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A race to Las Vegas on only one gallon of fuel

October 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
And on the subject of alternative sources of power, there is the great Escape From Berkeley. It's a road race this weekend from the Bay Area to Vegas. Here's the catch; each competitor gets only one gallon of fuel.

Take a weed whacker engine, marry it to a bicycle built for two, and slip on a cover. That's Mike Gittelsohn's concept for how to get to Las Vegas on a gallon of ethanol. Thursday night the 54-year-old software writer put the finishing touches on his concept car that will take some personal pedaling power.

Other vehicles competing in the Escape From Berkeley road race include ones that burn wood scraps, innovations in bio-diesel, and another powered by a steam engine. The race rules say you can only take one gallon of fuel along.

"You can take one gallon but you can beg for more along the way. So the wood, gas, fire guys chop down trees and go to lumber yards and pick up wood. The biodiesel guys are going to go out to restaurants and get oil," said Gittelsohn. "In California we'll go to hardware stores and beg for a quart of denatured alcohol. And when we get to Nevada, we'll go to bars and beg for Everclear 190 vodka."

This vehicle will be called the "Two Cat Screamer." Gittelsohn's 16-year-old daughter will personalize a design on it and then they'll hoist a 32-pound fairing over the bicycle.

The road rally starts off in Berkeley Saturday morning. By nightfall, teams will camp in Groveland near Yosemite. On Sunday they go over Tioga Pass and end up in Lone Pine. On Monday, it's the treacherous trek across Death Valley to Las Vegas.

That's more than 600 miles, but the prize is $5,000. However, the point isn't so much the cash as it is to make people think.

"I figure that more than 50 percent of my car usage could be replaced by a motorized bicycle," said Gittelsohn.

Ten innovators will have a chance to try out their theories on the open road.

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