Sunday, June 1, 2008

Makin' BioDiesel and then onto Vermont!

Wow, what a busy two weeks it's been. After stopping in Atlanta to chat with The Weather Channel and then a quick stop to see an old college friend in Charlotte, I made it to a little town just southeast of Greensboro, NC, to find out first hand how biodiesel is made. The co-op is Piedmont Biodiesel (, and I met some great people 'Saving the Planet, one French Fry at a Time'. There were staff, interns and local coop members eager to convert a lot of dark brown sludge into gallons of clear, yellow liquid that can power diesel engines. After two days of helping out, I received some fuel in payment and on up the road I went, to where I was raised... Vermont.

I arrived in the Green Mountain State just in time for a Memorial Day Weekend Parade, where I heard shouts of praise and cheers as the bioTrekker went smokelessly down the parade route, especially after following a group of military trucks belching black clouds of carbon monoxide as they shifted gears. I want to Thank Peter at Ehler's RV in Essex Jct., VT, for the opportunity to once again show off the bioTrekker, looking cleaner and greener than ever.

My final stop of this entry was a Reunion at my alma mater, The University of Vermont. For three days I explained how the bioTrekker was an educational platform to promote the use of biodiesel and other alternative energy solutions as well as ways to help save the environment starting right in your own home. While I was there, I met Gioia Thompson, Director, Office of Sustainability at UVM, who invited me to help her out this summer and fall to promote causes that impact positively on the environment here in Vermont, so check back for future updates!
East Coast bioTrekker

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michael's Interview with Forecast Earth

Hey Trekkers,

On the bioTrekker's current northern trek up the eastern seaboard, I had an opportunity to visit The Weather Channel (TWC) offices in Atlanta on May 15th. Thanks to a great contact Ty had set up with TWC, I was able to schedule this visit and give an interview when I arrived. I had a bit of a problem finding the place as my GPS could not (or would not, grrr...), find the exact location, but after an hour of driving around the neighborhood, I saw three satellite dishes and thought, "This must be the place."

I met Dedra, who did the interview and Rodney, the cameraman, at 9 a.m., and they made me feel very comfortable from the onset. We spoke about the bioTrekker and Rodney took some great 'B roll' of the motor coach for a future segment on TWC's 'Forecast Earth'.

When I find out the broadcast date, I'll let y'all know!


Thursday, May 1, 2008

bioTrekker gets a little bit of 'Sol'

The 'Beast in the East' bioTrekker got a little more 'Eco-friendly' today as a solar panel was installed to take this Trekker 'off the grid' as it travels around the eastern U.S. this summer.

The 80 watt Sunforce Solar Charger Kit with it's ability to absorb light all day, even in cloudy or rainy weather, is another step I've taken to make the bioTrekker more fuel efficient, as I won't have to run the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit, which runs on biodiesel), to charge the batteries, as well as not having to plug in the RV either.

I'll continue to add future enviro-upgrades as funds, or hopefully sponsorships, start coming in. Although I may not be able to include all the features Ty has planned for the 'Best in the West' solTrekker, I'll follow his lead as I'm able.
He's a great mentor.


P.S. Check back later this month as I may have a few more surprises in store!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Hey Trekker Fans,

Michael Wolbach, the east coast bioTrekker here. This is my first post, so be patient with me as I try blogging on a regular basis. I'm in Orlando, Florida at the present time, but I'll be traveling north in just a few weeks, so stay tuned...

To kick off the 2008 Trekker travel season here the eastern U.S., I participated in an Earth Day presentation at Hunter's Creek Middle School in Orlando, Florida. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science classes rotated out during the day to listen to me talk about my 'Reeducation Upside-Down Pyramid', which is a compilation of waste management terms as well as my own research as an alternative to the buy, use, and throw away society which our world, for the most part, has become.

The young students were very attentive and a few of them asked some very poignant questions, including the debate about using food stocks like corn and soybeans to create fuels like biodiesel and ethanol verses using them to feed an ever growing and hungry population. Another concern was the overuse of water bottles and other 'one time' use products made from petroleum-based plastics verses creating 'vegetable-based' products, along with creating more reusable types.

