Tuesday, February 19, 2008


If you are wondering why I'm not posting very often here it's because I'm now writing a blog for the National film board of Canada website. The section is called Citizenshift, media for social change. I'm doing a sort of advise column for people who are trying to figure out how to adapt to the changing conditions of the environmment. It's called Ask the Green Queen, sage advise for green living. I want to change it to Ask the Green TEAM though, want to be on my team? Click here to check it out.

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Wow! After 11 months of living in my van I now am the proud renter of a house on 2.5 acres of high desert in Pioneertown, near Joshua Tree, California. In addition to the house we have a big garage to use as a workshop and art studio and plenty of space to park the Airstream trailer that we just bought. It's all very exciting! Our place is 4 miles from downtown Pioneertown which was built as a living movie set in 1946 and is now home to the best bar in California, Pappy and Harriet's.

Our neighbors have 10 horses and 3 dogs which I am going to care for when their owner, Paula is off on the rodeo circuit! It's a dream come true for me and Blendy so I hope you'll come visit soon. Click here to see a little slideshow.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Moss Landing

Moss Landing is situated right at the middle of Monterey bay, on the central California coast. It is surrounded by the Salinas valley to the east, the Santa Cruz mountains to the north and Big Sur to the south. The entire area is like a nature refuge full of seabirds, sea otters, California sea lions, dolphins and in the spring there are even jaguar sharks that breed in the estuary called Elkhorn slough., Apparently it's the only place in the world where you can watch sharks breeding from the shade of an oak tree.

We are looking after the world's best dog, named Bleu and three cats, Guzzi, BeeBee and Buddy.

So far I've collected grease from the Moss Landing café which does a brisk business selling deep fried artichokes which were probably grown in the field across the road. The Salinas valley is all agricultural and is known as "America's salad bowl". John Steinbeck grew up here and several of his novels were set in the valley.

Brian from True Biofuels came up to shoot some scenes for the documentary project and we discovered a goldmine of grease at the giant Asian buffets over in Salinas, 10 miles away. I also collected some great stuff at a Japanese restaurant in Santa Cruz, 20 miles north. We have been getting most of our supplies in Santa Cruz at the farmer's market and Staff of Life market. There is B99 biodiesel available at Pacific Biofuels for only $3.59 a gallon, when most of the diesel sold around here is about $3.65 per gallon.

In short, I am quickly falling in love with my temporary home. It offers everything I need and then some. I'm in love with the stark beauty of the Salinas valley and the towns like Castroville and Watsonville where you can visit Mexico without leaving California.

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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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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Moss Landing

Since Blendy and I will be house sitting for our friend Krista in December we stopped in to visit her on the way to LA and we were treated to a feast of Cioppino and Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream while we got to know Blue, the dog that we will be looking after. In the morning we spent some time on the beach before heading down Highway One on one of those perfect coastal fall days. In Monterey we were able to pick up 30 gallons of grease all ready to go in containers from the Chinese Buffet and then stopped at the beach to filter some and popped the top for a little siesta. Yes actually, my life IS perfect. I hope yours is too, if it's not, you might want to think about getting a van.

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I gave Blendy the tour of the mountain where I once lived for 6 months in Napa. This store is the closest place to buy sugar. It costs nine dollars. The next closest store is Dean and DeLuca, where it costs $9.50, I will say though, that if you are driving 29 and you have the munchies between these two stores you can eat your own weight in free samples, so there's that.

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San Francisco

After we had coffee Blendy and I went to the Mission pool to swim and take showers and then went to Creativity Explored, the best art gallery in the world. Blendy found a beautiful fabric wall hanging and I bought a piece by John Patrick McKenzie to hang in the van. After that we went to Burma Superstar for samosa soup and shrimp kebat on our way over to Baker beach for a little siesta in the van with a view of the Golden Gate bridge.

That night we drove back up to Sonoma and spent the night in our little cabin in the barrio and got to go to the Sonoma Charter School Halloween carnival and haunted house.

Keda as Super Fly

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I took 128 from my camping place and was headed to Sonoma when Blendy Maguro called me with the news that his trip to Brazil had been cancelled and he was arriving in San Francisco THAT NIGHT. I pulled over immediately at the Scharffenberger winery and picked up a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

After a stop at the world's largest Sally Ann in Healdsburg I stopped in at Dmitra and Pascal's in Sonoma and then headed to SFO to get Blendy. We went for tacos and tequila in the mission and then headed to my usual parking place on Bernal hill. In the morning we had coffee and hot chocolate at Mission Creek on Valencia and went to Rainbow Grocery to get something for dinner with Wig and Ad.

