Friday, May 31, 2013

ELF and Tessla

Here are a few more pictures from the Electric Sociability Run.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The ELF encounters a rain storm

 Here's a video clip from Tuesday's ride home.   When I left my house there were some very dark clouds in the sky so I suspected the ride would get interesting at some point.  Just as I pulled off the trail into my neighborhood the rain started coming down in torrents.  Here's a video of that part of my ride.  Note the lawn guys running for shelter.

I stayed relatively dry inside the ELF even though the rain was splashing in a bit from the sides.  However, compared to riding a traditional bike I was really dry.  My shoes didn't even fill with water!

Actually, I got really wet once I parked the ELF and carried my bags into the house.  I should have just left everything in the trunk until the rain stopped but I didn't know how dry the storage compartment would be.

Now I'm thinking of storing an umbrella in the ELF!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Electric Sociability Run

Drivers and fans of plug-in electric vehicles gathered in Washington, DC to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the Electric Sociability Run of 1914
There were lots of Teslas, Volts, Leaves, electric motorcycles, and even an electric skateboard.  But only two ELFs. Next year I expect there will be more!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Phone Mount and Maryland Tag

This morning I rode the ELF over to the Giant to get eggs for breakfast (we use a lot of eggs in our house).   I took the Georgetown Branch trail over to Bethesda Avenue and parked in a car parking space adjacent to the cart return port to which I locked the ELF using the cable lock.   Some folks asked about the ELF just as I was entering the trail and an elderly couple asked about it just as I was getting ready to leave from the Giant.  I also got several thumbs up, waves, and "I like your bike" shouts along Bethesda Ave.    

When I arrived back home I decided to use the solar panel to recharge and see how it does.  After a few hours of charging in the bright sun I took the battery out and plugged it into the wall charger.  To my surprise, the green lite came on indicating that the battery was already fully charged.   I was happy to have confirmation that the solar panel really does charge the battery!

The videos and some pictures I've been posting are recorded on my iPhone which is mounted on the steering column using the Topeak iPhone mount. I've also been listening to tunes on the iPhone but the volume is a bit too soft when riding or near traffic.  I'm hoping to get some speakers to mount on the top bar.  

Maryland classifies the ELF as a moped.  As of October 2012 mopeds require title, tag, and liability insurance as outlined here.  Use the online system here to obtain proof of ownership (and pay excise tax) and order your tag.  Click on the "Titles/Decals – Special Vehicles" menu on the left side to get started.

The insurance was the hard part.  After calling several insurance companies and agents I googled and found this article on Bentrider from my friend Charlie who put me in contact with an agent in Texas who writes electric moped insurance for Progressive.  Here's his contact information for those states that require it:

Allen Lescure
Insgroup/Elton Porter
(800) 759-2628, ext 219

I ordered the tag on Monday and it arrived in the mail today (Saturday).

Day 5 - first ride in the rain, Friday May 24th

Parked at work.  Nice sunny spot.

When I got up this morning there were no eggs in the fridge so I rode the ELF over to the CVS.  It had been raining over night so the windshield was fogged up.  I hadn't had any coffee yet so I just squinted through it and made my way up the hill.  The eggs fit nicely in the shelf and they survived the bumpy ride without any breakage.   

Twist ties hold the saddle bags on the cleats

After breakfast I took some time to clean the windshield with some Windex (recommended with the user's manual) and that made the visibility much better.  The ride on the trail was a bit messy but the front fenders kept most of the sand and water away.  The back window got pretty splashed, though, so I might want to look into getting a fender for the back.  I was riding along at one point and noticed that there were rain drops falling on the road.  But I was completely protected so wouldn't have even known it was raining but for the visuals.  I only got a bit of a spray while waiting for the light to turn at Southwood and 29 due to a stray gust of wind that blew the rain in the door.  I also got a few drips from where the roof isn't completely closed on the sides.  I arrived at work much dryer than when I usually ride in the rain.  In fact, I'm wondering if if I should even consider wearing work clothes during the commute.
Water bottle mount on the steering column

Kryptonite lock through the frame

Charging Station in the office

I've decided to continue riding on the sidewalk along route 29 to avoid the traffic going up the hill between the Northwest Branch stream bridge and Southwood Drive.  I'm getting on the sidewalk at Lockwood and rolling down the hill to the bridge.  So far I haven't had any problems with bikes or pedestrians going the other way, but I'm sure one of these days a biker going the other way is going to have to stop and carry the bike around the ELF.
Here's a video of my ride home on the sidewalk along 29.

