Let’s Hear it for the Bike

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For all of you out there that have gone on a bike touring trip and/or are contemplating a wonderful endeavor such as bike touring of any length, following are some of my learned experiences from a largely self-contained 1300-mile trip:

What Worked Exceptionally Well

  1. Model Year 2000 (purchased in 2001) Cannondale T2000 ‘Adventure’ model
    • I now have 29,750 miles on this incredible bike — best bike that I have ever owned!
    • Original rims, frame, fenders, rack, and most components (outside of the drivetrain, which I completely replaced for this trip with new Shimano Deore components, crank arm, pedals)
    • Made in the USA!
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    • ‘Bullet-Proof’ Aluminum Frame
    • Upright handlebars (partially modified) allowed me to ‘see’ the country and provided multiple grip positions to alleviate stress and pressures to the hands
  2. Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700c Tires

    I was on roads of all conditions, and bike paths of all conditions, and these tires performed beautifully — zero issues with tires and rims

  3. Shimano M089 SPD Mountain Bike Shoes
    • Shoes and feet were never an issue, pretty much says it all
  4. Bell Stoker Helmet
    • Comfortable, well fitting, relatively light
  5. Under Armour MapMyRide App
    • For a trip like this (out in unfamiliar terrain), must have a great map application, MapMyRide was just that — easy to use, plan routes, and track progress
    • Could generally use this app intensively for about 5 hours before the i-Phone battery petered out

What Did NOT Work so Well

  1. TaoTronics Bicycle Phone Mount — My i-Phone 6s routinely (11 times) popped out of this not-so-secure mounting system.  On a trip of this length, phone security must be fool proof, this product did NOT securely fasten my phone, particularly at the bottom of hills when hitting bumps at higher speeds.
  2. Transit Escape DX Panniers — generally solid, but three issues cropped up
    • The yellow auxiliary covers, while great in ease of use and general design, severely degraded in color intensity from being exposed to the sun for two weeks.  At the end of the trip, the yellow had faded considerably, thus offering less than ideal visibility, which is what I was using them for.
    • The rack clips are vertical, which means that they impede placement of a sleeping mattress or similar
    • The lower clip to the rack is compression based.  I lost one clip after three days of riding from apparent vibration issues.  These clips should also be foolproof and not subject to vibration-induced loosening.  I rode for most of the trip without the bottom clip on one pannier, which then allows for the pannier to bounce around a bit — not insurmountable, but not ideal.
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  3. i-Phone Touch Screen
    • Simply put, if it is warm and humid and/or in combination with sweaty hands, the touch screen does NOT function.  I often went for 1-2 hours without being able to use my phone unless I went inside an AC gas station or similar
  4. AT&T Service/Reception in several remote areas of SE Minnesota and SW Wisconsin
    • I did not have internet service and sometimes phone service for a few hours on several different occasions.  Quite simply, when in unfamiliar territory, availability of mobile service is critical, especially when you need to know when and where to turn onto new roads.  Also, one time along the Root River trail in SE Minnesota, phone service was not available so I could not reserve a hotel.  Ended up biking to three different B&Bs before finally securing a reservation in person because my phone was not getting reception.
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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Now that I have safely returned to Madison and am back to the office full time (ugh!), time to reminisce about some observations of my foray into Wind Energy sites across the upper Midwest.

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A VERY tired Jim completes the 1278-mile main route of his #BikeTheWind odyssey with a return to Engineering Professional Development, which is housed in the Extension Building.

The Good

  1. Wind Energy is alive, well, and growing in the upper Midwest — I biked through 48 wind energy sites and encountered thousands of wind turbines of all sizes, capacities, and varieties.
  2. The people that I met and talked with along the route — my favorite experience, amongst many, was talking for 20 minutes with a 90-year-old lady at a convenience store/cafe near the Minnesota/Iowa border who was just enamored with what I was doing and had the most engaging personality!
  3. Numerous interviews on route, including:
    • WKOW in Madison
    • WSAW in Wausau
    • WEAU in Eau Claire
    • WKBT (Channel8000) in La Crosse
    • Newspapers in Stanley, Cadott, and La Crosse…
    • The Badger Herald
    • Coverage in national newsletters such as Wind Energy SmartBrief and North American WindPower
  4. Beautiful biking trails that I traveled on, including
    • Fox River State Trail (into Green Bay)
    • Mountain-Bay State Trail (out of Green Bay all the way to Wausau)
    • Minneapolis metro trail system including the Luce Line State Trail
    • Root River State Trail
    • La Crosse River State Trail
    • Elroy-Sparta State Trail

