The Blog

Monday, May 31, 2010

Two new videos from the road - Missions and Haircuts!

Two new videos today

Describing the Mission of the Trip

Getting a much needed haircut!


"Day off" in Eudora

With only one event at Sunflower Bike Shop in Lawrence planned, I figured we had a pretty relaxing day ahead of us.  We spent the morning organizing the van, finishing up work on the bike we built in Boulder and doing internet catch up.  Peter and I rode electric bikes into Lawrence (about 12 miles) and on the way rode through the nursing home halls where Peter is the medical director.  It gave some of the folks there a real kick to see us riding through the building with our electric bicycle grins shining.
It was hot and muggy in Lawrence so we only stayed for a couple of hours before heading back home.  We talked to lots of people who were quite interested in what we are doing and the people at the bike shop were as kind and gracious as they had been on Saturday.
After visiting a couple of Peter's friends on the way home, we at the giant chicken (6 pounds) that we had picked up at Gasper Farm the day before.  It was delicious and fed the 8 of us easily.
After a thunderstorm moved over the area, Peter and his son Nick went for a ride on the electric bikes.  Nick really liked helping out with the bikes and also really likes the power and speed of the electrics.  (No surprise there from a 13 year old boy!)
About an hour and a half after they left, we got a phone call that the Big Dummy had died.  Rolf and I loaded up the trailer and went out on a rescue mission.  Sure enough, the controller had died and after talking with brother Michael on the phone, we went about replacing the controller with one of the spares we had brought.  It turns out that the controllers we are using are all being recalled since they tend to burn themselves out when attached to a hub motor.  The regeneration properties of the hub motor are not adequately dealt with by the controller, so instead of taking the power generated by the free wheeling hub motor and shunting it off or sending it back to the batteries, the generated power cooks the controller.  That's my understanding of the problem.  The manufacturer wants the controllers back but since we're using them,  they will have to wait and we will have to hope that we don't fry our second to last controller.
So much for a relaxing day.  We didn't finish with the switch out until after 11 at which time Rolf was starting to walk up the walls he was so spaced out with jet lag and fatigue.

Talking with our mother via Skype 
Alexandra on the Big Dummy
Nick wishing his legs were longer
Sunflower Bike Shop in Lawrence
Chatting up the electric bikes
Peter and Catherine enjoy a quiet moment on "our" street corner
Peter and Nick head out on an evening rider just after a storm
A new Green Rider?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lawrence Farmer's Market and Gasper Farm

It was hard to get moving this morning so we didn't get to the Farmer's Market until about 10:30.  Catherine and I rode the 12 miles into town while Rolf drove the van in.  We chatted up a bunch of folks and scored some free food including a fabulous berry pie.
We then went to check out the Sunflower Bike Shop and found out that my chain and rear cassette needed to be changed.  I'm not sure why it all wore out and the mechanic was also not sure why I needed a new chain and cassette so soon.  (Only 2000 miles.)  The people at Sunflower Bike Shop were very interested in our project and happy that they could support our efforts.
While my bike was being worked on, we cruised around Lawrence, had Buffalo burgers for lunch and found some great local ice cream at Sylas & Maddy's.
After picking up my bike, Catherine and I rode out to Gasper Farm where we spend about two hours talking with Pete and Sally Gasper about their lives, their animals and the challenges they face trying to raise happy healthy animals for meat.  The Gasper's have chickens, dairy cows and lots of pigs.  They really love their pigs and enjoy sharing their passion for the eco-system they create.  The pigs graze down the grass and "weeds", root up the ground and add fertilizer.  The resulting healthy grasses in turn, support very healthy animals.
The Gasper's are moving their operations to an area south of here where the real estate is much more affordable and where there are no building regulations so they can build the kind of house they want.  They plan to build a post and timber framed building with straw and mud infill.  Rather than straw bale, straw is mixed with mud and compacted into forms that create the infill walls.  Sounds very cool.
The Gasper's have a weekly drop off where their customers come and pick up the meat that they have purchased.  They also have 4 boys under the age of six so they are very busy.

