Spring Update – Trabuco Canyon, CA

Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning!

Today is a big day! Not only is it the first day of Spring, but it marks 6 years since the day I bought Edna and the one year mark of our Two+ Year North American Tour. According to plan, we’ve been traveling at a comfortable pace – sometimes fast, sometimes slow; visiting many new communities, as well as familiar ones; and making tea at all types of places – from the Pacific Crest Trail to Hollywood Blvd.

Planting a tree in front of the Giving Garden in Santa Monica, CA.

Planting a tree in front of the Giving Garden in Santa Monica, CA.

In the first few months of this tour we struggled with finding the balance of no plans, but seeking to accomplish things as well. And finally, I believe, we have found this. Since leaving the more familiar North West Coast, we’ve been graced with many opportunities to sink or swim with the ebb and flow of our adventures. The harshness of the big city environment of Los Angeles (endless parking meters, anti-camping laws, no biodiesel, etc.) gave us an opportunity to swim against the current. And we made it out alive. Just 5 years ago, Los Angeles was an easier beast for us. What happened? Are we softer for our time spent in easier communities? Did LA change? Some of our certain parking spots were gone, leaving us with harder guerilla camping and higher dependency on friends, new and old. In the midst of this, however, we continued to make tea for folks, find and participate in beautiful communities, and figure out where we could take a rest.

A whole crew of wonderful folks on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, CA.

A whole crew of wonderful folks on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, CA.

Our trip since Winter Solstice brought us down from Nevada City, through the central valley of California, into Ojai for a stint, and on to Los Angeles. For much of the beginning of this trip, my dear friend Ally accompanied us, bringing her own vibe to the journey and tea parties. We went back to Hollywood Blvd – the place where it all started. We relearned the city, driving the old roads, finding new ones. We took rest in the shade of the trees of Griffith Park, and made a trek to visit my grandparents. In between our trip down to Laguna Beach for the Terra Vita Herbalism Symposium, we stopped places like Costa Mesa, Harbor City, San Pedro, Monrovia, Pasadena, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and more. Each of these places offered a different experience. In Venice, we made tea on Abbot Kinney for a wonderful crowd. In Santa Monica, we participated in a wonderful community called the Giving Garden, where we connected with some wonderful folks and lent a hand at (trying) to fix some things.

Students at the Anneliese School in Laguna Canyon, CA.

Students at the Anneliese School in Laguna Canyon, CA.

At the Terra Vita Herbalism Symposium, we were invited to stay one extra day at the Anneliese School by some of the school’s directors in order to spend some time with the 5th and 6th graders. And boy, what a blast! After gathering all the 5th and 6th graders into one classroom (about 30 of them), I started sharing about what I do with the tea bus. There were lots of words like whoa and cool floating around the classroom. And 6 by 6, we went out to the bus for tea. I told them about and showed them some of the cool things, like the solar electric system, waste vegetable oil system, wood stove, hot water heated by waste engine heat, etc. Afterwards we gathered back in the classroom for some Q&A. I was blown away by how interested the students were. Many of them spent their recess with me and they invited me to share lunch with them. Afterwards, the 5th graders and their sweet teacher spent part of their class in Edna playing mystery games. Other than the heart-warming but silly request of many of the students for an autograph, the kindest gift was from a student named Drew, who made a Magic (the Gathering) card with a picture of me on it, cup of tea in hand, and Edna in the background (50/50 creature, one forest manna to summon, He uses tea for fun. He gives free tea and is super EPIC).

Tea time in Monrovia, CA for their Friday Night Festival.

Tea time in Monrovia, CA for their Friday Night Festival.

My dear friend Edward (who taught me to weld, and helped build my roof rack when I first bought Edna) suggested I head out one of these Fridays to Monrovia for their weekly Friday Night Festival – a street fair with music, food, and art. Having a love for these kinds of events, I couldn’t resist. Immediately upon arrival, a charismatic fellow named Jeremy took a liking to the bus. Instant buddy! And upon asking, the local board shop welcomed the tea bus to park out front, and even put out a message on their networks for folks to come on down and get some free tea.

I get gifted a massage for all my hard tea serving work.

I get gifted a massage for all my hard tea serving work.

What started as a slow evening became an amazing night with a group of young adults who call themselves “The Family.” Self-described social outcasts, this group has created their own community that has flourished, reaching numbers in the 30s or 40s at times, though there are core members who help stitch the crew together. The Friday Night Festival has served as their meeting place, and brings them out each week. Stumbling upon the tea bus, they couldn’t help but get drawn so deeply in to the concept, construction, and lifestyle behind it all. By the end of the night, with many questions asked, many cups of tea drunk, and a bunch of happy folks, they had decided on potentially purchasing their own bus – figuring out who would be the mechanic, who would build things, etc. We arrived back in Monrovia a few weeks later for another Friday event. Again, what started slow turned into another beautiful night.

Myself riding one of Edwards Frankenbikes.

Myself riding one of Edwards Frankenbikes.

Amongst our Monrovia street adventures, we spent time at the house Edward and his wife, Robin. They welcomed us to park out front, offered food and showers, fresh homegrown produce and avocados, and even let me work on a wood-working project in his shop – the build-out of my Gift and Take area (blog entry on this to come). I have to say, that after much time apart, true friends are ones as such. Edward was just as excited to be a part of the tea bus’ evolution this time around as he was 5+ years ago. We jive wonderfully and tend to bounce creative ideas off each other. A burner, bike Frankensteiner, and a builder… A true gem!

Amongst the journeys around So Cal, we were invited to come and participate with one of our favorite organizations. We love Common Vision because they are the world’s largest vegetable-oil-powered caravan, planting fruit trees at schools with kids. In the past, I’ve been on tour with, and worked on many video projects for them. This time around I created a fun little 3-minute video to highlight their orchards as living classrooms. In between all the work, I was able to be part of this community, sharing space, food, and several tea parties with all the good folks traveling on the bus, and living at the Sugar Shack – the LA home base for Common Vision. Love you guys!

Common Vision's bus, Bu, and Edna Lu.

Common Vision’s bus, Bu, and Edna Lu.

 

In Long Beach, where we stopped a few times, we served tea multiple times at the FREE YOGA that takes place on the bluff every day. Inspired to create larger access for an often-pricey class, Dharma started teaching free yoga on the bluff. What started small grew quite large and serves up to 70 or so folks on the weekends. It was a pleasure to meet many of these folks, and especially Dharma and Radharani – both of them instructors. When I served there on a weekend, it was so busy I had a line more than 30 people long. I couldn’t make tea fast enough – especially since I was making iced tea! Thank you for providing a gift for the community! It is amazing to see other projects similar to the tea bus out there.

Free Yoga on the bluff.

Free Yoga on the bluff.

On a Tuesday, we served tea at Long Beach’s Bixby Park Farmers’ Market. We pulled up to the side of the park and opened our doors, only to hear from our new friend Arturo (from Communitea Culture) that the health inspector was there. I hesitated leaving the FREE TEA sign out. I decided that an interaction with a health official was something that I needed to experience. With the steady stream of people coming in to the bus, I kept my eye out for the inspector (scanning for a clipboard). As I was chatting with a guest, he appeared.

Arturo of Communitea Culture in Long Beach pours tee.

Arturo of Communitea Culture in Long Beach pours tea at the Farmer’s Market.

Do you have a health permit for this?

I didn’t know I needed one for making friends and inviting them into my house for tea!

He was a very reasonable man, but still wanted me to shut down. I assured him throughout our conversation that I was taking my signs down, but that I wanted to know what law said I needed a permit. As I understood it, California Retail Food Code (CalCode) stated very clearly that “private homes” were not, indeed, Food Establishments, and therefore did not require a health permit. He said that signs offering tea to strangers made it public, but that I should come down to the health department and chat with them, as this was not an end-all-be-all circumstance. I obliged, and shut down.

After spending more time researching CalCode, I found the laws that govern Food Establishments. The relevant ones:

114381.  (a) A food facility shall not be open for business without a valid permit.

113789 (c) “Food facility” does not include any of the following: (2) A private home.

113758  (6) “Private home” means a dwelling, including an apartment or other leased space, where individuals reside.

Project time in Harbor City at Jon's.

Project time in Harbor City at Jon’s.

It seems pretty straight forward to me… What I do, does not require a health permit in the State of California, unless county or city law says otherwise. I could not find any law for the City of Long Beach that does… I was hoping to get a chance to stop by the Long Beach Health Department on my way back through, but didn’t get a chance.

On our way through, we stopped in Harbor City twice, where my good college friend Jon bought a house. This provided us with a perfect place to home-base ourselves. Jon, working 65 hours a week as a lawyer, had written months ago wanting to bring more things into his life like serving free tea and planting fruit trees. And so I came! His big vision includes creating a community space for town hall meetings, and free legal advice on weekends.

