Gringos in the Bronx

This is the story of how the expedition made it to New York City and, in a manner of speaking, a Caribbean island.

The team was temporarily down from three to two, with Jordan flying from DC to LA to surprise a special lady for the weekend (a story that will find its way into a special edition blog article). Remaining were Caleb and Peter (me), who had joined the expedition along the West Coast and had rejoined in Chicago, just in time for the Mishawaka breakdown and the epoch of Rob Zombie (see previous article).

It was Caleb and I who, with our worldly possessions in one duffle and ice cream scoops in another, boarded a charter bus from DC to New York City. Most noticeable was the change in hue outside the window as the color palette grew warmer and the air fell colder. Maryland’s green met Pennsylvania’s yellow met New York’s orange. Autumn was clearly on its way.

Once arrived in the Big Apple, we met up with Caleb’s Stanford friend and our host for the next three days, Marveliz. Marveliz packs a simultaneous Dominican/Bronx accent into a slender  5’4” frame and is a character. She gave us the option of staying with her grandmother or her uncle’s family; we figured grandma’s house sounded like the quieter option and took it. As she unlocked the Bronx apartment lobby, she casually remembered aloud, “Oh, I think abuela is having a party tonight.” Caleb and I chuckled at the thought of four octagenarians playing bridge. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

The door swung open to a hallway stuffed with people, rhumba music bumping, and a din of lively conversation, not a word of it in English. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends had flocked to Grandma’s house to celebrate the end of the week. Caleb and I were immediately aware that we gringos had no chance of blending in. At the sight of guests, that Latin hospitality swung into full gear. We were promptly introduced to every member of the family, immediate and extended, and were handed generous pieces of cake. I had lived in Argentina for seven months and was able to do most of the talking (again, very little English going on). It was Caleb who really gained us entrance into the family, though, by initiating a game of Jenga. Jenga was soon followed by dominoes, a Santos family favorite. Through some mix of intellectual prowess and beginners’ luck, Caleb and I found ourselves dominating. And just like that, we were in.  

Grandma, despite speaking only Spanish, doted on us like her own grandchildren. We woke up to breakfast in the morning: a traditional dish of mangú (mashed plantains with onions), with salchichon sausage, eggs, and fried cheese. Grandma was brewing us coffee like it was going out of style. Caleb and I were not used to being so well taken care of on the road. But every expression of thanks was met with, “Estas en tu casa.” Loosely translated as “you’re home now”, this phrase took me aback each time. If she had seen the aluminum box on wheels that had been our casa lately she might have reconsidered her words. But the fact remained that, like Mrs. Schneider in Indiana, she knew some road-worn travelers when she saw them and she simply wanted to make them feel at home. We couldn’t have appreciated it more.

It bears mentioning that the sights, sounds, and smells in this apartment were identical to what I’d experienced in my South American travels. Between the home décor, the Spanish exclamations, and even the cleaning supplies, we might as well have been in the Dominican Republic. And, as we kept repeating after we said our final adios, all because of an ice cream truck.

- Peter (aka Pedro)

An End [And A Beginning]

I glanced down at my watch and everything was blurry. I rubbed my eyes a few times and glanced once more. 5:27am. Caleb looked at me and said in an exhausting tone, “we made it.” I must have stared at him for a solid ten seconds before I realized where we were standing.

The early morning air was still thick and humid from the day before as I walked around the cobblestoned courtyard in a daze.  I paused for a moment and looked up at the buildings that towered above us. “How did we get here?” I let out a sigh of relief and gave Caleb and Peter a quick smile shaking my head and they returned the gesture. Two days prior we were stranded in Mishawaka, IN (full story in previous post) demoralized that this expedition had most likely come to a startling end. But thanks to the overwhelming kindness of a car dealership and its employees, we stood at the entrance of National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington D.C. What seemed impossible was now a reality.

With that being said, how do you thank two guys you just met at a dealership who offered to drive you 600 plus miles through the night and then immediately turn around and head back home? Of course with the only thing we had to offer—ice cream.

