Live the Adventure …

> READ STEVE’S COMPLETE DEATH VALLEY STORY AT: http://silentpassage.wordpress.com

* * * * * * *



This weblog exists to follow the progress of author, adventurer, and naturalist Steve Greene on his Death Valley Tricycle Expedition, as he begins by tricycling into a mysterious hidden world 282 feet below sea level. This is Steve’s first cross-country journey in a human-powered vehicle. Read about his preparatory phase HERE.

Tricycle Dream

The majority of posts appearing below have been entered by enthusiastic correspondents of this expedition. Steve contacted these people (Jack Freer, David Wright, and Adam Lee) when telephone service was available en route, provided them the latest progress, and the information was then placed on the weblog. This third-party arrangement was established so that Steve did not have to carry a laptop in his already-heavy gear. Posts from Steve appear subsequent to the conclusion of the travel to and through Death Valley.

Postings appear in reverse chronological order, with the newer posts on top of each page. Earlier posts are accessible by the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of each page. Click any of the tabs above to view expedition photographs, which are best understood by first reading the corresponding posts. To view the first posts of this entire adventure, written by Jack, David, and Adam, please click HERE.

Start date: October 01, 2009. Vehicle: ICE Q narrow-track tricycle, with trailer. Objectives: Travel from the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon coast to Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, tour selected portions of Death Valley National Park, attend Old West Days in Shoshone, speak at Death Valley 49ers Author’s Breakfast at Stovepipe Wells, and share with others the adventures of traveling through the natural world by trike. End date: November 06, 2009. Duration: 37 days. Human-Powered Distance Traveled: 1,030 kilometers / 640 miles. Weather: Rain, snow, ice, 100-degree temps, 70 MPH winds, dirt storms. Elevations: Highest: 5,925 / Lowest -282.

* * * * * * *

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Steve’s Tale


The Death Valley Tricycle Expedition

Steve’s tale of the 37-day expedition has unfolded at the  Silent Passage website. Please visit the site to discover the daily details about this trike trek.

* * * * * * *

GALLERY: To view 259 black & white photographs of this expedition all in one place and in chronological order, please click HERE for the gallery.

BACK TO DAY ONE: If you wish to begin reading all of the expedition posts, starting in chronological order, please click here, and then click the “newer posts” link at the bottom of that, and each successive, page to continue up to the latest posts.

MOVIE: A short 10 minute movie about the expedition can be viewed at YouTube if you have a fast internet connection. Click HERE to see it.

* * * * * * *

Trike Asylum

If you are interested in tricycles specifically, I have begun a new blog about these bizarre three-wheeled vehicles at Trike Asylum. It is planned to be an “all trikes all the time” affair for the devoted enthusiast.

NOTE: If you are new to this Badwater blog, and wish to return to the first day of posts about the trip, click HERE to start reading from the beginning. The tab links above will also take you to many photographs.

* * * * * * *

By the way, Inspired Cycle Engineering now has three new models available for 2010. Visit their completely updated website HERE to see what all the excitement is about. Alas, the venerable Q that I rode to Death Valley no longer exists, but in its place is the Sprint, which appears to be very similar in design, with the advantage of front suspension, something I wish I had on the Q. The new ICE website is now easier to remember:


Tricycle Expedition Movie

Well folks, I have met with success in the digital video realm of this expedition!

This afternoon, during a break in the winter rains so common to the coastal regions, I hurried on down to the library with my laptop. Seeing as how I no longer own a petroleum-based automobile, I donned a rain jacket just in case the clouds opened up while I was walking. The library has free high-speed Wi-Fi internet, so I am now sitting comfortably at a remote table, having happily, and without incident, uploaded a shortened version of the expedition movie I have been working on these past two weeks. At long last!

The original movie is 640×480 pixels, which is quite exquisite to view from a CD, as it retains all its clarity. From what I can see so far, the YouTube presentation has digitally reduced the movie’s viewing size, thereby making it not quite so sharp. A message informs me that it is still processing the video, and quality might improve. We shall see. In any event, at least you can view the old expedition in a new light. I apologize for any lack of clarity that may yet remain in the presentation.