After returning from Gasper's, we found that Peter had already started working on the electric bike we built in Boulder last week.  He build a rather massive torque arm and after a number of attempts, we got the bike working very well and we feel like it's ready for the rest of the trip.
This has been a great stop for fixing all of the problems we've developed as well as some that we've only imagined.

So, here's our latest numbers
May 27-  64 miles  Headwind 10 to 15 mph
Catherine - 21.25 amps used   -   3.0 miles per amp
Oliver     -   16.23 amps used  -   3.9 miles per amp

May 28 -  76 miles  -  Slight headwinds  Hot
Catherine - 20.27 amps used  -  3.7 miles per amp
Oliver      - 16.6 amps used    -  4.5 miles per amp

Lots of creativity here
Getting ready to head out to the Farmer's Market
Chatting up the Green Riders
More chatting
Working in the office . . .
. . . while Catherine naps
One hot Swedish mechanic
The boys and the bike
Putting on the green

Nick testing the unit
Peter Gasper - The meat farmer

Holton to Eudora

The ride to Eudora where our brother Peter and his family live was pretty uneventful.  Mild winds, very warm temperatures and not too much traffic.  I kind of miscalculated on the mileage and we ended up with a longer day than I had expected.  We ended up pushing pretty hard when Sean told us we still had 33 miles to go after already doing about 60.  Fortunately, he had looked at travel time not mileage so we ended up arriving in Eudora quite a bit earlier that we had anticipated.
When we got to Peter's house, his wife Andi invited us to jump in their little pool with all of our clothes on.  So we did.   Sean also cooled off before Catherine bandaged his leg for the last time and drove him to Peter's office where we hung out for a while before Peter drove him to the airport and picked up Rolf from Sweden.
It is nice being out of the weather for a change after our long and challenging ride across eastern Colorado and Kansas.
Alexandra and the beasts

A stickered fan - Nick
Pirate Captain Green Rider
Rolf from Sweden gets familiar with the natives
Serious Rasta dude Jonathan

Tuttle Lake to Holton - May 27

After a wet dewy night, we sat around drinking coffee and pulling tics off of me.  I had about 20 and Catherine had a few.  Sean had enough itching and anxiety about the tics for all three of us.
Again headwinds greeted us as we hit the road but they weren't too strong, mostly under 15 mph.  About 10 miles out, I saw a sign advertising eggs for sale so we stopped and got to chatting with Connie who retired about 7 years ago and became a foster parent with her husband.  She has quite a farm with lots of animals and lots of projects to keep her foster kids busy.  She likes hard to place kids so she ends up with lots of teenage boys and seems able to manage them very well.  She's always got a project or two going and keeping up with the animals is a lot of work.  She's proud of her work, likes what she's doing and was very interested in our ride.  Her eggs were 75 cents a dozen!
About an hour later we stopped in Wheaton which is a typical small Kansas town.  No services and about 100 people living there.  As we were resting, a guy drove up in his SUV and asked us where we were from.  Turns out, he's the Mayor of Wheaton and he was very interested in our ride as well.  He even took us home with him so that his wife could meet us.  Very sweet.
About an hour later, during lunch, Sean told us he wanted to go home from Kansas City.  We're not happy about it but it was part of our agreement that he could leave from Kansas City since Catherine's friend Rolf is arriving tomorrow to drive with us to Washington.
When we arrived in Holton, we planned to look for a motel to be nice to Sean.  Instead we found a great campground, took Sean out to dinner and hung out in the library doing internet catch-up.  The lake campsite was beautiful, especially when the full moon rose over the lake and the fireflies entertained us.
I interviewed Sean and will be sending the footage to Steve who is continuing to do a great job creating fun and interesting clips about our adventures and what we are learning.  IF you haven't seen the video of me getting a haircut, check it out.  I thought it was really funny!

