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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Walk Route - Phase 1; SAM's batteries

Good Even'n...

OK, looks good for a April 20 departure date. Friends John and Joanne have offered to carry SAM and me in their pickup truck from Bellingham to the Peace Arch in Blaine, Washington (Wa). The Peace Arch stands astride the USA and Canada International Boundry. SAM and I will begin our journey from beneath the Peace Arch, not 100 yards from Salt Water flowing into Puget Sound from the Pacific Ocean. We will walk through the town of Blaine, a beautiful seaport once boasting one of the largest Salmon canneries in the world. Today, it is a sleepy village welcoming visitors into the USA from the grand city of Vancouver, B.C., site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Our route takes us down the old US 99 Highway - which runs from deep inside British Columbia, Canada all the way to South America. Our first stop will be Ferndale, Wa, 13 miles South of Blaine and site of large oil refineries processing Crude brought in by oil tankers from Alaska's North Slope. Twelve miles further down old US 99 is our home, Bellingham, Washington...currently developing the last deep-water seaport on the West Coast of the USA. Home to Western Washington University and numerous light industrial companies, Bellingham has been often referred to as one of the finest places in the USA (perhaps the World) to live and work. SAM and I will stop for the night for one last sleep in our own bed. In the morning of Day 2, we are off again down old 99.

As we travel, our Blog will introduce you to individual towns and by-ways. For now, let me take you through the first two months of our 6 month journey to Key West.

We will bypass Seattle walking on US 9 on the East side of Lake Washington. We will stop for the night at the home of Dale Maynard, my Nephew who has worked many years with my Company in New York and Bellingham. Moving down US 9 to Kent, Wa., we will cross the Kent Valley to again pick up Old 99 through Tacoma and on to Olympia, Centralia, and Longview. Paralleling I-5, we will walk through East Vancouver, Wa, crossing the Columbia River on the I-205 Bridge Bicycle Lane into Gresham, Oregon (Ore) where we pick up US 26. We will follow US 26 over Mount Hood to Madras, Ore, then South on US 97 to Bend, Ore. From Bend, we head East on US 20 thru Burns, Ontario, and on to Mountain Home, Idaho.

Our route then takes us South and East fairly paralleling I-84, to Pocatello, Idaho.

From Pocatello, we prefer to walk US 30 all the way to Little America, Wyoming. The Wyoming DOT says we can legally walk I-80. If that is indeed so, we will walk I-80 all the way from Little America to Laramie, Wyoming.

If that is NOT so, Farson, Wyoming via Kemmerer is our next destination, high into the Rocky Mountains. At Farson, we must make a decision to walk over 8,000 + ft passes to Lander, Wyoming, then South on US 287 to Rawlins, Wyoming; or, alternatively, Google says we can walk the Old Oregon / Immigrant Trails through very high mountains all the way to Rawlins. We are having trouble finding the condition of this long desolate stretch of road, but it would be shorter by many miles than via Lander. If push comes to shove, I just might drive out that way to see for myself...which would delay our departure...; snow in the high mountains may prohibit this, tho.

Either way - Lander or Little America, our intermediate destination is Rawlins, Wyoming. From there, we walk US 30 paralling I-80 - or on I-80 itself - to Laramie, Wyoming.

From Laramie, we continue over the last big Rocky Mountain hill on US 287 to Fort Collins, Colorado, continuing South to Golden, Colorado for a couple cold ones at the Coors Brewery West of Denver.

So, this is our general need of some fine tuning as more information is gathered in the 4 weeks remaining before departure. Our ongoing route will be the subject of later Blogs.

Today was a day of discovery. SAM has been experiencing some inconsistencies with the performance of her Hub Motor (on the front wheel). After consulting with the factory representatives by phone, we decided it was a battery problem. The motor controller has a low-voltage auto-shutoff, which has been haphazardly interrupting current to the hub motor.