In 36 hours I went from my favorite beach down my favorite highway to my favorite thrift store and visited my favorite people on my way to have dinner with my other favorite people. Wow. And the next morning I wake up with my favorite bear and take a walk on the top of Bernal hill. Wow.

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Monday, October 22, 2007


I pulled into Ft. Bragg in a hurry to get to the beach and watch the sunset but I needed supplies so I headed to the Down Home market where, even though they were in the midst of closing up they let me grab a few things and even filled up my water bottles for me. I made it out to the beach north of town and made zuchini and red pepper salad as the sun went down. I crashed there that night and then hit the thrift store in Ft. Bragg in the morning before heading down the coast.

I've been debating whether to write about my favorite camping place on the whole coast of California, which is where I went the next day. I'm afraid that if I tell the whole world that it will get ruined so I'll just describe it and you'll have to figure out where it is. The whole stretch of coast from Ft. Bragg to Point Arena is great and this is the only legal campground that's right on the beach at the mouth of a river, which I will not name, but take a look at a map and you'll figure it out.

Everytime I've been there I've had an amazing time, there are only about 7 parking places and they are always empty, maybe one or two other campers. One time I met an old pot farmer named Bobby Jean who poured tequila on the fire and taught me to do the hand jive on top of a picnic table.

This time there was one RV flying tibetan prayer flags and when I woke up the Dude and his friends were parked in another space wearing sweaters and having coffee around the fire.

In the afternoon when I arrived the sun was shining and I did some nude sunbathing and then took some pics of my eBay stuff as the sun was setting.

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It feels weird to be here without making a trip out to the Lost Coast. For those that don't know the Lost Coast is about the most remote place in California, it's 2 hours on a two lane road to get out there and once there, there's nothing but coast and mountains. There used to be a bar called the Hideaway that had karaoke on Fridays but they closed a few years ago. Originally Highway One was supposed to go there and meet up with 101 near Eureka but the King's range proved too difficult to build the road through, so that stretch of coast remained desolate and "lost". Some time I'll tell you about the first time I went out there and got stalked by a weird Christian dude from Oregon. Today I guess I'll just go thrifting in Fortuna instead.

I'm planning to stay at one of my secret beaches on the Mendocino coast tonight down by Westport where I have stayed and camped illegally many times over the years. It sure beats paying $25 to stay at McKerricher beach state park. I love to visit the California sea lions and collect bits of abalone shell there but $25 is way outside my budget so I've only camped there once. Here's a picture from my drive down 299. It was gorgeous and winding and I got tailgaited by a dude flying a confederate flag from his truck. Hmm..I guess I could have pulled over and let him get by but...I didn't.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


I needed some grease to get me from Redding to Eureka so I just pulled over at a Mexican restaurant on 299 and I am filling all my containers with lovely clean vegetable oil. They were so friendly about letting me have it too, unlike the Pioneer restaurant near Shasta who refused to even let me LOOK at their greasetrap and asked if I was going to sign a waiver if I took their used oil. Uh..okay, never mind, thanks. Then the restaurant in lakewood had a recycling bin full of tell-tale shortening containers. No thanks.

Well, I am taking about 25 gallons while I relax in the sun, listening to Cyril Pahuini.

Then I get to drive a road that's been on my list for a long time. 299 from Redding to Eureka, through Whiskeytown and Hoopa valley. I'll be in SF on Wednesday. See you soon!

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I always stop in Ashland on the way to California. It's the perfect stop after the drive from San Francisco or Portland. There's good food and I get to go to Jackson Wellsprings and relax in the hot tub and sauna after a long day of driving. As long as there are no sunburned white dudes doing native American chants it's a good time. I don't have as much fun when I forget to bring my flip flops though, that's for sure.

Since I'm too cheap to pay the additional $9 for camping at Jackson Wellsprings I always park in town, by the park and use the wireless at The Black Sheep pub. The Black sheep, it should be noted, turns into a small town frat party at nine pm sharp on any night of the week, so now I've learned to just stay in the van and use the wireless from Louie's, a couple of doors down.

One time Blendy and I woke up at the park after a blizzard that closed I-5 and a dog ran alongside the van in the morning, as if trying to tell us to get out and play in the snow. So we did.

