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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

Today was Day 3 of the Great Alabama Days!
Day one. Michael spent hours fixing the cascade of electrical things that were konking out on the truck. I picked up garbage.
Day 2. The truck battery gave a final kerplunk and he had to walk a mile to purchase a new one in order for us to ever again leave the sushi bar grease dumpster where we were parked on the edge of marvelously draping kudu (hiding the garbage.)
Day 3. While everything seemed to be looking up, with amazing surprise resurrections of both the horn and cruise control, we went by a nuclear power plant, with the quaint sign that said, “Farley Nuclear Plant- Certified Wildlife Habitat” so I asked Michael to back up so I could get a picture of it. Crunch. We backed into an employee who was about to turn into the facility.
Luckily, we must have a very benign ambiance, despite our canisters of greasy material for and aft, because not US nor Canadian customs nor sheriffs today asked us what the heck we are carrying. Here we were, creating a scene at the gates of a nuclear power facility and nada other than the usual embarrassments and regrets to show for it.
We sit here now at dusk at the Chatahoochee State Park, at the corner borders of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, discussing our next move over chips and dip. Home Sweet Swamp.
Stay safe.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanks. Living.

It’s a crisp, cold day in Northern Georgia with lots of titmice, chickadee, and what I think are lesser goldfinch (minus the gold,) at the feeder. Bronzy reddish oaks hold onto the fall color and help the blue sky define itself through the large picture windows of my brother’s family’s “cabin” here in the Chattahoochees of Northern Georgia, less than 20 miles from the Tennessee state line.
Yesterday we walked up Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. This Thanksgiving eve two inches of rain fell and created an ice garden at elevation that sparkled above and around us. At dusk on the ridge line we had a golden sunset on one side and the full moon rising on the other while the very full car rocked with our singing.
Thanksgiving Day itself was almost all about food preparation. Carol prepared THE most delicious salad and pies, traditional mashed potatoes, cranberries and best of all, a vegetarian version of chestnut dressing that I am longing for right now. Warren tried to cook a 22 pound turkey on a Webber (barbeque) and discovered it was a “no go” which delayed the feast a little but we were all really ready to eat when the turkey was done which, I think, made the meal even more delicious. I prepared a Hubbard squash, wild rice and some split pea soup for my contribution, same as I probably would have made at home. I’m almost 40 years a vegetarian and my nephew Danny is also vegetarian so it was easy to accommodate differences.
We called home to Chico, Ca. and talked to Orien and her dad, Sheldon, and it was reassuring to hear about the potluck of the Riparia community. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Often there are still things that haven’t frosted in the summer garden as well as a good range of local produce from the Chico Farmer’s Market. A potluck is easier because the responsibility sort of smoothes out and no one is on the spot for the culinary satisfaction of the diners. In any case, if we could be anywhere but home I am Grateful we were here. I adore my nephews and the new puppy, getting to be with Isabel, the hospice kitty, my wonderful sister-in-law Carol, and my closest family in a very small family, my good hearted brother, Warren.
Michael is back outside. He got the Acme juicer to balance better and is fixing various oddly breaking down aspects of our 1987 Ford truck. We made it up here on 20% biodiesel and hope to leave on straight veggie.
If we know you we miss you and if we don’t we wish you well and to all good wishes for the Liveliness of your Awareness in this great experience of Being Alive. Thank Fully.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shut Down the SOA/WHINSEC

Maria Elena’s brother was “disappeared” in Guatemala. Over 40,000 disappeared, without a trace in the 1980s with the help of USA tax dollars.
Name after name of disappeared and murdered was called out and we thousands would respond for each, “Presente” (You are still here with us.) We would raise our crosses each time a name was called out to acknowledge them as we walked in solemn funeral procession.

Dennis Kucinich, our Presidential candidate, is pictured here with the founder of the SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois, who has organized to close down the School of the Assassins for 18 years. Rabbi Michael Lerner and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney are side by side also.
This year, five South and Central American countries have opted not to send anyone to be trained at the SOA.
In Guatemala, the man in this poster, Rios Mont, has remained free, unprosecuted and in public office since his extensive war crimes in the 1980s, when some of the worst atrocities of SOA graduates were perpetrated on the civilian populace of Latin America. Go to the Amnesty International website if you wish to get involved in bringing Rios Mont to justice.
Grandmothers for Peace was inspired by a Holly Near song and has grown to be a formidable force for peace since prisoner of conscience, Cathy Webster from Chico, California, began to organize it, just a year ago.
Lastly, me, drained of wailing and tears after the die-in at the gate. Thousands of crosses representing innocents murdered by the SOA are stuck in the gate. Eleven people crossed onto the Fort Benning property and were arrested for Civil Obedience. They will need our support.
Check out the Columbus Ledger Enquirer for more photos...

