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

Saturday, October 27, 2007


We kiddy cornered across Massachusetts starting from Nashua, NH, where we entered from north easterly in order to miss the Boston traffic, and emerged at Mt. Washington, at the extreme south-west corner, after just two days. It’s a nice state, with the old stone walls, lots of lofty steeples and sturdy, interesting architecture, but it’s also short of public/wild space. The traffic in towns like Amherst made it impossible to even zero in on where the Emily Dickinson Homestead was. We just wanted to get through there. The state parks and wild lands are mostly in the western part of the state, in the beautiful Berkshires. I realize that Massachusetts is rich in culture, knowledge and good human energies. The trip has shaped itself into a quest for wild country in the previously undefined hope that there really is still a balance and salvation from human overpopulation and overuse. Massachusetts is old enough to know how to create and maintain quality life styles for a quasi-rural majority (that is only in terms of land mass, maybe the cities are more wounded…) Still, it’s not enough…there isn’t enough habitat to support a diversity and numbers of wildlife, at least that’s how it seems. I can’t imagine how impacted all the areas we have visited in October must be in the summer and wouldn’t want to find out.

We were almost to the summit of Mt. Everett (2602 ft.) when Sasha got porcupine quilled again. This was the third time it’s happened and even though we tried xylocaine gel on her muzzle, it seemed like the battle to remove the quills with the pliers was more hard fought than the previous times. We were drained afterwards and wondering how to allow her freedom for the rest of the porcupine’s range. I’m including a photo of quills…they look pretty benign once out of the dog’s face.

I’m also putting in a photo of Bash-Bish falls, right on the border of the three states.
We re-entered New York State there, right at the Connecticut, Massachusetts intersection and headed toward the Catskills which extend almost to the Pennsylvania border at their tip, but with rain and early darkness we made it only as far as the Wal-Mart parking lot in the town of Catskill.
We'll be following the Appalachian Trail south now if the luck and health of the veggie voyage stays with us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New England Coast

We are at a Conservation area in Hamstead, New Hampshire while Michael processes veggie oil. It’s been a rainy day and started off rather rough. Last night we got booted out of two different places on the coast we had tried to park for the night. We ended up in a Sam’s Club parking lot in Seabrook, home of the still-operating nuclear power plant.
Tonight seems just as uncertain. There is little public land here.
The photos are of our time down the coast. We started off in Belfast, Maine, a great little town with a wonderful Natural Food Co-op and community radio station. The name was apparently chosen by coin toss by the original Scott-Irish settlers. Most of the Maine coast is private but we did get out to Popham, originally settled by British in 1660. We were able to wander the beach at low tide and the day was so mellow we were also able to canoe the bay at dusk.
Further down the coast, past the LLBean town of Freeport where even the McDonalds is in a white colonial with (fake) black shutters, we drove through Kennebunkport to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, just five miles from the Bush estate. (Staff say they see the motorcade go by sometimes.) Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, which is said to have woken up the nation to the dangers of pesticides and birthed the environmental awareness movement, was a profoundly grounded scientist and writer. It was moving to be within the tangible legacy of her memory.

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life… Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carson, 1956

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wayne, Maine

We are leaving our friends via South China on the Belfast Road. It has been an ideal four days in Wayne, Maine, with Theresa Kerchner and her husband and daughter Jim and Emily Perkins. Theresa is the stewardship director of the Kennebec Land Trust ( which has been able to preserve over 3100 acres in this area of south-central Maine. Theresa coordinates about 40 volunteers to protect the properties and to set up trails.
Jim teaches high school math. He had given years to this work and expressed concerns that the one-size-fits-all approach favored by Maine school bureaucrats is not appropriate for many kids. Both Jim and Theresa are amazing folks and they have given much of their energy into refurbishing their home, originally built in 1788, and caring for the 72 acres that remains of the original property. Their son Daniel is taking time from studies to work for the Nature Conservancy in New York and their 16 year old daughter Emily is a soccer player and Nordic skier. (We appreciate her strength and stamina more than ever seeing her play on Saturday in a grueling play off.)
Theresa and Jim took great care of us and got us to some gorgeous countryside and introduced us to some really interesting people. The result is that it is really hard to leave.
Our favorite experience was being on our own in what turned into an adventure. We got socked in by fog out on the Androscoggin Lake and had to make our way back without the benefit of any visible land. (I’m including a common loon photo—the wild cries of the loons through the fog, you can imagine.) We also got out on Pickerell Pond with Jim and Theresa, another part of what is called “the thirty mile river” that Wayne residents are immensely proud and protective about. We also hiked on two of the trust holdings on Besse Road and also on the Gott Pasture, named after original homesteaders.
There is a lot of fascinating history about the area and the traditional life styles and succession of land and peoples. I’m just really glad that my friends had the wisdom to sink their roots within this unspoiled countryside.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Hampshire to Maine