Gifted tea cup at San Pedro Art Walk.

Gifted tea cup at San Pedro Art Walk.

Our first evening together, we took a drive just down the road to San Pedro’s monthly art walk. I convinced him to keep the suit on he had been wearing for court, and I put on mine – tie and all – to go serve tea in. A rare rainy evening made it slow. But often that can bring a deeper sense of genuineness to tea parties. People who come in are likely to stay longer, sip more tea, and connect better with the fewer people who are there. We met a couple who had built a sauna in a trailer, some high-schoolers, and more. A kind woman who makes amazing teacups offered us one as a token of appreciation.

When I arrived back in Harbor City a couple weeks later, I set up shop in Jon’s back parking area. It was perfect to do some tinkering with my waste vegetable oil system… There was cement, power, a roof to store some tools and parts under, and a good friend who needed a hand with a few things. During this time, Ally came back down for a short visit before her big trip across the nation. A true friend Ally has become, and like her namesake, she has become an amazing ally.

The nee WVO filter (coolant wrapped).

The new WVO filter (coolant wrapped).

The new Hose-in-hose (HIH) WVO heating setup.

The new Hose-in-hose (HIH) WVO heating setup.

The few projects I was attempting (building and installing a new WVO filter and hose-in-hose setup, up-sizing the hose that feeds my centrifuge, replumbing my clean WVO to include its own pump, etc) couldn’t take more that three days, or so I thought. I ended up underneath my bus for a week and a half, with everything going wrong that possibly could. Phew, that was exhausting. A HUGE thanks to Jon for letting me work on these projects at his house. What a bro!

Now we reside in Trobuco Canyon – a wonderful sanctuary amongst the madness of Orange County. I’m here to make a couple short films for an awesome nature-based educational non-profit called EarthRoots Field School. It’s been a blessing to be brought into a community of wonderful folks, to a place I can call home, even if briefly, to share meals and land. Thank you, Jodi, Adam, and Willow!

On the full moon Edna and I crept out to the beach for a full moon drum circle, which was a blast!

Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning!

Alan, Julian, and Lucas at our equinox celebration.

Alan, Julian, and Lucas at our equinox celebration.

Today was a wonderful day. I got to sleep in for the first time in a while, so it was nice to be warm and snuggley inside Edna for a couple extra hours. Once I finally roused, I spent the day giving Edna love in the form of Spring cleaning on her inside – starting at the top, and working my way down. I only got to window level, but I’ll continue to clean her over the next week while I’m here in Trobuco Canyon editing. In the evening we had a potluck/equinox gathering here at Jodi, Adam, Willow, and Alan’s place with just 10 or 15 people. Tea, food, fire, story-telling – a wonderful way to spend the first day of Spring, and Edna’s (re)birthday. Here’s to the more years to come of tea tour!

Some equinox drumming next to the bus.

Some equinox drumming next to the bus.

Our plan from here is to take our time to get to Arizona and New Mexico. Know a place we should visit, or people we should see there? Let us know!

A big shout out and thanks to Califa and Jed in Silverlake, Gidget and the whole Giving Garden Community in Santa Monica, Jim and his whole house in Echo Park, The Leeds Family in Laguna Canyon, Chris Prelitz and Theresa in Laguna Beach, everyone at the Anneliese School in Laguna Canyon, The Sugar Shack in Mid-Town Los Angeles, my family with Common Vision on the road, Misty in Hollywood, Egon in Hollywood Village, Edward and Robin in Monrovia, David in South Pasadena, Side Street Projects in Pasadena, Ude and Blue in Harbor City, Dharma and Radharani with Free Yoga, Arturo and Anna of Communitea Culture in Long Beach, and Jodi, Willow, and Adam in Trobuco Canyon.

New skylight knob made from an old spigot handle that Edward gave me.

New skylight knob made from an old spigot handle that Edward gave me.

Some reminders every time I walk out the door.

Some reminders every time I walk out the door. I love all these!

Edwards shares some words of wisdom on something.

Edwards shares some words of wisdom on something – probably something very important.

There's always lots of interesting characters on the tea bus.

There’s always lots of interesting characters on the tea bus.

Two tea guests in Monrovia, CA.

Two tea guests in Monrovia, CA.

Some of "The Family" at the Friday Night Festival in Monrovia, CA.

Some of “The Family” at the Friday Night Festival in Monrovia, CA.

Misty sips tea on Hollywood Blvd.

Misty sips tea on Hollywood Blvd.

Christian, a traveler from Germany, rocks the Make Tea Not War sticker.

Christian, a traveler from Germany, rocks the Make Tea Not War sticker.

Michael and Leo of Common Vision sipping some tea in Mid-Town Los Angeles.

Michael and Leo of Common Vision sipping some tea in Mid-Town Los Angeles.

My grandfather, Joseph, with his Model A. Perhaps this is where I get some of my  tinkering from.

My grandfather, Joseph, with his Model A. Perhaps this is where I get some of my tinkering from.

 

Free yoga on the bluff in Long Beach, CA.

Free yoga on the bluff in Long Beach, CA.

Even the pup enjoys the tea bus. Venice Beach, CA.

Even the pup enjoys the tea bus. Venice Beach, CA.

Two wonderful tea guests in Venice Beach, CA.

Two wonderful tea guests in Venice Beach, CA.

Gidget brought cake to share on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, CA.

Gidget brought cake to share on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, CA.

Tea Time at the the Full Moon drum circle ay Aliso Creek Beach.

Tea Time at the the Full Moon drum circle at Aliso Creek Beach.

Egon plays 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on Hollywood Blvd.

Egon plays ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on Hollywood Blvd.

 

New tires in Mission Viejo, CA.

New tires in Mission Viejo, CA.

Old-school tea sipper Lunch Box from 8 years ago comes back for some tea.

Old-school tea sipper Lunch Box from 8 years ago comes back for some tea.

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Terra Vita Herbal Symposium

Many of the teachers, organizers, and others at TerraVita Herbal Symposium.

Many of the teachers, organizers, and others at TerraVita Herbal Symposium.

My friend Mason, who is the event coordinator for Mountain Rose Herbs, mentioned last November that he was helping organize an herbalism event in February in Laguna Beach. He suggested I attend to make tea, and asked if I was going to be in So Cal. Most offers and suggestions like this are usually too far in advance, or I’m not planning on being in the area. This one was different. I was planning on heading south for the winter and it sounded just right.

Laura and Kimberly (making James Green's Holy Water)

Laura and Kimberly (making James Green’s Holy Water)

The TerraVita Herbal Symposium is a biannual two-day event, happening once in Ashland, OR and once in Laguna Beach, CA every year. It brings together a community of herbal teachers and students for plant walks, classes, and this time around, free tea. I spent two days parked at the venue, the Anneliese School, making tea, popping into classes, and providing a space for people to interact.

The kind of people that this event gathered was incredible. It was hard to know what to expect because it is Orange County. Not having spent any time here, I was only subjected to the media portrayal of the area. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, the venue of the event was one of the campuses of the Anneliese School, which has a garden, horses, a huge aviary, and hosts curriculum for the kids that is extremely multifaceted. The attendees of the event were all super down to earth, eager to learn, ready for what the classes and tea bus had to offer, and friendly. I was literally overwhelmed with the attention and affection for the tea bus. Luckily there was plenty of time during classes for me to clean up, make sure there was plenty of hot water and tea, and take some personal time.

Rob's free make-your-own tea station.

Rob’s free make-your-own tea station.

Rob's free make-your-own tea station.

Rob’s free make-your-own tea station.

One of the teachers, Rob Talbert, a Laguna local, offered a free make-your-own Ayurvedic tea for everyone in attendance. What a cool thing! A man after my own heart.

After experiencing the tea bus a couple of the school’s directors asked Edna and I to come and speak to 5th ad 6th grade classes on Monday. Um… yes! More on that to come.

I want to thank Elise for organizing this event; Mason and Mountain Rose Herbs for helping make sure it happened (as well as sending us more tea and Make Tea Not War Stickers!); Kimberly, Clay, Elliot, and Logan Leeds for hosting us for two nights (my new family!); all the wonderful guests; all the teachers; the Anneliese School; and SEEDS. Wow!

Closing Circle at TerraVita Herbal Symposium

Closing Circle at TerraVita Herbal Symposium

Fun guests!

Fun guests!

Deep conversations.

Deep conversations.

More tea, sir?

More tea, sir?

Jodi and Willow :-)

Jodi and Willow :-)

Sisters!

Sisters!

Reem, her baby, and Maria - great guests!

Reem, Baby Willow, and Maria – great guests!

All ages in attendance.

