Read Across America (or, William’s Solar-Powered Adventure)


The desert of east-central Nevada is lovely, cold, and deep. But as the first sunlight tinges thin clouds above, it’s time for William Grote to get moving. Quickly packing his belongings into the back of his Hauler, he hits the road. This three-wheeled bike looks a bit like an overgrown Mars Rover—and it’s got some of the same features. Wide tires enable the Hauler to traverse off-road terrain. And like the Rover, this vehicle carries a solar panel connected to a battery pack, which stores energy for later use. The battery powers an electric motor to assist the rider through challenging conditions, and also provides connections for AC power. (William’s pedal-power also contributes to battery storage.) The Hauler’s frame is designed to carry 500 pounds, in the form of passengers or cargo behind the recumbent driver’s seat.


William’s journey began at Hood River, Oregon, site of the Hauler factory. He left in early September, planning to follow the U.S. Bicycle Route System through the central United States to a final destination at Mount Pelier, Vermont. Total distance: more than 4000 miles—including an elevation change of 12,000 feet between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.

This would be a profound personal journey under any circumstances. But William has added another component that also makes the journey relevant to communities through which he passes. As he travels, Williams will stop at local (usually rural) schools and other community centers. He sees it as a chance to educate about sustainability. In particular, William hopes to share the philosophy of cradle-to-cradle resource use, which looks at the full life cycle of a product. How can production be more efficient, use be more sustained, and disposal less prevalent? Asking children to consider these questions reminds them to think toward the future.


On this cold morning William will pedal uphill to a small school in Baker, Nevada. One teacher, four grades, a dozen students. Under the brightening desert sun all the kids, the teacher, and many parents—in fact, pretty much the whole population of Baker, NV—gathers and mounts their bikes. This annual event is called the Wheel-A-Thon. A snaking line of townspeople makes its ways eight miles southeast to the neighboring town of Garrison—which happens to lie just across the border, in Utah. William rides along, one of the gang today, his crazy contraption gathering sunlight that has slipped between billowing, white clouds. Turning around they retrace the route, arriving at the schoolhouse in time for lunch. William reads Dr. Suess’s The Lorax and discussion ensues. Then he’s off again. He’s got promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps.

As a supplement to his classroom visits, William has established a donation program through which he leaves books at every school. Houghton Mifflin has provided several dozen paperback copies of Curious George Plants a Tree for donation to primary classrooms. And Scholastic made library-bound copies of Solar Power (one of my books) available at a fifty percent discount. Individuals can support William’s effort by visiting at his website:

Check the BOOKS link to find titles for readers at the primary, secondary, and adult levels. Purchases can be made directly from the site; UPS has arranged to deliver them to William at designated pick-up spots along the route.

If you are interested in donating a copy of my book, Solar Power, the best way to do this is via PayPal. The link for this option is on William’s SPONSORSHIP page. He and I use donated funds to order these books directly from the Scholastic warehouse.

And if your town is along or near William’s route (which can be viewed in detail on his site), invite him to visit a local school or library! Click the spinning water pitcher icon to email William directly.

Information about Solar Power or other books by Christine Petersen is available at


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