We camped on a snow mobile road in Vermont and then crossed into New Hampshire in the morning, a morning that eventually became sunny. We had a full day to enjoy New Hampshire. The route we took was through the White Mountains and we were at a loss about where to hike. It got old jumping out of the truck for all the scenic outlooks. Eventually we settled on a hike that promised to be “relatively easy” with great views. This “easy” category is in comparison to trying to live in a rural New Hampshire environment and keep food and shelter together for a family. Nothing to it, except that it was straight up and then straight down…luckily, just 3 miles. (In this designation of “easy” they are like the Canadians map makers who also must have bionic knees.)
If I can stop complaining a moment I’d just like to write that the views were beautiful. We have been so lucky to hold onto the fall colors since Wisconsin.

It frosted, down to the mid-twenties, last night. By then we’d crossed into Maine. We camped at some dog training field that was interspersed with small clear cuts. In the morning the small survivor plants were etched in ice.

Once we’d re-provisioned at a natural foods store in Norway, Me., we canoed the Androscoggin River, in search of a moose. (Apparently the search for a moose defines the tourist in Maine and brings out great disgust in the locals...) We saw osprey and bald eagle, but moose have proven illusive throughout all the northern ranges we have hoped to see them. We were able to add to my vast garbage collection however. It seems that plastic and styrofoam litter is one thing that the wanderer can count on, no environment seems to be totally free of it. The bottom of the canoe was loaded with it when we paddled back to voyage on to our friends'.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


It’s cold and gray outside the yurt, where I sit near the woodstove. Voices ring through the walls as Guthrie and Roman stack wood and Michael processes veggie oil near the wood frame of their new home.

We came across the Adirondacks with some disappointment since it was so fogged in we couldn’t see much. What was really the most amazing thing in the park to us was a waterfall on the Giants Mountain. Just a little .3 mile amble to the falls and then lunch afterwards, in less than an hour, all the clouds cleared off and the sky became just as crystal blue and the sun as cheerful as it can be sometimes.
We then finished the drive from Port Henry on Lake Champlain down around to the Crown Point bridge and at sunset wandered through the ruins of the Fort Frederic fort, which the French had held from 1730-1759 before they burnt it down in anticipation of the British arrival.
We headed across into Vermont to a biodiesel pump in Bridport but they had sold out of B100 so we had to settle on B20(%.) After that we tried to find a place to park for the night and wandered in the dark before settling at the side of a dairy road where foxes held such an uncanny discussion they sounded like coyotes.
The next day we had brilliant blue skies after the lowland fog lifted. We went to Farmer’s Market in Middlebury and rode our bikes in the national forest up to Silver Lake, just six miles RT, but all uphill, where once again the miracle of rapid weather change overtook us. We left the parking lot in the embrace of sunny weather and arrived out of the woods at the lake for stormy clouds, wind and cold.
With raindrops spitting on the windshield we arrived at our friends’ home in Huntington. Their daughter now lives in their home and they have lived for three years in a yurt about 5 miles up the way. We had a wonderful breakfast today at their neighbors’ and soon I’ll pitch in to help with winterizing. Tomorrow I’ll get some time with Guthrie’s daughters who I’ve known since they were kids… I relish these folks and their kids like sunshine.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Michael last processed veggie oil out on Lake Ontario. That day I wandered in abandoned apple orchards and picked up trash and swam in the great lake as clouds were closing in.
We got into the Adirondack Park with expectations of hikes, canoeing and bike rides but its rained like crazy which put us off on canoeing, since we found, from our last hike, that our waterproofed jackets weren’t waterproof.
In late afternoon yesterday, when the rain was on pause, we decided to hike 3.2 miles to Owls Head Lookout for the “excellent views.” This turned into a very soggy adventure and we ended up trodding back in the dark with our headlamps, in the rain.
It is getting colder and remains foggy and wet. The voyager inside is hung with wet laundry. It is supposed to snow tonight in the mountains around us..
If we can avoid processing, we will explore Lake Placid and the mountains around from the vehicle and then head to our friends’ in Vermont.
Early winter’s here.
Happy Al Gore and Doris Lessing Nobel Awards!
(The Erie Canal stretches from Buffalo and Lake Erie to Albany and the Hudson. The photo here was taken in Rome, NY. You can bike along the whole 363 miles.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lake Ontario and the White Pelican

