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

Monday, July 30, 2012


 Michael processed veggie oil on a road side high above the heavily logged Quinault Nation on the Olympic Penninsula. He made changes to his set up which an interested person can find at on the SVO side. His name on the site is "bio-me" and the photos will be under "acme juicer on the road."
Above, a simple and ancient process is taking place. There is a smelt run and hundreds, perhaps a thousand gulls are gathered for it. This was the most lively bird event we've seen and what seemed to be evident was that very few of them were actually getting any fish.
 At the next and last Washington beach we visited we were struck by the beauty. Don't tell any friends in Oregon or Washington I said this but our California beaches, with the august providence of the California Coastal Commission (which stopped development) and our natural rocky coasts are the Best of west coast beaches although all beaches, any ocean, are better than not being at a beach. This is Ruby Beach and it was the loveliest we saw in Washington.
As we leave the U.S. we say good-bye to all the clear cuts we stayed in. After three states of this desecration of the land you almost get used to it. The logging roads have also been the easiest places to find shelter and what is evident up here is how many people depend on logging.
Last night, on Hoh Nation land, coyote voices cut through the night with three individual singers--the ultimate sound of wildness. Dancing foxglove and hopeful young trees competed and grew together in the whimsical nursery there.
In the same frame are these individual flowers, remarkably unremarkable, and amazement.
 We leave Port Angeles tomorrow for Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada. We are a little nervous but mostly just excited to go on the next stage of the adventure. We've eaten all our fresh fruits and vegetables in anticipation of the produce restrictions and are just enjoying yet another coastal community under muted skies.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Disappointment, Styrofoam and Solar

 Styrofoam, styrofoam, I must hold forth on styrofoam! Here in Washington the saga has continued. It's in all the floats, in the boat building, in the coolers and it is everywhere on the beaches breaking down. It is the home to muscles and works well as a Cheese Hat for my Wisconsin man. I harvest it large and small wherever I go and fret about the stomachs and health of the creatures who you can tell are eating it (from the tooth and nail scratches in the big blocks...)
 We came across to Washington and headed for Cape Disappointment, where Lewis and Clark saw the Pacific. At that time the mouth of the Columbia was five miles across with shallow bars at the entrance which caused hundreds of shipwrecks until jetties were built like the one you see behind Michael above. Lighthouses were built at both the river mouth (below) and on the Pacific side. As a result of the jetties the Columbia is now "just" two miles across and over a thousand acres of land has been added so the Cape looks little like it did when Clark and the Discovery team completed their mission.

 One of our missions was to complete getting the solar running on the V.V. We parked out on the beach at Grayland and Michael worked on it all day yesterday as I rode the flat beach on my bike. I have to tell you (again) again how amazing Michael is... he not only put up the panels shown here but connected and put together the shut off box, the solar controller, the AC invertor, the fusebox, the battery box and the monitor from all those hardware stores and in a really small space with a mind-boggling amount of trouble shooting. Already, even on a typical gray coastal day we are collecting and storing a great deal more energy than we did on the 2007-2008 Veggie Voyage with the addition of the extra panel. We've also picked up small amounts of veggie oil from restaurants along the way so we'll be able to make it to Port Angeles without any more diesel dependence.
We are in Aberdeen, Washington and now head toward the Olympic Penninsula with the mandate to eat up all our fresh fruits and vegetables in preparation for entering Canada.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At the Columbia

Michael processed the dumpster veggie oil from Corvallis yesterday. Our first processing went uneventfully although he only processed 10 gallons-- "processed" means the oil is spun to extract  any particulates or water so the straight oil (which is not the same as bio-diesel) can be used to run our truck. He worked out all the details of a new system but is still using our greasy old centrifuge.

We were along the Netul River, where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1805-1806 at what they (built out of dense forest in the rain and) deemed Fort Clatsop. My imagination was filled again with trying to put myself in their shoes-- which I really couldn't. Their accomplishments really defy what most of us consider to be our skill sets for courage, knowledge and physical determination.

All the rivers around here were used to float logs once the west coast exploitation began in earnest as the old growth forests were decimated (and the younger forests continue to fall for export--all the coastal inland forests are patch-worked with clear cuts.) These posts (above) may have been old piers but on the "Lewis and Clark" River they were used for the rafts and booms of logs.

The bottom photo is the Columbia River from the Astoria Safeway where we ingloriously but gratefully spent the night. It's really vast with huge tankers making their way up river. What doesn't show in this shot is a bald eagle eating a fish on one of the pylons. In the distance is the bridge which is Hwy 101 sent to carry us on to Washington.

We are at a cross-roads here. Trying to figure if we can afford a very, very expensive ferry trip up the inside passage or if we should go round (the urban corridor from Olympia to Vancouver.) I will be disappointed if we decide not to do it but it's not our way to spend huge amounts of our limited finances on such a splurge.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Northern Oregon Coast

 Movin quick to get updated and out of this cafe so this mom of a three month old can get home. Seaside is where we are... been accumulating what we need to process veggie oil... the solar set up is more sophisticated than on the last Veggie Voyager. We are otherwise falling into the rhythm of being by the coast in the day and up in the forests at night. After a rain the profusion of foxgloves were even more beautiful than ever. Along the muddy trail at Cape Lookout (5 miles of root walking) were these luminous salmon berries. It's been one beautiful thing after the other... lush, green.

