Let the Light Shine In!

We are super excited to make some highly anticipated announcements after nearly a year of silence.

First, we want to let everyone know that the bus is nearly complete with Phase II of the overall project. With our fantastic team, the G6 who are all sorely missed while they’re off getting educated at institutes of higher learning around the country, no longer around to fuel the fire it has taken a while to complete Phase II. photo-7You might remember, we completed all of Phase I (converting the bus to run on biodiesel/vegetable oil and solar power – which included gutting the bus to install tables and beds as well as a full-body paint job) in less than a month thanks to their youthful enthusiasm before taking the bus around the state and cross-country to promote renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Complete as a model of renewable energy, we still were left with the task of turning our bus into a mobile farm. So we are very happy to say that the biggest part of Phase II is now complete. Thanks to the wonderful people at Couvillion Desgn + Build in Starkville, MS we now have light – that’s right, six beautiful skylights run the length of the interior letting in sunshine that will feed our plants on the mobile farm!

We’ve also been able to do a little more painting, with artists Jude Landry and Thomas Grasskoff decorating our tires. Justin Malone had fun adorning the interior with cartoon veggies along with Meaghan Doyle while visiting from New England.

We would also like to announce new ownership, with the bus being passed along by GGSIM to the newly-forming Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) where Daniel Doyle, former Executive Director of GGSIM, now serves as Statewide Coordinator. MSAN supports healthy farms and communities to develop economically and ecologically responsible local food systems throughout Mississippi.

MSAN_Logo-03The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) supports financially sustainable farming practices that benefit our people and our land. MSAN provides:

  1. a forum where Mississippi farmers and food consumers share ideas, tips, techniques, and information; and
  2. outreach, support and educational opportunities that promote sustainable farming and local food systems in Mississippi.

Mission: Make sustainable farming and local food production thriving enterprises in Mississippi.

553741_548164038531836_588749450_nFinally, MSAN is excited to announce that we will be bringing on a new Director for the MS Mobile Farm on Wheels project – Shaundi Wall! Wall comes to the MS Mobile Farm with years of experience as a classroom teacher, unbridled enthusiasm to reaching our youth, and a deep personal commitment to healthy living, eating, and growing! She can also play a mean penny-whistle and her name is on the wall of fame in Taylor Grocery – see photo for proof. Shaundi will be taking over the blogging duties so expect some exciting updates in the days to come.

We still have a little bit of work to do but are beginning to take requests for visits – so if you are organizing an event this summer or fall, would like to see the bus in your community or at your school, or want to have a presentation done for your group or organization then request a visit today or email msmobilefarm@gmail.com.

Hope to see you soon …

Mobile Farm Adventures

The below article will be published in the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi‘s first annual journal of sustainable living – The Southern Good Life – Spring 2012. Contact info@ggsim.org for information on receiving a copy of the inaugural journal and read inspiring stories from all over Mississippi in the field of sustainability.
 
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It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves
- in finding themselves”– Andre Gide
 

As recent alums of the Mississippi School of Math and Science, graduates of a rigorous academic curriculum supplemented by extracurricular enterprises from rafts and rickshaws to rail guns and bridge swings, some friends and I began planning a senior road trip and naturally refused to settle for anything less than epic.

Simple calculations revealed that the brunt of the financial burden would come from food, housing and fuel. We figured we could reduce food costs by buying food in bulk and cooking meals ourselves, and housing costs by camping rather than staying in hotels. But it seemed that fuel would be a stickler. That’s when Sterling Harper stumbled across an article from Momentum – Mississippi State University’s engineering magazine – about some students who converted a school bus to run off of waste vegetable oil (WVO).

We immediately began researching the mechanics and legalities of the idea while simultaneously searching for a bus. After several near misses, we finally found “the one.” We drove over 700 miles to fetch a 1990 school bus built on an International 3700 chassis equipped with “AC that’ll turn’er into a meat freezer.” Our inspection revealed the only major issues to be a couple of balding tires and a few leaky windows. The bus, despite being 21 years old, had less than 100,000 miles, a beautiful Allison AT540 transmission, and an engine that would make a mechanic drool.

We poured a lot of sweat and ingenuity into the bus from there. At school several friends helped us pull out the seats and the wheel chair lift as well as scrub the inside squeaky clean. From there, we drove the bus to the coast to stay at my house in Moss Point. We built bunk beds that fold down into couches, installed carpet, and began constructing the fuel system. However, as exams and end of the school year work arose, the bus and the trip were placed on the back burner.

