Thursday, August 23, 2007

Buttercup goes veggie

Getting used vegetable oil has been quite an endeavor. We started our first afternoon in Chicago running to the ethnic market to get some veggies for our thursday evening slideshow gathering. With arms full of the best non-organic goods we could find, some fresh baked warm slovenian bread, peruvian raisins and some fenegreek seeds to sprout in the back window of the car, we sought out the first thai restaurant en route. We scanned the menu outside to check if they fry anything. Sleek from the outside and ambient from in; the hostess got the manager and the manager requested the chef and for the first time, his lack of interest in our project and concern for liability took us right out the front door as fast as we came in. Not all hostesses and vendors have been so disinterested in realizing that we are trying to help their burden of having to pay for their oil disposal services.

There was this delightful waitress in suburban Ohio Eat n' Park diner, who had heard about waste vegatable oil cars on the news. She kindly warned us of the ding of their oil disposal, sharing her concern for our well being and encouraging us to try out the Chinese restaurant a plaza down the highway.

Then there was Sotiraq from the restaurant supply store. He cussed avery other word, offered us some marlboro red cigarettes, that we kindly declined, let us scavenge through the back alley of his ramshackeld restaurant supplies and was neither pleased or delighted to get us in touch with the A*&%$^% from the restaurant 12 miles down the way. 12.5 miles of sign research and photo taking at the red lights on gratiot ave, we emerged to the scalloped counter diner. His thick accented friend, welcomed us to the black bin of oil out back. The same bin that the Ohio waitress had saved us from. There is more in there than waste vegetable oil. Animal parts it looks like, ignited with extinguished butts of cigarettes. No thanks! He was sad that we weren't excited about his oil. But when we saw that he used a mix of shortening and veg oil, we were quick to leave. Shortening will clog the fuel injector and the 10 feet of tubing that makes our system we strolled out the back door, not without taking his picture of course and letting him know he might be famous one day.

My Aunt Anne 50 miles north of Chicago has 5 clean gallons that she has never used, probably from a turkey fryer I would think. It seems appealing. Getting to know how restaurants dispose of their oil has been our biggest surprise. Do you think vegan fast food restaurants in Chicago, in addition to making dairy and animal free goods also dispose of their oil with a concern and thoughtfulness for the Grease Girls and others of like mind and vehicles that will want to collect it? We will surely find out.

For now we have the beauty of a road vehicle parked in the covered garage of Joanna's folks house. We are expecting 10-15 people who have shared an interest in our project to come and share some summer delights (potluck style). We are fashioning a slide show and looking forward to the record collection that will either have us hoe-downing or salsa dancing through the night...we'll have to see.

en route

We left NYC on Saturday and cruised to Philidelphia where we stayed with our wonderful friend Liz Solms. She was out of town, but we got to stay in her downtown place, giving us time to wander around to the Fabric Workshop and the Reading Terminal Market. We even got the chance to pour in our first vat of used veggie oil into the car...but when it started to rain, we had to abandon the mission. Water in the fuel is a bad idea. So we drove on through the backroads of Pennsylvania.

Outside the city, we pulled into a gas station with a wonderful overhang where we fueled up on diesel and poured our remaining veggie oil into its tank. We even changed a few fuses and put air in the tires. We were feeling pretty good about our car skills.

We got back on the road where the storms were wild and as we twisted and turned through the Appalachians, we kind of wondered what we were getting ourselves into. After we crossed into Ohio at about 3am, we settled into a parking spot next to a milkshake spot for some much needed rest. The town hall across the street we mistook for a little country church, but either way it was a restful sleep.

In the morning we got back on the road and headed for Detroit where we stayed with Sarah, Jim and Penny. They live in the city and it was a wonderful insight into the delapitated and regrowing capital of cars. The city's famers market is incredible - there's five enormous tents set up in Eastern Market...unfortunately, we weren't there on a Saturday to enjoy it.

We were on a tight schedule to make it to Chicago, so we packed up the car and headed out on Route 12, taking us through some of the sweetest smelling air and quaint farms. Michigan was just beautiful dirivng. At nightfall the storms broke again and we pulled into Chicago right as all vision was taken out by the falls. But we arrived to Joanna's parents home in East Rogers Park on the northeast side of Chicago...and we slept well.