Sunday, May 15, 2022

A lunar eclipse

I am feeling insanely lucky. I got my RV situated late this afternoon on the edge of Utah's Little Grand Canyon in a northern section of the San Rafael Swell. I was sitting looking out at the canyon as the sun was setting. Suddenly the moon edged over the horizon, dead ahead, rising from the opposite canyon rim.

That was cool enough, but the lunar eclipse was just starting! As I type it's almost a complete eclipse and the moon is glowing red. It's just stunning.

Utah never fails to deliver . . . but this is really over the top.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Kerouac’s On the Road

I’ve explored America, my country.

My explorations on my own started in the 1980s and continue to this day. I say “on my own” to differentiate from the travels with my family in the 1970s and early 1980s which too are part of my journeys.

from the cover of On the Road with image of Jack Kerouac and Neal C

I’ve been to 46 states and have criss-crossed the continent: east to west and north to south. I’ve strayed into both Canada and Mexico too, along the highways, byways, and freeways of these three North American countries. I’ve flown around the country quite a bit as well, but it’s the more than three dozen months I’ve been on the road myself that resonate presently.

And somehow I’d never read Jack Kerouac’s signature 1957 novel, On the Road--until this week. 

I’ve been aware of it for decades, but having not read it, it had no overt influence on my extensive wanderings.

On the Road chronicles Kerouac’s travels with his gang of friends from 1947 to 1950. In some ways it’s a love letter to and about his friend Neal Cassady who appears as Dean Moriarty in the book. All of the names were changed and the book is sold as fiction though it’s very much based on real life events.

I was so wanting to love this book and I so didn’t. And yet, I am glad to have finally read it as it’s considered one of the great American novels and my own life has been driven by the impulses that drove Kerouac and his friends--to see new places, meet new people, and seek adventures. 

Yet all in all, my adventures are somewhat tame compared to those of Kerouac and company. 

The men whore around--with Cassady/Moriarty in particular leaving babies in his wake with multiple women. Kerouac shacks up with a young Mexican mother for a short period and then summarily moves on leaving her only with the memories of their short affair. The book is wildly politically incorrect from a 2021 perspective--though that aspect alone wasn’t why I didn’t like it. 

It was probably the seediness that rubbed me the wrong way--yet that’s what the book is so the fact that I don’t like that aspect of it says as much or more about me than the book. But the junkies and criminals that were Kerouac's friends, and the madness of Cassady/Moriarty . . . ugh. And it was relentless. 

Some things I did like:

  • Kerouac’s narrative style--it still feels fresh today, 64 years after it was published

  • The descriptions of traveling in America in the late 1940s, pre-interstate highways and on a shoestring budget

  • The joie de vivre of it, even though it’s seedy and sad, it is meant to be a celebration of an enthusiasm for life and that comes through in a way that defines and carries the narrative

  • It’s a love letter to America, flaws and all

I was two-thirds through Joyce Johnson’s memoir Minor Characters, when I set it aside to dive into On the Road. I’ll be finishing Johnson’s book for sure. She dated Kerouac in 1957, the year On the Road was released and she knew a lot of the main characters. Her book's title is in reference to herself, as she, and all of the women then, were minor characters for the men who led the Beat movement.

Her book sparked me into a mini-self education into Kerouac and his Beat writer friends who created a literary counter-culture movement in the 1950s. I was truly appalled to find out that two of these luminaries are actual murderers: William Burroughs who shot his wife in the head, killing her instantly and served no time for it, and Lucien Carr who stabbed David Kammerer to death and got only two years because it was allegedly done to stop Kammerer’s homosexual advances on Carr. On top of that Burroughs is a junkie (which he was quite open about and heavily informed his writing--it also seems to have contributed to his murder of his wife). 

I had heard of these people before but hadn’t ever taken a deep dive into them and their worlds. Between finishing On the Road and reading Johnson’s memoir, combined with lots of internet searches to get more of the background of the Beat gang, it’s maybe not a deep dive, but it’s been an interesting swim. 

