Considering the very limited time I will stick to the facts and personal feelings and won’t try to get to the root cause of the events. But there is a lot to say. Myabe in the future.
An MSR fuel bottle
An MSR pump (inserted on top of the MSR fuel bottle)
They are not at the same scale. The bottle is 30 oz or 0.8 liter. And note that you can’t even fill it to max capacity otherwise the whole system won’t work properly.
Just to say that the bottle is small. It is made out of steel.
The one I have it’s written in very big letters ‘MSR FUEL BOTTLE’ , there is as well the fire sign. Everything is very obvious.
The principle is pretty simple. You put regular car gasoline NOT propane.
You screw the little device on top of the bottle and create a tiny pressure to force the gasoline to come out drop by drop and the whole thing is connected to a burner.
Every day I ‘pump’ to be able to have a stove to warm water for the oatmeal. The morning before the events I noticed that the pump was making a squeaky noise. I knew something was wrong.
When we reached Pekin, Il and opened my latches on my kayak I could smell a very tiny amount of car gasoline. I tried the pump and I could not feel any pressure.
We started to look at it and found the problem. It was cold and we needed some lubricant to have the whole pumping mechanism moving. It was cold and I thought it would be better to go eat and at the same time try to fix the pump. We found a cafe place (CJ’s Cafe). We entered with our completely out of town looks (I had a red jacked, blue shorts and sandals…), sat down and put the bottle on the side and had the pump on the table working on it. I asked the waiter for a bit of cooking oil to use as lubricant.
Just like when you open a cap on a bottle of water and there are remains of water on the cap, on the pump there were a bit of gasoline. My hands were smelling but the problem was fixed (so we thought).
I screwed the pump back on the bottle.
It is at that point that some guy turned to me and asked us what it was and we were doing.
We explained that it was the fuel bottle for our stove system and we were trying to fix the pump part that was broken. We showed the bottle, showed that it was steel, tiny, and it was clearly written ‘Fuel Bottle’.
He did not seem to care and I don’t know if it was because he had a sad life or because there were 7 middle aged woman seating with him with enough make up to blow up all of Pekin but it was as if it made his day to say:
"You are not allowed to have this here, I work in the fire dept, I know these things".
Despite the fact that he did not look like anything but a fireman (I would not have let him even try to extinguish my dog’s poo…) and he really had a very rude tone I asked him what he wanted us to do.
I asked do you want me to take it outside ?
He did not reply… but I still went and left it outside.
When I came back he asked me ‘and what do you have in thaaaat bag’.
It was a very tiny bag that can hold two liters of water. But the way he was saying it was ‘oh I know you have a mini h-bomb there’.
At that point it was very insulting because he had been talking directly to me completely ignoring Matt.
I told him that it was not his business and whether he was going to check what was in my bag. He said "I am going to call the Police". I told him sure call the police.
I don’t know when he did it but it did not seem to be a big rush because it’s only when we exited the cafe that we got intercepted by two ‘detectives’.
Shortly after there were two marked police cars, two undercover ones ( I think the detectives) and I think there was a fifth one as well.
We waited for a long time. It seemed even longer to me because I had shorts and it was cold and I was told to ‘take my hands of my pockets’. I remember I was leaning against the window of the cafe and I was making the window shake from my uncontrolled shivers. I was trying to not shiver because I was thinking they going to think ‘he is scared’.
Even though the police guys were courteous and by that I mean they acted normal I found it ridiculous the amount of force they deployed as well the time they spent ‘checking’ on us. None of them said something as basic as ‘sorry we made a mistake’ or ‘do you want help to fix the fuel bottle because clearly the pseudo-firefighter forgot his roles’.
I won’t make generalities from this experience. I can say it’s just an experience on its own. There are many people who sent messages of support and thank them for that. There are many many great people I have met in the US as well so far.
It’s hard to sit down and write when there are so many things to do with the small amount of time I have right now.
I wanted to thank Todd from Speak Easy Art center for showing up and apologizing even though he had nothing to do with the whole thing, Ed for the article on the Pekin Times, Jerry for the kayak pictures (in the post above).