March 2, 2021

My Transportation Evolution

By John Guy LaPlante

Part A.  I am driving on three wheels now!

I am as excited as an 18-year-old who just got his driver’s license and can’t wait to get into the driver’s seat.

I told you that because I will turn 92 in just a few weeks, I am giving up driving. I’m so afraid that in my old age I might have a terrible accident and hurt somebody.

I planned to sell my car. It’s a beauty. A 10-year-old Hyundai Sonata with barely 70,000 miles on it.

Then I found out from my son Arthur that his son Thomas, my grandson, needs a car.

Then I changed my mind about selling. I decided that I’d give it to Tom.

Big problem. Arthur and Tom live in Florida. That’s some 3,000 miles from here. How to get my Hyundai there?

Well, they are checking out the possibilities. When there’s a problem, usually there’s a solution. We’ll see.

Oh, I learned to ride a bike when I was 10 years old. And I have been pedaling ever since.

Those of you who have been following my scribblings over the years know how all-important good advice has been to me in one way or another.

Long ago somebody suggested to me it would be smart to take a bike with me on long road trips. And I did that.

Especially in my numerous north and south and east and west solo travels as I cruised the country in my tiny RVs. First in my Volkswagen Microbus. Then in my second VW Microbus. Then in my Dodge Supervan. All second-hand by the way. But good solid cars.

And yes, I always took a bike with me. So practical. In fact, so essential.

I could give you many examples. But I will give you just two.

I was in Philadelphia. Such a historic city. And such a huge tourist attraction to this very day. Especially in the centuries-old downtown.

I was so enthusiastic about being there. I wanted to see this, and that, and that.

Sure, there were plenty of parking spaces on the street. Drivers kept circling and hoping to find an empty one. All the spots were metered, of course.

You would have to circle around from street to street to finally find an empty one. Then put in all the coins.

But the meters limited you to just ninety minutes of parking. Far too little to visit a museum or historic building.

Well, I got an idea. I would skip downtown for now. I would drive to a quiet neighborhood a mile or two from downtown. Nice and quiet. Plenty of places to park free. No meters.

Then I would unload my bike and pedal downtown to whatever museum or historic building I wanted to get and see.

Then secure my bike to a street pole or something else with my chain and lock. And take as much time as I needed to enjoy whatever I was visiting. How about that?!

Then I would pedal to whatever I wanted to see next and do the very same thing.

And finally, very content with myself, I would pedal my bike back to my car.

That became a standard operating procedure for me in city after city.

Here is my second example. So different.

I was on a long, quiet country road in Texas.

Not paying much attention to my instrument panel. And I ran out of gas!

I remembered that I had just passed a gas station a mile or two back. What to do?

I had an empty gas can on board. I unloaded my bike, locked my car, and with my gas can pedaled back to that station and explained to the owner. No problem, he told me.

I bought just enough gas to get my car back to his station. Poured it down into my gas tank. Returned to the station. Tanked up, and continued on my way. That station owner was such a good guy. Lucky me.

I told you way up on top of this article that I would be driving on a newfangled tricycle now. And I am.

Well, here is the background about all that.

I was still riding bicycles back then. Yes, two-wheelers.

One day I took a bad spill. No bones broken but I thought it was time to give up biking. And I sold my bike.

I am not sure how, but I heard of a company in New York City that sold bicycles of all kinds. It was called Worksman Cycles. Bicycles, sure. But also tricycles. Not little kids’ tricycles. Adult tricycles. I did not know such existed.

I was living in wonderful Deep River, Connecticut back then.

I bought a model called the PortoTrike. Porto meaning portable.

It had three forward speeds and a double braking system. How about that?!

 And in the back, a big wide basket in which you could carry a lot. Groceries, for instance. Perfect for me. I liked it a lot. Found it indispensable.

Way back then I had started spending six months a year in Deep River and six months a year in Morro Bay.

I was getting quite old–even I thought so–and I was invited by my daughter Monique and her husband David to come live in Morro Bay with them. That was so, so nice of them.

One day while exploring Morro Bay and discovering what a very nice small city it is, I came upon a mobile home park very close to downtown. So convenient to everything. All the mobile homes were in tip-top shape. You had to be at least 55 years old to live there. Each one had a reserved parking space for one car. Each one had a small yard with a garden of flowers and plants. So tidy.

