Desperation or Desire? Which is the great motivator of our times? Fear or Apathy? Which the most common human characteristic?

Whichever it might have been that drove me to drive myself the few hours from Santa Cruz to Hopland, California at the turn of the millennium succeeded in giving me purpose beyond what I had hoped for and opportunity more than I had prepared for and another near death experience the likes of which could only be popular in a brief 1970’s police procedural scene, just to break the monotony.

The class was on the basics of photovoltaic system installation.  Very simply installing the solar panels connecting to an inverter and tying into the grid. There was also material on battery backup systems and the all important first step of assessing your electrical consumption. The class was worth far more to me than the paltry workshop fee. The instructor, Michael Hacklemann was both wide and deep in his knowledge of all things electrical. His particular expertise was in wind machines especially the old Jacobsen wind machines from the turn of the last century that he had scoured the midwest for back in the day. He had fascinating stories and useful insight. After the workshop I waited until the other students were finished asking him questions and I walked with him out to his truck, that he had borrowed from a friend. We spoke of the raw deal that Nikolai Tesla had received at the hands of Edison. I asked if he had any connections in Santa Cruz and he gave me a lead which lead to my next job installing pv systems in residential homes.

The battery was dead in his borrowed truck so I helped him with a jump start and off he went. I was ELATED with the prospect of a connection to someone where I lived installing PV systems, I was on the proverbial cloud 9. Hopping back in my 90s Subaru legacy I sped south on the winding road. I had been driving for less than an hour when in a particularly curvy section of the road something happened. I was in the left lane doing about 65 or 70 mph. There was a car in front of me in the right lane and a truck pulling a half-truck or truck-bed trailer in the right lane behind me. The road curved to the right and as we came around the curve – suddenly – there was a large conglomeration of objects in my lane. It was an enormous florescent neoprene covered truck tire inner tube type thing that gets pulled behind a speed boat for recreational purposes and two bicycles all roped together. Well I made a very sudden turn to the right and hit the fucker with my left front tire, got sideways on the two right tires (the two left tires were now off the ground), turned the wheel a touch and went back on the ground into a 4 wheel slide. I managed to float between the two vehicles in the right lane and bounce once off of the guard rail before coming to a stop. I got out of the car, very shaken. Both cars in the right lane had pulled over and the guy in the truck with the truck-bed trailer got out of his car and walked toward me quickly slapping his hand on his heart. He said, “Oh my God! I thought for sure you were going to flip over. Holy Shit, man! You were completely sideways! I saw the whole thing.” I was shaking while collecting the contact information of the two cars. The inner-tube/bicycle wreckage was back less than a quarter mile. I pulled some plastic shielding from the bottom of the car and the only serious dammage was to the right headlight and tail light. The car started and seemed to run, there was no leaking fluids. I did some roadside maintenance to ensure that nothing was going to fall off. The other cars left and I walked back up 101 to fetch the remains of the bicycles and inner tube. When I reached them I decided to leave the inner tube and take the bikes. Maybe I could sell them for parts, it didn’t occur to me to use them to track down the owner. So i dragged the stuff off of the highway, left the inner tube on the shoulder and brought the bikes, or what was left of them, back to my wagon. I opened the back hatch and was stuffing the bikes into my car when a truck pulled up behind me. A man and a woman got out and I asked them, “Did you, perchance, lose a couple of bikes and an inner tube because they damn near killed me?”

Do your inner energy nerd a favor and buy, read, click, review or whatnot Michael Hackleman’s books at

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