Kent's Climate Tour

My solo bike tour exploring climate change solutions

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South, to the Solar Decathlon

Saturday I left Long Beach heading for Costa Mesa.  Nice beach trail through Huntington Beach with its lively surfer scene.  


Then up the Santa Ana river trail:   

After arriving at my mother in law’s in Costa Mesa (my local host) I set off for the Decathlon 13 miles away in Irvine.  Lovely bay-side and riparian trails much of the way:   


The event site was located at Orange County’s Great Park, the former El Toro air base, waaaay out at the fringe of Irvine, not easy to get to and so sprawling that people had to be shuttled in from remote parking lots (I biked right into the site tho).  Once inside it was alive with visitors checking out the 14 experimental homes on display, a sampling of some below.

You can learn details about all the entries and the winners at DOE’s Decathlon site.  

Amongst other requirements, all the entrant teams were required to produce enough extra energy to power an electric car to travel 25 miles (a typical commute I suppose).   

 All of the entries had extensive solar electric panels, some hidden on top, others visible, some incorporated as a shading device:

The teams each had unique emphases. For instance, Univ. of Buffalo’s Grow Home featured vegetable growing beds that could be moved between outdoor deck space in mild weather and rolled into a sheltered area when cold.  Their calcs suggested the food raised could save a family hundreds of dollars: 



Missouri’s Crowder College and Drury Univ. entry is designed to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes, armored with lexan panels and windows. 

While most teams shipped their completed homes to the Irvine event site, So. Carolina’s Clemson Univ. sent digital files to local wood fabricators and assembled their home from this “kit” using locally-sourced materials (having built a prototype first back home).  They intend to patent their clever plywood panel construction method, which uses stainless steel zip ties to lock panels together: 

They also incorporated a simple, cable actuated damper system to allow family members to direct conditioned air to the zones of the house where needed, so not wasted on unoccupied rooms and providing some useful/educational interaction between occupants and home: 

More examples of the homes and technology:


The competition spurred many wonderful designs and ideas of course. But I was also very impressed with the energy and commitment of the young team members, many who weren’t even getting course credit for this.  Talking with several of them it was clear that they were committed to finding solutions for our warming planet and the teamwork and creativity inspired by this experince will have a lasting impact on them. 
Again, do check out the Decathlon site for lots of great info about the entries and their designs:


On my way

Departed Friday as planned, heading south along the beach bike path bound for Long Beach.  The oil tankers feeding Chevron’s El Segundo refinery and oil trains in Carson reminded me of why I’m doing this. 

I crossed over the Alemada Corridor rail facility on my way to the LA river.  This is actually one of the first solutions I spotted.  Rail is a much more efficient way to move goods than trucks (which I call the single-occupant vehicles of the freight industry).   More freight rail please!

  LA river concrete corridor at Del Amo Blvd.

Along the LA River bike path, a little farther south, a healthier approximation of what the river used to look like.  Projects like this are part of the solution, offering multiple benefits: habitat, filtration, ground water recharge, beauty, etc.  
Heading south from Long Beach took me along that city’s lively 2nd Street district with its innovative “green carpet” shared lanes that give motorists a clear signal to expect cyclists.  Vibrant local commercial districts with Complete Streets are surely part of the solution, offering locals easy access to a rich variety of  shopping, entertainment, etc. to meet their daily needs with little or no driving.   


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Departing this Friday!

.. and heading south as it turns out.  After some months of preparation I’ll finally be shoving off this week!  The first event of my tour will be to visit the 2015 Solar Decathlon being held at the Great Park in Irvine, CA this year.  This is the US DOE’s bi-annual solar architecture design competition that attracts entries from universities around the globe.  I expect to see prototype homes on the cutting edge of energy self-sufficient design.  I will then be making my way down to San Diego for Cal Bike’s California Bicycle Summit later in October.  The summit is always a stimulating opportunity to learn about the latest in bicycle advocacy combined with great networking opportunities.  I expect to turn up some good leads there to flesh out more of my itinerary when I turn my route back north.

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Waypoint Malibu 

On October 2 I did an overnight camp out to Leo Carrillo State Park up the coast to test my full complement of gear.  The rig felt great on the road and so did my condition. All systems go (with a few tweaks).  That weird thing on my helmet is Da Brim, a wonderfully effective device that keeps my face and neck shaded and cool. 


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Waypoint Santa Monica

The Sunday before I departed I attended a sequence of presentations hosted by Santa Monica Forward, Santa Monica Spoke and Santa Monica Next (should I mention it was in Santa Monica?).  We heard an update on the city’s brand new Breeze bike share system (in its pilot phase at the moment). At full rollout the system will have 500 bikes and 80 hubs / stations using Cyclehop’s Smart Bike system. Next, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett from Vancouver ModaCity gave a presentation describing their city’s dramatic progress developing its bikeway network.  I asked them how their city officials responded to community fears that new bikeways would affect congestion (a common theme in our area).  “With data”, Chris replied, by citing actual travel delays (which were minimal), safety improvements, bike counts, etc.


from TrackMyTour: Kent’s Climate Tour