All ages in attendance.

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Back on the Boulevard – Hollywood, CA

TEABUS 190

Tea on Hollywood Boulevard.

Wow folks, this is where it all began! Eight years ago this month I was lonely. Working more than full time for little pay, I was craving genuine human interaction without having to spend money. In fact, I was finding that when money was involved, the interaction was almost always less than genuine. So, there I found myself wandering down to Hollywood Boulevard in the evenings to cook my dinner on the tailgate of the pickup truck I was living in. “What are you doing?” passerbys would ask. “I’m making some dinner. Would you care to join me?” And thus an interaction would begin. People of all kinds would sit and eat with me, and then sip tea for hours as I brewed pot after pot.

Setting up for tea.

Setting up for tea.

Now, fast-forward eight years. I’ve since purchased a short school bus and converted it into a mobile free teahouse, as well as a fairly self-sustaining home on wheels. Edna (the tea bus) and I haven’t been on Hollywood Boulevard in 5 years – not since I first purchased her and was living in LA again. In that time we’ve travelled the west coast dozens of times over, as far east as Colorado, and served over 20,000 cups of free tea to around 8,000 people. We’ve served in the mountains to hikers, on the beach to surfers, on city streets to urbanites, and at festivals, farmers markets, art walks – but nowhere compares to Hollywood Boulevard.

The diversity of the Boulevard.

The diversity of the Boulevard.

They don’t call this place Hollyweird for nothing. Folks have heard me say time and again that there are folks of all kinds here, from TV producers to gutter punks, from college students to Japanese tourists. One can always count on a VERY diverse crowd at a tea party on Hollywood Boulevard. And last Tuesday was no exception.

We rolled in a couple nights before just as we arrived LA, just to get a look at the old stomping grounds. I stood there in disbelief of my bravery for serving tea amongst this madness when I was 22 years old. There are people heckling you to take tours, buy their rap CD (“Do you like hip hop?”), spare them some change, etc. There are people out to party, people out to make a buck, people out to see the stars on the sidewalk.

I knew this was going to be a full circle moment, so I asked some friends to do some filming. Capturing some of the interesting interactions was such a beautiful thing to do. There’s people in good cheer, a homeless veteran getting some things off his chest, good shots of the diversity the bus draws on the Boulevard, even a reunion with a tea sipper from five years back, etc. The resulting footage will go into a new 5-minute video I am working on for the tea bus’ website. Many of the photos throughout this post are stills taken from that footage. Thanks to Michelle and Ryan of America ByCycle, Jim, and Ally for shooting footage. I’m going to try and get out there once more to get more footage before I leave LA.

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New and old friends!
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Showcasing the outside tea zone.
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A comedian makes us laugh.
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Serving some new friends tea.
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Hip hoppers, skateboarders.
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Talking tea and more.
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Cheersing a fellow who I met 5 years ago on the Boulevard.
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Walk of Stars.
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Strangers become friends.
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Pound.
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A curious passerby approaches the bus.
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Tea inside and out.
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Egon, our new friend.
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A homeless veteran shares hard moments.
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A bus full of listeners cheers the homeless veteran to help cheer him up.
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Udaya shows up on a tall bike.
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Paul F Bunyan - Full of smiles.
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He turned 21 just minutes ago. First drink = tea!
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A traveler shows his smile.
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This guy loves Hollywood and tea!
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Talking about all sorts of things.
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It was this diversity that created the tea bus. It was these genuine human interactions that created the tea bus. It was the smiles, the fist bumps, and the tea shared amongst strangers that created the tea bus. And for this, I want to say thank you to Hollywood Boulevard.

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OJAI! Would you like to go on an adVENTURA? – Ventura County, CA

A guests enjoys the view from Edna during the Ojai Farmers' Market.

A guests enjoys the view from Edna during the Ojai Farmers’ Market.

Well yes, I would! Kidnapping my friend Ally, we left Nevada City bound for Ojai. Taking a couple days to get there, we stopped at junkyards to look for another injection pump for Edna along the way. Old highway 99 has all the junkyards coming down through Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield. Not knowing any better, we took highway 33 over the hills and into Ojai. It was a steep and winding road, but we made it on down to a temporary community house in Ojai. The house is comprised of many folks, several of whom left LA after the UP (Urban Permaculture) House was disbanded due to code violations and such. I met one of them in Colorado in 2012, and two of the other folks, Michelle and Ryan, as they bicycled down the west coast in 2012 making documentary episodes for their project called America ByCycle. They followed the tea bus for a week back then, and they came to Blues Recess Massive last summer to help serve tea at our free tea café.

New (used) and old injection pumps.

New (used) and old injection pumps.

The mess of installing a new injection pump.

The mess of installing a new injection pump.

I was stoked to accept their invitation to come work on Edna in their driveway after I sent out an email looking for such a space. Over the course of a few days, I removed and installed a new (used) injection pump, explored the area (local CSA farm, farm-to-table restaurant called Farmer to Cook, etc), and lived with this great community. The injection pump was a long time coming. After not being able to find a fuel leak on top of the motor for a couple months, I finally realized it was coming from the weep hole on the bottom of the pump, which meant she had a leaky main shaft seal. Bummer! That’s what 5 years of biodiesel will do to these Stanadyne DB2 pumps. 

Michelle and Ryan of America ByCycle.

Michelle and Ryan of America ByCycle.

On Sunday, we went to the Farmers’ Market in town. We got a perfect spot right next to the market with a patch of grass right off the sidewalk. Just as I suspected, everyone was excited and came in for tea. We had jam sessions, people reading from our library, a photographer taking photos, and more. At one point we had a bus full of people who all lived in, or had lived in, vehicles. Even the 50 or 60 year old, wonderfully dressed and well put together gal lives in a camper. It was fun to share stories.

Ojai Farmers' Market tea time.

Ojai Farmers’ Market tea time.

The only person not too excited was the market manager. She came over to us and told me that businesses across the street don’t appreciate venders being out on the sidewalk and street; if the health inspector came he would shut us down; and that Edna was taking valuable parking up for people who had to walk to their cars with groceries from the market. I assured her that I wasn’t a vender, and that I was just a fellow making friends and inviting them in for tea (there’s always exemptions for this in health codes), and that we could arrange for people to help other people carry groceries if need be. She wasn’t amused, and left in just as stern of a mood as when she came over. We stayed all day at market and we never heard from her again. I understand her concerns, and I hate to be confrontational, but I honestly believe in what I do, and I can’t be intimidated by threats – no matter how direct or indirect. Evidently she’s known for this type of behavior. Nevertheless, the guests on this day were incredible.

Michelle of America ByCycle shows us the water station at Euterpe Farm.

Michelle of America ByCycle shows us the water station at Euterpe Farm.

On Thursday we left for a day at the coast. On the way we stopped at this awesome little by-donation, wind- and solar-pumped mineral water station on the side of the road at Euterpe Farms. They host little concerts there and fun events. Edna was thirsty, so we dropped some money in the bucket and filled her up.

Ah, we really are in So Cal. Palm trees at C St.

Ah, we really are in So Cal. Palm trees at C St.

On to the beach! The spot: C Street Surf Break. This is a great spot along the boardwalk where many surfers, from novice to expert, share the waves. There are people walking, biking, skateboarding, and dancing through all day. A nice fellow named David waved at us from his awesome surf van as we pulled in looking for a parking spot. He was leaving soon and after we hung with him for a while, he offered his spot up to us. It was a mellow, but fun day, with friends from the community house coming to visit, and surfers, walkers, and other random loiterers coming for tea. It seems like surf spots like this are perfect for the tea bus, not only because there’s so many open people there, but because hot tea is great when you get out of the cold ocean.

Myself and new friend Jason (photo: Byba Sepit)

Myself and new friend Jason (photo: Byba Sepit)

That night we went back to Ojai, and after a rough couple days of food poisoning, we left for LA.

Thanks so much to the whole Ojai crew: Heath, Michelle, Ryan, Maylan, Ret, Chuck, Alex, Byba, and all the other lovely people, places, and faces.

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Disc Golf and Curtains – Nevada City, CA

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Campfire (and tea) area at Silva Acres Disc Golf Tournament.

I just wanted to give a quick little update from the journeys of Edna Lu the teabus and myself, Guisepi. I’m sitting in a cute little tea shop in Fresno, where I spent way too much money on a pot of tea (ironic, isn’t it). I spent the day driving and in junkyards looking for a new injection pump (my main shaft seal is leaking – I guess that’s what 5 years of biodiesel does to these Stanadyne DB2 pumps). Destination: Southern CA! (Maybe we’re here already?)

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Sewing one of the front curtains.

