Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day one and one step closer to Ellen

I'm sorting out my schedule for the first day of the Un-Road Trip. In addition to some walking, biking, and taking a street car, I'll also be taking a ride in a velomobile.

It's called the go-one, and I got in touch with a friendly guy who owns one in the Portland area. It's pedal powered, but with the same effort you can go a lot faster then you could on a bike since it sheds wind more efficiently. They're not cheap, (they cost a little over $7,000), but you'll never have to pay for gas or parking again and you can join their national ad agency network to sell ads on the side of your vehicle.

And in Ellen Degeners news-

Through a mutual acquaintance I've been put in touch with the assistant to the president of Telepictures, the company that produces Ellen's show. If the smart and talented, (I hope she's reading this), assistant likes the idea then she can pass it on to the appropriate folks at Ellen. So now we play the waiting game... again. I wonder what Ellen would look like if she was pondering when to book me on her show. Probably something like this:

Monday, March 30, 2009

New ideas from the Better Living Show

Yesterday I checked out the Better Living Show at the Portland Expo Center. There were a lot of booths full of information about green building, and a surprisingly large number of companies giving out free alcohol. They were also a few cool green vehicles.

I thought I had heard of all the electric car companies by now, but I keep learning about new ones. In Eugene, Oregon a group of people are working on a new electric vehicle called the Arcimoto:

It's a one-seater- sort of a scooter with a shell- and it can go up 50MPH with a range of 30 miles.

The Oregon Electric Vehicle Association also had a booth. I'd never heard of the organization, but they seem like good people to know. You can check out some of their members' projects online, and they're working on some pretty cool vehicles. They were showing off an electric bike called the Zero X- an electric motorcycle made by a company called Zero Motorcycles near Santa Cruz California.

It accelerates from 0-30 in 2 seconds, weighs just 140 pounds, and costs .01 cents a mile to operate. Also, Jay Leno's the proud owner of one as well.

Though at first glance it may seem like a device for your grandparents, the website for the GoPet Electric Scooter also recommends it for recreation, working in a warehouse, or getting around campus.

There's a dealer here in Oregon, and I think I'll get in touch. It can go up to 16MPH, has a range of 24 miles, and it does look pretty fun.

There was also a representative from Edison Marine, a Portland company who manufactures classic wooden boats with electric drive systems. It really does sound like the best of both worlds, and the boats are beautiful.

They also cost over $100,000, so I hope they'll give me a ride. It would be pretty sweet to end my trip coming down Portland's Willamette River in one of these.

And in Ellen Degeneres news... well, there really isn't any news. But I'm still hopeful. She probably wants to call, but she's just afraid of disturbing me. I could be eating a late lunch or taking an afternoon nap or getting ready for an early dinner. Maybe I'll send a second follow-up to the producer tomorrow and give her a more detailed outline of my daily schedule.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thanks Oklahoma!

A few weeks ago Matt Gleason, a reporter from Tulsa World, wrote me an email after he somehow heard about the Un-Road Trip. This morning, the newspaper published a a really nice piece about the trip.

I'm hoping it gets some Oklahomans excited about the trip so that they'll write in with ideas of how to cross their fair state. I can take the train in from the south until Norman, OK (very near to Oklahoma City), but that train line doesn't continue any further north. So I'm on the lookout for any bike paths, waterways, or unique inventions that can propel me across Oklahoma. The emails and facebook messages have already started to come in with suggestions of visiting Native American sites and taking a barge ride on the White River. Hopefully the ideas will keep coming and I'll be able to sketch out the rest of my route. I'm getting excited to see the panhandle with my own eyes!

In other news, I still haven't heard back from Ellen Degeneres, though I did write a follow-up email to one of the producers at her show. Maybe if I started making plans to visit her home state of Louisiana she'd be more interested? Are there any Oklahomans out there with connections to Ellen Degeneres?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Still no Ellen, but I am an endorsed motorcyclist

Well, I guess that title pretty much says it all. I'll start with the good news. I passed both the on-bike and written test to successfully receive a motorcycle endorsement on my license. Although both instructors called me over separately and recommended sticking to side streets for a while and strongly encouraged me to take another class. I passed, but I guess I didn't quite ace the test. I've already had a few invitations to check out motorcycles along the way, and now I'll at least be able knowledgeably sit on them and start them. I'm excited about meeting up with Vectrix, a company that makes electric scooter. I especially like their I2009 VX-1:
It can go over 60 mph, and has a range 35-55 miles, (which seems pretty wide). They say it costs about a penny a mile, which means riding across the country would only cost thirty dollars. Not a bad deal.

