Thursday, November 16, 2006

Entry #1

Welcome to the vegetable oil road trip!

This is my inagural posting, so I will explain what I'm doing here. In the spring of 2007, We will embark on a trip from Madison, WI to Portland, OR in my vegetable oil powered 1982 Mercedes Benz 300TD. Here's where things begin to get interesting: We're going the long way. Starting in Wisconsin, we will drive East towards New York City, turn South and drive along the East coast, then we'll turn West at Georgia, drive West along the Gulf Coast and through the Southwest to the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles, and then we'll turn North along the West Coast until we reach Portland, OR.

So far, so good, right? There are a few more caveats: I want to make the trip with at least 90% of the 4,000+ miles driven on waste vegetable oil, therefore greatly limiting the environmental impact of my trip. This means I need good sources of waste vegetable oil all around the country.

There are of course practical limitations when travelling with two people in this car - the veg oil tank sucks up a lot of trunk space, so space is at a premium. Since we'll be camping a lot, that means all our gear needs to be very small and (for my back's sake) very light.

All these problems appeal to my geeky, DIY side, so in the months leading up to the trip, I will be completing several projects that I hope you will find helpful and interesting.

Some of my upcoming and ongoing projects:
  • Portable vegetable oil filtration system
  • Ultralight camping gear (tent, pack, stoves)
  • Mercedes Benz Turbo Diesel maintenance and repair
  • Funding my trip (selling a lot of my personal possessions)
  • Finding waste vegetable oil sources along my planned route
  • Finding a moving company to move all our things to Portland and store them for two months+ until we find a place to live.
Once the trip is underway, I will have loads of pictures, travel information and stories for you.

I realize that most of these are well-covered topics, but I hope to be able to combine these topics in a new, more useful ways that may assist people in achieving their own travel goals.

Some advanced projects I may attempt:
  • An automated system to switch to vegetable oil when engine temperature has reached a pre-determined temperature. This system will also perform a timed purge of the engine on shutdown. I'd like to use an Arduino or Basic Stamp controller to accomplish this task.
  • An in-vehicle navigation system (probably just my powerbook and a GPS receiver).
So, please join us as we embark on this exciting journey. I hope to have a lot of fun, learn a tremendous amount, and see this wonderful country!

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