Portland to Bend

August 29th, 2007 by David
Thanks to John and Kathy!  David stayed at their house three nights.
David's Bike, riding the MAX, Portland's excellent new public transit

I enjoyed Portland – it has extensive bike lanes and even the ability to put your bike on their new light rail. I lived in Portland for a summer once in college, and it was good to revisit the family I had once lived with.

Portland has a great story to tell around global warming. In 1993, it became the first city to enact a comprehensive plan to reduce CO2 emissions. It aggressively pushed green building initiatives, and now runs a comprehensive system of light rail, buses, and bike lanes to keep cars off the road. While the CO2 emissions of the rest of the country have grown, Portland’s per capita emissions have decreased by 12.5%. It is good to hear that local actions make a difference – and that if a town gets serious, it can make a difference.

Oregon in general is making great strides – the state just set a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 75% below 1990 levels by 2050, and they have pledged to produce 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025.

We had five flats this day - thorns!

After two talks, I left Portland. Bill stayed behind and Nicky Phear, one of our volunteers, is joining me for this final section. Nicky has a faculty position at the University of Montana where she teaches an environmental studies program, and where she recently led her own bicycle-based course across Montana for students to learn more about energy issues in Montana. She has been working to set up events along the west coast and, as she is taking a leave of absence this year, is joining me for the final few weeks into San Francisco. (You can see a photo of her changing one of our 5 flats on this stretch of road).

Nicky and I left Portland, and biked three days out to Bend, crossing the Cascades, leaving the wet coastal region and heading to the dry high desert. In Bend, I visited two friends from college, Becca Katz and Eric Wanless, who set up our events. Eric works on energy efficient buildings, and along with Nicky and I, appeared in the TV news. You can see the three of us here.

Nicky, biking up the west side of the cascades
David, Mt. Hood
Nicky, descending down the eastern side of the cascades

We also talked to Cylvia Hayes, the director of 3E Strategies, an environmental group promoting solutions to global warming. Cylvia pointed out that central Oregon has a tremendous economic opportunity to invest in wind, solar, and biomass, and become energy independent. Currently, most of Oregon’s energy is imported (just about all fossil fuels are).

From Bend, Nicky and I will head to Eugene, and then follow the Oregon and California coasts south towards San Francisco. Bill will rejoin us outside San Francisco and complete the journey.

Ride for Climate turns 20,000

August 25th, 2007 by David
Biking through Washington would not be complete without rain and an espresso stop

Biking from Seattle to Portland, Bill and I encountered unexpected summer rain, reminding us that we were indeed in the Pacific Northwest.

On the stretch of road to Portland, we crossed two major milestones. We reached 4,000 miles for the U.S. journey. If you combine this with my previous journey through Latin America, I have also now biked 20,000 miles through Ride for Climate – from California to the tip of South America, and from Boston to the west coast. (With only a three-week break in between trips!)

We are now in Portland, and we will finish this leg of Ride for Climate by biking from here to San Francisco. My first bike tour ever was this same route – from Portland to San Francisco in 1999 (a friend and I ‘biked to school.’) I remember at the time not thinking that it was even possible to travel such a great distance by bicycle – my friend convinced me otherwise, and we gave it a shot.

Descending into Ushuaia
I am the fastest vehicle on the road.

What has struck me about biking 20,000 miles over the past 22 months is not how hard it has been, but how easy it has been. All you have to do is get up each day, bike for a while (including rest days, this trip averages less than 30 miles a day), and, after enough time, you have biked halfway around the world.

We sometimes make this analogy in our talks. When people look at what we need to do to address global warming – reduce carbon dioxide emissions at least 80% by 2050, some think it is impossible. Almost everything we do uses fossil fuels – turning on a light switch or driving to the supermarket – how could we stop? The key is to start taking action now – invest in renewable energy, support energy efficiency, conserve energy. With these steps, however small some of them seem, we begin on a path to solve the problem. And, like biking halfway around the world, if we can solve this problem, I am sure that the result will be immensely satisfying. We just have to start now.