Edna and I just spent 3 weeks in Nevada City serving some tea (see New Years blog entry), and working on some fun projects. The main project I was working on was finishing up the curtains that I started with the help of my friend, Ally, last winter. It’s funny how long a project can take until completion sometimes. With the help of Ally, and her mother, Jennifer, I was able to combine my vision with their practical sewing knowledge to create exactly what it was that I wanted. Also, I got to work on Jennifer’s vintage Singer sewing machine, which was such a pleasure (my Singer Featherweight wasn’t working at the time).

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Allly helps out with some sewing.

The curtains are great! Made from (mostly) salvaged fabric (decorations from the Rootstalk tea tent, thrift store scores, and Ally’s grandmother’s old curtains), they provide a few different functions: (1) They block view so I can have the privacy one needs in their own home; (2) They block ALL LIGHT from escaping the vehicle for when I am in towns and cities that have anti-homeless laws for people sleeping in their vehicles; (3) They are black on the outside, so that along with the tinted windows, you can’t tell that curtains are drawn – only that it’s dark looking inside; and (4) They are pretty on the inside (gold and purple gypsy floral designs).

Curtain Design (skip italicized paragraphs if you aren’t interested):

Passenger side curtain.

Passenger side curtain.

The gold-colored side curtains are on a wire, and slide from out of the way and into closed position. The top is pushed against the inside side of the bus from the wire it runs on. Just above the wire, a piece of the bus juts inward, so it helps block any light from going out the top of the curtains. The bottom of these curtains snap into place to keep them from moving and light from escaping.

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Rear curtains.

The rear curtain used to be on a wire, but it got in the way every time the bed went up and down (its on a pulley system). What a PITA. Because of this, I opted to do a wireless curtain, or rather curtains, here. There are three gold curtains across the back (one for each window). They snap into place, and when you put them away, you simply pull the top snaps and stuff them in a special nook just below the windows. Keeping the bottom attached makes for an easy set up and take down. After only putting snaps on the four corners, I realized that I needed to put more snaps across the tops to keep light from escaping. 

Front curtains.

Front curtains.

The purple front curtains were such a pleasure to make. There are three that go from behind the drivers seat to in front of the copilot chair. On the sides, they snap into place. The bottoms, they either hang, snap, or magnet into place. Where the front curtains overlap, they either snap or magnet. Originally, for the tops, I was going to snap the curtains to the ceiling, but my buddy Owen urged me to do otherwise. He had converted a full-sized school bus up on Orcas Island when I was living there a few summers ago. He had ordered a flexible plastic track for the curved ceiling of his bus, and suggested I do the same. I was so torn, because I hate buying new plastic. After looking at the track and its specs online, I decided to purchase it. And boy, am I happy with it! I was able to order little plastic pieces that fit in the track that have a female snap on them. This allowed me to make curtains that could snap and unsnap from the curtain track for washing them. I also liked this because the center curtain was designed to mostly be attached to one of the side curtains, but when I want, I can detach it and re-attach it over the inside of the

Handicap door curtains.

Handicap door curtains.

windshield. I wanted to do this so that I could expand my inside living space when I had more time to set up, and being semi-obvious about living in my bus was okay (e.g. at a friends house, a festival, etc.). I also sewed a curtain for the driver’s door window, that snaps over my tools when not on the window, as well as a small curtain for a small triangular window up front.

On the handicap door, I put the remnant of the plastic curtain track on the bottom of the roof (which is on the inside). I sewed two curtains so that they open nicely to the side and look super fun and pretty. I wanted them to look nice because the door is the first thing people see when they approach the bus for tea.

Broken snap (male piece is still stuck in the female plastic piece).

Broken snap (male piece is still stuck in the female plastic piece).

Snap solution: small nuts and bolts put through snaps.

Snap solution: small nuts and bolts put through snaps.

The only problem I had in using the flexible track was with the snaps. The female snaps in the plastic pieces that slide in the track are so tight to snap the male snaps into, that it not only makes it hard to snap them in, but it makes it so about 1 in 10 snaps break apart when trying to pull the snaps apart. The male snaps come mounted to a length of webbing that you’re supposed to sew into the top of your curtains. It’s a great design, other than the breaking snaps. To fix this, I decided to purchase some super small stainless nuts and bolts, which bolt right through the center of the snaps. I put some thread locker on them, and all seems good!

Snapped on cushion cover on fridge.

Snapped on cushion cover on fridge.

Other projects that I worked on were: re-sewing the cushion on the fridge so that it snaps to the lid and doesn’t slide around anymore; attaching the handicap door inside roof in a more secure manner; installing a new fresh water pump (love this!!!); installing a magnetic latch for the cabinet door on the front of the box below the copilot chair; and fixing and installing a new brass water filter faucet from the ReStore.

Truk passing out prizes.

Truk passing out prizes.

Amongst the projects, I made time to serve tea at the Silva Acres Open Disc Golf Tournament. Silva Acres is an amazing disc golf course on private land, built mostly by the hands of a fellow named Truk. Several years ago Truk had experienced a dark part of his life, which ultimately led to an accidental over-dose on pharmaceutical drugs. This left him in both physically and mentally rough shape. He doesn’t remember a month of his life. Slowly he began to come back to reality, but with a lot of anger. Instead of letting this fire cause destruction, he channeled it. His method was to go into the forest behind his folks’ house and just start clearing. He cleared branches and brush, but didn’t quite know why at first. Then he knew. He was building a disc golf course. Over the next couple years, and with the help of friends and family, he has transformed the property into a top-notch 18-hole course (two of the world’s best disc golfers were at this tournament). His story is inspiring because of his low-point that created such a high, not only for Truk, but for such a large community of disc golfers, friends, and family. And thus, Silva Acres Disc Golf Course was built.

I met Truk last Summer in Nevada City when I was serving tea (blog entry here). He came aboard the tea bus and said something like, “No way! This is what I wanted to do.” Inspired by all the free tea he received from locals in Nepal when he was traveling there a little while back, he had decided he wanted to use free tea in a similar way. After he found the tea bus, he took his truck on the road to Santa Cruz and served free tea to strangers. He also made it a custom to make free tea in the clubhouse at Silva Acres for all the players and guests. Excited about all that FREE TEA holds, he invited us to come make tea at the Silva Open, the second annual disc golf tournament at his course.

The tea zone at Silva Acres.

The tea zone at Silva Acres.

Ally, Edna, and I arrived first thing in the morning and set up at the top of the hill in the center of the property. The Sunday before the tournament they light a fire in a fire pit up there, and keep it burning through set up and until the tournament ends on Sunday evening. This fire creates a space for people to gather out in the course. We were lucky enough to get Edna up the hill to perch just next to the fire. We set up a rug, chairs, a small table, and cushions, made tea and invited people in.

Tea guests at the disc golf tournament.

Tea guests at the disc golf tournament.

The day was exciting. We made one of Mountain Rose’s new blends – Mint Chocolate Maté – which when served with cream and honey is just about one of the most delicious energizing teas I can imagine. The people loved it! The players, fans, family – everyone came for tea. In the little down time we had, I tinkered with the brass faucet I bought at The ReStore that wasn’t working (wasn’t fully machined inside – must’ve been a floor model. A few holes drilled, a couple holes tapped, and we were good to go). When the evening wrapped up, we had the awards ceremony and a raffle up next to the bus and campfire.

Reunion with Sash and Dominique, who were ridesharers 5 years ago.

Reunion with Sasha and Dominique, who were ridesharers 5 years ago.

Edna and I also had the wonderful surprise of a couple folks who had been ridesharers on the bus in her early days (5 years ago). Sasha and Dominique, two Stanford students, got a ride with us from the Bay at Humboldt with a couple of their friends. It was great to see their smiling faces, as well as some friends they brought. I love sharing Edna with people who haven’t seen her since the early years, when she was just a yellow shell.

When the night was done, we spent a magical moment with Truk and wished him farewell.

And now we travel south towards Ojai, where we will be briefly before heading to LA and beyond!

SOUTHERN CA: Come find us on Hollywood Blvd or at the TerraVita Herbal Symposium on Feb 8-9th in Laguna Beach.

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New Years Eve – Nevada City, CA

Miss Pink get serenaded.

Miss Pink get serenaded.

Every year I celebrate the New Year as an anniversary of serving free tea. It was eight years ago this January that I first started serving tea on Hollywood Blvd to strangers. I learned in those early days that included in the genuine interaction I was seeking with people, I would have to be a listening ear, provide a comfortable space for people who are going through rough times, and be a genuine friend to these complete strangers. Last night was a reminder of many of these things for me.

Throughout the evening there was good number of people who were out seeking relief, going through emotional pains, in rough relationships, and more. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it’s a new year and people take time to reflect on the past and future at this point in time, or the fact that there’s lots of drinking involved, but there were many out who needed the tea bus.

