Tuesday, November 27, 2007


The morning that I was planning to leave to go to Moss Landing and house sit for my old friend Krista I had arranged to meet with Brian from True Biofuels. Production of a documentary about his innovations in alterntaive fuels had just begun and they planned to include a segment on selling on eBay from the road, as I have been doing for over a year now. Brian and the film maker, Marc came over and talked to me as I packed up and filtered the last of my grease for the long drive. We had a really enjoyable talk and agreed to keep in touch about their documentary which will include traveling through the country in a 1967 Mercedes tour bus that runs on vegetable oil. Brian helped me to purge the air out of my fuel system which I believed had gotten there when I ran out of fuel in the valley. Before leaving he even said to call him from Moss Landing if anything went wrong with my van and he and would come up and fix it and bring the film crew to document the repairs. Wow.

I headed out north on 101, driving on diesel as I planned to wait until the engine was hot to try switching to grease. I pulled over at Topanga Canyon road to fill up the diesel tank and try switching a few times before getting back on the freeway. After the first couple of attempts at switching it became apparent that there was something a little more serious wrong with my fuel system. So as to not drain the battery while attempting to restart the van I called Brian and said "I need help NOW."

Brian was a few minutes away since he was headed back to his place in Topanga so he said he would come to the gas station and give me a hand. When he got there he spayed starting spray, AKA ether, into my air filter and jump started the van and we drove off down the winding canyon road to his place in Topanga.

Brian really knows his way around the vegetable oil system, having built over 1500 of them himself. The task at hand was to pinpoint where air was getting into my fuel line which we discovered to be a leaky valve on the bottom of my fuel filter. Brian replace the valve with a tight fitting hose and bolt combination as a temporary measure. With that done we thought we were pretty much in the clear and began to test drive the van. Topanga canyon is all steep hills and narrow roads and as we were climbing the hill by his house I said "I really hope I don't stall on this hill." and then I did. I rolled the van down the hill to a safe parking place and we tried to resart the van until the battery started to lose it's charge and we tried jumping it to no avail. At that point it was getting dark and we decided to pack it in and continue in the morning.

In the morning the engine would not turn over at all and it seemed that we had killed the starter motor. The battery wouldn't jump start so with Brian and Bob's help we pop started the van as we rolled it down the hill and drove it to Glendale to have Brian's mechanic look at it. It turned out that the alternator that I had just had installed was not charging the battery and needed to be replaced. That would explain the battery dying so quickly when I'm trying to restart the van with air in the fuel line. We left the van at the shop and Brian drove me over to a friend's place. We met the next morning when my van was ready and everything was finally working the way that it should be except that my glow plugs were not working properly. Thankfully my van has a manual glow plug switch on the dash and I can heat them that way.

Finally, in the early afternoon, only two days late I left for Moss Landing.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Valley

My new friend Jennifer and I made a plan to go to some thrift stores in the Valley. Canoga Park, Reseda, places like that. I picked her up in Tujunga and we headed over to the Sally Ann in Canoga Park and then I stopped at a gas station to look at the phone book. After that we went to a thrift store in Panorama city and when I went to pay for something I discovered that I didn't have my wallet. It was almost 4pm and we were about 6 or 7 miles from the gas station where I had last had it. So, during rush hour traffic we tried to get back there as quickly as possible, which isn't very quickly at all. I was panicking, thinking that certainly someone would have taken it. So, as I was panicking and stuck in traffic the van ran out of fuel in the vegetable oil tank. I had half a tank of diesel but when I tried to switch over it was too late. The van wouldn't restart on diesel because there was nothing in the fuel line so we had to get the last litre of vegetable oil from the bottom of my container into the tank. The vegetable oil has to be pumped in from the 5 gallon container and if it's not full enough it's really hard to get enough pressure to get it to actually pump. So Jennifer and I poured vegetable oil from a squeeze bottle into the tube that leads to the tank just to get eough in there to get it to pump on it's own. As Jennifer held the tube in place I started the van and switched it over to diesel. Phew, now we just had to get through the traffic to get to the gas station and then try to get Jennifer home close to 5pm for her boyfriend's birthday dinner.

When we got to the gas station I double parked and ran in and miraculously the man said "I have it right here, we tried to find your number" I didn't have much cash in there but I offered him $20 for his help and he wouldn't take it. I bought $10 of diesel and got on the freeway to get Jennifer home just a little late for her date. She made me a vodka tonic and I relaxed in the van a bit before heading back to Spa Robyn for a long soak in the hot tub.

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