Friday, January 12, 2007

First Steps

It’s been a month and a half, and this wee campaign is still in its infancy, but we managed to toddle our way to sunny California after some tentative crawling around the moss-padded safety of northern Oregon. So the first real step of this journey was one of 620 miles, from Portland to Vacaville, California, just north of San Francisco. That’s a pretty good stride for a newborn. Of course, there were some initial incidents involving trees and awnings and ladders, but it takes some scrapes to get a feel for your dimensions, and it’s only going to take a few stitches to patch up.

The rideshare experience was a good one, and it’s something I’d advocate to all RVers who are open to other people and aren’t in a huge rush. There were five of us, plus bags, and we had room for more, but it was good to stretch out. We were supposed to have eight, but a no-show and two last-minute bail outs turned out to be a blessing because we ended up crashing in a parking lot and there was just enough room for everyone to sleep without anyone on the floor.

So Colleen, Mike and Kris started out as strangers when we picked them up on Friday afternoon, but by the time we all piled out into the morning sunshine on Saturday, we had made some friends. You do a little bonding when it’s two in the morning and three cups of coffee and 500 miles have pulled down your emotional walls. Plus, splitting the fuel cost turned a $200 expense into a $50 expense. That’s $30 cheaper than a greyhound bus ticket, even though you miss out on the experience of sleeping in an upright fetal position while having your seat repeatedly kicked by a hyperactive ten-year-old. Mike said the bioTrekker ride reminded him of the Green Tortoise bus rides of the sixties, only without the Grateful Dead music, pillows on the floor and smoke billowing from the windows. Colleen said it took the “creepy” out of Craigslist. Kris was nice enough to stay up and help the driver stay awake and look for a truck stop or rest area during the last few miles.

We made the trip from Eugene to Vacaville on one tank of biodiesel, and even passed up the opportunity to fill up at biofuels stations in Medford. There are no biodiesel fueling stations right now on the I-5 corridor between Ashland and Sacramento, which isn’t an issue if you have a large enough fuel tank to cover the 330 miles.

Still, the biodiesel scene in Northern California is impressive at first glance, especially in the communities surrounding San Francisco and along the coastal corridor north to Eureka. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to really explore it in depth, and synchronicity brought a great host. Christopher Murphy, who is the president of the SOCOBIO biodiesel co-operative in Santa Clara, happened to see the bus on the freeway and gave us a call on New Year’s day to help out with some biodiesel-related information. I’ll be talking with Chris a lot more to get a better feel for all the latest NorCal happenings with biofuels and sustainability.

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