This is one of my favorite things about the service that the tea bus provides: the services we provide are multifaceted, and not always obvious at first glance.

A fellow came up to the bus, but was nearly in tears. It was obvious he had a lot going on in his mind. He couldn’t even pick out a tea to drink, and finally when he was sipping his tea, his tears came out. When he was finished, he said, “I don’t want any more tea, but can I just stay here for a while?” He was overheard talking to some other guests, telling them about how he hated this world and didn’t want to be here. But throughout the evening, he began to play music, talk to people, a friend of his came by and called his name eagerly. In the end he sang us a song and left with a little more lightness in his stride.

Xmas tree Rosemary bush lights the way.

Xmas tree Rosemary bush lights the way.

A middle-aged woman came to the bus with some friends. Not only was she the only one brave enough to come aboard, but she was also the most curious. She asked the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that many people ask. I could see on her face that she was inspired by my answers and immediately she became comfortable. When the chance came up for her, she began to tell me about her daughter who passed away very suddenly recently. She told me how her daughter would have loved the bus and the whole concept. When I learned that the daughter had lived in the Eureka/Arcata area, where I have served lots and lots of tea, I told her that her daughter had probably been on the bus at one point in time and sipped a cuppa tea. This touched her, and she left the bus with a little spark of happiness amongst the grief of losing her daughter.

At one point, four teenage girls came to the bus. Two of them were eager for tea and interaction, while the other two looked at their phones and urged them to leave for a party. The two who got tea were full of questions – whys, hows, and whats. Captivated by my responses, they encouraged their two friends to stay saying, “How often do you come across something like this?” Eventually all four girls were listening and interacting, and they stayed until the last drops of tea were sipped from their cups. As they left, one of them turned to me and said, “This changed my life.”

A nice fellow plays some nice songs on a nice mando.

A nice fellow plays some nice songs on a nice mando.

A 50-something-year-old fellow came to the bus and was immediately intrigued. He was a little quirky, a little quiet, a little shy, but you could see in his eyes that he sought community and connection. I run into fellows like this sometimes. They become regulars on the bus when we’re around. Maybe it’s because their lonely, want to interact, and seek some guidance and answers for these things. Because I was a somewhat like this before I started serving tea, I tend to connect well with them. This particular fellow was in and out of the bus all night. “Why be anywhere else?” he said in regards to the countdown to the New Year. I told him I made a conscious decision that this country, my home country, is where my energy is best put towards making a change in this world. He said he made the same decision in his life years ago, but felt like he wasn’t acting on his desire to make a difference. I could tell when he left, however, that his unspoken New Years Resolution was to act on this desire. I could see in it his eyes – the way that the wheels were turning in his mind.

A young woman enjoyed spending some time on the bus, ringing in the New Year with a few of us. Later, she left and came back with her boyfriend and friends. She came to me and said, “You’re saving people tonight, providing a space like this. You even helped save a rocky relationship. Thank you.”

Eghan, Ally, and others.

Eghan, Ally, and others.

It was great to have such a mix of people throughout the evening: my good friends Eghan, Ally (and even her parents briefly), Suzette, and Gregory all showed; a fellow who I had met while serving tea at Reed College a month ago; Miss Pink (who called me four years ago and tried to convince me to travel with her pink revolution across the country); two ladies who used to live on Lopez Island (sent by my friend Sue); Keith (who was traveling in a bus when I met him in Eureka last year); Sam (another RV dweller); Truk (who has been on his own free tea adventures in his truck); several musicians; and more all came in for tea. The conversations dipped in and out of politics, money, dreams, environment, community building, and our intentions for the year to come. I feel blessed to have been in such company, and to be a well-used service to people in need.

Tea is not the defining feature of the tea bus, only the vehicle for some of these unseen services. It is a pleasure to share them.

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

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Merry Xmas! Winter Update – Nevada City, CA

 

Merry Xmas! Free Tea sign was a gift from Noah and Ashley. Copper Tea kettle ornament was a gift from Jennifer. Xmas tree shaped Rosemary bush was a gift from Whitney. Ornaments, lights, and candles were from a dumpster.

Merry Xmas! Free Tea sign was a gift from Noah and Ashley. Copper Tea kettle ornament was a gift from Jennifer. Xmas tree shaped Rosemary bush was a gift from Whitney. Ornaments, lights, and candles were from a dumpster

Well, it seems as if the craziness of Spring and Summer caught up with us, and our focus over the course of fall has shifted from outward craziness (serving tea, events, traveling) to more inward craziness (many, many bus projects). We arrived in Portland in early October on my birthday, where we’ve been for the most part (except this crazy weekend in Eugene). Edna and I have been staying with our dear friends Owen and Whitney, where we have been hosted with grace. There’s an amazing shop space here, as well as plenty of space to park Edna, and other nomads who bring their rigs in, such as Ally and her tea van, and Sarah, Waka, Tahi, and their Acro Yoga RV. It was a beautiful sight to walk out the back door of the house to see the mist of autumn creep in with a couple vans and buses in the yard with a campfire pit in the center, and a wood-fired hot tub between it all.

Owen's Shop

Owen’s Shop

Ally’s van was another project that we worked on a bit, from draining and refilling the rear differential, changing the oil, and bleeding the brakes, to installing a rod to keep her belongings from sliding across the floor when she brakes, putting in some hooks, and finding prized parts at the junkyard for fixing her wing windows. It was fun to share knowledge about hands on things and then let her run with it and fix/build things herself.

I also helped out my buddy Owen by helping organize some of his shop (including most of the nuts/bolts/hardware), and we built two awesome 4’x8’ work benches on casters.

IMG_4671To break up all the projects, Edna and I got out a little bit into the city to make tea for people. We served a bunch of tea up at an Elephant Revival show at the Aladdin Theater, as well as a Shook Twins show at the Alberta Rose Theater. On Halloween, we setup on Alberta St. for an unofficial Last Thursday Art Walk where we had crazy medicine man, ninjas, a police officer playing guitar (not sure if it was a costume or not), an inmate doing a strip tease, and myself and Ally as the King and Queen of Junk. There were jam sessions and my buddy William showed up with his WonderVan, which is a nicely built out minimalist space on wheels. Another fellow who I pointed in the direction of a sweet diesel van for sale during the VBC came by with that van that he had recently moved into. We geeked out on some things and I shared some crucial info.

King and Queen of Junk

King and Queen of Junk

Inmate does a strip-tease.

Inmate does a strip-tease.

Halloween Jam Session

Halloween Jam Session

Medicine man

Medicine man

Hey, everyone needs tea.

Hey, everyone needs tea.

 

I bought a nice little folding bike on Craig’s List that needed some work, so I brought Edna a couple times to a place called Bike Farm and shared tea and some of Ally’s baked goods with all the folks there. Bike Farm is an awesome project. Several days per week they are open to the public and have volunteers there to help you learn how to fix your bike. There’s tools, bike stands, cheap/used bike parts, etc. I love this place! I put new tires on, put on new brake pads, trued my rims, repacked my wheel bearings, etc. I love learning new things like this. Mad respect to Bike Farm.

Tea at Reed College. Photo: Chris Ellis

Tea at Reed College. Photo: Chris Ellis

Edna and I were also invited back by Reed College to come serve tea. If you remember, we arrived on campus without permission during finals week in the Spring and served up a gang of tea. They liked us so much that they invited us back. We spent 15 hours there and made over 300 cups of tea. It was a long day filled with students, faculty, facilities staff, alums, and to top it off, there was a “noise parade” that demonstrated against Reeds investment in fossil fuels. I truly love serving tea to college students, especially brainy ones like Reed students, who intellectually get what I do and love it. Thanks to Gary (Community Safety) for not kicking us off campus the first time around, and telling Student Activities to have us back. Thanks to Daphne for arranging it all. Thanks to Ryn for buying us milk in the dining hall so we could make tons of chai. Thanks to the students who donated teas both times we were there. Thanks to Rebecca for writing a sweet little article for The Reed Quest (Reed it here).

Serving at Reed College. Photo: Chris Ellis

Serving at Reed College. Photo: Chris Ellis

Photo for the Reed Quest. Photo: Chris Ellis

Photo for the Reed Quest. Photo: Chris Ellis

A lull at Reed

A lull at Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the bus projects:

INSIDE:

Fold-down desk.

Fold-down desk.