All in all it was a wonderful day, with eager and creative minds thinking of ways to reduce not only their own personal carbon footprint, but those of their family, school, community, state, country and world, a real 'Think Globally, Act Locally', attitude that we're going to need to help foster in the coming months and years.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Raising the Roof

No, the roof is not on fire, but it might as well be. We were gifted our first big surprise on the SolTrekker build last week when we found out that the entire roof is pretty much crapola. And by crapola, I mean waterlogged plywood. It turns out that if you have a Filon roof (also a synonym for crapola) you should be sealing it at least once every two years, something that the original owner wasn't aware of, either. If you don't, you get lots of pinhole leaks that slowly turn your roof to soggy mushrooms even if you never see any evidence of water damage. It's only when your unsuspecting friend steps through the roof while helping you to remove an awning that you get to experience the joy of discovery. Maybe they should just make the roofs out of fungus right from the start?

Anyway, thanks to the awesome techs at Monaco Coach, we're getting a new roof in record time, but it still sets the project back a few weeks. We're still aiming to be at the Greener Homes and Gardens Show in Portland on May 17, but it'll be tight. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Little Help From My Friends

Maybe you already read the post on the homepage, but I wanted to post here, too. I was really inspired to have such a good showing at the recent work parties we've had. Old friends and new friends came out to help with the tedious work of taking old materials out, with the promise of receiving nothing in return except for beverages and gratitude.

My thanks do go out to Adam, an expert in awning removal, my man Jerod, Joe "from Germany", Brad from Green Mountain Energy, Erin and Patrick who put out an awesome magazine -- Natural Awakenings, and of course, the lovely Allison.

Thanks to their help, we've almost got the rig completely stripped outside and inside. The next step is to have it painted and have solar panels installed in April. In the meantime, we'll be working on detailed design and talking to potential sponsors and partners. At this stage, it looks like mid to late July is a realistic goal for launching the SolTrekker.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Shooting Video

As if we don't have enough projects with the rebuild of the latest 'trekker, I decided to add a few more. For the latest project, I've corralled my good friend and TV news photographer Michael Brandenberger to begin shooting some video of the build. The idea is to produce a 15-minute pilot for a program on the 'trekker project and travels. We'll see where it goes, but if nothing else, we'll have some good stuff for any potential television coverage or just old fashioned YouTube material. Just thought I'd share the idea and some video stills of me sitting on the pot. -- Ty

Practical Environmentalist

I was invited to provide a guest post on biodiesel at the blogsite of The Practical Environmentalist last week and just wanted to take the time to highlight the website and the guy behind it. The Practical Environmentalist is a really topical site with a ton of information, and it's produced by Lars Hundley, a fellow sustaino-geek, who runs a business called Clean Air Gardening. Clean Air has some very cool stuff for gardeners, and I can testify, because I've been using their Bokashi Kitchen Composter and their Low-Flow Roadrunner shower head, which waits until the water is warm enough before producing a spray. Anyway, if you're in the market for fun gardening stuff and green housewares, check them out. If you missed it on the homepage, click here for the biodiesel post. -- Ty

Friday, February 15, 2008

Conferences and New Projects

Michael and I made the long trip from Oregon to Florida in time to make presentations on the University of Florida campus for Focus the Nation, as well as the SBS and NBB biodiesel conferences in Orlando. There were just a few minor hiccups along the way, like a windshield nearly blown off in raging California windstorms, a run in with the locals of "cancer alley" in Louisiana, and a fun day getting towed because someone airlocked the fuel filter while checking it. Of course, details will follow in longer articles.

I just returned from a quick trip to Spokane, Washington and back to Portland with the newest 'trekker mothership. I love her already. She doesn't exactly sprint up hills and her "horn" is probably one of the most unusual sounds I've ever heard, but she runs smooth and steady. And she's already been christened "Sunny" because of the bright beautiful day we had for the maiden voyage, and because she's destined to make good use of solar power.

In the next few weeks we will start the process of transforming Sunny into the Eco-RV she was born to be. There's a lot of work ahead, and the changes will be dramatic, so it's an exciting time. I'll be posting build photos as we progress.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Marathon from Oregon to Florida

It's not like we'll be running, but we'll probably be pretty tired when we arrive. This Saturday Michael and I will be taking the 'trekker down from Oregon to Florida, accompanied by a few rideshare riders. We'll be hitting California on Saturday, Arizona on Sunday, Texas on Monday and aim to hit Orlando by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. We'll be taking that route to avoid snow and mountain passes. If you see us chugging by on the freeway, give us a wave.

Our destination is the Sustainable Biodiesel Summit and National Biodiesel Conference in Orlando, Florida. For those who are interested, we'll have some reports and photos when the conference ends on February 5. I'm excited to see all of the friends made at last year's conference in San Antonio, like the crew pictured here, and it will be good fun to introduce Michael into the mix.

Peace from the road!