Sunday, April 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Bjornar

Greasers celebrate Bjornar's 40th birthday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rebuilding the rear brakes, Lago de Yajoa, Honduras

taking a break
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Aquafinca Organic Fish Farm, Honduras

Fish biodiesel
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Where are the Burrito Brothers?

Well, we're still here in Antigua! As you know, we ripped out the rear driveshafts,
cleaned them and repacked them with grease - all with the help of Fernando, a
friendly mechanic who was put in contact with us through Fernando the coffee shop
owner. Having done this, we were optimistic that the white Merc would have us up
with you guys in no time at all. Unfortunately, our optimism was short lived as we
suffered catastrophic brake failure on the outskirts of Guatemala city. We were
lucky not to crash - the traffic was horrendous and we were heading downhill. Ben
did a great job. In fact, he did such a good job that we stopped outside a spares
shack where we borrowed a jack to remove our front wheels, both of which were
emitting plumes of smoke! We let the wheels and brakes cool off and it was at this
point that we noticed a leak on one of our front brake calipers. With help from the
guys in the store, we blocked off the brake line to this caliper and tossed a coin
as to whom should drive back down the side of the mountain to Antigua. Guess who
lost! Anyway, we made it - despite the fear factor! We took the car straight back
to Fernando who confirmed our diagnosis and also pointed out that the master
cylinder was faulty. Bad news! Especially since there were no spares in Antigua.
And so a plan was hatched; the next morning we were to meet another friend of
Fernando's called Sergio. Sergio drove us to an auto spares place in Guatemala
city that stocks Mercedes parts. He was a very interesting guy and the drive flew
by with some interesting conversation. When we got back, we got straight to work
fixing the car with Fernando. We stripped off the master cylinder and replaced that
with ease. The two brake calipers proved a little more difficult as we needed to
remove the old pistons, O rings and seals and this was somewhat tricky. When we
finally managed to do this, we found that the nearside caliper is broken - the
casting for the piston is broken and a piece of the casting is actually missing!
God knows how the brakes ever worked?!*?! We rebuilt it twice and each time it
leaked. By now it was 19:00 and the stores were shut so we took the decision to
block off the brake line again and limp back into town. We're still going for
a 4am start tomorrow and we're hoping that Nicky's contact will be able
to find us a replacement caliper. Fingers crossed!! The ride to Honduras could be
a bit hairy!

Another positive from this was that we were able to spend another night with Teresa.
You should have seen the look on her face when we landed back at the hotel! It was

Andy and Ben.

Honduras heat

Quick update with more news of the last week's exploits later. But YES, we got Ole Yeller back on the road after a make or break few days, headed south to Oaxaca and down to the Pacific coast for a reunion with the other greasers. After a well deserved night camping on the beach and swimming in giant waves, the greasers headed for Guatemala where they visited several biofuel projects, ancient Antigua, and courted the press, energy companies, and government officials in Guatemala City. On to Honduras without the Slug which was delayed due to brake failure in Guatemala City, the greasers headed to Copan Ruinas for some rest and fresh air in the Honduran highlands. Yesterday we pushed on to Lago Yajoa in Central Honduras where we will be visiting a Tilapia fish biodiesel project this morning.

Waiting for news of Ben and Jacko and the Slug - fingers crossed they will limp our way on 3 brakes today so we can do more repairs.

Proper news later - thanks to all for your support!!


A cowboy in Honduras

A Cowboy in Honduras
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.
The Greasers swapped their cars for horses for a morning in Honduras riding to the Copan Ruins.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bing works some magic on the Rabbit, Guatemala

Fixing the rabbit
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.
En route to Antigua in Guatemala, Bing gets to work welding the rabbit's sorry exhaust pipe. Roger Rabbit is sounding a bit gruff these days.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Small scale home biodiesel, Guatemala

Biodiesel plant
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Biodiesel sample, Toledo, Guatemala City

Biodiesel sample
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Biodiesel plant Guatemala

Biodieselplant Guatemala
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

At the Toledo sausage factory, Campero Group, Guatemala City. Toledo recycle grease from their plant to make biodiesel to run their entire delivery fleet. We filled up with 150 liters of biodiesel!!