- Fold-down desk/curved shelf. This was a big one. I had been wanting to fill the one void in the bus with this fold down desk idea that had been brewing in my head for a while. It was a fun project, but took a while. The desk is essentially a cabinet with a fold-down front that becomes the desk. To support the desk, there’s an old brass adjustable window bracket, which can be adjusted depending on what angle the bus is parked on. Inside the cabinet there’s several shelves, each of which has a sweet little wooden box that slides easily in and out. Each box has a purpose (misc tools, electronic gear, desk/craft stuff, fun stuff). To latch the desk shut, you just lightly slam it into place and a cool brass catch keeps it up. On the side of the desk are both a 110v outlet and a 12v outlet. This allows me to run my computer and hard drives for video editing and other computer work. On the top of the desk is a curved shelf that goes from the side of an upper cabinet to the wall. The front piece is eight separate 1/8” thick pieces of redwood that I glued together one at a time while clamped to a piece of ¾” plywood shaped in the curve I wanted. This was the longest part of the desk project, as I waited at least 24 hours between every glue up. In the end the curve wasn’t quite as arced as I wanted, but it was so close that it ended up working great.

Cardboard mockup of curved shelf.

Cardboard mockup of curved shelf.

Empty space for the desk.

Empty space for the desk.

Desk cabinet being worked out.

Desk cabinet being worked out.

Fold-down desk.

Fold-down desk.

Plywood jig for the curved shelf.

Plywood jig for the curved shelf.

Using the fold-down desk to work on my computer.

Using the fold-down desk to work on my computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple heart sink shelf.

Purple heart sink shelf.

- Sink shelf – In front of the sink there has been an unfinished edge where the sink rests on the front of the cabinet frame. I had been holding onto a beautiful piece of Purple Heart for this exact project, but it was too thick. I was wanting to find a planer to thin it out, but ended up doing a fine job milling it down on the table saw. I attached the shelf using some salvaged shelf brackets to the front of the face frame, and curved the inside of the shelf to match the curve of the sink. I was worried that it might be in the way, or feel weird, since the sink is often my main perch while serving tea. But alas, the shelf looked and felt beautiful, with its purple color deepening more as the days drew on after I milled it down.

Covered window/shelf/shop towel holder.

Covered window/shelf/shop towel holder.

- Covered window/shelf/towel roll – In the front of the bus there’s a small window that I don’t really use. It’s down low, and in front of the flapper doors. Many similar buses don’t even have them. I keep my tools there, so I can’t see out of it anyways. I painted a nice piece of thin plywood black on one side, and finished the other side with hemp oil/citrus thinner, and covered the window with it from the inside. It sits in a little cubby, so I put a piece of wood across the front, and now it perfectly fits boxes of rubber gloves. Above it, I added in a piece of antique brass tubing with some custom dowel holders made from salvaged hardwood to hold those blue shop towels that come on a roll like paper towels. It fits perfectly, and you can get a towel out without even lifting the hinged shelf above/in front of it.

Ceiling trim.

Ceiling trim.

- Ceiling trim – I had done most of my ceiling trim a couple years ago, but had left a little unfinished – mostly above the bed where no one but myself saw it. I had also broken a piece of ceiling trim at one point, and cut another too short when closet plans had changed mid-build. I decided to get all this wrapped up and finished, along with some stainless guides for the line in my bed pulley system. The ceiling trim is Ipe (which is kind of like a plastic of the forest) cut into thin strips and screwed in.

- Wood Stove Rebuild – I love my little stove, but it was running so hot, and I noticed that a lot of the sealant was starting to come out. My theory is that since my wood stove sat in a barn for seven years after being built, that the stove cement never cured right because it really needs to be fired to cure fully. This left it in a vulnerable spot. That, along with the many bumps in the road, had taken its toll. Andrew Moore, the stove-maker, suggested that a rebuild was too hard and that just resealing it would be sufficient. When I took it out, I realized how bad the cement was coming out, so I decided on the full rebuild. I looked online to see what people had to say about it and just did it. It’s pretty much just four sides clamped together between the top and bottom by four long stainless bolts that run through the inside of the stove. After complete disassembly, I cleaned out all the old cement with wire brushes, cleaned all the pieces, and used some denatured alcohol where any cement was to go. To rebuild, I started by putting cement around the perimeter of the bottom, put the two long side upright in the cemented bottom (had a friend hold them), cemented the grooves in the other two sides, put them in place, duct-taped all the corners, ran my wet (and gloved) finger along the seams to smooth out the cement, cemented the top perimeter, put it on, and ran the bolts through the stove and tightened them enough to get some cement to squish out, but not all of it. I cleaned up all the seams while it was still wet and let it dry inside the house. The one big problem that I ran into was that one of the sides was slightly taller than the other sides. It must have been done this way in the casting process, or perhaps when Andrew cleaned up the castings. But it kind of messed up my cement job in that it made the stove a little less stable while I got it all squared up. I ended up having to come back in and reseal a place or two once the first layer of cement was dry. Next, I refinished the stove with a nice black stove polish. My stove tends to see a bit of water because it’s right next to the sink, so I try to polish it once a year or so to keep the rust to a minimum. The next day when I got it all back installed, and I did my first firing, it was super weird how many of the seams started to steam. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but it might have been because the cement still wasn’t totally dry. I’m not sure. It’s held up since, so I’m not too worried.

Wood stove rebuild photos:

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Tea Menu! Stained with Pu-erh.

Tea Menu! Stained with Pu-erh.

- Tea-staining – Throughout all this, Ally and I got into some tea staining, starting with some paper for our new tea menus, and getting into my bed sheets, and some of her clothes. Over-steeping and boiling tea draws out tannins. Tannins give many dark woods their rich colors, which makes tea great for staining all sorts of things from fabric to wood to paper. I have been working on a tea menu for the past year, formulating ideas, making sure I can get all the teas from our sponsors on a regular basis, doing design and layout, etc. This summer I was given some bi-fold menu covers (Thanks Ric and Joan!), which were perfect for my project. The menu has a sweet cover with art by Catherine Moore (where most of our website and sticker art has come from) and teas from Mountain Rose Herbs, Eco Teas, and Organic India. The inside carries a big selection of caffeinated and non-caffeinated teas, spices, herbs, and blends. The back cover highlights many of the people who help support the teabus.

Boiling various teas for tea-staining.

Boiling various teas for tea-staining.

Brewing several gallons of tea for staining.

Brewing several gallons of tea for staining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea stained paper: Pu'erh, Early Grey, Darjeeling, Houjicha, blank.

Tea stained paper: Pu’erh, Early Grey, Darjeeling, Houjicha, blank.

Tea-stained clothes

Tea-stained clothes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inverter mounted under co-pilot chair.

Inverter mounted under co-pilot chair.

- Inverter – This was another major step. I had been hauling around and storing this great inverter for a couple years, but finally got everything ready to install. It is mounted underneath the copilot chair in a cabinet with built in ventilation and easy access. I had to drill down through the floor into the battery compartment below, line the hole with PVC pipe, and wire everything up with a fuse, large 2/0 cable, lugs, and heat shrink tubing. This inverter is awesome because it provides the bus with up to 1000 watts of pure sine wave 110v power. This makes it possible to run all sorts of regular household things. I will use it mostly to charge 18v power tools, run my computer, etc. Make/Model: Xantrex ProSine 1000.

Inverter cables ready to go.

Inverter cables ready to go.

Holes drilled in floor for running the cables from the batteries to the inverter.

Holes for the inverter cables to the batteries below.

Crimping the lug on the inverter cables.

Crimping the lug on the inverter cables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken water filter cap.

Broken water filter cap.

- Miscellaneous – Cork board in the closet for hanging souvenirs, a rack inside a food storage cabinet for easier access to food, a door for the guitar slot and a trim piece above it, a fold down shelf on the inside of the back door for putting things on/working on projects, fixed the water filter (which keeps cracking – anyone want to sponsor us with a new water filter?), a new handle for helping people get into the bus through the big side door, and probably many more things that I just can’t remember.

MECAHNICAL/ELECTRICAL

- Rear Differential – drained, cleaned, and refilled. Added a temperature sensor.

- Transmission – drained (including the torque converter), new filter, new pan (with a drain plug – yay!), refilled. Changed out the old temp sensor with a new one.

- Oil Change – Just the basic

New starting batteries/hold-downs.

New starting batteries/hold-downs.

- New Batteries – My old ones were pretty much toast. I decided to upgrade the way my battery cables attach to the batteries. To do this, I took some pieces that clamped on battery posts and gave them ¼”-20 threaded posts, and on my cables, I crimped on lug ends. This makes it incredibly easy to hook up or unhook my batteries. It’s just a wing nut on each terminal. I also upgraded the ground on one of my batteries to 2/0. Everything else was 2/0, just not that one. I also bought new universal battery hold-downs. I had been riggin up all sort of things to hold down the batteries for years because I never had the original hold-downs. Finally, I bit the bullet and bought some new (adjustable) pieces of plastic (I hate buying plastic). With a few modifications, they worked great!

Old leaky caps on the solar/house batteries.