I should mention also that Eugene is a great place to stop for food. If you take the 30th Ave exit you can fill up on biodiesel and ethanol at Sequential Biofuels and then keep heading west to Sundance market at 748 E. 24th. They have all kinds of yummy hot and cold organic food and biodegradable take out containers in case you forgot to your own.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Aaah..I'm relaxing in the lap of luxury over here at JW's pad enormous bachelor pad, enjoying some wine and home cooked food. We went to the farmer's market at People's (my favorite) Co-op and got some chantrelles for tomorrow's dinner and chiles for tonight's beans and polenta with tomatillas. I did some errands like replacing the driver's license that was stolen in New Orleans and picking up some artwork from the cute new downtown gallery, Pony Club.

I went for a little bike ride around N. Mississippi before dinner in the chilly fall air, bright leaves falling all around. It made me fall in love with Portland all over again and gave me a dose of housing envy because there are so many beautiful houses around here. I like it.

I made it here from Victoria (350 miles) on about 16 gallons of grease, not counting a side trip to Abbotsford (80 miles RT) so that makes 26 MPG. My estimate has always been about 23 when I'm loaded down like this. Not bad. Now I just need to find some more grease in a town where you can't spit without hitting a greasecar! Wish me luck..

Oh, photos coming soon. I got a new camera but I still don't have a copy of Photoshop. Can anyone help?

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Normally I try to just get through Seattle and it's all day rush hour traffic as quickly and cleanly as possible but today I made a rare exception and stopped to get some food with my old friend, Bob. The sun even came out when I pulled up to his cute little house in West Seattle and broke my antenna on the hedge next to the driveway. After some vegetarian Pho Bob, Val and I went to pick up the antique sink Bob had stolen in Belfast, where it once held dirt and flowers in someone's yard. The wooden crate that Bob packed it in was opened back at home to reveal the karmic consequences.

Before I headed out for Portland Bob and Val sent me in the direction of some biodiesel from Safeway. Nice to know It's there but I filled up before noticing that it costs $3.43 a gallon. I don't know but I'm pretty sure it's cheaper in Portland. I guess I'll know soon.

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I was once again a guest in the lovely home of Ellen and Ralph in east Van. It's always a treat to relax in a safe, quiet neighborhood with plenty of parking. This being Vancouver however, I didn't feel safe enough to sleep in the house. Vancouver is and has almost always been plagued by drugs, unemployment and car break-ins. As Ellen says "They'll break in to your car if there's a big enough cigarette butt!" Knowing this, I've always been hyper vigilant with my vehicle so this is probably the best place to get used to expecting this unexpected like I should have when I was in Montréal.

I got to have dinner with Rob M. but instead of going for tried and true we went to Burnaby for Japanese and got cold agedashi tofu and mushy tuna.

My van is pretty loaded down with fuel and clothing but things are a lot more oganized than last time I was on the road. I made some important improvements like the laminate flooring and curtains and I hesitantly admit that I went to Daiso and I bought some new plastic items like a van sized dish rack. I'm planning to arrive in LA on the 29th to pick Blendy Maguro up at the airport. Only 1280 miles to go!

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Farmfest '93

Farmfest! It was the best end of summer music festival gathering this island may have ever seen! 10 bands, 100 guests, camping in a big field and yummy samosas being served at Frybaby! I popped the top for Shawna and woke up with a giant mouse in my bunk. This is what summer on the island is supposed to be like! I'm already planning a menu for Farmfest '94! See you there!

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Friday, August 24, 2007

I love my friends!

Brenndan, Sam and I went up to Courtenay and visited Mimi, Dom, Lily and Jack who had been doing a LOT of deep frying and they saved the grease for me! All 50 gallons of it!

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Monday, July 30, 2007


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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Saturday, July 28, 2007


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


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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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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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vegetable Oil Terrorist at JFK

Today I had to drive to Kennedy airport to pick up my sweetheart who was arriving from Los Angeles. I took the surface streets instead of the freeway through Brooklyn and had a nice drive that left me with time to get an ice cream from the good humor man and stop at the beach in Canarsie. I parked in the airport garage, very happy to find that the ceiling clearance is high enough to accomodate the fuel pump and vegetable oil that I carry on my roof. I arrived 15 minutes early and after I parked the van I decided to call my friend, Eun Young.

