A Recent Interview
In the following article, Annie Vought, from the Palo Alto High School, email/interviewed me. I was really impressed by her writing skills when she then wrote this article from my email back to her:
"Okay, so let's start of with the most basic of questions. I bet you
> hear this fifty times a day, but let's just start with something broad
> to begin with. Who are you, where do you come from, and what exactly
> is it that you pull around with you?
I consider myself a kind of 'H.I.P.P.I.E. inventor' (i.e. Highly Intellegent Person Pursuing Interesting Endeavors). The last leg of my journey was to the Burningman festival. You can watch youtube clips of me at my website: http://darinselby.1hwy.com . I came from Woodstock, NY, and it's been one incredible journey across the U.S. At Burningman, I made some artist friends who invited me to this area. So here I am!
I've brought with me my latest techno/art creation that I call a 'Skedaddlehopper'. I coined the term because, when operating my balancing vehicle, I run (or skedaddle). Then when it is up to speed, I get to hop! Then it balances on 'fulcrum' wheels, and I roll for about 10-15 feet while not touching the road! I'm leaned over a padded stomach bar and elbow rests which is like a hang glider harness! It's been on CNN, CBS and Current TV, so I know that I'm onto an idea that people really like. So, in a way, it's become like a 'puppy' to me...where I can't leave it behind when I travel! When I bring it along and share rides, I get to meet all kinds of cool people.
> I don't know much about rickshaws. What separates your skedaddlehopper
> from a conventional rickshaw?
With the conventional 'Hong Kong taxi' design, the passengers are placed right over the wheels. Then, the runner/driver pulls the cart with the long poles, while carrying all of their own weight. With my design, the passengers are seated almost as far back as the runner/driver is forward of the fulcrum wheels. The runner's end of the rickshaw is padded for comfort, and always a little heavier in the balancing scheme. This is so they don't get stuck up in the air with their feet dangling! So, it truly is a 'rolling teeter totter'!
> What do you typically use your skedadlehopper for? Whom or what do you
> carry around?
I can carry up to 500 pounds of people or cargo on level roads all day long without getting winded! Sure, I'm in pretty good shape, but it is still virtually effortless for just about anyone to move this kind of weight around using my vehicle. I have spent the last couple of winters sleeping in it, too! A heavy-duty truck tarp covers it, and a nice cushion on the floor with 'goose-down everything' to make it become a sort of 'human nest'! Home is where the cart is! Sure, I could've easily moved inside to an apartment and paid rent, but I found that when I live this way, it gives me an edge to stay focused on my long-term goals. The great outdoors becomes my living room! Human/solar-powered self-sufficiency is the focus.
> Can you explain the very basic principle behind your rickshaw? How
> much weight can you carry and how can you do it so easily?
The mechanism of a clock escapement in an old Grandfather clock is exactly how I move around my balancing vehicle. It taps into the laws of Conservation of Momentum. When the weight of the people is balanced against the weight of the runner/driver, then there's a 'sweet spot' that allows one to pull around amazing amounts of weight with very little effort! It truly is a type of 'land plane'. Just like a plane is balanced on its 'fulcrum' wings, so too is my cart balanced upon its fulcrum wheels. Future, much faster models will have a long, vertical tail fin to steer with! I am talking about a balancing vehicle that could be the size of an 18-wheeler truck, and uses probably less than 1/10th of the energy to move it down the road!
How would that look and work? I have many drawings and diagrams to share at your request. The one thing to remember is this. That our modern-day cars have the traction wheel and the coasting wheel be one and the same. With my design, the forward traction of my feet is momentarily separated (when I hop) from the coasting, fulcrum wheels. These '20" electric wheelchair wheels' have high pressure, smooth BMX bicycle tires that are inflated to a rock-hard 110psi! Most bicycle tires only inflate to 45psi. That's not enough pressure. When I have used those tires on my vehicle, it becomes much more difficult to move around the same amount of weight. Why? Because there is more 'road resistance' to overcome due to friction.
A further evolution would be a 'flat-free smooth tire' that simulates a 120 psi pneumatic tire! http://www.airfreetires.com is the place to go to learn more. Marry those tires to two lightweight motorcycle wheels to carry up to 1000 pounds on a level road with relative ease! Not only that, but using motorcycle wheels then allows for hydraulic disc brakes!
