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Peddling a gas-saving bike

by RALPH BARTHOLDT
Staff Writer | April 27, 2010 9:00 PM

SPIRIT LAKE - Don Clark packed up a few solar panels, a pump, some inverters, meters and batteries and drove south Saturday for an Earth Day gathering.

The former road show sound man who operates Voodoo Solar, a Cocolalla business that sells off-grid resources, was among a dozen vendors to descend on a grassy lot in downtown Spirit Lake to show off their wares, or earth-friendly inventions.

"I was a concert sound technician, so road shows are in my blood," Clark said.

Across the lot, where tent awnings billowed under a brazenly blue sky, Gordy Ormesher of Hayden Lake led a discussion on electric cars.

Ormesher, of the Panhandle Electric Vehicle Association, said his group spent $5,000 to convert a Suzuki Samarai to run on electricity.

He found the car abandoned last year and decided to use it for a worthwhile cause instead of watching it rust away.

"It was sitting in a farmer's field with a tree growing out of it," he said. "It was full of beer cans and bees."

The four-wheel-drive Samurai operates on 72 volts, costs two cents per mile to drive and is this summer's poster child for greener future.

Jeanne Bruner organized Saturday's event as a way to remind people of alternatives.

She used to live off the grid, she said, but since moving from Athol to a conventional home closer to Blanchard, she now pays for her utilities. That has not stopped her from pursuing a greener lifestyle.

"Our house is plastic free," she said. "We don't use plastic wrap, plastic bags," and when she shops, she brings her own canvas sacks.

"All that garbage has to go somewhere," she said.

The Saturday event included two electric cars, a display from the Kootenai County Solid Waster Department, garden clubs and battery-powered two and three-wheelers like the one Melvin Gover made.

Gover is known in Spirit Lake as the guy with the electric tricycle.

The retired logger and contractor travels on a black trike that moves silently through the streets. He had the battery-powered motor manufactured in China and hopes to sell it here. It is part of the front fork assembly.

The trike is powered by four, lunchbox-size batteries that don't smell or make noise and the machine cruises at 40 mph.

"I can go to Post Falls and back in two hours and it will cost me all of about a quarter," he said.

He uses bicycle frames from a local landmark - a pile of them make a large mound in an overgrown city lot four feet high and 12-feet in diameter. He bought the rights and pulled a few frames out to convert them to battery powered machines.

His flat, black prototype is bare bones, he said. But it is faster than previous renditions.

"It's like a Lamborghini," he said. "But, I don't need to push the gas pedal all the way to the floor."

The Earth Day event was among a host of similar gatherings in the Panhandle, where area residents picked up litter along roadways, participated in fundraisers, and disseminated information from green groups around North Idaho.

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