Warm Rain

A few days ago I spent an evening at the Greenway, but didn’t write a post. I’m not feeling well and I have days where I can’t think well enough to write. It has taken a few days to get this written and several edits to make it clean enough for you to understand… or at least I hope it is intelligible now. Sorry, no photos or URLs. Just words is all I am capable of for now.

The evening started with a quick dog walk and frog release at the river. It has been particularly dry this spring. I rescued about 50 tadpoles from a drying puddle at Long Hunter State Park (leaving thousands behind to captivate curious children and die to nature as the puddle disappeared) about two weeks ago. Anyway, it was fun to watch them metamorphosize. Mike and I released the Peeper froglets into the puddles that formed where the Stone’s River usually flows. We stood back and watched as the froglets immediately left the puddle for the cover of rocks at the bank. They were pretty cute. My dog was unimpressed.

It was a nice night and the Greenway was empty. I guess the grey clouds told everyone else to stay home. After a quick run (yeah, yeah, I’ll talk about running another time, for now let’s go with “doctor’s orders”), Mike and I pulled the bikes out of the bed of his truck and took a leisurely ride. The heavy clouds, empty trail, and setting sun brought a stillness that was nice. We were about a mile out when the rain hit and we sat the worst of it out under a bridge. Nellie‘s tires aren’t the best on wet boardwalk and there was quite a bit of skidding. I also experienced her first wet-break squeal, which was loud despite having my hearing aids out to protect them from getting wet. Waiting it out in the rain caused us to miss time and I tested Nellie‘s lights out on the way back (e.g. we missed the park closing and were out past dark). We tend to close down restaurants and bookstores, but this is the first time we closed down a park. Total trip = 6 miles (plus the walk to the river and run earlier in the evening).

A stroll or ride by the river, diner with friends under the stars, sitting around a campfire… I love still evenings outside where the focus is on the company or the quiet.

I bought a little basket for Nellie‘s front handle bars. It will be a good place to keep my keys, phone and water bottle. Until the trunk is ready, it is also holding a couple of emergency items and the chain/lock. Unfortunately, bad health days mean that I am very scattered and have no focus. [I apologize for the grumpy and poorly written blog post: it is part of the disease.] The result is that I somehow lost my chain/lock between the Greenway and my garage. I hope it is having fun with my glasses and the 1000 other things I’ve lost over the last few months. Grrr.

At some point I worked with using the trike to walk my dog. I need to retrace our steps because I could have lost the chain then. I just thought of that…. this is a stream-of-conscious note so I don’t forget.

It is the end of April. The official 30 Days of Biking challenge is ending, but I am only at the midpoint (since I started over when I picked Nellie up on 4/15). I’ve missed one day that I am aware of, but my days tend to run together so there may have been another miss along the way.

Nice to have a dirty trike in the garage. Until next time…

Sunday Visit(s)

I set out with Nellie on Sunday to “test her legs”. I decided to visit a good friend and fellow caver, Justin, who lives on the other side of Murfreesboro. I needed to return a pair of jeans that I borrowed months ago at our last caving adventure (AKA the flimsy excuse for a longer trip on Nellie on a pretty Sunday). Siri’s driving directions note a 44.4 mile round trip, but a bike trip is 38 miles because it makes use of the entire Murfreesboro Greenway. It was ambitious, but I had all day and decided that Justin could carry us back if things went badly–as long as I reached his house.

Yellow Tricycle in front of Red Ladder Truck #7.The trip down was eventful. Wide open, Nellie will travel 25 mph with effortless pedaling. I am still learning about the trike and discovered that the bars within the battery-shaped-thing on my display panel do not indicate the amount of charge remaining in the battery. My lesson was that I should always fully charge at home before a trip. In this case doing so would have made the day vastly different, so I don’t regret needing an emergency stop this time. Fortunately, the battery died while in a bike lane on Thompson Lane. I rode less than a mile with no power assist before pulling into Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Station #7. I sat on a bench under a tree behind the station while Nellie drank volts from an extension cord. I didn’t let her charge completely before heading to the Greenway Trailhead. I thought I’d finish charging at the outlet there. When I arrived, I found the outlet dead.