The phone was ringing as a couple of armed US Military security dudes in fatigues and the whole bit began to approach my van. Soon I was being surrounded by military and port authority police who were demanding that I step down from the vehicle. I thought it had something to do with me talking on my cellphone (don't ask) and as I got out of the van I must have looked completely puzzled because the police started asking me if I knew why they were questioning me. I had no idea but that's when he finally pointed to the roof and said "What's in those containers?" What I was unaware of was that earlier that day a car bomb had been detonated at an airport in the UK. The police did all the questioning as the military surrounded the van. In my bewildered state I did my best to explain that it was just vegetable oil and a fuel filter but the man questioning became quite aggressive when I told him that in fact, I DIDN'T have any identification on me, due to having had my wallet stolen twice and leaving my passport back at my friend's house in Williamsburg. "Well," he said "we're going to be here for a long time, until you can prove your identity." and that's when I put one of my most underused skills into action and burst into tears!

At that point the cop dispersed the military dudes and softened up considerably. He explained that they were on high alert for suspicious vehicles and that as soon as the K-9 unit was done inspecting my van I would be free to go. We waited for about 20 minutes for the dogs to arrive and he and another cop asked me a bunch of questions about vegetable oil fuel. When the K-9 unit still hadn't shown up he simply escorted me to the terminal and wished me a nice day.

When Brenndan arrived we went back to Williamsburg to have a barbeque. I made squid stuffed with shrimp and cabbage and shrimp and mango brochettes with jalapeno-cilantro sauce and we watched the sunset from Rufus and Lauren's rooftop. I wasn't able to take any pics of the cops questioning me so instead here's one of the door handle of my van which came off while I was thrifting in the Bronx the day before.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's growing!

I think I was in Tennesee when I stepped on my computer. (I only know this because I saw the footprint on the back!) Anyway, over time this is what has become of my cracked screen. Kind of cool looking but really annoying too. If anyone can help me find a 14 inch iBook I can get for parts, that would be great!

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Back in Brooklyn

I am back in Brooklyn again, trying to withstand the extremely warm weather and still thinking a lot about the two break-ins that my van suffered in Montréal. It's very easy after something like that to replay the circumstances on endless repeat, wondering what you should have done differently, but is that helpful? I spend a lot of time thinking about the circumstances of the thief or thieves. Were they young kids? Were they clients of the soup kitchen on the next block? Are they the homeless people camping in the neighborhood? Were they jerks or are they nice folks in a desperate situation? The fact remains that I was careless, I should never have left any valuables in my van, period. The fact also remains that try as I may to understand, I simply never will and I will never see my beloved guitar again. In addition, there is the fact that I am a mostly white, middle class anglo and no matter what I know that I am in a very priveleged group by comparison to most people in the area where I was parked, I was also an easy target with foreign plates and all around windows on the van. I know that writing about this won't bring my guitar back and that's not the point, I guess I just need to process this because like it or not I am grieving this loss. Of course I compare it to all kinds of other losses and I know that compared to some, it's just not that big of a deal but when you live in a van you are in a position of vulnerability and when someone exploits that vulnerability it is really painful.

Last time I was in Brooklyn I stayed in a hotel in Manhattan but left my van parked here on a pretty deserted block and when I came to move it 24 hours later I found that I had left the window open. Nothing had happened to it. Interesting as well, was that when I left Brooklyn I realized that I had a little something on me that I would never risk trying to take across the border so I took some green duct tape and I taped a little package to the underside of a part of a building thinking that "If it's there when I come back, great, if not, oh well.." Here's what I found when I arrived back in Brooklyn yesterday:

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Monday, June 25, 2007

It coulda Been worse!

You know me, always looking on the bright side!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

More Montreal

I had a feeling Montréal was going to have some nasty grease. Click here if you have a strong stomach.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

BT auto repair

These guys fixed me up with a new triangle window for a mere $50 and even offered to let me have the entire door that it came from. I bought some coolant instead and just took their picture.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The longest drive

I left Brooklyn at 11 am to go back to Montréal. I noticed that the vaccum gauge for the vegetable oil was showing some restriction so I pulled over near Kingston and changed the fuel filter. All was fine for about 30 miles and then I saw that the coolant light was flashing and looking very hot. I pulled over at a gas station and sure enough, coolant was spraying out at the rear of the van. I was talking to Marc Amsden about what to do when I was approached by a friendly truck driver. He helped me to locate the leak, which was caused by the axel rubbing against one of the hoses. He offered to drive me to buy a new hose connector and some clamps which we found at a truck repair shop about 5 miles away. Of all the days that I needed my camera this was the one that it would not work. Fred, the truck driver, travels with his daughters Elizabeth and Gabby. They play video games from their bunks in the cab while traveling the country. The office at the repair shop was completely decorated in shades of purple and lavander, clearly designed by the office manager who was also dressed in those shades. I took some tootsie rolls from the jar on the counter for the girls.

