Monday, October 13, 2008

Escape from Berkeley

It is a classic road rally, 600 miles from the liberal embrace of Berkeley to the anything-goes lights of Las Vegas. No speeding is allowed, or in some cases even possible. And if you stop to refuel, it had better be in someone’s trash.

On Saturday, five teams began the Escape From Berkeley, maybe the world’s most eco-friendly motor race, driving all manner of alternative-fuel-burning jalopies, roadsters, and even a frying oil-fueled Mercedes-Benz, with a single goal: to complete the race using no petroleum.

“Gentlemen, start your whatever they are,” the M.C. shouted to begin the race, which offers the winner $5,000.The final catch of the race is that participants — artists, environmentalists and even a cattle farmer from Alabama — have to find or scavenge their go-go juice, whether it is used vegetable oil from restaurants or twigs and sticks from the side of the road. All the vehicles, which had to be street legal, were allowed to start with a single gallon of whatever fuel they used.

“We’re just going to hang out in front of Ace Hardware and beg,” said Ben Wedlock, who was riding a two-man bicycle, augmented by a one-horsepower electric motor that runs on ethanol.

Read the full article by Jesse McKinley in today's New York Times. Or, follow the action on the Escape From Berkeley website.

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