Watching the progress in battery and motor technology over the past ten years, I thought we had come a long way. But every time I look back at what they were doing in the late 1800’s I’m amazed at how little we’ve advanced since then. Or rather, how far ahead they were back then. Those bowler hatted bustle wearing Victorians really had it going on.
A college dropout, living in his parents’ basement, in the late 1800’s Andrew Riker began experimenting with electric vehicles, starting with bikes. In 1884, he designed and built an electric three wheeled car using an English Coventry tricycle. It had a 40 volt lead-acid battery bank under the seat, driving a 1 hp motor, with a 25 mile range at a speed of around 25mph.
Basically, the same thing I’ve come up with 150 years later.
In 1888 (there’s that year again) he founded the Riker Electric Motor Company in Brooklyn, NY, and became the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles at the time. One of his production trikes won a race at Providence, Rhode Island, setting a record for the fastest mile in 2:13, with an average speed of 27mph. It was also one of the first uses of electric lights on motor cars instead of traditional kerosene or coal oil lamps – which tended to be somewhat hazardous during collisions.
These are photos of that production model electric trike, from the Henry Ford Museum. Maybe I should upgrade to leather suede seats and brass gauges . . .
The island has no official name. It has not been an island long enough to get one. Perhaps a budget office calculates it isn’t worth updating maps and charts, that it may not be an island for long. Even for locals it has no name. They simply refer to it as “the island.”
Not quite here, not quite not.
While most islands in the Chesapeake are disappearing – Smith, Tangier, and Hoopers; others like Holland already gone – new islands do appear, created by the same forces. That’s how this island came to be, about 40 years ago.
From the airport in Bangor to Stonington, at the southern tip of Deer Isle, should take about an hour and a half. We spend four hours doing the same, winding along the Penobscot River, stopping in towns along the way, generally assuming the least straight path presented.
First stop is Bucksport, where there’s a farmers market still open. Terri, very excited, insists we stop, and goes in for provisions. She gets caught in various eddies, long chats with local farmers, and does not resurface. I wander the main street, still a little too travel-frazzled for conversation. We had reserved a little Toyota Corolla rental car in advance, but by the time we arrived those were all gone. So, for the same rate, they gave us the only thing left – a fancy new Cadillac. This would normally be a good thing.