Driving down the highway yesterday I passed a man riding a sufficiently unusual device that I pulled my car off the road and walked back along the shoulder to investigate. The man turned out to be John MacTaggart, the CEO of Pterosail Trike Systems, and he is in the process of riding one of his company’s products from San Diego, California to Saint Augustine, Florida.
John’s company makes wind-powered recumbent tricycles. When I passed him John had the sail stowed and was getting along by pedaling, but there are sailing videos on his website. Difficult to see in this picture is the flexible solar panel over John’s head which serves as dual sun shade and iPod charger. The website also shows a camping add-on where the mast serves as the central pole of a teepee-style enclosure (claimed to be able to sleep six, though that seems like overkill to me for a one-person vehicle).
I’ve read plenty of stories that feature sail-powered land transport, but this was my first real world encounter with the concept. I can’t quite decide if it felt more like seeing a glimpse of a techno-optimist sustainable energy future or a Bacigalupian calorie economy dystopia. Strange to think that the Venn diagram of those two milieus may have some overlap. But it’s an elegant and fascinating device. Continued good luck to John on his trip across the country.