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, December 29, 2007

End of Year from Mustang Island

It is the dusk of 2007. We are on the edge of a new tide and a new sunrise and we have power and purposes within the possibilities but also the frailties and surprises that can mean all the difference. That’s been demonstrated, but still it doesn’t do any good to live in timidity, that only increases vulnerability. We are here on the edge of each moment with whatever windmills to tilt, poking plants, polluted sunsets, unicorns, venomous creatures, and vastness that’s before us. Survival in 2008 and for the seven generations. Adelante!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas times

We are in Nederland, Texas. Because Michael had to do some truck repairs we didn't stay too long on the Louisiana coast.
Tonight the moon is rising full over the Dairy Queen and my heart is also full. News of a friend seriously injured. The intensity of this night fills me. My daughter was born this night 27 years ago. My mom died on Christmas eve two years ago and Michael and I drove this route with my crushing heart soon after that. My old friends at Adult Protective Services are losing their nurses because my position was never filled. Everything stitches together in the intensity of this special night. My wishes for you are--

That you shine your beauty. That you have companionship. That you make the most of your strengths and are not held back by your weaknesses.
and that you are kind and care for others and they in turn will care for you when you are in need.
That you will stay our friends and acquaintances because the losses, even at 60, get to be a real burden. Let's all stay strong.
and, Lastly that my dear Orien, whose constellation I watch dancing in the winter skies these nights, has a wonderful new year of Healthy, Productive and Joyful Life.

Peace to you and stay safe, Chris and Michael

Thursday, December 20, 2007

City Council, New Orleans

We woke this morning to the NPR station report that demonstrators intended to disrupt the City Council proceedings...this seemed to be an effort to keep people away. Next we saw this Times Picayune headline, pre-stating the outcome of the demolition vote.
Worse yet, when we arrived at the City Hall a large iron gate met us with over a hundred of us locked outside of it. Ministers, business people, elders and all kinds of well dressed people were there besides the activists, all locked out from the democratic process.
Community members did everything they could to be let in but the heavy police presence just got more intense, with mounted police as SWAT team near-by.
Eventually things got ugly, over 10 people were arrested. People were tazered and mace sprayed and we never did hear the results of the vote although we heard that HUD got to present for an hour and a half and the room was cleared of people who opposed the demolitions so there were few or none to testify for retaining Public Housing in New Orleans.
The skies opened up and drenched us all. We know the activists here will fight on but there is little chance that New Orleans will welcome home any of its people this Christmas. Tomorrow homeless people camping in Duncan Plaza will be arrested for trespass if they don't vacate the City Hall park.
We are leaving with heavy hearts. Peace to the good people of this community.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Before the Vote

Tomorrow morning the New Orleans City Council will decide the fate of Public Housing. We are convinced that demolitions of the housing is the wrong decision. If you want more information check out

We have been going door to door with Myth/Facts flyers about Public Housing with our affinity group member Jeanne. The local paper, The Times Picayune continues to print HUD's side of things despite the fact that HUD has violated state, federal and international regulations in its planning process. Even if our two days of flyering turns out to have been useless it's been a wonderful way to see many beautiful homes up close and enjoy this kind woman's company.
We've also gotten down to the Riverfront and French Quarter twice now. The sculpture above is in a small Holocaust Memorial.
And this was a romantic sculpture on Immigration from another era.
We also went to the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Church in the U.S. to hear high school gospel choirs. The theme being that there is a reason for the season.

Hmmm, another question of what would Jesus do?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lower Ninth

Today we started out at the New Orleans art museum. It's gotten really cold since last night and I'm too lazy to go up the cab to get this artist's name but he did an entire series on the destruction caused by Katrina.
The rest of these photos tell their own story except for the pink... That's Brad Pitt's Make It Right project. He's engaged with a lot of architects to come up with appropriate and eco-friendly homes but I just hope it happens...the pink empty structures are wierd.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Police Extremism

We arrived late for the noon rally and start of the encampment at the St. Bernard Housing Project and were surprised to see a large police presence. We missed the brass band but there was locally and lovingly prepared food and lots of music going on and people were just enjoying the warm day.
Suddenly the motorcycle police and squad cars were moving in and police were arresting people, first a woman who apparently had talked back to one of them, then a community activist then a cameraman. All of it happened rapidly and without seeming cause.

The whole thing was really shocking. There were over a dozen police and military police vehicles there not counting the aggressive motorcycle police. It was as if the agitation for justice on the part of the displaced people had caused some bizarre outburst of over-reaction by law enforcement. It was really disturbing to see the pain compliance neck twisting move I saw them put on the cameraman who did nothing but try to keep his expensive camera from being confiscated...
The crowd moved over to the booking area downtown and so did we but when we left the three hadn't been released. The police also shut down the encampment.
So, are these guys thinking the poor of New Orleans are Al Qaida?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Intermediate Victory

