I'm driving a new car to the other Mother Earth News Fairs this year (the one in Seven Springs PA next weekend, September 20-22 and the one in Lawrence KS October 12-13). It's not exactly a new car, but it's new to me; it's what my dad used to call a “cold rod”, and...
You're familiar with hot rods, right? You take the engine out of an old car and put a bigger engine in its place; you get higher performance but lower mileage. A cold rod is where you take the engine out of an old car and put a smaller engine in it; you get higher mileage but lower performance. In both cases, and old car is chosen because A) old cars are lighter, simpler, and easier to modify than new cars, and B) you are more likely to find an old car which is economically suited to such a modification, as indicated by squirrels living in the air cleaner, or clues in the CraigsList ad, such as “engine needs work” or “ran when parked”.
This particular cold rod is a '91 Miata with a '96 Geo Metro three-banger under the bonnet. The builder, Jim Fujioko, has moved on to a more practical high-mileage Miata with a Ford Festiva engine. At 63 horsepower, the Festiva provides significantly more oomph than the 55 horse Metro, plus it was a much easier installation, so Jim gave me a deal on the Metro Miata, thus saving me a whole lot of work.
To quote my late dad again, You can do anything you want, you just can't do everything you want. I want to make a Metro-powered MAX with Miata running gear (I'll explain why in some other Update) and Jim's car has the hard part of that job done for me already – all I'll have to do is swap his work into a MAX chassis and cover it with a MAX body. Meanwhile, I'll gain the experience of driving a civilized high-mileage car across the country, and I'll have a direct Before/After comparison for when it gets MAXified. We'll get to see how much of MAX's 100 mpg comes from the driveline, and how much is thanks to light weight and streamlining.
Gosh, I wish I could drive two cars at once, but MAX is staying home this trip. I had hoped for a co-driver so we could drive MAX and MeMi (cars get names around here and this one was too easy, it's pronounced Mimi) in formation to the Fairs, but it turns out that most folks have responsibilities and can't just hit the road for five weeks.
I'll be on stage from 2:30 to 3:30 Sunday at both Fairs, talking about MAX and MeMi and other high mileage projects, and I'll open the floor to questions and comments from fairly early on. We have plenty to talk about.
Our route on this trip has bypassed, for the most part, major cities: but not in Canada. Our ride now took us through Hamilton, Ont., (population 520,000), Mississauga, Ont., (population 714,000), and Toronto (population 2.615 million). Toronto, as well as other cities, has a wonderful system of bike routes, but having now ridden on them I actually felt safer riding on the streets with the automobiles. On the bike routes you have bicycles, walkers, joggers, roller bladers, and others. People are going many different speeds, passing around, cutting through, and pulling in and out without signaling or checking for the location of others.
Once past Toronto we rode along the northern side of the St. Lawrence seaway through many beautiful towns filled with very friendly people. Many of the buildings and houses are painted with their own unique colors and decorations. It would have been very easy to spend a day walking around and looking at everything, but alas, our time was limited, and we always needed to keep moving.
In some areas along our route the road was interrupted by water inlets; rather than building an expensive bridge with room to let boats pass underneath, Canada has chosen provide ferry services. These ferries are considered ‘part of the road system’ and are free of charge.
One area that was quite interesting was the ‘loyalist’ part of Ontario. During the War Of 1812 between England and the United States many individuals that supported ‘the crown’ crossed the St. Lawrence Seaway from the US to Canada. In this area we saw many British flags on display, numerous business with the name ‘loyalist’ in them, and even traveled on the ‘loyalist highway’.
Originally we planned on continuing up the St. Lawrence seaway and skirting Montreal, QC, on the south, but, after some discussion we decided to cross into the U.S. at Cornwall ON, ride along the northern part of NY, then cross back into Canada at Rouse’s Point N.Y. Our thought was to come back into the U.S. at the northeastern corner of Vermont, then through a small section of New Hampshire, and finally through Maine to the finish at Bar Harbor.
Nine weeks of bicycle riding had finally gone by, and we were heading out for Bar Harbor, Maine, on the last day of the ride. As at the beginning of the ride, no amount of planning or thinking about this day prepared me for what I was feeling. Happiness at getting back to family and friends, sadness that the daily routine we had established was coming to an end, and curiosity at how my life will respond to the things I seen, the people I had met, and stories I had heard.