After sharing a scoop or two of ice cream in the courtyard, we said our goodbyes to Rob and Phil (who we are forever grateful for) and parted ways. Having been awake for more than 30 hours, I suggested to Caleb and Peter the only thing that seemed logical at the moment—to grab coffee and watch the sunrise on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We traversed our way through the District’s streets as the city began to slowly awake. We climbed to the top of the Memorial to pay our respects to Mr. Lincoln and we looked at each other laughing at how we got here.

As we sat on those steps watching the birth of a new day, I couldn't help but reminisce the past 8,611 miles. I thought about the kids we met in each state and their excitement to share their pledges with us. I thought about the incredible families like the Sweeney’s, who saved the day by scooping ice cream for hours in Tulsa, OK and the Krawczyk’s, Schneider’s, and Adelson’s who made us feel like family. I thought about Will Robins, Graham Picard, and Peter Walton who joined us on the road and tirelessly gave everything they had to this expedition. And I thought about Caleb and Cameron and all the (sometimes delusional) hours we spent on this expedition and getting the truck ready. One thing is certain; we have countless of stories and memories to share with our future grandchildren.

Retrofitting the truck in Palo Alto, CA at 4:21 am

Retrofitting the truck in Palo Alto, CA at 4:21 am

The next day, Cameron flew in from California and we presented our journey to the employees at National Geographic. It was a humbling experience being on that stage sitting next to Caleb and Cameron sharing our stories from the road.  After the presentation, we had the privilege of serving ice cream to National Geographic and what felt like the entire metropolitan area of DC.

Serving ice cream out of Betty one last time at National Geographic HQ

Serving ice cream out of Betty one last time at National Geographic HQ

Gary Knell (CEO & President of Nat Geo) 

Gary Knell (CEO & President of Nat Geo) 

The time then came for Betty to depart headquarters on yet another tow truck. We didn’t think we were going to be this attached to a ’88 Chevrolet Step Van we bought off of Craigslist, but it was an emotional moment watching her depart for northern Virginia (where she would rest until we figure out what to do with her).

With 2 events left in New York City, we traveled to the Empire State by bus. Peter and Caleb stuffed their backpacks full of cups, spoons, and pledges. Magnolia graciously shipped ice cream to the schools we were presenting at as we now relied on public transportation to get around. Our final events were encouraging as the kids at the UN school and Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate school greeted us with great enthusiasm. Just as thousands of kids across the country have done, they shared with us stories of places they love to explore and why they want to protect it.

As we were cleaning up our last event, Caleb, Peter, and I looked at one another and realized this was it. I took one more last bite of avocado ice cream as Caleb said, “well that was a fun summer...”

We created this project with the hopes that it would be sustainable even after we left and Betty was no longer on the open road. Our hope is that the kids wouldn’t just remember the ice cream or the truck but rather the message that they have such a great capacity to do incredible things and protect the things they love in this world. And most importantly that we believe in them wholeheartedly.

The expedition doesn’t end here. In fact this is just the beginning There is so much more to come.  As we close out part 1 of the journey, we are excited to embark on part 2 of the Ice Cream Expedition—telling the story. We are in the early stages of creating a documentary of our trek across the country and we will continue to share more stories and photos from the expedition here. 

To everyone we met along the way. To those that believed in us and opened their doors and provided a delicious meal and a warm bed. To those who encouraged us and shared stories and dreams that we will forever cherish. To those that flagged us down on the road and gave us a smile. And to all those who supported us. We truly thank you. This expedition wouldn't have been possible without you.  

- Jordan 

Mishawaka, Indiana

As you may remember from the previous post, we had broken down in the middle of the night, were towed to Mishawaka, and had just received the disheartening news of an unrepairable engine. It was hard, but we needed to get right back to work. There was no other option but to quickly forge a new path forward. The ice cream truck had become our home, office, and mode of transportation. Without a working engine, all of this was gone. It was hard. I was emotional when thinking about how this project, which I had devoted myself wholeheartedly to over the past seven months, might be at its end.

Before jumping into full-time crisis management mode, we remembered that we still had ice cream in this immobile truck, and started serving it to the Chevy dealership. From there, it was time to define our goals. Were we trying to get the truck back to familiar territory in Illinois? Trying to raise funds to replace the engine? Ending it all in Indiana? After pained discussion, we decided that we needed to do everything in our power to get the truck to National Geographic headquarters in Washington DC.