Once we arrived back at my van Fred helped me to install the hose and fill up with coolant. once everything seemed normal I continued on my way, delayed by about 4 hours. Of course, by the time I arrived in Montréal I was ready to relax and drink a beer. I found Dave and Kevin listening to records and we sat up for a while. At three am I got my guitar and computer out of the van but forgot my wallet and my iPod. When I went to move the van at 7 am, this is what I found:

My wallet and iPod were gone.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Long Island City

Finally visited the Socrates sculpture garden then drove to Prospect park for a nap under a tree during a thunderstorm.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

More New York

I met up with Blendy Maguro at the corner of 45th and 8th avenue and we checked into the Milford Plaza hotel. That night we went to a party for Paper magazine and drank tiny bottles of free champagne. I took a look at the magazine and I won't bore you with my negative opinions but basically the party was exactly what I would have expected from such a superficial magazine. Rufus Wainwright played three songs and Feist showed up and made room for us at her table.

On the way out I grabbed one of the free bottles of Marc Jacobs perfume for my friend Ellen, who we went to meet in Little Italy where she and Ralph were watching the final episode of the Sopranos. When the restaurant was closing up I saw that they had placed four containers of pretty clean looking grease on the sidewalk. We asked permission to take it and then the four of us took a cab with the grease up to the hotel. Strange looks from the staff and guests abounded as we made our way though the lobby with 20 gallons of used cooking oil. After depositing it in our room we took a taxi to Chelsea to have a drink.

We went to a place on 23rd with seats by the open windows and had to cope with a 25 year old, very drunk man doing everything in his power to get some attention from us. Asking for sips of our beer, taking them anyway after we said no, calling us racist, smoking cigarettes in our faces. The bartender didn't even attempt to do anything until I went and asked him to. It turned out that attention from the bartender and even the police was not enough for him as he kept coming back for more. Eventually we had to just give in and hang out with him. Pic coming soon, for now here's one of Blendy as we waited for our taxi after checking out.

PS. IF you look closely at the picture you will see that Mr. Maguro is holding not just one paper cup from Starbuck's but TWO, which I imagine his coffee was served in so that he would not burn his delicate fingers. While I appreciate their thoughtfulness in this matter I do NOT appreciate the fact that one cannot recycle said paper cups at any Starbuck's location. It is for this reason and several others that I have asked Mr. Maguro to refrain from purchasing any more coffee from them. I know this is a big sacrifice for someone who A) Is kind of addicted to coffee and B) Travels all the time, making it hard to know where to get the coffee that you want. Mr. Maguro responded to my request graciously and agreed to no longer buy coffee at Starbuck's, plus he has been using the reusable thermos I got at the thrift store for fifty cents. When you care about someone you want to help them make healthier choices, even if it's hard at first.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

New York

Last night my flight arrived in Montréal from Vancouver at one-thirty AM and I took a taxi to my van, which was parked at Marc Amsden's garage, Marc woke me up in the morning and went over the work he had done on my vegetable oil system and then I left for New York. A few miles after the border a Hare Krishna dude approached me at a rest stop saying he had seen me at the border and wanted to offer me some literature "about farming". Wish I had a picture for you. I made it to the Tri-boro bridge in record time and only sat in traffic for an hour getting to Brooklyn. I went straight to Rufus and Lauren's place and we went to Alethia's opening two doors down, ran into Selma and SF pals Lara Allen and Christine Shields on the way. I passed out in the van in my clothes with the door open and woke up at 8 am. I heart NY.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007


Toronto is fascinating.

When I got here I started making a list of the things I like and the things I don't like. Now I can't remember what I wrote but I know that I do really like the clean and quiet public transportation. I like that the recycling program includes small countertop compost containers. People are friendly, the city is clean, there are a lot of things to like here. However, like most cities it is difficult to escape exposure to rampant consumerism. It seems there are more boutiques than people in some areas. On the other hand, there are plenty of art galleries and public spaces and compared to many places it's much easier to choose locally produced goods.

I overheard a conversation on the streetcar that I found startling. Two girls about 25 years old were sitting behind me and one said "How long do you want to spend shopping?" and the other said "I don't know, I'm not really looking for anything" and her friend replied "Okay, let's get off at Spadina then." It seems that in a city like this there are so many other ways to spend a Saturday afternoon and it makes me sad that a seemingly intelligent person can't tear their self away from the lure of consumption, especially when they don't even need anything. Which brings me to the question "do any of us need to buy anything?"