It wasn’t until a few days before graduation that the mobile farm idea was introduced. We had already asked several nonprofits if they were interested in sponsoring the project but none were interested. Then, when I was talking to Daniel Doyle, a former teacher of mine, about possible gap year work, I mentioned the trip. “You know what would be cool,” Daniel brain-stormed, “A mobile organic farm.” We’ll just say the idea stuck.

The gang and Doyle organized a meeting the morning before graduation at City Bagel, a local bagel/coffee shop in Starkville. In addition to converting the bus to run on biodiesel, we would work as representatives of the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS and turn the bus into a touring educational outreach tool for sustainability and renewable energy complete with a mural on the side of the bus, several examples of sustainable agricultural practices on board, and give presentations at summer camps and farmers markets while on our road trip. We would also solicit businesses and individuals over the summer and while on the trip in order to raise money for a second phase of the project that would turn it completely into a farm on wheels.

This second phase would consist of installing a chicken coup, a greenhouse roof, a rainwater catchment/irrigation system, various examples of composting techniques, and much more. This would happen after we return to Mississippi from our trip. Once turned over to Gaining Ground, they would hire an intern to finish the conversion and drive the bus around the state to schools and events to continue teaching about sustainability.

The summer was filled with overwhelming support from individuals and businesses. We moved up to Oxford for the summer to work with Doyle on the project and several local families took us in. Oxford Paint Supply donated the paint for our mural. Whenever the weather was looking gloomy Woodson Ridge Farm and Valley House Farm loaned us their barns (at one point sharing space with goats and a horse). Once we peeled all the vinyl lettering off, scuffed up the paint with sandpaper, taped everything off, primed and finished the bus blue, green, and yellow with paint rollers and brushes, Wendy Hansen, a local artist, helped develop our mural. She put together a design and projected it onto the side of the bus so that the inartistic math and science kids could help her out. We traced the design onto the side of the bus with Sharpies and then the real artist taught us how to paint.

 

 

 

Bill Beckwith was another helpful individual who assisted us with installing the waste vegetable oil system. He showed us a junk yard where we took two diesel tanks off of wrecked trucks to use for our fuel storage. We then took the bus back to his shop where he cut holes in the frame of the bus and mounted the tanks. We installed two fuel filters and ran fuel lines from the dirty tank to the filtration system to the clean tank and finally to a three-way valve switch that allowed us to switch from diesel to WVO. We installed another three-way valve switch for the return fuel line and a fuel return line back to the clean oil tank. During this time, Mississippi Solar delivered us a donated solar panel which we installed on the hood of the bus to supplement the bus electronics.

Once our work was finished we scheduled a Mississippi tour to test it out. Our first stop was Fondren after Five in Jackson. We later visited the Starkville Farmers Market and the Pascagoula Rive Audubon Center. On our way back we stopped by the Sunrise Garden Center in Hattiesburg and finished the mini tour with a benefit featuring “Silas Reed and Da Bunks” at the Powerhouse in Oxford. At each stop, we presented our work to interested community members and answered questions about our project. From there, we headed west.

Our cross-country tour was amazing and included Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Santa Barbra, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, the John Muir Woods, Yosemite National Park, Reno, Salt Lake City, and Denver. We met a vampire slayer, a cookie-cooking Latino musician, train-hoppers, an Australian on a quest, an expert diesel mechanic/host of a truck driving show, and many more interesting people. We broke our power steering pump mount, hiked up the Superstition Mountains and down into the Grand Canyon, broke all of our belts on the “The Strip” in Las Vegas, had an encounter with the Feds, the LAPD, and an armored truck with a turret, rode waves in the Pacific Ocean, drove along Highway 1 in California, nearly froze to death in San Francisco, saw giant redwood and sequoia trees, ruptured our upper radiator hose, and so much more. Along the way, we stopped at several summer schools and farmers markets in order to raise both funds and awareness for the project. You can read all about our adventures on our blog at http://www.msmobilefarm.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Once we returned to Mississippi, the bus was turned over to Gaining Ground and everyone departed on their respective post high school journeys. Gaining Ground hired me as an Educational Outreach Intern. Since then, I have transformed the inside of the bus and have continued traveling all over the state. If you are interested in hosting the bus at a school or event in Mississippi, contact me at Robert.Glenn@gmail.com.

