When I arrived at Piedmont Biofuels, people were asking me how I first heard about it and what my true interest in biodiesel was.
I thought, and thought, and honestly couldn’t answer the first question off the top of my head. All I knew was that last summer, while riding my bike down the Pacific Coast Highway, I knew I needed to get my butt doing something worthwhile when I finished my trek, so I started looking. I surfed the web and found this place about an hour away from where I went to college that made biodiesel and, more importantly, took in interns to learn and work in the industry. At that point I was pretty much sold and, after driving 3000 miles from sunny California to North Carolina, I interviewed and started work the next week.
Like many interns before me, I moved into White…I’m sorry…Casa Blanca, on Rachel’s property and found myself surrounded by a very new way of life. I, admittedly, come from your average American suburban neighborhood in northern New Jersey. The lawns are all perfectly manicured, the soccer moms shuffle their kids from practice to practice in their Lexus SUV, and you may never meet the person who lives across the street. That wasn’t The Bend in the Road. The Bend had something more special than perfect lawns and fancy Japanese cars; it had community. I moved into a place where you didn’t have to lock your doors, mostly because there was no key, but even if there was you wouldn’t need to because you trust the people around you. A place where Tuesday Night Potluck meant local food, beer, and crokinole over at Trout’s Farm with Bob and Camille. Needless to say it was a pretty special place.
The work was, I hate to say it, fun. I interned in oil collections and marketing and had the idea that I would come in and double Piedmont’s WVO intake in a matter of months. I was wrong. Though it should be noted (this is the point where I brag) that I got four new oil accounts, which is four more accounts than any other recent intern had acquired or even come close to. I also got the opportunity to ride around in the “grease truck” with Lyle and help collect thousands of gallons of used cooking oil. There is a saying at Piedmont that if Lyle asks you to get in a truck, get in because you’ll learn something new and hear stories you’ll never forget. Its true. Lyle turned oil collecting into a worthwhile history lesson, and a chess lesson, and a time to fix the world’s problems all interspersed into a day where we pick up 1500 gallons of used cooking oil.
To answer that second question from the beginning of this reflection, the reason I’m interested in biodiesel is probably for all the same reasons why anybody is interested in biodiesel, or wind energy, or solar power for that matter…because it makes sense. And I think that’s what I like most about Piedmont. It makes sense too. The people are focused on things that actually matter like growing their own food and making a usable fuel that comes from a restaurant 30 miles away instead of a desert 7000 miles away. I’ll always remember the people I met there and honestly can’t thank them enough for all the knowledge they imparted on me along the way.
I know that I will return to Piedmont at some point in my life know that when I show up at 220 Lorax Lane, I’ll be greeted by smiling, familiar faces who might be smudged with a little bit of dirt and grease, but smiling nonetheless.