Pumping biodiesel, Toledo Factory, Guatemala City

Pumping biodiesel
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Team Zero filling up with biodiesel, Guatemala City

Filling up with biodiesel
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Toledo Factory, Guatemala City

Filtering pure chicken fat, Toledo factory, Guatemala City

Filtering grease
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

This was 100% chicken fat being filtered through micron bags. We put this sample into Old Yeller's grease tank where it mixed with some African Palm oil and sunflower oil. We ran this tank from Guatemala City to Copan, Honduras, and the car purred like a kitten. Might have been something to do with the extreme heat the day we drove, or perhaps the chicken fat gave us that extra boost?

Filling up with biodiesel in Guatemala City

Bjornar is happy again to find some biodiesel to fill the van!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jatropha fence around rubber plantation, Guatemala

Jatropha fence
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.
This is how jatropha is traditionally used in Guatemala - as a natural fence to protect other crops. In this case - a rubber plantation. Jatropha is found all over Guatemala but is only just starting to be used by farmers for biofuels production.

New planted jatropha, Guatemala

New planted jathropha
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.
In Guatemala, we visited a community cooperative who are planting jatropha to make biodiesel. Jatropha is an indigenous plant that is typically used to fence off other crops due to its poisonous leaves. The plant however grows well on degradated land and produces high oil yielding seeds. Perfect for a community biodiesel project. These plants had been set in the ground just a few weeks earlier and were already sprouting. They will be harvested for oil in 1 year.

Biodiesel plant under construction, Guatemala

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ben, Emily & Andy on our boat to the beach

On from Tehuantepec, the crew hit the Pacific Coast en route to the Guatemala border, camping out for a night under the stars. Swimming in the waves and dining on delicious ceviche and cold beers was just what we all needed to unwind after a stressful week of repairs. Our last night in Mexico!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tehuantepec - Everyone back together again

Everyone was finally reunited with a half an hour difference between the groups arriving.
It was great to all be together again. After a quick shower and a cold beer, everyone went out for dinner and caught up on the events of the past couple days. There was a fairground just next to the restaurant, and it didn't take Terese, Emily and Vivi long to persuade them to open the trampoline of the fairground for them to bounce on!
The next morning the group would split again as we (Emily, Nicky, Teresa, Ben, Dan and Andy) needed some well deserved down time, while the Rabbit (Suzanne, JP and Bing) and Team Zero (Ane and B jornar) would head off to visit a biodiesel project.
After waving goodbye to Dan (who sadly had to leave us and head back to Mexico City), the two mercs headed for the beach while the rest of the group headed toward Chapas (a four hour drive in the opposite direction). The plan would be for them to catch up with us later that afternoon.


Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
Finally on the road again after a miracle fix for Ole Yeller, Dan, Ben, Andy, Nicky, Emily and Teresa set out to catch the rest of the group, stopping off for a night in Oaxaca en route to the Pacific coast.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back on the road - Dan in the Slug

Dan enjoying the view
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
After fighting through the traffic of Mexico City, the greasers headed for Oaxaca. We opted for this route as the roads would be quicker and it would enable us to meet up with the rest of the group who were now on the Pacific coast. We were all heading for Tehuantepec where we would all be reunited the following day.

Here's Dan enjoying the views out of the sunroof of the Slug. It was a really long drive to Oaxaca, arriving at 5am in the morning. We quickly found a hotel, got a couple hours sleep and then woke up early in the mornig to enjoy the town, before heading for Tehuantepec.

Bosch Diesel Centre - The Team

The Team
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
After many days of hard work and overtime, Old Yellor came back to life.E mily and Nicky were finally able to drive out of the Bosch Diesel Centre. It's hard to express just how we were all feeling and how grateful we are. A big thank you to Ismael and his team who made us all feel so welcome. They never gave up on us and for that we will always be grateful. We look forward to working with them again next year.

Waiting at Bosch garage, our new home

Running out of options on old yeller

Happy Birthday Ben!

Happy Birthday Ben!
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
Ismael gives Ben a Bosch racing team suit. (The old one he is wearing was a little tight)

Dan and Ben start their all nighter on the car

Dan and Ben worked all night last night on Ole Yeller - and its Ben's birthday today. Happy Birthday Ben!! You're a legend! We can't thank them enough for all their hard work.