We arrived in Hamilton, Ontario in time to have dinner at an all-you-can-eat Mandarin restaurant with Sally and Sheldon Praiser.

It was a feast and then some!
The next day dawned really warm and humid and Michael processed veggie oil by a small lake near the assisted living residence where Sally lives, Shalom Village.
I was enjoying the birds who were very active, eating the dried seeds of trees and weeds along the lake, when I met a birder in search of a white pelican. I had just had a wonderful surprise, seeing resident Mute Swans, and wasn’t too excited about his pelican since I’d seen them often in California as well as coming across the country. He said they weren’t found in the Toronto area and he was very excited about it…later I saw him and he said he’d seen it and described seeing the pelican’s unique profile and the excitement that gave him. I knew exactly what he meant about the joy in seeing that bird and there was something outstanding for me in that encounter. The joy of discovering something really wonderful for the first time and resonating with another person, even a stranger, who could feel that wonder too.
I was sad to leave Sally but we headed along Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls rather than stay another night. She is fragile but has a wonderful commitment to enjoying the life that she lives in the moment the very best she can.
After too much freeway time, I was dismayed by the commercialism and craziness on the Canada side of Niagara but when we’d parked and walked down to the overlook, we stood in awe with people from all over the world, and there was nothing but the power and beauty of the falls at sunset and that kind of white pelican joy throughout the crowd.
After the natural light had gone and extravagant washes of projected colored lights splashed the falls, we headed out.
The poor Canadians were lined up and at a standstill on the bridge trying to get home after their holiday weekend in the US, (enjoying the new power of their “loonies,” which are now $1.02 worth in the US.) Nobody but us was headed to the US so we returned again to the mother ship through customs without any official notice whatsoever of all our strange greasy cans on the front and rear of the voyager. (I was also glad that all our collective old trespass charges weren’t on a computer somewhere. I’d hate to be like Medea Benjamin who couldn’t get into Canada over this trumped up reason. Canadian radio pointed out that trespass isn’t even a misdemeanor in Canada and was not a crime that legally could keep someone out of the country. Keeping her out was purely political.)
We headed for the scenic route along the Ontario shoreline through the deserted streets of Niagara, New York, which seemed mostly boarded up, block after block, another alarming comparison with Canada’s vital economy.
So, tonight as I think of where we have been today and where we are going, along another unique Great Lake coast, we are parked between a forest and a grave yard for the people of Youngstown. There’s nothing glib to be said about the peacefulness of the place or even about the history of the community of the living or the dead. We came in the dark and the night is close around us and I’m at peace with that and grateful for the lives we have lived and for this unique day of Thanksgiving.

