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, January 25, 2008

Phoenix and beyond

After we left Springerville we had to decide whether to go to Flagstaff or Phoenix to do truck winterizing and veggie processing upgrades. We decided to go to Flagstaff because our friend Katie Irwin had loaned us the use of her house while she is rafting in the Grand Canyon. We were rolling down I-40 in this photo when the full moon was rising over this stretch from Holbrook to Flagstaff.

We found that there was plenty of crusty snow and ice on the ground in Flagstaff and that it would be necessary to do the repairs on the street since the driveway had vehicles already. Plus that, it was cold except at mid-day and storm is following storm right now.
Sooo, we took the Sedona road for the beautiful red rock canyon and valley extrusions even though the traffic and “yup” was disappointing for a weekday in mid-winter. Example, you can’t pull out anywhere to just savor the view without paying 8$ to the Forest Service. This was the first place we had seen this scenic viewpoint rip-off phenomenon.
The road to Phoenix reminded me a lot of I-5 to L.A. over the grapevine as it spirals down and down. Even the buildings seemed to mirror Southern California. The one difference was the appearance of sentinel saguaro cacti everywhere, beautiful and unique in their thousands.

It's good to be with Jim, Michael's brother. Michael has already done a lot on the truck and the weather is warm.

The hard news is that Sally Praiser, mother of Sheldon and grandmother of Orien, has died. It was said to be peaceful and in her sleep. Now I fly to LA to be with them for this dear woman's funeral.
I'm so glad we got to visit her in Ontario in October on this life voyage. Precious Life.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More desert

As we headed north from Big Bend toward New Mexico we came upon the Air Force tethered air balloon which is actually quite enormous. These can be used for space environmental measurements but they are also used for surveillance, like drug interdiction and for things like projecting Radio Marti to Cuba.
This isn't a good picture but I had climbed a small hill island in the lava flow and there was the distant indication of Trinity, where the first above ground nuclear test was conducted, next to White Sands, where the military still conducts top secret testing. All the suffering, expense and pollution of the nuclear age birthed here in the desert. Here in poor New Mexico, prisoner of resource extraction and waste disposal. Two million people and many old cultures trying to protect the land and their histories.
Lastly, I wanted to share the Very Large Array, an aging Y shaped array of 27 satellite dishes that act like a single antenna to study stars, planets, galaxies, black holes from the desert west of Socorro, New Mexico. I was amazed to come upon it as I had loved the movie Contact.
We went through Roswell, NM (looking for veggie oil) which has a good sense of humor about its UFO link but this is part of real scientific outreach and I thought you might like to see it.
Enjoy the full moon from where you are, in peace.


We had a rough time finding veggie oil in New Mexico. Michael processed our remaining six gallons at Valley of Fire, one of the largest lava flow areas in the country. The bowl of the Acme juicer developed holes during the processing so we are without a way to process until he repairs it. Also, the pump pooped out at the Arby's in Socorro when we did find veggie oil. It's too cold to get the turgid grease out of the dumpsters unless we want to melt it or use a ladle... so, more cold weather problem solving is pending.
We continue to mark the milestones of the journey-- the continental divide, first snow...
We strategically decided to get our second motel room of the trip so Michael can watch the Packer game. We like this town of Springerville, Az. The visitor center had this amazing collection of butterflies and the people there were really kindly... actually, just about everybody we have met recently has been wonderful.
We also walked along the Little Colorado River, which flows through this valley (at 7,000 feet) at half time and saw this eerie cow's skull. Speaking of eerie and lands of enchantment and high desert... I'd like to blog one more time tonight with just a few more photos of things we have seen before we move on.
Peace and Justice for us all on this Anniversary of the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Guadalupe Caverns

Where the sun set on this photo is the Guadalupe Mountain, where traditional Catholics see the outline of the virgin. The Guadalupes are a National Park that is rich in springs and diversity but is often overlooked. We had deep winter chill for our explorations and did a few short forays. The best was into the "Smith" spring, guarded by an ancient maple. This was a favorite encampment for (Mescalero/Nje) Apache until the white settlers and the military drove the people from their lands. Then it became grazing land for livestock. We saw javelina, deer and a family of bluebirds.
The Guadalupe Ridge line extends from Texas into New Mexico. It is called the "Permian Reef," a marine fossil reef formed at least 260 million years ago and extending 400 miles in a horseshoe shape.
In this complex there is oil and gas and the fantastic miles of caves around Carlsbad Caverns. We went in what is called "the natural entrance" shown here--
and wandered down on switch backs to about 800 feet to an unending series of marvellous grottoes and big rooms and vaulted domes and stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, popcorn, domes, crystalline and pools...
Really, if you can get to the Carlsbad Caverns once in your life, you should. It is incredible beyond my ability to describe it.
Beyond the caverns, New Mexico is under assault from Halliburton and all those who wish to develope energy resources for a profit. Oil. Gas. Nuclear. Coal. Here, at the Artesia Public Library I'm surrounded by the bad news after seeing it with our own eyes driving here. I'd recommend checking out Voices from the Earth, the newletter from the Southwest Research and Information Center