Help we're stuck in Mexico City

Old Yeller continues to deteriorate like a patient dying on the operating table. It seems the more we take apart to make her better, the worse she gets. There are glimmers of hope followed by choking sounds and plumes of smoke pouring from the exhaust pipe. The Bosch mechanics have checked almost every part of the engine over the last few days and Dan and Ben stayed up all night with Ismael putting the engine back together for one last time before testing it again this morning. It now doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders which might indicate some catastrophic engine failure. Or something else? Who knows. All we know is that the car was at least running before we took it apart to repair the fuel pump and now its almost dead. Stranded and waiting in the garage on our third day here, we are now wondering what our options are. To buy a car in Mexico City will take us 4 days to process the paperwork. Other options are to drive a hire car to meet the other teams on the Pacific coast, cadge a lift to Guatemala and buy another car there. We don't have space in all the cars for all the people. So disastro hits Greaseball for the moment, but nothing we won't figure out hopefully. If anyone out there would like to help us get back on the road, we welcome your help!! Call us on + 44 7956 67 72 73

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ben and Ulysses, perplexed

Dan and Teresa

Dan and T
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
Hmm, can we get this thing running again?

Bosch at work on Ole Yeller

Monday morning, Dan and Teresa, who is our wonder woman/official greaseball interpreter, found a Bosch diesel specialist just north of Mexico City. Within 2 hours, 2 technicians, Ismael and Ulysses, arrived to look at the car. Bosch make most of the parts in Mercedes Benzs and these guys are also specialists in fuel pumps, so we couldn´t have found a better match. 10 hours later, the boys were still working on the car shaking their heads as night fell. Every time we started it up, it belched out noxious clouds of smoke that filled the garage sending everyone running outside. The Greasers, who had all returned from their excursions around Mexico City, stayed huddled together in the garage anxiously awaiting a verdict on the car which had now delayed us another day. Tools, rags, oil canisters, and spare parts littering the floor, the mechanics worked into the night before giving up at 10pm. It was time to call a tow truck to haul the car back out to the Bosch center north of the city where the mechanics could continue to work on her on Tuesday. Exhausted and worried, the crew resigned to a much needed beer at a local taco restaurant followed by bed..

Greaseball makeshift repair shop

Dan and Bing also arrived Saturday night to join the Greaseballers and we really need their mechanical help. Early on Sunday morning, the boys set to work on the cars. Bing on the VW rabbit to improve its grease system which has been causing some problems for Suzanne and JP. For grease to work well in a car engine it has not only to be clean and filtered, but heated to ensure adequate combustion and to prevent the fuel lines clogging. Dan set to work dismantling the fuel pump on Ole Yeller and Ben and Jacko got to work on the vacuum system on the white Mercedes. Meanwhile the other greaseballers set out to explore Mexico City and get some much needed rest and relaxation after a long week of driving. By the end of the day, things were not looking good for Old Yeller much to Nicky and my despair. We had to find a repair shop to source the spare parts for the pump or fix the problem. Unfortunately since hitting the border to Mexico from the US we also hadn´t seen one Mercedes on the road - a very bad sign when it came to trying to find the necessary parts down here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mexico City delays, breakdowns, oh boy.

Its now Tuesday and 2 of the teams are still in Mexico City undertaking major repairs on Ole Yeller and The Slug, the two Mercedes Benzs. Team Zero from Norway and Grease Lightening have gone on ahead with the film crew to Acapulco and the beach... Its a sad day as we separate but a necessary solution to a not too happy situation.