The Bad

  1. Unfortunately, many of the people that I talked with in Wisconsin had limited background knowledge and perspective of the benefits of wind energy.  Hopefully my trip, discussions, and in-state media interviews will help move the conversation forward.
  2. Wisconsin’s very small footprint of wind energy in the state (only 2.6% of state electrical needs, whereas Minnesota is at 18% and Iowa at 36% wind energy penetration).  Wisconsin is a state for which we could easily achieve 10% wind energy by 2025 with the proper political will and drivers.
  3. Headwinds of up to 18 mph — while great for wind energy, they made for a couple of extremely taxing biking days!
  4. No shoulders on many county roads and/or shoulders with rumble strips or cracked pavement that make for difficult biking conditions, especially when sharing the road with 40-ton grain trucks ☹️.
  5. 7 Hill Road near Taycheedah (WI) — not the type of road that you want to be on towards the end of a 92-mile day straight into a strong headwind!

 

The Ugly

  1. Road construction and unplanned detours — transportation officials do not routinely consider accommodations for bikes when roadblocks go up.
  2. Loose gravel roads that go on for miles and miles, particularly in SW Minnesota and north-central Iowa.
  3. A very small but vocal minority that espouse tired, old, and false narratives; alternative facts; and regurgitated talking points from ‘energy think tanks‘ with hidden agendas.
  4. Unmaintained bike paths (in particular, Mountain-Bay State Trail from Pulaski to Shawano and the Hillsboro State Trail from Hillsboro to Union Center).

Day 18 PM — Home Sweet Home

Glad to report that I safely arrived back in Madison at 3:30 PM after traveling 1278 miles on my bike to promote #BikeTheWind.  Had a great homecoming reception with my friends and colleagues at the Department of Engineering Professional Development.  Then, a great dinner with Glorily and Mama Lydia to welcome me home.  Pretty darn tired now, so a short post tonight (I’ll post more in the next few days about my favorite experiences and stories from the road).  For now, here are some links to my 90 seconds of fame in La Crosse:

http://www.news8000.com/news/top-stories/uw-madison-professor-stops-in-la-crosse-talks-wind-energy/595767803

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PS:  Not able to visit the Quilt Block construction site in Lafayette County this week due to vacation for my contact there; hopefully, will get down there next week to observe the construction activities and report out.

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Jim at the Merimac Ferry just 32 miles from Madison

Day 18 AM — Country Roads, Take Me Home

…to the place, I belong, Madison, Wisconsin!

Had a wonderful 92-mile ride yesterday from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Reedsburg.  About 50% of the route was on the Wisconsin Trail System, including the incredible La Crosse River Trail and the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.  Two categorized climbs, a Category 4 and a Category 3.  PS, the Category 4 was much, much worse as it was steeper and occurred later in the day!

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Included on my route was a visit to Cashton to observe the setting of the Gundersen Lutheran / Organic Valley set of two turbines.  These are private, company-owned turbines that specifically generate power for corporate facilities and/or renewable energy power purchase commitments.  In Wisconsin, similar projects exist at the SC Johnson Waxdale Facility in Racine and Epic System’s Galactic Wind outside of Verona.  These are proactive companies that have what I call 20/20 Wind Vision.

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Two turbines at the Organic Valley distribution center in Cashton
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Organic Valley has Wind Vision
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One of two turbines at Organic Valley’s Cashton Distribution Facility

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Today, I am heading home via a route through Devil’s Lake that includes two last categorized climbs.  Below, are some of the views from yesterday’s route:

Day 17 AM — Wind Energy Balance-of-Plant Design (New Textbook)

Today, I am taking a bit of time to talk to the professionals out there — those that have taken or wish to take courses in wind energy (for-credit options or of the short course variety) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  One of the major goals of this #BikeTheWind odyssey was to collect background information, photos, and perspectives for my upcoming Wind Energy Balance-of-Plant Design (Site Civil, Geotechnical, and Structural) text.  That has been accomplished and I am anxious to start working with chapter co-authors on this largely first-of-the-kind text this fall.

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Completed formwork for wind turbine generator foundation at Glacier Hills Wind Park

Billions of dollars are invested each year to support the siting, design, and construction of wind energy facilities. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this recent infrastructure investment in energy reliability and security and in our economy has produced an ever-expanding industry, with nearly 100,000 people employed in the U.S. The wind energy industry includes those involved in the engineering and construction professions of site development, permitting, site investigation and resource assessment, design, construction, and maintenance. The addition of these new power facilities is becoming more difficult as economic constraints increase and the civil, structural, and geotechnical conditions for sites become ever more complex and multi-faceted. With tower heights approaching 100 m and beyond, the access road, crane pad, and foundation design criteria are rapidly changing to meet the needs of wind facilities in all types of wind resource areas and topography.