As you can see from the end of the last video segment, due to a large light pole with a cement block base the sidewalk is impassible by the ELF.  I had to put one wheel of the ELF on the road and ride along the sidewalk to the crosswalk over Route 29 bypassing the blockage on the sidewalk and crossing route 29

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day Four, Thursday May 23rd

Check out this video of part of this morning's commute:  The ELF meets a Barrier

Problem Solved:

With a little help from Dave.  I've always relied on the kindness of strangers.

Now it fits!

These are the temporary barriers that I moved yesterday.

These no longer pose much of a threat.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birth of an ELF - Saturday May 18th

In the shop, waiting for a Seat

Here's my ELF in the shop ready to be delivered.
Loaded onto the truck in Durham, ready to go!

Pulling out of the truck, all shiny and new.

Crowning, like a baby :)

First Tentative Ride

Day 3, Wednesday May 22, 2013

All bets are off.  I’m going with the standard commute, no alterations.  I left the house at 7:30, stopped at the bank to deposit my paycheck, and still arrived at 8:20.  Almost exactly the same time it takes on the bike.  The ELF is clearly faster on the uphill climbs but I have to go slower on the trail and sidewalks to keep from causing problems with pedestrians and bikes.   I also have to get off the ELF at the bottom of the hill on Old Columbia Pike to hold the barrier back while pushing the ELF through.  I’ve got this down to only a few minute delay, but it’s still a delay.   Maybe I’ll remember the rope to pull it back permanently tomorrow. 

The ride in this morning was lovely.  Not many people on the trail so I went pretty fast there and drove up Brookville Road without anyone too hot on my tail.  The high point of the ride was when I pulled up the to intersection of Lockwood and New Hampshire Ave.  There was a car in the turn lane to my right and the lady driving it rolled her window down and said “Thanks for the inspiration”.  She also said “you just made my day”, which made my day.  I think she wants to get an ELF or at least start riding her bike to work.  If that’s the case, I’ve done more than just take myself off the gas grid, I’ve inspired others to do the same.

At lunch I let Gene take the ELF for a spin around the parking lot.  He came back winded, which is pretty funny, considering he doesn’t ride a bike much.  Andy keeps ribbing me about the ELF getting run over in the parking lot which is also pretty funny since he’s the one that was driving too fast in the parking lot yesterday and we had a bit of a scare.   After Gene’s test ride, I drove the ELF over to the Panera on Tech Road and parked on the sidewalk right in front of the store.  Several people stopped by and asked about it right away.  After I got my lunch and was getting ready to hop in and go, a man came running up to me with a concerned look on his face.  I thought he was about to yell at me for parking on the sidewalk (although I wasn’t blocking anything since I was between two poles).  Instead, he was excited to see the ELF and said “I’m going to put this on my Vine.  Nobody will believe it.”  He took my picture and then a few more pics as I drove off.  Nice.

When I got back to the office I decided to let the sun recharge the battery from the short trip to lunch.   I sure wish I could get more information about the charge level.  The Organic Transit guys say they will need to add some hardware to the controller to support the blue tooth interface for this.  In the meantime, I wonder if there is another way to measure the charge level.  I’ve got to ask them the question a different way.

The drive home went pretty smoothly.  I noticed that the metal barrier left temporary indentations in my hand after I went through.  Also, when I apply the brakes at high speed, it’s pulling to the left.  Sometimes the right brake makes a loud rumbling screech.  Tomorrow is Thursday and City Bikes on Connecticut is open late on Thursdays so I’ll probably stop by and ask them how to adjust the brakes.   
I’m still not too happy about having to drop one of the front wheels onto the road at 29 and Southwood.  However, I did that again today rather than driving over the hill to avoid it.  It wasn’t too bad and it doesn’t seem to be scraping the bottom.   There were lots of runners and a good many bikers on the Georgetown Branch today so I had to take it easy for much of that ride.  I was able to open up on one of the longer stretches though and that helped me get home in under an hour.    

When I arrived the driveway was full of cars so I had to park it on the neighbor’s apron while I moved cars.  One of my neighbors came by and said she thought it was cool. My neighbor across the street said she was hoping I’d put a trailer or jump seat on it so I could drive people around.  She said I could sell tickets and just retire on that.  What an interesting idea…

Second Day – Tuesday May 20th

I spent some time looking at maps last night so I could avoid the route 29 section over Paint Branch stream where I almost got run over by the semi-truck yesterday.  I decided to try riding through the FDA since it would take me from New Hampshire Ave to Cherry Hill Road. 

