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Introducing: The $7K Omelette
Eggs: $2. Solar-powered mobile freedom: priceless.
It’s January, 8 AM, and I’m alone in the desert.
The sun has just started to warm my campsite. Eggs ($2) are sizzling in my stainless steel pot ($100). Steel isn’t popular with campers, due to its weight, but my induction cooktop ($75) only heats certain metals. The 16-pound battery bank ($750) in my tent, hooked up to my solar panel ($250), soaked up enough of yesterday’s sunshine to keep the cooktop cranking for a little over an hour: far more than I need for eggs. Maybe I’ll make tea, and then top off the battery on my electric bike ($5000) so I can zip the 25 miles back to the station to catch the afternoon Amtrak ($500).
Breakfast is ready. I take a bite of my solar-powered “green” eggs and wish I had some ham.
That, anyway, is how I hope things will go. I am not basking in the desert yet. I am in Northern California, where it has been raining seemingly forever. (In fact it has been one of the rainiest two-week periods in California history.) I need to get back to Massachusetts, and I’ve decided to take an unconventional route — one that I hope will feature many desert omelette scenes like the one I was just fantasizing about.
The normal route is a flight to Boston from San Francisco or Los Angeles, which would cost roughly $200 and take 5 hours. Instead I’ll be taking Amtrak, which is a 3-day trip (minimum) and also costs significantly more. To avoid having to sleep in a train chair several nights in a row, I’m planning to break the trip into segments, with camping stops in between. I’ll travel to and from my campsites on a folding electric bicycle, which I’ll charge with a folding solar panel. I’ll forgo the propane and cook my campsite meals with electricity as well.
If that sounds like a lot of gear, well, it is. Here’s everything I’ll take with me on the e-bike, all laid out:
And here it is all packed into the two rear panniers and front-mounted messenger bag on the e-bike:
I promise to circle back to the “why” of all this in a future post, but it definitely has to do with the intersection of masochism and climate science. Other future posts will cover my detailed itinerary, the equipment I’ve purchased, the “energy math” of solar-powered mobility and cooking, and lots of photos from the train and the beautiful countryside. I hope you’ll follow along!
P.S. I generated the logo for this blog (below) using DALL-E. I love how the yolk is simultaneously sizzling on the solar panel and beating down on the bike. I also included (further below) some other attempts that didn’t make the cut.
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