The Veggie Voyagers

Chris Nelson, with Michael Pike

How do you get across America and back in a four-wheel-drive, three-quarter-ton pickup that gets 12 to 15 miles per gallon and spend only $40 per day? By processing used vegetable oil from restaurants along the way to make biodiesel fuel for your truck, and stopping over just about anywhere but a paid campground—that’s how. This is what longtime local nurse and peace activist Chris Nelson and her husband, Michael Pike, did in their Veggie Voyager, staying the night at any free spot they could find—“gravel pits, casinos … seashores, [a] graveyard, visitor center, picnic area, closed campgrounds, vacant lots, hot springs, dumps” and 16 Walmart parking lots. Nelson, Pike and their dog Sasha spent nine-plus months on a 9,000-mile road trip through 28 states and three Canadian provinces. Their self-published book shows how social justice and sustainability were a big part of the couple’s journey—from efforts to clean up other people’s trash to getting involved with community activists seeking relief for thousands of New Orleans residents who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. Vivid descriptions of and commentary on the hundreds of places they visited, and numerous photos of flora, fauna, people and beautiful landscapes help tell this story, including one tiny, priceless shot of a sign that reads: “Please haul carcasses into woods out of sight.” Yikes!