Connie and her wheels
Sean in the Superman Phone booth at the Mayor of Wheaton's house
Probably the only time Catherine has been ahead of me

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beloit to Tuttle Creek Lake

We went to sleep last night under clear skies and a gentle breeze.
Well, things changed.
Sometime during the middle of the night a huge thunderstorm got underway with major wind and rain.  Fortunately, Sean had put up the fly on the tent as a last minute thought.  Unfortunately, he set up the tent under the eve of the shelter we were using so he got a lot of water.  I got up in the middle of the storm to gather loose possessions that were getting scattered by the wind.  The storm went on for a long while so none of us slept very well.
We didn't get a very early start and we faced more headwinds.  Not terribly strong ones but we still had to work pretty hard to cover our daily mileage.
We finally saw the Kansas winds being put to use by a set of large wind turbines to the north of the highway.  We stopped at a natural gas pumping station to ask about the turbines and found out that there is a ground level jet stream current right through where the turbines are.  That's what we were told.  It was true that after we left the wind farm behind us, the wind did die down, but that still doesn't prove that a ground level jet stream current is what's powering the turbines we saw.  (I'm not even sure that there is such a thing as a ground level jet stream current?)
We stopped for lunch in Clay Center at yet another City Park and a very friendly older woman drove up to see what we were about.  She was not a native of Kansas and wasn't very excited about living in Clay Center but her husband had ended up buying the family farm and they were retired there.  It turns out she lived in California for quite a number of years and her daughter is the principal at Sequoia High School which is in the same district as my daughter's school and right across the street from where Sean lives.
We finally got to a campground at Tuttle Creek Lake and settled in for the evening.  Catherine and I took a long walk just as night was falling and on the way back, we saw fireflies.  I was thrilled.  I had never seen them before and they are very cool.
Sean's leg has been hurting him quite a bit so we tended to it and made him elevate it which helped a lot.  I think he may have figured out that he's not quite as invulnerable as he thought he was.
But he's still superman to us!
Kansas using its wind
Perfect position for  getting Sean's leg above his heart
The good doctor making sure the patient remains compliant
Sunset during our eventing walk
Classic Kansas

Phillipsburg to Beloit - (Not Wisconsin)

Kansas corn

We woke to no wind!  We thought we had been transported to another planet.
Gratefully, we got on our bikes and headed out hoping that the weather would hold.  We dodged some raindrops but for the most part, the riding was perfect.  A slight headwind, beautiful scenery, very little traffic and happy bicycles.
Arriving in Beloit, Sean found another City Park along a beautiful river where we are camping for free.  This seems to be a very hospitable offering that the towns around here provide and we just love it.  
Overall, today was a fabulous riding day.  We did 86 miles had over an hour lunch break, saw the largest ball of string in the world and still got to our destination by about 4 feeling really good.  We also found a nursery run by Roberta and Charles Bock.  No relation, but it was fun meeting them and sharing name stories.

A comment about Kansas that I feel needs to be made has to do with grass and mowing.  Now, maybe we will find this true throughout the rest of the country but we are distinctly aware of the need to mow here.  Everyone mows.  The parks are mowed, the roadsides are mowed, wherever there is grass, it is getting mowed.  Mowing seems to be the favorite outdoor activity for many people. especially when they have the 'sit-upon' mowers. We observe great skill as mower drivers sweep quickly and cleanly around poles without missing a blade of grass or touching the pole.  One unpleasant thought I had while riding down the road and seeing way too many plastic soda bottles filled with a vile looking yellow liquid, is that when the mowers are doing roadside shoulders, they must shred the  bottles whose contents undoubtedly meet the air with very unpleasant results. (These roadside bottles are not only seen on Kansas roadsides, they are everywhere.  Combining the bottles with mowers is, so far, unique to Kansas.)
Great birdwatching country

We had to check this out
The Bock's, left and right
Now that's some ball of string- Cawker City
Some doctoring in Beloit City Park
Cottonwood snow
Our pad for the night in Beloit City Park - Free camping!