We hatched a plan to sign up for two additional AAA memberships, each of which came with a 200 mile tow. Compiling these, we would string tow truck rides together to reach DC starting the next day. This solution gave us some hope given that a tow without AAA would be close to $4,000. Even with this approach, there were still logistics galore to plan. Wearily, we coordinated with the many parties involved in the expedition, as well as the helpful people at Gates Chevy who were scheming ways to get us back on the road.

Trying to figure out how to get to Washington DC

Trying to figure out how to get to Washington DC

Although we didn’t know anyone in the area (other than our new friends at the Chevy dealership) a friend of Cameron and Peter’s knew a family who offered to take us in. Graciously, the Schneider family welcomed three dirty, dejected, and tired ice cream men into their home. Despite trying to put on our best smiles and cheery dispositions, Mrs. Schneider saw through our veneer. She later described us upon entry saying, “they just looked so sad… So very sad.” And that was true. Despite trying to rally ourselves, we were pretty darn disappointed. We always expected breakdowns on this trip, but had forgotten the possibility of a catastrophic engine failure after a good patch of smooth sailing.

The next morning, we traveled with the Schneider father and son on their way to an early morning football workout, and were dropped off at the ice cream truck. Here, we began operation AAA. Sadly, it was not in the cards. Despite successfully towing the truck during the first breakdown, and earlier statements that the vehicle would be covered, AAA had a change of heart and declared that Betty the Chevy was not covered by the service. After two hours and forty-five minutes on the phone, I realized that it was useless to keep explaining the difference between an unsupported box truck and a towable step van while petitioning for coverage.

Once again, we were back to square one, wondering how in the world we would get this truck to DC. Soon after, someone from the dealership called up a friend with a lowboy trailer and asked “are you up for something crazy?” He was, and offered to tow our truck for half the price of a normal tow. We committed, and had a strategy to get the truck to National Geographic HQ. This tow would move the truck 600 miles, but we still needed to get ourselves to DC because we couldn’t ride along in the truck.

Loading an ice cream truck at 4:00 am

Loading an ice cream truck at 4:00 am

As Peter and I sat in the auto repair waiting room discussing options for taking a bus or train to DC, one of the salesmen who had earlier been scheming ways to get the expedition back on the road said, “Alright. I’ve gotten approval from the boss and wife. I’ll take you to DC.” We were floored. This man who we met less than 24 hours earlier was now offering to drive twenty hours to DC and back to help us.

His name was Rob, a man who we affectionately named Rob Zombie because of his interest/side-business of converting older cars into zombie response vehicles by painting them black, applying exciting decals, and slapping on a trademark bloody handprint. Apparently, they’re a big hit with the high schoolers of Mishawaka, and he’s sold eight so far. We met at 6:00 pm after he got off of work, and were told that the manager of Gates Chevy was allowing us to drive a Chevy rental car and would pay for the first tank of gas. Once again, the kindness was overwhelming. 

We were joined by a fellow salesman, Phil, who decided to hop aboard with just 30-minutes notice. With three expedition members, and two new friends, we drove through the night sharing life stories before reaching National Geographic before the sun rose. We bid these kind friends goodbye, then sat on the steps of the Lincoln Monument while watching the sun rise over the Capitol.

And that is the story of how the Ice Cream Expedition improbably reached DC. The helpfulness of the entire staff of Gates Chevy, namely Brett, Rob, and Phil, the hospitality of the Schneiders, and the overall kindness of the people of Mishawaka lifted our spirits in a tough time, and gave us the ability to keep the Expedition alive.

Phil and Rob

Phil and Rob

The End of an Engine

This is a story that we have dreaded writing since the beginning of this journey, a story that we had hoped would never need to be written about our expedition, a story about our ice cream truck’s last mile.

Our day began early in Chicago. We had wrapped up an event the day before with some of the most insightful kids that we had talked with on the trip, and now were exploring the city. In classic Ice Cream Expedition fashion, we ended up eating deep dish pizza on the 53rd floor of the Prudential building while watching the sun set. All because of an ice cream truck.

We had a meeting scheduled with Senator Barbara Boxer on Capitol Hill in three days, so we started towards Washington DC that evening. At 10 pm on a Sunday, cars are flying past us down the interstate. As I brought our truck up to the standard cruising speed of 55 miles per hour, I watched white dashes on the road fly past and tried to think about how many more would see before arriving at Capital Hill on Wednesday. 