The ride from Bethesda to Silver Spring on the path is a delight in the morning.  There are a few joggers and bikes but not very many and the path is nice and wide.  Driving on Brookville road requires going up the one lane road full speed which is probably a little slower than most cars would like but there is a speed camera on that section of road so I’m really doing them a favor by going slow.   

Coming up Lockwood I took a right onto Northwest Drive which took me directly onto the FDA property.  There was a security gate but nobody was manning it so I just continued onward.   There was a lot of traffic on the road and I was a bit uncertain about which way I was going so I pulled off to the side to check the map.  Sure enough I needed to turn left at the intersection Bowditch Road.  They were doing construction so only one lane was open and there were some gravelly spots but I was able to get past that.  I rode along Dahlgren and suddenly in the middle of the road there was another security gate.  This time a man came out and asked me to show my badge.  I told him I wasn’t an FDA employee and he said that I was going to have to turn around.  “Shit”, I said.  “Couldn’t you make an exception, just this time?   I’m afraid my battery is going to run out on this thing”.  “No”, he said.  “If someone found out, it would be my job.”  “Shit”, I said.  “I don’t know how I’m going to avoid route 29”.  “Damn!”.  Then I turned around and rode along the bike path back past the construction and out to New Hampshire Ave.

I turned right onto the sidewalk along New Hampshire Ave and stayed on the sidewalk even though there actually is a nice bike lane there.  Then I turned on the road on Lockwood and cut through White Oak onto Old Columbia Pike.   I was really pissed and didn’t want to repeat yesterday’s semi-truck problem so I took the entire lane on 29 over Paint Branch and up the hill (slowly) to Industrial.  The cars went around me (fast) but nobody honked and I wasn’t in fear for my life (any more than usual).  I was still pissed about the FDA experience when I flew down Tech Road full speed taking the entire lane until I got to the office.    I finally cooled down in the shower and was able to focus on work for most of the day.

I decided to take the ELF over to the local strip mall for some Mexican food at Qdoba.  Usually I order the naked salad but I was concerned about spillage from the bumpy road so I went for the burrito, which fits nicely in the storage bin in the trunk of the ELF.  I didn’t get a lot of people asking about the ELF but certainly people were looking and the lady at the Qdoba said she liked it.

The ride home
I spent a good amount of time looking at alternative routes to avoid Route 29.  The problem is getting across Paint Branch and Northwest Branch rivers.  I talked with one of my office colleagues and we looked at the map to see if there was a way to go through Kemp Mill and end up back on Sligo Creek Trail.  It looks like you have to use the bridge on Randolph Road to cross Paint Branch.  There are some trails that include a crossing over Northwest Branch but they look like dirt trails.  After studying the possible routes for a while I decided that it wasn’t worth taking the chance on getting stuck or having to ride on Randolph road.

I decided to go the normal way on Old Columbia Pike.  When I got to the first Barrier, I found that it was completely blocked again so I was prepared to lift the ELF over the curb onto the grass.  Before doing that, I thought to try moving the temporary barrier and found it really wasn’t that heavy after all.  With a few quick pushes, I was able to open it up enough to get the ELF through without any problem.  Whew! 

When I got to the steel barrier I pulled up carefully and got out of the ELF.   As with yesterday, I was able to bend the metal enough to clear the fender and front wheel and push the ELF through.  The indian lady walking by didn’t seem to take much notice.  I was kind of hoping she would offer to help or at least ask questions.   

I rode down the hill at Lockwood and turned left onto the sidewalk along 29.  There was a guy walking who didn’t hear me ringing my bell incessantly until I finally honked the horn.  Then he stepped aside so I could get past and continue up the sidewalk along 29.  In order to avoid the light pole in the middle of the sidewalk at Southwood Drive, I turned left onto Crestmoor Drive, up, over the hill to Lorain and then down the hill back to 29.  Then turned right on the sidewalk and back down to the same intersection to the crosswalk at Southwood.  There was a pedestrian waiting there so I let him cross first and then made my way up the hill on Eastwood to Dennis, and over the hill at University and down the hill to Sligo Creek Trail.  The rest of the ride through the park was without incident and I went pretty slowly behind several runners.  The only surprise was that as I exited the trail onto Newdale road, I looked in my rearview mirror to see a runner right on my tail.  I don’t know why he decided to get so close but I really was surprised and wondered if he was mad at me.