On the Road has many memorable descriptive gems of people, places, and broadly the human condition. Also, countercultures are important to the overall well being of the broader culture. These contribute to making this book an important part of the canon of American literature. 

I am glad to have finally read Kerouac’s book, even if it was somewhat darker than I was expecting. And I do recommend that people go on the road themselves to expand their understanding of the world beyond their own backyards--whether or not they read On the Road.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Early Pandemic, Off to New York

It was late Friday night, March 27. I was two weeks into the lockdown and home alone in my beloved house in Salt Lake City’s Avenues neighborhood. I was laying on my far too expensive couch, a mid-century modern piece that I had no business buying some four years earlier. But I love the couch. My couch-potatoism was in full mode when an idea began to take shape.

The uncertainty of the pandemic--which I took seriously from at least March 1 (this is going to be bad I thought)--stretched before me as a long void. We’d only been working from home those couple of weeks but it was clear it would be months more. I did not want to spend the next undetermined amount of time holed up by myself in my house, no matter how much I loved the place, in my bones that felt like a bad plan. It occurred to me I'd be better off going to New York to be at my sister’s farm where I could be with family and animals and in a beautiful spot in the country. She had plenty of space.

I went to bed and the next morning I tested my idea by contacting people, including my new boss. He had no problem with me working remotely from another location. Most everyone in my family thought it made sense to head east. I spoke with a few other friends to test the idea on them. They all said: Go! It was important to me to have some sort of reality check because it was a bold move in a strange time.

At about 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, after loading my truck, my pup Jack and I got in and pulled out of the driveway. I remember distinctly looking in the rear view mirror and thinking “I may never see that house again.” It was just that stage of the pandemic where uncertainty was so, so high. My 19th century house had just survived SLC’s 5.7 earthquake ten days earlier. Even at that point the aftershocks just kept coming. None were big, but they were big enough to feel. There would be more to come soon regarding my house, but that was still in the future. Jack and I pushed on, heading east on Second Avenue.

I reached out by phone to a handful of other work colleagues, one of whom clearly thought I was crazy--though she didn’t exactly say so. Hours later another friend demanded I turn around and come back. But no, I was off and going, with determination. This was what I needed to do. I felt grounded in that decision. 

At my first fuel stop in western Nebraska I stood alone on the giant fuel plaza with a system of gloves so I didn’t touch any public surfaces. A public announcement, echoing across the empty plaza, encouraged people to wash their hands. It was very Stephen King-like. There was something of a feeling that the world was ending and we were all unwittingly along for the ride. 

Darkness settled over our route on Interstate-80 but I pushed on with Jack, my loyal companion snoozing in his bed in the back of the cab of the truck. We drove till about 2 a.m. Central Time, 1 Mountain, or 12 hours since leaving Salt Lake. We made it to a Walmart parking lot in Lincoln, Nebraska. Walmarts are known as places in the RV world where you can spend a night in their expansive parking lots. We didn’t have an RV so I got in back on the bed I’d built for my dogs (I built it originally for Jake, my previous dog). I couldn’t stretch out, but I could lay down. Somehow Jack found a place next to me. He’s huge so it was quite a sight. 

Arriving in Ohio, March 29, 2020. 

I got about four hours of sleep before I was awake again and back on the road between 5 and 6 a.m. we pressed on and arrived at my mom’s in Ohio at 9 p.m. that Sunday night.

It had been a strange journey. Few cars were on the roads, mostly just trucks. The world had shut down and I felt like a refugee. 

That week was a wonderful week with my mom and I worked remotely from Ohio till Friday morning. On April 3 Jack and I did the final push to New York, only eight or nine hours further down the road.

Walking in Ohio w my mom on the right, a family friend, & pups.
I'd made it from Salt Lake to eastern New York without touching many public surfaces at all. I’ll leave some of the details out of this accounting, but it wasn’t all that hard. It would be harder for a woman for sure.