More delays leaving Mexico City

Tuesday morning and the Greaseballers went off to Hard Rock cafe for a warm welcome by David Cardenas, the manager, and Vinicio. Unfortunately only 2 of the 4 cars made it down the road to the cafe. With Ole Yeller out of action at the repair shop, Grease Lightening also failed to start due to grease clogging the fuel lines! We piled into the van, the Slug and a taxi and negotiated traffic chaos to arrive half an hour late despite our best efforts to be on time. Waiting for us at Hard Rock were all the staff, Lawrence Harrington, the representative from the IADB country office, and MTV Mexico. David had ensured that the Hard Rock kitchen had saved up their grease for the last month in anticipation of our arrival. 50 gallons of juicy corn oil were awaiting us on the sidewalk. We refuelled the cars before enjoying a slap up breakfast of eggs, ham, frijoles, fruit and pastries, free T-shirts and photos with the Hard Rock crew.Back to the hotel, the Greasers regrouped and got the VW rabbit up and running again before splitting up into 2 groups: Team Zero and Grease Lightening with the film crew headed off to sunny Acapulco and as i type we are sitting in the Bosch garage in just outside Mexico City. Ole Yeller is now belching out white smoke rather than black (still not good) and the mechanics have been at work since 8am this morning. 3 days of repairs and the car still is not driveable. The fuel pump, despite working correctly outside the car when tested, is failing to deliver when reinstalled in the engine. Something is still wrong and the mechanics are scratching their heads trying to solve it. Meanwhile, we have solved the problem with Ben and Jacko's Mercedes - it has altitude sickness!!! The high altitude in Mexico City at 2,200 meters caused a loss of pressure in the automatic transmission. A minor adjustment and the car is now pulling like a shirehorse with its fresh stock of waste corn oil! The Bosch garage have been amazing and are our new friends. They have pulled two 12 hour days and have allowed us to make the garage our home. Nicky is filming, in the absense of the film crew, Theresa and I have commandeered Ismael's office to check email, and our bags are tucked in a corner of the garage. We are two days behind schedule with half the group now accelerating down the Pacific Coast 400 miles ahead. We are all exhausted and in need of a lucky break. As night fell once again, the mechanics shut up shop with Old Yeller still grumpily chugging out vast quantities of noxious smoke. We getting to the point where we are wondering whether we'll have to leave the car behind. :( Off to a local motel for the night and some fast food tacos, who knows what tomorrow holds.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Suz´s birthday, Mexico City

Ole Yeller has had a long standing problem with the fuel pump but we got to Mexico City from Washington, over 2000 miles. However, after a hard drive, over 400 miles, from Northern Mexico on Saturday into Mexico City, the car started to belch out dark grey smoke from the tailpipe. It got so bad when we were driving into Mexico City that the traffic police pulled us over telling us we could not take the car any further due to localized air pollution! Poor JP who was driving the car, looked very red faced explaining to the traffic police that we were part of an environmental road rally. We explained that we had a mechanical problem and needed some help limping into the city to find a hotel. The two policemen jumped into their car, lights on, and guided us through traffic chaos before abandoning us on the peripherique to find our way alone. Meanwhile, Ben and Jacko´s Mercedes was dying, gradually losing power to crawl along at 20 mph. Aghr. After 2 hours negotiating traffic through a tangle of one way streets, stop lights, and spaghetti like junctions, we found the Hotel Roosevelt with help from Bryan and Paul, the dynamic duo from Colorado. They had flown into Mexico City just a few hours earlier to meet us for a few days. Safe and sound in the colorful Condessa area of the city, the Greasers decamped and quickly changed to go out to celebrate Suzanne's birthday at a nearby restaurant. Mojitos, mariachis, tequila and salsa dancing followed as the crew partied into the night.

Rolling hills towards Mexico City, and more breakdowns

Saturday 7th April

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUZANNE – the greasers celebrate the first of what will be 4 birthdays on this trip. After an early start, the crew continued driving south to Mexico City. The girls took on the Slug as a mobile office, since it is the only car with a multi socket inverter and working lighter socket. With Suzanne playing her new guitar acquired in Austin with a special “Willie” discount, the girls started writing the Greaseball theme song to the tune of Ring of Fire with a Mexican twist.

Rolling on in the hot sun, the Greasers pulled over for a quick loo stop at a roadside restaurant. A 5 minute rest turned into a 3 hour layover when Ole Yeller refused to start. After fearing the fuel pump had finally died stranding us in the middle of nowhere, Jacko suggested it might be a blocked fuel filter. After some rummaging around in the trunk, we found a new filter and Jacko replaced it with Bjornar’s help priming the filter with fresh BioWillie biodiesel. The car was soon running again with the smell of popcorn wafting into the air. After a slap up lunch of fried chicken, salad and fresh guacamole, we were back on the road.

Now we’re 200 kilometers from Mexico City, expecting to get into town in time to pick up Dan and Bing who are arriving from Seattle and Washington DC to join the Greasers on the road. Hot jalapenos! We can’t wait. Two more mechanical geniuses to nurse us through the next few weeks and give Ben and Jacko a break!

