Monday, July 30, 2007

Montana

Longest day of driving so far. Sheridan, Wyoming to Missoula, Montana, 475 miles. That's a long drive when you're only doing 60 and it's 93 degrees out. I did get to stop and swim in the Yellowstone river though and coming into Missoula I saw a forest fire. Not just the smoke of a forest fire, I mean flaming hillsides and burning debris rolling down to the freeway. I got to Missoula at eight o'clock and was unable to find anywhere to get a shower. I'm sure if I had made friends with some of the locals they would have let me come over to their frat house and clean up but instead I went to the giant natural foods super market and cleaned up some in the washroom and then refilled some of my bulk containers and got a salad from the salad bar. I sat outside during a stunning sunset (still at least 90 degrees out) and ate dinner while reading about the upcoming annual Testicle Festival here in Missoula. Yup, the Testy Festy. I parked on a quiet street and popped the top, first time I've ever done that in town. NO one seemed to mind, in fact, given the number of other Westphalias around, I bet people do it all the time. Today I'm heading on to Spokane, Washington and hope to cross the border into BC tonight. Oh, and I'm still looking for a shower.

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Globe and Mail article

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wyoming

I was cruising into Wyoming with 25 gallons of grease that I was waiting to filter, thinking that I had better buy some diesel. I passed a BP station that didn't seem to sell any so I kept going to the next exit. As I was coming down the hill to Spearfish, SD I ran out of fuel. I couldn't switch tanks because they were both empty. So I hitched to town and back, after picking up a gallon of diesel. The first family that picked me up were mom and dad driving a toyota sedan, dressed head to toe in Harley Davidson gear, two kids in the back seat playing super annoying video games. They dropped me at Wal-Mart and I hitched a ride with a couple who were on their way to Deadwood to go fishing. In all, everything worked out fine and the next morning at a campsite near Sheridan I filtered my grease. This was the first campground I have paid for in 5 months on the road. Nine bucks and not even a shower!Brenndan called and informed me that his flight actually gets in Tuesday night and not Wednesday, like I expected. Now I've got to haul ass to get to Vancouver in time and there's still about 25 thrift stores between here and there.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

South Dakota

I've been listening to reservation radio for two days so I have "Eye of the tiger" stuck in my head.

I just left the Rosebud Sioux reservation on my way to Pine Ridge and Wounded knee. I stayed last night at Ghost Hawk park in Rosebud, next to a small creek. This morning I was able to use their showers and then head up the hill to the main road where I found that the gate to the park was chained shut and locked. Apparently someone had come by during the night and locked me in without bothering to take a look around the park.

I tried to flag down a passing car but the only person who would stop was an ambulance driver who thankfully, was able to radio someone to get the "ranger" to come out and open the gate. When the "ranger" arrived, he sheepishly mumbled "Sorry, I'm late, truck broke down" which I think is code for "I overslept". Anyway, I was freed and set out to the St. Francis Lakota museum.

On my way to Rosebud yesterday, I stopped in Mission when I saw the laundromat because I really needed to wash all my greasy towels which were in a plastic bag on the floor of the front seat. When I took the bag out of the car it was HOT. Like, REALLY hot. Like BURNING hot. The temperature in the day was about 90 so with the pile of greasy towels sitting in the hottest part of the van they had actually ignited and were actually burning! No flames but blackened, smoky towels. I doused them with all the water I had and put them in a dumpster. They were soaked so I really don't think they continued burning after I got rid of them.

I'm writing from the Martin, SD library, home of the world's loudest librarians. Absolutely unbelievable.

I spent Wednesday night in Sioux falls which has some good thrift stores with real thrift store prices. At night, downtown I saw a tiny bunny running around in the street. From Sioux falls I drove south to highway 18 and headed west. I needed to pick up some grease so I stopped in Menno and went to the cafe. I picked up 10 gallons and treated myself to a piece of chocolate jello pudding pie served on a melmac saucer. I wanted to take a picture of the "salad bar" for you because it was actually a collection of margarine containers full of potatoes and mayonaise, pasta and mayonaise, peas and mayonaise and pickled carrots. Anyway, after I had gotten my grease and I returned, dripping with sweat, to have a piece of pie, all the mayonaise and carrots had been put away.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Minnesota

I left Chicago on Monday and after a quick stop at lake Michigan and some thrifting in Milwaukee I headed west to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison was a great place to spend the night. I found the Trader Joe's and the thrift stores and picked up 30 gallons of really clean grease.