There is a longer version of this movie, which tops out at just over 13 minutes. Due to time restrictions on YouTube however, I could not upload that one, so the online version is slightly less than 10 minutes, and it has an altered musical score as a result. As it so happens, I believe I prefer the shortened movie and its audio accompaniment over the longer movie (I had to remove about 40 images, and one complete song, to get it down to the YouTube size requirement).

I’ll be sending out CD versions to folks who were involved in the expedition. Perhaps if anyone else would like a CD copy, we could work out an arrangement for a minimal fee and shipping. Thanks for waiting patiently for this posting … it has been good to finally get outside and take a walk for a change (of course, right now, I am once again sitting on my duff at the library, but at least I have to walk to and from)! Take care my friends … see ya’ …

You may see this movie by clicking HERE.

Steve on his British engineered tricycle in August, prior to the expedition

Three Great Companies

Products from the following companies have been well-tested by yours truly under grueling conditions, and they have survived the journey to and through Death Valley with flying colors. I recommend them to any serious cyclist without reservation.

Burley No More

Well, the cargo carrying metamorphosis is well underway! Yesterday, I sold the trusty Burley flatbed trailer (that accompanied me on the Death Valley Tricycle Expedition) to a pharmacist from central California. She happened to be visiting in town and caught the Craig’s List ad online … what luck, huh? Get this: Melanie Baker also owns a trike! I showed her how it connects up to the drop-out on the rear axle, explained to her about the slow leak in the right side tube, removed the quick-release wheels, and stowed the Burley in her Toyota Prius for transport down south into California’s San Joaquin Valley. Melanie is happy to have a top-quality trailer for her around-town shopping needs, and I am happy to have some cash to put into the new pannier setup I’ll be adding to my Q. She is an environmentally inclined soul like I am, so a lively extended dialog accompanied this mega financial transaction.

I will be retaining the red Arkel GT-54 panniers on the sides of the rear rack. Atop the rack, I am currently inclined to place a new Arkel Tail Rider cargo trunk. It is made of the same high quality material as their panniers. For the seat, I am looking into purchasing a pair of Radical Design’s side panniers. This is a small company based in Holland that produces top-notch cargo carrying solutions. I will also retain the Radical Design side pods that I already have. With these additions, I believe that the gear I formerly placed in the trailer will fit on the trike (except for the massive food supply I brought along, which will be greatly reduced on the next expedition).

Here is the rear rack trunk that may find its way onto the Q as part of the cargo redesign scheme. It even has a hidden rain cover that quickly slips over the top if the water drops from the sky in torrents.

After some quick study, I now realize just how much weight will be saved by not pulling the Burley trailer loaded with the Rubbermaid Action-Packer cargo trunk. The trailer weighed in at 16 pounds, which is very light by anyone’s standards, being that it is primarily aluminum. The cargo trunk weighed in at 20 pounds, still light by itself, but if we add both of those numbers together, and consider that the weight was being pulled by a tricyclist over high mountain passes, it becomes readily apparent that on my next journey, I will be at least 36 pounds lighter! That 36 pounds was just the means to carry the cargo, in other words, it served no real purpose other than that of a vehicle for gear. Find a way to get the gear on board the trike, save at least 36 pounds of pulled weight, and have more fun on the long road to adventure as a result. This is my goal.

The Agony of de Feet

Defeat by way of the feet is not an acceptable option for any serious human-powered adventurer. Whether hiking, backpacking, or cycling, long distances can easily take their toll on the intricate and highly articulate structures found at the foot of our legs. So, we search for solutions to those nasty things that would end our explorations.

It is indeed upsetting when the mind and fit body say “go but the feet say “no”. Such has been the case for me now and again throughout my life of non-automotive transport. What would stop me on a backpacking trip? Only blisters or foot issues could ever do such a thing. What caused me problems with my Death Valley expedition? The feet!

