Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Course Corrections

I think of myself as a very, very, very seasoned traveler. At age 3, I was on my first trans-Atlantic flight. By age 8, I was doing trans-Atlantic flights solo. I've backpacked through Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America, carrying as little as possible. I've completed several cross-country road trips, blasting across the country in three days, driving 16 to 18 hours per day, sleeping only when exhausted, subsisting only on Wafflehouse grits, hash browns, and coffee. I've had to travel professionally - enough to amass traveler rewards points and elite status in several programs; I can fly through a security line with the effortlessness of someone who has logged long hard hours on the road - remove laptop, kick off shoes, pull out Ziploc bag of potential liquid explosives, feed the X-ray, slip through the magnetic detector, do it all again in reverse, and continue towards your gate without breaking stride.

I recount my travelling resume not to boast, but to highlight the experience brought to bear when I say these next words: So far, after 1900 of 6500 miles completed, this has been the most challenging and difficult journey I have ever undertaken.

The first few days were consumed by moving from Madison to Indianapolis, meeting people in Indianapolis, and then rushing off to our commitment in Warren, Ohio. Not surprisingly, we finally arrived in Boston worn out and sick.

The weather turned bad, and temperatures dropped. All we could manage was to recuperate in our hotel room, we missed out on several opportunities to meet with some very important people in the world of vegetable oil-based fuels - researchers and businessmen at the forefront of the biofuels revolution. More importantly, we missed an opportunity to explore a great city.

We both have engineering backgrounds, so we will make some mid-course corrections to solve some of problems encountered:

Problem: A feeling of rushing across the country, pushing too hard.
Solution: We are rearranging our schedule to allow for more down time between travel days. (You'll note the recent hiatus, and that we are lingering in NYC this week.)

Problem: Uncertainty driving in new towns multiplied by literally hundreds of new towns and detours are beginning to wear on us. Also, we'd like to stray from the marked paths of the interstate highways a little more.
Solution: Thanks to the Internets, I'm shipping a GPS system to my brother's house. We'll pick it up when we go through North Carolina. Hopefully this will alleviate issues surrounding navigating through new areas, and (added bonus) it has a database of restaurants included - all we have to do is search for "Falafel" to find fuel on the road - both for us and Minnie.

Problem: The weather has been uncooperative. We packed for warmth and sun but got cold and rain.
Solution: We're borrowing warm clothes and driving South... Meh, it's all we can do, right? That, and hope this cold spell will break.

Problem: Due to the cold weather, we can't properly filter oil before putting it into the tank, causing us to go through fuel filters at a very fast pace. We've used 4 in the 1700 miles since leaving Madison - several times more often than what we're used to, and what we calculated for. It's also probably not that good for our engine.
Solution: There is a shipment of fuel filters headed for my brother's place, and I may send more to New Mexico as well, if we continue to have problems as we head South. Also, we're planning stops at places where I know we can purchase filtered waste veg oil. Also, we've been able to complete 1900 miles on 100% biofuels. If we need to bite the bullet and use some petroleum diesel, so be it - I don't want us to kill ourselves trying to stay away from petroleum products. Our goal is 90%, and we're currently at 100%, we can afford relax a bit, and try to only use good fuel sources.

I know all the VegOil purists out there are cringing - sorry guys, but on the road, expediency beats perfect filtration every time. That's why there are fuel filters in the first place, right?


  1. Hey Sacha & Mary!
    John found a GREAT site you should look into if you are having trouble finding good oil,
    We sent out emails & got responces lickity split!
    Best Regards,

  2. Correction: the website is
    Sorry 'bout that!!

  3. Theresa: That's a great website! Once we use it a bit, we'll probably make a post about it.