Heading east to be with family was the best thing I could have done. I am an introvert but didn’t and don’t want to face these pandemic days alone. Many people don’t have anything like the options I have and I am damned lucky. But none of it’s been easy, even for me.

I am far more COVID careful than nearly everyone I've been around this year, and also painfully aware that that hardly ensures I won’t get it or help spread it. COVID won’t kill all of us, but it has and will kill far too many, and it’s disrupting our world as much as I feared it would back in March. 

But life will go on and onward we all must go.

Few people were seeking out New York at this point: April 3, 2020. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

2020--The Good Things of My Year

At Utah's Dead Horse Point

This has been a hell of a year, and . . . not a good one, yet much good has happened and all in all I've been beyond fortunate and lucky. 

So with gratitude here are 2020 highlights, focusing on the positive, I . . . . 

  • Got to spend a ton of time with my beloved puppy, Jack Powell
  • Sold my house before a bigger earthquake came! (We had a 5.7 quake in March)
  • Started full-time RVing again on July 11, something that's been on my mind more in recent years. And I love it! (I previously full-timed from 2007-2009) 
  • Still have my job at the amazing Natural History Museum of Utah working mostly remotely since March
  • Spent a lot of time with family, including:
    • A brief visit with my sister Elise when she came to Utah in early March
    • A five day visit with my mom in my hometown in Ohio in the early days of the pandemic
    • A month-long visit with my sister Cari on her farm in New York in April--the highlight of my year
    • About four weeks in Minneapolis and mostly in Wisconsin at my brother's lake cabin--including some time with him (he was gone more than he was there during my time there)
  • Had the privilege of riding horses when at Cari's for the whole month of April in a stunningly gorgeous part of our country including Listo, my favorite horse that's now living
  • Found a place to live in my RVs (old and new-to-me) for two months in Heber City, near Park City, thanks to my friend Darla
  • Bought the RV I've been wanting for a year, slightly used and at a great price, at a time when they're almost impossible to find
  • Sold my previous RV, the CampLite, to some dear friends 
  • Reconnected with my Xscaper friends in October and have been with them ever since--Xscapers is a group of RVers and a beyond amazing community of people
  • Mostly maintained my sanity with a few difficult moments
  • Though I lost my friend Steve, I was able to remotely attend his funeral service and it reminded me not only how amazing he was, but how special life is
  • Served on the Executive Committee of Visit Salt Lake where I've been a board member for about five years, needless to say in a difficult and strange year.
  • Witnessed the election of my friend Mark Kelly to the U.S. Senate! He's a rock star. 
  • Have not got coronavirus yet . . . and am hopeful I won't before I can get the vaccine
  • Am thrilled that we have a vaccine! #yeahScience!
  • Got an unbelievably killer solar setup on my new-to-me RV that allows me to live comfortably off grid, and I have been off grid since mid-October!
I greeted 2020 at an Xscapers New Year's event near Quartzsite, Arizona. I will bid the year farewell at an unofficial and unsanctioned Xscapers gathering about 50 miles to the east and an unimaginable year away from where the decade started for me a mere 12 months ago. 

While this post focuses on the positive--and I certainly have much to be grateful for--it was also a tough year. 

These are difficult times, but in a tip of the hat to the spirit of a slogan attributed to another difficult time, it's important to keep calm and carry on. 

Sending love from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona,

Jim and Jack
My new solar setup. Thx Andrew Pullen!

Learn more about Xscapers here

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Moonrise Over Bear Lake

For Elyse Fink Jones

I opened my eyes and saw the moon. It was late, or early . . . about 1 am. Instantly I felt her spirit, and it was strong. My cousin, Elyse Jones, had died less than three days earlier. The moon, which was rising over Bear Lake in northern Utah, connected me to her.

