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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Closing the Circle

The circle is cast. The map circle is closed around the continental U.S. We’ve processed veggie oil for the last time of the voyage at the home of Raymond, Angela, Jet and Lin in Bayside, by Arcata.
The kids have grown since we left through here in July. Their musicianship has flowered and now they are learning karate. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to come back this way!
Usually I come to the coast in the summer to escape the inland heat. I’d forgotten the beauty of the azaleas, rhododendrons, oxalis and trillium blooming. We walked through the 500 acre redwood forest behind Humboldt state and it was perfect closure.

Pacific Coast

This was the longest drive of the trip and perhaps the most beautiful. We left Santa Cruz via the bio-diesel pump for the second tank then picked up Orien in San Francisco. We went as far as Bodega Bay that evening where we parked in front of her friend’s family cabin. (Thanks Davis!) The next day we drove up Highway One until it leaves the coast and becomes Highway 101 through the redwood country inland. We even got rain for the first time since Louisiana! We dropped off my dear Orien with her high school friend Jenny and husband, Steve, then went on to Arcata ourselves. It was wonderful to be able to share meals and time with Orien. (I miss that part of my life when I was a parent and she was my child now that she is a busy adult.) The coast was emerald and blue gorgeous. The California coast has it all over the Atlantic because the land has been protected against development and retains its rugged wildness. Normally we would have taken days to have come this far but now we are all on a timeline.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Santa Cruz

It’s great to be back to the Pacific Coast again, especially in Santa Cruz. We are visiting our friend Mathilde and had a really interesting experience last night. We went downtown with her and her friend June to the Community Television of Santa Cruz studios where she was directing two 30 minute segments of interviews. June is a newly trained camerawoman who is 85 years young and she and Mathilde are great buddies. We got to be part of sound and light checks and then, audience.
Today Mathilde and Annie, another camerawoman from the production team, are filming an interview with Michael for community TV. I’m excited that we will be able to share the segment with community TV up in Butte County when we get home.
I believe that our country really overlooks an excellent energy resource when we don’t have a comprehensive plan for recycling vegetable oil. Every restaurant should have guidelines about how oil is stored (out of the rain, not as a garbage can.) Collections should benefit the community to run public transportation. There should even be veggie oil collection from public citizens who fry foods. We waste so much!
We really appreciate the work Mathilde and other volunteers in Santa Cruz are doing to bring free speech television to the people. Like community radio, it’s a must if we are going to become informed about the issues that are critical to our survival.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Central Valley

We have come to rest, at least for now, in the great central valley of California. Last night we spent at a pull out on a logging road on the way down out of the Sierra. No one went by all night.
Michael tried to process veggie oil near the library in Oakhurst but the highway patrol made a fuss about it being private property. We then moved on to Merced County and processed at a vista overlooking a drab wooded valley over the Chowchilla River.
The day was hot and the thin foothill soils are already browning.
Once in the valley, with its terrible air quality, we could see that the rich farmlands are filling up with human homes. Overcrowded dairies and chicken farms are spliced in with subdivisions. Farming and vineyard plots are shrinking too.
We headed for the closest green area on the map, where there is a National Wildlife Refuge and we pulled in by this canal for the night. The earthen canal, next to the one carrying water away to some urban elsewhere, is filled with heron and ducks, here by the ever busy highway. We know we may be kicked out. The fringe dwellers, the mobile homeless… there is so little open space left for people to just be for a night.
Of course, in California we’ve all had our trying times with tweekers and unstable people and litterers and scary people with mean dogs…we’re not much for trusting strangers. Still, when you are a peaceful wanderer, especially having come from a culture of other peaceful wanderers, you see it from another side.
Ah, the “golden rollin’ hills of California!” Here’s to our state flower and the beauty of her yearly appearance along the waysides! The thirsty reservoir is called San Luis.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Coming out of Tahoe, on the way to Yosemite it was snowing over the passes and fogged in with ghostly beauty. All of a sudden we dropped below the snow line and immediately, like we’d opened a window into another world, there was SPRING! Everything was full on budded out or blooming. There were buckeye, oaks, willows, lupin, ceanothus and when we got near humans there were roses, lilac, not to mention dogwood and redbud, the glory of the roadside attractions. The green rolling hills and deeply proud valley oaks and the little deeper green watercourses with the slanting afternoon sun…all just deeply familiar and gorgeous!
We got kicked out of parking at the New Melones Lake (really low water level!) and ended up at a Walmart in Sonora, the 10th and hopefully, last, Walmart parking lot of the trip.

This posting is obviously out of sequence... I was just too jazzed about getting the Yosemite pictures posted...sorry.


