CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Alden Gray breathes out a sigh, looks down at the ground, chews his lip for a moment and then responds:
“I just couldn’t buy the truck,” he said.
Gray, a 34-year-old landscape contractor and owner of Northwest Naturescapes, was trying to explain why he largely runs his business from a three-wheeled bicycle.
And perhaps it is through the bike — and its evolution — that we discover the best route to understanding Gray.
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A Corvallis native and University of Oregon environmental studies/public policy graduate, Gray said he “wanted to reduce his carbon footprint and make the world a healthier place and help people grow their own food,” although that means some days wind up “being mostly about weeding.”
Gray started with a two-wheeled bike that he modified with an electric conversion kit. He added a trailer to carry his tools and off he went. But he soon discovered that no matter what type of kickstand he used . the bike kept falling over. Which did not present well to customers.
So he found a three-wheeler for sale in Ashland, lashed it to the top of his Subaru and drove it back to Corvallis. He added a box to the basket area for the battery and ringed the box with a series of tubes to hold his tools.
Then he found that the battery, which was designed to power a bike, did not have enough juice to power the bike pulling a trailer for a full work day.
“When you run out of juice,” Gray said, “and you have to pedal home . well, that got kind of old.”
So he scored some additional lithium batteries and stuffed them into a backpack that also fit inside the box. And the battery pack became the power source for his power tools. Just strap on the pack — which weighs 50 pounds — plug the batteries into your electric mower or hedge trimmer and you’re good to go . although Gray noted that there is a fatigue factor attached to hauling around 50 pounds of dead weight while you are mowing.
On the day the Gazette-Times visited Gray on a client call, he and associate Tim Zimmerman were planting vegetables and repairing the irrigation system at the First Alternative Co-op. The trailer contained the pots of vegetables, fertilizer, the mower, a pressure washer and other odds and ends.
Gray estimated the total weight at 700-plus pounds and it was a similar load that fueled a final modification to the bike. A bad experience in…