appendectomy. In early July 1930 Curtiss had an appendectomy in Buffalo for appendicitis. On 22 July he was sitting up in bed dictating to a secretary, but was found dead the following morning. (David Langley, The Life and Times of Glenn Hammond Curtiss: aviation history.com). Appendicitis is not a benign condition: one estimate is that there are approximately 150 deaths annually associated with this common disease in the United States. The account given by Langley suggests Curtiss died of a pulmonary embolism, a not uncommon post-operative complication which was untreatable in 1930."
Mike replies: Thanks Albert—I modified the text of the post accordingly.
marcin wuu: "Temple of Doom?! How could you say that's the Temple of Doom?! O tempora, o mores...."
Mike replies: It's got something to do with movies, that's all I know. I thought it was Indiana Jackson...no? (My son always used to say I'd be good on Jeopardy except I'd suck at the pop culture questions.)
By the bye, "O tempora o mores" translates roughly to "Alas, the times, the customs!"—used by Cicero in the opening speech of his case against the conspirator Cataline to deplore the depravity of the present.
"I’m afraid that the last thing Ducatis can be called is quiet!"