Yosemite. The valley is impacted with vehicles during mid-day and when we (all) first arrive our eyes are sweeping the sheer walls of the canyon and snapping endless photos of the falls and everything else. After that we settle out in the campgrounds or lodges. (Our first paid campground of the journey…the VV was in slot #144 in the midst of short term dark forest temporary village deep within the valley.) The evening and the morning were when the true believers were out wandering the roads and trails in hushed solitary, couples or small clusters of those who were obviously very contented to be exactly where they were. I’ve never really experienced such a reverent population before. The next mid-day was back to fluster again. The flow within Yosemite is congested and the central areas are blocked up. Again, I’m just glad we weren’t there in peak season.
Ansel Adams I am not but how beautiful these photos are anyway. One is a reflection in Mirror Lake. We had to walk in two miles to see the giant sequoia. We had been to Yosemite 25 years ago when we hiked up Half Dome and had bear adventures in the full moon on hallucinogens. This pilgrimage was like visiting for the first time and I’m really glad we altered our course home to come here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lake Tahoe

After a visit to the Grover Hot Spring pool late in the day we stayed nearby between the park and Marleyville. The next day we explored around Carson Pass and to Kirkwood Ski Resort on the far side. The snow was icy and uninviting in the cold wind and I wimped out on the steepness.
Now with snow predicted here in the Tahoe Basin I feel much more optimistic. Plus, we found an empty Sno-Park where Michael can process (the veggie oil) as the clouds thicken. Above the Sno Park people are constructing the Washoe Cultural Center. The Washoe people lived by the side of what is now Lake Tahoe for thousands of years. A lone Canada goose, sounding alarmed, flew upstream just now as Michael is replacing some kinked hose to begin his hours long veggie processing. The creek below us drones along with the DC to AC inverter that Michael uses to power the juicer that centrifuges and cleans the oil he picked up yesterday in South Lake Tahoe at a Thai and a Chinese Restaurant.
All the camp grounds along the west side of the lake are closed and hardly anyone is around. Last evening we walked out in the brisk wind to see the sunset over Fallen Leaf Lake. We camped by the road near meadows that are inches deep with water and just waiting to explode with life when the air warms. The robins on the ground are waiting in all the high country for insects they somehow know will be here, as are the swallows in the air.
Another Earth Day. How I love feeling at home where I am. I only like driving when there is no search for home at the end of the day. Yesterday I think we both felt a bit lost and aimless coming down into urban South Lake Tahoe.
Just now I rode my dusty bike down to the beach and was the only human around. I sat on a sheltered bench and meditated. It was a humble yet abundant gratefulness that I was left with within the vast sea of sensation and possibility. Mt. Tullac and the distant ring of mountains around the great Tahoe Lake were just the macro appearances of everything wondrous that surround(ed) me.
This Earth is really so incredible. The buds keep opening somewhere. We’ve seen that over and over. The resurgence of spring at each elevation and each eco-niche. It’s like being reassured over and over again that reemergence and resurrection are not only possible but guaranteed. This link with natural creativity and faith are something I want to remember and keep living.

May 23. One week from home. The snow flurries were just a tease. In the late afternoon yesterday we picked up garbage on the public access beach especially under the storm drain pipes that dump garbage directly onto the lake shore.
Unfortunately the Blog Monster will not allow me to post any photos... sorry. Imagine beauty.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sonora Pass

It’s a sunny cold Sunday. We came on to Gardnerville so I could blog after days out in the back country. Plus, we needed food and veggie oil.
We went up Sonora Pass today, going past 3 road closed signs and being finally blocked at the fourth. The snow was crusty and the wind was biting so we let it go but it was still beautiful.
The Marines have a multimillion dollar mountain warfare facility at the eastern base of the pass….
Ten days now til we get home! The count down seriously begins now we are back in civilization.

Burt Canyon

We went to Fales Creek Hot Spring which is just a ditch by the side of the highway. We decided it wasn’t hot enough but here’s a photo…
Back country skiers are a tough lot. Today we talked to two people who emigrated to New Zealand but have come to California four times just for the rugged spring conditions and the free wild lands camping. The snow is patchy and sun cupped and you have to take skis on and off and carry them more than you wear them.
That’s how it was for us today. We went up Burt’s Canyon, just south of Sonora Pass. (Sorora Pass had some mountain warfare competition today so we didn’t want to show up for that….) After quite awhile of skiking we got up into continuous snow and good conditions, just as my energy was flagging and the sun was sinking low and the nagging wind was getting colder. Here are some shots from up there.
We came down out of the canyon to have a better view of the full moon but the sagebrush hill blocked the East and the wind had it’s way with us during the night, plus I got my first tick of the season….

Happy Earth

Happy Earth Day! In the morning we tubbed again at the Travertine Hot Springs then came back through Bridgeport to check for wifi. There was none but while we were in the library this flicker died flying into the large glass window in the front of the building.
In honor of that beauty I just want to mention what I’ve concluded on this tour de North America—Humans, all of us, are still pretty bad on a number of things.

People don’t consider when and if to drive or what kind of mileage their cars get, except now with prices going up.

