The day arrived! My dream of honoring the Fallen 5 by traveling across the United States 5,000 miles in a 5 fueled truck was about to begin. After working on the truck night and day, literally, I set off on the mission of a lifetime. For me alternative fuels have a much deeper meaning than just an interest or career. I believe in their abilities which allow people to live more freely. They are Clean, Cheap, and American. I don’t want to have to send my 3 sons to war in 20 years for dirty oil, so I will fight for them today with technology and alternative fuels. This is the American way.
In addition to traveling across the country in the coolest truck ever built, I felt a deep desire to honor the 4 Marines and 1 Sailor who died in Chattanooga by the hands of cowardly, so called terrorist. I served my country and fought overseas so we, myself included, could live freely and peacefully at home. The attack affected me deeply, personally. I needed to do something about it. So last year I folded up a flag from the Amnicola Hwy site where the Fallen 5 died, and made a pledge to carry it out to California as a way to help others not forget and to honor their sacrifices. We will raise that flag on the Golden Gate Bridge – it hasn’t been unfolded since August 2015. So many Marines and Sailors crossed under that bridge to go to war – so it’s a symbolic dedication.
I picked up Daniel Hopson, a former Marine who was assigned to the unit that was attacked, at about 10:00 am. On the way to get him I took the exact route the shooter took on July, 16th and stopped at Lee Hwy and Amnicola. The shooter is dead, but the Marines and Sailor’s legacy will live on forever. Daniel and I are fighting for the Fallen 5 on this mission, because the war on American’s way of life has not ended. By using Middle Eastern oil we support terrorism – simply put. It also causes cancer. And it’s too damn expensive – in monetary terms and with war.
Daniel and I attended the dedication ceremony for the year anniversary of the attacks which was located downtown Chattanooga at the riverfront which was very moving . Hundreds of people, a flyover and full honors for the Fallen 5. From there we set off on the trip to Nashville. We first stopped off at the house to get the top on and supplies. Now I haven’t had the top on it ever… So we had to “customize” the top because it was now raining. We made it to Nashville rather late – but cruised Broadway strip at about 10:00 pm on Saturday so thousands of people got to see the truck dedicated to the Fallen 5, which they loved! We filled up with natural gas for $1.06 per gallon!
Then on to Memphis… The top did not make the whole trip. It ripped, we stopped. It loosened, we stopped. After the sixth revision – we took it back down then cruised under the stars. At about 2:00 am we found a hotel and ended up falling asleep at about 4:00 am.
Day 2. July 17th ~ Memphis to Little Rock, AR then to Oklahoma City, OK. 477 Miles
After a very long night we awoke at 10:45 am with a checkout time of 11:00. Tired, yet fulfilled with accomplishment and pride. We also received the news of yet another cop slaying which is just sickening. Stepping outside we were reminded that it was certainly summer and we were in the deep South! The truck was so hot the seats were like a hot iron skillet on bare skin. After loading the truck back up we ate some breakfast at Denny’s and filled up with propane and natural gas.
One thing we noticed was that we were always the only ones filling up at each station. Another part of our mission is to document the experiences of filling up with alternative fuel across the country. One of the sad facts about alternative fuels is that it seems like few people are actually filling up with the cheapest, cleanest fuels. Why? Usually they are unaware of the benefits and gasoline and diesel are just too convenient. This is a sad fact. Quite a lot of people are really just unaware you can use alternative fuels so we are trying to create more awareness in an exciting way for alternative fuels with the Blazer of Glory. Kids especially love the truck and I believe in teaching children in cool ways.
We chose to drive under the intense sun from Memphis to Little Rock – it wasn’t horrible, but that was enough direct sun for the day. Filling up in Little Rock was good. We paid $1.55 per gallon for natural gas. As we worked on our bikini top we spoke with a few ambulance drivers and police officers since the station was owned by the city. Two hours later, 30 or so feet of duct tape, and about 50 zip ties later we had a new bikini top, version 1.0!
Into the day we traveled on our way westward to Oklahoma City. The terrain was beautiful, and weather perfect with our new sunshade. We stopped for a bite to eat, modified the top for version 2.0 and rolled on. Oklahoma City was a very exciting visit for me since I knew they were going to have the cheapest gas on our trip! 125 octane! The state of Oklahoma has an awesome support structure for compressed natural gas CNG and we saw plenty of signs on the highway and fuel at stations. Through the night for entertainment we talked about vast topics, most importantly though was the memory of the shooting which brought so much more meaning to our mission.
Arriving late into Oklahoma City at about 12:30 am we did a little workout to get blood flowing after sitting for so long and then found a cheap hotel for the night. Keep in mind, there is no way to lock up the truck. So we bring most of valuables into the room with us each night which is not easy.
Day 3. July 18th ~ Oklahoma City, OK to Amarillo, TX, then to Albuquerque, NM. 545 Miles
Awaking in Oklahoma City was filled with excitement! We planned to eat breakfast and then head to Tinker Air Force Base to check out some displayed aircraft we spotted last night. Upon arrival we were greeted by an awesome security officer for the base and he took a few pictures with us after talking about the Fallen 5 mission. The display of planes ranged from WWII bombers to modern day bombers, and even a navy intruder. There was a B-29 weather plane, C-41 Douglass, F-4 Phantom, B-52, and B-1. During my Air Force career I supported B-1’s and B-52’s with plenty of bombs during the wars.