This is an update on my foot gremlins, for all you who have been following along. As you may recall, both Achilles tendons reached a point of obvious swelling, and eventually, I experienced minor numbness on the inside edges of the two toes next to my big toes on each foot. I have been mulling this over for quite some time now, as I don’t want these problems to occur on the next journey. These issues have continued to remind me of their presence in these weeks subsequent to the end of the trip, but fortunately, their distracting mumbles slowly lessen by the day.

My mind has set upon a new course to avoid these foot problems in the future. Not being a trained podiatrist, I can not guarantee my findings, but they seem logical to me at this point in time. Here is what I believe:

I used traditional cycling pedals on this trip, onto which I attached Power-Grips to hold my foot securely to the pedal. I wore Merrill Moab Ventilator low-top hiking boots while pedaling. I kept the Power-Grips opened wide to allow my foot a deeper purchase, which held it in much better than simply having the strap come across at the toes. The reason for this is that on a recumbent trike, where your feet are behind the pedals, it takes conscious effort to keep them on the pedals if they aren’t held on with something.

Notice how the Power-Grip securely keeps the foot on the pedal. Notice also how the ball of the foot is past the pedal axis. This is not a natural situation from a walking or hiking standpoint. Basically, I was bending my foot around the top of each pedal on each of the millions of rotations during my trip, which led to my foot issues. To tighten the Power-Grip around the toe section of the foot would require that I consciously keep my foot on the pedal, something that is not preferable for days and weeks of cycling. The SPD cleat solution will keep my feet pushing in a manner consistent with hiking, and the stiffer sole of a cycling shoe will keep my feet from over arching.

Even though I had SPD cleats on the reverse side, I chose to  use regular hiking shoes. SPD cleats are similar in function to ski bindings. Next trip, I will use SPD mountain bike cycling shoes instead. I believe that the softer and more flexible sole of the Merrill boots, combined with the axis of the pedal being mid-foot, behind the ball of my foot, led to the tendon and nerve issues. Essentially, I was pushing with the middle of the foot, thereby unconsciously curling my toes and foot around the pedal’s axis millions of times over the weeks of the trip. This took its toll.

To simply tighten the Power-Grips would not be a solution in my opinion, as they would then not attach my foot to the pedal securely enough to avoid it sliding off and placing my lower leg in the path of the trike’s cross frame while riding. Another consideration with the Power-Grips is that in order to be effective at holding the area at or in front of the ball of the foot, they place a noticeable pressure upon the foot. This is because you must twist into them from the side, and then when the foot is twisted to the straight-ahead position, the strap becomes quite tight. They would probably work better with a standard upright bicycle, where the feet are on top of the pedals, and their main function is to keep the feet from moving forward off the pedals. The placement dynamic is significantly different on a recumbent tricycle.

With an SPD attachment, which is totally secure and delivers more power to the stroke, I will be able to pedal with the ball of my feet at pedal axis line, making it more like walking. This will hopefully avoid the over-flexure of the Achilles tendons, and the over-stimulation of the nerves that supply feeling to the two affected toes on each foot. As I now think back to my pre-trip training rides, I do recall that I felt some foot strain after a fast 50 mile jaunt, which was a result of the soft sole wrapping itself around the pedal’s axis. This occurred to me at the time, but I did not act on it, choosing to wear normal boots anyway. I believe this dynamic has led to my current need for rest and rehabilitation.

At this writing, only my right Achilles is at all problematic, with minor swelling and occasional tenderness. This is likely due to the fact that my right leg is about a quarter-inch shorter than my left, which results in me having to extend my foot farther forward on each pedal stroke. The toe numbness issue is nearly gone, as the nerves have mostly returned to a normal state. I have learned that a simple misjudgment can lead to some serious down-time. Would this have happened to me if I took this trip 30 years ago and used the same setup? Is it an age-related thing? There is no way to know for sure, but I suspect that age has little to do with it.

I have had many weeks to consider my options for the future. We’ll see if my thoughts have merit, and if the new setup pays dividends on my next journey through the natural world. I want to explore without physical limitations. This is my goal. I eagerly await the next departure into the adventure of tricycling.

Artist Drive

Three new photographs have been added to the Artist Drive page. Better late than never! Here is one of them:

Rising from the depths of Death Valley