Pedalpalooza to the Solar Tour!

Jul 11, 2012 by

Pedalpalooza to the Solar Tour!

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”  —Tom Peters

That’s just what two free, family-friendly, sustainability events in Port Townsend aim to do this weekend.

The first annual PT Pedalpalooza bicycle festival (website) runs today (July 11) through Sunday (July 15). The annual Jefferson Solar [Homes] Tour (website)  is this coming Saturday, July 14.

I’m super excited for—and plan to be involved in both of—these celebrations. By showing us a critical mass of what we WANT to see, they show us the way.

•  Homes with solar panels on the roof creating truly local power… fewer coal-fired power plants and hydroelectric dams.

•  Streets and trails filled with bicyclists… fewer cars on the road and a healthier, more mobile citizenry. Oh, yeah!


If you want, you can combine the two events and visit the eight solar-powered home sites (plus one downtown business with a solar thermal deck awning) by bicycle! They all lie within the Port Townsend city limits.

Be a part of the formal Solar Tour Bike Poker Run and collect a playing card at each site you visit on two wheels, then play your hand at the post-tour party to win “fabulous prizes,” according to organizers. (I happen to know at least one prize is a copy of Richard Heinberg’s highly readable peak-oil, post-growth treatise, The End of Growth.)

I’m planning to pedal to several of the tour sites with Soren on his trail-a-bike behind me.



Our house, which received its 2-kW photovoltaic solar-electric system in 2007 and its solar thermal (hot water) system in 2008, has been on the tour a couple of years in a row. Since Jeff works this event as an employee of Power Trip Energy, I’ve been the homeowner on site (this year the hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m.), and I’ll tell you this is a unique tour.

At every site you can ask questions of the person who made the financial, ecological and emotional decision to “go solar.” Some homeowners have collected detailed system performance information and financial return figures, which they are happy to share. It’s OK to ask, “How much did this system cost?” and “How much of your electricity usage does it cover?”

You’ll go deeper when you discover the answer to that last question is not so simple. “It depends,” you see, on how much electricity you use—which leads us to ponder how energy efficient a home is.



Which is why I’m so excited that this year’s Solar Tour features the Olympic Peninsula’s most energy-efficient house, according to its owner, Tom Engel.

Tom built his 1,500-s.f. home to Passivhaus standards and it is one of just 100 “passive houses” in the U.S., according to a recent interview with Sam Hagerman, president of Passive House Alliance U.S.

The standard-looking home uses only 29% of the energy used by an average American house of comparable size, yet it cost only slightly more to build. Tom employed the local expertise of Richard Berg and Jesse Thomas of Terrapin Architecture, the first Jefferson County architectural firm to offer the Passive House package as a part of its design services. His builder was Charles Landau.

When Tom moved to Port Townsend in 2009, his goal was to take a personal stand on climate change. “We need a bottom-up approach starting with each of us,” he told me. He plans to open his doors to Solar Tourists on Saturday. By sharing his housing solution on the Solar Tour, he is showing many of us the way.

Learn more at Tom’s blog,



Tour maps are NOT available online; bicyclists can pick them up (starting at 10 a.m.) at The ReCyclery at the intersection of Kearney and 19th in town. Maps may also be picked up at the headquarters of the tour organizer, Power Trip Energy (83 Denny Ave., Port Townsend, in Glen Cove Industrial Park).

If you’re there at 10, you may want to sit in on the “Spin Your Meter Backwards” presentation to learn how solar power works and about the various financial incentives.

The post-tour party (3-6 p.m.) is located at Power Trip Energy as well, and is well worth attending even if you don’t make it on the tour, as a place to mix and mingle with like-minded “solarites.” There will be a Q&A with tour participants and hosts, concessions by Mystery Bay Seafood ($7-10 options), and a free outdoor concert (well, the entire tour is free!) with eclectic, energetic, electric 6-string violinist Geoffrey Castle.

I’ve been mesmerized by his music many times before in performances around the Peninsula. He plays Celtic-rock as well as classical, and has a unique record/playback amplification kit so that he can accompany himself with layers upon layers of sound. And while he’s plugged in to Power Trip Energy’s outlets, his instrument will be powered by the business’s solar panels!



Inspired by Portland’s Pedalpalooza, and Vancouver, BC’s Velopalooza, a newly formed group called “PTpedals” brings us PT Pedalpalooza 2012, a 5-day series of bicycle activities and celebration of cycling.

There are currently 15 events listed on the PT Pedalpalooza online calendar. Most are not hard-core bike rides. They include the “Pedal & Pints Tour” of local watering holes Friday night, a women’s bike repair class at 6 p.m. tonight, and the “polite critical mass” ride tomorrow night (Thursday) at 6 p.m. on a loop through downtown. I think I’ll take Soren on the trail-a-bike so he can observe proper bicycling etiquette.

Tonight my family is planning to attend the Asian Progressive Dinner Ride, “leisurely pedaling between each of five meal courses at five different Asian restaurants.” Yummy, and how chummy! [And it was! See 7/11 photo below.]

PT Pedalpalooza is a grassroots effort, closely tied to the efforts of Local 20/20’s T-Lab (Transportation Action Group) but also the sponsors listed here.

So grassroots, in fact, that yours truly created one of the events, with one zany idea and a few clicks of the mouse. It’s a gathering and demonstration of kid bike carriers on Friday (July 13) from 11 a.m.-noon at Mountain View playground. I’m encouraging families who bike with little kids to bring their carriers and gear, and families who WANT to bike with little kids to come check it out.

If this sounds like you, read the full event listing, spread the word, and come on down!

There’s still time to add an event of your own if you’re inspired. I hope you are.

P.S.  PTpedals has started a new e-mail list to promote Jefferson County-wide communication amongst bicycle enthusiasts, groups and special events: Send an e-mail saying you want to join, and “pedalpalooza” all year long! If Lys Burden (:-)) is managing this list, it’s sure to be timely and relevant.

Sustainable Together TIPS

TIP: Time your regular bike rides around town, so you can easily plan them into your schedule. Today I used my cell phone’s stopwatch to determine both the “to” and “from” timing for bike-and-trailer transportation to Soren’s new preschool program. Nine minutes going, 13 minutes coming back—although with the return hill, it felt like twice as long! Good to know the facts.

Quote from the latest Food Co-op newsletter. Thanks for the inspiration!

(More of my favorite quotes.)

Solar panel and Geoffrey Castle photos courtesy of Power Trip Energy

1 Comment

  1. I just updated this post with the new information that, while tour maps are NOT available online, bicyclists can pick them up at The ReCyclery at the intersection of Kearney and 19th in town (starting at 10 a.m.).

    Tour sites are open 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

    Then it’s not necessary to pedal out of town at all! Oh, but you do have to end the day at Power Trip Energy and the post-tour party from 3-6 p.m. if you want to play your poker hand as part of the Solar Tour Bike Poker Run!