Author Archives: Tom

“BOY SCOUTS & RIVER BLUES” (October 17, 2010)

Packed up in the morning, pedaled over to the water spigot to fill up my water bladders, and was surrounded by Boy Scouts wanting to check out the rocket trike. A couple of the scoutmasters rounded up some more kids and asked me to say a few words about my ride. They listened intently (probably didn’t hurt that I told them I used to be a Boy Scout myself). Got some high fives from some of the boys on my way out.

Rode 10 miles to the next town, where I got a big lunch. Then pedaled another 15 miles to a little Thai stand everyone was recommending and loaded up with another meal there. After going without yesterday, wanted to make sure my caloric intake was covered today. Rolled by “Boathenge” (an artistic display of old boats sticking out of the ground) nearby, then back on the trail.

Rolling down the trail a little later, saw a handmade sign announcing a blues band, the “Naked Hippies” (they weren’t naked), was playing a free show down at the river from 1:00 to 5:30. It was a little after 1:00, and I love the blues, so figured I’d check it out. Great scene: a raised stage right next to the river with a band playing and locals kicking back in fold-up chairs. I listened to a couple songs, rolled up to the stage during a break to drop a couple of bucks in the tip jar, then had a fun banter with the band members, who loved the trike and were excited to hear about the ride. Great sound, which you can hear here.

Further down the trail, ran into Gary from yesterday, who told me about a bike hostel in the town of Tebbetts that I should be able to make by nightfall. I asked about ATMs, as I hadn’t planned on using cash for days on end (a necessity in small towns along the trail), and he proceeded to empty his wallet so I would have some cash for the night. Thanks, Gary! Lots of great interactions with fellow bikers on the trail today, including Bill and his daughter Sydney who were on their tandem bike and rode with me for a stretch. And then I came across this beautiful snake, soaking up the last of the day’s warmth on the trail.

Rode the last mile in total darkness, soaked in sweat (like every day) – with one headlight already out of power and the other probably not far behind – so was relieved to find the Turner Katy Trail Shelter in Tebbetts. I thought I’d probably roll into a darkened hostel, but there were bikes scattered all around the front yard, and a warm light glowing inside. Met some really cool University of Nebraska students biking the trail who fixed me up with some pancakes. Several shared with me their disdain for the two major political parties and thanked me for “being their voice in Washington, DC.” Nice.

The terrain today was totally flat, unlike yesterday, so the chat (the finely crushed gravel they use on the trail) slowed me down. Only got 63 miles in, and they were hard miles. But right knee feeling better and stronger. Will probably use the electric motor some tomorrow, to get some more miles under my belt. Need to keep moving if I hope to have any chance of getting to DC before the snow flies.

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“HELLO, KATY!” (October 16, 2010)

Rolled out of my motel room fairly early and made tracks for Sedalia on Hwy. 50. Hit some more rumble strips on the narrow shoulder, so was relieved to finally reach the KATY Trail in Sedalia.

Before hitting the trail, made a quick stop at the Sedalia Democrat, which took a shot of the trike and said they’d run a story. For those not familiar with the KATY Trail, this is the nation’s crown jewel rail-to-trail bike path. Hats off to Ted and Pat Jones (of the Edward Jones investment family) and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for creating this national treasure! The bike path is 225 miles long and crosses most of Missouri. I’ll be biking 150 miles of it, with most of it following the beautiful Missouri River. We need bike trails like this in every state. If fact, we need a national coast-to-coast bike trail for the American people to be able to safely explore this great country by bicycle.

I had wondered how the tires of the rocket trike would do on chat (the finely crushed gravel they use on this trail), but it turns out there was no real cause for concern. On the first section at least, the trike cruised better on this than on any paved road I’ve ridden on thus far, and what a relief to be away from all the cars, trucks, noise and exhaust. The beauty of riding on leaves and being nestled in by a canopy of colorful trees is just indescribable. My favorite ride day so far.

Had an energy crash late in the afternoon, but took care of that by consuming some Chocolate Almond Butter from sponsor Justin’s Nut Butter, along with dates and dried apricots. That powered me all the way to New Franklin.

Made the campsite in New Franklin just as the sun was setting, riding by some Boy Scouts setting off a rocket in a field. That brought back memories. Pulled into the campground, set up the tent, and rode through the campground to share it with the scouts. They loved it. Met a couple of cool bikers, Rock Warmsley and Marcus Ware, who had passed me earlier on the trail. Enjoyed some great conversation over cold beers and a campfire before calling it a night.