Then there's the Piaggio MP3, which is sort of like backwards tricycle with two wheels in front. This one is gas-powered, but they're coming up with a hybrid version in a few months. You can check it out along with some percussion-heavy music here:

And I recently got an email from a nice guy named Bob who wanted me to check out his Tilting Three Wheelers outside of Seattle, Washington. It gets pretty good mileage already- about 40 mpg but he's working on making one with 105 mpg. Either way, it looks pretty impressive:

And now to the sad news. Still no word from Ellen Degeneres. But I do have another lead. A buddy of mine from my Brooklyn days has a contact at Telepictures, the company that produces her show. Only time will tell what happens next. Well, time or Ellen Degeneres.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Boaz + Motorcycle = Ellen Degeneres

No, the title of this post doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it sure would be interesting if it were mathematically correct. Using that same principle, you could also show that if you take a motorcycle away from Ellen Degeneres you'd be left with me. Maybe when Ellen finally invites me on her show, we could prove or disprove the equation?

But back to the matter at hand- today I rode a motorcycle for the first time. This was day two of my three-day basic motorcycle skills class. The first session was last night and consisted of reading over information about safety and equipment. We got on our bikes for the first time this morning and we rode around doing various exercises for over three hours. I bet it would have been pretty fun had it not been rainy and cold, though I have to admit it was still pretty exciting. I don't think I'd even been so close to a motorcycle. In fact, until a few days ago I had no idea that a motorcycle had a clutch and gears that you manually operate. I haven't spent much time driving cars and certainly never a car with manual transmission, so this whole "switching gears" thing was very new to me. I think I may have figured it out today as we made dozens of loops around the parking lot switching from first to second to third. I only stalled a handful of times.

Tomorrow's the big day. We'll learn a few more things on our bike in the morning and then we have to take a "skills test." After we pass that and a written multiple choice test, we get a certificate that we can trade in at the DMV for a motorcycle endorsement on our license. So stay tuned tomorrow to find out if I'm the proud honor of a motorcycle endorsement or whether I just spent $180 to fail a class. If I do fail the class, appearing on Ellen would be a decent consolation prize.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New modes of transport keep comin' but still no Ellen

I've added quite a few modes of transport in the past two days. Here are a few I'm especially excited about:

This is the HumanCar. It's a hybrid car, but not that kind of hybrid. I'm still a little unclear exactly how it works, but it's powered through a combination of a battery and pumping this bar in the car with a sort of rowing motion. This video sort of explains it:

Another vehicle I'm excited about trying is the Quickfin:

It's made by a company called ProPhish, who makes a lot of cool human-powered boats. Look at how relaxed that guy looks. He doesn't have a care in the world, and he has a friendly canine companion! I hope my time on a Quickfin is similarly idyllic.

And though I haven't heard back from these people yet, I really hope I can include a ride on one of these:

It's an Aqua-Cycle! Not to be confused with the Aqua Cycle, (which doesn't have a hyphen but also looks cool). It's a tricycle with floating wheels that you can somehow ride on the water. I have a hard time believing this actually works, but it seems to be working in this video:

Although they seem to be staying in very shallow parts, and it doesn't seem like a particularly speedy vehicle. I guess I'll have to find out for myself.

And still no word from Ellen Degeneres or her "people." Maybe Ellen wants to ride an Aqua-Cycle? Or maybe one of my modes of transport could be "red wagon pulled by Ellen Degeneres?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ellen gets on Oprah - can I get on Ellen?

After making a New Year's resolution and campaigning for quite a while to get on the cover of O Magazine, Oprah herself called into Ellen's show via video phone and invited her to grace the cover of an upcoming issue. So if I want to get on Ellen's show and really put my mind to it, it seems that I too should be able to accomplish my goal. At least I hope I can. Just think of all the fun stuff we could do together! Maybe Ellen and I could go paddle-boating, or ride a camel, or race chariots, or roll down hills in Zorbs? The possibilities are endless!

Now I just have to figure out the steps to take. Send a singing telegram? Deliver a really awesome fruit basket? Train a team of kangaroos to spell out my message in the outback and hire a helicopter to take aerial photography and somehow beam it into Ellen's house? I think I'll start by emailing one of the producers over there.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

T Minus One Month

It's hard to believe it's already March 19th, and I'm heading out on April 19th. I've got the first four weeks of my trip pretty well planned out, (April 19th - May 19th). For the following six weeks, (May 20th - June 28th), I've got a few destinations confirmed, but I still have to figure out all the in-between transport and stops. I think I want to leave the last two weeks pretty open though. I'm still discovering new modes of transport every week, and I'm sure I'll keep discovering them till the end of the trip. Hopefully those last two weeks will come together while I'm on the (un)road.

Also, I got some awesome shout-outs this week. On Monday my favorite pop culture blogger, Whitney Matheson, dedicated a post to the Un-Road Trip on PopCandy. And yesterday Wend Magazine wrote about my journey on their blog. Also, a friendly reporter from Tulsa World recently contacted me about writing a piece too. Now I really can't wait to visit Oklahoma!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Can you stalk me?

So my new SPOT GPS device seems to be transmitting really well. Now I just need to find a widget so that interested people, (my parents and nephews), can track my progress while I'm on the Un-Road Trip. So here's the plan. I'm going to fill this post with widgets, and let's all make a decision about which one we like best.