Old leaky caps on the solar/house batteries.

New battery caps on solar/house batteries.

New battery caps on solar/house batteries.

- Solar Battery Bank Caps – I upgraded my solar/house batteries this Spring to some much nicer Trojan T-105s. I had taken the battery caps off my old batteries and put them on my new ones because they opened and removed all three caps on a battery at one time. However, they leaked quite a bit. After doing some research, I found that often these caps that do three at once often leak. So, I sprung for some called Water Misers. Apparently, they allow off-gassing, but capture some of the water back and keep it in the battery. They’re perty and seem to work well so far (no leaks!).

Oil Cooler rebuilt.

Oil Cooler rebuilt.

- Oil Cooler Rebuild – I had been dreading this project, mostly because I knew nothing about it. In the end, however, it wasn’t too hard – just messy. I had oil leaking out onto my oil filter, and dripping down in a few other places and determined it was the oil cooler o-rings. Fortunately, with this motor (International 7.3 IDI) on the E-Series Ford Vans (as opposed to the Ford Trucks) you don’t have to jack up the engine to remove the oil-cooler. Also, conveniently, the International bigger trucks use the same oil cooler setup as the vans. I mis-ordered the front gasket, but was able to get it from the International parts dealer here in Portland. I had to drain the oil and coolant (make sure you drain the coolant that’s in the block too!), take out the lower radiator hose, remove the battery ground, and unbolt the cooler. After taking it off, it came apart with a few whacks with a rubber mallet. The outer o-rings were falling apart, but the inner o-rings were okay. It had probably never been apart in 24 years. I replaced the o-rings, and then used a floor jack (with the cooler between it and the frame of the bus) to push the two ends back on the tube – difficult, but fun. I got it all back together, filled her back up with fluids, and voilá, no more leaks.

I learned through a bunch of this mechanical stuff that I have a latex allergy. Both times that I used latex gloves for several hours, my hands got little swollen red itchy painful bumps. I guess I have to use nitrile.

Owen's Shop

Owen’s Shop

I feel super blessed to have been living at Owen and Whitney’s place, to use their shop, and to have a place to call home, even if so briefly. A big ol’ thanks to them.

I was also fortunate to have met a fellow named Ray, who is also a WVO (waste vegetable oil) user. I was selling some aluminum fuel line on Craig’s List listed for use with WVO and he responded. He was super adamant about WVO needing to be free, and since he doesn’t have a WVO car at the moment, and he still collects from some restaurants, he hooked me up with 90 gallons for free! That will get me most of the way to LA. Thanks, Ray!

Edna and I left Portland on the 23rd, headed south for warmer weather and Christmas with friends. As of now, we’re in Nevada City, CA finishing our curtains, possibly replacing our injection pump, and working a few other projects before heading to southern California come January. Our main destination is Los Angeles, but we’re looking into some other places as well (Slab City? Oceanside? Quartzite????).

Donation from Wish Garden Herbs.

Donation from Wish Garden Herbs.

Recently we received an amazing donation to share with our tea guests from Wish Garden Herbs of a boxful of tinctures, from immune-boosters to sleep-helpers to emotional-soothers. Runa Tea also sent us a huge box of various blends of their Guayusa (relative of Maté). We also stopped at Mountain Rose Herbs on our way south to pick up a big box of various teas. I would like to thank both of these companies for being so so so generous with us. Thank you!!!

WE NEED: A shop/work space in southern CA. Do you have one? Or know anyone who has one? We can work-trade :-)

Runa Donation

Awesome donation from Runa Tea.

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Weekend of Tea – Eugene, OR

 

The tea zone at the Free Herbalism Project event.

The tea zone at the Free Herbalism Project event. Photo: Thomas Dick

 

I knew I was going to be heading to Eugene on Sunday for the second Free Herbalism Project event (see blog entry from the first one here). As time drew nearer, I began to think I should head down the night before from Portland, just to make sure I was there and well rested. Ah, but the Saturday Market is happening the day before, and that’s always a fun one, I thought to myself. I should show up the night before. Oh, and wait, the Birds of Chicago are playing on Friday. And shoot, the Fermentation on Wheels bus was having a going away party on Thursday. In this manner, my day trip to Eugene took on a much longer form.

Fermentation on Wheels bus.

Fermentation on Wheels bus.

I packed up on Thursday and made my way south, arriving Eugene just in time to make it to the Fermentation on Wheels going-away potluck. Run by a gal named Tara, Fermentation on Wheels is a similar project to the tea bus, only their focus is on ferments – from kraut to cider. Tara is just starting a US tour where she will be traveling, working on farms, fermenting foods, and teaching workshops. I had been in touch with her, because I appreciated her project and wanted to be a helpful person for her journeys in bus land.

Fermentation on Wheels party.

Fermentation on Wheels party.

The potluck was aboard her mid-sized school bus. It is set up with a kitchen and bedroom, deluxe captain’s chair, carpet, cabinets, and best of all a sweet fermentation station built by a nice local craftsman. I brought the tea grab-basket, hot water, and cups. We all ate ferments, cheeses, salamis, fruit salad, and more. Many folks showed up and we had a grand time, with a fellow named Banjo playing a banjo and singing with his sweetheart. We talked bus conversions and travel. I shared Edna a bit with folks, and it was a grand night.

Mechanical (i.e. skip if boring):

As I drove off into the night towards my buddy Mason’s house, Edna’s transmission started shifting funny. I pulled over, only to find the tranny fluid was super low. No fluid to be found at 7-11. I took the chance and drove halfway across town to the only open gas station. After filling the tranny, I found a small leak on the fitting that runs tranny fluid into my radiator, I wonder if this is why I’ve been having transmission issues. I could’ve sworn I checked the fluid recently and it looked fine. The next morning I tightened the fitting, but it was so loose that I think I need to take it out and put new Teflon tape on it. Luckily, I was already planning on dropping the transmission pan, changing the filter, and replacing the fluid.

Tahi gets flown by Sara.

Tahi gets flown by Sara.

The next evening started a 48-hour journey of non-stop tea serving. I found myself parked in front of Cozmic Pizza around 5pm, where my friends, Birds of Chicago, were playing. They seemed beat from the journey (one of them is pregnant – congrats!), but put me on the guest list. All sort of people stopped by the bus that evening – musicians, street folks, a dancer, etc. We chatted and sipped. It was fun to reconnect with the Birds, as well as make some new friends. My friends Sara, Whaka, and their little girl Tahi all came for tea and to do some Acro Yoga (Sara was my second mom in LA when I first bought the bus, and helped me get some of my first tea sponsors, including Mountain Rose Herbs). It was a late night, but luckily a local woman let me park at her house for the night so I could arise early to get good parking for the Saturday Market. She gave me some tea she had made as part of an herbalism course. Strictly floral, this tea has become a favorite…

Whaka flys a tea guest at the  Saturday Market.

Whaka flys a tea guest at the Saturday Market.

At the Eugene Saturday Market, Edna and I set up just across the street. We had a nice corner with plenty of space. Sara and Tahi came to help serve tea, and Whaka set up to do some Acro Yoga for people. This couple is amazing. They travel in a diesel Sprinter RV, spending their summers running a stand-up paddle boarding business in Wisconsin, and then travel for much of the rest of the year while teaching yoga, Acro Yoga, and Thai massage, as well as doing bodywork (Thai massage, therapeutic acro yoga). One of the things Whaka does is just “fly” people everywhere they go – meaning that he puts you up in the air on his legs, and puts you in all sorts of positions while stretching and massaging you. I will tell you that this is one of the most wonderful things your body can experience. And people see/feel this, which gets them excited about learning, getting bodywork, or attending a workshop. It’s really a win-win situation. Sara, Whaka and Tahi showed up to almost all the events I was serving at this weekend, and it was such a blessing. See their website here.

The Market brought out many amazing folks from students to vendors. I presented the Gift and Take box to a homeless couple who were in dire need. Eugene is a pretty receptive town for something like the tea bus. My dear friends Matthew and Steph stopped by with their four-month-old Jobin. Marshé, who used to be Mountain Rose’s event coordinator, came by with her niece for some good catch-up. I love all these people.

I packed up in the afternoon, filled up some biodiesel, and headed out to Lost Valley, which is an ecovillage and Permaculture learning center a little ways outside Eugene. I had been to Lost Valley a couple times before to have a look around and serve tea. On this day they were having their annual open-house/harvest party/potluck. I set up for tea, ate some good food, and met all sort of fun interesting folks. Of course at a place like this people were super interested in all my alternative systems like solar, waste vegetable oil, biodiesel, woodstove, water, greywater, etc. I seem to come back to this place every couple years, and hope to continue to do so. Thanks, Lost Valley! And thanks to Simon for inviting us out there this time!