Remember that each battery pack has three (3) 12 volt batteries wired in series to create 36 volts needed to run the hub motor. So, I removed SAM's battery pack and had all three batteries load tested. Sure enough, battery # 2 produced only 3 amphours - whereas it should produce at least 11 amphours. So, SAM received a new 12volt 12 amphour #2 battery. By now, I'm getting pretty good at changing out the battery packs. Upon energizing the system, SAM's hub motor purred like a little kitten. I felt like such a proud Papa.

Battery #2 failed back in December. Constant recharging kept the pack running...sort of...but finally gave up the ghost. The "failure" story is VERY exciting, but will have to wait for a later lonely night on the road to Key West.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Brakes Are ON

Hi, all...great news today...SAM HAS NEW SHOE BRAKES ON....

It took some guidance from the factory, but SAM has received her new shoe brakes....and what a gift from above. Took a while to figure out the installation/tuning process, but the initial 1.5 mile test walk was a rousing success. SAM negotiated steep down-grades in great control (not to mention her front wheel hub motor purring back up hill from the two battery packs). Also, both solar panels were out in all their glory, pumping electrons into the battery pack on standby.

The knee is still VERY tender, so am taking it cautiously easy. Was able to keep up with SAM, but kept at a 3.0 mph walking speed. No knee pain during or after.

Upon returning to her garage, SAM received a complete inspection of her new brakes. Finally...I figured out the fine-tuning process and gave SAM a soothing do-over. Her brakes are now tuned to a knife edge. Tomorrow she gets a longer (perhaps up to 5 miles or so) test.

And then, there is question of Brucie-baby...a handle put on me by a Company of all ladies many years ago while doing expositions around the country. Remember, I still have a fully operating Company to run every day. Just for the record, I see some encouraging signs the we might just be lifting ourselves out of this recession. Not to be fooled. My Company and I have, in the 30 years of our existance, been through seven (7) of these recessions. Being in the Candy business, we lead the nation/industries by about 18 months into recessions...but, we also lead by a similar 18 months out of recessions. I.E.; if repitition is valid, I see this recession coming full circle by September 2011 & not before. Not encouraging, perhaps, but I can only speak from 30 year experience.

If the truth be known, my Company should have gone extinct many years ago. I projected this downturn to be much so that most of my "friends" quit coming around and everyone stopped listening to one likes a know-it-all, especially when forecasting economic disaster. But, I did take my own advice. I downsized the Company. I eliminated 75 percent of my physical office/warehouse space, and quit throwing $$$ into the exposition playground (each exposition costs minimum $15,000.00; which means you must sell $150.000.00 just to recover the cost of the exposition. Such is no longer possible for most Companies.) Also, I eliminated all overhead items not essential, such as extra phone lines, non-essential insurance - kept liability - , and kept the heat turned DOWN requiring a change in manner of dress, such as wearing an extra sweater...not to mention turning off all lights & electronics not essential to moment-to-moment operation. Now, I have sub-leased my warehouse, resulting is an additional overhead saving. Ok, OK, OK...I'll shut up - for now....

....just know, that all this has led me to seniorswalkingacrossamerica and SAM.

I promised a few blogs ago to give my walk route. Goofed, huh !!! But, next blog I will give the major route of my walk from the Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington to Key West, Florida.

Perhaps I will pass by or nearby you...I truly hope so and invite you to contact me to help you in your current chore(s).

later.....Bruce & SAM

Friday, March 19, 2010

Final Post-Surgery Review / HD video Plan

Today, Friday March 19, is 2 weeks since the knee surgery. Surgeon's office checked me out & says I'm good to go in 2 - 3 weeks.; i.e., now planning a April 20 departure from the Peace Arch.
Boy, am I gald...has been nearly 2 months since SAM & I have been on the road.

By the way, the "stuff" inserted into the knee cavity for the surgery is just plain ole water, probably the cause of the after surgery swelling of the lower calf. All is better now, & pan to start walking tests with SAM this weekend.

The HD video cam arrived. My movie colleague, Jon, says I got the right equipment. The plan is that I will take video, mail/ups the "cards" to Jon who will down-load them into his computer system, evaluate my input, make suggestions re ongoing video efforts and send the blank cards back to me for reuse. Long range, possible documentary(s) will be created. Short term, I will upload video & still pics for all to view & hopefully enjoy. I will also take still pics from my second camera & download directly into the blog.