On Tuesday I continued west towards La Crosse, where I crossed the Mississippi river again, into Minnesota. It's starting to get really hot the further west I travel. Chicago was lovely, low 70's but it's about 90 here and currently in the 100's with a heat advisory in South Dakota. Yesterday I really needed to find a shower so I headed to the Mystery caves state park but they wanted $23 to spend the night. The helpful ranger sent me to the state fair campground in nearby Preston where I camped for free and used the (slightly scary) showers. I talked to some carnies who were just packing up about running a diesel generator on vegetable oil while I was filtering my grease. Yes, I wish I had a pic for you.

In the morning I attempted to change the fuel filter for my vegetable oil but I could not get the thing to budge so I took it to the local shop and asked for help. Even the beefy mechanic who helped me had a hard time getting it off but once off the manager of the shop asked if I would be interested in talking to the local paper about how the van runs. Within five minutes a reporter named John was asking me questions and telling me about his experiences travelling in eastern Canada in a '76 Westfalia.

He asked me if I had any good anecdotes from my travels and I remembered this one, which I forget to publish here. I was in Austin, Texas filtering grease outside a biofuel co-op/ sustainable everything store and an employee, a woman in her late 40's said "I don't know if I would use the waste vegetable oil" and when I asked her why not she said "Because I'm a member of PETA" Does that make any sense to you? Of course not. I asked her what she meant and she said "Well, there might be animal fat in there". I pointed out that waste vegetable oil Is WASTE, it is essentially garbage, but I could not convince her that recylcing vegetable oil for fuel, even if it contains some animal fat, would not increase the demand for MORE animals to be killed and eaten.

Anyway, back to Minnesota. I have sustained the third sunburn of my entire life (I got one on my nose skiing in BC one summer and one in Mexico three years ago). This one is only on my left arm, due to driving west across the prairie in July. It's not peeling or anything but it feels weird when I touch it.

I am planning to make it at least to Sioux Falls, South Dakota today (there's a Value Village there!) and then I will spend three nights in the badlands and visit Wounded Knee. That leaves me two and a half days to get to Vancouver and pick Brenndan up when he arrives from Tokyo. I'm sad that I'm cutting this trip a bit short but happy about getting back to BC and spending August tubing in the Nanaimo river. I'm sure I'll appreciate the coastal temperatures too. Currently the only place for me to spend the afternoon is driving with the window open.

Thanks everyone for your caring and support, I'm feeling better now about losing so much stuff. Let me know if you know of a good data retrieval service on the west coast and keep those emails coming!

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wicker Park

I've been parked in the same spot on Wicker park for three days and it's been lovely and relaxing. This morning I woke up to find the Sunday farmer's market in full swing and bought some fresh bread and apples for breakfast. I've been biking all over the city, I went to chinatown for the dragon boat races, I went to get some fuel filters, and went to a couple of different public swimming pools, which were both free to use. Today I have been trolling the back alleys in search of grease but I haven't found any large quantities of what I need. The Pontiac diner was happy to give me their's but when I checked out the traps I saw the empty containers of hydrogenated shortening. It looks fine but is totally unusable. Although there are lots of high volunme restaurants in the area, most of the traps are pretty empty and not always very clean.

When I was checking the alley near the park today homeless man with a broken wheelchair asked me to help him put his wheelchair back together. At fist I tried to convince him that there is no way that that rickety old thing was going to get him and his extra large frame around but he insisted it would so I put it back together for him. It supported his weight and he thanked me as I biked away down the alley.

Kittens!