I got to meet some of the owners. Very nice people. I was greatly impressed.

I had never thought of living in a mobile home. I believe I had a certain prejudice. I just didn’t know better.

So I bought mobile home Number 19.

And after these many years of living in many places, Number 19 became my new home sweet home.

So for a while I continued to live six months a year back in Connecticut and six months a year in Morro Bay.

Then I sold everything back in Connecticut, including my very nice condo and even my red Worksman PortoTrike and started living in Morro Bay full-time.

I have never regretted that.

And within a few weeks in Morro Bay, I bought a second PortoTrike, a blue one. And I have been pedaling it every afternoon for 2 hours or so, 7 days a week.

Truth is, I now walk with two canes. Yes, two! That tells you I ain’t a kid anymore.

For one thing, pedaling my trike is the only real exercise I get.

For another, it’s key to my social life. I head to the Public Library. To our fine Senior Center. To Albertsons Supermarket and our RiteAide Pharmacy. To our Post Office. To McDonald’s for my afternoon cup of coffee. On and on.

And here and there I run into people I know, and this has been a wonderful way to keep up with people.

Covid-19 has limited things a whole lot for me, as it has for you. But it has limited very little of this wonderful physical activity of mine.

So all that has been Part A of my story.

Part B.  Goodbye Hyundai Sonata. Sob!

Teaching me a thing or two.

Now here is Part B. First, I will no longer have my wonderful Hyundai Sonata to drive. Sob!

My loving daughter Monique and her hubby David have been wonderful in picking me up and driving me here and there as needed. Or just to give me a pleasant drive.

But they are busy. No problem.

Now comes the good part!

From Worksman Cycles back in New York City, I found out they have introduced a line of electronic — that is, battery-assisted trikes.

As we know, battery-assisted bikes have become quite the thing. And Worksman has become a leader In that.

Fortunately I have kept in touch with Al Venditti, the chief engineer. He assisted me when I bought my two PortoTrikes. And he has assisted me when I have had to buy a replacement part of one kind or another.

And he receives the blogs I post.

Well, I phoned him and explained what I was up to. And expressed my interest in one of their battery-assisted trikes.

“John, you will love it!” he told me. “This is designed for people like you. Do you want me to take your order for one right now?”

Before I had a chance to answer, he said something that really, really excited me.

“But first, John, here’s a suggestion I think you should seriously consider. You should buy one of our conversion kits. With that you can convert your present PortoTrike into a battery-operated one.”

“I had no idea that that was possible. Did I hear you right?”

“Yes, sir! You will save several hundred dollars plus the cost of shipping you a new battery-assisted one from our factory 3,000 miles west to you in California.”

“How big a job will it be to convert my trike? Is it a handyman job?”

“Truth is, it has to be a fairly skilled handyman. With a good stock of small hand tools. And very important, somebody who knows how to follow printed instructions.”

I thought for a minute. “Well, I want one, Al. Write me up for one right now. Give me a minute and I’ll have my credit card info for you.”

And I gave him the info he needed.

“Oh, how fast can I get the conversion kit?”

“Not for at least a week or two. There’s quite a demand.”

Our business all done, I was excited.

One of my first thoughts was how nice it was of Al to tell me about the kit. He could easily have sold me a whole new one for many dollars more.

I could not wait for it to arrive. There’s a great demand. And when it did, I got a friend of mine — a neighbor named Will who is very mechanically talented to upgrade my PortoTrike. Will did a first-class job assembling it, as I knew he would. And then road-testing it for me.

And what he charged was a bargain.

Finally the day came for me to try my new e-trike. I was excited. But scared also.

I was accustomed to pedaling, shifting, braking, all that. Scared because this thing had a lot of power and it wouldn’t take much for me to lose control.

I decided to start with simple pedaling. Yes, just pedaling.

Still this would be different because my new front wheel, with the electronic technology built into the hub, was much heavier than the old one.

I decided to pedal it to McDonald’s for my afternoon cup of coffee, just 10 minutes away.

And I got started. The pedaling was easier than I had thought. It was easy to apply the brake.

And easy to downshift to an easier gear if I had to.

My coffee finished, I started again. This time I decided to spend 20 minutes just going all around the big shopping complex. It has an Albertsons Supermarket and a big RiteAide drugstore, which sells far more than just pharmaceuticals. So it has a very large parking lot.