Elyse was my mom’s first cousin, making her my first cousin once removed. In 1985, Elyse’s uncle, and my mom’s father, died. His name was John Lammert Morley and he was the patriarch of my family. He was the first of the three siblings in his family to go. His sister, Elise Morley Fink, was a favorite aunt of my mom’s and by extension of mine (his other sister Tony, was another favorite aunt!). When John died, Elise encouraged my mom, Adelle, and her daughter Elyse, to start spending more time together and to get to know one another better. And they did, building a connection between the two branches of our family.

Elyse Jones
Adelle and Elyse began spending a week together every year at a sort of women’s retreat, a place called the Kerr House in Grand Rapids, Ohio, near Toledo. It was something of a mini-spa but with a dedication to wellness through exercise and nutrition. For women of the midwest in those days it was a progressive place, though I am not sure they would have used that word. Year after year they met there and their friendship blossomed. They also visited each other’s homes. Elyse lived near Detroit, Adelle lived outside of Mansfield, Ohio. They also vacationed together in Florida in the winter and at Elyse’s cottage on Lake Huron, in Canada, in the summer. Especially on the Canadian trips, my mom got to know many friends and other relatives of Elyse’s.

Their special bond came as they both graduated past their respective many years of married life--each getting divorced in the early 1990s.

I knew Elyse as a gentle soul, a kind matriarch for her family. She had four children. I got to know her son Peter in the 1990s when he and I both lived in the Baltimore-Washington area. He was a successful entrepreneur. When I met him he’d recently sold a business, a computer consulting company I believe, and seemed to be doing well, not just financially, but in being very engaged with life. He and his wife Mary Ann had moved to Maryland from Texas (if I recall correctly). Peter died suddenly of a heart attack about 15 years ago. His brother Christopher also died around that time of the same cause--taking away two of Elyse’s four adult children.

That had to be brutal for her.

As I stared at the moon, rising over Bear Lake, I felt Elyse’s presence and thought of her life. I also thought of my friends Jay and Mark who died in 1988. These two died a stupid death. We were on an 80-day wilderness trip together and it was about day 72. We were in the town of Joshua Tree, California, in the Mojave Desert, taking a break from rock climbing in the nearby Joshua Tree National Monument.

A bunch of us were drinking beer. When it was time to go, Jay and Mark had the brilliant idea that they’d steal a truck. Apparently after drinking more and going for a drunken joy ride, they wrapped the truck around a Joshua Tree, making their deaths both stupid and poetic. Having spent 72 days with these guys it was a traumatic event for me, the first deaths of peers that really touched me. Ever since then, seeing the moon often reconnects me with them as well as others who have left this world.

With some moisture in my eye, light from the moon appeared to be coming at me as a collection of crossing laser beams, going straight to my heart. As I lay there, I felt energized by Elyse, Jay, Mark, and others.

I’m grateful I had the chance to know her. This past Sunday at her service on the shore of Lake Saint Clair, just north of Detroit, I had the privilege of getting to know her a little better and meeting her friends and family, including her two surviving children--my second cousins--one of whom I met for the first time.

I also had the honor of helping my mom get to the service from Ohio. At 81, my mom’s in great shape overall, but she was in pretty rough shape this past weekend. I think she was shaken by the loss of her cousin and she’d messed up her back that week, putting her in about the most pain I’ve ever seen her in. So I am glad I was able to get to Ohio and help her get to Michigan, to properly say goodbye to Elyse.

The moon became muted by some clouds, but Elyse’s presence remained strong that night at Bear Lake, and it will live on in the hearts of the many people whose lives she touched.
Bear Lake, Utah

Read more about Elyse here.

PS--I also visited Utah for the first time on that 1988 trip--a trip that changed the course of my life. That summer, on a visit to Michigan, I shared with Elyse Jones, Elise Fink, and Ann (Elyse's daughter in law), my slides from my great western adventure. The images from Utah's redrock country got the most buzz that day.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Xscapers! 2019

 From my second Xscapers convergence. My in to a fantastic group of people.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

March snow storm on Antelope Island

A big storm was forecast, and based on the forecast I was going to be able to get to Antelope Island ahead of the storm, be there for it, and drive home the next day after it passed.