Many people still throw litter on the ground and in waterways.

Humans have tied up critical habitat for human pursuits-housing or other types of density… waterways are heavily stacked in favor of human habitation and recreation so animals have to survive along the edges when they can. Water is survival.

Recycling is at a very primitive stage throughout most of the U.S. We take it for granted if we are recycling but most communities have limited recycling, if any.

Airplanes are constantly in the skies leaving contrails that gobble up ozone. You rarely see a sky without a jet flying through it…often 5 or 6 are visible at once.

North America is incredibly big and beautiful but heavily impacted by the sheer numbers of us humans and our artifacts. Solitude and pristine wilderness still exist but they are rare on the edge of human endeavors and it feels like our growth is like a cancerous skein spreading everywhere. Ordinary people who can’t hike into the back country soon will not see a landscape without their mirror humans in it.

Those are the main things. I could go on about mining and other bad stuff, like two stroke engines, but we have our work cut out for us. To live fully and in balance while reducing our impacts and finding ways to reverse the trends that are pressing down on all of us.

We went to Twin Lakes…got thwarted again in our search for snow access but then helped a Canadian guy whose car was stuck in a snow patch, went for a walk up ….creek canyon, and ended up in the ….hotspring for the sunset and full moon rise…it’s a bit out of focus but you get the beautiful idea.

Bridgeport Vicinity

We’ve been searching for snow access and haven’t been successful. We spent one night below the Tioga Pass road closure along the Lee Vining Creek. That night Michael redirected four tourists from Salt Lake who had reservations in Yosemite to the long detour around the Sierra. What a misery!
We also visited the Mono Lake Committee and learned that the lake levels are on schedule to meet the “management level” except that last year had such low snowfall the lake shrank. They are celebrating their 30th year of protecting the lake.
We found that Lundy Lake (pictured here,) also had very low water levels. It had steep slopes that were too intimidating for me to ski. Virginia Lakes and Bodie had road closures way below the snow line.
We didn’t think we would get to Bridgeport so soon but we needed supplies so it was welcome. What was best about Bridgeport were the Travertine Hot Springs above the valley, looking down on the little town. The Travertine outcroppings are calcium carbonate, like the Tufa formations and are weird and beautiful with alkaline meadows that are dotted with hot springs. We went in two pools. One with multiple pools, hot falls and a chalky bottom and one that was sedately concrete with the usual algae slime liner. They were both wonderful and we went back in this morning.

Mono Lake

After wandering around in the dry, dead drainage below the one-quarter full Grant Lake we came down to Mono Lake. Even though it was just 10 am the sun was too bright to get great tufa shots but the walk from South Tufa to Navy Beach was interesting. I’ve never seen so many Eared Grebes in one place before. There was a bubbling cauldron hot spring. A tiny clear water spring emerging from below a tufa that drew a lot of birds. The fragile “sand tufa” reminiscent of magical hoodoo.
Michael is processing veggie oil.
Those of us who live in California are used to the bumper sticker “Save Mono Lake.” The death of this ancient Great Basin lake was imminent due to increasing salinity levels as LA drew off the water from four of the five creeks that fed the lake. Years of activist struggle against the LADWP brought about an agreement to allow the lake to stabilize. We haven’t gone round to the Visitor Center yet but it appears the land bridge to Negit Island is again under water (although the California Gulls still haven’t recolonized it the way they were expected to.) What is confusing is why the water level hasn’t come up more since the landmark court decision in 1994. It may be that the years of poor snow pack and warming will guarantee that Mono Lake will be permanently pitted against the swimming pools of southern California.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Michael!

Tomorrow is Michael’s birthday. We finally got on the same page that I want to celebrate it even if he doesn’t care. Tomorrow is also the 9 month anniversary of the journey and the point at which we only have a “normal” two week vacation left. It feels like everything we do is extra special now and needs to get the maximum recognition and enjoyment which includes the mundane stuff but especially whooping it up for The Birthday Boy!
Last night we went to a warm spring called “the Tub.” The water was coolish and getting out in the moonlight with the chilled high valley breeze was the most exciting part of the experience. Today we walked a mile down to Little Hot Creek where the water and surroundings are just perfect…it was the Best, even with the fairly stiff walk back up the rutted road with dust devils jumping up on us.
Lastly, we drove up to Mammoth Ski Resort. We were going to ski the road above it but the wind is just gone wild today. It was too biting and fierce to be enjoyable so now we are almost in Birthday Mode. I got Michael a gift certificate so he could get a helmet since he skis alone in trees a lot. I’ve got bakery goodies, Champaign, the name of an affordable restaurant and we’ll go see “Leatherheads” at the cinema. Now, all I need are the candles.
Michael is out getting veggie oil at a Mammoth Lakes Sushi restaurant while I enjoy the joy of thinking about what a wonderful conjunction we have at this time.