I was supposed to talk to Jocelyn Lovell because we both had an interest in rain barrels.
But frankly, I was just excited to be talking to Jocelyn Lovell. Hey, media people get star-struck, and this was Jocelyn Lovell: I had watched him tear around the track at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978, winning three golds and setting three Games records. He is among the gods of Canadian competitive cycling.
And as it turns out, we have some parallel lifelines. My cycling life is just part of our household's attempt at a smaller-footprint lifestyle. Part of that was the installation of a rainwater storage tank at our home, an experience that led to a speech at the Centre Wellington Probus Club, and a chance meeting with a former neighbour of Jocelyn and Neil Lovell, who recounted how he had claimed her rain barrel when she put it out on the curb, and how "you should really see his place. He's doing cutting-edge stuff."
So sure, I'll call him. We talked about cycling for about 60 seconds. It's been more than 25 years since a truck hit him on a training ride and left him a quadriplegic, and he's not following competitive cycling. As for recreational riding, he wondered if the current resurgent interest in bicycling is being driven by high gas prices: "The bikes were always there... they are just rediscovering them. It's sad but true that it's the bucks that drives it (change)."
His real passion is energy efficiency. No rainwater storage yet. Living on Lake Ontario, he can pump all the water he needs for gardens or other outside uses. It's solar energy that fascinates him: "All fuels originate with the sun," he says. The photovoltaic cells on his roof (from Arise Technologies in Waterloo) produce six kilowatts an hour that he pumps into the grid, getting 42 cents per kWh, while buying back power at the residential rate of about six cents per kWh. "I can't afford to buy my own electricity," he laughs, "I'm not crazy."
He also uses passive solar on the roof to warm water for the water heater. He's a fan of double-pane argon gas windows (he wanted triple-panes but was talked out them as too expensive) and styrofoam insulated concrete forms as a way to reduce heat loss from basement walls. And there are other possibilities, not for him, but interesting, geo-thermal among them.
Our telephone interview is almost a telephone monologue, with an occasional comment from me. He talks about the madness of the oil sands, the potential of electric cars and the need for change in our political thinking: "It's time to change the rules."
And why do all this? "We won't get our money back, really. . . It's an opportunity to support the industry. And some people will see it and think about it . . . You called and will write about it." His hope is that others will see the light about energy-efficient thinking.
The guy is full of fire. And I'm still awe-struck.