Around 12:30 AM I still stared at the lines disappearing under our truck. We planned to pull over and sleep in the back around 2:00 AM once we reached Toledo, but for now we push forward under the star filled Indiana sky. After more than 8,000 miles in this seat I had come to appreciate the guttural hum of 1988 diesel engine and could feel every note of the pistons vibrato pushing us closer to the East Coast. It was about five minutes later that I felt it, something in that vibrato, the hum of the engine, it just wasn’t right.

Immediately, I noticed the engine getting louder. Keep in mind there is 1/8 of an inch of ancient insulation between driver and the engine and at all times it is roughly the volume of an iPod on maximum volume – the engine getting louder is very much deafening. The others poked their heads out from the back noticing that our trucks roar has somehow increased in its volume; in that moment we all seemed to realize that something is has gone terribly wrong.

We now know that at about this time an oil line beneath the ice cream truck had blown and the entirety of our the oil in the engine was quickly discharged onto the Indiana highway. The engine roar grew louder as I struggled to find a place where we could turn off. After what felt like an hour, but was closer to 20 seconds, we found a wide shoulder to bring the truck to a halt. As I maneuvered to the edge, the engine gave a dying sputter. When the engine stops, so do the power steering and braking systems. Fortunately, this situation wasn't new, and I was able to guide the truck to the side of the highway.

Adrenaline was coursing through my veins as I sensed that something was seriously wrong. Diving out of the truck I initiated an all too familiar sequence: jump out, fall to my knees, lay on my back, and wriggle beneath the truck. I hoped to see a disconnected wire or similarly easy fix but am greeted by warm oil dripping all over me and splattered everywhere around the truck. I notice a small hose to the oil cooler that has come disconnected and realize that the entirety of our oil supply has been run dry.

Over the next hour we dodged oil dripping into our eyes as we reconnected the oil line and added all the oil left in the truck. However, when we turned the key, nothing happened aside from a sad squeal from the starter motor. The engine wouldn't even turn over. We set up the road flares given to us by a kind Indiana State Patrolman, and waited almost two hours for a tow truck to arrive.

At 3:30 am, the truck brought us to the to a Chevrolet dealership that would become our second home. Peter squeezed through the fence into the Chevrolet dealership to plug in our freezer, and we settled into the back of the truck for two hours of fitful sleep before the dealership awoke. After consultations with the mechanics, we learned that the engine on our ice cream truck had, in essence, welded itself together and will not propel this noble truck one more mile – ever.

The day was very emotional for us. We had spent every moment over the past year planning and dreaming of the adventures that this truck would bring. We spent every moment of the summer with this truck working to bring these dreams to fruition. This truck is more than a vehicle or a tool to start conversations about conservation, it is part of us. Thank you to everyone who dreamed/drove/supported us on this expedition – it has meant the world to us.

As for the end of the Ice Cream Expedition, this was not the end. It was the beginning of the end, but we resolved to do everything in our power to get this truck to Washington D.C. Although we only had two more events in our schedule, it just didn't feel right to leave this expedition on the side of the road in Indiana. Every good story has an epic ending, and this was the beginning of ours.  Stay tuned for the story of Gates Chevrolet, Rob Zombie, and how we managed to get this truck to National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC.

- Caleb

Home

After waking up in a northern-Wyoming forest, I started to get excited about where we would be that evening--we were on our way to my home in Colorado Springs. Living as an itinerant ice cream man these days, coming home feels especially rich. The familiarity with your environment makes you realize how much of your home place you truly understand. I love traveling and being on the road, but coming home is always special.

Although Colorado Springs is my hometown, my family was also in a state of flux. Last June, the house that we had called home for 21 years burned down in the Black Forest wildfire. This left my family displaced, initially moving between hotels, and later into a rental home. All the while, my family worked hard to rebuild a house on our same land, which remained largely intact. It was a trying time, but one that we weathered well with the help of friends, the community, and the joy that we have from just being together as a family. As I arrived, my family was busy scurrying about our rental house in the last stages of moving. We had been building our new home on the same property as the old, and were just two-weeks from moving in. Although life had settled for close to a year while living in the rental house, my family was starting a two-week limbo period between moving out of the rental and into our new home. In the meantime, they were in a similar state as us aboard the truck, splitting time living with friends.