Aaron runs in field with GrabTechRC flag behind him.
Aaron (GrabTechRC owner) on quadcopter course at Greenway

I looked around the park for another outlet and found the only source of power to be coming from a generator that some guys with drones had setup for their event. Community, right? I decided to make friends. Their generator was charging their remotes, copters, goggles and viewer-thingies. They were very nice and quickly introduced me to their hobby: “quadcopters” (not “drones”, the difference is apparently the fact that they fly them by radio remote rather than computer). Anyway, I plugged into the generator at the GrabTechRC tent, so I thought I’d plug the business here. GrabTechRC is a local ebusiness that custom builds copters & drones and ships all over the US and Canada. After watching a few flights through an obstacle course in the field and witnessing a couple of crashes, I made my way to the trail as their lunch arrived.

Murfreesboro Greenway MapThe Greenway is such a nice addition to Murfreesboro! I passed walkers, bikers, kayakers, fisher-people, and runners from all slices of life. From toddler tricyclists and tiny people being pushed in prams, to millennials with picnic baskets, to multi-national couples strolling through retirement… the pavilions along the way were full and the river was dotted with use… there were lots of dogs (especially near the bark park) as well as some lizard, fish, rabbit, and deer sightings… it felt like the city was alive and healthy in a way that I don’t experience from the road.

Somewhere around the Old Fort Park Trailhead I spoke with a woman who was interested in building a trike as a pedal-cart icy business. I was happy to plug MOAB again. The playground there was absolutely packed.

A good day. I liked the Greenway…

…until it ended unexpectedly 3 miles short of my friend’s house (which sits across from Barfield Crescent Park). The trail connects to Barfield Road 3 miles short of Barfield Park. Red dashed lines on maps are important. I ran out of trail with not-enough battery power and made another stop for charge (at a Rutherford County Fire & Rescue Station).

Man watering plants in a beekeeping suit.
My favorite pic of Justin.

By the time I reached Justin’s, I had been on the road longer than expected and had soaked in too much sun, but the time visiting a friend more than made up for a light sunburn. Vitamin D, right? It turned out to be an old fashioned Sunday visit. After a tour of his garden and orchard, we settled on his back patio to sip sweating drinks, watch the shadows fall across the yard, and talk about recent hiking & caving adventures and upcoming trips (mostly his trips since mine have been gobbled recently by sleepless nights). We sat and talked for a couple of hours while Nellie refueled for the trip home. I remembered to return the pants. We decided that our next visit will be camping at a preserve, so I have that to look forward to.

The trip home was much less eventful. On an 2.25 hour charge, I didn’t have to make any refueling stops on the 18-mile return. I used power assist level 1 (of 5) on the Greenway to conserve battery life.

Two features about the trike that I need to check in to:

  1. I would like to display batter life or have some kind of battery indicator.
  2. The odometer reading only counts the miles used with power assist. When I pedal-only, the miles aren’t recorded. 


Happy Birthday, Nellie!!!

Isn’t she beautiful?

To me, all vehicles are feminine (i.e. la bicicleta amarilla), like ships. I tend to personify them in other ways–naming cars, boats, and even bicycles. [Since “tricycle” is actually a masculine noun in Spanish and French, I inexplicably adopt the feminine German (e.g. die gelbe dreirad).] So, without further ado, I am proud to introduce Nellie.

Yellow tricycle in the park below the TN State Capitol.

I purchased Nellie on Friday, April 15, 2016, thus her birthday is established. Because Mike and I wanted to ride around Nashville during the TEDx weekend, he picked her up despite having to return her at some point to attach the trunk.

View of Cumberland River from Pedestrian Bridge in Nashville.It was a beautiful weekend and
bringing her into Nashville made Nellie‘s inaugural ride that much more memorable! We parked in Cumberland Park for free and rode to TPAC where parking is $12 per day.  The ride was fantastic. I immediately felt a lot of peace in my car-free lifestyle and in investing in what some people may consider a toy. We began with a John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge crossing and then climbed the bank of the Cumberland River toward the capitol. You can’t beat bike parking: we hitched the bikes at TPAC’s front door.

