Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anniversary, Eqinox and Balance

 Michael and I had a mellow walk this morning out to the back of Riparia and then looped back along the creek to see a coral-looking shelf fungus that Emily had mentioned. Michael is feeling weak and wanted to use one of my walking poles for balance.
 He had a procedure this week to stent his biliary tree because the cancer he has is in the liver and was occluding the bile duct. Unfortunately he got a common complication which was a real set back for us... pancreatitis. It was a scary time that required lots of pain meds and a few days of absolutely no nourishment. Our hope is that his labs will be back to enough of normal that he can start back on chemo on Wednesday.
 All the land partners and friends have been very kind and solicitous but it is all very strange to me... I've been badly spoiled by Michael. I don't know a lot of what I should know but am not sure in advance what all those things are... I stare with foreboding at my car, which has a flat sitting across the road and hope some strong person will come along who just loves fixing flats.
 He did have the get up and go last week to go with me to get bio-diesel for my car though and to teach me how to use our pump. I won't shirk on my commitment to bio-diesel but the veggie voyaging won't happen again unless the chemo works and he gets his strength back.
 I think back to last year at this time. We thought the chemo and surgery had bought us years when we did our loop through Wyoming and Utah... unfortunately he had problem after problem with the truck and on this day we were in Rock Springs and he was really killing himself with wrestling the truck.
 The year before that, when we didn't even know yet that he had cancer we had our scary backwards roll down an embankment south of Hinton on that horrible Alberta road with all the coal, pipelines and clear-cutting... so I guess our 12th anniversary tomorrow in the midst of this awful cancer is just about on track to be the most difficult ever.
Still, we love each other more than ever. We hold hands and cuddle all the time and tell each other how much we love each other... I have this foolish idea that if we can just get into the VV and get up into the high country everything will be ok... it will have to wait though. Please keep Michael in your thoughts or prayers.
Today is also the International Day of Peace. Peace to all of you reading this. He is going about this illness the way he does everything else... with great equanimity. Care for us please but don't be distressed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

the Rubicon and the road beyond

 We left home at dusk and got to the REI on Hwy 50. That put us at Lake Tahoe on a Saturday and it seemed like the place was crawling with our species-- on foot, on bike, in cars. The beautiful waters were criss-crossed by boats. We hung out til dusk but then started up a road... what turned out to be the wrong road to the right place. We were on the Rubicon! It was crazy in the V.V. with its high center of gravity but two guys in a "crawler" took us under their angel/demon wings and got us up to Miller Lake---
 They were Ry-
 and Bobby, two men with extra-ordinary kindness in their self proclaimed hill-billy hearts. What I appreciated most about them was how care-free they were. There's a lot to say about the kindness of these strangers but I'll just hold onto the words and let you enjoy their spectacular tattoos on young healthy bodies.
 We did do a loop of our little home lake..
 and then a twilight walk at moon rise. This little bear had long blond hair on its back, almost like a miniature grizzly. He wasn't afraid of us.. just thought better than to stick around with us.
 After more adventures getting back down the Rubicon we headed north along Hwy 89 and then went up into the Gold Lakes Basin for a night by the Grassy Lake trail. In the morning we hiked to a little braided waterfall, wishing for more time... wishing for more time... wishing for more time...
 Meanwhile some people caught this poor little native rainbow trout and kept it. It seemed like such a sad thing, seeing this juvenile fish gasping in the man's hand. Life is cruel and unfair too often. No matter what determination you have. No matter your intention, wish, willingness to try a new path... sometimes it just comes up that you can't control a certain fate... your beauty and honest path cut short. I dread these things for us but hold us brave to meet fate like the Rubicon it is... difficult but not impossible.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our Veggie Roots

