Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Trying to burn sludge as winter quickly approaches

The Canadian customs officials asked us about guns, tobacco, alcohol, money, even how our can of bear spray was labeled, but made no mention of the forty gallons of alternative fuel in the trunk. After loading up on some BC produce were on way, not south yet, but east towards Prince George, the industrial hub of northern B.C. Our euphoria was short-lived though, as the car quickly began to surge and lose power intermittently. The problem was obvious: hydrogenated vegetable oil. Every since that gift jug in Oregon my guard had been down. With the warm summer temps I had successfully burned some hydrogenated stuff from the halibut&chips shack, but now the chilly inland climate was causing this stuff to turn opaque and thick. You could feel Flo desperately trying to suck this crap through her lines, the proverbial golf ball through the garden hose. The car would bog down, especially on hills, and I'd have to switch the toggle on the dash. Instantly the problem was fixed as petroleum diesel from the second tank blasted out the lines. The human parallels were telling- here was Flo suffering some serious angina from her diet of hydrogenated oil, in need of angioplasty and a major change in diet. We coaxed her along in this manner for many kilometers, constantly switching between tanks and enduring the heart-wrenching surging. We rolled into the bucolic mountain town of Smithers, and found a partial solution in the dumpster behind Bluefin Sushi. Thankful that the sushi craze had made it all the way to this backwater, we traded fifteen gallons of Ketchikan sludge for the same amount of crystal clear Canadian oil.
We still had the problem of the stuff in the tank, and briefly considered siphoning, but we coaxed it a bit more and rolled into a rest area after dark. We needed to filter our new supply, and to do this we first had to heat it. So, while we slept in the woods the oil stayed cozy in the men's room, atop a waterbed heater plugged into an outlet normally used for truckers' electric razors, and nestled in a wool blanket. Dawn revealed a thick layer of frost on the ground, but the oil was nice and warm and quickly flowed through the filter propped between my bicycle and a picnic table. We were finally heading south, and warmer temperatures as well as this new sushi juice were sure to improve the situation.........

Heading South With the Geese and Whales

What goes up must go down. I'm rolling the dice and trying to drive this Mercedes, thirty years old this month, all the way back to San Diego.......
The Alaska summer was fantastic, with its typical mixture of work, adventure, wildlife, crazy people, and loads of fish. The greasemobile ran like a top, fueled primarily by a halibut&chips shack on the cruise ship dock. Its unbelievable when you think about it, all these tourists spilling off their floating bohemoth, already stuffed with 24 hour buffets, faced with various options for spending their few hours in port. Should we visit the totem pole parks? Go on a flightseeing trip over Misty Fiords National Monument? Hike in the largest contiguous temperate rainforest in the world? Shop for jewelry? Naw, let's go get some fried food. Works for me, the grease taxi was well- fueled all summer. In early October I returned from an 11-day kayak trip and just a few hours later drove onto the ferry bound for Prince Rupert, B.C. and the long road home. Even though the car was over-loaded on the way up, I decided to take on a passenger, my friend and fellow USFS kayak ranger, Ben Houdek. We figured if we barged his stuff and some of mine to Seattle we could make it work. So, after filtering some surplus fish&chip juice in the cold driving rain, we embarked.