“INDIANA WANTS REAL CHANGE” (Wednesday, November 3, 2010)

The REI lightweight down sleeping bag, with a felt liner insert, was just enough to keep me warm throughout the night, but woke up to ice on the tent fly and frost on the windshield, so packing up wasn’t fun. The sun quickly warmed things up, though, and it ended up being a glorious day for riding. Marti had already shipped my cold weather gear to my family in Cincinnati, so I’ll be trading out gear there for the final push to DC.

Rolled into The Corner Restaurant in downtown Rushville for a hearty breakfast, where folks were curious to know where I was headed in the trike. Lots of enthusiasm for a green energy “moon shot,” like pretty much everywhere I go. William Goin, President of the Rushville City Council, stopped by my table to say hello. The waitress then threw me for a loop when she told me “the guy over there” was buying my breakfast. Thanks, Al Tackett! Thanks, too, to the gentleman who tipped me off to a less hilly, more bike- friendly, route to travel on his way out the door. After breakfast, rolled down to the offices of the Rushville Republican for a quick newspaper interview.

Then pedaled over to the home of Mike Sweet, who I had also met at breakfast, to check out the “green” addition to his home. He’s doing his part to make the world a better place by using reclaimed materials whenever and wherever he can. Way to lead by example, Mike.

After that, wanted to visit the Booker T. Washington school, a national award-winning historic landmark, so pedaled down the road to see it. Now a community center, this historic renovation is the culmination of a long-time dream of William Goins. When I got there, I saw it also housed a Head Start program, so poked my head in the door to ask a teacher if the kids might want to see the trike. Boy, were they excited.

Discovered this homemade wind turbine at Elm Valley Farms near Connersville. Later learned it was built from the ground up by Matt Sherck (and his dad), who likes the idea of making his own energy and being self-sufficient.

Down the road, stopped into the Connersville News-Examiner for a quick interview:

Later grabbed a sandwich at Subway in Liberty, where I want to give a shout out to employee Heather Harsh, for covering my lunch. Then did a phone interview with Ohio University’s College Green Magazine as I pedaled out of town:

The gears were popping worse today, making it hard to get into a groove, but still managed 64 miles. One of my side trips today was to the beautiful Black Covered Bridge. The iPhone battery died just as I was approaching the bridge.

There I ran into Dick & Leslie Haid out sightseeing, who asked if I had seen the low wind speed wind turbine just installed at Miami University’s Ecology Research Center. I hadn’t, and the sun was already dropping low, so they kindly offered to shuttle me the few miles up the road to see it. I’ve seen lots of wind turbines over the years, but never one quite like this. I’ll be interested to learn more about how it performs.

Was really hoping to make Cincinnati to be with my family tonight, but too many miles to go. Briefly considered spending the night at Hueston Woods campground for old times sake (I visited the park as a kid growing up near here), but decided instead to take up climate activists Don Pestana and his wife, Carla, on their generous offer of a bed, a hot shower and dinner. Thanks, Don and Carla! Their teenage son, Anderson, was bubbled over with ideas on how to engineer the next iteration of the rocket trike. There’s something about the trike that really sparks the imagination.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

“PARTY OF NO VS. PARTY OF SLOW” (Tuesday, November 2, 2010)

Called the Indianapolis media outlets this morning, but couldn’t have had tougher competition, this being election day. Pedaling out of town, had the typical experience of cars slowing down to take pictures, but the one that really stuck out was a guy at a stoplight who commented to his friend: “You’re looking at the future right there, man.”

Gears started popping again today, making it tough to get into a groove. Weather is also starting to turn. Highs today in the low 50s, with the wind chill making it feel more like low 40s. Not ideal peddling weather, worse when you’re drenched in sweat, but arrived in Rushville before dark, with 64 more miles behind me. Along the way, rolled past another one of the many curious cows I have encountered on this trip.

Rolled down a side street to ask directions to the local sheriff’s department to ask for permission to camp in one of the town park. Lucky for me, the person I asked was Randy Kaster, who was very excited about my mission and had a few choice words to share on why he didn’t vote today. Countless people I have encountered on this journey share his disdain for the two major political parties. I call them the party of “no” versus the party of “slow.” Either way, we lose.

Randy then kindly offered to have me camp in his backyard (where I am writing this from the comfort of my tent). Yet another heartwarming example of the generous nature of Americans. Earlier, over pizza and beers, I learned Randy is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marine corps (1980-1992). I also learned that Rushville is named in honor of Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and served as the presidential campaign headquarters for Wendell Willkie’s 1940 presidential campaign. It also boasts one of the most beautiful historic courthouses in the state.

Tagged , , , , ,

“NO TRICKS OR TREATS” (Sunday, October 31, 2010)

Got up real early and worked on updating the website till around noon, then sat with some hungover college students at the counter of a popular local diner to carb-load up, before hitting the road for Indianapolis. Bike chain was strangely loose today, with lots of slack, so a little concerned about that. Still doing its job, though, so I’ll just have to keep an eye on it. With the late start, only got in 40 miles to Lebanon, IN. Not a campground to be found as the sun started to sink in the sky. Considered pitching my tent in the city park, but thought better of it and grabbed a motel room instead. As you can see, it’s tight, but the rocket trike fits.

Looking forward to a good night’s sleep, with no trick or treaters knocking on my door.