Anyway, I'd much rather piss off a runner than anyone in a Car or Truck!

Monday, May 20, 2013

First Commute - Monday May 20, 2013

Home to Work
Left the house and rode on the Georgetown Branch to Brookville Road.  At the top of Brookville turned left onto Seminary Road down the hill over the Beltway and turned right onto Forest Glen road.  This took me out of the way by around ½ mile and added a down and up hill leg that could have been avoided.  If I want to take Forest Glen it would have made more sense to get onto it from Newcastle Road by the Pagoda.   Followed Forest Glen past Georgia Ave and Down the hill to Sligo Creek Road.  Turned left on Sligo Creek Road and Followed it up to Dennis.  Sligo Creek only has a narrow shoulder so it wasn’t easy for cars to get past me and I wasn’t going fast enough for them since it was slightly uphill. 

Drove up Dennis without any problem and followed my usual route down to Edgewood and over Southwood to 29.  The ride down 29 wasn’t any worse than usual given that I was going downhill at speed.   Right onto Lockwood and then up that hill without any problems.  I took the left behind White Oak and followed around to Old Columbia Pike.  I decided to try crossing Paint Branch on 29 rather than Old Columbia Pike since I knew that there was a chance of not being able to get through Old Columbia’s bridge. 

The shoulder on 29 was nice and wide going down the hill but then as I started up the hill I saw ahead that the shoulder was going to get narrow.  So I signaled and tried to start moving over to the lane but the cars were pretty thick so I stayed on the shoulder until all the cars cleared and then all that was left was a Semi Truck.  I signaled again and started moving over but he was staying in the lane.  Finally at the last minute he moved over to let me have some of the lane and honked at me as he passed.  No fun!  

The ride onto Industrial is very bumpy and Tech Road also has a lot of pot holes so I wasn’t able to go very fast there either. 

Arriving at work
As I drove into the parking lot I realized that the pedestal we had talked about parking on was blocked so I couldn’t just pull in  I turned around and rode over to see if I could pull the ELF up onto the patio under the pergola but there isn’t a ramp there so I looped back over to the end of the driveway.  At that point Cindy, Brian, and Beverly came out the back door and were happy to see me.  Then I noticed Noreen was taking pictures from the second floor windows and she started texting me that my turn signal was on and it was driving Michele crazy.   With some discussion we agreed that the best location to park the ELF is in the last parking space.  I might park near one of the light poles and get a long cable to secure it in the future.  But in the meantime I just locked it to itself with the Kryptonite lock. 

Once I unloaded I realized that it was a lot to carry.  Two big saddle bags plus the battery in a canvas bag, and water bottle.   I walked up the stairs with all this and arrived in my office a bit exhausted and overwhelmed.

After showering and having some lunch I decided to drive the ELF over to the MVA to get the paperwork finalized.  I printed up my insurance info and faxed it back to them.  I was wearing my work clothes with a pant leg protector. When I got to the MVA I found parking in a motorcycle space (just the right size!) and locked the back wheel to itself with the kryptonite lock.   Turned off the power switch and left the ELF in the sun to charge the battery.  A police woman and man came over to ask about the ELF and wondered what it was classified as.  Several others looked interested and one asked about it as I walked into the MVA.

When I got into the MVA I was not thinking very straight (and really was convinced it would take a long time) so I got into the information line which turned out to be the wrong information line.  After about ten minutes the information man sent me to the second information line which was much longer.  I waited in that one for about 15 or 20 minutes.  The woman at the desk said I could get my license online but when I asked about getting a temporary tag she gave me a number and motioned me to the waiting area that was completely full of others waiting for help.  Luckily I found a seat and was able to catch up on some rest and reading while I waited the 1 and ½ hours for my turn.  When my number finally came up the woman taking care of me said she was going to need some help from her supervisor who was walking by at that moment.  The supervisor came right  away and said that I could have done the transaction online.  Then she used the website and had me type my information into the forms.  After paying the $240 excise tax and the $25 title and license I was on my way.  The sticker will be coming in the mail.  However, I wasted a good 2 hours since I could have done the whole thing online.  At least I got a bit of a nap in the waiting room.