Michael and Sasha got stung by bees this next morning. Both are doing as well as can be expected. We continue east through rainstorms.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bruce Peninsula

Michael processed veggie oil in Whitefish. During the night waves of thunder, lightning and rain washed over the voyager. In the morning, through dense fog, we crossed Manitoulin Island and caught the ferry from South Baymouth. This allowed us to avoid taking longer miles around the Georgian Bay and let us have more time to explore a little of the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Our park hike to the bay was caught by a torrent of rain on the slippery, pitted and fractured rocks of the Niagara escarpment. I was already soaked so decided to swim the clear bay.
We are headed to Toronto to see a family member... it is highway time now.
Happy Thanksliving, Chris, Michael and Sasha


Happy Canadian Thanksgiving and opening of moose hunting season.
We are at Whitefish, Ontario. It’s a lovely day but rain is expected tonight so Michael is processing ahead. We are parked in the community park near the trailhead to the falls. Salmon are still struggling through the sharp rocks below.
Yesterday we spent in the Boom Camp reserve, down from the town of Blind River, next to the Mississagi River that flows into the North Channel of Lake Huron. We canoed around the delta’s canals and walked the beaches. It was a perfect day. We had started the day out on a beautiful and nameless lake north of Iron Bridge and had great luck with picking up veggie oil in a restaurant in the tiny town.
We really would have liked to know where we were going and how to get there. Our goal today was to get into the Kilarney Provincial Park which looks like it would be accessible from its western border, but, no, not to be. Now we have a dilemma about taking an expensive ferry or taking a long loop round the Georgian Bay.
These are all First Nations lands. When I wrote about Sault Ste. Marie I didn’t mention that aboriginal people had settled and fished the rapids there for thousands of years. I’ve been thinking a lot about “reservation,” the word itself, a North American Bantustan concept that everyone seems to have resigned themselves to accept. Then again about the idea of self governance and community and the positive aspects that are possible, in some times and cases, within the reservations. Still, there’s no getting around the tragic losses First Nations people have suffered. I’m including a map to show the incredible range of the Anishinabe people as they moved freely around the Great Lakes in previous times. This was posted at Mississagi, where a reservation was created that is a postage stamp, upstream from the once rich delta. The people still celebrate their culture each summer where us tourists now beach comb.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

one more word or two on that...

The images are from the art museum between the library and the parking lot behind the museum, right on the St. Mary River, where we were rocked by fierce wind gusts through the night as the voyager pointed her bow back toward Michigan across the water that divides us.

Comparing data for the two Sault Sainte Maries is a real challenge. The Michigan town is much smaller, only 14,300, to the Ontario side's 74,950. They are both the oldest cities in their respective state/province. I couldn't get to income data or mortality figures for the Ontario side but they do get a heck of a lot of precipitation on both sides the St. Mary River.

I think what pulled me to compare the two sister cities is that they have the same name and they are so geographically interesting as they sit in the center of the Great Lakes hub.

US Census data is hard enough to pull through but race, poverty, disease data and infant mortality are easy to recover on internet. The Canadian data is probably there but I couldn't find it at all. All I found out about is about the most profitable steel making plant called Algoma, the melamine factory, the St. Mary's flakeboard factory, the multi-modal terminal, the integrated tourism and transportation development with the performing arts center, biodome..all the sports, culture, media...

This morning on the Canadian Broadcasting radio (CBC) there was a discussion on the Canadian health care system and Hillary Clinton's plan and another show on designing and producing a Canadian automobile. It seems like the country is buzzing with thoughts and ideas. When we were able to get NPR near large or university cities in the US the format is so stale, with deadly hours of classical music and then news that is never lively...

This isn't a good time, with winter coming on, to urge you to just take a swing through Canada to pick up the vibe but to me it is a remarkable jab to note the subtle and not so subtle differences in our national energies, priorities and political will.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Entering Canada Again

It’s 6pm but I had a great hunger to compare the two sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie. Soo, Mi. has the locks and most of the people in the city are working in lake or river related trades but there is also a downtown that looks like it is trying but failing to gentrify itself. There are pubs and bars and vacant lots along with touristy gift shops.
We did laundry downtown so I consider myself an expert on the matter of this town, founded in the late 1600s.. It’s the place where Lakes Superior and Huron connect, formerly a great series of rapids, now controlled by locks for the great commerce that once traveled on these inland freshwater seas.
The Ontario side has huge factories, a wood mill, a big casino, a convention center and no signs of deterioration. (This fit with my unvoiced theory of the failing American economy.)
I have always looked for the drooping petals of the Great Lakes of Superior and Michigan, Huron, Erie to orient myself on the maps of the US. I highly recommend the egg rock laid shores of Superior to you but we’re glad to be back exploring Canada.