If I don't get to say so until after Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving to you. Enjoy your Life no matter what stands between you and your bliss.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

SOA Day One

The puppetistas created an amazing analogy. Grey flying creatures invaded the corn people's lives... but first to know the sweet humanity of the puppet people.
And the drums and generations and spirit of "el pueblo" reverberated throughout the afternoon.
(Speakers and musicians throughout the day giving encouragement to Shut Down the School of Assassins. Last year in Congress the Bill, now HR 1701, which would suspend operations and conduct a full investigation into Dept. of Defense training in Latin America, lost by only 6 votes!)
As the legacy of the murderous US taxpayer paid helicopters was illustrated by the puppet helicopter look into the sky for one of the helicopters that buzzed us in attempts to intimidate us, above the sinister bird that shadowed us and here appears to be peering skywards.
And when the tides turned it was with the giant face and outstretched arms of Rufina Amaya, the sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre (a community of 800 people who were slaughtered by SOA graduates in El Salvador) who died this last year and was revered. Some of this crowd has come together at the Fort Benning gates for 18 years in their steadfast efforts to shut down the school. We can do it THIS YEAR.
We hope you will find time to call Congress 1-202-224-3121, ask for your representative and ask that they close and expose the terrorism trained into the graduates of the SOA.

Friday, November 16, 2007

We're Still Here.

'Photos won't download and it is late but we are in Columbus, Georgia with thousands of other social activists who want, from the depth of our beings, to have a world without racist, oppressive US military polices that sacrifice human rights and dignity in the name of economic and security interests. When we came here it was like coming home. Not because Fort Benning and it's surroundings are so homey but because of the people who converged here to attempt to shut down the notorious School of the Americas (now WHINSEC.) It's a long road many of us have travelled since the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam and all the wars and environmental and social justice movements since but it is like a quality in the blood, this life long quest for a just and sustaining world.
I'll report on it tomorrow with photos. Peace to you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


We rode bikes around Edisto Island from the beach inland into the live oaks and [palmettos through the salt flats. It turned out that we loved the ACE (Achepo, Combahee and Edisto black water Rivers.) The fritillary and copper-head were just some of the critters we saw. The oyster shell midden was from a place where the area was enjoyed by the earliest people.

We are off to Georgia as another cold front moves in. We are cheating--bought soy oil at Costco to take us down the road as our Acme Juicer that centrifuges the veggie oil to clean it for fuel use is on the fritz.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Bear Mystery

The main coastal highway is Route 17 and it goes through sprawling Myrtle Beach. We had a quixotic family sorting out to do near there so we went on another major highway artery (bleeding) inland. During this major roadway traveling I disconnected from liking South Carolina and I think this is part of my prejudice about “the South.”
First off, the urban sprawl, flat roof ugly and full on frontage advertising signage just goes on for miles and the devastation of natural features into these expendable pine lots- it’s just a model for deadening the spirit’s connection with community and the land …Then the creepy word “plantation” on all kinds of development…The whole lack of planning and responsibility for the blight of how it looks and how it is for the vehicle traffic with long lights, hardly visible road signs and just plain old jumble. There would be no possibility for pedestrians or bicyclists to survive a street crossing, none would be attracted to even want to try—everything just melds into crap row, even though the elements aren’t really crap, that’s the outtake.
The communities off the major roads have either an elegant grace like Tara wannabes with weepy Spanish moss off enormous oaks or they are communities of little homes that look like they are settling into the sand of their small lots, quietly decomposing, the former inhabitants looking Caucasian, at first glance, and the latter, African-American, maybe there is overlap or integration but we didn’t see it. We just get one wavering line of sight on this journey so I can only report with this Mason-Dixon jaundice-thing kicking up. We have lots of states to work this out through though, this is the time.