With our family cheering us on we pedaled toward Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. The ride itself was a blur as the entire focus was on getting our first glimpse of the beach, which did occur at high noon. With a beach full of people staring at two guys pushing loaded bicycles across the stand and into the water our journey from beach to beach had come full circle.
I do want to thank everyone that supported us on the trip through prayers, blessings, and personal comments. Without your constant encouragement this trip would not have been the success that it was. And, a special thanks to Tom's wife, Dixie, and my wife, Margie, for holding down the home front and giving us the summer to make our dream come true.
Take care, and talk at ya’ later.
If you've had ideas pop into your head for improving your local urban infrastructure, take the opportunity to express them this PARK(ing) Day.
Rebar, an art and design studio in San Francisco, came up with this event, which encourages citizens to turn metered parking spaces into public parks on Sept. 20, 2013. (When someone feeds a meter, it essentially turns that parking spot into a public park for the duration of the paid time.) According to a press release from Rebar, “PARK(ing) Day invites people to rethink the way streets are used and promotes discussion around the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure.”
In the same press release, Rebar principal Blaine Merker expresses his satisfaction with the success of PARK(ing) Day — an annual event since 2005. “What has been really gratifying is that PARK(ing) Day, which began as a guerrilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official city planning strategies. A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organize and use public space.”
PARK(ing) Day’s popularity has spread internationally. It offers activists and citizens a chance to come together and brainstorm ideas on how to improve urban living. “PARK(ing) Day is an ‘open-source’ project initiated by Rebar, but built by independent groups around the globe who adapt the project to advance creative, social or political causes that are relevant to their local urban conditions,” according to Matthew Passmore, co-founder of Rebar. Many groups even use the occasion to talk about a wide array of social needs they want to address.
In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview in 2006, Matthew Passmore describes exactly what PARK(ing) Day is all about: “We're going to roll up with our team of bicyclists, unroll some sod, set down a tree, put down a couple park benches, feed the meter and open the park to the public. And we'll have signage inviting the public to put quarters in the meter if they'd like to extend the life of the park.”
You can come together this PARK(ing) Day with like-minded people and discuss your ideas on changes you'd like to see happen to local infrastructure. So set up camp in the nearest parking space, feed the meter and invite others to participate.
Whether it’s your children, your nieces and nephews, your cousins or the neighbor’s children, encourage these kids to walk to school on October 9, 2013. National Walk to School Day is coming up and while it promotes healthy activity and less commuting by car, there’s more to it than you might think. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is keeping kids safe on their way to school.
SRTS was originally used in Denmark where in the 1970s children’s safety while walking or biking to school became an issue. With the program a huge success, countries all over the world began their own SRTS programs.
The first SRTS program in the United States began in 1997 in Bronx, N.Y. when it was clear that designated routes for children walking to school would help keep them safe. Without designated safe routes children that are either walking or biking to school run the risk of being hit or caught in the middle of other accidents, and possibly being abducted.
In 1998 with the help of Congress two SRTS programs were implemented through the United States Department of Transportation. Over the next couple of years it took off and SRTS programs spread across the United States. There are now SRTS programs in all 50 states that provide support to over 14,000 schools. SRTS programs support children walking to school or biking from urban and rural communities and from families with different levels of income.
For National Walk to School Day this year, send your kids to school on foot or by bike and support the SRTS programs that keep them and other children safe on their way to school. If the schools in your area aren’t registered, it’s not too late. You can still register with SRTS, get your community involved, and even plan an event in just seven days.
The third annual National Plug In Day will be held on Sunday, September 29, 2013, and everyone is invited. In more than 50 cities across the country, events are being held in celebration of the rising number of electric vehicles (EVs). From parades to ceremonies, Plug In America, Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association are showing the country why it’s better to drive an EV.
EVs offer better gas mileage and run cleaner with less pollution than gas-powered vehicles. Owners praise EVs for how easy they are to “fuel up.” At the end of each day, EV owners just plug in their vehicles and rarely need to stop for gas. Many days they don’t need to charge at all. Maintenance for EVs is much cheaper as they do not have the same parts as a regular car: no engine, transmission, gas tank, etc.
EVs are also providing employment opportunities in the United States. Many of the parts for these electric dreams are being made within the U.S., which boosts the number of quality jobs in the country.