One of my main motivations in going was to test my new truck as a tow vehicle. It did great! So much nicer to pull with than the Tundra and almost double the miles per gallon too.

I took cross country skis, hoping to ski along the lake. The snow stuck to my skis and they were useless, so I hiked out to the lake in my cross country ski boots.

What I love about the Great Salt Lake is its other-worldly beauty. Highlights of the overnight in photos:

I love this photo looking west over the Great Salt Lake as the storm approached. I used an iPhone and no filter. 

Also before the storm. The color of the lake was eery and beautiful. 

Buffalo literally right out the door of my RV. They were no more than 200 yards away. All of these are iphone photos, at least you can see what they are. 

Jake did the hike with me Saturday evening, when I took the first two photos on top of this post. The poor boy is getting old and I probably pushed him too hard, though he was happy to be out. 

Sunday morning toward the end of the storm. The snow transformed the landscape. I'd say we got about six inches. This spot was wind blown.  

Winter beach camping, Utah style. 

With Jake in the frame. 

About to head home. 

I sold my Airstream, but it's still in my driveway. Even more snow at my house. I shoveled for a good 90 minutes, the most I've had to shovel all winter. It was a wet snow too. Glad I got it up while it was still fresh. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Report: The Missing 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesels Are Coming

Or are they?

As of today, March 1, the 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesels are missing in action and there is a lot of contradictory information about their status.

Two days ago, auto journalist Tim Esterdahl heard from his contact at Ram who said there are "no issues with the EPA. The 2018 EcoDiesel is certified. They just haven’t hit dealer lots due to the production mix at the factory."

Where have the diesels gone?
Ram told TFLTruck in a story posted on January 22 that that the Ram EcoDiesel “is [available] as a 2017 model year truck. It’s sold alongside current 2018 gas-powered trucks.” In the same story they said that the 2019 updated version of the Ram will have an EcoDiesel available sometime in calendar year 2019--which is later than when other 2019 Rams will be available. The TFL article doesn’t specifically mention 2018 models.

Last October, Automotive News reported that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA--Ram’s parent corporation) had not yet received certification from the EPA for the 2018 EcoDiesels.

This week I did a search online. A few dealers in the country had 2018 EcoDiesels listed as available, but when I contacted them, they didn’t actually have them. Also, most of these listings were clearly using stock photos--with some dealers using the same photo for each supposed listing. When I asked my Utah dealer where the 2018s were, they simply replied, “we haven’t got them yet.” Fair enough, but will they ever?

In 2017 there was a sales hold on this model while FCA/Ram went through a recertification process with the EPA, who had issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act in early January that year. The EPA gave Ram permission to sell the 2017 model year again in late July. There are a healthy number of 2017 EcoDiesels still available today, and dealers seem to be getting aggressive with discounts.

On forums people report that they were able to order a 2018--as late as late January of 2018--although some of their orders were subsequently cancelled. One guy who ordered one says he was told it’s been made but shipped to storage pending EPA approval. That contradicts what Esterdahl was told by Ram, but seems more believable to me.

It’s possible that Ram manufactured as many as they could through the end of 2017 and they have a pause in place while the 2017 inventory clears, and or they get the 2018 certified. Yet one source of mine insisted that “it’s common knowledge that there will be no 2018 EcoDiesel.”

The unresolved battle with the EPA regarding emissions no doubt is the source of this mystery of the 2018 diesels. I wrote more about the emissions issue in a separate post.

Tim Esterdahl’s new information from Ram is interesting, but it would be nice if there was something definitive from FCA/Ram. If there is no 2018 model year that could impact resale value of this innovative truck. The Ram Trucks website provides no option to add a diesel engine to 2018 Rams.

So where are those 2018 Ram EcoDiesels?

What do you know?

If you have any information on the 2018 EDs, please leave a comment!


Read my History of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel here.

