The First Grease Hunt

The View from the Grease

As we were leaving Kansas City, we decided to stop and top off our tank of veggie oil. We were giddy with excitement as we went “hunting” for some good grease :). We pulled off at an exit with a lot of restaurants and headed toward a little place called “The Waffle House”. Matt got out and inspected the grease. Strike one. It was bad. There are many ways to tell if grease is bad…but I’ll save that for another post. So off we went to check out some more. Here is the official record…I think it’s safe to say that most of these places had just had their rendering service take their grease. Maybe Monday is a bad day?

  • Waffle House: bad grease
  • KFC/Taco Johns: empty
  • McDonald’s: locked
  • Wendy’s/DQ: drive through too close to grease
  • The Big Biscuit: empty
  • Bua Thai: empty
  • Country Cafe: empty
  • Bob Evans Restaurant: empty
  • Country Kitchen: JACKPOT!!

We pulled into Country Kitchen and Matt parked in the HUGE open space in the back. This is key for us. Because we are so large (32 feet plus pulling a car)…it’s harder to find grease that is easily pumped. So we were excited to find that this one was easy in/easy out. Matt went to check to grease first…you don’t want to bother asking about taking it unless it’s good. He gave me the thumbs up sign and headed inside. He got the “ok” and we were off! The first official pumping of veggie oil for the Live Lightly Tour. Momentous. We took what we could from their tank (about 15 gallons) and we were off. We went about 1/2 hour up the interstate and Matt decided to pull off on the exit and “just check”. I have a feeling that we’ll be doing a lot of “just checking” in the next year. :) It’s exciting to find good grease. (Disclaimer:It was our first try at this, so it took us a bit longer. After we get better at this, we’ll kind of know where to go and what places to avoid. Also, if you are converting your car, it’s a lot easier to just pull right in and out! Also when you stay in one place, you get to know the local restaurant owners and you can have a “contract” with them. It’s like your own little gas station…but free).

We found a little mom and pop place called “Toot Toot Family Restaurant”. Family-run or smaller restaurants are usually better for finding good grease than chain fast food restaurants. As we pulled around the back, we both squeeled with glee as we saw THREE grease bins sitting there with a huge parking area surrounding it. Score! Matt filled up our entire 90 gallon tank and we were set for about 900 miles. Considering gas is about $3.00 a gallon, when we fill up a tank on empty, we save $270. 00. I like that! As we set off down the road, the feeling of satisfaction was overwhelming. We are so excited to be doing something that is environmentally friendly, having fun with our family, and at the same time educating others about alternative fuels.

See the photo set of our first fill up here.

Spreading the Love


Explain it to Me

Thanks to the Golden Fuel Systems team…we are officially driving on veggie oil! We had a wonderful time with our new friends in Springfield. We were only there for a week, but we were able to do so much! We went to a renewable energy fair, explored the heart of Ozark Country, ate Thai, drank tea, and checked out the local coffeeshops. All in all we had a glorious time. Thanks again to Chuck and Anna for opening their home and hearts to us while we were in Springfield. See photo set here. After all that fun, it was time to move on. Our system was completed on Sunday and we took off and headed back toward Des Moines. We stopped at the Kansas City/Oak Grove KOA for the night, where we enjoyed free wi-fi and a wonderfully cool pool. See photo set here. It is SO HOT in Missouri! Whew!

In the above photo, you can see Matt explaining how a veggie oil system runs. I had been chatting with one of their wives in the office as I checked in, and as soon as we parked, they drove up in their golf cart. These two men (Ron and Ron) were really excited…and with good reason: they were former Ford Motor employees! It was fun to listen to their questions and enlighten them about the joys of veggie. They seemed genuinely interested about converting their diesel RV’s to veggie oil.

We slept great in our air conditioned bedroom. It’s so quiet and dark in there; I love it! We hit the road in the morning and headed north…but first, we needed to go grease hunting!

Going Veggie

We arrive in Springfield around 11:00 a.m. and we locate Golden Fuel Systems. After parking the RV in the street, we excitedly walk into their offices. Within moments, we are greeted by the president of the company, Charlie Anderson. Charlie is immediately likeable and puts us at ease. We go straight out to the RV and they crawl underneath to get an idea of what they are dealing with.

