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Monday, July 15, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Monday Memo

Wheeling Through Nature

Devastating accidents rarely have a bright side, but Pete Rieke's fall gave him an avocation: inventor.

An avid mountaineer, Rieke now uses a wheelchair after a climbing accident on Mount Index two years ago. Determined not to let life end where the pavement does, the Tri-Cities chemist took a leave of absence from the Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory in the Tri-Cities to start Mobility Engineering, which is creating a human-powered, off-road wheelchair and a "snow pod" to climb snow-covered mountain slopes.

The snow pod, already in prototype form, climbs hills using a bicycle hand crank that turns two four-inch snowmobile tracks.

The "trail chair," still on the drawing board, has three wheels, is narrow enough to negotiate hiking trails and will feature a patented balance system that will allow riders to ford streams and even roll over small logs.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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