The Blog

Friday, April 30, 2010

Three States in one day-and we worked for them!

We woke to a cold beautiful desert morning and got on the road before 9 (a record).  Today was the most challenging day we've had.  We had very strong winds that were mostly cross or headwinds.  In addition, lots of the roads we travelled were heavy with trucks, RV's and narrow shoulders.  We had two major climbs, one with a brutal headwind and the other with lots of elevation.  We burned lots of battery today as well as lots of our own energy.  My eyes feel fried by the sun and wind and I think I will pass out just fine tonight.
We almost made it to Kingman but there's another hill between here and there so we called it a day here in Golden Valley.
Earlier today we crossed the Colorado into Arizona after nipping off the bottom corner of Nevada.
A Happy Camper

Desert Morning Fashion Show

Another Roadside Attraction

Goodbye California

Roadside scenery above Lauflin, NV

Barstow to somewhere in the Mojave Desert

Heading out of Barstow we hit the worst roads we have seen.  Barstow seems to be a combination of motels and car repair shops which may explain the bad roads.  Right after leaving town, we were stopped at a Marine base and had to go around via a fairly nasty dirt road.  Back on Route 66 things went all right for about 20 miles before the road became kidney killer and Catherine quickly decided it would also become an electric bike killer.  I talked to a Highway Patrol officer who told me the road stayed bad and that if we went on the freeway he would tell us to get off.
So with some chagrin, we loaded all the bikes in the back for the first time and drove off into the desert about 90 miles down the road.
To pay penance, we decided to wild camp and as I sit here now, we are in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve and we just took a hike up a mountainside where we got to enjoy some of the most beautiful desert bloom I have ever seen.  The sky also obliged by providing stunning cloud formations and the wind is still biting at my hands as I type.
While hiking around I thought about our project and the fact that we "cheated" today and I came up with a rather elegant rationalization for our impure action today.
Sustainability is our cause.  But what is the reason for wanting to create a sustainable future.  It's not because we want a world where our children will be able to shop to their hearts content.  It's not because our species is so marvelous that we deserve this planet to trash or cherish as we please.  Seeing the beauty of the desert in bloom and the sky convulsing with cloud designs, I was reminded that this planet is such an incredible place.  Whether humans are here or not, this place is truly a miracle not to be wasted by foolish human greed.  
So even though we chose to drive today, the gift of the desert added its voice to our sustainability message in a way that affirms our goal to contribute to the creation of a sustainable future where desert flowers can continue to bloom.

Wind and Solar

Loading up the bikes

Rock art tagged by those pesky Green Riders

Our desert sanctuary

Goddess of Light and Pedals

We know how old Catherine is.  How old is the cactus?

Some of the treats we enjoyed

Blogging in style!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tehachapi to Barstow - Driven by the wind

Our hostess Debbie - What a gem

We woke to a windy drizzly 40 degree morning and were treated to a fabulous breakfast before heading down the road to visit Mike at the GE Wind Turbine facility where he works.  We got a fantastic tour of the facility and saw every stage of fabrication of the nacelles (everything that sits on top of the tower except for the blades) of the 1.5 megawatt turbines being built in Tehachapi.
After leaving Mike, we headed up and over the hill towards Mojave.  Initially we had furious crosswinds that kept us weaving all over the road.  As the road headed east, tailwinds prevailed and our struggles ended.  In addition, we saw more wind turbines than cars . . . a lot more.  Thousands of them!  Going down the back side I hit 55mph on my bicycle!  And that was being careful!!
When we hit the flats in Mojave, it was close to 2 but with the tailwinds, we sailed into Barstow by 6 after doing 100 miles!  A few more days like this and we may land an extra layover day in Flagstaff.
My take home image for today is riding down the road, not pedaling, my safety sock hanging limp, leaving a message on Michael's phone and traveling at 29 miles per hour!  It seemed impossible and it sure was a blast.
In Tehachapi and from Paul Gipe we learned that the transmission capacity from Tehachapi is going increase almost 10 fold.  To me that means jobs in wind.  Tehachapi has been unable to install more grid-tied wind because of the lack of big power lines.  Now that more wind power can be sent into utility lines, there will be a huge demand for building and installing more turbines.  I predict that Tehachapi will experience an economic boom over the next two years that will be the envy of the nation.  So let's learn and imitate!!!

