It's a story the late travel reporter Charles Kuralt would have loved. Three young men, all drops-out from corporate America, possessed by the idea of traveling cross country at the rate of 10 mph, are using as their mode of transportation a t-bar stuck atop a set of lawnmower-like wheels.
But the simple looking scooter-like unit, which glides across the roadway, may well be the future of personal transportation, the young adventurers predict.
Known as a Segway unit, the battery-operated two-wheeled device is the focus of a 3,000-mile cross country adventure being undertaken by Hunter Weeks, director of the 10 mph project, Josh Caldwell, the Segway driver, and Alon Waisman, the support car driver and mechanic for the trip.
Stopping in Sunnyside this past Saturday morning, Weeks, the leader of the "America at 10 mph" troupe, said he and his fellow travelers are attempting to travel from Seattle to Boston following the backroads of America using the Segway as a mode of transportation.
"We're filming our daily progress, stopping every few miles to look at things as we travel along. We are taking time to examine what is really going on along the backroads of America," explained Weeks, who hopes to produce a documentary of their unusual trek through America.
Weeks regularly records their adventures on the group's www.10mph.com web site, where anyone can keep track of their progress. "Eventually I hope to contain all of our travels in a film which we want to present at the Sundance Film Festival," he explained.
As of Saturday, the team was recovering from crossing Chinook Pass. Before setting out to tackle the Lewiston grade near the Washington-Idaho border, they drove around the Yakima Valley collecting a visual memory of the area and the people who live here.
Friday night they stayed at the home of Mike and Kristeen Miller of Sunnyside before embarking on a tour of Mercer Farms in the Horse Heavens. It's families, like the Millers and Mercers, living the America dream, who will be included in the "America at 10 mph" project, Weeks explained.
Caldwell, who does most of the riding on the 80-lb. personal transportation unit, said the trip so far has been amazing. "I kept a steady 10 mph pace even on the downhill portions of the road," Caldwell explained.
He explained that they are able to go just 10 miles at a time, which is about how long the unit's battery pack will power the Segway.
Caldwell has also found that standing for hours at a time on the Segway unit is a bit hard on the feet. "Those Dr. Scholl's gel innersoles are a great help," he said. "I could be doing a advertisement for them," he joked.
"But generally, all the standing is just for 10 miles at time and then we take a break," said Waisman, who is originally from Tempe, Ariz.
"We have to stop and recharge the batteries," he explained, noting the team is working with two Segway units.
The trio hopes to reach Boston by Oct. 20.