After the event, we hit several sites just because we could:

  1. We swung beneath an old Magnolia Tree at Centennial Park;
  2. We lost ourselves for a moment among the stacks at Bookman Bookwoman and then walked around Hillsboro Village;
  3. At dusk, we tested her lights and cruised the neon of Printer’s Alley and Broadway, passing a pedal tavern along the way;
  4. On Saturday, we checked our local geography on the big map at Centennial Capitol Mall Park; and then
  5. Crossed back over the bridge in time to photobomb several pairs of prom-goers.

Riding Nellie into Nashville on her first day.As I expected, the Trike drew attention wherever she went. I high- fived a cowboy (only in Nashville), received a smile and thumbs-up from a homeless man, and delighted several children for being an adult on a tricycle (or “training wheels” as one little girl at the pond in Centennial Park happily pointed out). Everyone from a bookstore patron to the officer directing Bridgestone Arena traffic was interested in the big battery.

I found a sense of profound joy in the entire experience: it felt like childhood. It is hard to feel much else when you are on the back of a yellow tricycle on a 75° day with bright blue skies and children splashing in a fountain for the first time in months.  Beyond that, I was happy about how the trike performed. She is a tool not a toy for me and everything worked as well as I had dared to hope:

  1. 48V front-wheel power assist is enough to take off and get me through busy intersections safely.
  2. We rode for several miles and it did not register a drop in battery power.
  3. I didn’t max out the speed or the assist-level, but I registered over 30kph (18mph).
  4. The lights are bright and so easy to use.
  5. I can sit comfortably at a stop.
  6. The gears are internal and automatic, so I didn’t have to think about shifting.
  7. I had one moment of vertigo while riding and didn’t end up on the ground. It scared me a bit, but I think I will gain confidence the more I have them without pitching over.

The trike is so ridiculously easy to ride that my softer and much-less-fit self (fitness level: slow 3-mile jog) on Nellie could fly past a 7:30-pace-marathon runner (fitness level: can’t be measured) on a mountain bike . As the person always setting the painfully slower pace, it was marvelous to finally be able to keep up. I need to gain confidence for speed going down hills and hopping curbs, but my physical ability did not slow us down. The relative velocity inspired her name: “Woah, Nellie!”

Some items that I know I need to purchase or address:

  1. The grips hurt my hands enough to consider either gloves or new grips.
  2. The chain is squeaky. (Mike says he will take care of that with a little grease.) and the breaks could be tighter.
  3. I was right: having a lockable trunk is SO IMPORTANT. That feature is an absolute must-have. I had nowhere to hang a chain-lock, hold a purse, or keep anything else. Due to pocket-less women pant design, Mike ended up carrying my phone, wallet, and chain.
  4. The seat was not stable at first. I survived my first “wreck” as the seat pitched to the right and I ran into a curb . (Mike tightened it up for me, but we are going to add a bit of electrical tape to create a stop too. Are you getting the impression that it’s pretty fortunate I have a Mike to go along with my bike?)
  5. Accessories to consider: cup holder, key chain (I will have more keys to the trike than to my house and car combined), helmet (light color, ponytail capable), rain and wind gear to keep in the trike at all times, a few emergency maintenance accessories, and potentially a solar charger for my phone.

The first trip was so exciting I could fill pages, but I’d rather jump on Nellie and visit my dear friend/neighbor, Ron. Get out there and enjoy your afternoon!



Trike Build Team

This blog is largely brought to you by the men and women (mostly men) who built my trike. Thank you all!

IMG_4614 IMG_4615 IMG_4613

Mark Dement (MOAB owner and master builder)
Mr. Dement, AKA Mark's Dad (electrician)
Mike Lepley (logistics, troubleshooting, sounding board, co-conspirator) 
Xavier Solís (MOAB manager and master researcher) 
Alec from eBike (master of all things lithium ion battery & light kits)
Engineer Brian (custom trunk rack designer - his plans appear above)

Good things come…

Did I mention that I struggle with patience? Today, Mark (owner of MOAB Bikes) called with a Trike update. The following news will go forth as evidence in perpetuity that good better things come to those who wait have patience:

The good news: The lights work! The lights work! Mark (and several others I suspect) spent waaaaay too many to be profitable hours wiring and splicing  so that not only will my bright lights run directly off the main battery (only one thing for my scattered seizure/insomnia-brain to remember to charge), but I will be able to turn the taillights on and off using a foot switch. The foot switch was not my idea, but a great feature added by Mark to provide more ease of use (i.e. better than I asked for).