Seattle and Boeing

August 22nd, 2007 by Bill
Departing Seattle by Ferry

We spent the last week in Seattle and had a great time giving two public talks at the Pacific Science Center. Seattle is perhaps best known for rain, coffee and Boeing. I could talk about global warming around any of those three topics, but I’m going to focus on Boeing.

Boeing recently introduced the 787 Dreamliner. This is a new passenger plane made from composites which are lighter than the traditional metal construction. The plane is 20% more fuel efficient. It also happens to be more comfortable for passengers because it doesn’t have to be kept as dry or as pressurized as metal planes that can corrode. Boeing is booked for many years with the huge demand for this plane. While some people say that dealing with global warming will be too expensive, here is an example of a great success story. This plane is more fuel efficient, more comfortable and a win for everyone.

New Boeing Plane - we didn't actually visit this facility, but we did blog about this plane.

This success story comes at an important time. Currently, airplane travel contributes about 3 percent of global warming emissions, but it is growing at approximately 5 percent a year. We need to continue to encourage innovative solutions such as this one. Clearly we also still need to consider bigger changes that will reduce air travels’ contribution to global warming. Some of these changes include more efficient air traffic control, towing airplanes to the runway reduce fuel use, and other structural changes that can create a huge reduction in fuel use. The changes also rest with each of us making the decision to reduce our air travel where it is possible. This is one small step, but it’s moving us in the right direction.

Speaking of good news, have you heard about the recently announced Western Climate Initiative? You can read about it here. These positive changes happen because people — each of us — are beginning to speak up. Lets keep it going.

Interviews in Seattle

August 21st, 2007 by David

I recently interviewed people in Helena, MT and Colville, WA to see what they thought about global warming. I decided to do the same experiment in Seattle. I stood outside a Safeway supermarket in the northern end of Seattle to see and interviewed people as they walked out of the store. Take a look below. Thanks to Bill Aston for doing the filming.

Across Washington

August 13th, 2007 by David

Leaving Sandpoint, Idaho, Bill and I crossed the final bit of the Idaho panhandle and entered Washington, our 13th state.

Forests in eastern Washington
A profile of our route across Washington - lots and lots of hills

We decided to follow a northern route across the state, which, as we quickly learned, is also the most mountainous part of Washington. The photo on the right shows an elevation profile of this route – over 14,000 feet of climbing across the state.

We have given over 35 presentations across the country, and appeared in local media a few dozen times. But, for this stretch of road, we found ourselves entering no large towns, and, for the first time since central Pennsylvania, we biked for a week straight without a scheduled presentation or media appearance, enjoying the cycling.

Building an energy efficient house in the Methow Valley
Workshop on how to build straw bale houses - straw bale is a great insulator.

Along the route, we stopped by a workshop for building straw bale houses. (Bill saw an article about it in the paper, and it happened to be just off a road we were biking). Straw-bale houses use straw bale as insulation in the walls, making for highly insulated and efficient houses. (We also met some people at the workshop who let us stay at their cabin).

While I am not saying that we should all go out and make our houses out of straw (if you can, great!), it did remind me how inefficient most houses are. If you get a home energy audit (ask your utility – sometimes they are free), you will usually find that your house is wasting energy– either through not enough insulation, cracks which let air escape, or inefficient lighting. And if you are building a new house, you should also demand it is built in such a way that uses energy efficiently. Our homes can use far less energy then they currently do, often with improvements in the quality of living. We should be demanding more efficient homes.

A couple we met at the straw bale clinic had a nice video camera and made this great video of us. Watch below. (Thanks to Christy and Bill.)

Christy and Bill also made a video of me talking about Ride for Climate in Spanish…which is a bit funny. You can watch that one here.

Riding up to Washington Pass in the North Cascades
North Cascades National Park

Our ride finished by crossing the North Cascades and riding into Seattle, where we will be for a little over a week.

Interviews in Colville, Washington

August 3rd, 2007 by David

What does the average person on the street think about global warming?

In Colville, Washington, I stopped in front of the Safeway supermarket and interviewed people. I first asked them their opinion of their governor (Christine Gregoire), then George Bush, and then global warming, followed by some more details on global warming. If I was on a roll, I asked if they supported a tax on gasoline if the money went to renewable energy.