We crossed the Santee River and took a turn into an area called Cape Romain. It was late in the day, after doing the family side tour and Michael sporting his new Veteran’s Day Vietnam Vet haircut. We needed to process veggie oil and camp so we went into a beautiful and inviting looking place that was part of the Santee Wildlife Refuge. No one was in the campground but there were some tents set up and a dog barking through the trees, otherwise it had quite a wild feel. A bald eagle soared out above my head and herons hunched and launched as they croaked their hoarse alarms while we wandered the mown part of the campground. We noticed the smell of mammal death coming from the wood margins toward the swamp, which was just at the edge of the campground. Then, in an open pit we glimpsed down to the hacked up, skinned carcass of a bear.
This sighting, the absence of humans and the calls of wild creatures in the night set off all the Deliverance bats in my belfry and I think that is what this trip is especially good for. I stayed in my shard-like alarm bell feelings without letting my mind yap until the fear cleared and I organically recognized the demarcation between the feelings and how useless pre-terror is. Michael, who is a bona fide warrior, said in the morning that he respects fear and was amazed at himself in the middle of the night for not getting us out of there when we both sensed, and discussed, possible risk. How much risk was there though and how much of it is the unfamiliar people and environment?
We drove into the Francis Marion National Forest after that, which is a huge tract of timber pine, deer hunters, and not-on-the-map sub-roads, basically the same subtext as at Santee but in the bright light of day. The Wampah creek runs dark chocolate brown here and the swamps are still wet even though this is the worst drought in recorded history. Here I remember the veterans, civil war on, and all that divides us in this moment with real renewal clearly visualized as exceptionally hard work. The first step is sinking into the generosity of a peaceful and open heart in the presence of the mystery of the bear, which continues.
ps--We reported about the bear and I couldn't get SC photos to post.

Friday, November 9, 2007


“O Cock Crow, O Cock Crow” is what “they” say that Blackbeard, the pirate, who lived and died locally, chanted to bring the dawn and name this island of Ocracoke…

We have had an adventure here this chilly dawn. Yesterday afternoon Michael processed oil at Cape Hatteras then we proceeded to miss the toll ferry between Ocracoke and Cedar Island so we had to drive out to the beach again to sneak a night’s camp.
This time the beach was less packed down and we got stuck in the sand above the high tide line. Michael wisely decided to wait til dawn to address this but I had trouble thinking of it as a permanent home and there was no truck in town that would have had the muscle to pull us out. (The voyager weighs about 10,000 pounds.) The fine fisherfolk came over to lend a shoulder in the dawn but it wasn’t needed, if you let enough air out of the tires eventually you “float” the sand in four wheel drive.
While re-inflating the tires at the village baitshop a rugged looking man started talking to me. Michael thought at first that he was Australian but it turned out he was a local North Carolinian. He is disgusted by the changes in the village, which sure seems cute and touristy. He said, “They say they want to keep it the way it is then they get in and make it the way it was where they came from. It’s all about the green (rubbing his index finger and thumb together.”) Somehow our truck inspires kinship among outdoorsmen from Dixie north through Canada, even without going into the veggie oil spiel.
It’s a narrow strip of heaven, that’s for sure, even if it does have the tourist curse. ‘Twas a spirited dawning me hearties.

Cape Hatteras

The Outer Banks. When I look at the Rand McNally Road Atlas I never know what to expect of new places especially when I combine the little line of green on the map with what is in my patchwork memory-- like PBS documentaries on former slave community, and childhood books, like Misty (wild pony) of Chincoteague …
We are at Cape Hatteras, the barber shop lighthouse just beyond us. The wind, sand and cold create the environment Michael is processing veggie oil in outside the back bumper. I type to the drone of the inverter yet again. The solar panels are giving 3.5 amps right now, overcast. This is the unofficial midpoint of our voyage—9000 miles and 30 veggie processings for Michael, the determined.
Last night we followed our bliss onto the beach. Carrying a full truck load of water, biodiesel, and veggie oil we were the largest extravaganza amongst the fisher people and luckily we floated the sand just fine. (These guys have big late model trucks outfitted with multiple poles, like pipe organs or medals, sticking vertically up on their front bumpers and sometimes on the back too. They don’t drink, chat, or even sit down. They “man” their poles and stare to sea. Their ranks stay til after dark and are back before dawn.) The rule seems to be; as long as you have a “pole in the water” the National Park Service can’t bug you about camping so we chanced it, having only hiking poles…
The night was like an intersection in the middle of the “nowhere home” theme of the trip. I couldn’t sleep for fear of missing the “rosy fingers of dawn” but also because I expected, in some fear based part of myself, to be sucked into the sea by a tsunami wave or by the high tide (of which we sat maybe 20 feet above with our front tires, poised for our fate.) One part of my dream self saw us taking off like a turtle to fly beneath the waters like an animated caricature of ourselves, the other saw one more voyager wreck in Davy Jones’s locker here on the shifting sands of North Carolina’s Outer Bank, among the shells and debris that the fishermen ignore at their feet. (We never saw a fish be caught in our 12+ hours amongst them.)
P.S. I have narrowed my garbage collecting to Styrofoam, plastic and the ribbon tails of balloons or other things birds might tangle in. Please avoid the use of these products in the interest of my sanity and the health of all species.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


First of all, Michael tells me it is Packers, not Packards! Sorry, Acme Packing and fans.

