Wednesday, January 30, 2008

University of Georgia

A meeting with The President...

On Wednesday, January 30th, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a meeting with Dr. Mike Adams, president of the University of Georgia. In the presence of the photographer and editor of the Alumni magazine, Georgia, Dr. Adams and I went over the details and goals of my Vanishing America project. A brief bit about our meeting will appear in this month's issue of Georgia (which
focuses on the environment and alternative energies), and a follow-up story will be printed in the June issue.

The meeting was the result of my Mom’s longtime friendship with his Administrative Associate, Ann Whittemore.

And, to top it off, Dr. Adams’ assistant, Matt Winston, was able to work his magic and get me a parking spot in the campus bus pull-out right next to the Administration building (for 3 hours!) which is almost unheard of! Not only did that put me close to the President's Office, but it put me in plain view of every student and faculty member that passed by that afternoon.

Two days later, I received the RV Life newsletter announcing the release of the February issue of the magazine. Why is that important? Well, I'll tell you... On page 14 is my first published article from the Vanishing America project! Here's the link:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I heard I was in town...

(apologies to my hero, Jimmy Buffett)

Well, BABS should be rolling in to Atlanta (well, Alpharetta, specifically) by noon Wednesday. Now, to find a place to park this Big Ass BuS...

Some folks in my parents' neighborhood were going to let me park in their cul-de-sac, but they had a neighborhood meeting and changed their minds. Aaah... Such is suburbia.

So, let's see if we can be creative and find a good place to park this billboard on wheels while I make my hometown famous. Shouldn't be too difficult... should it?

In the meantime, my family is helping me find sources for used oil. Since I'll be in Alpharetta for at least two weeks, I'll have time to lay some groundwork and cultivate relationships with various restaurants who might be willing to help out. Hmm... that reminds me... anybody have any oil?

Now for some really good news: The Vanishing America project has had its first donation! My friend, Barbara Dubkak, from Deer Park, Texas, was so impressed with what I'm doing that she took $150 of her hard-earned money and put it into helping keep me on the road.


Do you like what the Vanishing America project is all about? Do you want to help out too? Drop me a line at Every dollar we receive will help keep BABS on the road a little longer.

If you would like to become a part of the Vanishing America project in a bigger way, we're always on the lookout for sponsors. We have room for logos on the website, the Land Rover, and, of course, BABS herself. And, sponsorship can be achieved by infusion of cash or product.

Is there something you'd like to promote? Want to see your product on the news, in the documentary, raved about on the blog? Let me know. We're talking National exposure here! If it's something that can benefit the project, and has minimal negative impact on the environment, then let's talk!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Picking up oil...

Leaving San Diego, on my way to Atlanta...

I'm on a tight schedule. If I had kept to my original itinerary, I would have been in Atlanta by Christmas, having seen Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, etc. before Winter hit. However, due to the delays in getting the veggie conversions completed, I am only just now on my way to my home state. And, since I'm so far behind, I've chosen not to stop and shoot en route (which would put me even further behind), but rather make a bee-line to Georgia to try and get back on track. It's unfortunate, but I'll have to postpone the western states until some time in 2009.

So... I left San Diego on Wednesday, running on veggie oil and loving every minute of it! It's a great feeling to know that you don't have to pay for fuel and you're helping to reduce toxic emissions. (And, the smell of french fries from my exhaust just makes me chuckle.)

However, as the miles began racking up, my veggie tanks started to get low, and I had to switch to diesel until I could find a place to get more grease.

Unfortunately, getting used veggie oil from restaurants on or near southern California has been much more difficult than I expected. There are three main reasons that used oil is hard to find:
  1. Some places already have contracts with renderers who come collect their oil on a regular basis.
  2. Others claim liability concerns.
  3. And, the rest simply didn't have enough to give me.

But, I did stop at several places to try my luck. Let's go down the list of oil collection opportunities, shall we...?