After that we headed to fill up with the cheapest natural gas on our trip! $.79 per gallon… yes, really! 125 octane! That was so awesome for me to pay that low of a price to fill my tank. How many of you have filled up recently for less than $1.00? Plus its 40 to 60% cleaner and 100% American. You just can’t argue with the value! This was the first time we actually met a regular guy who didn’t drive a work truck on CNG. He owned his Ford truck for 5 years, and 3 years ago converted it over with a bi-fuel kit. This particular gas station was so awesome in addition to the cheap fuel they had frozen yogurt on tap, with all the fixings!
Back on the road we ventured on to Amarillo, TX. The drive from Oklahoma City to Amarillo was quite beautiful with all the open country and land. We met an industry partner Wes Knapp from Kelley GTM Manufacturing. He contacted us before the trip and said he would fill our tank and buy us some food in honor of the Fallen 5. We arrived at the CNG station at 3:00 pm and had some great steak. I contemplated eating the 72 oz steak, but I didn’t feel like dealing with all the people because after accepting the challenge you had to sit at some special table while everyone watched. And it would have been miserable!
Heading to Albuquerque we had less of a schedule and decided to take our time. Daniel was now the driver since I wanted to catch up on some work. In New Mexico we were in awe of the terrain and I wanted to just turn off on some desolate dirt road. We started driving on old Route 66 for a bit and then we turned on a dirt road which then led us to a section where the railroad tracks ran parallel to the road. For miles we traveled like old settlers on a narrow, dirt road heading west. After some time we decided that we should make our way back to an actual road, but this was really quite difficult because of all the barbed wire fences for the cattle! Eventually we made it and got back on the freeway just before dark. We drove on into the night and finally arrived at our hotel.
Day 4. July 19th ~ Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ, then to San Bernardino, CA. 743 Miles
Awaking just after 7:00 am we ate the same hotel style breakfast from the same low-cost chain of hotels as we had the whole trip…. We knew that this would be the longest leg of the journey so it was important that we get an early start. Once on the road we stopped at a natural gas refueling station and topped off. The truck overall had been running excellent. Of course there were things it would have helped to have like: inner front fenders, paint, seatbelts, and a roll cage.
The terrain across New Mexico is quite impressive. With a vast look out one can fully appreciate the magnificence nature can deliver. The country is open with rising ridges some covered in brush others more barren with grasses. The road stretches on and on seemingly forever. Occasionally you will see an abandoned gas station and a few abandoned houses to remind you history is there.
As we drove on we saw an awesome meteorite crater site that we could not pass up! We detoured about 6 miles off the freeway until we reached the site. Since it was a natural attraction, we assumed the entrance and viewing would be free. However we were wrong when we learned the admission to see a hole in the ground was going to cost $18 each! Being slightly rebellious and not in agreeance with the price we chose to try and sneak around for a peek over… Wearing our camouflage rain gear, since it was raining, we hopped the small fence and tactically approached the rim. On our trek we encountered a lady outside smoking and she apparently called security… We got caught, but then asked for a veterans discount and got in for just $9 each. Why didn’t we ask before? Haha, it adds to our journey I suppose!
Driving on we passed through Flagstaff, AZ in the cold rain, but it was beautiful! Seemingly amazing since it was the only place we saw real trees in hundreds of miles. There was quite a bit of elevation changes and even an elk or two. After Flagstaff we drove, and drove right on into the Mojave Desert and finally into California. Crossing the desert was brutally hot and long, but we made it.
Instead of going directly to Bakersfield we chose to visit the San Bernardino shooting site. We stayed with family in town and got settled in sometime after 10:00 pm. It was an awesome welcoming after such a long haul!
Day 5. July 20th ~ San Bernardino, CA to San Francisco, CA. 435 Miles
Awaking in a place with family is so wonderful and comforting. We had an excellent breakfast made with love so our day started out well, perhaps a little late. The next stop was the San Bernardino shooting site. It was less than 5 miles from where we were staying. Arriving there was somewhat eerie since it was covered in flags, flowers, and ribbons that had also adorned the Chattanooga site. We thought it was important to visit the two sites since both acts were committed by like-minded individuals, and left many dead and those in the community hurting long after. Standing there with the truck and flag gave me a deep sense of purpose and commitment to our mission.
We are Untied first, Americans second. We are humans with feelings. Across this nation we desire peace, need love, and work to prosper. These barbaric acts serve nothing other than to remind us that more peace and love is needed for us to really prosper. Our journey has helped us bring peace, show love, and demonstrate how people can prosper by working together.
After leaving San Bernardino we started out on the last leg of our journey! Traveling mostly North we crossed more demanding and desolate terrain. As we got closer to Bakersfield we saw so much agriculture that feeds this country. Water is pumped into these dry places to grow a huge portion of food for all of us which is then trucked all over the country. We fueled up in Bakersfield and drove north to meet my Mother who was in Salinas, CA picking up a load of lettuce to bring to Wisconsin. She and her husband own and operate a small trucking company in Wisconsin and they drive regularly to California. After eating we had less than 2 hours to go!
We arrived in San Francisco under dark, but also under moonlight! The city is so amazing and the energy we felt having completed the drive was so empowering! Having made arrangements with an old military buddy we finally went to bed after an exhausting day.
The last task to complete was to raise the flag on the golden gate bridge! Since I dreamed of this truck 4 years ago, I wanted to achieve something great! We did that and added to it by honoring the Fallen 5. We raised the American flag on that bridge to honor their lives and to show that no matter what, Americans will come together in times of need, and we Americans will also go the extra mile for one another.