3/2 Update v3

Yesterday, it looks like just after I posted this, Jared Balfour wrote a post with additional info on the 2018 EcoDiesels that confirms their existence. He also discusses the 2019s.

Today Balfour received confirmation from Ram that the 2018 diesels are EPA certified! Jared has a high degree of confidence that this is the case. Hopefully this will be the final word on certification. I guess the 2018s are unlikely to be released until the 2017s are mostly sold.

Click here to read Balfour's story. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kanab, Balloons, Zion, and more!

Had a fun trip to southern Utah two weekends ago. Made it a five day affair with my new CampLite RV! Here are some highlights:

My favorite photo from the trip. My pup, Jacob Kanab Powell--aged 13.5, at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. #stunning
The Kanab Balloons and Tunes Festival was my first balloon festival ever. It was amazing. I really didn't know what to expect. Love this happy balloon. 

Check out that flame. 

So cool. 
They shut down US 89, the main highway through Kanab, lined up around 20 balloons and had the "light in." Pure magic. 

My rig just east of Bryce on the way down. The Tundra was good looking, but not so good at pulling. I traded it in at the end of the week when I came home.
Another of Jake and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. 

My superstar boy just before sunset. 

Mis amigos with their new fixer upper.

Striking a pose. 


The famous--in my world--Coddiwompler! Look up coddiwomple, cool word. This trailer is actually slick on the inside after a major rebuild. 

Zion at the gates of the Narrows. Doesn't get much better than this. 

Zion and snow. 

My magical little camper, Jake, and Zion. 

Here's to a winter RV getaway in the most amazing state in the nation.

Make it this far? Leave a comment . . . thoughts . . . favorite trips . . . favorite RVs . . .

Sunday, February 25, 2018

History of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Two days ago I replaced my 2013 Tundra with a 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. I am loving my new truck. It's so much more comfortable to drive than the Tundra and a lot zippier too.

The Ram EcoDiesel is the first half-ton diesel pickup available in the United States since the 1978-79 Dodge D100 and D200. Ram's truck includes a 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine made in Italy by VM Motori, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) subsidiary. Chrysler itself has been part of FCA since 2014 (though Fiat began its relationship with Chrysler in 2009--including their initial investment).

The truck has been available since early 2014.

Diesels appeal to me because they are better at pulling trailers (more torque) and they get much better fuel economy than gasoline powered trucks.

The Engine

The EcoDiesel engine makes this truck unique. Why it took Detroit 36 years to offer another light-duty diesel truck is something I don’t understand. The EcoDiesel has its roots in a partnership between VM Motori and GM. GM wanted a diesel engine for a European Cadillac they hoped to offer. The bankruptcy of GM in 2009 ended the budding partnership with VM Motori.

With its new relationship with Fiat, Chrysler/Ram picked up where GM left off and worked with Motori to develop what became branded as the EcoDiesel engine. By 2013 they were previewing the engine at auto shows ahead of its 2014 debut. Despite its long-standing relationship with Cummins, Cummins didn’t have an engine appropriate for a light duty truck--although they would have one by 2016 available through Nissan.

Fiat/Motori’s newly developed engine is built on a compacted graphite iron block. This is a strong material that allowed them to reduce the size of the block, also reducing the weight of the engine. Another innovation is the dual overhead camshaft design. This is the first diesel engine to use this technology (it's long been available in gas engines). The engine is rated to tow 8,000 to 9,200 pounds (based on the configuration) and delivers the best fuel economy of any full-sized pickup truck.

The new EcoDiesel engine has had a higher failure rate than most engines. It is likely that there has been at least a 3% failure rate in the first few model years (2014-2016). FCA replaces these failed engines (unless there is strong evidence that it wasn't properly maintained). The drivetrain on these trucks comes with a 100,000 mile warranty and most of the failures seem to be happening at 20,000 miles or less. The auto press doesn't seem to have covered this story much but you can read about it on this online forum for the 1500 Ram EcoDiesel.

