Warren County became ELF country this week.
Marvin and Ann Glenn were traveling through the county when they experienced a flat tire on their three-wheeled tricycle, called an ELF. They ended up stranded at the home of Ken and Melinda Beck on Old Shelbyville Road.
“We live in Mena, Arkansas,” said Marvin. “I’m riding it home from her cousin’s house in Clermont, Virginia. We could have had it transported for $800 but I thought traveling to Virginia and riding it back would be fun. I also just wanted to see if I could do it. The reason I bought it is to stay fit as long as I can as I get older. I’m 79.”
The couple estimates the trek to be 1,600 to 1,800 miles. They started the journey July 5 and travel an average of 42 miles per day, with the maximum thus far being 80 miles per day and the minimum being 10 miles.
“We don’t have a set time on when we will get home,” said Marvin. “We originally thought we would get there by the beginning of August, but that is not going to happen. That’s OK though. This is about the journey and not about how long it takes to get there.”
Ann, who follows behind him in a van, is also on a voyage of discovery.
“This is as much a challenge for me as it is for Marvin,” said Ann. “I made the mistake of letting him do all the driving for all our years because he liked it and I didn’t. Now, suddenly, I’m facing my phobias about driving and figuring out I can do it.”
Since the two retired 17 years ago, they have been traveling the country in a van with Marvin doing all the driving.
“I don’t think she had ever driven through a city,” said Marvin.
Ann added, “I would rather not. We don’t want to get on the high-speed roads with the bike so it suites us both to stick to rural roads. We went to great lengths to get through McMinnville and avoid 70S. We couldn’t tell from our maps if they were limited access or not. As we found out, you can’t avoid 70S. Just a divided road is pretty neat. I don’t mind that as much.”
Ann loves taking pictures and keeping a written log of their journey. Those are posted on a group page called “fansofmarvin&ann” on Facebook.
The ELF is essentially an enclosed recumbent tricycle. ELF stands for electric light fun. It is a solar and pedal hybrid vehicle powered by the individual and the sun. Produced in Durham, N.C., by Organic Transit, the ELF is a cross between a bicycle and a car and weighs 150 pounds. It has an enclosed cab, a carrier in the back and runs on a rechargeable battery. It does not use gasoline.
Most drivers pedal the majority of time and use the engine to help with hills and when carrying heavy loads. The standard ELF has a battery that can go for about 14 miles without pedaling and without being recharged.
“It has an electric assist,” said Marvin. “It has a battery that is being charged by a solar panel in route. It can also be charged with a household current. The assist is enough to get me up the mountains if I pedal along with it. I’m usually pedaling all the time.”
Manufactures of the ELF say it is the most efficient vehicle on the planet and gets the equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon.
Never seen an ELF? There aren’t many. Organic Transit began producing ELFs in 2013. Less than 600 are on the road. The couple purchased No. 580. A base model costs $5,500 and an upgraded version can run as much as $10,000.
Organic Transit doesn’t recommend riders take it on highways or busy, narrow roads. Marvin says traffic was a concern so they added additional reflective stripping, lights and a flag for greater visibility.
The trek went through Fall Creek Falls on Sunday and into Warren County. The couple made it through downtown McMinnville and onto Old Shelbyville Road before the tire blew.
“We saw this barn and at that time, there was a school bus sitting beside it,” said Marvin. “I was working on the flat when Ken pulled up asking what we were doing. We told them and immediately they turned into good Samaritans. We were welcomed to stay here as long as it takes. They took us to an ice cream social at their church last night. We met some really nice people.”