MAX Update No. 34: Escape from Berkeley II Dates

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Escape from Berkeley II has a schedule, at last! Hopefully we can say it’s a last schedule. To quote the Escape from Berkeley website, “…while not final, our fairly firm dates are April 24 to 27, 2010.”

This time, we’ll be racing to the Mexican border. Whoops, I mean rallying to Mexico — it’s not a race, it’s a rally. Hopefully for this rally, we’ll be even closer to our goal of 100 mpg, if not already there.

There have been a number of date changes since the event was announced a year ago. I don’t know how impulsive the organizers were being when they announced there would be a second Escape from Berkeley event, but the success of the first event probably was a determining factor.

Success? I’ll say. For those of you just tuning in, the self-explanatory competition known as “Escape from Berkeley (by any non-petroleum means necessary)” involves getting from Berkeley, Calif., to somewhere far away, using only renewable fuels. To keep it from being too easy, you can’t buy your fuel, no matter what it is. Instead of exercising your Visa card, you have to scrounge, forage and connive your way to the finish line. And this isn’t some science fair contest with laps around a track under controlled conditions; it’s for street-legal vehicles on real roads, in whatever conditions mother nature dishes out. Anyway, the premier event ran us from Berkeley to Las Vegas, and it couldn’t have been more successful for us ’cause MAX won it! (See MAX Wins 800-mile Race, without Gas.)

We didn’t stomp the competition, and the event wouldn’t have been exciting if we had. The Green Machine, a truck powered by a wood gasifier, gave MAX quite a run for its money. The lead changed hands between us a couple times and it could’ve been a photo finish if they hadn’t blown a tire on the last night of the three-day race. It proved there’s more than one way to skin a non-petroleum cat.

But then again, MAX and the Green Machine, powered by two quite different alternative fuel technologies, did run away from the rest of the field. The pack wasn’t biting at our heels because the pack wasn’t quite ready. Man, there were some imaginative machines at the starting line. But as is tradition in the innovation biz, the finishing touches take longer than expected. Now, given the time to prepare for the sequel event, the organizers expect to see a lot of entrants not only ready to roll, but ready to win.

We won’t know for sure until April, but Escape from Berkeley II could be quite the battle between the Smokers and the Greasers, as in gasifier technology versus waste cooking oil. Gosh, by the 10th Escape from Berkeley (we’ll probably be escaping to Bangor, Maine, by then) it could be a rivalry like Ford vs. Chevy in the early days of NASCAR.

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