I personally have made a decision which has been quietly brewing for some time, to cease buying anything new. Of course, there are some cases where it may be necessary but I can tell you with utmost certainty that I do not need to buy clothing, furniture, or most of the crap that goes along with living in North America ever again. I buy almost everything from thrift stores or find it recycled in one form or another. If I could start a revolution for any cause in the world I would do my best to incite people to STOP BUYING THINGS (and also to stop having children but I'll rant on that a bit later). There are people out there that are doing a good job of this already. Here are some links that will direct you to their information.

The Compact

No Impact Man

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Yes, I do buy things I need for my van, small amounts of diesel fuel, coolant and synthetic oil but I feel that some of my consumption can be offset in other areas such as avoiding buying disposable containers and packaging. I tend to think that if we change our habits in areas that we consume greatly (daily coffee drinker? find a re-usable mug!) that individuals can make a difference in how greatly their consumption impacts the environment. I think it's important to present conservation as an attainable goal for even average consumers rather than making it seem like a target of some fringe environmentalist group.

While in Toronto I met this man who was living in an 81 Westy with a cat and living and consuming very moderately, unless you count the local beer reserves. I really like some of the modifications he had made to his van, especially the sunroof in the pop-top.

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I live in my Vans

When I left on this trip I SWORE I wasn't going to get grease on my new Vans.
Well, look at me now.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Marc Amsden, Conversion specialist.

After a week of trying to find a VW specialist to look at my clutch and transmission, in addition trying to find a vegetable oil conversion specialist to help me find the restriction in the fuel system, a friend of a friend gave me Marc Amsden's card. Marc worked for 21 years at the VW dealership in Verdun and now builds vegetable oil conversion systems. What luck! Not only that, he agreed to look at my car on his day off AND only charged $50 per hour for labor. THEN after we talked for a while he said "Are you Chantale Doyle, the cartoonist? I loved your zines." My new favorite mechanic. Wow.

If you need a kind, thorough professional to work on your car in Montréal contact autoeem at videotron dot ca

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


Ever since I arrived in Montréal I have been having a problem with my vegetable oil system. Thaddeus said that it sounds like there is a restriction in the fuel system and that I should try changing the fuel filter again. I have also been having problems shifting gears so I took it in to have the clutch looked at and the mechanic I saw said the problem is in the linkage system for the transmission. Today I changed the fuel filter at least and will have to drive it for a little while to see if that takes care of the first problem. As for the second problem, so far it's proven impossible to get in to see a VW specialist on short notice.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Poutine and Dangerous

On Saturday night I went to a show at SAT (Société des art Technologiques) where Peaches and Lesbians on Ecstasy were performing and I was frying up some samosas outside when Anni Lawrence stuck her head in the van and said hello. The last time I saw Anni was on a beach in Oaxaca, Mexico where we bumped into each other and spent a couple of days playing in the waves. Anyway, Anni and her twin sister, Kate hung out and fried samosas with me then went across the street and came back with a big, greasy Poutine. For those of you that don't get to eat a lot of French Canadian fast food, poutine is an order of greasy fries smothered in dark brown gravy and covered with cheese curds. Yes, cheese CURDS. It is packaged in an aluminum dish with a lid which allows the cheese curds to get all melty with the gravy. I don't know a single person in Montréal who has never woken after a night of binge drinking to find the empty poutine container nearby, taunting them with the memory of their debauchery. It's like a rite of passage.

Just after Anni returned with the poutine and a grilled cheese we all watched as a young man exited the show and just as Anni and Kate were whispering under their breath "No, no, don't come over here, no, keep walking.." our new friend, Dangerous climbed into the van and helped himself to some poutine.

So, we all had some poutine and samosas and then Dangerous stole this girl's silver baby and we all howled with laughter.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

My Boyfriend, Brenndan McGyver

On the way from New York to we stopped to filter some grease and found that the pump for filtering the vegetable oil was not working properly. By putting our heads together we were able to fix it using an exacto knife, and eraser, a plastic bag and a stick.