  1. The first place I stopped, a casino east of San Diego, would have liked to give me their oil, but the general manager couldn't allow it due to a contract they already have with a renderer.
  2. The next place I stopped, a privately-owned restaurant in the tiny town of Tacna, AZ, disposes of their oil in a hole in the ground, which essentially makes the oil unusable. They did, however, try to help me out by directing me to the town of Dateland, AZ, about 25 miles east.
  3. The restaurant in Dateland wouldn't give me their oil due to a contract they have with a renderer. (I say "wouldn't" as opposed to "couldn't" because the woman who ran the site was quite condescending when I asked.)
  4. The fourth place I stopped was an Arby's east of Tucson, AZ. They wouldn't give me any oil due to what they called liability concerns. They told me I needed a license to collect oil. That may be true, but I got the feeling that they simply didn't want to be bothered with something they didn't understand. They did, however, refer me to a restaurant across the street.
  5. Jackpot! Well, sort of... This restaurant was very helpful, but didn't have much oil. I was only able to get about 4 gallons from their receptacle.
  6. The last place I stopped was a Cracker Barrel just outside of Tucson. The manager, Angie, was very helpful and even escorted me out to the outside oil dumpster. Unfortunately, it was empty, having just been collected a couple of days prior.
As you can see, getting oil out west is tough. Word seems to have gotten around that used oil is a valuable commodity, and it is getting scarce. However, I expect that to change as I make my way east.

Next stop... El Paso. You know how us southern folk like to fry things. Let's hope there are some restaurants willing to help me fill up my tanks.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

100.7 Jack FM San Diego

Here is the video from the radio spot on 100.7 Jack FM in San Diego...
The DJs for their morning show, Monique and the Man (Monique and Greg) were so much fun to hang out with on the air. I can't wait to do that again!

Over the next million miles, I'll be calling in to the show periodically to talk about where I am and get advice about where I should go.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ray at Night!

Last night I braved the fog that socked in the city of San Diego and visited my old stomping grounds in North Park. Every second Saturday is the Ray at Night art walk, and I made a special trip to see my friend Pablo Mason enjoy his opening night at Sharp Gallery.

Pablo is a fantastic photographer, mentor, and good friend. And, you could see by the big grin on his face that he was having the time of his life.

You can see a selection of his work
through March 6, 2008 at Sharp Gallery, 3807 Ray Street, San Diego. To see the rest of his photographic talents, visit

I also stopped in to see my friends Elliot and Craig who run 4 Walls Gallery (who gave me my first solo show), then popped over to the San Diego Art Department at 3830 Ray Street to see my friend, and talented artist, Alexis Archibald. And, although it's difficult to see, I'm wearing one of her beautiful handcrafted necklaces. You can see her work at

Sorry for the poor photos (they're from my cel phone). Go figure.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Radio shows and alternative fuels

Radio is a beautiful place to be...

What an experience! Thank you so much to my friend Monique on Jack FM's Monique and the Man, for having me on their show this morning. My guest spot was short, but hanging out with Monique, Greg, and Sara on the air was something I'll never forget. I can't wait to do that again!

And they just put the video of BABs on their weblog (

Running on veggies...

As many of you know, both my Land Rover and BABs (my Big Ass BuS) can run on used vegetable oil straight out of the restaurant fryer. And, that's a great thing, since many restaurants are just itchin' to get rid of that nasty stuff.

However, as the desire for alternative fuels increases, so does the value of that waste oil. Numerous companies around the country are springing up to collect that used oil and turn it into a profit by turning it into biodiesel. This is great for the environment and the community, but can be a little difficult for guys like me whose vehicles run on that wonderful golden goo.

In many larger cities, and with most chain restaurants, the biodiesel manufacturers and renderers (who also use the oil for other products) already have contracts to pick up the oil from the restaurants. I'm tickled to see that happening, as it shows signs that our dependence on fossil fuels has an alternative outlet. On the other hand, it makes it tougher for me to get the free fuel for my vehicles.

Granted, there are still thousands of restaurants out there who either throw their oil away, or have to pay to have it recycled. And, believe me, I'll be talking with them wherever I go.

But, as I look into my crystal ball, I see waste oil becoming more of a commodity, and I can see restaurants eventually being paid for their used oil. Great for the restaurants, the community, and, to a lesser degree, the companies doing the collecting, but still tough on guys like me.