My friend Diana in Chicago got two new kittens!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chicago

I drove straight from Chatham, Ontario today, had a lovely chat about vegetable oil with the border guard in Detroit and arrived in Chicago just in time for rush hour! I headed straight to my favorite Costa Rican taco joint, Irazu on N. Milwaukee for a veggie taco and mango shake. Mmmm, just the thing after a long drive. Now I'm parked at Wicker Park and about to go bike around to find a public swimming pool. It's weird to be in Chicago again since when I left here, three and a half years ago it was the worst time of my life. I'm going to make peace with this city though, because it's not February anymore, it's July, and I love my new bike.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

TIme to go Home

I am in Toronto, my last stop before heading back out west after four and a half months on the road. I was just informed that the data on my hard drive is irretrievable. I have lost almost all the photos I have taken since I have been travelling, all my contacts, calendar, you name it. I feel so sad and so defeated as this follows losing my guitar and some other personal items. All I want now is to get back to Vancouver, the closest thing I have to a home. My calculations tell me it will take about 12 days to get there, driving through Chicago, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana. Brenndan arrives back from Japan on August first and at that point we will start looking for a place to live. I make my living selling stuff on eBay so for the time being I am out of a job as well. I am so lucky that my mother is able to lend me money so that I can get home without too much trouble. I filtered 25 gallons of grease today and will continue to collect more as I travel. Look out for me on the road friends, if you see my yellow westy with the grease on the roof give me a wave and say hi. I'm a sad and lonely traveler and I need all the help I can get. I'll try to post from libraries along the way. Much love, C.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hard drive crisis

Yesterday I bought some very small and powerful magnets at Active surplus here in Toronto. I wanted them so I could attach things to the dash board of my van, they seemed very useful to have around. Right after buying them Brenndan called me from Portsmouth, UK and when I told him I had just bought the magnets, the first thing he said was "Don't wipe out your hard drive."

I took my 15 year old cousin, Jasmine for some Chinese food and we were laughing about my great new key chain, meaning that with the magnets in my pocket I could leave my keys attached to the outside of my pants. After that we went home and I showed Jasmine the cute new pics that I had posted on Brenndan's myspace page. This morning when I went to use my computer it wouldn't boot up. That's when I realized that the magnets were still in the pocket of my pants. Fearing the worst I took it to the Apple store genius bar and they were unable to help do much so I went to my friend Sian's house and we called her sister, Megan who is a computer tech. Megan told me to take it to Northstar on University and that's where it is now. I have officially been told "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst." The only thing I am really worried about recovering are the photos I have taken over the last 5 months that I have been travelling. If I lose those, I will cry. I was planning to spend today updating my blog which now I will do from my friend Jill's computer, minus the photos.

I'm hoping for the best people, I have my fingers crossed.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

The Globe and Mail

Today I met with a reporter and photographer from the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. They came with me to collect some grease which we found at a restaurant on Queen west. I'm telling you, next time I have to collect grease I am bringing two friends to pose as a reporter and photographer because people sure get a lot friendlier about it when they think it's going to result in some postive PR for their restaurant.

I tried to emphasize when I was speaking to the reporter, Rebecca, that WVO is never going to be a solution to the current fuel crisis and in fact, the only real solution to any of our environmental troubles is conservation of all resources which includes ALL petroleum products, water, trees and electricity to begin with.

I continue to be shocked by the amount of waste that human beings produce and shocked but what I feel compelled to consume. Remember those classroom experiments where they had kids carry an egg around for a week to simulate the responibility of caring for a baby? Well, I think they should make people carry around every scrap of waste that they produce for one week. Maybe then people will take unnecessary packaging and disposibility into consideration when they buy things. Try it yourself, living in a van or other small space is a great way to break those habits because honestly, if someone leaves so much as a paper coffee cup or newspaper in my van I could have a shit-fit. Yes, I mean you. Don't make me tell you to your face!

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Echo Lake

Brenndan and I took Sam to his Grandmother's cottage, to celebrate her birthday. Sam and I are both from Vancouver Island which may be why we both find lakes a little scary. We did a lot of canoeing and Brenndan went swimming. Sam jumped in once but didn't want to go back in a second time. I didn't get in at all. We heard a lot of stuff while we were there like loons, bullfrogs and whip-poor-wills and the day we left I counted 35 mosquito bites on Sam's tiny body! 35! And some of them were bites on top of other bites!

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