Norton to Philipsburg - Update from Crestone

After a long night of strong winds buffeting the van and brutal flapping of the tent, we woke to a "blow out " day.  The winds were screaming at about 30 mph and coming directly from the direction we were headed.  There were also tornado watches and concern about severe thunderstorms.  It didn't take much discussion to decide not to ride. 
We drove into Norton which was only about 5 or 6 miles down the road and spend about 3 hours hanging out in the library listening to the wind somehow whistling through the building.  I did a lot of blogging and posting to make up for the days since we left Denver.
On the way back to the car, we passed by a rather neglected bur very large brick church.  Catherine was poking her head in the windows and when we passed the house next door, a woman on the porch said: "Do you want to buy it?"  Turns out she bought it a few years earlier and was storing a bunch of stuff in it but wanted to unload it.  She said it has 90 stained glass windows, beautiful tin work on the ceiling, lots of very nice woodwork and lots and lots of bricks.  She is asking 35 K for the whole thing so if any of you feel the need for a church in your life, this might be the answer.  I was tempted to "junk it out for parts" but I just don't feel that energetic anymore.
After leaving Norton, we drove to Phillipsburg which was about a 30 mile drive.  The van was getting pushed all over the road by the wind and I was driving very slowly.  In town we parked in the middle of the street in front of the dollar store and ate our lunch. Probably one of the most romantic lunch spots yet!  
I then went to the Chamber of Commerce to inquire about places to camp and discovered a City Park that allows camping.  For $10.00 we got a shower, bathroom, electricity and water.  We also got wireless internet thanks to a neighbor, I assume.  We walked into town and visited some of the local attractions, including a woman who told Catherine to put some meat on her bones or she would blow away.  We went and promptly bought a pint of Ice Cream and ate it!
The sky put on a good show for us.  Thunder, lightening and great colors as the sun disappeared behind the unseen horizon.

A very pretty Norton home
The 35K Church I was tempted to buy
Nice Picnic table
Some Kansas History

The owner of the amazing house we visited in Crestone a week or so ago was not home at the time that we visited.  Our friend Ward must have talked to him about our visit and he sent me an email that I am including below.  He describes some interesting details about the house so if you are interested in this, read on:

Paul Kloppenburg's house in Crestone

Hi there , the two wheelers and still bipedal homo sapiens .

I  wanted to high lite some building details , and their 'performance' as it stands with the real balancing act in applying the Four Principles of Direct Passive Solar Heating  in such a manner that there is neither to much nor to  litlle present  with any of these four factors.  Four : Glass , Insulation , Mass , Convection , i.e vents at top and bot. of interior walls.

The big Ochre colored house was originally conceived off as an hybrid house btwn. 2 building components. one Adobe = Mass , and other the 'back-bone- of the house a very light pumice crete = air / insul. --poured only on North side of house ,and acts as 'vertical-structural' strenght in case there is an earth quake, especially the second storey would be prone to collapse, despite all the good bond beams in this house.

yes the interior is following the fairly classic South West design, I  stuck to all natural plasters, and colors, I had a lady crew doing all this hard and fine work--interesting note  here is the little money I spent on raw materials, meaning did not buy any bagged  stuff ,..( incl. all the tape and plastic, and clean up) it was only 5 % of total bill of this interior plastering ,... were as the rest went to labor , is local white labor as contrasted to Hispanic doing similar work, and good work for halve the costs.  It is true the knowledge and know how in doing things 'natural' is scant , so I was happy to get the job done with locals.

the Ochre house doesn't have enough glass ,[ at least on main floor level] hence not enough daily heat gain,as there are  an aweful lot of Adobe walls  (  more then enough Mass ) , be warmed very day .
as the house is well insulated a good sized wood stove will do the job being comfortable,and also in the basement, the entire foot print of the house is below also a basement . there i have a large stainless steel tank, was from milk fac. , now will be a solar hot water tank.......helping heating the house with an active solar hot water system. under the Grey green slate , in a 3 " slab is Pex tubing, and under the 'real 1-1/2 ' thick hard wood floors i will install tube and fins to make the floors feel warmer, and be able to dist. heat.

the up stairs bedroom is like my Studio Apt.  temperatures ,  very nice, and quite a bit warmer , a quicker pick up>> u know we live by the elements here, the sun comes from be hind the imposing mnt. ridge. it's around zero degree outside,--we need a quick boost of heat <<< ,....   as compared to the main floor of the house.