We held our Colorado Springs event outside of our new house as the community came out for ice cream and to see our home. Being at the house in the ice cream truck was special. This whole expedition is focused on talking with kids about where they like to explore, how that exploration is valuable, and how they can study and protect the places that they love. We were talking with the next generation about these themes, while being in the exact place where this yearning for exploration started for Cameron and I. We were right by the trees that we loved to sit in and climb, the pond where we would ice skate in the winter and catch minnows in the summer, the park where we spent so much time trying to find (somewhat) edible plants, and the large forest that yielded new and interesting sights each time we made forays as young explorers. It’s this spirit of exploration that I see in many of the kids we meet, and hope to inspire in the others. 

I was also so excited that this place that I love can still be explored. We talk of wanting to be a steward of the places that we explore, yet, last June when I surveyed the smoldering remains of our house, it seemed like my formative place of exploration had been permanently taken. Now we were all in a new home, excited to get back to the place that we love and belong. 

Although I was away from Colorado at college for most of the time after the fire, leaving the benefit of another life established away from Colorado, it was satisfying that my family and I once again had a permanent place to call home. As we returned to our home, I was excited that my younger siblings would be able to explore the same things that I loved, with the addition of some fire regrowth ecology to observe as well.

- Caleb

Puget Sound → Rocky Mountains

Our trip began with a bang. We held events at Birch Aquarium on day one, south central LA on day two, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on day four, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland on day eight, and the Seattle Audubon Society on day nine. That comes out to six official events, 1983 cups of ice cream given away, and 2057 miles driven all in less than 10 days. The pace of the opening leg didn't allow much time to explore the cities, or even sleep for that matter, but it sure was an exciting start. Reminiscent of being shot out of a cannon, I suppose.

While planning the route, I saw Seattle as the start of a new leg of our journey. Traveling southeast, we would have some time and space to explore during the seven days between events in Washington and Colorado. To start, we stayed  for two days on Bainbridge Island nearby Seattle with the parents of one of my good friends from Stanford. As it is an island, we brought the ice cream truck aboard a ferry. Of course there was curiosity from the passengers onboard, and we couldn't resist throwing an impromptu ice cream party!

Bainbridge was a special place to relax and reflect on the trip thus far. The house overlooked Puget Sound, with Mount Baker in the distance and Seattle and Mount Rainier behind tall trees. In these trees, two Bald Eagles made their home and would put on dazzling displays while catching salmon in the sound below. We ate fresh oysters and blackberries, kayaked in the sound, and took in all the sights of the idyllic Pacific northwest.

A Bald Eagle and Mt. Baker seen through a spotting scope

Soon, it was time to keep moving. We restocked on ice cream, picked up a friend, and set off towards eastern Washington and Montana. By the time we reached the northern handle of Idaho, it was already past midnight. We had no plans on where to stay, so we drove our ice cream truck into the Coeur D'Alene National Forest to camp for the night. As soon as we turned off the headlights, we saw a brilliant night sky. With no moon and little light pollution, we saw a vibrant milky way and at least one shooting star per minute as we slept on top of the truck. It was a magical experience that made us step back and reflect on what a unique and privileged position that we are in.

Jordan and I figured that this might be our only time to visit Glacier National Park in this geographically isolated region, and decided that Betty (our truck) could handle the task. Despite google maps predicting a quick four-hour journey, it took more than six hours to reach the park. After jumping in a glacial stream to freshen up, we realized that every minute of the trip was worthwhile.

Time to eat some ice cream.

The main thoroughfare through Glacier, called Going-to-the-Sun Road, is a 50-mile tight and winding route that takes you to the top of 6,646 ft Logan Pass. We drove above stunning glacial valleys and atop thousand-foot cliffs, while seeing glacial ice and streams and bighorn sheep. An incredible sight--especially from this vantage point.

We left the truck at the top of the pass to explore some of the trails. Once we returned, the truck was surrounded by people intrigued by this unique ice cream truck in an unexpected location. As is a theme on our trip, we can't resist giving ice cream to an interested crowd. So, we gave away ice cream and talked with the travelers on the top of the pass.