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Big Bend Area

We hiked in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. The late afternoon lingered but then the sun seemed to plunge into darkness through a beautiful sunset so we didn’t summit our Lost Mines trail but we did get to race down the trail to get to the truck just as the last light had faded.
We put in about one mile below the Santa Elena Canyon, half in the Big Bend National Park, it sister half in Mexico. We lined, limped and portaged the canoe up the shallow Rio into this amazing sheer canyon and paddled upstream to last light then had an easy rapid paddle downstream.
The Big Bend Ranch State Park is very understated, except for its visitor centers. There was no mention that the .7 mile Closed Canyon slot canyon required climbing gear and good footware. Sasha didn’t know either when she slid down a steep section ahead of us and couldn’t get out. Michael was able to climb down and pass her up but it was a good lesson about how tricky things can get when you aren’t prepared. Some folks heading in wearing flip flops took our picture as we exited the mouth of the canyon. To celebrate our half year anniversary we walked from Presidio, Texas across the international bridge to Ojinaga, Chihuahua for a fantastic lunch. The border patrol must drag tires so they can see footprints better? We hope you will go to the website of to find out how you can help prevent an environmental and cultural disaster along the Rio Grand/Bravo.
We are at our 6 month anniversary of our veggie voyage, six months of living in a cab over camper and running the 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil throughout Canada and the U.S. Where we are and where we have been is like hallowed ground, part of a continuum of variety that still amazes us. Best Planet Ever!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Big Bend

Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and least visited of the National Parks. It has it's own mountain range, the Chisos, so it ranges from 2000 feet of Chihuahuan desert to 8000 feet of mountain.
Michael processed veggie oil by the river on land that was once irrigated by the Daniels who farmed from 1910 to 1940 and lived in this adobe house. The coyote lingered nearby all day. I think it was the scent of all the good food that had once been associated with the oil that held him in the voyager's orbit.

The Rio Grande is dark green and sudsy, shallow and narrow. We paddled about 6 miles from our camp site and stopped at the hotspring shown here, then we had to ride our bikes a rigorous 10 miles back on dirt roads after a grader had gone through.

The people who live in Boquillas, Mexico, have been shunned since a newspaper article exposed the open border here in 2002. There are signs threatening fines and jail time if you buy a walking stick or beaded wire scorpion, which the people leave out on the Texas side with appeals and tin cans for money. We bought the cancion of a man named Victor who sang beautifully, with his fine voice filling up the boquillas canyon.

As the ancient ones probably sang as they grinded food and medicine out on the rock above the river.

Monday, January 7, 2008


After getting veggie oil topped off in Del Rio we went on to Amistad Reservoir which has created over 850 miles of unlikely shoreline out of the brush, chaparral, desert transition zone. The waters have pushed up all the up river canyons and rivers for 74 miles of the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo.)
The first day we paddled up a box canyon and into its many fingers. There were lots of free range goats and sheep, wrens, and turtles.
We also passed through Seminole Canyon where we saw the sculpture above against the evening sky. The next day, we put in on the Pecos River and paddled to Parida Cave which has many pictographs within the cave that had been continuously occupied by humans for 6000 years. The photo below is a view out from the cave to the Parida Canyon where we paddled across and into Madre Mexico. The pictograph below was from another cave, one that was grown over and unmarked. It had even more amazing pictographs and I am very grateful that we were able to be in their ancient company. (You will have to blow up the picture below.)

We end the day in Langtry, Tx. Way off the beaten trail for January tourists and filled with the spirit of frontiers.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

South Texas

A drafty hole blew through my optimism in South Texas. I respect that it is inhospitable here and that people have created lives for themselves regardless. The tension we feel about the border is amplified by the presence of a lot of border patrol. Being Anglo continues to confer that bubble of priviledge that makes me shudder with the unfairness of the whole thing. This land is fierce enough without creating the burdens of ethnoracism.
This woman received our 15,000 mile Best Dressed Flagger Award, besides being a lovely person on a dusty road.
Anything, even a sticker truck, is quite worthy of note here.
I've been enjoying the birds. This is a crested caracara and there are lots of them here. They eat carrion.
Michael processed veggie oil yesterday under the alternatingly wary and sleepy eyes of this Great Horned Owl who was roosting under an underpass.
We head into country that is more mountainous now...I am glad to be saying Adios (from Del Rio, Texas) to the flat densely scrubby areas in favor of ?.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Padre Island New Year

Padre Island National Park is the largest undeveloped seashore in the (continental?) U.S. However, it has more than its share of urban problems, primarily in that the gulf coast beach is the only road down the 60 miles to an impassible channel that divides the island. With the beach access comes enormous amounts of garbage on the beach, some washed up and much tossed by the motorists and primitive campers.
The prestigious sounding Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Hemispheric Council designated this seashore as a site of international importance to shorebirds but the beach is impacted down to low tide line by a constant stream of RVs and trucks and the crabs and tidal food sources are ground under by their tracks.
There are no ORVs permitted in the dunes and there are lots of critter tracks back there but the beach itself is pathetic. We will mess with Texas and send letters to tell them that some of this beach should be off limits to vehicles, even veggie voyagers.
Here are photos of what I mean about the beach as well as a map of the US portion of our 12,000 miles thus far and the veggie oil processing system that has allowed us to run the truck on straight vegetable oil. Also, the cold front that greeted us in the New Year.
Precious New Year to you. All our relations!