We are on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is continuous to the Shenandoah National Park, and just as beautiful and less smoggy. It’s Monday, which might explain why it is just about deserted, but it could be hype and nearness to D.C. that makes the Shenandoah so popular. There are also dozens of trails to hike on which is another plus.
We started off with a night on a side street by a garage in Front Royal, Virginia and rolled into the park early on Fall Back Sunday. I picked up this cartoon at the Front Royal (Warren Co.) Library on Saturday. With elections coming and the world in a precarious mess I thought the cartoonist’s obvious preference an interesting and alarming view into the precipice of slippery slope thinking.
Speaking of views, the views into the Shenandoah Valley were marred by smoggy haze, caused by sharp increases in development, by late afternoon with more sun and being further south it was better but the situation of poor air quality is worsening overall.
We hiked up to Hawksbill summit, highest peak in the park at 4051 ft. and for a few miles on the Appalachian Trail. A determined Ruffed Grouse thrummed for all climbers right along the trail for over an hour.
We also saw dozens of deer, some tame, some crazy wild unpredictable.
It’s tempting to follow this route all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina but we won’t. The North Carolina coast is tugging too hard at us.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

West Virginia gone

This is a brief post as was our time in West Virginia. We followed the Potomac to Paw Paw, formerly a union fort during the Civil War, erected to protect the Chesapeake Ohio Canal, which only operated for 75 years before the railroads made it obsolete. We biked miles on the canal tow road with its locks and brickwork and witnessed the 3000+ft. tunnel paid for with the health and lives of immigrant people.
We followed the Cacapon River through a corner of the state, following the ridges and hollows into Virginia as the dry leaves were falling, floating and crunching around us.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hancock too

There has been severe drought on the east coast. The reservoir for New York city in Pepacton is at 80%. When we were in the Catskills after Michael processed veggie oil in fierce chilled wind, we hiked to Balsam Lake Forest Lookout Tower at the end of a storm which had all the look and feel of early winter.
The last photos here were just after the rains the day before that when water was coursing down all the rocks and low places of the hillsides and dozens of newts were exploring the flooded grassy banks of a small lake.
I realized that our entrance point to Pennsylvania from New York was Hancock, New York just as the cusp of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia is Hancock, Maryland…This Hancock has the good fortune of hosting a Rails to Trail bikeway that extends from Cumberland to Washington, that I hope we’ll get out on this afternoon.


All Souls Greetings!
We are in Hancock, Maryland, the little bottleneck of Maryland, a strangely shaped state. From this spot (Chesapeke and Ohio Canal National Historical Park) we could paddle on the Potomac to Washington, DC to rebuke the politicians and howl objections in the halls of Congress then paddle out the great Chesapeake Bay to continue our quiet observance of all there is to sense.
We’ve run on 100% biodiesel from Lewisburg, Pa. an area rich with Mennonites. It’s a long story, but started with a Packard’s game. Michael was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin and holds great loyalty for the home team. This was the first time we sought out a bar on the trip. The place we found was on a sprawling highway corridor and closed at 10pm so we ended up seeking out a second…so I guess we went bar hopping. The main thing is that we met a kindly couple at the first place and the woman gave us information on a local biodiesel enthusiast and practitioner with the caveat that he is a very busy man and possibly could not assist us.
The man turned out to be the amazing Preston Boop, Commissioner, contractor, waste recycler, farmer, family and church man, but also biodiesel entrepreneur. He’s one of the people who seem underwhelmed with their own incredible and unlikely profile, very humble and practical, an alchemist who goes home after his full day and cooks up gallons of biodiesel to run over a dozen vehicles driven by family and employees. He is fascinated with working out the kinks, doing it right.
These photos are of Preston and the clear finished product and the final washer behind him, the methanol recovery unit and wash tanks in his passive solar warehouse. He very kindly allowed us to fill both our veggie and diesel tanks with his biodiesel in exchange for a fair trade donation to his church.

We didn’t have much of a usual Halloween. I made eyeballs in blood for dinner (i.e. ravioli and tomato sauce) and we ate by candlelight in a spooky hollow and listened to bluegrass from West Virginia and classical from Pennsylvania. I dreamed of the house we lived in when we lived in New Jersey and woke with great appreciation for my parents and the good lives they provided for my brother and I.
During the day we’d canoed on Lake Raystown, a huge Army Corps of Engineers reservoir. It seemed unnatural until we got into a little finger where invasive grass created habitat for huge numbers of fish. The day was sunny and in the high 60s so we lazed with dragons and bees.