Cold Tehachapi morning with a beautiful electric bug (Blown controller not so beautiful!)

Our host Mike posing with us in front of one of "his" nacelles.

Zond Blade Riders

Catherine, tailwinds and power

Top of the pass

A beautiful site

A little of course

Sean gets to fly on the Surley

Day 6 - Bakersfield to Tehachapi

Breakfast with Liz in Bakersfield

After overdosing on computer activities thanks to the kindness of our host LIz, we headed up the road to Tehachapi.  It took a long while to get through Bakersfield and as we were finally leaving the urban area, we stopped for a free breakfast at Subway!  It was very exciting.
While driving along a busy Boulevard, a friendly looking guy in a big nasty looking pickup asked us to pull over because he had to talk to us about our bikes.
We pulled into a parking lot and spend a happy time sharing our story and showing off our bikes to Joseph Bork, a local solar PV installer who gets the whole concept of electric bikes as replacements for most car trips.  I'm finding that all of these places we're passing through are a lot more interesting and fine than when we zoom through them in cars on the way to our final destinations.  I like Bakersfield!
The ride up to Tehachapi was incredibly nice.  An even grade, beautiful green again after leaving the valley.  The back road we took was windy, smooth and without traffic . . . just perfect.
When we got into Tehachapi, Mike and Debbie arrived at the agreed upon spot and started hauling out a BBQ feast.  A few of his Electric vehicle friends showed up and we relaxed and ate for a while until the famous Tehachapi winds blew us out of the park and we caravanned over to MIke and Debbie's house where the eating and talking continued.  Mike helped us with a few problems that needed tweaking and they are both delightful and wonderful hosts who are providing us with a wonderful place to stay and sharing their generous spirits with us as well.
Tomorrow Mike has arranged for us to visit him at work.  He works for GE building wind turbines.  I can't wait.
It's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow but not too much so we will get our first chance to try out our rigs in the rain.

Joe Bork Flags us down to get himself an electric bike.  Called brother Michael way too late to talk bikes.   Whoops!

The classic cruiser

Taking baths wherever we find them!

Heading up to Tehachapi

Free Subway breakfast

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 5 Wasco to Bakersfield

We had a dramatically uneventful riding day.  Dave was on the Surley and we had absolutely no problems.  HE kept up with us and if fact we even had to ask him to slow down! The Surley does use a lot more energy but between it's higher wind profile, lack of fairing and extra weight, it's no surprise.
We rolled into Bakersfield around noon after doing an easy 40 miles and stopped at a Bike Shop to pick up a couple of small things and to see if we could muster up some interest.  Sure enough, the customers who dropped in were thrilled to see us and learn about our project.  One elderly man (72) saw us from across the canal and had tocome talk to us because he was riding a recumbent like ours (without motor) and just had to see what we were up to.
After leaving the Bike Shop, we rode to the house where we had been invited to stay while camping at the Pinnacles.  No one was home so we went into the backyard, had some lunch, took a swim and relaxed for about an hour or so before getting back on our bikes and heading across town to interview Paul Gipe.
Paul is a veteran of the wind industry and our conversation with him was incredible.  Not only does he understand how it all works both politically and technically but he has doable solutions based on lots of international experience on how to make wind power a significant contributor to the renewable energy future.  HIs main point is that policies need to make the production of renewable energy profitable for individual homeowner's as well as for energy companies.  He sited the German and Spanish models as being examples of how to quickly grow the renewable energy industries.
We were honored by his willingness to give us time and he enjoyed checking out our bikes, wished us luck and lots of media attention and we were out of there in about an hour.  We did record the interview and hope to post an edited version of it when we get some pictures of wind turbines up in the Tehachapi's tomorrow.
We spent the evening cleaning up and getting caught up on our computer work.

