The Pekin, IL fiasco

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 fuel bottle
An MSR Pump
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. Evrything is very obvious.

The principle is pretty simple. You put regular car gasoline NOT propage.
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 moring before the effents 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 lubrificant 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 completly 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 lubrificant.

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 completly 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 widnow 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-firefigther 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).


4 Responses to “The Pekin, IL fiasco”

  1. Sir Weakly says:

    I told you so.

  2. Laura says:

    I got a kick out of your blog post and the Journal Star article; I work in Pekin & agree with your perceptions of the town!!

  3. Fireboy says:

    So, let me get this straight. It’s ok to take a MSR can full of gasoline into a public building, with a bag, with 2 liters of an unidentified liquid, and be pissy when u are questioned about what you are doing? No one in their right mind would take a leaking, open, or even a bottle full of gasoline into a public building.

    The firefighter did absolutely the right thing, before you toss your mouth around maybe you should read up on the internet about WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction) and signs and actions to take. His oath is to protect lives and property. He did that, if you happen to be at the other end of his spectrum then too bad.

    The officers serve and protect, they were protecting the public who was in the building, plus all the other public buildings and lives in the area. Which by the way the County Courthouse, City Hall, and many other “buildings of interest” are in that specific area.

    The building has a water heater at the least, which is a potential ignition source. What does 30 oz of liquid plus the amount of fumes do to a sealed up building when ignited.

    You are lucky you got off that easy, the next town may haul you in to the station and do even more questioning. Be thankful that the City of Pekin was lenient and let you go on your way.

  4. Sorouche says:

    Fireboy, before you set yourself on fire from excitement please read again what was written.

    Regarding the bag, there was nothing in it, and it looks like a regular bag. The two liter specification I gave was for you to realize that it is a very SMALL backpack… A two liter bag is very small… You clearly ignored the whole point of the discussion…

    The officials of your own country did not have their facts very straight with respect to WMDs and you want me to read on the internet about WMD’s? What a reference!
    Maybe if the car gasoline in the fuel bottle is perceived as a ‘WMD’ it explains why the US went to ‘secure’ the oil fields in Iraq :)

    I find it interesting because each time I stopped both in St Louis and Memphis, I saw in the local news kids that got shot. Don’t you think there are more deaths from guns than terrorist trying to ‘blow’ one liter of car gasoline? Why don’t you check in public places to see who is carrying a gun on themselves?
    You letting your own banks scam you, oil companies destroy your shores, spend billions of dollar of tax-payers money on your army but don’t want to have healthcare… and you want the City of Pekin to not be so ‘lenient’ on me…
    It’s a shame because I respected the disturbed individual and voluntarily did what I was supposed to do in that coffee place, I even pick up your garbage along the river, did not complain to anyone other than on my OWN website… and you still have the guts to tell me that they should have taken me to the station?

    I think you lack some dignity and are very arrogant. But make my day … keep staying the way you are, you are contributing to the image of your country abroad all on your own…

    Sir Weakly, I knew you were wise… it’s not for nothing you got knighted by her Majesty… ;)

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