This is a very unscientific survey of five people, but I would say these responses are fairly typical of any random 5 people we would have met across the U.S. It highlights the belief Bill and I have, that there needs to be a major national education campaign around global warming.

And of course, much thanks to these people for agreeing to be interviewed – they were all friendly and approachable, just like most people we have met across the U.S.

Watch below:

Crossing Montana

July 30th, 2007 by David
Trying to do a ninja kick while jumping off a rock in to the Clark Fork river.
Clark Fork River

Bill and I just finished biking across Montana, which receives the award for the best rivers of the trip – nowhere else have we found so many rivers that are clean enough for swimming (which says something about the quality of other rivers around the country as much as it does about Montana’s rivers).

It has also been unusually hot recently (see last entry on the dead fish) – Bill and I have had to take long siestas to avoid the mid-day heat.

In the city of Helena, Montana’s capital, I interviewed people at the supermarket, asking what they think about global warming. It’s not the most professional video, but you can watch people’s responses here. What strikes me most are how many people say that ‘we can’t do anything about global warming,’ which, well, isn’t true.

We were on the NBC news in Missoula at 6pm and 10pm.

In Missoula, Bill and I gave a talk for Adventure Cycling, and also appeared as a feature news spot on the TV nightly news. (We were interviewed at the hottest part of the day, and hopefully the video caught an image of sweat dripping down our foreheads as we talked about how hot future summers will be).

To the swimming hole!  Bill and Ride for Climate groupies take dirt road to the river.
Josh, David, Nicky, Bill

For our final two days in Montana, Josh and Nicky, two local Missoulians, strapped panniers on their bikes and joined us, providing us with company on the roads. We are now in Sandpoint, Idaho.

A Dead Fish

July 25th, 2007 by David
A dead fish in the river. Low stream flows and high water temperatures cause these fish kills.

We saw the fish on the right in the Blackfoot river on our way into Missoula. I later showed the picture to a fisheries biologist in Missoula, who told me it is likely a long nosed or large scale sucker, and that it most likely died of warm water temperatures. Warm weather caused the winter snowpack to melt early, reducing stream flows later in the summer, and it has also kept these low flowing rivers warmer. Consequently, many fish that usually thrive here are dying.

Smart cars and electric cars

July 21st, 2007 by David
ron Gompertz of Eco Auto in Bozeman
Smart Car and Electric Car Dealership in Bozeman

In Bozeman, while biking down Main Street, I saw a Smart car dealership. Smart cars are tiny cars no longer than most cars are wide, yet drive like a normal car and get 60 miles to the gallon. Extremely curious, I went inside, and the owner, Ron, gave me a test drive in the car. It was really fun. (Ron’s website: ecoautoinc.com)

I made a video of the experience here, which mostly consists of Ron talking about the safety of the car (which he says is really good) or it’s handling in snow (excellent, he says). When most of our car trips are to work or into town, why not use a small efficient car most of the time? Or, if you are a two-car family and you need a larger car, would it make sense to have one larger car and one smaller commuting car?

Ron also sells electric cars, which are another story. Electric engines are far more efficient than gas engines – the one he drove me around in gets an equivalent of 240 miles to the gallon. His car had a range of 40 miles, which is plenty for most work and grocery-getting.

And for people who think that electric cars are wimpy, check out this new electric sports car (Ron didn’t have this one to show off), which has a range of 200 miles. Costs $100 grand, but hopefully, in a few years, the price will come down….

The Business Community

July 20th, 2007 by Bill
Pacific Outdoor Equipment - they do some great carbon offsets for their products

While we were in Bozeman, MT we stopped by Pacific Outdoor Equipment. They are a small outdoor equipment company that makes sleeping pads, dry bags, backpacks and other gear. We were impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship and global warming. They try to make the highest quality product so that your gear lasts. They make a sleeping pad (see below) that comes with a renewable energy credit. This is a way to help offset the carbon dioxide produced in making the product by supporting the development of renewable energy. They also send an energy saving compact florescent lightbulb (along with information about why they are a good idea) out to all of the retail shops that order their products. This is a great example. It shows that even a small business can do the right thing, help address global warming and turn a profit.