Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Last time we saw David, Mali and Emilio, they were heading south, out of the United States, scrounging used fryer oil for their 1980 diesel VW Dasher. David wrote: "Under a darkening sky, we approached Naco, a small border crossing near Douglas, Ariz. We saw The Fence. Uggh. It was as ugly as could be. [The Mexican] side is decorated with banners, one telling us that over 2,000 persons had died crossing the border, and how many more would have to die?"
As I read their travelogue, I wondered, would they die, especially with posts like this: "It WAS scary driving at night, mainly because the road was windy, not marked well, DARK and the trucks shined their lights in our eyes. Plus our windshield wipers were crapped out and left streaks. AND the lights on our dasher are pretty dim. We then experienced our first contact with the dreaded topes, speed bumps from hell, which are sometimes marked, and often lie hidden. Even driving over them at a crawl would usually give the Dasher a horrible scrape. The Dasher is a low-rider, cruising about four inches above the ground."
They also hadn't planned on a dearth of veggie oil. In Parral, David posted: "Well I searched for oil for hours in Parral on a warm sunny day. There was not a drop to be had!!! Everyone throws out their oil at night and starts again in the day, and they throw it in the garbage. The whole way we've been trying to collect oil at restaurants, and 95 percent of the time they don't have anything, sometimes there is some 'gravy' and occasionally a cup or two of passable black veggie oil."
But as someone said, while unhappiness is at the table, joy is taking a nap; later David discovered some good stuff: "Me and Emilio stumbled into a Jackpot! A papas frances (French fry) place where they Kept Their Oil! 50 liters of Mexican Gold! We were so thrilled, because we'd been running on diesel for the past 20 km. The folks said that they sell it sometimes for 1 peso a liter, so we gladly paid them 50 pesos and hurried off to a park so Emi could play while I filtered. Whee! How exciting."
Did I mention that David & Co. are my heroes? They even found the time to cook with their veggie-oil car. David reported: "One funny thing is that I did make a rice-and-beans cooker for the car. We tapped into the coolant lines in the back above the veggie oil tank with 3/8 hose and coiled a copper tube into a nice shape and put it into a cooking pot with holes in top for the tubes. It cooked perfect a batch of rice in about 1 1/2 hours coming back from the Lancandon jungles. It's really funny to smell not only hot oil but rice and beans cooking!"
Just as our heroes feared they would soon run out of oil in southern Mexico, they encountered a caravan of two yellow veggie-powered buses (see http://www.sustainablesolutionscaravan.org) Being kind SVO-ers, the caravan filled up DM&E's tank with Sonoma olive oil, which carried them through Guatemala and Honduras, until they came to Nicaragua. David wrote: "Nicaragua has a fantastic transportation infrastructure, composed almost completely of retired US diesel school buses. You can go anywhere, and cheap. The buses are patched together with baling wire and duct tape, and are quickly and easily repaired by the industrious repairfolk. They are decorated and painted beautifully. But they spew out the most hateful plumes of black sooty diesel smoke. Nicaragua produces tons of veggie oil, corn, cottonseed, soy, palm oil. It would be practical and efficient to convert at least their public transportation infrastructure over to locally produced vegetable oil, the price of which would quickly become competitive with foreign-produced diesel, and the money would stay in Nicaragua, make more jobs, and improve the environment and health of the people. It's a no-brainer, except that the government is fundamentally corrupt to the core, and in bed with U.S. and European petroleum interests."
Costa Rica and Panama were a blur, the highlights being teaching impromptu classes, a press conference in Costa Rica, and many tire problems in Panama. Most of you must be dying to find out how they crossed the Darian gap, right? Stay tuned.