From there, it was a two day journey under the big skies of Montana and Wyoming before reaching my hometown of Colorado Springs where the adventure continues. Going into it, we knew the truck would take us interesting places, but we are still in awe every day.

- Caleb

A Milestone

[ Hello all! We apologize for the silence. The first 2 weeks have been a complete whirlwind.

Tons of stories, photos, and videos to come. In the meantime here is a short little update from our time at Glacier National Park. ]

"We are not taking a jumping picture...okay let's take a jumping picture." 

We stood on top of our retrofitted ice cream truck in complete awe. The serene beauty of the setting sun glimmered off of the never melting snow on top of the mountains setting the landscape of Glacier National Park on fire. Did we just drive an ice cream truck through one of America's most pristine national parks? 

It was hard to believe that a little over 2 weeks ago we were sitting on the white sand of Ocean Beach in San Diego watching the sun disappear behind the endless Pacific Ocean. The road to Glacier consisted of a strenuous 2,703 mile trek in our 1988 Chevrolet step van that on a good day can reach a comfortable cruising speed of 50 miles per hour. Also our diet on the road has mainly been consisting of ice cream, tortilla chips, and coffee. Our mom's would be proud. 

Our view (and campsite) on top of the ice cream truck in Bighorn National Forest, WY.

Our view (and campsite) on top of the ice cream truck in Bighorn National Forest, WY.

After a long but rejuvenating day of jumping into glacier fed rivers, running through open fields, and constantly looking upwards, we crossed into Wyoming. We drove down a dirt road far from any major road and camped on top of the truck with one of the most spectacular views that made us feel so small.   

Even though we are just in the first few weeks of our two and half month road trip, reaching Glacier National Park felt like a milestone for us. As I laid on top of the truck, gazing up at the millions of stars, I thought of all the stories we have heard and all incredible people we have encountered on this expedition so far. They combat any exhaustion or ill balanced.  - jordan

San Diego or Bust

Three and a half hours of sleep is never enough, but somehow that has become our norm. The alarms went off, we rolled off the couch, waved goodbye to Cameron going to work, and  began our day of work on the truck. Although this has been our life for the past two weeks, today was different. 

Last night Cameron wished us an emotional goodbye because today Jordan and I are off to San Diego to begin the expedition.  Most of the day was spent cleaning up what had quickly become a headquarters filled with boxes and gear for the trip.  We loaded the truck and set off to southern California leaving a little bit after 4:00pm.  We drove through Silicon Valley one last time and were planning on arriving in San Diego shortly after midnight.

We made our first pitstop to change a brake light and got back on the road half an hour later. Around Bakersfield we stopped for a short bathroom break at a gas station that smelt less like the fuel it sold, and more like the thousands of surrounding cows. Jumping back in the truck we turned the key to hit the road, but nothing happened; the engine didn’t turn over, no lights were on, and both of us panicking was the only sound to drown out the deafening silence. We started to frantically attempt to flag down the occasional car to try to jump the engine. After half an hour, we finally found a car to try to jump the truck – it didn’t work.  We waited another hour and bribed a cherry man named Alonso with free ice cream to try to again.  This time it did work and we were back on the road.

Very uneasy about the state of our vehicle we pledged to get to San Diego without stopping. Unfortunately, three major highways going through Los Angeles were closed for late-night construction, forcing us to take small city streets to get back on the right track. We ended up pulling into San Diego while the sun was rising at 6am, two hours before our news interview.

We crashed at a friend's house for an hour and put our best faces forward for our first appearance on Channel 6 news. The broadcast went well, and after meeting up with the National Geographic team were back on the road and on our way to our first test event at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.

The event was a hit! Everyone loved the free Ice Cream, the kids came up with amazing ways to conserve places that they had explored and drew beautiful pictures. Interacting with these kids was both energizing, and tiring at the same time. Jordan and I were able to stay excited and engaged with no food and one hour of sleep. 

We are thrilled to be in a tow truck 

We are thrilled to be in a tow truck 

As the event ended, we hopped inside the truck as the kids sadly wished us goodbye. The truck, however, had different plans. It once again would not start, and this time in front of a crowd of people who were after free Ice Cream.  As I called a tow truck, Jordan managed to keep his wits about as he talked to people about our expedition and scooped ice cream for everyone.  Eventually the tow truck showed up and with his mechanical knowledge the driver identified what might be the problem. Still, we needed a tow and after a bigger tow truck came, we were rolling in to Scott’s Automotive.

