(Follow veteran MTSU News and Media Relations staffer Randy Weiler’s daily blog as he traveled March 9-14 with alternative fuels researcher Dr. Cliff Ricketts and his team on their coast-to-coast trip using no gas.)
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Lasting impressions from March 14, 2013, the day an MTSU professor etched his name into history at the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Lots to consider on a picture-perfect, albeit 90-degree day when School of Agribusiness and Agriscience professor Dr. Cliff Ricketts sped off into the sunset by achieving a monumental milestone: Without gasoline we purchase at the pump, he and co-driver Terry Young of Woodbury, Tenn., drove 2,600 miles from Tybee Island east of Savannah, Ga., to Long Beach.
When it’s all said and done, what will we recall years from now about Day 5 — the final day of the cross-country trip?
• the boom, boom, boom backfiring by the fire-engine red 1994 Toyota Tercel well after Team Ricketts’ arrival to the beach area behind the Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 E. Ocean Blvd.;
• minutes later, because of the boom, boom, boom backfiring of the car as it was about to be loaded onto a trailer, a beach police officer arrived with, as he called it, lots of “silly questions.” After learning it was for a research project, it was not an event like the making of a movie (which would require a city of Long Beach permit) and that the group was about to leave, he understood and backed off;
• grown men, acting like teenagers, overjoyed with the success of the journey;
• hearing 64-year-old Ricketts belt out several loud roars. He just had finished the quest. He deserved being able to let ’r roar!;
• visiting and enjoying dinner on the awesome RMS Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner permanently moored in Long Beach. It had a personal twist: The late Millard Blankenship, my father-in-law, was among the thousands of World War II soldiers who returned home on the massive structure;
• while dining on the RMS Queen Mary, an accident with overturned glasses sent water across one end of the table and onto the floor. Rick Presley, 53, of Orlando, Fla., nearly flipped out of his chair. It was quite a sight as it happened. Presley, an entrepreneur, took an agriculture class taught by Ricketts at Mt. Juliet High School in the mid-1970s. Funny how great teachers make superb role models and influence young minds;
• how for at least the second time this week, Ricketts does a good deed, buying dinner for two people, both of whom are part of the 10-member team. Outside the Bartlett, Tenn., Cracker Barrel on March 11, a nicely dressed and articulate man approaches Ricketts with a barrage of questions about the two cars and the research while Team Ricketts was refueling hydrogen. Just as they are finishing refueling, the man suddenly shares how he and his wife have run out of gasoline nearby. Ricketts and another in the group give him $5;
• how from Friday, March 8, until today, March 15, there has not been the first detected cross word between team members. It’s amazing the mutual respect and collaboration all have for one another; and
• just past midnight Wednesday, as the team chose to skip spending the night in Kingman, Ariz., to carry its hydrogen into California under the cover of darkness, the maneuver worked (prayers answered) and the team sailed on to Needles, Calif.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu and follow on Twitter @WeilerRandy )