On the positive side, on the same forum linked to above, there are no reports of 2017 Ram EcoDiesels failing yet (as of 2/27/18). Read the thread on how 2017s are doing here.

Despite what sounds like one possible very bad problem, through all of my online reading most owners seem to be very happy with this truck, but it seems clear that it's no Toyota Tundra regarding reliability. That was something I knew and took into consideration before my trade. Though there was plenty I didn't know.

Ram EcoDiesel Timeline and conflict with the EPA
  • February 2014--Ram EcoDiesel goes on sale with strong initial orders.
  • Circa March 2014--EcoDiesels begin arriving, and hitting the streets.
  • 2015 and 2016--Sales continue with new model years arriving at dealer lots. More than 100,000 Ram EcoDiesels sold by the end of 2016.
  • January 12, 2017--EPA and California regulators issue a "Notice of Violation" against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Ram's parent corporation, alleging violations of the Clean Air Act due to changes to vehicle software allowing excessive (and illegal) levels of nitrogen oxides into the air.
  • January 2017--FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne "disputes any resemblance to VW’s Dieselgate scandal because nothing in FCA’s diesel calibration distinguishes between a test cycle and normal driving conditions," which was the case with VW. “This is a huge difference because there has never been an intention on the part of FCA to create conditions that are designed to defeat the testing process,” Marchionne said.  More at Wards Auto
  • 2017 Sales Hold--during 2017 sales of new EcoDiesels were put on hold. I am not sure when the sales hold began, but likely shortly after the January 12 notice from the EPA. It's not clear if any 2017s were delivered in late 2016 or very early 2017, but if they were, it was likely not many. 
  • July 28, 2017--EPA and California regulators approve 2017 EcoDiesels to go on sale. But approval is not granted for 2018 models.
  • Late September 2017--2017 EcoDiesels begin showing up at dealer lots according to Automotive News
  • December 2017--From Bloomberg: "Fiat Chrysler has acknowledged in a term sheet the company submitted to the government lawyers, the need for a settlement to include civil penalties, an emissions fix for the diesel vehicles and environmental mitigation efforts, the letter said. The automaker proposed committing to projects to promote low- or zero-emissions “mobility projects” in the December term sheet, which the Justice Department said regulators would be willing to consider."
  • December 31, 2017?--FCA ends production of 2017 year EcoDiesels? Just a guess.
  • January 27, 2018--U.S. Justice Department gives FCA a settlement offer. FCA would need to pay a substantial but unspecified civil penalty and recall and fix 104,000 vehicles, mostly Ram 1500 with EcoDiesel engines. The fix involves a software update. Importantly, given the recent VW situation, there is not talk of buying back these vehicles. 
  • January/February 2018--Based on posts in online forums dealers were initially taking orders for 2018 Ram EcoDiesels, but then stopped. The status of the 2018 model year is unknown and it appears that no 2018s exist or at least have been released. Currently a large number of new 2017s remain available via Ram dealers, many of these were manufactured late last year mostly so they haven't been sitting all that long yet (you can check the manufacture date inside the door). If you like this truck, this is a good time to buy since dealers are always motivated to get rid of last year's model. Based on my browsing online you should be able to get at least 33% off of MSRP. One California dealer was being even more aggressive
  • February 27, 2018 Update--Today auto journalist Tim Esterdahl heard from his contact at Ram who said there are "no issues with the EPA. The 2018 EcoDiesel is certified. They just haven’t hit dealer lots due to the production mix at the factory." There is a lot of mixed information out there about the 2018s, I'll be writing a separate post about them. Thanks to Tim for this update. I told him I am a little skeptical, but who knows? I am just passing on what he was told. Go to his website at and follow him for truck news. Also subscribe to his channel on YouTube, he's near a threshold there and needs more subscribers. 
Diesel and the rest of the American Big Three

Ram, GM, and Ford have offered heavier duty diesels for years. These trucks are the work horses of our times--3/4 ton and larger. They are also expensive, starting at $45,000 to $50,000 these days, with $60k to $75k+ being common. They also hold their resale value as they tend to last for hundreds of thousands of miles if cared for properly. Half-ton trucks and smaller offer another story.

