The plan for the one and a half weeks has been planned down to the last detail, taking in 2,700 miles (4350 km), and three customer appointments. The start in Phoenix begins at the premises of the last visit at Vessl Inc. The first team is still present, and bids us farewell in typical American fashion with three juicy rib-eye steaks cooked to perfection in the RV. The material garnered from the appointment is duly examined and checked with the help of the “All-purpose kit”. With everything nice and tidy, and with a last look at our labours the day comes to an end. An early start next morning as the first team have to catch the nine o’clock flight.
Awake and feeling a little jet-lagged, we decide to get started on the first leg of the drive to New Orleans. The RV with Ford chassis turns out to have a will of its own, and at any minor bump in the road the automatic transmission causes the engine to give off a whining sound. We need to fill up the 50 gallon tank every four hundred miles. Another annoying thing is that every petrol station seems to have a different method of filling up and payment, and we have to waste time learning how to do it. Sometimes you have to prepay, sometimes you can only obtain a receipt from the cashier, other times it’s pay at the pump, and finally we find out that often cash is cheaper than card. Very frustrating.
The stage to New Orleans is done “trucker-style” one person driving, the other sleeping. But we do allow ourselves the luxury of a five-hour break at a rest stop. When we arrive in New Orleans on the 30th of March, it is already so late that all the pitches are already closed. We are forced to make do with a Walmart car park. In the morning, we investigate where we can find a more suitable pitch, and the most popular site, unsurprisingly, is located by the Mississippi. We thoroughly enjoy our one free day there. Our next resolve is to take a two-hour walk to the city centre, which seems entirely desirable considering the two admittedly beautiful and relaxing days we have spent sitting in the RV. We reckoned without google maps and the Americans. We traipsed through an industrial area without any marked paths. After a few hundred yards of this, we admit defeat and summon the nearest Uber. The city centre, or more particularly the French quarter, makes up for all the bother.
The next morning starts with a friendly encounter with a neighbour, who is a long-term resident on the caravan park. We exchange pleasantries and then she asks us if we would fancy doing a bit of fishing. We nod politely, and she promptly presents us with three fishing rods, and wishes us success. Sadly, fishing is out of the question but there compensation enough in the beauty of the evening on the banks of the Mississippi.
The next stage is Athens, a small town between New Orleans and Nashville. Located here is one of the 25 North American recyclers “Custom Polymers PET, LLC” based. In addition to a tour of the factory and a very pleasant interview, President Byron Geiger recommends us the best route to Athens. We’ll do the final 100 miles to Nashville the next morning. In Nashville, two machine manufacturers are waiting for optical sorting machines, which seems strange to us. Things become clear at our appointment with MSS; the two companies NRT and MSS were part of the same group years ago. Later, Mr. Greg Thibado shows us the test rooms and production of MSS. That night we spent on a typical American campsite, but unfortunately our slideout extension, which gives an additional sleeping compartment, was out of action. Although we are not particularly gifted from a technical point of view, we did some trouble-shooting and luckily we found the problem pretty quickly. The fuse boxes were in a different location from the rest of the fuses.
The last appointment on this stage was at NRT, Travis Curtis welcomed us at the factory just outside of Nashville. He quickly introduced the President of the Corporation Matthias Erdmannsdoerfer and we were able to conduct our interview. By a quick demonstration of the machines, he was able to bring us closer to the subject of PET sorting.
The drive to Orlando was completed at “Orlando brewing”. A local organic brewery which has made their first attempts at filling beer in PET bottles.