Today was the most physically challenging day of the trip thus far, but in a good way, as the relatively flat terrain made for extended stretches of pedaling. Knocked out 72 miles. Didn’t engage the electric motor once on the trail, as I wanted my first experience with Katy to be pure. Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow holds.

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“HONORING MISSOURI VETERANS” (Friday, October 15, 2010)

Started the morning in my motel room editing more videos and updating the blog, then back on the road. Beautiful weather again (something I’ve been blessed with this whole trip), and more hawk encounters. Late in the day, hit a really bad stretch of road, where the shoulder was extremely narrow and a rumble strip hemmed me in with nowhere to maneuver. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long.

Finally rolled into Warrensburg around dinnertime and pulled into a sandwich shop to grab a quick bite to eat before pushing the final 11 miles to the state park campground. As I prepared to pay, a man walked up to me saying he saw me on the highway earlier in the day and he was buying my meal. Thanks, Shane Collins! Then another person walked into the shop and asked if I was the owner of the yellow trike. She said she saw me on the highway earlier and was fascinated with it, and wished I could have seen the looks on all the other drivers’ faces. There’s something really special about this rocket trike to generate this kind of reaction everywhere I go.

Over dinner, I told Shane and his girlfriend, Kim, that I was hoping to visit the local air force base the next town over, and they asked if I wanted to visit the Missouri Veterans Home. I didn’t know one was here, so they put in a call to the director to see if they could set something up, but he wasn’t available. So I figured I’d just push on while there was still light to ride. Got back on Hwy. 50, and at the next exit saw a sign for the veterans home, felt a strong pull, and made a spontaneous decision to visit anyway, figuring the rocket trike might brighten a few veterans’ nights. I’d figure out where to sleep later. More synchronicity: right after deciding to make for the Veterans Home, my phone rang. It was one of my best friends, Rick Feller (who served his country in the National Guard).

So I rolled up to the front door, walked in, and asked if I could bring the trike inside. One of the employees commenced to get on the intercom to announce a “rocket trike is in the lobby, with a guy who’s supporting veterans and pedaling across the country.” What happened next is hard to put in words, but was profoundly moving. Veterans from several different wars started rolling into the lobby in their wheelchairs. I answered a bunch of questions about the trike (which everyone seemed to really enjoy), then had some very special one-on-one conversations with Americans who know the true meaning of sacrifice, thanking each of them for their service to our nation. It’s time for our generation to toughen up. 92-year old Frank Spicer, a World War II veteran, tried to adopt me on the spot, so I could stay overnight in the home’s guest room, but the people in charge weren’t buying it. Before leaving, I had the honor of interviewing Frank, a real American hero. First, he shared his D-Day experiences, then his thoughts on the need for green jobs for veterans.

I finally said goodbye, then rode a couple of miles in the dark (not recommended) to a seedy, run down hotel. Had a very strange conversation with the guy at the front desk that I thought might never end, but finally managed to get the room key. Then had to figure out how to fit my trike into a room already crowded with two beds. Thanks to the guy on the cell phone who moved his truck, and to Logan for pitching in without a word to lift the front of the trike over one of the beds. I’m not even halfway through the trip, and have already depleted most of my hotel fund, so hoping I make more campsites from here on in.

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“NEGOTIATING CITY STREETS” (Thursday, October 14, 2010)

Said goodbye to Marci and Joe, and pedaled out of town towards Hwy. 24. First time I had an issue with the windshield fogging up (foggy morning). Despite the early hour, decided to call Natalya Lowther, who had earlier offered me a tour of her organic farm. She answered the phone and was happy to see me, so I pedaled down the road for a quick tour of the Pinwheel Farm. How inspiring to see someone living a simple and happy life, making her living from the land in a way that respects the earth. After saying goodbye, it was back on the road towards Kansas City. Saw several hawks along the way.

Kansas City was my first major city of the trip. Spent the bulk of the day negotiating through it. Did a phone interview with pedaling through a construction zone.

Also stopped by the Prescott Passive House, designed and built by the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Their unique green project is seeking to reduce building energy consumption for heating and cooling by 90% in a way that is affordable to someone earning 80% or less of the area’s median income. Great stuff.