Bobby currently works for GGSIM as the Educational Outreach Intern. He was one of the six graduates from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science who converted an old school bus into the “Farm on Wheels.”  He is from Moss Point, MS.

Bus Update

Sorry I haven’t posted anything for over the past few weeks. The good news is that the reason I have been neglecting the blog is because I have been distracted by all the wonderful things going on the world of sustainability.

The bus and I have covered a lot of miles since the last post. The weekend of the 17thwe attended the Feast of Flavors in Ocean Springs, MS. This was a great experience as the theme of the festival is local foods. The crowd seemed excited about and supportive of the method by which we are trying to raise awareness for a more sustainable state. Saturday, September 24th, Rudy Acklin and I went to Rainbow Co-op in Jackson, MS in order to encourage people to attend our conference, “Saving Dollars, Making Sense.” We weren’t able to stay long, however, because I was scheduled for a tour of the polymer science facilities with the head of the department, Dr. Lochhead, at three. Nonetheless we had a positive reception as most of the people shopping at Rainbow are already practicing a more sustainable lifestyle. I encourage anyone who lives in the Jackson area to shop at the Rainbow Co-Op.

Not only has the bus covered a lot of miles since the last post, it has also begun receiving such a makeover that one would hardly recognize it. With the help of Chris Oswald and the Day One Leadership Students, the bus interior now includes a sky blue roof, turf carpet, and easily removable tables. In the coming weeks, we will finally add our current sponsor’s logos, paint the walls mud brown and the remaining interior grassy green, finish the tables, add educational posters, and install easily removable seats for farm tours. I also plan to improve the waste vegetable oil system by reorienting the vegetable oil filters and installing a fuel/water separator, fuel gauges, a magnetic heater, and a thermometer.

Over the next few weeks we will also be focusing on various methods of fundraising. If you are interested in helping educate youth and adults alike on the importance of becoming more sustainable individuals or are aware of any available grants, please contact me at the information given below.

1 (228) 218-9257

robert.glenn@gmail.com

On the road again ….

This is Bobby Glenn, the newest Gaining Ground intern,with a progress update. It is my plan to post a new blog every Monday to give highlights from the previous week and weekend. I hope to brighten the audience’s dreary Monday with exciting events that are occurring throughout state.

I moved to the Buehlers Wednesday, August 3rd to begin working with Gaining Ground. Upon arriving in Starkville, I met with the six freshman Day One Leadership students from Mississippi State University that will be volunteering with us over the next semester. They will build sustainable educational tools out of recyclable materials paired with lesson plans for the bus. The students received a tour of both Marion and Alison’s homes to show them several examples of sustainable living and decided to meet every Friday at 2:30. The following Friday they used tin snips to cut tin cans into flowers, painted the them, and attached the flowers to tomato stakes. It is our plan to sell the flowers at various festivals across the South in order to raise funds for the bus. This past Friday our Day One volunteers made two worm bins, a model of a lasagana garden, and painted aprons (which are also for sale).

The bus still looked a mess from the cross-country fundraising tour so I spent Thursday and Friday cleaning it out. Now it is my job to convert the bus from a “dorm room on wheels” to a “farm on wheels.” Over the past week I have added various models of sustainability to the bus. It now contains a trash can that folds open to display “what is in our garbage.” The teaching tool breaks down what can be reduce, reused, recycled, and composted in order to reduce the amount of garbage in landfills. I have begun plans to build a chicken coop, vegetable gardens, an aquaponics system, and the rain water catchment/irrigation system. The aquaponics system will gravity feed rainwater into a fish pond with floating plants, a rock garden, another fish pond, and finally be pumped back into the rain barrel. I reused the wood from the bunk beds to build a raised container (for gravity feeding purposes) to fit over the tire well. I also added a bee hive (without bees in it of course), a compost tumbler, a worm bin, a lasagna garden, solar lights, and a few flats of seedlings.

After the Day One students left Friday, I prepared to drive to the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, MS for the annual Hummingbird Festival. The cooler weather, while it allowed for a productive week, caused problems with starting the bus. Allison, Mike, and I had to heat the engine block using a blow dryer, a heat light, and mirrors. Much to my surprise, it worked and I was able to make the Hummingbird Festival. I was not, however, able to use vegetable oil and we had to buy diesel. Earlier this morning we did order a magnetic heater to heat the vegetable oil and engine so that we can use waste vegetable oil in cold weather. While we were not able to raise much funds at the festival, we were able to reach a decent crowd. Plenty of people showed interest in the organic gardening techniques and hopefully many of them will use these techniques in their home gardens.