Got kinda busy with my Company's workload this week - thank goodness, as business has been really lousy for nearly 2 years -, so did not get SAM's shoe brakes installed. That WILL happen tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sam's Makeover

As the time of planned departure nears, my recent surgery is still not cooperating. Kinda interesting about the operation...Dr. Woo, using a exato-type knife, cuts three small holes into the knee around my kneecap. One hole receives a "pump" to inject (something?) into the knee cavity. The second hole receives a tube to regulate the inside knee pressure. The third hole is used to insert a camera/light gizmo with a "scalpel" to cut away the offending tissue.
I may not have it exactly, but since no one took the time to explain it to me, it's the best I can come up with, unless I Google it.

Holes # 1 and 2 are behaving very well - they are in front of the knee cap (at 10 & 12:00 o'clock) toward the lower leg. Hole #3 located above the knee cap (@ 5:00 o'clock) is fighting me. At the moment he is a bit infected...swollen and red and very sensitive...and I cannot bend my knee beyond a sitting position. On Wednesday I asked for - and received - some pain pills from my surgeon's nurse. Much more comfortable now. Hope Friday's visit to Dr. Woo will put end to this foolishness....I gotta get out on the road.

In the meantime, Sam's shoe brake hardware has arrived and tomorrow will be installed. Yippeee. Also, in the interest to cut down weight, I have eliminated all SAM's boat poles supporting my custom-built tent. I decided to try again to use the REI standard tent. With some radical trimming of extremities (boat poles: gone; light poles: gone; backup handle bar: lowered by 4 inches;) all this to allow SAM to fit INSIDE the REI tent; which she now does quite snugly, still allowing plenty of room for two to sleep along side SAM. No, I don't have plans for a #2, but just in case !!!

Sam also received a refit of electrical wiring. All wires are run thru auto-type wireways, labeled and color coded so I won't get confused what wire is for what feature. For example, SAM is now carrying two 36volt dc battery packs and a single 12volt dc battery (seven batteries in all). All wires for Battery Pack #1 are RED; all wiring for Battery Pack #2 are GREEN. When RED is powering SAM's drive motor, the solar panel(s) can be charging the GREEN battery pack...& viceversa...

All batteries can be charged using either or both of the solar panels (one more 20-watt panel has been added to the previous 90-watt panel); or they can both be charged from the two dedicated (hard-wired) 120volt chargers. In the event there are no handy 120 volt outlets in nearby trees along my walk route, I can borrow from any passing motorist willing to "sell" electricity from his battery to run SAM's 400-watt Inverter which creates ac electricity to power the two 120 volt chargers which can top off both RED and GREEN pack in about one hour. This is my ultimate battery-charging backup plan in case mother nature does not allow solar charging because of incessant rain or clouds or God forbid, snow.

After SAM's shoe brake assemblies are installed and tested, I will start configuration studies for where and how to pack my "creature comforts" (which, after all, is the reason for SAM's creation in the first place).

And, by the way, I have a new HD handicam on the way. Because of growing interest (a movie company shot, produced and entered into an international film festival, a documentary of SAM & me) I have decided that folks just might like to accompany us by way of a good quality video. I plan to mail/UPS the video chips to a movie production facility for processing. If anything good comes of our efforts, we can hopefully post it along with this blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Knee Surgery - Update

OK...been nearly a week since my knee surgery. Not at all like my 2002 similar surgery. 2002 surgery was a non-event...immediately returned to work with minimal pain or swelling. This time, within 8 hours, knee pain was intense and knee swelled significantly. Today, 6 days after surgery, pain is still intense & only ice pack keeps swelling down. Do believe there is something else going on in there, which may have been missed. Will contact Surgeon today & have it checked out.