Now, here's the cool part...
Most people think of veggie oil coming from vegetables. Logical. But, high quality veggie oil can be obtained from algae. Yes algae. And algae can be grown in clear plastic tubes. (If you've ever owned a pool or an aquarium, you know of what I speak.)

So, I look into my crystal ball, and I see the biodiesel manufacturers getting their oil from algae. That means they no longer have to pay for waste oil, which means waste oil once again becomes available to guys like me. It may sound like wishful thinking, but if veggie oil continues to grow as a fuel source, I'll once again be swimmin' in grease.

In the meantime, I need oil to fuel the vehicles. Of course, both will still run on diesel or biodiesel that I can get at the pump, but I want veggie oil. Not only is it better for the environment, but it's FREE!

So, I contacted a company here in San Diego who is collecting used oil from local restaurants in hopes of working out a sponsorship with them. I was hoping to get about 200 gallons of veggie oil and biodiesel from them in exchange for promoting them on my website, my motorhome, my Land Rover, and even talking about them on the radio and TV. I figured it would cost less than $300 for them to hook me up with one load of fuel. Seems like a great deal, right? $300 for national exposure on a high-profile project? That kind of publicity would normally cost thousands.

Unfortunately, they didn't see it that way. I don't fully understand their logic, but I guess they aren't interested in anyone knowing who they are. I'm disappointed, and confused, but, as they say, that's life in the big city.

So, what's next? A couple of days in LA meeting with my publicist and a potential sponsor, and then I'm off to Atlanta!

Oh, I almost forgot... My friend Larry, who owns Ray Street Frame and Print, brought me a few gallons of used peanut oil, which I poured into my filtration tank last night. Thanks Larry!

And to those of you who cook... Save me your oil!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

FM Radio, BioFuel, and damn good food...

America's Finest City...

It's great to be back in San Diego for a few days, catching up on some personal things, scheduling interviews, and talking with potential sponsors. Things are taking a bit longer than I'd anticipated, but it's been worth it catching up with my friends, seeing the changes in the city, and generally being back on the road again.

I've had BABS parked at the World Famous San Diego Zoo since I got into town. The staff there has been so nice to me, coming by to talk every now and then, and making sure I'm okay. My new friend, Seth, a Zoo employee, even brought me a couple of complimentary passes so I can see the exhibits.

And, even though I'm the one with the expense account, my friends have been the ones to take me out to lunches and dinners, so I've rarely had to pay for a meal. Even Matt and Scott, owners of Urban Solace in North Park, took care of me for a few meals... and (pardon the language), but DAMN, their food is good! Every single item on the menu has been a beautiful sensory experience. Look for them in the Valentine's issue of 944 magazine.

This Friday morning (January 11th), I'll be a guest on 100.7 Jack FM's morning show, Monique and the Man. In addition to their core discussion on the upcoming Chargers versus Colts NFL playoff game, we'll be talking about my project, the conversions, and my travels around the country. And, Monique, who spent a lot of time on the road as a comic, will be giving me pointers on what to see and where to eat while I'm out there in nowhere land. They even want me to drive BABS onto their lot for some promo pics and webcam video during the show!

Monday, I drive up to LA to meet with Galpin Motors, a potential sponsor, and then I'm off to Atlanta to see my family. (I wonder if they remember me...)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

On the road again...

Well, I'm finally on the road again!

It's taken a few months to perfect the veggie conversions, but I have to admit, Shane at Rover Hybrids did a fantastic job. Everyone I've shown the vehicles to thus far has been impressed with the quality of work and the attention to detail.

I drove the motor home from Redding to San Diego, via Interstate 5, towing the Land Rover. I periodically switched back and forth between diesel and used veggie oil and was pleasantly surprised by the power, acceleration, and fuel economy. Comparable to diesel without the greenhouse gases. It's an amazing transformation... and a work of art. Free fuel! Life is grand!

I'll post up some photos of the completed project shortly. Imagine... fueling up on used oil that restaurants are throwing away. Who'da thunk it?