After that, we all head inside to his office and talk numbers. Originally, we thought that we would need a custom fabricated tank and that was going to be a lot of extra money. Fortunately, it worked out for us to do a “main tank conversion”…which means that they will drop out the existing diesel tank, modify it, and put it back. That tank will now serve as our veggie oil tank (a whopping 90 gallon tank!)…and they will install a smaller, 20 gallon diesel tank to use on start-up and shut-down. We were so excited to hear this…because it also meant that the conversion would take less time than we had originally planned.

We stayed at GFS for most of the afternoon…talking, learning, and getting excited about not buying gas anymore. Charlie and his team are AMAZING. They are super friendly, passionate about what they are doing, and very knowledgeable.

We left around 4:00 p.m. and headed over to Chuck and Anna’s house. Anna is a friend that I met through MySpace and she had come to visit me in Des Moines last summer. They graciously offered to let us stay with them for the entire week we were in Springfield. They have three young boys and Bella loved playing with them and all of their toys. Anna homeschools, is a La Leche League leader, and shares many of the same natural mama tendancies that I do. We had a fabulous time talking and eating and sharing stories.

The next day, Charlie invited us to come out to his farm and hang out with his family. We followed him on winding roads to his home in the middle of Ozark country. On the way there, he makes a stop at Rainbow Trout Ranch. It’s one of Charlie’s “accounts” and he wanted to show us what “oil in the wild” looks like. He did a little educational session with Matt, explaining what good oil and bad oil looked like. We also were able to dip our toes in the spring-fed stream. It was beautiful.

Charlie and his wife have a beautiful acerage with animals and plenty of space to run. Golden Fuel Systems, formerly named Greasel … used to be located at his home. They have since moved into Springfield. He works mostly from home…because it’s a good hour and half drive into town. He showed us his sweet solar power system that runs his entire home. That’s a lot of batteries! He is also refurbishing an old bus and we got a tour of the progress. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to see the finished product. He is currently working on converting a Previa van to run on veggie oil. He drops the gas engine out, imports a diesel engine, replaces it…and off he goes. It burns 40 mpg on diesel and also runs on veggie oil. It seats 7 people and runs like a charm. Why isn’t everyone doing this?!

After that, we all piled into his 2000 Ford Excursion (powered by veggie oil, of course) and headed down to a nice lazy river so the kids (and the adults) could play in the water. It was a hot, hot day and we had fun getting wet. Bella liked jumping off the bridge. She’s quite the adventurer. It was a wonderful day with new friends. We headed back into Springfield and slept REALLY well that night.

The Maiden Voyage: Springfield or Bust

Hitting the Road

We had been visiting with my family in Iowa for 6 weeks, so it was hard to say goodbye. As we were leaving, my dad hugged me close and said “I love you. Now go have some GREAT adventures!”. My mom got teary-eyed, but knew that we will be returning soon.

We say our final goodbyes and shut the door. As we are pulling away, I continued to snap photos of my family waving and being silly. A few blocks away, I remembered that I had left my brand new Klean Kanteen water bottle (I lost my old one! Grrrrr…) on the counter in the kitchen. I call my mom and she meets us in the Wal-Mart parking lot so we don’t have to maneuver the city streets again. Moms are the best.

About ½ hour out, we stop at the rest stop to dump our tanks for the first time. It went well. If you’ve seen the movie, RV, you know that much can go wrong. Matt was a pro.

However, after an outside inspection, we realized that the brake lights that attach to our car (that we were towing) had stopped working again. Matt was having trouble with them back in Des Moines, but we thought they were fixed.

I took advantage of the free wi-fi at the rest stop while he worked diligently on them in the dark. We thought about just staying until morning, but unfortunately, we were in a position where we couldn’t back up and park. We could only pull forward onto the interstate or stay right there at the dumping station.

Matt finally figured out the problem with the brake lights. He came in, started the engine, and discovered that the dash lights were now off. It turns out that we could have either/or, but not both. Hmmmmm. He went back out and then saw that nothing was working again. He finally got everything working and we set off. About ½ hour down the road…we were too tired to continue. So we ended up staying overnight at the next rest area and waking up early the next morning to continue.