On top of all this, owners claim that EVs are fun cars to drive. They accelerate quickly and — contrary to the belief that only big gas guzzlers can handle inclement weather — EVs even do well in snow. With all of these advantages, it’s no wonder that the number of EVs on the road is rising.
To find out more about National Plug In Day, register and volunteer in a city near you. You’ll even have the chance to test drive one of these electric dreams.
Reposted with permission from League of American Bicyclists
As the summer riding season peaks, the League has released a first-of-its-kind report showcasing a trend seen on streets nationwide: Women are changing the face of bicycling, and bicycling is transforming the lives of women.
"Women on a Roll” — a product of the League's Women Bike program — compiles more than 100 original and trusted sources of data to showcase the growth and potential of female bicyclists in the United States. It also suggests five key focus areas — the 5 Cs — to increase female ridership:
- Consumer Products
Increasingly, advocacy groups and industry leaders are recognizing the gender gap as a clear — and critical — limitation to growing the bike movement and the market. This report puts hard data behind that imperative — and reveals what's working in getting more women on bikes and where there is clear opportunity to increase female leadership and participation.
According to the report:
- 82 percent of American women have a positive view of bicyclists. From 2003 to 2012, the number of women and girls who bicycle rose 20 percent, compared to a 0.5-percent decline among men.
- Women are the new majority: 60 percent of bicycle owners aged 17-28 years old are women.
- Women accounted for 37 percent of the bicycle market in 2011, spending $2.3 billion.
- 45 percent of local and state bicycle advocacy organization staff are female.
- 89 percent of bike shop owners are male, but 33 percent of shops are run by a husband/wife team.
- Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, including the boards of national industry and advocacy organizations — and their membership.
Download "Women on a Roll" and stay engaged as we dig further into the data and concepts in the report with female leaders over the next three months.
Photo by Fotolia/Subbotina Anna
We left the flat land and easy pedaling in Minnesota behind on July 29 and entered Wisconsin at St. Croix. This was an eye-opening experience because the hill in front of us looked straight up; oh well, back to reality. At the top of the hill is a small town called Dresser with a coffee shop called the Joyful Morning. This is where we met Ruthie, a Nigerian transplant with an infectious laugh and mile-wide smile. Just when you are questioning your ability to go any further, someone like Ruthie shows up.
Everyone thinks of Wisconsin dairy farms, but our route took us through a lot of corn fields and other types of agriculture. We saw a few dairy cattle, but not many. This was beautiful country, filled with roadside flowers, well-manicured lawns with flower beds, and all types of barns, both old and new.
On a trip like this, you never know what you will see or who you will meet. How about a knitted scarf-adorned dragon in Marshfield, Wis.? What about a bicycling statue titled ‘Late For A Date’ in Manitowoc, Wis.?
Manitowoc turned out to be a special place because my wife flew in from Billings Mont., my son and his wife came up from San Antonio, and my brother-in-law came up from Germantown, Wis. We all rode the ferry across to Ludington, Mich., where my wife had arranged for 18 of our friends from St. Joseph, Mich. to come up and have lunch. Friends. You certainly can’t live without them. Their warmth, friendly comments, prayers, and blessings are one key reason I am able to keep going.
Michigan gave us the first exposure to Rails on Trails riding. Up to this point the trails were not along our route. WOW! These routes should be all over the U.S. They are relatively flat, beautiful, go through towns for easy entry and exit, and with no auto-traffic, you can be more relaxed. Think about turning unused railroad beds into bicycle roadways running east to west and north to south. Wouldn’t that be something special to encourage people to get out and exercise?
Ever heard of a ‘Tridge?’ I hadn’t either. It is a three-way wooden footbridge in Midland, Mich. crossing the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers. It is amazing what you find out by traveling at 10 to15 mph and talking with other travelers. In this case, it was Larry, a quadruple by-pass guy, who has been riding 2,500 miles per year for the past ten years to raise money for his daughter, who is a missionary in Myanmar.
At Marine City, Mich. we took the Bluewater ferry to Sombra, Ontario and did a 100+ mile ride to Thamesford, Ontario, where we spent the weekend at the Maple Grove Christian Retreat, a Free Methodist Camp started in 1945. We had a wonderful cottage at our disposal. We will be in Canada for about 11 days, and this was certainly a wonderful start.
This trip is quickly coming to a close, and I want to soak up as much of the experience as I can in the remaining 19 days.
Take care, and talk at ya’ later.
Photos by Rick Stiles