The Blog

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fairfield to Champaign

Stuart rode with us out of town for a few miles before heading off to work.  We will miss his "can do" positive energy that makes him incredibly effective at getting things done.
We had a fantastic day of riding.  No wind, few cars and good roads.  It doesn't get much better than that!
Since we squeezed our riding schedule to add a day in Champaign, we portaged to Lincoln, Illinois for the night and found a fun campsite where the campground owner's treated us to jokes and hospitality.
Big rains were forecast for the night and following day so Rolf set his tent up on high ground to keep from floating away.

The forecast proved wrong, at least for where we were.  It barely rained during the night and in the morning we hopped on our bikes for the ride into Champaign.  We got some rain along the way and had headwinds.
My birthday present from the gods.
Our host in Champaign is an amazing person.  Matthew Childress has a day job working at the University with computers.  His true passion is sustainability and he has turned his passion into amazing actions that include inviting folks like us into his home where we displaced his two daughters out of their bedroom and into the parent's bed which then displaced Matthew onto the couch!

Matthew also reached way out of his and his wife's financial comfort zone and bought a Twike which is a side by side electric powered, all weather bicycle that he commutes to work in and attracts a lot of attention with.  What is truly impressive about Matthew is his determination to keep pushing for increased sustainability practices in Champaign.  He is non stop with ideas actions and he kept us going at a breathless pace throughout our visit.

After arriving, we dried off and Catherine, Tina (Matthew's wife) and Matthew prepared a dinner and baked a carrot cake for my birthday.  It was very sweet.

After a good nights rest, we hit the ground running with a morning visit to the new School of Business building that received a LEED rating of Platinum (That's the highest standard achievable for a green building.)  We got a tour led by George Freeman who was one of the architects on the project and a very proud one at that.  Aside from being very green, the building is gorgeous!  The atrium area is enormous and at the same time very inviting.  After the tour, we had a coffee and enjoyed the spacious public area before heading off to our next attraction.

The Gable house was the 2nd place winner in the 2009 Solar Competition where all the building that were selected, went to Washington DC and were set up on the mall.  After the competition, the buildings went home and the Gable House is now set up on campus.  The press was there when we arrived as well as a whole crew of people who Matthew had arranged for us to meet.  We plugged our batteries into the solar panels that cover the whole south side of the roof and took on a solar charge.

I just love doing that!!
In true Matthew fashion, during our visit to the Gable house, Matthew started a conversation with Kate Brown (the woman working with the Gamble House) about getting a solar charging station set up for electric vehicle drivers.  It would be the first and hopefully it will happen.

After a nice lunch, we loaded up our solar powered batteries and rode out to a test field where a grass called Miscanthus is being grown.  It is a fast growing low maintenance perennial that has interesting potential as a biofuel.  We spoke with Tim Miese who is a wealth of information and enthusiasm.

In the evening, we went back to campus where Matthew had organized an event with his EV club at a venue right across the street from Lincoln Hall.  The Hall is going through a major renovation and the architect Ron Harrison, also a bicycle commuter shared stories about the renovation taking place.  It was a very successful event and we went back to Matt's house tired and happy.

Happy Birthday to me
Solving the world's problems American style
Twike model extraordinaire 
Twiking down the road
The atrium at the LEED Platinum business school - Matt gets down!
Living roof and the top of the atrium
Solar charge at the Gable House
The Governor deepens his understanding of Green Building and 
wrote about it in the Gable House guest book
Architect and bike enthusiast Ron Harrison  - The Grin
Even Holly the reporter tried the bike
A prototype 3 wheeled electric vehicle - The Sugar Ride
Tim Miese talks Miscanthus grass
This is what Miscanthus grass looks like
Matt in computer heaven
Matt and his family saying goodbye