The past week was productive and hopefully the new week will be equally successful, if not more so. This weekend I will be in Ocean Springs for the Feast of Flavors so if you live on the coast be sure to come see me. Remember that such an inspiring project comes at a cost and please donate. Thanks to those who have already supported us. Look for the bus to come to a town near you so you can see what you have helped create. Bring friends and pocket books as well! Thanks and tune in next Monday for another update.

Home Stretch

Before heading out from California, we drove to Berkeley where we collected vegetable oil before heading East. After a couple of successful collections we headed towards Salt Lake City and Tahoe where we were to do some hiking. Unfortunately halfway in-between Sacramento and Reno (aka the middle of nowhere) the bus started to overheat. After popping the hood we found that our upper radiator hose had ruptured. We waited for the engine to cool, duct taped the hose, added water, and drove to the nearest rest area to stock up on water. Ryan had already bought a plane ticket and Tyler a bus ticket out of Reno. So as not to miss their flight/bus they hitchhiked the rest of the way to Reno. The few, the proud, and the possibly slightly stupid drove to the nearest Napa which was in a town called Colfax, CA.

Of course the Napa was closed until Monday morning so we camped in the parking lot. David, who’s fishing bug was itching, walked to the nearest river where he fished and camped for the night. Meanwhile, Daniel, Sterling, and I grabbed a burger and played card games in the bus. The next morning we ordered the part but had to wait until two PM for the delivery truck. After an arid morning, the hose finally came in and we were able to install it. By this time a dirty and battered David had returned and we were able get back on the road. To our enthusiasm, the leak we had been experiencing had stopped. We figure that the hose had been our leak all along but it just waited until we were in the middle of nowhere to get worse.

 

After we fixed the hose, we headed towards Denver. We had agreed to skip hiking in Tahoe and go ahead to a family member of Daniel’s, Diede Arnholz’s home, in Colorado. Sterling drove overnight until right outside of Salt Lake City where he pulled over and went to sleep. When David woke up a few hours later he took over driving. At some point I woke up to find two new hitchhikers on board, Jeremy and Meghan. The young couple were traveling around the country via hitchhiking, freight jumping, food stamps, and panhandling. They were an interesting pair to say the least. Once we arrived Denver we parted ways with our fellow adventurers and slept in a parking lot. The next morning we drove on to Diede’s where we showered and enjoyed a nice lunch. We went out and searched for oil but our efforts were of no avail. That night Diede prepared a wonderful feast and Daniel had a small family reunion. There was a mini jam session, many talks of politics, physics, and warships, and a three course meal. After everyone left, Deide gave us unlimited access to the man cave where we watched TV, played ping pong, and slept with very full stomachs.

The next morning Diede sent us off with sandwiches for lunch and a plethora of food to finish our journey with. From there we drove straight to Oxford where we dropped the bus off, got in our individual vehicles, and drove home. The adventure ended for me by crashing into my own familiar bed at about 4 AM exhausted with yet another lifetime experience in the filing cabinets of my mind.

Next week, the bus will make its way to Starkville where we hope to make plans for the completion of Phase II – turning our model of sustainability and renewable energy into a working “farm on wheels”. I know we are all excited to get started and will be hitting the ground again throughout Mississippi to continue raising money to make this happen! By January, it is our hope that we can be taking the completed bus to schools throughout the state and teach our next generation about renewable energy, organic gardening, rainwater harvesting, soil building and so much more!

Be sure to email us at msmobilefarm@gmail.com if you are interested in making a donation, volunteering, or would like to see the bus come to a school, organization or event near you!

West Coastin’ Two … A San Francisco Treat

We arrived in Santa Cruz around 7:00 and looked around for almost an hour for parking only to find that the parking lots are free if you are associated with an organization (Gaining Ground).  So frustrating.  Anyway, everyone except T-Crutch and Daniel decided to leave for the beach which is directly adjacent to an amusement park.  T-Crutch and Daniel meanwhile continued to sleep on the bus.  The beach was packed with tourists so we decided to just grab some lunch at the pier.  While eating, T-Crutch arrived!  The food was pretty good, but we kept hearing odd sounds while we ate.  Turns out, they were sea lions, in California!  So cool.