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

New York

It was one thing to talk about it over dinner with Lauren and Diane but it was a whole other thing to DO it. I made a batch of bumper stickers that read "I heart Global Warming" to hand out to drivers of giant SUV's, Escalades, Hummers and what-have-you. Then I made a bunch of samosas and took the van down to an art opening at John Connelly in Chelsea and sold the stickers and gave the samosas away to demonstrate the use of used fry oil as fuel. People were super receptive so afterwards we moved it down to another gallery in the lower east side and set up there. The next night I did the same thing in front of Cinders gallery and Stay Gold. The restaurant is called Frybaby, look for me at an art opening in your neighborhood soon!

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Bronx

Wow! I was so lucky to meet Greg, who invited me to talk to a very special group of teenagers that he has been working with on art, environmental and self-publishing projects for four years. I met with this group at Lehman college in the Bronx where they meet twice a week. They were very interested in the conversion system and asked lots of questions about alternative fuels, recycling and environmental activism. Afterwards we went inside and talked about self-publishing and they interviewed me and and we brainstormed some ideas for the publishing project they are working on. More news about that soon.

Afterwards Brenndan and I went to the Bronx botanical garden and ate Jamaican soul food at Flava's on Third avenue. Mmm..we had fried plantains, mac and cheese, cabbage and rice and beans. It was delicious!

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Sunday, April 22, 2007


I met so many bikers as I travelled through Tennesee, always friendly and they always know the most scenic route.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


I woke up in the Cherokee National forest in Tennesee and after a stop at the Sequoia museum where I learned that Sequoia was an ignorant, illiterate redskin until he invented a written alphabet to record the Cherokee language, (no really, they called him illiterate, which is funny since before him, no written form of any indigenous American language existed.) I headed straight to Dollywood. If I had known that Dollywood is just an overpriced theme park I would have skipped it. The town nearby which is really just a strip of tourist shops and restaurants was so overwhelming that I forget to take a picture. When I found out that parking alone for Dollywood was $7, I told them that I was actually just there to pick up their grease and someone in the kitchen had told me that I could just park near the gate. That worked and when I found out the entry cost $47 I decided to just go to the gift shop and buy a keychain, which I actually needed. The gift shop was full of useless crap that wasn't even necessarily Dolly themed. There were plenty of keychains but I couldn't bring myself to buy a cheap, plastic, made in China souvenir even if it was a guitar that said Dollywood. There was even a vast array of Dollywood foods, like salad dressing made in New Jersey and jam made in Ohio. It couldn't have been sadder.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

New Orleans Day three

After a cup of tea at Sounds café Charles and I headed out to find some grease. We went to some Soul Food places around the 7th ward but the most of the grease looked pretty nasty. I don't kow why Charles is giving this grease trap the thumbs-up. It is clearly thumbs-DOWN!

We did manage to find some good gease at Orleans Seafood/ Chinese Restaurant at Claiborne and Toledano. This sweet Vietnamese woman came out and talked to us and told us that her cousin drives a grease car and assured us that this was good grease.

We took about 25 gallons and each ate an order of red beans and rice. Afterwards we drove around the neighborhood and stopped to filter some grease outside the local barber school. We talked to several people as we filtered and the owner of the barber school even gave me a free (fake) haircut!

After we filtered the grease we continued our tour of the neighborhood, looking at at the evidence of Katrina's destruction and how the area is coming back to life. When we turned the corner onto Baronne Street the first thing we saw was a woman working in a giant empty lot-turned rose garden. It stood out in great contrast to the rest of the block. We immediately parked and went to speak with the gardener.

Her name is Jeanette and she created the garden four years ago after suing the city of New Orleans so that she could purchase what was then a blighted lot that they had planned to turn into parking. She has spent untold hours working on her garden which she built to use to demonstrate DIY gardening skills to local youth. The garden suffered some from Hurricane Katrina but she built it up again and it is thriving! She showed us so many kinds of flowers and plants and made us an edible bouquet of herbs and nasturtiums. We stayed there for over an hour, looking at so many things and talking with Jeanette about the neighborhood. She seemed very happy to have people to show it to. Before we left she gave us her card and said that she would be going to her other property near Jackson, Mississippi the next day.

When we got back to the French quarter I told Charles about ditching my bike and he said "Why did you do that? You could go fix it at Plan B!" So I said "Let's go see if it's still where I left it, if it is, I'll try to fix it" We walked over to Elysian Fields and Decatur where I had left it 24 Hours earlier and unbelievably it was still there!

After that, Charles helped me take some photos of my eBay stuff and we had a ball, running through the French quarter and me changing outfits in the park on Frenchmen. Yay!

