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Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future Paperback – October 21, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125959
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125957
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Early on in this eco-travelogue, mechanically-disinclined magazine writer Melville notes, "I simply needed to look at my reflection in the rearview mirror to realize that nearly anyone can operate and maintain a french-fry car." Indeed, it turns out Melville is easily able to convert a diesel-engine Mercedes into a vehicle powered entirely on fryer oil, collected (usually for free) from restaurant grease dumpsters. Joined by his college friend, Iggy, Melville embarks on the first oil-powered cross-country road trip. There isn't really much suspense to the quest, especially once it's clear that they can use oil purchased at the supermarket. Unfortunately, greasy restaurant backlots don't make for great anecdotes, and the duo's banter isn't as funny or insightful as Melville seems to think. What keeps it from reading like a padded magazine article are Melville's side trips: he learns how Fort Knox has converted to geo-thermal heating and cooling, investigates just how eco-friendly Al Gore's mansion really is, and talks to representatives of various "green" U.S. Government agencies. These insights, and the simplicity of his grease-powered transport, propel an otherwise slight read into a thought-, and perhaps action-provoking lesson in alternative fuel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From its punny title, to its unique premise (a man decides to drive from coast to coast in a car powered by used french-fry oil), to its serious message (you, too, can be more environmentally conscious), to its easygoing writing style, this is just a splendid book. The author blames his wife for the genesis of his cross-country quest: it was her idea to buy a diesel vehicle and convert it to run on vegetable oil—Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his original engine in 1900 by running it on peanut oil, part of his plan to encourage drivers to generate their own fuel sources. Anyway, Melville took his wife’s idea and ran with it or, more precisely, drove with it, teaming up with an old college buddy and setting out to drive a converted 1980s Mercedes from Vermont to California. It’s an exciting and occasionally nail-biting adventure, but the author keeps the book from being a simple road trip by delving fairly deeply into the whole ecological, pro-environmental, self-sufficiency theme, taking the reader along on visits to such interesting places as Google headquarters, a wind farm, a renewable energy lab, and a green home. Melville, a freelance journalist who has written his share of travel pieces, is a lively stylist, and the book is both entertaining and educational. --David Pitt

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Customer Reviews

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This was just a fun book and a good read.
CMBohn
One of the things I liked most about this book is that it did not preach any one environmental doctrine.
Amazon Customer
I enjoyed this book very much, finding it to be entertaining, informative, and inspiring all at once.
Wendy Carria

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Madam Pince on September 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Take an Eastern liberal with no mechanical aptitude, pair him with a down-to-earth college friend who knows his way around an engine, and put them in a retooled Mercedes for an eight-day trip across the country while begging restaurants for fry-oil fuel -- and you'll have a laugh-aloud read that leaves you longing for French fries. Greg Melville & his pal Iggy travel from Burlington, Vermont to Berkeley, CA in the footsteps of cross-country driving pioneer H. Nelson Jackson, while searching for greener alternatives to everyday life. Not only do they glimpse Al Gore's Tennessee mansion and visit Fort Knox's geothermally-powered complex, they also encounter Hank in Nebraska (and his self-published Jesus screed), endure teeth-chattering cold as they climb the Rockies (the Mercedes' heat stops working when the car exceeds 50 mph), and discover another college pal is gay (his computer log-in is "Two Gay Guys"). Combined with side trips to Google, Dartmouth, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a wind-turbine farm, and the world's first green Wal-Mart, Melville delivers a funny and thought-provoking tale that not only splits your sides, but makes you ponder reducing your carbon footprint.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CMBohn on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book was great! First of all, it was free, so that's always a bonus. But even if I had to pay for it, it would have been worth it.

Greg Melville wants a new truck. His wife wants something greener. Way greener. So he decides to get an old Mercedes with a diesel engine and convert it to run on old cooking oil. Then he gets inspired to take a road trip, using nothing but free recycled oil in his car. He calls up his old buddy Iggy and the two hit the road.

The title alone is a hint that this is bound to have some funny moments. The two friends get on each others nerves and kid each other like teenagers. The car breaks down with alarming regularity. Greg gets peed on by a dog. Stuff happens, and it's pretty funny stuff.

I also enjoyed the 'errands' - side trips that Greg takes to discover what else is being done in the Green Movement to make life on earth a little more sustainable. I felt cheered to see that there are a lot of people dedicated to making a difference, and some of these ideas are practical and affordable.

This was just a fun book and a good read. Way to go, Greg! Here's hoping that everyone who read this is inspired to make a few changes in their own lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
GREASY RIDER by Greg Melville
Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
ISBN: 978-1-56512-595-7

Take two men, a 1985 Mercedes diesel station wagon, a grease car conversion kit, and the first cross country automobile trip made by H. Nelson Jackson as inspiration, mix it all together and you have a funny, informative, and thought provoking look at the future energy independence of our nation.

One of the things I liked most about this book is that it did not preach any one environmental doctrine. There is never one answer to a problem as complex as the one facing our environment today. This book takes a good hard look at our attitudes and how they work to move us forward or hold as back in the "fossil fuel age". Not only does it give us a very humorous look at two men on a cross country trip and what it takes for them to make it without relying on anything but used fry oil. It also gives us a beautiful snapshot of out vast country and the way one answer in one region most likely is not the answer in another.

It looks at different philosophies from a place of inquiry. Finding the merits of each idea and trying to find a common ground and complete understanding of what a particular environmental philosophy is trying to really say.

The book switches back and forth from the actual road trip memoir to specific tasks designed to learn more about different ways to become more energy efficient. I liked this on the level that everything in the book was very interesting to read. On another level however I sometimes found this distracting and seemed to slow down my reading progress. Overall the information throughout was great. At the end of the book a comprehensive list of sources is offered to learn more about what was discussed in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Sullivan on November 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future

While I thought the premise was hysterical, and had the "Odd Couple" theme song playing in my head for most of chapter 1, the real hero in this book has to be Iggy. Where does a 35-year old (plus) journalist/dad/environmentalist find a buddy who has the technical skills to make a Deisel engine on alternative fuels work AND install a high-tech sound system? The Kenyon Alumni directory, of course!
I loved this book for the real way the author breaks complex concepts in biology, physics, agriculture and economics down to terms a fellow English major can grasp. I love the way our beautiful country must look when you are myopically focused on signs for burrito joints. I love Greg's wife, and praise her for her restraint when blunt objects were around, as the idea was presented in the kitchen. I felt like I was in the room, and a little bit uncomfortable about it.
In an odd way, though, this is as much a book about buddies as it is a "man(kind) vs. nature" piece. Perhaps because in this one, we want nature to win. It is Nature's turn. Greg shows us how, without killing your television.
If you can't move to Vermont, buy the book.
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