The Studio / Apt. dwelling is an load bearing 24 inch wide straw bale envelop. except for the 2 large doors on the front, and glass wall on south. there are 2 interior Adobe walls , and thick reg. grey stucco ( painted later) on the interior straw, == is all Mass.----- heat will sink in and then release it in night times --also in general it stabilizes the temps.
This dwelling has proven to be extremely low cost of heating, and being to live with the least over all  -energy-use-footprint .

Sorry for my  some what  writings lengthy , as I don't know in which direction your interest lay ...I thought to share this much at least .......

you may have questions ??????  have a safe an a  great road , and suitable climes.etc !!!!!   Paul c Kloppenburg  ,  16 continuous winters in the Baca, and 38 yrs. in this country.

ps: exterior of Ochre house is 3 coats of Sherwin Williams elastomeric paint , with my ochre color I wanted.This was painted on top of typical 2 coat    grey stucco cement on 'wire', looks like chicken netting. The stucco wire was pinned down on the 4 inch  thick  Polyicenene rigged foam boards, nailed directly onto adobe wall. R.30
roof has 2 sheets , 2x30=R.60
there are four kinds of hardwood floors : main large room and two side bedrms. in Maple, the kitchen area ,White Oak,  the hall way , and bath room ,Hickory . All T&J 1-1/2 inch thick by 5-1/4 wide. Up stairs bed rm. 3/4 " Cherry on plywood.
the Leaf on front of house is inspired after the Bodhi leaf , sal-tree

Monday, May 24, 2010

St. Francis - Norton - May 22

Prime Kansas Prairie

After a horrible night of barking dogs, constant driving around by the neighbors, a almost skunk intruder and more wind, we hit the road with me feeling rather weak. 
The winds started the day from the north and moved around rather quickly to the east.  So not only was I feeling weak but we were battling headwinds all day.  After 72 miles, we stopped but Sean wanted to ride so I gave him my bike and Catherine and I drove another 30 miles to Norton where we found a nice campground alongside a reservoir.  The winds were dying down and we were feeling pretty good when we saw Sean ride in.  As he got within about 100 feet of our site, he hit a pile of loose gravel and went down.  There was plenty of gore and Catherine did her best to clean up the wounds.  Sean was a real trooper and didn't cry at all!!  Fortunately for my bicycle, SEan took most of the impact of the fall and my bike survived with only a couple of new scratches.
As the evening fell, a thunderstorm moved in along with huge winds that lasted all night.  We did't get much rain but we did get a pretty good show of lightening and thunder.
So here are the promised statistics.
May 21 - 43 miles (Late Start)
Oliver -  4.5 miles per amp
Catherine - 3.08 miles per amp
Cross winds at 2 to 3 o'clock 
Terrain - Rolling hills with some steep short climbs.

May 22 - 66 miles 
Oliver - 5.67 miles per amp
Catherine - 3.23 miles per amp
Strong cross winds.  Occasional tail winds due to road direction heading north.  Terrain -HIlly with smaller hills than yesterday

May 23 - 72 miles (Oliver started the day tired)
Oliver - 3.75 miles per amp
Catherine - 3.26 miles per amp
Winds light the first hour becoming strong headwinds throughout the middle of the day and dropping off later. (After we stopped riding)
Terrain - Rolling hills some steep climbs.

So for you folks who like data, here it is.  As you can see, rider variability is the key.  Not just strength but how tired the rider is.

Prairie Schooner
Thinking of trading in my ride
Bottom section of a wind tower - Notice the access door
Dedicated turbine hauler - Good to see!
Sean's gory leg