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Life Off-the-Grid

Super Solar Man!

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Have you ever met an angry environmentalist? Or a serious one, with no sense of humor? I have, and they can be a real turn off. Always doom and gloom, end of the world, as we know it. I have to be careful not to fall into that trap since I do a fair number of presentations in my community. So yesterday I decided to make sure no one in town could ever accuse me of taking myself too seriously, by taking part in the annual Tamworth Canada Day Parade, disguised as “Super Solar Man.” Well I wasn’t really disguised. In fact no one who knows me had any trouble figuring out who the guy was driving around on a solar powered electric bike. Luckily I got a fair number of positive comments and had a blast. Here’s what I learned:

1) If you throw Tootsie Rolls to kids, they’ll tolerate the whole stupid costume thing.

2) If you wear a flexible solar panel as a cape, most people will in fact assume it’s charging the battery on the bike, even if “Solar Powered Bike” is a technicality, in that it was charged at my solar powered house.

3) After the parade when you drive close to 30 Kilometers per hour (top speed of the bike), a large cardboard sun spike on your helmet creates a fair amount of drag and could result in neck injuries

4) My decision to become Super Solar Man was driven by my desire, to once and for all, put running for public office out of my mind. With photos like this now in the public domain, I would be unelectable.

5) To prove that the bike did in fact run by itself, on solar charged electricity, I ended up zipping around gaps in the parade, only to realize that ultimately all I needed was a cone hat with a tassel and I had in fact become, a solar powered Shriner, not that there’s anything wrong with that

6) When the sun was behind me and cast a shadow on the road, my spiky sun graphic on my helmet made it look like I was one of those punk rockers with a purple spiked haircut, and with my bulky super solar man shoulder pads, I had in fact become one of the roving anarchist gangs from Mad Max that attacked the final gas outpost, which for years I’ve been warning about. The difference is that my version is more realistic than the Mad Max one because everyone knows no one will be driving around on gas-powered motorcycles in a post-apocalyptic future. Electric bikes maybe.

7) Try not to get put near a kid sized gas powered dune buggy in a parade. It will break down and you’ll have to get them out of the way of the parade, even though your solar powered electric bike works just fine

Point number 7 brings me to my final observation of the day. As I was waiting for the parade people to give me the go ahead to start, I realized that just about everything in the parade required gasoline. Every float, every antique car, every dune buggy and mini-racer, my neighbor’s helicopter that he pulled on a trailer in his truck, the police cars, the fire trucks, it was quite amazing. The only thing that didn’t require gas were some kids with decorated bikes, a bagpipe band on foot, several horses, and Super Solar Man on his electric bike. I try not to be a doom and gloomer, but in five years of reading and research I sincerely believe the world has passed peak oil at a time when billions of people are just catching on to the wonders of the internal combustion engine. I don’t think the parade would be any less fun with more horses, more floats pulled by people, more bands and more electric bikes. I think in the coming years how we power our parades is going to change dramatically. I’m happy to be living in a town with lots of access to horses and ingenuity to make the transition as painless as possible. I’m afraid the kids in the little NASCAR gas powered racers are in for a bit of shock though.

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