Tonight the Greaser’s will be partying for Suz’s birthday and getting down to some serious work on Sunday morning with another greasestop at the Mexico City Hard Rock CafĂ©. Unless something unexpected happens before then....

On the road in Mexico

On the road in Mexico
Originally uploaded by kaffekrus.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Nicky & Ben (taking care of business)

"Old Yeller", out on the open road

Border Crossing - into Mexico!

Friday 6th April

After another long night of driving, the Greasers found a hotel in Corpus Christi called “El Tropical” and opened the beers. The usual banter continued in the motel corridors as the Greasers exchanged stories about friends and family back home.
They managed to set off at 9am (which is remarkable) considering there are now 12 people (including the film crew) and start the long drive towards the Mexican border. We decided on crossing at Brownsville as apparently this is a lot easier than the other crossing we were looking at – Laredo – where 4 sheriffs have been gunned down in drug battles in recent times. Also now leaving the USA, we realize that we need to adjust our driving schedule so that we are on the road early in the morning and off my dusk.

The Flying Burrito Brothers had the first blow out of the trip. With Jacko behind the wheel, the rear tire exploded with the force of a small bomb but they managed to pull over and to a tire change in 20 minutes. Safely back on the road and catching up with the girls, we all joined in convoy and headed for the border.

Once at the border, Emily needed to sell two of the cars fast...In Mexico, the owner of the vehicle has to be in the car at the border crossing, and since Emily “owned” all 3 cars that presented a slight problem. So, with a quick sale of the Slug, the white Mercedes to Ben & Jacko ($200) and the Van to Bjornar ($3500), deeds where written on the back of a serviette and deal done. Everything else went relatively smoothly although the film crew had to go back to the US side to declare all of the camera equipment. which gave the Greasers time to catch up on playing frisbee and establishing a new skipping champion, Ben.

Paperwork done, the Greasers cruised into Mexico heading south to Ciudad Victoria through spectacular rolling hills and the sunset topped off with mole chicken and bed.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Film Crew (getting our own back)

Pacific Biodiesel in Texas

Pacific biodiesel plant, Texas

Karl's biodiesel plant
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
Pacific Biodiesel in Texas - we had a great tour and learnt how to make biodiesel from cotton seed.

Ben, Daryl &; Andy at Austin Vee Dub

Ben, Daryl & Andy
Originally uploaded by Greaseball 2007.
Thanks Daryl and the crew at Austin Vee Dub. And a limited edition Greaseball T-shirt.

Emily and Nickys car seat gets fixed, Austin

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Repairs in Austin and new greaseballers

Thursday 5th April

The Greaseballers got an early start to take the cars to get some crucial repairs before entering Mexico. Thanks to Daryl at Austin Vee Dub, a super cool auto shop on the outskirts of Austin, the Greasers were able to use the garage as a base for the day while Daryl and his crew fixed the vacuum pump on the brakes of Grease Lightening, which had been a worry since leaving Washington. Team Zero got a dubious ball joint and steering alignment repaired andVee Dub also bolted down the driver’s seat on Old Yeller which had become somewhat of a safety issue. Lars from the film crew made it worse a few days ago after trying to recline the seat en route to Dallas not realizing it had rusted in place circa 1980. Our seats were made back in them olden times, and the green shag pile covers only serve to hide the small piles of powdered horsehair that collect beneath as the seats disintegrate one spring at a time.

Bryan and Paul, the Greaseball logisticians, flew in especially from Denver to meet the Greasers and help with some last minute preparations. Bryan and Paul were two original members of the school bus team, Quantum Heap, until the bus died. (Perhaps next year boys?). With them they brought about 100 CLIFBARS which the Greaseball crew have been munching on ever since. Theresa, Ben’s cousin, also flew in from New York to join the rally for a couple of weeks – another Spanish speaker to help us through delicate situations.

Today we have 2 new greaseballers in the crew - Theresa who just flew in from New York and JP from Belgium. That makes 12 greasy greaseballs on the road heading south to Mexico tonight.

Leaving Austin around 6pm, we waved goodbye to Daryl and set out towards the border with Bryan and Paul in the back of the greasemobiles getting the full Greaseball experience. At San Antonio, the dynamic duo reclaimed their hire car and accelerated back to Austin to fly home.. We’ll see them again in Mexico City! Here we come…