 Posted Aug. 4, 2007 and written by Michael Pike himself:  "The Veggie Voyager, an ’87 Ford F-250 four wheel drive ¾ ton pickup with an 8’ cabover camper, is a multifuel vehicle, able to run on diesel fuel, bio-diesel, or straight vegetable oil (SVO). Our fuel mileage varies from 12-15mpg.
Diesel fuel has been cleaned up considerably in the past year with the removal of most of the sulfur, but is still a dirty fossil fuel when used in older vehicles like ours, so we only use it for the first few miles while waiting for the SVO to warm up enough to burn.
Bio-d and SVO are both derived from vegetable oil, but Bio-d requires a complex chemical process using methanol and lye to strip off the sticky triglyceride part of the oil molecule. It would be difficult to do while on the road.
SVO only needs to be cleaned or filtered and have any water removed. In order to burn it as fuel we have to heat it up to ideally 150-170 degrees F.
To heat up our veggie oil we have a heater hose from the engine that heats up an oil pick up tube in our veggie tank, then goes to a heated filter and finally to a small heat exchanger box. The veggie line is sandwiched between the heater hoses, so it gets warmed all the way to the fuel injector. A temperature gauge tells me if its hot enough to burn. If its not, there is an electric heater that kicks in.
There is no obvious difference in engine performance when running on veggie. We do lose the nauseating diesel smell, the black soot on hard acceleration, and we have the good feeling of not burning fossil fuel. The gas mileage, unfortunately, is about the same."
 After years of using an Acme juicer centrifuge (seen in the first photo) Michael bought himself a "treat." It is a WVO Raw Power Centrifuge... this enables him to increase waste grease conversion to clean combustible veggie oil from 8 gallons per hour to up to 25 gallons per hour.
 I just wanted to post this first veggie processing with the new centrifuge... so clean! His smile... so big! And, note... this monster centrifuge is made in America... Win, Win, Win!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Awakened State of Wonder?

 I was just listening to a travel show and a discussion between travelers Pico Iyer and Rick Steeves and they mentioned this feeling I always get when we travel... this ecstatic but calm awakened state of wonder.. We travel for this and find it constantly.. I also know about wanting to hold onto it when I come home and how it dissipates... the sweetness drains away when the natural world is not part of the play of a day.
 Our trip last week meandered back through Childs Meadows, Mill Creek and Mineral to pick up veggie oil then down to the Sacramento River to join our friend Luisa for her 55th birthday potluck and chocolate truffle cake on a (sand)bar at dusk. Still had the beauty of beaver, egrets, the glassy feel of the river as the light departed.
 As the week passed Michael followed his own agenda and I followed mine and for him the quest to find an ever more perfect boat was answered by buying this little inflatable kayak. My week is a blur... really, I'd have to march it out like a tin soldier from the pages of my day planner.
 Meanwhile, trust me, I was doing my usual many things, including tabling for Frack-Free Butte Co...at the theater presentation called The Butcher Shop, down the road from us but on the land of our adjacent neighbor.
 All the while we have been able to enjoy the richness of summer... many of the tomatoes and peppers shown here were raised by our neighbor Bruce here at Riparia. I caught them at the very end of Farmers Market yesterday... still a glorious display.
 Then today, to round out the week from where we started up at Crystal Lake last Sunday, we went out in the new boat on the Thermalito Forebay... enjoying how it moved, what there was to see, the sense of freedom in being somewhere we don't usually go.
 But also seeing the risks... a tiny snake of tar sands bearing rail cars in the distance below Table Mountain emerges from the Feather River Canyon... a canyon that carries precious water down to millions and emerges from the high country we visited with our unlimited sense of amazement last week. Somewhere between enjoyment and responsibility the amazement slinks away but really not the wonder.. it can remain even watching slow death roll by in the distance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Escaping to a Different Reality

