I had some time today without contacts or glasses, which means I couldn’t do much if it wasn’t three inches from my face. I spent it reading, which is the one thing I have always done with or without corrective lenses. Today’s focus was environmentalism. When I spend time online I tend to bounce from thing to thing in a stream-of-consciousness research fog, noting and bookmarking as I go. I’ve learned a lot of good things that way. I’ve also lost some time to things to esoteric to mention, but when you spend time online you have to take a certain amount of chaff with the wheat, no matter how good your search strings are.

Today was more focused than most, though–something about the 3 inch radius of my world. So I started with my “lived values” bookmarks.

I delved back into furoshikis and found some more pictures, but not any more styles of using them. I seem to have exhausted what is out there for the time being. I hemmed off some pieces of fabric and have been using them–and the more I use them the more I want to play with them–so I’m still interested. There’s a book called Gift Wrapping With Textiles that may be next on my list. I’m really enjoying the variety of possibilities with furoshikis. For one thing, they can be reused. For another, the bags can be made to fit their contents (more or less) and the icing on the cake is that they don’t have to match anything. If you see an appealing, two-sided or through-dyed fabric, you can use it. For someone like me who revels in beauty, this is a great way to make use of small amounts of beautiful fabrics without having to make clothes of them.

After furoshikis (don’t ask how I made the leap) I started researching transportation options. I’ve been wanting a recumbent trike for a while now–ever since my very dedicatedly environmentalist friend in Minneapolis introduced me to recumbent bikes and I discovered that they were lovely, except for the falling-off part. (A ‘bent allows riders to sit more or less naturally and pedal with their feet in front of them). What I discovered today is that the base price for trikes has dropped from about $3000 to about $1200, and in some cases, as little as $999. That was hopeful news. But the truth is, living here in Maine it’s hard to justify even that much for something that has a shorter season than a kayak. Ice, sand, salt, poor visibility, and cold, driving rain will get you off the road long before the snow flies, at least if you’re me. In addition, we have some wicked hills. Eventually I’m sure I would master them. But that would certainly make the difference between commuting on the trike and going out for occasional pleasure rides. I have a $70 used touring bike that is perfect for riding twice a year. If I’m buying a serious vehicle, I need to have plans to use it.

So naturally I started looking at fully faired, electric-assist trikes, also known as velomobiles. Holy cats, are they ever cool. And not just cool, but sensible. Apparently there are two down in the Biddeford area, but no others in the state of Maine. A fairing is a shell, made to reduce drag and increase protection from the elements. It can be made of anything from neoprene to molded fiberglass to wood, as long as it does its job. Of course, with a human powered vehicle mass is a factor, but so is structural stability. If you get rolled or hit you don’t want to get hurt if you can help it. Some velomobiles are basically frames with thin shells; others use the shell for the structural strength. With electric assist you can even make it up steep hills despite the doubled or tripled weight (these things tend to weigh 60 lbs or more) and reasonably arrive at your commuting destination ready for work, and not for a shower. Living here in Brooklin with Wooden Boat School just around the corner it of course occurred to me that a stitch and glue or strip-built fairing would be fun to build and stunning to look at…but it would also be heavier, and I have no experience with either of those building techniques. Still, given the prohibitive $6000-and-up price tags (closer to $12000 with all the options that would make them Maine-winter-ready) it’s tempting to give it a try. Given the price drops on the recumbent trikes, though, maybe I should just wait for mass production and importation to have its effect; a good third of that cost is getting the machines from Europe, where they are somewhat available, to this side of the pond.

I think a Subaru and a fully-faired trike with studded tires would make a good two-car solution for our household. Somehow, though, I suspect the bank won’t finance a velomobile. Ah well, someday.

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