After eating, we decided that the beach was simply too populated for a great deal of enjoyment and we needed more grease anyway, so we drove off to Capitola for veggie oil.  After a few failures and tantalizingly near successes, we stumbled upon Shadowbrook Restaurant.  It was, in Sterling’s words, the swankiest restaurant we had ever seen.  There was an elevator … to the entrance!  It was awesome and the grease (as well as the food, we hear) was incredible.  The only thing was, Sterling and I (David) had to muscle a nearly full 55 gallon drum about 40 feet to the bus.  That was a piece of work.

Afterwards, we drove not even half a mile to Lynn Hunter’s house.  She is an old friend of Daniel Doyle’s and she and her husband, Andrew, treated us to so… much… food.  There was spaghetti, garlic bread, apple smoked sausages, tacos, pasta, salad, chicken, and roast beef.  After dinner the guys pretty much just fell out of their chairs.  Oh, and did I mention that we all took showers with Star Wars Bodywash?  (Sorry, it was just kinda awesome.)  After our hunger was sated, Andrew asked if we needed our clothes washed and we almost broke his washing machine!  They were spectacular hosts.  Oh and Andrew drives an Audi S5 (I was really excited about that). After we left Santa Cruz, we drove up the coast to San Francisco and slept for the night.

From Santa Cruz our adventure lead us to the windy and chilly city of San Francisco. Our schedule had us presenting at the San Francisco School early the next morning so I woke up to find myself parked in front of the school with Daniel Eisler asking me if I wanted some donuts. Of course I wanted donuts! I wolfed down more than perhaps recommended by the Surgeon General and washed them down with some bus temperature orange juice. As you can tell from the pictures, I couldn’t find my favorite hat and had to teach the kids with what is hands down the sexiest afro San Francisco has ever seen (or the rest of the country for that matter). The kids were so enthusiastic I had to make them raise their hands before talking. I was equally surprised that they listened as they were amazed that we were living in a farm bus.

Those of us who weren’t quite bright enough to buy a jacket in the last city were freezing while presenting and by the time we were done were in desperate need of a jacket. All of our friends from back home who only turned your computer on for a brief second to read this blog and are sitting in the dark trying desperately to offset the inflation your electric bill experiences every summer from running your air conditioner full blast, 24-7 are wondering why in the world we need jackets. Trust me–it’s freezing in San Francisco. I made the mistake of saying to the cashier that I would hate to be there during winter. She giggled before informing me that California is “temperate”–it stays the same temperature year round. Mississippi is definitely not temperate. I suppose I’ve digressed a little much–we mentioned to a lady who worked for the school that we were fixing to go to the largest Goodwill in the country looking for jackets. She offered for us to dig through the schools lost and found. This process, however, required loading all seven of us into her Prius to drive across town to her girlfriends Prius. It was a comical sight to say the least. We found a few jackets but still decided to check out the giant Goodwill and many other thrift stores in San Francisco. Most high school students like to brag about how expensive their belongings are. Students at MSMS are much more unique, and intelligent, in that we like to compare good how good of a deal we got our belongings. What’s the moral of the story? We were psyched to go to the largest Goodwill in the country.

From there we went ahead and checked Fisherman’s Wharf. As usual I’m not a fan of touristy areas but I enjoyed the Machine Museum. We didn’t get to tour Alcatraz and if you ever make it out to San Francisco be sure to make a reservation for the prison. Once we had our fill of being tourists, we went to the home of a friend of Daniel Doyle’s, Natalie, for dinner. After we ate, Natalie and her friend took us to the Twin Peaks to watch the sunset and the city’s lights at night. We slept that night parked in front of her house.

The next morning we drove to a farmer’s market in Concord. The people weren’t nearly as receptive to our project as the Mississippi fundraising stops. I suppose the people in California are used to all the sustainability type projects being thrown at them (although I was surprised at how ignorant many were on the subject matter). A lady who owned a permaculture business proposed that many people saw it in their daily life but didn‘t really understand the real life application. Sounds like California and Mississippi’s educational problems aren’t too far off.

After the farmer’s market we drove to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Afterwards we did a quick GPS search of the area only to find that San Francisco did not have a Wal Mart (what kind of town doesn’t have a Wal Mart). The nearest one was in the town of Oakland where we planned to crash for the night. I quickly whipped up some chicken quesadillas and fiesta potatoes on our camp stove which the gang devoured before passing out in our bunks. I woke up in the morning and drove us to the John Muir Woods. The place is known for having beautiful redwoods and Giant Sequoias. The ride there was along highway one and was full of steep hills and sharp turns with quick drop-offs on one side and high cliffs on the other. I had just as much fun driving the bus there as I did hiking in the woods.

