TRAVELS WITH GREASE AND PADDLE
Friday, May 26, 2006
My Great, Greasy Road Trip
There I was, hanging out with my mother in an alley behind Castro St. in Mountain View, CA. I was trying to look inconspicuous, at least at much as one can with a 12-volt pump hooked up to a car battery, slurping used vegetable oil from a dumpster, with Mom assisting. She was trying to decide which facet of her California vacation she preferred, helping my sister with newborn Dylan's diaper changes, or me with my grease follies. Technically, I had permission to collect the grease, but as these negotiations often go, there had been a language barrier, and I was not completely sure which of the two restaurants used this dumpster. This alley, at this time, happened to be quite a busy thoroughfare, though most people didn't give us a second look. It's not easy to get noticed in California. Just then, a dapper Chinese octogenarian passed by, and paused for a second look, pointing his cane in my direction. Was he the owner of the chinese restaurant? Was it their bin and not the taco shop's? And how can I not tell the difference between the smell of egg rolls and rolled tacos? A huge smile broke across his face, "Fuel for diesel?" You bet.
Grease, the end bi-product your french fries, your shrimp tempura, your tortilla chips, is what brought me here. I 'm travelling in a 1977 Mercedes Benz 300D, a diesel car that's been slightly modified to run on vegetable oil. As of today, I've driven 1, 400 miles since San Diego, including side trips, and procured and filtered 130 gallons of used vegetable oil. Total fuel costs so far: $0.
I have a sea kayak, a river kayak, and a road bike on the roof, and everything I need for a summer in Alaska in the back seat. I'm also carrying, at any one time, between 300 and 500 pounds of used vegetable oil, in the main fuel tank, an auxillary tank built into the trunk, and plastic cubes holding 5 gallons each.