Then, imagine standing on an electric-powered skateboard that has 'step-in bindings' (like skis do). This motorized skateboard tows the entire vehicle to help get up the hills, and getting up to cruizing speed. That's what the next model that I build will do. People ask me, "Why don't you just motorize the fulcrum wheels?" The answer is that I believe it would throw off the balance to do so. Towing it from the front, just like I do when I run, would be the most efficient approach to motorizing it.
As an observer, I definitely feel like most of the skedaddle hopper
> mystique is built upon the way that you can hover in the air after
> each step. Can you describe the feeling?
It truly feels like I'm floating, just like it looks. I'm leaned over pillows, so it is very comfortable. When someone tries to operate it for the first time, they may go too far with their hopping, and then get stuck up in the air with their feet dangling! So, there is a 'sweet spot' with the balancing that then requires minimal effort to pull it along. Then it becomes a sort of elegant dance while traveling. When you see me 'floating' along when I move it, I am operating under the laws of Conservation of Momentum. Your physics teacher could explain more about all of this to you. In fact, maybe your physics teacher might like to have me show up sometime to share how it works during a class?
> If there was one key conversation, dream, or event that inspired you
> to create rickshaws, what would it be?
I have frequented Renaissance festivals with my balancing vehicles. The first one that I went to down near Houston, TX, I didn't really understand the balancing principle yet. I pulled my cart with a bicycle, like a human-powered RV. They said that if I wanted to be in their festival with my creation, I had to 'lose the bike'! This is because it looked way too modern. It had to be trasformed into a 'fantasy-mobile' . All of the metal had to be disguised and covered up. It had to look 'other-worldly'! They let me keep the rubber of the tires showing for safety, but that was it!
So, this was my incentive work out the 'bugs' in pulling it around via footpower. The balancing thing first happened for me when I had an oversize friend sitting in the cart to test it out, and it immediately lifted me up where I couldn't get back down! I then adjusted his weight inside in relation to the fulcrum wheels, and presto! I discovered the 'sweet spot' where the vehicle lifts up the runner/driver (but not too much) and makes the job a whole lot easier in pulling it around!
> I read your brochure about spreading human-powered transportation. Can
> you sum up the particular philosophy behind your work, the message you
> are trying to convey?
I have a little rhyme that I like to share concerning this, and it is all about...makin' room for the 'slow lane' to happen!
'Cause, safely going to and fro is not just a luxury, but a necessity for all of us to live.
People have to feed themselves, pursue their dreams to really then be able to give!
How about enjoying some recreation, and freely assembling with our peers?
Hasn't this been guaranteed by our Constitution for over 230 years?
So, if the roads are set up only for the 'rich', who have motorized transportation,
Then it seems to me that this would be an 'equal protection' violation!
As far as traveling across this great land of ours, I say
(Along with many others who share my passions today)
"We can build 'em and they'll come!"
And, we're talkin' about a lot of people, not just some!
Let's make room to start rolling 'em down many a fine road.
That way, folks on the sidewalks won't keep hearing, "Make way...wide load!"
> What was the initial reaction of your family and friends at the time?
> Were people confused?
As most parents want their kids to go to college, I rebelled, dropped out of high school and joined the Navy - ending up on an Aircraft Carrier when I was 19. Ouch! I discovered what NAVY stands for...Never Again Volunteer Yourself (...well, a least for that particular activity!) Though, I must say that my eyes were truly opened to the great outdoors as I traveled to many places overseas. I believe that traveling is part of our spiritual growth into multi-faceted human beings, who are able to return from their treks as messengers of good news!
This is why I have developed a passion for alternative transportation and alternative energy. Compressed air cars will outsurpass anything we have on the road today. And guess what comes out of a compressed air car's tailpipe ? Extremely cold, pure, dry exhaust air! Imagine stuck in traffic knowing that you're cleaning the air by driving your car! And at the same time staying cool on the hottest summer's day without any refrigerant chemicals. A freeze-drier in every kitchen, right next to the fridge! Imagine no more toxic batteries needed. Why? Because compressed air is just another form of Solar energy, that's why! The cold exhaust from our air-powered cars will pull in the solar heat right out of the ambient air and double the efficiency of our vehicles!
Perhaps a sequel to Dr. Seuss' "Lorax" is in order!
You know, if the Lorax "speaks for the trees",
Then the Compressed Air Car definitely speaks for the breeze!