After a short day hike with tallest organisms on the planet, we returned to Wal Mart for the night. I cooked stroganoff and seasoned fries in the parking lot but security ran us off before we could finish cleaning up. We decided to drive the rest of the way to the Yosemite National Park and crashed right out side of the park.

In the morning we were privileged to take in the picturesque Tuolumne River, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. Daniel and I went to the Wilderness Center to obtain overnight camping permits and our “bear canisters.” This where the ranger told us that if a bear became “interested” in our camp we should yell at it and act like we’re bigger than it. The last time I weighed myself I was a few pounds short of going head to head with a bear. I think if a bear becomes “interested” in my campsite, it can have it. Yosemite National Park contains more than 750,000 acres. I think I can find a new campsite. After rounding up our gear, the gang hiked several miles into the wilderness. The ranger told us to hike at least a mile off of the trail to help maintain the “illusion of wilderness” that the park liked to maintain. Once we found a nice flat spot with a close proximity to running water and a beautiful, snowcapped, mountain range backdrop, Tyler, Sterling, Dillon, and Ryan set up the tents while David, Daniel, and I collected firewood and water. I quickly built a sizeable fire to fight off the mosquitoes and provide a source of light and we all indulged in a scrumptious, peanut butter and jelly dinner. Once the stars were good and out, we doused the fire and stared into the night sky until we drifted to sleep.

The next morning we had to get Dillon back to the San Francisco Airport. He had to get back to Ocean Springs for the first day of his senior year. Good luck Dillon. As we were exiting the park, we saw a young man holding his thumb out. We stopped and found out that his name was Marty and he needed a ride to his hostel in the China Town. It didn’t take long for us to realize that he was Australian and we rocked out to Aussie hip hop on the ride back to San Fran. After we dropping Dillon off, we caught a bus to China Town where we parted with Marty and had a feast at a local Chinese restaurant ready to start pointing the bus back in the direction of Mississippi tomorrow.

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West Coastin’ One … Big cities and sandy beaches

Bobby Glenn here, giving David a break from all the blogging he’s been doing so far.

How to sum up the road west? While incredible, it would be naive for us to try and paint our adventure as a rose with no thorns.

Although Arizona and the Grand Canyon proved to just shy of ideal, Vegas and LA turned out quite poorly. I’m not a fan of big cities to begin with but it seemed as if these metropolises in particular had something out for us. All seemed well when we arrived at the Blooms’ home, some family of Daniel Eisler’s, late Wednesday night in Las Vegas. We woke up early the next morning to begin searching for fuel filters and vegetable oil. However our routine took longer than expected and we didn’t leave for “The Strip” until after ten. Then, right in the middle of Las Vegas traffic, three of the four belts that power our power steering pump, our alternator, and the AC compressor broke. While everyone else walked to “The Strip”, Sterling and I returned the bus to the Blooms’ home to look it over.

The next morning, after a not so eventful night in Vegas, we bought and installed the belts and filters. That evening we were actually able to enjoy the city without technical difficulties on our mind. The light show on Fremont Street and the water show at the Bellagio Hotel were pretty amazing.

From there we drove overnight to Los Angeles where we gave a presentation to elementary students at Camp Heritage Oak. The children were very interested in the bus and we had a lot of fun with them. See below for some photos from the morning at Heritage Oak.

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All seemed well until we walked out of an In-and-Out Burger to find a giant puddle of radiator fluid under the bus. After failing to find the leak again, we simply filled it with fluids and kept on trucking. Luckily Chaedria LaBouvier, a college friend of Daniel Doyle’s, washed all of our worries away with a big platter of baked chicken, potatoes, and Persian ice cream. Parking in LA, however, is ridiculous and the only available spot I could find was in a cemetery.  When we returned from Chaedria’s all the cemetery gates were shut and locked and we were on the wrong side. Then, as responsible citizens, we called the local law enforcement as opposed to accessing our inner Dukes of Hazard and ramping a rock pile. After several hours the local officer finally showed up and decided to call in back up. Two more cops rolled up in a federal armored truck with a turret. The three cops made us exit our bus while they searched it and interrogated us with ridiculous questions.

When they finally agreed to let us go we were starving. It wasn’t until we were snacking in McDonald’s that we realized how epic our experience was. We had been searched by the LAPD, the Feds, and an armored truck with a turret. The bus was full of laughter that night as we drifted to sleep.