Every other week we go away. Its not easy getting out of town but we push to do it. This week was no different.. but we left home Thursday night, ate bad food at a biker bar and ended up by the side of the road to Greenville with traffic all night long and fitful dream chased sleep. In Greenville we went to the Rangers Station and got a detailed new map that gave some indication of some tiny lakes we might visit. The Ranger gave us good driving tips and so we made it to never imagined Taylor Lake... alone up there for the night we simply released a lot of what burdens us just in the act of being in the beauty of where we were.
 The area between there and Antelope Lake, where we went next to boat and swim, has been burned repeatedly in three different fires.
 Sometimes the snags, which remain, remind one of the old reasons for superstition and sometimes they are comic reminders of our fears.
 There's no way to Thank the land or the sky for the release of care... it's just in being physical, inquisitive, appreciative... in the day, dusk, night and rotation of time. A wonder.
 After our afternoon boating and swimming on less photogenic Antelope Lake we stayed at a Trailhead for Clear Creek and walked awhile up into the burn then back down to Indian Creek, the major tributary through the Genesee and Indian Valleys.
 In Taylorsville, looking for our next adventure, we came on my brother's name twix there and somewhere else. (I look forward to sending him this.)
 And, not without a climb, we arrived at Hough Mt  Lookout and the volcanic vent of 500 ft. deep Crystal Lake below it and the little town with the Warren Nelson intersection far, far below that...
 The lake was just one quick swim away from an early sunset but we camped on a terrace above it and the next morning headed out with some swaying, dust and tank-prowess to our final destination of veggie oil collection in Mill Creek and Mineral. A very rewarding four days for the Veggie Voyagers team.. a great relief and a huge inhalation of beauty and peace and a bit of dust. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Almanor area lakes

 As usual it was hard to get out of Chico. We camped on the north end of Almanor behind the airport and where the lake has filled in with meadow and stumpy mudflats. It was a beautiful place nonetheless.
 The next day we went to Bodfish Bikes and Quiet Mountain Sports in Chester. We got the name and directions for a clear mountain meadow Willow Lake and we headed up there. There were others camped there too but few enough that we had the lake to ourselves for swimming and later this moonlight walk with cranes making their odd honking and an easy meadow trail to follow.
 We stopped at Bodfish again to ask about another lake and this one is sacred to the Mountain Maidu people and no photos are to be taken so I have none. That was an incredible place... Up against the Keddie Ridge.. a 2.8 mile walk in, icy waters and amazing rocks. The views out from the ridge saddle are to Mountain Meadows in one direction and down to Indian Valley and Greenville to the other side. We had two days of hiking up there and some excitement with rain, thunder and lightning but otherwise very infrequent humanity and a great sense of peace.
 Then we came back down to Almanor and put in at the south end of the lake.. the clouds were amazing and we almost got loaded up unscathed but ended up soaked in the fierce squall that swept through.. which we didn't much mind.
 Soon after, the sunset was purple but brief and closed in 4 days of swimming, hiking and boating without using fossil fuels...thanks to Michael's commitment to processing  veggie oil before we came. Today he is back to chemo but we are still partly back up there in the high country through the soreness of our muscles and the dry sleek feel of our skin.

Friday, August 8, 2014

One Mile between Hiroshima and Nagasaki

 Every year we commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Every year it is the hottest time of year and usually the energy of the town is lethargic. I think back on our commemorations and do not find that that was always true but of late nuclear war has faded from the criticality list of people concerned about the loss of life in Gaza or hundreds of other worries.
 This year the call came out subdued and last minute but with the quiet resolve of Diane Suzuki's voice. We met here at One Mile in strange post rain humid but cool weather and walked a little bit upstream to where two Tai Chi practitioners were completing their forms.
 In the quiet, almost still waters of our drought quieted Big Chico Creek we stood and rang bells at the time of the Hiroshima bombing... we didn't face East, we faced our life giving endangered water.
 We spoke of the inspiration of Ancestors and closed a small circle with the surrender to time and the visage of perhaps more war and suffering to come as balanced by the beauty and nurture we experience in the earth around us... the Good so palpable and available.
 On Saturday, tomorrow, people will meet again... for Nagasaki a busy street corner before our regular Peace Endeavor Vigil... the bells, the cranes, the thoughts and prayers winging on concrete, surrounded by the structures of commerce.
 We read a children's book about the Cherry Tree of Hiroshima, how burned and wounded it was, yet how it has blossomed and created new cherry trees. The legend of the Phoenix, the story of earth, always remaking itself after every seemingly terminal event. All our planet has to do is stay in alignment with its sun and what we do may not matter so much in the very long run.
 But we are here now. Witness to the beauty and seeming stillness within the incredible energy of Livingness and also witness to the degradation, forgetfulness and outright determination to destroy. We are hinged between catastrophes as well as celebrations and ride the solemn peace train forward to the next bend in the river of our lives. We continue to write our wishes on the wings of paper cranes as they fly all over the world. In Loving Memory of all those who have suffered.