After the sun set I treated Charles to a well deserved dinner at Anjeli on Decatur. My pasta was over-cooked and the bowl was full of water. I asked for it with sautéed mushrooms and got them raw and cleverly hidden by sauce so that I wouldn't notice. There was not even a hint of anchovie in the Caesar salad and the staff said "absolutely not" to my request to charge my camera batteries. The only good thing was that we were joined by Lisa, who had called me at the request of Mr. Joey Burns of Tucson, Arizona to make sure everything was going okay. After dinner we went to The John on Frenchman for a drink. I looked in my wallet and saw that I had not a single note of cash on me so Charles bought me a Herradura Reposado for $4.50 and then we went into the back room to play pool. Lisa lost to Charles and I played him and won. Before our second game a young man and his date came into the back room wanting to play so Charles let them have the table while we went out to smoke. I took my purse outside with me and considered whether to also take my computer bag. Since I was going to be standing right outside the door and there were only 4 other customers in the bar I decided that my bag would be safe on the table. When we went back inside the young man and his date gave up on playing pool and left.

Charles won the second game and we called it a night. I went back to sleep outside Frank's house with a plan to leave in the morning for Mississippi.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Orleans Day two

I woke up parked at N. Robertson and Ursulines and being in desperate need of a shower I headed to the Hilton hotel to use the Fitness Room and Pool for $15. It’s a little known secret about traveling that hotels do allow non-guests to use those facilities for a fee, usually 10-15 dollars, motels, truckstops and public pools cost $2-9. So when I need to I treat myself. I usually try to find a hot tub and sauna as I just use that and the pool. At high end hotels remember to ask for a robe if they don’t give you one. The Hilton was okay. Tiny outdoor pool and hot tub and lukewarm indoor hot tub and a tiny sauna. For $15 it’s not that great but it did the trick and I could at least face New Orleans washed free of grease and grime.

I spoke to Bill Daniel during my emotional meltdown that day. I was so stressed out and had not slept well, and I needed a plan. So many things came together to make me super emotional. Bill was helpful and came through with sound advice and also informed me that Kal Spelletich was in town, showing some work. Immediately I knew that Kal had been involved with the party I had briefly visited the night before. Bill and I both called Kal and left messages. I went back and parked just outside the French quarter on Chartres and took my bike to see if it could be repaired. I took it to Michael’s on Frenchmen and they said it wasn’t worth saving with the bent frame, bent forks and busted derailer. I asked if there was any place I could donate it and they suggested Plan B, a bike Co-op on Decatur and Marigny. I was laboriously pushing it up there when I reached the end of my emotional rope and left it, leaned against a parking meter on Decatur.

I went back to the van and with the sun beginning to set, knowing that I needed to eat something I walked down Chartres and introduced myself to Frankie and Pete who were sitting at Frank’s house, having a beer.

I asked if they thought I would be safe parked in that neighborhood and Frank told me to move over to his corner and that he could put the parking cones out for me that were being used by the crew that was working on his house. They then directed me to some cheap food at 13 on Frenchmen and I returned afterwards and parked the van right next to Frank’s house. I talked a while with Frank, his wife and the neighbors. Frank and his wife had not yet moved in to the house and before leaving to their home in the suburbs, offered me the key to the empty house we were sitting in front of.

Thrilled and renewed by their generosity and trust I felt ready to face New Orleans. Rufus Raxlen called me and said to go see his friend Steve, at the Sugarpark Tavern. A while later Kal called and said to meet him at the Sugarpark Tavern. When I met Kal at the Sugarpark Tavern I was so happy to see a friendly face. We talked about diesel engines, about the grease and about my project. Kal had been in town from San Francisco due to his involvement in The 2nd Annual Lower Decatur St. Transformation and Enlightenment League Street Festival.

Kal introduced me to Charles, from San Francisco. Steve, Rufus’ friend from Brooklyn and the co-owner of the Sugarpark tavern came out from the kitchen and bought us a round. What a friendly guy, a true New Yorker, generous and welcoming. Loved the bar, the music, the crowd and the neighborhood, France and Dauphine.

I went back to my parking place at Frank’s house and debated whether to stay in the van with a broken window latch that I tied closed with wire or to sleep on the floor in the house. I decided to stay in the van on the theory that people who want to rob you are less likely to break into the car if they see you sleeping in it. I slept soundly through the night and got out of bed a while after Frank and his crew showed up.

In the morning I met up with Charles at Sounds café at Port and Chartres and we set up an email account for Lester, who is an inventor and currently looking into applying for patents if anyone has any advice for him.

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