The next morning we drove to Carpenteria, just outside of Santa Barbara, were we met some of friends of Daniel Eisler’s, Laura and Henry Grillo. The troubles of the big city were quickly washed away by the waves. On the Carpenteria beach we soaked up the sun while taking in the view of a beautiful mountain range. Back at the Grillo’s, we were able to knock off the chill of the ocean with an amazing jacuzzi, food, shower, and bed. While the big city might have a depressing aurora, there’s nothing that the beach and a warm meal, shower, and bed can’t fix.

Moonlight Hikes and Rim Riding at the Grand Canyon!

While we are just now headed south from Colorado and will soon by back in Mississippi, it gives us an opportunity to get caught up with some of our blogging!

On our way to the Grand Canyon, we passed some pretty incredible windmills and were amazed as the landscape changed right before our eyes (it’s does that a lot when driving across the country!).

 

July 17th

We made it to the Grand Canyon!

To everyone who thinks the canyon is in the middle of a plantless desert, think again!  The rim is completely surrounded by trees and lush dessert life.  (I know this because from where we parked which was about eight hundred feet from the rim, I could not see the canyon for the trees obstructing the view!)  Anyway, for our first day at the Grand Canyon, we decided to take a shorter trail and save the Bright Angel trail for tomorrow. Therefore, all the guys except Daniel began hiking down Hermit’s Rest trail.  Daniel, meanwhile took a twelve mile bike ride around the edge of the rim.  Though the trail was only five miles in total, it was quite trying as the only place to refill water was at the very end of the trail and it was a very steep decline to the bottom of the canyon.

Needless to say, we were all exhausted at the end of an amazing day!The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking and anyone who has never been should definitely make the trip.

 

July 18th

Daniel, Sterling, and David woke up at two o’clock in the morning to hike the Bright Angel trail.  Our reasoning for this insane move was, it would have cool temperatures and we would be able to see the sunrise over the canyon.  Therefore, we hiked the six miles to the bottom of the canyon is pure darkness aside from our flashlights and lanterns.  We actually got so close to a deer munching on a tree that I could have reached out and touched it.  Awesome!

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We reached the end of the trail around 4:45ish and watched the most beautiful sunrise ever.  It was slightly spoiled as I (David) was bitten by the largest ant I have ever seen.  The other guys, Bobby and Ryan, left around 5:00ish and Tyler stayed in the bus.  We met up with Bobby and Ryan around 7:00 at the rim.  Then, after a quick breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches, Sterling and I began the arduous trek back to the top.

Daniel and the rest of the guys stayed at the rim a while longer.  On the trail, we met a family from Germany we kept leapfrogging with to the top and saw a deer walking on the trail ahead of us.  Bobby, meanwhile got his hand bitten by a squirrel (it was his own fault).  Tired beyond exhaustion, Sterling and I collapsed at the top of the rim and then ate the largest (and most expensive) pizza ever to restore our energy.  We met up with the guys at the bus and then headed on to Vegas!

Our Southern Leg …

Apologies that these blog posts were a long time coming …

We’ve been busy on the road and meeting with some great people from all over the country interested in sustainability and in what we are doing. Also feeling inspired ourselves by other incredible projects we’ve been exposed to along the way.

To pick up where we left off last, after a last conversation of precautions and well wishes with Daniel Doyle back on July 12 , we made our way to Senatobia for some final touches on the bus. Once at Senatobia, we had the vinyl letters put on the bus by Tyler Crutcher’s dad.  Our bus now exclaims Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi in foot tall orange letters.  They look awesome!  Afterwards, we got some coffee and drove all the way to Oklahoma City!

We arrived around 1:30 in the afternoon and headed to Sam’s Club.  There, we stocked up on groceries for the trip as wel as ate a pretty decent Sam’s Club pizza.  Then we hit up downtown Oklahoma City for grease and were not very successful until nightfall when we hit the mother-load.  We filled up all of our tanks as well as our emergency tank to the brim.  With our tanks full, we headed off toward New Mexico.