The other good news:  I can pick the trike up tomorrow (after 11:00 so I can give Mark a huge hug and take my photo with him). I especially wanted it Friday because I am invited to attend TEDx Nashville this weekend. Can you think of a venue better than TEDx to break in alternative transportation? It is going to be 75° and I get to roll around downtown Nashville in my brand new Trike!

The bad news: On one hand, the trunk will not be ready when I pick the bike up tomorrow, BUT…

The awesome news: …that is because while Mark was laying out the trunk design, an engineer one of MOAB’s customers happened to take an interest in his project. Mark explained my car-free lifestyle change due to a nasty mix of epilepsy and insomnia along with some of the snags that we’ve hit along the way. This stranger had some cool ideas about how to build a better, lighter trunk and volunteered to build a custom trunk for my trike for FREE! Mark is convinced that this turn of events is going to create a custom trike that is BETTER than what I asked for. People can be awesome. I hope our paths will cross out there someday so that I can thank you in person!

I will post a list of people involved in this project HERE.


The Community of Joyful Cyclists

I found an charitable initiative called “30 Days of Biking” online and joined in! To kickstart my move toward less-car-more-feet, I pledged to ride my bike every day in April and share my adventures online. For every two pledges, @30daysofbiking donates $1 to World Bicycle Relief. World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people around the world where distance is a barrier to education, healthcare and economic opportunity.

Over 8,000 joyful cyclists pledged to ride their bikes every day of April 2016. That’s a lot of bicycles!

2016-04-02 10.00.42Day #1: April 1st. The Trike delay
means I had to pump up the tires on my old Huffy city bicycle. I planned to be on it just long enough to check off the day: “yes, I did ride a bike on 4/1/2016”.  The pledge clearly states that “around the block works, 100 miles does, too. The distance, destination and doughnut selections are up to you.” I went to the end of the driveway and back.  It was enough. When I made the turn to come back, my vertigo sent me into the garbage can at the curb. Yuck, but could have been worse. If I needed confirmation that I can’t ride a 2-wheeler, I now have it.

Day #2 (and beyond) : As the blog shows, the trike wasn’t ready for the start of April, so I decided to do my own 30-day streak with a friend whenever it is complete. Riding a 2-wheeler for a few feet just to participate in the @30daysofbiking did not seem to be in the spirit of the initiative. So, I will take the spirit and be flexible on the official start date.

More soon…

MOAB – Build

This post was supposed to be full of the fun photos that MOAB took while building my trike. Unfortunately, my last update on the trike build feels a bit like an April Fool’s prank. It looks like I need to change my FAQ post.

When I asked my local bike shop for a custom adaptive bike I had very limited information about trikes, bike commuting, or ebikes. After a few phone calls and a visit to the store, I felt confident that my trike would include the features that I need in a second vehicle.

I waited two months for parts only to now hear that the bike shop can’t deliver what they promised.

  1. They can’t give me a locking trunk that houses and protects my expensive battery plus provides room for me to store emergency items and any cargo.
  2. They can’t give me head and taillights that integrate into the bike’s power source.

Magic Eight Ball says "outlook not so good"Unfortunately, these are the two features that I was paying a premium for in the first place! I could have bought a standard eTrike with no lights or locking storage from an online retailer and had it delivered a month ago for half the cost. This news puts the entire project in jeopardy.  I’m going to visit the shop this afternoon to discuss (1) the solution they have come up with to provide the features that I wanted or (2) a refund of the deposit because I will not be purchasing the bike.

Sadly, I’ve lost confidence in their ability to build the trike AND I feel manipulated. They didn’t call me with these updates, I was only updated when I called them. The owner tried to convince me that I didn’t really want the light features that I had requested or the shop had promised. The owner offered to allow me to ride the trike while they came up with a solution. I felt like he was trying to have me “use” the bike so I wouldn’t be able to return it… “I felt”… meaning, I don’t trust him anymore. Why should I? The shop was not able to deliver ANY of the special features I requested according to their quote.

Should I have used a specialty ebike dealer instead of my local shop? Signs point to yes.