Whatever happened to him as he flew up and away?
Haven't we all wondered that, even to this very day?
Did he find a place where a thneed couldn't be found?
Where noisy, smelly factories didn't yet abound?
Busy formulating a plan for cleaning up all the polluted air?
Landing smack dab amongst people showin' they really do care?
Someone said that he was last seen far out in the West.
Workin' with folks on unique rigs, and putting them to the test.
These people travel by the using the method of 'hopping'.
Tanks are filled with solar heat (without them even stopping!)
> How much time do you dedicate to designing and building rickshaws,
> touring them around, and spreading the word about your unique mode of
I pretty much live, breathe and eat Skedaddlehopper.
> I did some poking around on the internet, and found tons of material
> published by people around the country, like the NY times and stuff!
> What exactly are you doing in Palo Alto? What drew you here and how
> long do you plan to stay? What do you do all day?
I am a carpenter/electrician/plumber/landscapist/greenhouse man So, depending upon what is needed, I carry with me tools to be a 'traveling handyman'. I am soon to start making my bamboo shakuhachi flutes again.
I'm implementing a compressed air-powered system that uses scuba tanks for air storage. I wouldn't go near as fast as I do now to get around, but would utilize a 'slow lane' for getting around. Perhaps special maps can be accessable online for a specific area to get the best bike lane routes to travel on.
This is my next big leap of faith that I am moving toward, and have a hybrid human/compressed air powered skedaddlehoppin' rig!
Realigning myself in a short meditation morning, noon and night - briefly visualizing my aims in life as already an accomplished fact, and then staying grateful during the day is keeping me on course.
> Where do you keep your skedaddlehopper when it is not in use? Is it
> EVER not in use?
It is presently covered with a chocolatey-brown $250 20x25 truck tarp that makes it not so conspicuous, and protects it from the elements -and gives me privacy. I hang up a solar shower for an afternoon rinse-off in the front area under the tarp for privacy.
> What were you interested in as a kid? Did you have any particular
> events or interests that may have foreshadowed what you are now doing
> as an adult?
As a child, I was fascinated by ants. I would make little paper carraiges for the big black ants to tow around tied to their abdomens! I was always fascinated by wind-up flying planes and parachutes. So, I have now designed what a civilization could look like and operate like if everything was done via ballooncraft airships! I call the entire concept, 'Balloonotopia'. Cargo and people in Balloonotopia are held from up above them instead of from underneath! How do you think a society would operate if this was the main principle of travel? In Proverbs it says to, " Go to the ant and consider her ways and become wise." Well, we could also go to the Protoza and consider its ways and learn how to slipstream-float through the atmosphere with spinning airships! In other words, we start to comprehend and copy Nature, and allow It to be our teacher in how we design our technology to interface with the environment.
> Where are some of the coolest places you've taken your rickshaws? How
> many times have you been to Burning Man and other similar festivals?
I've made different models of these vehicles in about 10 cities in the Southwest and some places in the Northeast. They are mainly built out of recycled aluminum wheel rims and aluminum electric conduit tubing (1.5" dia). Harbor Freight company sells a hydraulic hand-pump pipe bender for about $150. That's how I bent the aluminum tubing that you see on my website. I've been to BMan twice with balancing rickshaws. This last time, and then ten years ago in '97. Renaissance festivals in Texas, AZ and Michigan. Then I do birthday parties and special events.
> I bet you've met a lot of interesting people over the years. Any
> favorite stories? In Woodstock, NY I had Woody Harrelson in one of my hemped-out balancing rickshaws. He liked it, but that was about that. I think he was doing some kind of James Bond movie that was taking up all of his time. Also, John Hurdt from 'Home Alone' climbed in it one Christmas time with a friend. Really though, my most favorite stories that I could tell are just starting to happen to me now in this area!
> How do you go about planning a rickshaw? How much time does it take,
> where do you look for inspiration, do you have any help with your
> designs and buildings?
This particular 'Dreamcatchermobile' took about three months to build. And yes, I have received much inspiration from many other artisans. I lived in one of my creations on the boardwalk in Venice Beach for about 6 months or so back in '93.
> What kind of materials do you use?
Mainly aluminum bicycle wheel rims and then lash it all together with bicycle innertube. I rip long strips of colorful fabric and wrap all of the metal like handlebar tape. This gives my creations more of an organic feel to them. Electric wheelchair wheels, and 110 psi BMX bike tires. A padded (and disguised) aluminum ladder is what I pull the carraige with.