The ride home
Since I got to the office so late and spent most of the day at the MVA, I decided to wait to leave until after rush hour would be mostly over, around 6:30.  I suited up and carried the 2 saddlebags, canvas bag with the battery and charger, and the water bottle back down the stairs and outside to the ELF.  After loading everything up and unlocking I decided to go ahead and apply the two extra mirrors which only took a minute.  Then I was on my way.  When I got to the road Gene pulled up next to me in the Suburu and asked me to try going full speed so he could clock me.  I was able to get it up to about 22 but the road is pretty bumpy so I didn’t pedal very hard. 

I turned left onto Industrial and then left onto Old Columbia Pike.  A couple of cars passed me before I started down the big hill.  As I reached the bottom of the hill I could see that the barriers were going to block my way.  In fact they were almost completely across the opening.  I decided it was worth it to avoid 29 so I got out and lifted the elf over the curb and onto the grass to get around the barrier.  Then I rolled down to the bridge and across the bridge.  When I got to the other side it looked like I might just be able to get through the second barrier.  However, as I pulled up it became clear that it was just a few inches too narrow.  I got out of the ELF and played with the barrier a bit and noticed that one side was uncurled more then the other side and that side has some flex.  With a push I was able to bend it enough to get the ELF through but I came close to damaging the fender and wheel on the left side.  

Finally free of the barriers I made my way under power up the steep hill and past the stop signs along Old Columbia Pike.  I turned left behind White Oak and took the access road to avoid Lockwood until the very end.  Then I pulled onto Lockwood and waited in the traffic lane for the light at New Hampshire Ave.   When the light changed I had no problem keeping up with traffic down the hill on Lockwood and then turned left onto the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill.  I wasn’t in any mood after the morning incident to try to ride on 29 up the hill in traffic.  The sidewalk wasn’t bad and I only encountered a few pedestrians who had to step off the sidewalk to let me through.  I tooled up the hill on the sidewalk and was feeling pretty good about the result.  But, alas, when I got to the top of the hill I saw that the last power pole is right in the middle of the sidewalk and I wasn’t going to be able to get around it without going onto the road.  So I sat there until the light changed and then drove over the curb and rode with one wheel on the sidewalk and the other wheel on the road until I got to the crosswalk.  Then I turned and crossed the street and drove to the other side where I waited for the light to change.  Then I drove up Southwood to Edgewood and down to Dennis without any problem.  I rode on Dennis over University and down the hill, slowing to let the cars pass before taking the lane. 

I turned left onto Sligo Creek Trail and took it very slowly as there were a good number of runners and walkers about.  I crossed Forest Glen without problem and rode over Flora Lane to the trail.   The ELF did fine on the little trail connecting Flora to Columbia, until the end when I had to put one wheel on the ground and the other on the path.  When I got to Dale Drive the traffic wasn’t bad and I was able to pull up in the lane behind a car.  Then I tooled over Georgia Avenue and turned left onto Brookville Road.  There were some cars behind me but I was going pretty fast so they didn’t seem to mind me. 

I got onto the Georgetown Branch at the usual second entrance and rode along quite easily.  I had to slow down a bunch of times on the trail and ring the bell to make sure people knew I was coming past.  But nobody seemed too annoyed with the big bike on the trail and I even got a wave from a recumbent bike rider.  When I got to Connecticut I waited for the light and then crossed to the little road in front of the cleaners.  The rest of the trail ride wasn’t bad but I had to go slow since there were a lot of runners and a few bikers.

The ELF did fine going up the ramp into our neighborhood even though some of the root vines are huge.  

The good news is that the battery didn’t seem to have any problem with the distance.  The brakes seem to be in need of some adjustment since they are squeaking and vibrating and there is a bit of a pull to the left.   I also need to confirm that the front wheels are still in alignment after having them fall off the path and riding in un-ideal situations.   The potholes bounced things around a lot and the saddlebag on the right eroded the rubber on top of the storage shelf.   But everything survived the trip (including this macbook pro). 

The two big problems to solve are both on Route 29.   So I’m considering staying on Sligo Creek Trail up to Kemp Mill.  I think I could also stay on 29 for the ride up Lockwood and turn right on Northwest Drive to avoid Old Columbia by riding on Perimeter Road, Left on FDA Blvd, Left onto Cherry Hill Road to Palm Orchard Drive and back on Broadbirch. 

For the ride home I’m also thinking of avoiding the power pole in the middle of the sidewalk by turning right onto Crestmoor, right on Lorain, and then crossing 29 on Lorain and turning right onto Edgewood. 

Tomorrow is another day…