We even slept in beds!!!!

Another recumbent rider and his Gold Rush

Cooling our heels in Bakersfield

The Green Riders say goodbye to Paul Gipe

Kissin' fossil fuels goodbye

Suckin' it down!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog Day 4 Coalinga to Wasco

After many phone calls and political decisions about how to best deal with the OHM bicycle, we agreed to send the OHM back to the manufacturer and pick up the long tail bike that had been the original idea for a third electric bike prior to OHM's offer to supply us with their bike.  We are still not sure what went wrong and we don't have the time or expertise to troubleshoot and solve the problem.
Michael met Sean, Dave and John near Los Banos where they traded the Surley for the OHM.  Michael also gave a ride home to John who was feeling pressure from both home and work to get back to Marin.  He had a good three days of riding and I think he had a good time.  We are sorry to see him go.
Catherine and I  left the RV  Park we stayed at around 9  and headed off on a route planned by Sean on his IPhone.  We spent most of the day on flat straight roads with no traffic riding next to each other talking about and solving all the world's problems.  We went 87 miles for a new record and did it all with only two batteries each.  We drove under 20mph most of the day and we had very nice tailwinds most of the day.
When we arrived in Wasco around 4, we were very ready to stop.  We got ice cream which tasted amazing and asked about campgrounds or RV parks.  Nothing.
We then went to the local fire station on the advice of a woman a few days ago who suggested that we crash try to find lodging with the firemen.  Well, it worked.  Our tent is set up on a little patch of lawn in front of our van is parked along a cinderblock wall.  
We expect to hear a lot of sirens tonight but the price is right and the fireman are very sweet.  I left them with some of our samples of our bio-based lubricants and cleaners that we brought with us from Wise Solutions and they seemed very interested since they do a lot of cleaning and lubricating.  
We had a great space to spread out all of our stuff and so we took the opportunity to reorganize a lot of our stuff.  A real gem of a day!!

Catherine and Oliver taking a Central Valley break

Wyatt trying to hitch a ride to Wasco with us.

Bikes and wind going the same direction.  A beautiful site!!

Coking at the Wasco Firehouse

We love firemen!!

Dave mixing it up with batteries, bikes, trailers and his computer

Catherine watching the firemen take off. 

Bakersfield here we come we will be visiting finish line bike shop from 1 to 3 see you there!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 3 April 24

Woke to a fogged in damp campground.
Took off around 10 and rode some of the most beautiful country we will probably see.  The flowers were incredible.  The vast open areas were our color and the cows all looked really cool.  Saw a lot of the traditional wind turbines that run remote pumps used for watering cattle.
There was almost no traffic, the road was great and Sean and Dave shot a lot of video from the van.  I can't wait to see it!
About 34 miles out of Coalinga we stopped and had a phone call break since we finally had cell service.  We were all feeling great and ready for the climb in front of us.  Catherine, John and I started up the grade and very soon John fell behind.  The motor on his bike couldn't provide the power he needed to climb at the rate we climbed.
Down the other side I hit 47 mph!  That was fun!   I mean really fun!!
At the bottom of the grade, John took a break and gave the OHM to Dave.  The road continued to descend but the OHM failed and after waiting a long while for Catherine and Dave, the showed up with Dave having to pedal hard downhill just to get the bike to move.  We couldn't figure out what was happening so I went ahead to find a spot where I could get cell service to call Sean back to rescue us.
I rode hard for almost 10 miles before I pulled into a farmyard where there were probably 50 dogs in pens. I made the call and then hung out with the rancher for about an hour.  The Greyhound dogs are used for hunting and killing coyotes who are predators to the cattle.  The farmer thought we were pretty nuts to be doing what we are doing and had no problem telling me so.  He did like the bike but was happy to tell me how it could be better.  We had a good time together and I learned a lot about the area.

We finally rolled into a RV Park along Highway 5.  The lady was incredibly nice and we arrived at their first weekly barbecue  so we didn't have to make dinner ourselves and there was good food for everybody's dietary requirements.  (Catherine is gluten intolerant and John is Vegan.)