> What do you do with old models? Do you keep them, give them away, or
> recycle some of the old parts?
They either have gotten recycled into another design, I've given a few away (which may or may not be presently in service) and sold one at cost of the materials. It was my latest design that I call a 'Pushmepullyouhopper' . On my youtube link found at my website, go to the very last video to see it in action. Two people can operate it! One runs and hops, then the other person runs and hops!
> Some of the diagrams and drawings you sent me are pretty complicated!
> How much does physics (and other science/math) things work into your
Like anything that is brand new, it is going to take some time to fully understand it. Take a look at our cars and how complicated they are! As the old saying goes, "That which simple has matured." What could be more simple than a rolling lever with an airmotor powered by the sun operating it? I know, to me it is simple, and I hope that to you and others it will become that way too. Whatever we embrace and have a passion for, that will increase in our world around us! Eventually, it all becomes easy to do. This can also be a danger when the incorrect method is persued...just because it gets the job done.
So my messege is simple, "We've taken two steps forward...now let's take one step back!" (technologically-speaking, that is!) And the step that we take back is to see how Nature is doing the same thing that we're attempting to do! It is a field of study called, 'Biomimicry' and you can do a Google search to learn more about it.
> Do you ever experience complete design failures? How do you deal with
> them? What other kinds of setbacks might you encounter?
Yes, I had one of my first bicycle/trailer contraptions that I rode from Isla Vista down hwy101 to Venice Beach, Palm Springs, Indio and then on down to the Salten Sea area. It was three bicycles lashed together side-by-side with bamboo and bicycle innertubes. All decorated like something out of the Orient. I wanted it to look like an apparition going by! I lived off of the dates, raisons and citrus that I gleaned from the fields. The steering on it fell apart and I had to ditch it in a ravine out in the desert. It looked like a butterfly on its side with its wings clipped off!
> What other kinds of problems do you encounter? Bad weather, unhappy
> police officers, things like that?
Yes, many unhappy police officers in my charioteering career. "Impeding Vehicular Traffic"..."Obstructing Pedestrian Flow". But, that's par for the course, seeing what I'm doing is really on the cutting edge of change into a slower, more sane type of travelilng speed. The bad weather teaches us what's weather proof and what's not living this way! Necessity is truly the mother of this invention!
> What do you enjoy doing besides creating rickshaws?
I enjoy researching alternative energy sites. Cryogenic temperatures of -321 degrees is now easily obtainable, which is when air becomes a liquide, can now be more efficiently accomplished via magnets and gadolineum metal ! In other words, spin a disc and get cryogenic temperatures! No chemicals involved! Store liquid air in a type of coffee thermos calle a Dewar vessel, and you have a battery!
I love to get out into nature and I enjoy being out and about meeting new people. My handyman skills give me another facet of being able to interact with others and make some cool stuff happen in our world. Really, we're not learning anything new, compressed air technology has been around for over 100 years! In Germany, at the turn of the 20th century, they had over 1000 compressed air locomotives going 500 KM up and down the railroads there! Wha- happened to that idea?
So, I call my new and formulating concept, "The New/Old West" where you go at Old West speeds, but now use ball bearings and paved roads to get around! The human-powered highways are already in place. People just aren't fully aware of this yet!
> I noticed that you play some instruments and give your passengers
> drums to play with while you give them rides. Any particular reason?
Oh yes, I love play bamboo flutes when I give rides. I hand out lots of different percussion instruments for passengers to play enroute! It gives another facet to what I am doing and people love make music and singing while we're traveling!
> So I'm gonna try and end my article on some big, broad, happy note. I
> bet you have seen a and learned a lot. What are some of the best
> things that have come out of this lifestyle for you? Like small or
> large, physical or otherwise.
The new friends that I make each time I bring it out to the streets of a city far surpass the work that it took to build it and get me here! As you can see from my website, many cool things for this balancing rickshaw idea are ahead. I don't want to be the lone ranger doing it, though.
Anyone who is interested in designing and building their own balancing vehicle, feel free to contact me for assistance. My dream is to see an entire fleet of different shapes, sizes, and function. Perhaps have a carnival setting where people can come and participate in an environment for a few hours where Skedaddlehoppers rule! I'll keep you posted!"