Tagged , , ,

“MEETING A REAL ROCKET MAN” (Saturday, October 30, 2010)

The morning began with a knock at my door by the Benton County Sheriff’s Department. It was my ride. Deputy Don Munson was there to drive me back to Fowler to pick up my trike. On the way, we got to talking about all the wind farms in the area and he remembered where the wind farm I helped get off the ground years ago was located. Problem was, it was considerably north of Fowler, and I didn’t have the time (or the energy, after last night) to pedal all the way up there and back from Fowler. Without missing a beat, he turned down a side road and headed north. So I got to visit my old wind project, courtesy of the Sheriff’s Department.

Very satisfying to see the physical manifestation of something that seven years ago was just a hope and an idea. Surrounding us were 53 two-megawatt wind turbines generating green energy for Indiana and a providing a new source of income for farmers. Officer Munson is a huge fan of wind power.

Grabbed a sandwich at the local grocery store and headed down the road to Lafayette, where I wanted to visit Purdue University, and hopefully a bike shop to get one of my front tires replaced. Learned that the university was having their annual Purdue Space Day at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering today, which coincidentally was right where I pulled into campus. Rolled my trike into the building and introduced myself to the organizers, who welcomed the addition of a “rocket trike” to their event. Interesting fact: Purdue boasts the first and last astronauts to walk on the moon. A few minutes later, 600 3rd-8th graders began streaming into the building. Had lots of great interactions with the kids, then was told Tom I-P. Shih, head of the School of Aeronautics and Astonautics, wanted to meet me. This led to a fascinating conversation with Tom, who in turn introduced me to the event’s VIP astronaut speaker.

Astronaut David Wolf is the real rocket man, having logged 168 days, 12 hours, 56 minutes and 04 seconds in space over four separate missions. When I mentioned my trike, he asked if I had had any incidents with it. “Yes, in fact, I crashed it just last night…” which prompted this reply: “always put safety first.” Sound advice, coming from someone whose life literally hangs on that in space. He was curious to see the trike, so I walked him over to it after the event.

By the time I found the bike shop downtown and got the tire changed, it was close to 5:00. Even though I’d only 30 miles logged on the day, decided to play it safe and not push it this time, and grabbed a motel for the night.

Tagged , , , , ,

“A CRASH & A SHERIFF DEPUTY’S KINDNESS” (Friday, October 29, 2010)

Began the day by getting to drive Matt’s TWIKE around the block. Talk about fun. Test-drive one yourself, and you may never go back to a car.

Then it was back into the cockpit of the rocket trike for what turned out to be an 83-mile ride day. Started with a hearty breakfast in nearby Urbana before heading north towards Fowler, site of the enXco wind project I cut my teeth on when I first joined the wind industry nearly seven years ago. Met Neil Bernstein and his son Daniel on the way out the door, who were real excited about the ride. Thanks for the generous contribution, guys!

Weather now starting to get a little cool, but a beautiful day for riding. Encountered six hawks and two large dogs, as I rode by a farmer’s yard. They were barking with what was could only be described as joy and ran alongside me for a good couple of miles. They’d have gone further, I’m sure, if I hadn’t stopped to let them rest.

Made a side trip down Main Street in Rankin and a little while later, in Hoopeston, where I ran into local Alderman Bill McElhaney and Republican County Clerk candidate Dennis Miller, both big supporters of wind power. Finally crossed the state line into Indiana (one more state down). A short while later, a woman in a van flagged me down. She was a reporter from the Danville Commercial News whose son had just called her saying he had seen me on the road. We did an interview in the parking lot.

Finally spotted a huge wind project on the horizon to the north and made tracks for it. I was soon pedaling through a massive wind project, with hundreds of turbines dotting the landscape, as the sun began to drop. The setting sun, behind all those slowly rotating wind turbines, under a pale blue sky with wispy white clouds turning pastel pink, was a postcard perfect moment (but for the iPhone battery dying at that moment). What happened next was not.

As there were no towns of any size nearby, I had to make Fowler before dark. Missed my target by a few miles, which forced me to ride in the dark. Kids, don’t do this. Knocked on the door of a farmhouse to make sure I was on the right road. I was, so at least that.

By now, it was not only pitch black, but I was riding on a section of newly constructed black asphalt with no painted stripes and no shoulder (ironically built by a wind company), so it was hard to discern where the asphalt ended and a sharp, nasty drop-off began. Got a little too close to the edge at one point and over we went. Fortunately, it was a soft, grassy landing and the trike didn’t roll. Crawled out of the cockpit to survey the damage, fearing the worst. Not a scrape on the trike, which was lying on its side, and just a few small ones on me. A woman (never got her name) who witnessed the accident pulled over to see if I was OK, and was kind enough to slowly drive behind me as I pedaled the last couple of miles safely into town.

Briefly thought about pitching a tent in the town park, but was chilled and still soaking wet from sweating all day, so rolled up to the Sheriff’s Office to ask about other options. The dispatch, Courtney, called around (including to a church) to see if she could find me a bed for the night, but struck out. Finally, they proposed storing my trike, charging the battery up over night, and driving me up the road to the next town where there was a hotel. At this point, that sounded good to me. Before leaving, they loaded me up with Halloween candy and other snacks for the road.

When we got to the hotel, Deputy Jason Dexter asked me to please wait in the car, which I found curious. He came out a few minutes later, handed me my room key with his business card and said, “I really admire what you’re doing. Here’s your room key. Just do me one favor and email me when you arrive in DC.” He had personally picked up the tab for my room! I was flabbergasted. He said another officer would be by in the morning to drive me back to Fowler. Indiana’s Benton County Sheriff’s Department truly personifies the motto “protect and serve.” Thank you, Jason, for your heartwarming generosity.

Tagged , , , , , , ,