This planned book will provide practical and design-oriented knowledge and calculation examples for the structural siting and engineering for the civil, mechanical, structural, geotechnical, construction, and electrical interconnect aspects for wind energy balance-of-plant design. The content includes:

  • Introduction to the science and mechanics of wind energy, including energy in the wind and resource assessment
  • Structural siting, site control, due diligence, and equipment procurement
  • The load document, site investigations, and geotechnical assessment
  • Site layout, micro-siting, and civil design
  • Foundation design for varied site geology and load conditions
  • Site civil infrastructure including access roads and crane pads
  • Design and layout of the collection system and interconnection to the substation
  • Interplay between tower structural design, transportation logistics, turbine installation and lift calculations, and foundation design
  • Construction management, project drivers, and construction quality assurance/control

At this point, the planned chapters (most to be co-written with an expert from industry) include:

  1. State of Practice: Clean, Domestic, Renewable Wind Energy
  2. Energy in the Wind
  3. Resource Assessment and Micro-Siting
  4. Environmental Due Diligence
  5. Site Control, Procurement, and Power Purchase Agreements
  6. Financial Pro Forma
  7. Site Geotechnical Investigation
  8. Structural Tower Design
  9. Tower and Blade Manufacture and Transportation Logistics
  10. Foundation Design
  11. Deep Foundation Design
  12. Reinforced Concrete Design
  13. Access Roads and Crane Pads
  14. Collector System Civil Design
  15. Construction Management
  16. Life Cycle Analysis

If you want more information about upcoming wind energy and renewable energy courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison or want more information (or to collaborate) on the Balance-of-Plant text, including the planned schedule, please contact me (jmtinjum@wisc.edu), I would love to hear from you.

I am excited to finally take on this long-visioned endeavor and hope that it will be a useful and valuable contribution to the industry!

Day 16 PM — Hello, Wisconsin!

I’m all alright!  Whoa yeah!

Beautiful biking day in the Driftless Area through SE Minnesota and into SW Wisconsin.  No wind energy sites today but beautiful scenery along the Root River Trail and then crossing the Mississippi River back into Wisconsin — Hello, Wisconsin!

Happy to report that I had two interviews with local news outlets — River Valley Media Group (representing the La Crosse Tribune, among others) and WXOW.  I will provide the links as soon as I come across them.  In these interviews, I talked about the same benefits of wind energy as I have in posting to this blog and about the wonderful experiences and discussions that I have had throughout my #BikeTheWind odyssey.

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Jim conducting an interview at the confluence of three rivers (Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse) in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Last night, first time that I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast on the trip — the Andor Wenneson Inn in Peterson, Minnesota — it was a wonderful experience and Megan was extremely accommodating in getting breakfast ready early such that I could get to my interviews in La Crosse on time.  I highly recommend not only the Root River Trail as a outdoor/scenic destination but also taking in the more personal experience (and comfort) at a B&B like the Andor Wenneson.

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Andor Wenneson Inn in Peterson, Minnesota, immediately adjacent to the Root River Trail

Day 16 AM — What happens in Minnesota does not stay in Minnesota

As I alluded to yesterday, unfortunately, I had one electronic contact that had plenty of false narratives to discuss, among them that I can’t be negative about wind energy because it might affect my research funding or that of the sustainability/global warming research community as a whole.  Let me assure you that I am not biking 1300 miles through wind turbine country on a grant, for a grant, or to receive a grant — my motivation is fully to increase awareness of the benefits of clean, affordable, domestic wind energy within the general public and to gain insights and perspectives directly from these communities.

Why do I fully embrace wind energy?  As a child and into early adulthood, I suffered greatly from smoke and dirty air, so let me start with the environment and sustainability.    Let me be as blunt and straight-forward as possible, air contaminants (particulate matter, mercury, nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, methane) in-proportionally impact the young, elderly, and those suffering from cardio-vascular illness — these are the people we as civilized society need to protect the most.

In my opinion, Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader is the best editorial cartoonist in the country.  In the below oldie but goodie, he really nails my core perspective:

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Clean air is a fundamental right.  In my opinion, clean air cannot be regulated at the state or local level because ‘What happens in Minnesota does not stay in Minnesota‘ as air contaminants quickly crosses state and national boundaries; thus, we are in this collectively as cities, states, and nations.

In my classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I really do not get much into global warming because there are so many other negative attributes of fossil-based fuels that are tangible and real.  Below are some of the quantitative, fact-based and supported environmental, economic, and job-producing benefits of wind energy:

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Today, it’s onward to La Crosse for interviews with the local newspaper and news station.