The local Fox News affiliate WDAF met me here for an interview:,0,3356294.story

Then made my way south and east through the city streets, with lots of excited shouts and whistles about the trike. I’m astounded by the level of media interest in my journey, and the rocket trike, considering I’m operating with no real media support. If I’m generating this kind of coverage on a simple cold call or visit, I can only imagine what kind of press coverage this ride would receive with a supported media outreach effort.

Was advised at the convenience store to take Highway 71 south out of the city. Bad idea. Too dangerous and too many hazards (like drainage grates) on the shoulder. Exit ramps, speeding cars, and rocket trikes do not mix. Eventually pulled off and took Prospect Avenue, which parallels the highway. Much nicer, plus I got to actually engage with people, it being a neighborhood. Lots of shouts and thumbs up on the trike. Pulled over at one point to talk to ask for directions, and a crowd gathered. What a fun interaction. Really wish I had more time to spend in the inner cities.

Eventually made it to the eastern edge of town and was aiming for a campground some miles down the road, but the sun had already set over the horizon, the road was dicey (no shoulder, with lots of hills and curves) and I was running out of light. Then I saw a large complex called Unity Village, and thinking it might be related to Unity Church in Boulder, rolled down the driveway to check it out. Turns out it’s the national headquarters for Unity Church and they had an affordable motel room, which sounded good to me right about then. What I didn’t know was the Unity Village Hotel & Conference Center is one of the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotels in the country, so I’m hoping to get a tour before I leave.

Pedaled 70 miles today, although not a lot of progress east. Right knee’s acting up again and the toothache I’ve been dealing with since the first night is starting to flare up, but not a lot I can do about either. Managing pain is just part of the trip.

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“LAST DAY IN LAWRENCE” (Wednesday, October 13, 2010)

Spent the morning uploading the last of my videos, washing clothes and organizing my stuff. Spent much more time in Lawrence than I had planned, but no real choice. Have to stay on top of the social media component of the ride. Am hoping some help arrives soon so I don’t lose more precious ride days. Want to make one final shout out to Marci and Joe for tolerating an unexpected houseguest – it was much appreciated!

That afternoon, met a local inventor who built his own electric bike at a coffee shop, then was treated to dinner (thanks, Scott!) by Scott Allegrucci, Executive Director of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the organizations leading the fight to block a new polluting coal plant in western Kansas.

It’s incredibly energizing to meet activists like Scott who are really making things happen. Looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow morning.

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“AND ANOTHER…” (Tuesday, October 12, 2010)

Spent the morning editing more videos and catching up on emails. Then rode with Democratic State Senator Marci Francisco on our bikes to The Merc for lunch. Lots of smiles from students on the way checking out the trike. The Merc is a local health food/restaurant (even nicer than Whole Foods) that Marci was eager to show off. If I lived here, I’d be hooked.

Had a call this afternoon with my “communications team” and am finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Andy has finished the promotional video and Mike is mere days away from having the website ready to launch. So things are looking up. I just need to keep loading the blogs, videos and photos in preparation. Here’s one final shout out to Marci and Joe for putting up with their unexpected houseguest for so long – I’ll be out of here soon!

Took a break from work tonight to ride up to campus to speak with the University of Kansas student environmental group, Environs. Great group and very warm reception to the “100% by 2020” goal. It’s encouraging to see the younger generation as impatient for change as I am.

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“ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE” (Monday, October 11, 2010)

There aren’t many better places to be on a rainy fall day than downtown Lawrence, KS. I really like this town. Some call it the Boulder of the Midwest. Want to give a shout out to the Sunflower Bike Shop for looking out for my knees with the gratis bike fitting this morning. Thanks, Derek! Also had the opportunity to meet the shop’s resident stray cat, Stanley (go to the “staff” link at and click on “Stanley”), a friendly little guy who I learned is always trying to sneak out of the store. He even has his own Facebook page.

Not much else to repot on today, other than spending the last ten 10 hours at a local coffee shop editing and posting videos from the ride, and I’m still not done. They’re vacuuming the floor now, so will have to continue this project back at Marci and Joe’s house. Looks like I’m in for another late night. Starting to look forward to getting back on the road.