Today there was a small but resounding victory for public housing advocates in New Orleans. The courts determined that the city council must determine if the three projects slated for demolition are to be taken down, not HUD. This gives us until Thursday.
We did “surveillance” at the St. Bernard housing complex today, before the court decision came down to make sure the bulldozers didn’t arrive.
Late in the day there was a vigil at the Lafitte development. It was an incredibly moving vigil. This 82 year old woman spoke about wanting to go home in a quavering voice. Homeless Pride activists talked about their human rights. We sang and prayed and were led in chants and fortified in spirit to know beyond any self serving propaganda that these African American people had given the blood and tears of their ancestors to build this city and the south and they have a right of return to their homes and continue to raise their families in this city where they have lived and worked for generations.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Homeless Pride

There are an estimated 12,000 homeless people in New Orleans. Hundreds live in a park downtown across from City Hall. The city intends to evict these people and fence off the park for the Holiday tourist season.
Today we marched with the residents of Duncan Plaza to the HUD office to demand housing. There are 4,600 units of public housing currently boarded up that are to be replaced with just 744 units of affordable housing. 50,000 people are still in FEMA trailers. It's a profound moral crisis for families to be living under the I-10 bridge or under the eaves of boarded up buildings when the resources can be provided to house them!

Stop the Demolitions!

We are staying in a residential neighborhood in Mid City that flooded at least 8 feet. Half the houses on this street are still unoccupied after over two years. There is a lot of reconstruction going on but other houses are in tatters and there are still lots of piles of house innards on the curbs…
We arrived in New Orleans in time for a Coalition to Stop the Demolitions meeting. Two days of trainings later we got word that the bulldozer had arrived at the BW Cooper Housing Project. In a nutshell, there is a Lot of Money involved here. Big Money wants to gentrify this land and force out the poor from the city interior. The structures are sound but the residents have never been able to get back in after Katrina, even to pick up their most beloved possessions. Now these people are homeless, in FEMA trailers that they are soon to be displaced from, or moved somewhere else. There appears to be a lot of contentiousness about the projects, which aren’t great places to live, however, the displaced residents at this point can’t afford any alternative and need housing. The right of return is a cornerstone of the local credo.
There is a rich diversity of people doing community activism work here and it was good to land in the middle of them. The physical presence of our contingent prevented the demolition of the housing for one more day. There are three public housing projects slated for demolition by December 15th (apparently that is the deadline for federal tax credits totaling $35 million and if demolitions aren’t completed by the 18th the city could lose that money.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


We started to see Katrina damage in Ocean Springs, between Pascagoula and Biloxi. There were lovely old homes along the beach still standing empty and more prominently, lots with cleared foundations. For Sale signs abound.
We arrived in Biloxi at night in a dense fog and wandered into the Grand Casino, the first bright lights that came up in the darkness, an unnatural environment, jumping with sound and a frenetic energy, free of daily reality. We parked on the foundation of a building behind the casino and in the morning we could see that most of the beach strip, for blocks inland, was either completely missing or in ruins. Except… Except for the casinos which were scattered along like shiny high rise beacons of well-being on the sunny coast.

The remaining Mississippi coastline was in similar disequilibrium. There is a lot of reconstruction going on, people in RVs, some antebellum looking houses looking pretty spiffy and new knock offs as affluent as the casinos. These beach properties are universally the property of the well-to-do so there is nothing we picked up about working people of the area and what they went and are going through, however, the inland parts of the communities didn’t look so bad at this time. One elder on the beach told us that folks in Biloxi resent all the attention New Orleans gets.

What has struck me is the hardiness of the heritage oak trees along this coast. The trees remain stately and self pruned in a way that just adds to their appearance of strength and beauty. They circle cleared foundations that look like islands of shade and comfort, even without their former houses. The oaks live the memory of many storms and much of the old south culture that lined the gulf.
Tonight we are south of Bay St. Louis outside of a closed up state park, still on the coast. Tomorrow we head into New Orleans, the first (and probably only) big city of our journey. The act of bringing the unwieldy Voyager into city conditions without a clear idea of where we are going and what we may be doing is a new challenge.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bon Secour to Dalphin Island

It’s hard to leave Dauphin Island, in the Mobile Alabama Bay. We arrived there from Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. (Michael jokes it is a refuge for migratory golfers. One of the distressing things is how these areas are so mixed use you have to wonder where the wildlife survive.) We walked a long way out on the beach at Bon Secour, til we were almost to the high rise buildings that rim every wild area on the coast. On the return walk first four jets, pictured here, flew back and forth and around in formation, then two very low-flying navy jets did tricks for us in a rather sinister way. We were the only ones on the beach and they charged back and forth just above us dangerously and ear splinteringly low.
We took a ferry across the Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island just at sunset, the most spectacular sunset of the trip thus far. Dauphin Island was settled by the French back in the 1700s and both Bon Secour (safe refuge!) and Dauphin have civil war forts at their bay points. Dauphin Island has an active estuary research station, lots of deserted homes on stilts, and almost no commerce and was a really nice place (read: ok for dogs on the beach) except for the natural gas platforms that dotted the gulf. We rode our bikes down the beach before going to a wonderful exhibit at the Estuarium and finally, again at sunset, rolled on across the intracoastal waterway.