Fog begins to lift above the Golden Gate Bridge
I'm standing on the coastal trail just west of San Francisco's Golden Gate. Fog obscures most of the famed structure, though now and then a blazing patch of red is revealed as a gust of wind pushes aside a corner of the low-lying cloud. If I were asked to choose a mascot to represent this grandiose landscape, the brown pelican would have no rivals. To the inexperienced observer this might seem an odd choice. Weighing up to eight pounds, with a wingspan greater than 7 feet and a curving neck that culminates in an improbably long, hooked bill, brown pelicans look like make-believe creatures from a child's storybook: gangly, disproportionate, and comical. Yet airborne pelicans are the epitome of grace—flapping with slow ease; making fast, steep plunges in pursuit of fish; flying in long, curving formations that follow the breaking lines of waves.
Adult brown pelican in non-breeding plumage
“Actions Speak Louder”
I recently read a remarkable, true story about William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi, Africa. William was forced to quit school at age 14 because his family could not pay the $80 annual school fee. Instead of becoming dejected or angry, William began to spend time at the library. When he noticed a picture of a windmill, William got the idea to build one. He realized that the windmill could provide a little electricity and pump water, both of which were in short supply in his community.
The desert of east-central Nevada is lovely, cold, and deep. But as the first sunlight tinges thin clouds above, it’s time for William Grote to get moving. Quickly packing his belongings into the back of his Hauler, he hits the road. This three-wheeled bike looks a bit like an overgrown Mars Rover—and it’s got some of the same features. Wide tires enable the Hauler to traverse off-road terrain. And like the Rover, this vehicle carries a solar panel connected to a battery pack, which stores energy for later use. The battery powers an electric motor to assist the rider through challenging conditions, and also provides connections for AC power. (William’s pedal-power also contributes to battery storage.) The Hauler’s frame is designed to carry 500 pounds, in the form of passengers or cargo behind the recumbent driver’s seat.
William and the Hauler. (All photos in this post courtesy of William Grote)
Raise your hand if you like to ride bikes!
Chances are, many of you responded positively to that question. If I could get everyone in the U.S. who purchased an adult-sized bicycle in 2008 to read this blog, there would be more than 13 million hands raised at this moment.
America’s love affair with the “dandy horse” goes way back. After its initial wave of popularity in the 1880s, the bicycle experienced a resurgence in the wake of the Great Depression. In 1936 the magazine Popular Science provided a summary of biking in the states. "Four
is a professional writer, naturalist, and natural science educator who writes from her home in Minnesota—when she's not too distracted by the view out the window.