 The beaches are the best. All the wanderings and bikings and just being with the play of the tides.
 Gotta git... Wish there was more time for writing but the sun is out and there's nothing to do but promise more to come.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grand Ronde THANK YOU

 This is a measure of a Veggie Voyagers existence... ordered confusion and mess. This is a filtration system for veggie oil in Corvallis. We were able to purchase veggie oil and take some raw funky oil. Then we headed into the holy hell lands of Home Depot, Napa Auto Parts and got up to where the bio-diesel was purported to be at 5:05...too late... Soooo, we went up into the hills and clear cut mono-forests above McMinnville for the a bad leak in the rear tire...the scene of our struggles with this were (photo below).. canned sealer/expander didn't work, lug nuts wouldn't come off, no log truck had a compressor.... We limped back to town...spend most of the day at Les Shwab and more auto part stores... the ignition went out at about the same time and the tail lights and the camper battery wouldn't charge from the truck and, and, and... the bio-diesel place couldn't sell to us...
 So, we went wine tasting at the Yamhill Winery and bought diesel and parked the night at the Grand Ronde casino--- ahhh, ahhh, ahhh... Simple pleasures then reinserted themselves... like this Queen Anne's Lace...
 There is a really good history of the tribe's struggle ( between the Lodge and the Casino and it garnered much respect from me.. (usually snooty about casinos.) I loved best this old car lot between the RV parking and the casino...especially the tires and rust..good reminders of where we were and where we are going.
 It's mellow here in the Keno Lounge...guess I need to get back out to the lot though... You perhaps know from my saying it how amazing Michael is? Well, he is continuing to pit his mind and body against the natural history of this 1987 Ford Truck and it's unwitting effort to become like the cars above. We will make it out of the lot today, I think.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amelia's Corvallis

 This is beautiful Amelia, the lovely newborn of Maya and grand-daughter of Valori, my old friend.
 We've been at the home of Valori and Courtney for three days now as Michael puts the solar panels on the roof of the new V.V. He's got the batteries in and will finish hooking up the system tomorrow so we will have enough juice, with three panels, to process the veggie oil we hope to run the truck on.
 Val is a wonderful human and activist and right now she is up to her eyeballs in trying to help her god-daughter win against a very unjust situation... See for the explanation.
 Valori works at the Coop Natural Food Store and to get there I followed the Willamette on my bike... all the way into Corvallis is along the river.. it's really a wonderful environment-- lush, loved, and very bicycle friendly.
I threw this in for Chico where a plastic bag ordinance is being framed as some sort of communist plot against the freedom-loving... At the Cooperative Natural Food Store where Val works there are so many improvements-- from water conservation, rain water collection, a recycling yard that takes STYROFOAM, toilet paper rolls that don't have the cardboard inner ring, no junky stuff at the check-out stand... que mas? A wonderful deli and a solar paneled awning for the bikes... More but I can't think of it all. It's called First Alternative--

Saturday, July 14, 2012

 Our sluggish race to the coast paid off in cool green lush and banana slugs experienced along the Redwood trails with my old friend Angela.
 There's nothing really more magical and beautiful than what nature does when she is well watered and left free.
 Angela's daughter Lin is 13 and still content to be friends with ducks like Marco who seems to delight in preening her and being carried around by her.
 It was great to be in Arcata with Angela, Raymond, Jet and Lin but to get to Corvallis we had many foggy and beautiful beaches to parallel. More yet to come.
We ran out of bio-diesel too so we are holding out major hope we can find some here. Right now Michael is working on the solar panels and soon we'll have a little more oomph for processing our veggie oil.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

 Packing up the house was one thing but getting everything for the truck and for the trip was far more formidable. We were supposed to leave last Thursday and each day had its challenges, especially getting the flat bed ready for the cab-over. We were moved out by Sunday but didn't leave until last night... Last view from our bedroom, below.
 Now, the view from our sitting area from the camper out into the late afternoon and 104 degree temperature.
 Poor Michael, covered in dirt and sweat from all the finding and packing of the stuff that is now safely stored in those boxes along the lower sides of the camper.
 We left Chico at 8pm, through the sickly fire orange skies into the night climbing out of the soup of it by Redding and woke this morning at Whiskeytown Lake, up by the Power Station where we parked when we started and ended our Veggie Voyager 5 years ago. This time leaving on Bio-diesel with our solar panels on our bed, not yet mounted and too tired to cook dinner.. just straight to bed chorused by frogs and crickets.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Almost Leaving

 Well it's full-on summer and we haven't left. The garden is pressing out Zucks and Cukes and the trees are heavy with plums, apricots and even peaches. This morning we had a community gathering for Sheldon's 70th Bday and had waffles with fresh fruit. Delicious time of year!

For the Fourth of July Kim Weir and I went out to Pine Creek and brought dinner to my old friend Howard Wurlitzer and walked around a little on his land up to the swimming hole and out to my old cabin then stopped out on the road to watch fireworks in the far distance. What was remarkable was when that huge orange moon came over the foothills it was much more interesting.
 Also on the 4th I rode the electric bike out to the north end of town and "walked' in with West Coast Walkupy walker Art Brown who has walked here from Olympia, Washington! He only has to make it to Sacramento now but that will be in really hot weather with little shelter or access to water.
 We had a potluck for Art on Thursday then a potluck for Pastors for Peace on Friday. This is their 20th year of Friendshipments to Cuba with the goal of flaunting the Embargo against Cuba. They parked out at Riparia and sheltered here for the night before leaving early in the morning for Oakland, just one route of 10 converging on the Mexican border with these kinds of dangerous supplies.
 Meanwhile Michael works and works and works. Sunrise to after dark every day. He took the back of the truck off and put on this flatbed but first he is amending it to be lower. We have postponed leaving a number or times now but really have to be out Monday. Our friend Karisha of MaMuse is needing to make her move then
 And I do my "thing." 'Made a dish for Food Not Bombs and got in a shot with these great Food Not Bombs folks and Art today. I'll miss Chico people, the cornucopia, the warmth on my skin (in those frequent times its not oppressive but really comfortable,) the creeks, yoga, our community...