Two Dudes, one fry-oil-powered car, and a cross-country search for a greener future
By Greg Melville
Trade Paperback Original $15.95
Release date Oct. 21
By BILL DUNCAN
Greg Melville, a freelance journalist, and his friend, Iggy, drive a beat-up 1985 Mercedes station wagon converted to use vegetable oil for fuel from Vermont to California in a journey documented by Melville’s book, “Greasy Rider.”
It is a humorous, yet serious, tale of how they scrounged used vegetable oil from restaurant dumpsters to fuel the trip and arrived on the Pacific Coast without once stopping at a filling station for gasoline. It is a timely story, but Melville confesses it is not the most ideal way to travel and his friendship with his college buddy, Iggy, nearly ended during the 192 hours and 3,900 miles it took to reach the West Coast.
Melville said it was the first cross-country trip in a French-fry car and by the third day “every piece of clothing I had was grease-stained. I smelled the stuff in my sleep,” but what irritated him was that Iggy managed to stay clean and “by the end, I wanted to take a grease bucket and pour it over his head.”
The tension was such that Melville said “we needed to part company for a while after the trip ended, but we’re on good terms again.” He said that Iggy has now bought a Ford truck which he converted to use vegetable oil fuel and truck Melville calls it “the Queen Mary.”
Throughout the book, Melville keeps up a lively dialog with his traveling partner. They have a special apparatus to filter out the leftover fried potatoes and tortilla chips before putting the fry oil into the tank. At a Tex-Mex fast food stop, Melville worries about the look of the oil, which he describes as looking more like “a frothing bucket of cappuccino and made roadkill smell appealing.”
Part of the experiment was to cross the country without any luxuries, so thry stayed in what the author called “lowbrow motels,” the kind that don’t offer day-old powdered donuts and the owners clearly don’t put the cost savings toward extra housekeepers.
Melville is a professional travel writer, but he doesn’t consider this book to be a travel book, but rather one that addresses environmental issues. “I was trying to make a point about weaning the country off of foreign oil,” something he says we can do if we make up our minds to do it.
Since it was totally an environmental trip, he took a side trip to Al Gore’s home that he said proved to be a “total let down.” While he admires Gore’s commitment to the environmental issues that won him a Nobel Prize he feels “the bottom line is that for us to curb climate change and protect the planet for future generations, we need to made certain individual sacrifices. He (Gore) is not making these.”
Melville questioned why Gore would need a 10,000 square foot mansion. In his opinion, Gore is “not making any real personal sacrifices…to reduce his carbon footprint and if he can’t lead by example, how can the rest of us follow?”
The theme of his book is to prove that green technology will help the economy. He documented evidence of that in what he saw traveling across country. He had little trouble supplying his fuel as most restaurants were happy to have him dispose of their waste vegetable oil. He only notes one refusal from a restaurant already selling the oil for a similar purpose.
He wants the size of houses reduced to save heating and cooling costs. He wants consumers to buy more locally and cut down the carbon imprint of shipping long distances.
“I am talking about taking an active role in a grassroots political solution to create change,” he said. “Our nation has rallied to combat monumental challenges before. We can do it again.”
This is a fun book about a serious subject.
(Bill Duncan can be reached at email@example.com or by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470)