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“OFFICE DAY” (Sunday, October 10, 2010)

Pedaled with Democratic State Senator Marci Francisco down to the 41st annual Octoginta to see off 650 cyclists for their 80-mile ride today. Tempted to join, as it was a gorgeous fall day for a ride, but decided to conserve my energy for the many miles yet to come.

While standing there, two kind souls walked up to me this morning, donating $10 each to help me along my way – thanks, guys! Later, had breakfast downtown with Marci and her husband Joe, then back to the guest loft in their home to edit more videos. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate their incredibly generous hospitality. There’s nothing like having a quiet, comfortable place to get some work done during breaks from riding. Was hoping to take part in one of’s 10/10/10 events today, but couldn’t find any local work parties in which to participate, so kept my nose to the grindstone editing more videos. Did take time, however, to share dinner, and stimulating conversation, with Marci and Joe.

Am increasingly concerned about my website not being up, so I’ve decided not to leave Lawrence until I at least get all my blogs and videos uploaded. Will help me focus on the riding, not having that hanging over my head. So may be here for a couple more days. Will have some serious pedaling in store for me then, however, as time (and the weather) is not on my side if I hope to make DC before the snow flies.

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“NEW FRIENDS IN LAWRENCE” (Saturday, October 9, 2010)

Pedaled to the local Farmers Market in the morning to show off the trike and recruit more petition signers. Was surprised to be approached by someone who knew not only what kind of trike I was riding (a velomobile), but the exact brand name (Go-One). Robin Kidney, who’s fascinated with electric vehicles, shared with me what she had learned on the web about Velomobiles, and the Go-One in particular. She then happily volunteered to keep an eye on it, while I grabbed some breakfast from the burrito stand. When I got back, she had gathered a small crowd and was handing out my business cards, asking people to sign the petition. I told her she’s my new PR agent! Spent the rest of the morning wandering the market, and spotting Robin for short breaks. Deeply appreciate your wonderful enthusiasm and help, Robin.

Later headed over to a local park for the bike swap meet (where locals bring bikes and bike parts to swap out or sell) and got lots of interest in the trike. Met a guy, Ari Gold, who is one year into a decade-long ride to Australia (he’s taking the long way there).  Checked out his bike, loaded down with gear. Made my trek look rather tame by comparison.

I’m so backlogged on correspondence I had to turn down great offers of a pot luck dinner and drinks at a local bar to spend the night updating my blog and email database and getting the website ready for launch. Exciting Saturday night in Lawrence!

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“BIKE-HAPPY LAWRENCE” (Friday, October 8, 2010)

Began the day with a talk to 250 KU college students. Was escorted to campus by State Senator Marci Francisco, who joined me on her bike (she meant roughly 20,000 undergraduate students).

Good reception to the “100% by 2020” message, followed by some stimulating one-on-one conversations. Hugs I received by a couple of the students afterwards were priceless.

Then an interview with Channel 6 TV:

Here’s the story from the Lawrence Journal:

After that, pedaled over to the campus news office for an interview with

Afterwards rode down to the Sunflower bike shop to show off the trike, where I was told the staff would appreciate it (they did). On the way, was treated to lunch by Craig, who runs a sidewalk food stand – thanks, brother! Got second lunch at nearby Local Burger (the name says it all), where I had a stimulating conversation with the owner, Hilary Brown. I think she’s really onto something with her healthy, local burger joint, so keep your eyes on Local Burger.

Overheard one of Hilary’s customers, Dave Yates, talking about coal plants, and after learning he was a local sustainability leader, decided to interviewed him as well.

Later in the day, rode 6 miles with the KU Bike Club on one of their standard afternoon rides.

One of the students, Jeff Miller, shared some profound observations the importance of communal engagement.

Then rode to the outskirts of town for a pot luck put on by the student group, Environs, but that turned into a wild goose chase. Eventually abandoned the effort and rode back into town before it got too dark to ride. Ran into Brian (who I had met at Marci and Joe’s the night before) on his bike on the way back into town, who was up for a couple cold, local microbrews at Free State Brewing Company.

It’s hard to picture someone as bubbly and upbeat as Marci operating in a formal setting like a state legislature. She must really liven that place up. I learned tonight she not only bikes everywhere, but is such an avid recycler, she stops to pick up cans she sees along the road (and even recycles staples)! I can tell you from personal experience I had trouble finding a single garbage can in her home. Now that’s walking the talk.

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