Carola Teixidó and Victor Millán are living my dream. The Chilean couple, both graphic designers, is driving from Alaska to Chile in a 1996 Ford pickup truck with a pop-up camper that's been converted to run on used vegetable oil.
They call her Piscola. The name is derived from pisco, the Chilean national drink, grape brandy, and cola.
Their next stop: San Francisco.
This isn't some wild hair they got -- Teixidó and Millán's trip is well thought-out; they planned ahead for the Darien Gap, a wild jungle where the Pan-American Highway ends. They bought a truck that could easily fit into one of the shipping containers necessary to get Piscola to South America. A shipping container costs about $2,000, said Teixidó. But they hope to split the cost by sharing the container with another vehicle. The gap doesn't have developed roads and is thought to be full of guerrilla warriors. You can hike it, but some hikers are never seen again. You could also fly over it, or boat around it. With a car, you have to take a ship.
But the gap won't present a problem for while. They have to make it there first -- and they have a long way to go.
Teixidó and Millán have set aside a year for the trip, perhaps longer, to cross 15 countries and travel 26,000 miles. Right now, 116 days in, the traveling Chileans have been stuck in Portland, Oregon for three days. And it's a classic Portland dilemma, one that could be seen on Portlandia. The problem: Too many eco-friendly people are in their way. The bio-diesel community is so big there that all the restaurants are either out of used cooking oil or contract it out to someone else.
Once they can get some waste oil, Teixidó hopes to be cruising down the highway soon, french fry fumes wafting in the air, toward San Francisco. They've already traveled about 6,000 miles and burned more than 400 gallons of old, stinky vegetable oil.
The oil isn't stinky to Teixidó. She said it smells likes french fries or fried fish. They get the waste oil from restaurants, pour it through a shirt to filter out the fried food pieces, and dump it in a centrifuge, which separates the oil from the muck.
They're not strangers to adventure. Both were born in Santiago, Chile, and both are avid backpackers and travelers. After obtaining Canadian year-long work visas, they flew over there from Chile and began shopping for a truck and making arrangements for the great Alaska-to-Chile trip.
They calculated it would be around $6,000 in gas money for traveling 46,000 kilometers. By converting the truck to run on cooking vegetable oil, they hope to save money, and, of course, have a cleaner, environmentally-friendlier vehicle. According to their estimates, the whole trip should cost around $30,000, not including unforeseen mechanical problems. The couple makes money on the road using laptops to do design work for clients in Chile. To help supplement the costs, Teixidó and Millán offer postcards of their travels to stores for a donation, which sometimes amounts to $1 and when they're lucky, they pocket $20.
They're also sponsored. A couple companies have donated gear and solar panels to help with their travels. With escalating cost, however, they could use some more help. If you're interested in sponsoring them or just want to keep up-to-date on Teixidó and Millán's exciting adventures, check out their blog, or hit them up on facebook or twitter.
In case your wondering, my dream, on the other hand, was to buy a motorcycle after high school and drive from Santa Cruz, born and raised -- eastside loc, all the way down to Argentina. I pictured myself barreling down the highway with a shotgun strapped to my back, swinging a machete over my head, as I tore through hordes of banditos. My fantasy was loosely based on my favorite childhood movie, Romancing the Stone.
Having said that, if Teixidó or Millán are reading this: Please pick me up as you travel through San Francisco, and I'll settle to be the side kick, just like Danny DeVito was in the Romancing the Stone.