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Day 13, Friday 14 August 1998

You'd think I'd learn... I got an early start this morning, thinking I had left myself plenty of time to take the long way 'round from Boston, MA to Albany, NY via Vermont on non-Interstate highways, but I had underestimated how long I'd spend below 30 mph on such roads! As a result I ate up my time margin, and then some.

entering Vermont

I got to thinking ambitiously, y'see; I was counting, and I'm going to visit 30 states on this journey. Hmm, there are only 48 contiguous states... Two more trips, one to the southeast and one to the northwest, both shorter than this one, and I'll have driven the first vehicle to visit all 48 contiguous states under its own power on a non-petroleum fuel. So I decided to pop up to Vermont on my way out of Massachusetts, just to "tag" it so I wouldn't have a hole in my map later. It's really kind of an insult to such a pretty state to treat it like a checkbox; on the other hand, I really haven't seen all that much more of the other states I've visited, just what's along the roadside. One of the ladies in Portland, ME yesterday asked me how I liked Maine, and all I could honestly say was, "Well, you've got a nice turnpike..." So as long as I'm on this "busman's holiday" I figured I might as well go across northern Massachusetts, then jump north on I-91 into Vermont and come across to Albany along the scenic route: Vermont route 9 and New York route 7.

Albany group

However, the upshot of this was that I spent far more time than I had planned driving at 30 mph or less through towns and behind trucks on no-passing-zone two-lane roads. So I got into Albany about half an hour late; then I got lost! This is the first time that my 1995 American Gas Association book of CNG refueling station maps has let me down... Pat Boudreau of Niagara Mohawk Gas, on the right in the photo above, ended up coming to meet me at the Handy Andy convenience store from which I called in, and she led me over to the Hess Station, where Stacey Hughes (on the left), who had organized this visit, had been waiting for me with more patience than I could've mustered. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet Tom Paolicelli, the Coordinator of the nascent Capital District Clean Communities (they're just about to be designated a Clean Cities Coalition), but he had to go back to the office while I was out being lost.

The Capital District (Albany being the capital of New York, of course) Clean Communities has a large and growing number of natural-gas vehicles; there are government vehicles, several dozen school buses, and utility fleet vehicles, though they are still trying to score big with commercial fleets. Stacey told me they're talking with a convent with a fleet of 92 vehicles that is getting ready to start using CNG! The state has some substantial tax incentives that aren't of any use to these non-taxed groups; any fleet managers in the area who do have a tax burden, however, can really whack the cost of starting up a natural-gas vehicle component of their fleets. And the Hess station where I refueled has four dispensers; that's the largest commitment of space I've yet seen at a CNG station co-located with a commercial gasoline station. So there's plenty of room to refuel new fleet vehicles there, too!

Even after I kept them cooling their heels, they gave me a free fill-up, not to mention a Niagara Mohawk coffee mug and a Capital District t-shirt. I should note that, when you see a shot of me in a Clean Cities t-shirt on this website, I've got two--I only wear them when somebody's taking photos, because I don't know when I'll next get a chance to do laundry... So the shirt they gave me will go into immediate rotation! Thanks very much.

Centro refueling station

Next I went barreling down the New York Thruway, making up most of the lost time, to arrive in Syracuse about fifteen minutes behind schedule. I showed up at the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) headquarters, and they took me to the CNG refueling station at the Centro bus "barn". This is a nice gasoline-station-style island that's not quite open to the public yet; as we were there, a gent in a Lincoln with CNG tanks under its trunk (a conversion, but bi-fuel or dedicated I didn't catch) came by to ask if the station was open yet, 'cause he wants to use it! "If you build it, they will come" again...

The Clean Communities of Central New York has gone in particularly big for CNG buses; I saw a dozen of them just driving through Syracuse (I couldn't take a picture safely while driving, but they look very much like the SunBus I photographed on the first day of this trip in Indio, CA, with the tanks on the roof). "Centro" is a subset of the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority, and they run a large fleet that is about 40% finished with the process of converting entirely to CNG! The station at which I refueled is an extension of the station inside the "barn" where the buses are parked and refueled. A local community college also hosts a training center for the National Alternative Fuels Training Program I described a few days ago.

At the Centro station

These are the folks who met me at the Centro station: from left to right are Frank Kobliski and John Renock of Centro, Wayne Westervelt of SMTC, Joseph Barry, who is the Coordinator of the Clean Communities of Central New York, and Carolyn King of SMTC. A cameraman for both WSYT (Fox channel 68) and WSTM (NBC channel 3) was also there. Thanks to all of you, at both stops today, for being patient with my running behind schedule! No more "Blue Highways" for me until I get to Nebraska, where they maybe won't wind around so much and certainly aren't going to be so hilly...

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new 14 August 1998, revised 15 August 1998