Photographer gives RV green makeover By Dylan Darling Sunday, September 2, 2007 Photo by Mike Greener / Record Searchlight HOME ON THE ROAD: Holt Webb, a fine-art photographer who plans to travel the country in search of images, sits Tuesday in his recreational vehicle that is being converted by a Redding mechanic to run on biodiesel and vegetable oil. A fine-art photographer who plans to roam America for two to five years is getting his cross-country rigs made environmentally friendly in Redding. Holt Webb, who last hung his hat in San Diego, plans to start his odyssey at the beginning of October. In the meantime, Shane Ballensky, owner of Rover Hybrids on Airport Road, is converting Webb's 32-foot-long recreational vehicle and rugged Land Rover to be gentle on the environment by burning biodiesel and vegetable oil. Webb's already been living in the RV for three months and aims to drive north to Alaska and south to Florida -- all the while finding things to photograph. "With his photography, he gets to stop and smell the roses," Ballensky said. Titled "Vanishing America," Webb's project is to take pictures of things and places that might disappear soon. On his list of places to visit are swamps in the south, shells of old factories in the Rust Belt and mustang ranges in Nevada. He said gallery shows and coffee-table books will be produced following the completion of his trip, which he hopes might be the subject of a reality television show. Webb, a Georgia native who earned a degree in fine-art photography from the University of Georgia, said he will learn of places to visit by talking to locals about what is close to disappearing. The more he learns, the more places he might want to stop and photograph. "The project could just explode," Webb said. To keep fuel costs and pollution down while he wanders, Webb said he decided to have his RV and Land Rover Destroyer 90 converted to run on biodiesel and vegetable oil. In Ballensky, Webb found a mechanic who can do the conversions. Ballensky has had the shop for three years, building on an idea borne in his own travels. On a trip to Africa, he learned that having a diesel engine in a Land Rover doubles its range. When he got back, he learned how to swap gas and diesel engines in the trucks, and his business has grown to also include the biodiesel and vegetable oil conversions. If he's lucky, Webb will barely have to pay for fuel while touring the country as he obtains used vegetable oil from restaurants. The savings could help as Webb said he's already spent more than he estimated for the whole trip just by getting geared up. Webb said his original budget was $300,000 set by a friend who is bankrolling the project. The used RV alone cost $150,000, and the conversions to the two vehicles cost more than $10,000 each. So Webb is trying to figure out ways to generate money as he goes. That's where the possible reality show comes in, which he said he has pitched to people he knows in the television industry. He's also looking for sponsors. While there's an environmental feel to the project, Webb said he is not affiliated with any environmental groups. "I don't want it to become a big tree-hugger movement," he said.