Update your bookmarks! I’ve purchased a domain name for this blog: volksvegan.org. I’m trying to figure out how to redirect this blog to the new domain, but in the meantime, visit us at volksvegan.org!

There will be a few changes as I work kinks out (and I can now redesign and tweak the site to my heart’s content if I wish), but I’m excited that we now have an official domain name.

Stay tuned on the new volksvegan.org for updates on our progress!

We plan to leave on our ultimate volksvegan adventure two weeks from now. It’s time to move fast! This week is my last week of work, and I’ve been getting ready for the big yard sale this Saturday.

Seneca has been working on the bus of course. Today he is installing the auxillery battery (it fits perfectly under the driver’s seat). It will run the stereo, super-bright headlights, and anything plugged into the cigarette lighter socket (like my laptop!) so we don’t have to take power away from the main battery. Just a little added reliability is nice. Eventually we could get a solar panel that charges the batteries as well. If we had the money for that sort of thing…

We are also figuring out a more portable option for filtering grease on the road, and decided to get a new pump that can be powered by the bus (instead of having to plug it in) and it’s much smaller and more powerful. We’ll use the filters in casings that we have now, but Sen ordered one for the end that goes down to 1 micron. Clean grease is very important, especially now that our baby got a new engine.

And in other news, I recently bought a domain name for this blog, volksvegan.org. It’ll take a bit to set it up, but I’ll let you know when to update your bookmarks! 🙂 I’m off to get ready and plan this trip!

Seneca's First Gorge ConcertFor Memorial Day Weekend, we embarked on a journey to the Gorge Ampitheater for the Sasquatch Music Festival. Seneca recently installed a Mega-Therm heater for our veggie oil fuel line that ensures that the temperature of the oil is high enough, as well as an auxillery pump to help out the injection pump with processing veggie oil. So the 175-mile trip was a test of the newly upgraded greasecar system. And thanks to Seneca’s troubleshooting and work on the bus all day Saturday before we left, we made it to the Gorge and partway back on grease with no problems! WOOHOO!

Switching to grease went very smoothly, and the Mega-Therm heater really kicked in, heating the oil up to the ideal 175 degrees very quickly. We noticed that it has a tiny bit less power going up hills on grease compared to diesel, but that can be expected. Other than that, there was no noticeable difference in engine performance on grease. The bus enjoyed being vegan for the trip! Now all that needs to be finished for the grease system is mounting the switches and gauges to the dash.

The only problem we had was a bit of difficulty getting the bus to start. It takes several tries of cranking to get her going. Seneca thinks there may be some air getting into the lines, and plans to replace a connecter in the grease lines that seems a little cheapy. Also, we ordered some new glow plugs because those need to be replaced periodically and often problems starting indicate faulty glow plugs. So hopefully once those things are replaced she will start up more reliably. Diesels always have a little trouble starting in the cold, but we want her to be as reliable as possible.

We’re now just mostly working on small things to get the bus ready for our trip: fixing the curtains, replacing the interior upholstery, deep cleaning the inside, and working out the last kinks in the grease system and new engine. We’ve got a few more weeks before we hit the road, and were very happy that this test run of the grease system did so well. Yay for the volksvegan! May there be many more greasy miles ahead…

New EngineWe recently put a new engine in the Volksvegan. The 1.6L engine was just too small for our big bus! So we got a 1.9L Turbo Diesel engine from a ’95 Passat and Seneca and our friend the VW expert installed it last week. As you can see, the engine is pretty darn clean. She runs great! We actually were able to go up hills going 50 in third gear instead of 30 in second gear.

We had plans to go to the Okanogan Family Faire Volunteer Summit last weekend, and we were determined to take the bus. Thankfully, she was running great in time for the weekend. Seneca filtered grease and filled the tank while I cleaned out the interior a bit and packed all our gear in the handy-dandy cabinets on Friday. Before we left, Seneca was even able to install new shocks, for a better ride and added safety in the wind (since the bus is about as aerodynamic as a big sheet of plywood).

Interior of the BusI even got some interior shots of the bus, since I haven’t shared views of the inside much yet. I dig the retro brown and green upholstery on the chairs & curtains. We’re going to replace the white upholstery stuff that’s on the walls and ceiling, on the back of the door, and inside of all the cabinets, which you can’t see from the picture but it’s buckled and peeling off. We’re waiting for a nice warm weekend at home for that project. It’s a cozy little home!

We left Friday afternoon and headed North to the faire site near Tonasket, Washington. After about thirty minutes we switched on the grease system and she purred along just fine. However, after a few hiccups going uphill on grease, Seneca switched back to diesel. When he switched back to grease again, the switch seemed to be out! We stopped to check it but the grease system wasn’t getting power at all. We’ve come to conclude that we should’ve coughed up the cash for a really nice Frybrid system, Greasecar’s components are a little cheapy. We’re also thinking it may have not worked correctly because the Turbo Diesel engine runs a lot cooler (and is more efficient), which means that less heat is going to the grease and it may not be hot enough to reach the ideal temperature for the engine. So, we plan to install an in-line heater on the grease lines. It was a bit nerve-racking dealing with the grease mishaps, but that’s why this is a test run and we’re taking a couple of them before our big trip! It’s good to get all the kinks worked out.