On July 14th, we got to the Big Sky Learning Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico around 12:30 pm.  Early for once!  We viewed the sunrise over New Mexico which is absolutely gorgeous.  Afterwards, we presented the bus to some really inquisitive kids who knew about Tesla as well as the basics of ac/dc current.  Bobby spotted a tailless lizard indigenous to the area which interested both us and the children.  Then  we headed to the Randall Davey Audubon Center to present to more kids and then hike up a small trail into the mountains.  It was an amazing view.  We found some quartz deposits and Ryan crafted his own arrowhead.  As we headed back down towards downtown Santa Fe, however, our bus began having problems.  The power steering went out and the engine began making awful noises.  After rushing to a mechanic, we determined one of our mounting brackets was cracked.  With all the shops near closing time, we decided to just set up camp in Santa Fe for the night.  Bobby prepared spaghetti and salad which was delicious.  We ate next to our bus and had, all in all, a very nice night.

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The next morning, we woke up right as the shop opened and had our bracket welded.  With our hopes, bodies, and power steering renewed, we headed out towards Arizona.  Along the way, however, our filter system malfunctioned and the vegetable oil system stopped working.  Therefore, we pulled over on the side of the road to look at the system.  As it turns out, too much water from the grease was getting into the engine.  Luckily, Sterling, whose father is a mechanic himself, had previously cautioned us to get an extra fuel/water separator and therefore, we had purchased an extra fuel filter at the Santa Fe Napa Auto Parts.  With the old one removed and the new one in place, our veggie oil bus ran once again!  We got to Arizona and took a picture next to the Welcome to Arizona sign.  At a tourist shop, the guys bought ice cream while David (that’s me) purchased a very useful and very handsome baja jacket. (Arizona gets cold at night, okay)

After driving a few hours, we got bored and decided to pull over at the Arizona Petrified Forest Park where we learned about the petrified forest and got a coupon for a free half pound of petrified wood at Wild Bill’s.  It turns out that Wild Bill is a 3 million year old alligator fossil and the shop has just about everything you could ever want in the realm of petrified wood and geodes.  After the sun had set, we continued driving towards Apache Junction where Bobby’s relatives live.  We arrived there around one o’clock in the morning.

With almost no sleep, we woke up at 5:30 AM just a few hours after arriving in Apache Junction.  Dressed and packed, Bobby’s grandmother’s husband drove our us to the base of the Superstition Mountain range.  There, we hiked a well worn trail up to the top of one of the mountains. The view was astounding.  As for the local fauna, we witnessed a mountain goat not three hundred yards from us walk across our trail.  That afternoon, Bobby’s grandparents treated us to Chinese food and soon, we were on the road again – this time heading towards the Grand Canyon!


Mississippi Tour Wrap-Up

Our Mississippi tour kicked off with a trip to Jackson, MS where we participated in the “Fondren After Five” event.  The excitement was evident in everyone we spoke to that afternoon, and we were happy to return the enthusiasm.  Before heading out of town, we stopped at a local fine dining restaurant, “Nicks” where we filled our 100 gallon capacity full to bursting.  We cannot fully express our appreciation for their generosity! We cruised all the way back to Oxford on pure veggie oil.

Our next stop was Starkville’s Community Garden Center, we may have had to wake up at 4 a.m. to make it there on time, but it was all worth it once the questions started rolling in, it was a great opportunity to give the whole G6 team a chance to test their presentation skills, thank you everyone in Starkville!  From Starkville we made the long drive south all the way to Moss Point, where we had another presentation at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.  As several of the G6 are from the coastal area, this stop was a great opportunity to see friends and family and show them what all of the hard work has been for.  While on the coast, the team took a divide and conquers approach to locating some waste vegetable oil.  While there was some frustration, several restaurants were happy to donate only to discover that their oil had been collected just recently, we finally found and collected from Government Street Grocery, Mosaic, and Mediterraneo in Ocean Springs.

From the coast, we headed up to Hattiesburg to do a presentation at the Sunrise Garden Center where we encountered some old friends from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Jackson Perkins, Claire Ratliff, and Henry Wang all came out to support their old classmates. From Hattiesburg we headed back up to Oxford to attend our own going away party at the Power House.  The Music was fantastic with performances by Gulel Kumba of Afrissippi and Silas Reid and Da Books.

Before heading out on the road cross-country on Tuesday, we had an opportunity to meet with some children and go over our presentation. We visited both the University of Mississippi Willie Price Nursery School as well as the Oxford-Lafayette Boys and Girls Club. Both groups were great and it was inspiring to see how excited the kids got about bio-diesel and worm composting!

We just want to say thank you to everyone for an amazing tour of our home state and ask for everyone to wish us luck as we venture across the country!

To see more photos from the tour, go to Facebook and search for ‘farm on wheels’!

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