After years of talk, Ford is expected to join the half-ton diesel market circa April of 2018 with a diesel option on their F-150.

GM's play in this space began with their 2016 model year. They introduced the mid-sized Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, offering what's branded as a Duramax diesel. These engines are made in Thailand. The 2019 Silverado 1500 and its GMC twin will be available with a new Duramax diesel, GM announced in January of 2018. I don't believe a release date has been announced and new diesel trucks are often delayed as Ford has demonstrated.

Honorable mention to Nissan who joined this light duty diesel market in the 2016 model year, successfully getting a brand new Cummins diesel in their half-ton pickup. This was something of a coup for them.

With the price of fuel at historic lows (when adjusting for inflation) demand for diesels is likely to remain soft, but there are many of us who love them for many reasons in addition to fuel economy.

A final personal note

My EcoDiesel is the third diesel I've owned:
  • 2006 Ram 2500 with a Cummins engine, excellent for pulling a 25-foot Airstream I had 10 years ago
  • 2012 VW Jetta TDI--I loved this car but sold it back to VW under the terms of their settlement offer mandated as a result of their blatant cheating
  • Now my 2015 Ram EcoDiesel
Having gone through what I did with my Jetta, all of the EPA-related issues Ram/FCA is dealing with aren't especially alarming (VW took good care of us). FCA CEO's comment about how this is different than what VW did resonates with me. FCA made modifications for performance, which they failed to get approved, that's a world away from designing a vehicle to behave differently while being tested. For me the advantages of diesel are big enough that I am willing to jump on this boat and see where it takes me. I was not fully aware of all of this when I made my purchase, but oh well. 

Goodbye Tundra. Toyota Tundras have a reputation as being long-lasting reliable trucks, though not flashy. Toyota gets dinged in the automotive press for not staying up with the times, but Toyota loyalists like the simplicity of the Tundras. As for me, I just wasn't feeling it after I bought my new travel trailer which was lighter but much less aerodynamic than the vintage Airstream I had last year. Getting 8 mpgs when towing last week was the final straw. The Tundra's engine always felt unusually revvy to me too--it was something I just didn't get used to I guess. 

Despite not knowing much of what I've learned, and written about here, I remain happy with my purchase. Of course it's early days still . . . here's to my new truck being a good one!
My now rejected Tundra in the foreground with my new Ram EcoDiesel, photographed this past Friday evening at Larry H. Miller in Bountiful, Utah. The Tundra is a good truck, it just wasn't the truck I wanted any more with its awful mileage and revvy engine. It's powerful enough to tow my little travel trailer, but it felt like it was straining to me and the 8 mpgs it was delivering was just not acceptable. My truck is also my daily vehicle. The smaller Ram with its better mileage won me over. 
External Links--More on Light Duty Diesels

Read about the predicted future of diesel in this Detroit Free Press article from February 20, 2018. One of its key points is that diesel in the U.S. isn't going away any time soon, though diesel is under threat, especially in Europe, as a result of the VW cheating scandal.

More on the previous light-duty diesel: Automotive History: The Case Of The Very Rare 1978 Dodge Diesel Pickup And The Missing Diesel Van

To go more in-depth on the EcoDiesel engine read An Inside Look At The Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel from Engine Labs.

Cummins Hub also has more detail on the engine, see Ram EcoDiesel Specs

If you have any corrections, additional relevant information, 
or something good to say--please leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February on Antelope Island

Photos from my first outing in my new CampLite travel trailer. 
"Buffalo Rock," because it looked like a buffalo from a distance. Was neither a buffalo, nor a rock. 

The Great Salt Lake. 


Tundra and road. 

My new rig! Wasatch Mountains in distance. 


Sunset two. 

CampLite by Livin Lite. Lovin it.