On the RoadAnyway, the bus ran just fine on diesel for the rest of the trip, but unfortunately we didn’t find any bio-diesel. I guess having two tanks is good, but we were upset that our trip wasn’t as sustainable as we wanted it to be. Send some good vibes to that grease system, we’re a little worried about it with our new engine because it is still quite experimental. And that’s one hell of an expensive experiment…

The trip was awesome and we had a great time meeting other volunteers and the organizers of the faire we’ve attended in the fall for the last several years. I even volunteered to help with the redesign of the faire’s web site, so it was a great networking opportunity as well. The bus was the perfect home for the weekend. The only problem was that we found out we were out of propane when we got there! So we couldn’t cook on the stove or turn the propane on to power the fridge. Drat! We brought enough food and the family fed us though, so all was well. And now we know we need to refill that tank before the trip! It sure was nice to roll in late Friday night and not have to pitch a tent in the dark. We just turned on the light in the bus, popped the pop top, and put down the seat. Viola – cozy bed! And it really doesn’t feel quite like camping when you get to use real sheets and blankets instead of sleeping bags!

Yay for Camping in the Bus!We enjoyed our weekend in the bus, even with the mishaps it was still exciting trying out the new engine. We even passed someone going uphill in the bus! That was a first, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible with the old engine. The Turbo Diesel is more efficient and runs cooler than the old engine as well, so we should get similar mileage. It’s about time that the engine was powerful enough for the size of the bus. We’re one step closer to our big volksvegan adventure, although the bus is still a work in progress, as usual… there’s lots to do!

On the RoadAs I reported recently on my personal blog, Seneca and I have made a big decision: we are going to live life on the road this summer! We are planning the ultimate road trip: powered by veggie oil and bio-diesel, we’re hitting the road in search of a place to move to and a lot of fun along the way.

We hope to be on the road by mid-June. We are currently planning some stops such as visiting sustainable co-housing communities we’d like to move to (some of which offer workshops or retreats), attending a couple family events, visiting friends, and doing some backpacking.

The best part is that most of our fuel will be free and we’ll be promoting sustainable travel! I am bringing a couple of design projects along with me and we hope to blog regularly about our trip and experiences collecting grease, checking out places we’re interested in moving to, and just enjoying our perfect road trip mobile.

There is a lot of planning to be done (and a lot of stuff to sell and find storage for), but we’re not trying to over-plan our route too much, so we can just go where the bus takes us. I’m excited for this volksvegan adventure, and I’ll be sure to write about it often on this blog.

Seneca recently ordered a new engine for our bus! We got a 1.9 Litre VW Turbo Diesel that’s slightly used (about 30,000 miles). We’ll be basically doubling our horsepower! No more crawling up hills in second gear going 20 mph! Woohoo!

It took a bit of research and some advice from friends to arrive at our decision to get that engine. TDIs are pretty finicky with grease, so we decided to stick with a TD. We decided to get a 1.9 instead of a Turbo 1.6 so we’d have the extra power to tow a small trailer (full of grease!) and go on the highway without having a trail of honking cars behind us.

Our friend Steve will be helping Seneca with the installation, which they should be starting next week. I’m so glad we decided to invest in a new engine rather than dealing with the underpowered one that’s been giving us so much trouble. If only we’d done it sooner…

Once the new engine is in, Sen will finish installing an auxillary battery, change all the hoses so they’re bio-diesel ready, and we’ll put in the new upholstery. Then she’ll definitely be road-worthy, and possibly even worth living in! We plan to do a lot of traveling this summer, and we’re even considering storing or selling all our stuff and living life on the road in the bus for a while. Stay tuned!

Another great development in bio-fuels I heard about from Green Options is called “Greaseball Challenge.” It seriously doesn’t get much cooler than this: the Greaseball Challenge is a race from the USA to Costa Rica in vehicles running strictly on renewable fuels. And it’s a charity benefit. Their site describes the challenge:

The Greaseball Challenge is a charity biofuel car rally
from the USA to Central America. Inspired by the tradition
of the classic car race, Greaseball is a cross-continental
adventure promoting sustainability on a shoestring using
renewable fuels.
The inaugural Greaseball Challenge departs on April 1, 2007.
Armed with nothing but a sense of adventure and some
cheesecloth, five teams will drive 4,500 miles on grease power
from the USA to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
and Costa Rica.

I am so tempted to sign up for this thing! It’s fun to watch the racers’ progress on the Greaseball Challenge blog and live on the road vicariously. I’ve always wanted to drive down to Peru, I might just have to copy these Greaseballs and follow their route…