I'll start with blogloc. It can create this cool 2 part map, but unfortunately it's not interactive so you can't zoom in or move around the map. It also only pinpoints my most recent coordinates and doesn't plot my route.

Blogloc also makes one with an interactive map, but it doesn't include the world map, and it still only displays my most recent coordinates.

Then there's the SPOT Trip Manager, which puts together a nice Google map with my route and a little green biker at my most recent coordinates.

So what do you think? Which one is easiest to stalk me on? I wish I could somehow combine the first and last widget so I can display my route, but also have a mini map of North America with my location flagged. Does anyone know how to do that?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I've been SPOTted

I knew that I wanted visitors to UnRoadTrip.com to be able to track my journey online in real-time once the trip begins, but I had to figure out how. Well, meet the SPOT.

It's short for Satellite Personal Tracker, and I guess they got the "O" from somewhere else. Or maybe because if it was SPT, people might pronounce it "spit." Anyway, this small orange device beams my coordinates up to a satellite somewhere and amazingly makes a little pin appear in an online map to show my location. I went up to Seattle last Thursday and brought SPOT along for the ride. This is what the online map looked like after the trip:

You can see those little footstep markers leading all the way up to Seattle and back, and if you zoom in on the Seattle part:

You can even see my movement around the city from the train station to the coffee shop where I met up with some friends to the bus to the house where I met up to practice with the jugband and on and on. Pretty cool, though this specific use of SPOT may be pretty boring. I think it will be even cooler when I'm doing this all over the country on different forms of transport.

You don't necessarily need a GPS device to track your location online. You can use various apps to upload your coordinates from your cell phone, but if you're outside of range, (which I imagine I will be for parts of the journey), it doesn't do you much good. As long as I don't get stuck in some subterranean cave complex, this SPOT should be able to report my location from pretty much anywhere. Now I just have to figure out the best widget to display the map on my site. Let me know if you have any insider information on this, otherwise I'll probably be testing a few on here.

Also, I'm thinking about taking the Un-Road Trip through Canada. I found some awesome vehicles up there, including the Treadmill Bike:

Would that make the Un-Road Trip an international trip?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Back to America and Back to Work

After sixteen hours on two planes and a fun stop in Los Angeles, I arrived back in my hometown of Portland, OR. There was a big pile of mail and packages waiting for me- most of which seem to be related to the Un-Road Trip. There should some exciting stuff to unpack so watch this space over the next days to see what comes out of the boxes. I'm not even sure what's in all of them. It will be sort of like the 12 days of Christmas, except there are thirty-some days until the Un-Road Trip, and there won't be something everyday, and there probably won't be a pear tree. Anyway, you get the idea.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The NY Times Rides the Rails

Recently Andy Isaacson had a piece in the NY Times about taking Amtrak cross-country. I've been a faithful Amtrak rider for a few years. I've trained across the country twice, and last summer I was riding between Seattle and Portland up to four times a week. He really captured my experience on the train- from the fast friendships in the observation car to the miles of farm land to the predictable delays in the middle of nowhere.

I also learned a few interesting things about train service in America. In 2008, Amtrak set all-time highs for ridership, and President Obama's stimulus package includes eight billion for rail projects, so Amtrak will probably keep breaking those records. Andy also writes that, "According to federal law, but not always in practice, passenger trains have priority." Nearly every time I've taken the train up to Seattle we have to "pull over," (okay, I'm not sure what the train terminology is here), to let a freight train get by. Maybe I can remind the conductor that we have right of way.

To be honest, I'm a little miffed with Amtrak right now. I was planning on including a fair amount of train transport as part of the Un-Road Trip, and I was hoping that Amtrak might support the trip by giving me a few free rides. After taking many weeks to get back to me and sending many follow-up emails, they said they couldn't help. They wouldn't even give me a discount. Train trips add up fast, which means that I'll have to alter my route and spend less time on the rails. Anyone have a camel they want to offer up for a few weeks?

Also, I'm still looking for a way to get to Norrdigewock. Anyone have any breakthroughs there?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Maine Dilemma

Planning the Un-Road Trip is sort of like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Except you're missing a few dozen pieces. And some of the pieces you have don't fit together that well. I reached one of those tricky parts when I started planning the Maine leg of the trip.

I know I want to take a spin in Art Haines' home-built SUNN solar electric car, but that means I have to get to Norridgewock, which isn't on a train line and isn't on the water. So that rules out Amtrak or any sort of boat. There are some cruises around Maine that could take me to ports within sixty miles or so, but I'd still have to traverse those sixty miles. I supposed I could get on a bike for that part, but then what about after I'm finished at Norridgewock? Do I get back on the bike and ride back to the boat? I'd rather check out another route or maybe even another mode of transportation. So now I'm searching for other options in the Norridgewock area. I'm hoping that the Maine Tourism Board comes to the rescue. Or do they have moose up there? Could I hook one up to a wagon? After a brief Google search, it looks like this may be an option: