A Pre-DNC Denver

(written July 9 in the van, east of Reno)

We had no time to soak the next morning at Strawberry Springs. After an amazing breakfast of sweet quinoa and scrambled eggs, we packed our gear out of the vardos and into the van for the final leg of the trip east. Jonathan did manage to video tape a carny puppet bit from the wagon. We also visited the caboose up above the springs before leaving, but left the soaking for another day.

Glad we departed when we did, because the ride to Denver took us over a mountain and was three hours instead of two. We spent a good deal of time on phones talking to Denver people as well as Zach at the SLR HQ in Oakland. Susan Powers is one of the SLR contacts in Denver, and she was flexible with our Radical Standard Time (Chris’s term) lateness. What can you expect from a bunch of Californians?
Highland CO 01 Highland CO 02
We found our Denver destination, a new condo development, on 16th Street in the Highlands neighborhood. Sue owns and sells the property, and we found out that she’s a huge volunteer and green businessperson. We also met Steve, co-owner of the Masterpiece Deli located in the property, Russ, Sue’s husband, Tom Walton, her assistant, a security guy, and a few other people. Jonathan expected a short check-in meeting and site inspection with Sue but got a huge committee meeting instead.

Highlands sits at the end of a stretch of “revitalization” in a formerly ignored part of Denver. A bike/ped bridge had just opened across the street from Sue’s building, and two of the city’s most popular foodie restaurants dish out the food a block up from the bridge. A milk can shaped ice cream stand had just opened, and we eventually bought a scoop and talked SLR with the owner and workers. We observed that this hood is/was a working class Latino community, and transitioning into a condo-culture hood. Or mixed incomes at least.

We mostly spent our time in Denver in Highlands, but did venture over two of the bridges into the Commons hood. Across the new ped bridge, near the river, the now-ubiquitous cranes stood over other new developments. Further down towards the railroad tracks, the Millennium Bridge, and a major transportation hub, more new buildings stood where warehouses once were. Russ told us that none of this existed 10 years ago.

This seems to be story of every city in the USA (and North America for that matter)!

Jonathan got overwhelmed with the many questions from everyone, but we managed to video and photograph the open spaces, and then brainstorm what the SLR would look like in the spaces that were available. We didn’t have lodging for the night planned so spent most of the early evening on the phone with various people looking for a crash. Steve at the Masterpiece Deli hooked us up with his backyard, so we pitched tents, ate some soup his partner made (with some great gourmet salts), chatted about UFOs and Egyptian culture until his neighbor told us to can it for the night.
Denver Biofuels
The rest of the trip has been a blur of hardcore driving west. We filled up with B100 (100% biodiesel) in Denver before heading to Salt Lake. Denver Biodiesel proved to be a great place to stop for a fill up. Looking wise with a grey beard and sharing thoughtful comments, Steve hooked us up with the good stuff. Denver Bio is about to move, but its current location is beside a veggie-conversion garage. So we all started talking biofuels, SLR, and the DNC with everyone. A manager of a local band stopped by for a veggie conversion, and another biofuels user stopped by while we were there. Many fliers were given out, and contacts made for August.
Salt Lake Gas Pump
The hardcore driving began. We were going to sleep over in Salt Lake, but just visited the Crooked Arrow space instead. We met Scottie and his Flying Saucer trailer at Copper Mountain. He is part of the group that works, parties, and pays rent at Crooked Arrow. He’s headed on the road with the Tour de Fat, so look for his crazy contraption and sweet grooving beats on tour as well as at Burning Man 2008. We checked out his space, ate some dinner, talked about Burning Man, and left after making more new friends. We also filled up the tank with B99 in Salt Lake for the continued drive West.
No Name Rest Stop Reno Fill Up
We made it as far as Elko, NV, slept four hours, took showers, and then hit the Interstate for more driving. Tom has to get back no later than July 10 to catch a flight to Mexico. So we bought the last round of groceries and kept driving in shifts. Before hitting Reno, we ran into the smoke haze of the fires that are raging in the Sierras. We had to stop in Reno to smog test and register the van (and fill up with B100 again!).  The whole city was hazed over and smelled like chimney smoke. It maybe took an hour to run all our errands in Reno.

Outside of Sacramento currently, and the smoke haze is still with us. California is definitely burning. We’ve maybe covered 300 miles in the haze. Heard briefly on NPR that a fire in the Sierras has caused thousands to be evacuated. Guess it isn’t too controlled as well.

Jonathan and Tom are keeping detailed accounts of our fuel usage. The current tally has us running on 60% biofuel for the whole trip. We’ve used 112 gallons of B100 (54% of the trip’s fuel usage), 59 gallons of B40, 20, 10, and only 36 gallons of straight dino-diesel (mostly used in small amounts to get us to the next bio-diesel source). We have gone out of our way to find the good stuff, and did a much better job heading west than east. This was due to locations being closed, evening and night travel, and other timing issues. We’ve visited regular stations, DIY biofuels coops, and fuel distribution stations (with huge tanks of diesel right off from the pumps) to get bio, proving that you can travel without the dino-diesel. But it takes work, planning, and timing. Many props to NearBio for listing the sources along our drive. And to all the folks who are offering the B100. That was the gold nugget we mined to avoid dino-consumption.

I must also add props to this Carny crew for road tripping a week and NOT eating a single meal in a restaurant. We did have a cafe meal in Denver (salads and sandwiches), but have mostly been buying healthy food along the way, packing the cooler, and making our own meals on the road or in the room. We’ve missed a few dinners due to timing, but have faired well with healthy, sustainable noshing this week. Hopefully we can be a small model for the big SLR tour in August.

Logistics like food and fuel will be a major part of the Sustainable Living Roadshow’s commitment to going green. We’ll see what’s in store next month. That will be an adventure indeed!