SAM is still waiting for a replacement part for the rear-wheel drum brake system. Upgrade was delivered with a sleeve incorrectly machined. Should be coming thru the door in a day or two. In the meantime, am designing some changes/upgrades to SAM's tent system. Will install vents with velcro closing flaps have good air circulation and to see what may be outside before opening up the tent in the mornings. Will apply color-coded tapes to speed finding tent-pole attachment points. Am also designing a rainwater catch system consisting of Spinnaker sailcloth mounted on SAM's tent poles, with poly tube leading to a water bottle mounted on SAM's front wheel assembly. This system can be used while walking or camping. Gee, maybe the Spinnaker could be rigged to provide propulsion in a broad-reach configuration.

Have coordinated with Delta Airlines and find to my surprise that with their expanded routes (they joined with a number of other airlines now under Delta), ample flights are available along our walking route for flights back to Bellingham to do routine administrative work needed to keep my Company up to snuff. That sure simplifies logistics.

Also, have received e-mail reply from Wyoming DOT that it is ALLOWED ...tho not walk I-80. If that is so, I may be able to avoid previously routed continental divide crossings at 9,000+ ft, that would really be nice. Will confirm this new information. Following that experience, I will now contact each State DOT to clear our walk-route with them. Some states have virtually no walking guidelines while others have very detailed requirements/restrictions.

Then, there is the question of how to classify SAM. Is SAM a bicycle or something else...and do "walking" rules apply while pushing SAM. Better know the ground rules ...then again, maybe its best not to open Pandora's Box. For now, I treat SAM as a bicycle & walk in the bike lane or roadway berm going "with the traffic". After more than 500 miles of testing, cars/drivers seem to be content and very cooperative since SAM stays off the actual roadway most of the time.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Knee Surgery/Media Coverage

Hello, all

Here it is more than a month since last entry, but promise...regular updates will be entered from now on.

Yesterday, had surgery on my left knee. Surgeon says I have knees of a 19 year old...was he being encouraging to this old man, or was he hitting on me...won't ask. Looking to heal in a week or so and to start my walk about April 20.

Sam has been further upgraded with load bearing beams to pass over weak points. The second battery pack is on line & works very well. A second solar panel has also been added. Now I can use one battery pack to drive the wheel while charging the second battery pack. Should give SAM plenty of uuumph to keep rolling. In the event cloudy/rainy days prevent solar charging, have installed two 120v AC battery chargers which top off the battery packs in about an hour. In the event I cannot find trees with AC outlets along the way, I hope to flag down passing motorists and "buy" electricity to feed into my new 400 watt inverter, into which the AC chargers can plug & top off the batteries that way.

Have completed my communications package of cell phone & mini-computer. Will take my business on-the-road, daily taking orders and drop-shipping product to clients. A return home monthly or so to do paperwork is scheduled. Have worked out a plan to reconoiter my route in detail in advance by driving my motorcycle the first 600 miles or so, storing it in a rental storage unit, and returning by Plane/Bus/Friend, etc. When SAM arrives at the rental storage, will put her to bed inside, take the motorcycle out, drive back home to do paperwork chores, and ride back to SAM and onward to check out the next 600 miles or so...then repeat the process all the way to Key West. This gives me constant transportation during the walk at a reasonable cost - gas $ being what it is.

You may read the first media publication of my/SAM's walk at for March 01 under ..."74 year old idot plan to walk....etc."

A movie company has also completed filming their documentary of our venture, which they plan to enter into an international "Documentary Film Festival" in late April...with possibility that it my air on PBS. All very tentative, but they also plan to do an update documentary when I/we reach Key West. Oh, fun fun fun. Have agreed with WALKABOUT magazine at to provide updates for possible publication along the way. So, a bit of interest has grabbed hold of our quest. Now, I'm REALLY committed.

Sure beats sitting on the couch munching chips & bon bons watching football or editorials re AIG, stealing our tax $'s...just kidding !

I am setting up a program with my Twitter account and Yahoo Flickr, which can be accessed for more details of my/our walk.

OK, I'm off to join my internet yacht club for din din in Anacortes, Washington. (Yes, I am also a Yachtie with a 38' Sloop. Also, I fly, scuba dive, and and and)

Much more later.