Veggie Across America: LA Arrival

December 11, 2008
We made it!

Thanks to the Majestic Diner, refuel biodiesel, mechanic Dan Halfhill and his wife Sabine, my flexible boss Marty Padgett, and a rock-solid reliable 1982 Mercedes-Benz 300TD turbodiesel with 330,000 miles, Hugh and I made it from Atlanta to Los Angeles fueled by about 105 gallons of waste vegetable oil and about 10 gallons of diesel #2. Arrival: 3 a.m., Thursday, December 11.

Well, actually, Hugh bailed in Tucson, Ariz., rushing back to business and other responsibilities in New York. But not before proving himself an invaluable mechanical assistant, navigator, and co-pilot.

Guadalupe Mtns #2

Guadalupe Mtns #2

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I should've brought one more 15-gallon drum of waste vegetable oil along, but I simply didn't have room for it. Also, I didn't calculate just how much fuel the Benz would eat through climbing steep mountain passes with a loaded weight above 5,000 pounds. That's a lot of weight for only 3.0 liters of old-school five-cylinder turbodiesel. So to make it all the way to Los Angeles, I had to add about 10 gallons of diesel #2 after entering California. Still, that's a small concession considering that roughly 91 percent of our driving was powered without the use of fossil fuel.

I learned the hard way about the importance of thorough veggie oil filtration. Either my process was not good enough, leaving too many particles in the oil we used, or somebody sent me the wrong filters, because we were grounded multiple times with clogged fuel filters. Imagine: You're climbing a hill, the engine starts shuddering, the car slows, you floor the go pedal, and suddenly--nothing. Nothing but a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the thought of wolves and gathering as the sun sets on a lonely two-lane somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

grounded in Alabama

grounded in Alabama

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Props to Napa Auto parts, which are sprinkled across the country, and kept us supplied with Napa Gold 1515 filters and secondary Benz fuel filters. Thanks also to Dan, the mechanic, who advised me to travel with extra filters. In all, we went through four of the larger filters and five of the smaller, secondary fuel filters before rolling into L.A. early this morning. With cleaner oil, we would have made the entire trek on just one set of filters.--Colin Mathews
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New Mexico Sunset

New Mexico Sunset

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