I began pedaling up and down the various lanes, up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down.

No problems. I felt relaxed now. I decided on a tougher trial.

Adjoining this one is a larger plaza. It is downhill from this one. I would pedal there. It has a variety of small businesses. One that I enjoy is Dollar Tree.

So pedaling there was a cinch. I secured the wheels so it wouldn’t roll away from me.

I put on my Covid-19 mask of course. Lucky me, I found a four-wheel basket, entered the store and began picking up this and that and that. As always, I bought more than I intended. A big plastic bag full of stuff.

Paid the cashier and back outside, placed the bag into the basket behind my seat. It added a lot of weight.

Now my route home would be uphill. The first third of the route home would be very demanding. Then it would ease a bit.

I’ve always had to put my trike in its lowest gear and pedal and pedal a third of the way home, then slip into second gear and pedal and pedal, and for the final 10 minutes, the third gear right to my front door.

Now I decided to turn on the motor for the first time. Hoped I wouldn’t mess up.

With the motor going, it was possible to downshift into gear five, which is the easiest one available.

No need for me to pedal. I just rested my feet on the idled pedals. And up I went! So amazing!

I parked my trike and lugged my purchases inside.

I was elated. All doubts were gone. I had made a smart decision in getting the ebike conversion kit.

I went to bed happy. And I had a special test for my trike lined up for the next morning. The ultimate test.

But I woke up to a day gray and cold with showers threatening. Shucks!

The next day was nicer but could have been better. Cold. But it was good enough to attempt my big test.

Anyone familiar with Morro Bay is aware that from my starting point at home it’s all downhill to our harbor to what is simply called The Rock.

It is huge. It has been there for eons. It is what is left of a giant volcano. Long dead, thank goodness.

It is a landmark for seafarers. Has been since the Spanish explorers sailed up here and recorded the Rock on their primitive maps.

It’s a favorite destination for lots of tourists. They’ve heard about it. They want to see it.

And of course, just beyond the Rock is the great big Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles of open water to Asia.

There would be very little pedaling needed to get down to the harbor. It would be easy.

But I had to make sure that I could work the brake.

I wanted to make sure that the trike wasn’t run away from me and maybe crash into something. I braked several times to check it.

Well, I made it down to the Embarcadero with no problem. The Embarcadero is the main road that parallels the shoreline of the harbor.

It is lined with restaurants of all kinds and tourist shops of all kinds. Usually heavy pedestrian and auto traffic.

And nearby motels and hotels and inns.

But these days far less traffic than usual because of covid-19.

But as I said this was not a perfect day, so traffic was light. Perfect for my test.

Making a right turn on the Embarcadero and pedaling, just pedaling, I made it all the way to the end of it. right to the foot of the Rock.

Would not turn on the motor.

Pedaling a trike is a lot more challenging than pedaling a bike.

It’s a lot slower. It requires much more energy.

And the bike is always upright.

All paved roads have a crown. The crown is always highest at the center and then slopes down to the left and to the right.

With three wheels, a trike always slopes to match the curvature. If the curvature is serious, you get the feeling you might tip over. That would be very bad.

This ride was the longest I’ve ever made on a tricycle. I was getting tired.

I was tempted to turn on the motor. But I decided not to. That would spoil my bragging when I got home and talked to Monique and David and my friends.

And I pedaled on right to the very end of the road, right to the Rock.

Ordinarily in my car, I would have parked and enjoyed the sights of the people lounging by the harbor and the boats going back and forth. And of the many seagulls doing their amazing thing. I love seagulls. And of the cute otters bobbing up and down.

But it was cold out. I wanted to get home.

Very cautiously I turned on the motor. And right away the motor did all the work, even at its lowest speed.

Instructions said I should wear a helmet. Smart advice. I decided I would buy a helmet, but wear it only when I had the motor going.

And I was worried about what was happening behind me. Were there cars trying to pass me? Maybe some bicyclists?

I decided definitely I would also buy a rearview mirror.

Yes, now I wanted to get home.

But I had a specific route in mind.

When I first got my original PortoTrike in Morro Bay, I decided on a good trial ride.

No problem at all getting down to the Embarcadero. Easy.

The route home would be uphill nearly all the way.