Immediately it was clear that we were in the right place. Scott was in his sixties, and worked with his son, and grandsons. On the weekdays they joyously fix cars as a family, helping and joking with one another as they work. On the weekends, they race two hot rods that they modify all week long. Even while being exhausted and dejected from our mechanical failures, I couldn't help but feeling that this is what the trip is about as I saw Scott living a fulfilled life as he worked with his family. He would laugh with incoming costumers while chatting about their lives, and was equally pleased when getting to the bottom of their mechanical problems.

After expertly replacing a couple of bad fusible links to our starter motor, he came out to tell us that our truck was ready, once again, to hit the road. We gave the shop ice cream and chatted about our trip. He then told us that he wasn’t going to accept any money for the work that he had done and sent us on our way. After all the frustration of the truck break down, we were stunned at what an impact good people can make and can't wait to meet more people like this on the road.

When Morale is Low, Turn it Up

Today, while I was at work, Caleb and Jordan took a field trip to the electronics store. During their time at the store they managed to acquire a sound system that would rattle the bolts straight off a party bus; fortunately, we’re driving a 1988 Chevy Step Van.

While I toiled with the heating lines, cutting hoses and burning my hands on the radiator, Caleb and Jordan spun wires across the truck like a drunken spider web hoping that the next time they got shocked would be last. Elbow deep in oil I watched an old air vent transform into a full-fledged disco speaker. As I drilled through the firewall into the cab, the ancient heating/cooling controls were removed and in its place a flashy ($20) car radio sat ready to sound the alarm that we were on our way with free ice cream. Josh dove under the truck and started mounting the Vegetable Oil filter as the finishing touches went into the wiring. Finally, it was time to flip the switch… and nothing happened.

Our sound system didn’t work, my drill had run out of battery, and Josh had more grease in his eyes than tears. Like any defeated group of men, we ordered pizza.  It was now 11pm and we had each put in 17 hours of work and hadn’t eaten since noon. We tried various fixes, but to no avail.

The four of us sitting in the ice cream truck must have been a pretty dismal sight. We really felt like we had wasted a solid day of work and we didn’t have many more. But Caleb had an idea, and I think it was a good one because just as the Dominos delivery man showed up he attached a wire somewhere shocked himself; now blaring full volume to the neighborhood, the pizza delivery man, and our morale was the tune of a music box playing.

Heard for miles around, everyone knew that this 1988 Chevy Step Van was on it's way on an Ice Cream Expedition across America. Whether it overheats, is another question entirely. - Cam

 

Silicon Valley Dream

Cam working on the vegetable oil conversion at 2 am

Cam working on the vegetable oil conversion at 2 am

We all awoke with the sun living the Silicon Valley dream. Four people in a 600ft2 house sharing a toilet shower and sink in a dollhouse bathroom. I wiggled my way out the door to work while Caleb and Jordan rolled off their respective couches to start hashing out the essentials for the trip. Returning in the evening I was surprised to find that our house was now home to 20,000 kid sized silicone bracelets that we will be handing out on the road. We worked late into the night and worked out exactly how the heating/cooling system would run for the conversion kit.

- cam

 

 

We Believe in This

Jordan and Caleb discuss plans for retrofitting the ice cream truck 

It’s 11pm and for the first time in far too long the three of us sit in the same room. Our expedition is slated to begin in ten days and the list of things that need to be done only gets longer. The conversation scatters like shrapnel in all directions talking of what has been done, the unbelievable turn of events that resulted in funding from Kickstarter campaign, and of course all that still needs to be completed. The conversation pauses for a moment and in that moment the three of us look at each other.

In that moment there’s excitement of what’s to come, fear of failure, tenacity to overcome, gratitude to everyone who’s made this possible, and a promise that no matter what happens in the next 240 hours we will give our all to this expedition. It was in that look we understood, perhaps for the first time: we believe in this trip.

Thank you to everyone who believes in our trip and our message, we look forward to keeping you posted and seeing you on the road.