There are several streets home, yes, all uphill of course, but all just about parallel to one another.

I had decided that Pacific Street — a perfect name! — was the easiest to get up.

I had scanned it carefully. Should I try the left side of the street going up or the right side? Auto traffic was very light. I decided on the left side.

It rose quite severely for 200 yards or so, then eased gently as it went on up.

Well, I pedaled very, very hard putting every ounce of muscle into it. And I got up to about 20 yards from the crest and had to come to a halt. Could not go even another foot.

I had planned to boast about my ascent. And you know, for a moment I was tempted to fib and say that I did make it to the top. Then my conscience ruled that out.

Well, today I had the throttle set to speed 2. Yes, the second of the 5 available.

And up I went! It was so easy! So amazing! A triumph!

Definitely I would brag about this.

Al Venditti back at Worksman had told me. “John, you’ll love your electric conversion!”

How right Al had been!

Definitely this would make me feel a lot better about giving up driving after these many years.

I hated the idea of having to ask Monique or David to drive me around Morro Bay to do this or that.

My ePortoTrike would solve that problem very nicely.

I also decided I’d make sure that Al got to read this. He’d be tickled.

Comments

  1. Joan Perrone says

    Hi John, I love reading your blogs. You are always a wonder to me how active you continue to be. I believe that this is one of the reasons why you are living to be in your nineties. Both your mind and your body are very active.
    Last Friday, Frank and I received our second vaccine (Moderna). Our son works for a pharmaceutical company that is working with Moderna, so he was happy that we had that vaccine. So far so good. We carry our masks with us wherever we go, and wear them as required. It surprises me, though, how many people wear their masks without covering their nose…they might as well not be wearing one.
    I, too, have been trying to ride a bike almost every day; however, it is a stationary exercise bike. The weather has been cold and snowy, so I can at least get a little exercise while I am indoors. Frank had his shoulder replaced in July, and is doing well.
    You are my inspiration to know that age is just a number, and that you just keep plugging along and keeping an active and meaningful life.
    People have tried to scam me twice within a span of two weeks. One was someone pretending to be someone I know. They Facebook messaged me, and after small talk, they tried to talk me into applying for a grant for Seniors that would give me $50,000. Luckily, I caught on to it, and gave them a few choice written words and ended the session. The second one was a call from someone who called on our home phone and said that they were from Amazon, and that they have found sound some suspicious activity on my account. They started asking me for personal information. I told them that if they were Amazon, they would have the information, and said that if they wanted to reach me to email me or send me a letter. Then I called Amazon. There was no activity at all on my account, but I couldn’t sign in to it, nor could the service representative. They spoke to their fraud department and asked if I knew someone by the name of Melissa Orr. I said that I didn’t. That was the name that was on the account now. So, the locked my account for a few days, and are looking into it. Lucky for me, the scam phone call was what alerted me to check my account, so they actually turned themselves in. LOL.
    Stay well and stay safe…and please note that I have changed my email address because of being hacked a number of times lately.
    Love, cousin Joan

  2. Roger Trahan Sr says

    John,

    Thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Keep trucking. But not on a truck, on a trike. Keep triking!

  3. John – I am truly touched by this. (My eyes teared up a bit, to be honest.) July 29, 2021 will mark 25 years for me here at Worksman Cycles. I like to think I have played a part in helping many people with their cycling needs, and helped them make the best choices. I’m now 47 – “middle-aged” – and about half your age! I’m in descent shape, but there is plenty of room for improvement. I’m conscious of getting older. I see slight changes in my mind and body, and wonder what I’ll be like at 60, 70, 80, and maybe even 90. I am always so happy to hear and read about how, at 92, you are still this active and adventurous. A few days ago, I entered my first mountain bike race in 25 years, and I can’t wait! It was partly for fun, and partly for motivation, just like when you choose a destination for your rides. (I do the same thing. I can’t just ride aimlessly to log miles. I need a place to reach and ride back from.) When I do my mountain bike race, and prepare for it daily like I am now, I have a few motivators in my mind. You’re now on the list of motivators that are going to make me push myself just a little further each day, so thank you. Keep riding, keep choosing a destination each day, and let the motor help you once in a while. There’s no shame in that at 92 or any age! Thank you for the VERY kind words. – Al

Speak Your Mind

*

To subscribe or unsubscribe Click Here