The whole Free Herbalism Crew (Mountain Rose folk, Steven and Howie, Free Tea Party folk)

The whole Free Herbalism Crew (Mountain Rose folk, Steven and Howie, Free Tea Party folk). Photo: Thomas Dick

 

Guisepi and Ally sipping and serving tea. Photo: Thomas Dick

Guisepi and Ally sipping and serving tea. Photo: Thomas Dick

Early the next morning I awoke to drive to Mt. Pisgah to set up for the Free Herbalism Project. The site itself is gorgeous, with massive Maple trees, large fields, birds, and this time, lots of fall color. The morning was misty and cold, but it looked majestic with the little bit of sunshine shining through. Ally arrived at 9:30 and we got to setting up with the help of a few Mountain Rose Herbs folks. A little later Daruka arrived with some friendly faces that we had met at Blues Recess Massive. Move bus, roll out rugs, place cushions, start heating water, set up tables, hang parachute, decide that parachute doesn’t work, take parachute down, sweep rugs, put out mugs, make signage, put out sweeteners and milks, hang Free Tea sign, put out bus tub, arrange picnic tables, start serving tea. People arrived before I felt ready, but I just started handing out tea. I had met a nice fellow named Cypress at the Fermentation on Wheels party who had served tea at the Symbiosis Festival this summer, so I invited him to come and help for the day. With him, Ally, Daruka, Sara, Whaka, and the two folks from Blues Recess (Ani and Mikayla), we were set.

Tea passing!

Tea passing!

The event is part of the Free Herbalism Project, which Mountain Rose Herbs (one of our sponsors) created to bring herbal lectures, plant walks, etc. to people for free! Their first one was in August (see bog entry here), where we served our 20,000th cuppa free tea. This time we had the honor of having Howie and Steven from the Columbines School of Botanical Studies hosting a Basic Botany and a Medicinal Plants of the Northwest lecture. There was merchandise for sale here, but all the proceeds are donated to different groups. This time it was donated to Columbines School.

Making tea upon request!

Making tea upon request!

The crowd was smaller this time ‘round, but we actually served more tea (around 700 cups). We were non-stop busy, but our slight lack of preparation last time put us in better standing this time, and our line didn’t get nearly as long. This kind of interaction of serving tea in a kind of hurriedly manner is not my favorite on the genuine human connection end of things, but nevertheless, it still has a level of deep beauty. Cypress was a great tea server, but got a little antsy when the line got long. Ally, whose philosophy is patience is a virtue of the tea experience, took a look at the line and saw people talking and interacting. She reminded him that this wasn’t a coffee bar, and a woman in line said Amen to that! I think  the efficiency that Cypress wanted alongside the authenticity of human interaction that Ally wanted was a perfect balance to have from these two tea servers.

Last time at the Free Herbalism Project I was too busy doing legwork to serve tea. This time, I made sure to serve up a bunch of tea myself. This was so great! I love getting to say hello and interact with all the folks who come up to the bus, even at this fast pace. Even though it was quick work, I took the time to speak individually with people who wanted to interact. There were some great conversations! We were also blessed to have Whaka flying people!

At the end of the day, I sat to reflect upon the past three days of making tea. It had been a long and draining weekend, but I felt more satisfied that I had in a while. When the mind and body just want to rest, and we feel good about our work – that is pure satisfaction. We packed up, ate a good meal, and hit the hay.

Next stop: Portland! We’ll be spending some time there doing some bus projects and then heading south for the winter. Come to the Elephant Revival show on the 25th at the Aladdin Theater!

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Autumn Update – Arcata, CA

Summer Nights in Nevada City, CA

Summer Nights in Nevada City, CA

When you have no strict itinerary, there’s a lot of wiggle room. And I like it! I left Portland and headed straight to my Wilderness First Responder course (see blog entry here)  knowing only that I was going to see my new nephew in Arcata afterwards (see Summer Update). I thought I might come right back up to Portland to finish some projects and get myself ready to head east. But alas, as I thought might happen, I was pulled deeper into California.

Nevada City

Nevada City

After a brief stay in Shelter Cove, Blues Recess Massive (see blog entry here) brought me into the Sierra Mountains, a place I have spent very little time. Preparing for Recess and decompressing afterwards found Edna Lu the tea bus and myself in Nevada City. I was hosted so wonderfully by my friend Ally’s parents, Steve and Jennifer. Having a place to stage and decompress as such is such a blessing. Hot showers, place to park, food, and a family. A big thanks to the Rugge Family!

While in Nevada City, I served tea in conjunction with a local teahouse and art gallery, wittingly named Elixart. The owner was super nice and invited us to serve out front on a Friday while he was hosting a Kava tea party. It was a great evening.

Nevada City folk

Nevada City folk

A fellow named Truk had come aboard the tea bus, and said, “No way! This is what I wanted to do!” He had been in Nepal not too long ago and would go on what he called Tea Treks. In Nepal, as in many places, people just invite you in for (free) tea all the time, whether it’s at a shop or a home. Truk liked just wandering and sipping in the culture in this way. He decided that when he got back to the States he would offer free tea to people from his truck, but had yet to do it. A week or so later when I was back in Nevada City after Blues Recess Massive, Truk came back aboard and told me that he’d gone to Santa Cruz and set up his truck with a FREE TEA sign and shared many a cups of tea with strangers. Yes! I love it!

Tea time at the Hobo Jungle in Roseville, CA

Tea time at the Hobo Jungle in Roseville, CA

On my way back to Nevada City from Blues Recess, I stopped in Sacramento to grab something from the junkyard. I realized that my route back to Nevada City was going to lead me right by Roseville, where one of the west coast’s largest train yards is. I had spent many-a-days and nights waiting for freight trains right there behind the Roseville Market. I decided that since it was so hot and I had a bunch of refrigerated chai left over from the festival that I would take it down to the hobo jungle (catch out spot) and see if anyone was around who needed a cold refreshing pick-me-up. An abandoned housing development that never happened left a paved road leading right to the catch out spot. I pulled Edna Lu right there to the jungle and immediately noticed someone sitting against their pack. Gregory was a mellow talking black man who rides trains around the west a bit. I shared some cold chai with him and we talked about trains. He told me that there were no more liberal radio stations anymore – they were all being bought up by conservatives and he was having a hard time finding any stations to listen to on his hand-held radio. Although the chai wasn’t his favorite, he (and I) enjoyed the company. Thanks, Gregory.

Following Blues Recess, back in Nevada City, I setup at the park at the bottom of Broad St. during Summer Nights, an event that happens three Wednesdays in the summertime. The whole town shuts down the streets for vendors, crafters, classic cars, etc. It’s just a grand time where everyone comes out to have fun. I was lucky enough to get a great parking spot and many folks came aboard for tea.

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Kids awaiting tea at Camp Woolman

My friend (and Quaker spoken word artist) Jon Watts and his girlfriend Megan came out to California from Philadelphia to serve tea at Blues Recess, but also to see his brother Coleman’s family in Grass Valley. Coleman had been an integral part of a Quaker summer camp called Camp Woolman just outside Grass Valley. It’s a school during most of the year, but kids come for camp during the summer. They invited us out to serve tea to all the campers after experiencing the bus at Summer Nights. It was such a pleasure to show up to a bunch middle school aged kids who were eager to engage. Immediately we were drawn into their scene for the afternoon and evening. Many of the kids were excited about the bus and tea, and we sat with them all for dinner. I was blown away by how cool that school/camp was. They had a HUGE garden, which feeds 40 people everyday for the first semester of school. They also have a free store (Wool-Mart).

Campout in Chilcoot, CA

Campout in Chilcoot, CA

From Nevada City, I headed north to Chilcoot, CA, where some longtime friends (since I was six) were having a campout at their house. As soon as I showed up the bus was packed. My friend Bob came up outside the bus and said, “Jeez Guisepi, leave some women for us.” I realized the whole bus was full of curious women (most of them a generation or two older than I). It was definitely a highlight for many people at the campout. Edna and I were received with open arms, with much food to be had, wonderful conversations, and new friendships. Thanks Bob and Nan Sea!

From here I met back up with Ally to serve tea along the Pacific Crest Trail (see blog entry here), and then on to Taylorsville, where a beautiful story that has been years in the making has unfolded. I hope to write a whole story about it soon… This was one of those moments in time where I wish I had NO schedule (had to be at an event in Eugene), as I would have stayed here for months. From there, I cruised to Chico, and on up to Mt. Shasta.

Edna in Sandy Flats on Mt. Shasta

Edna in Sandy Flats on Mt. Shasta

Farmers' Market friends - Mt. Shasta, CA

Farmers’ Market friends – Mt. Shasta, CA

Collecting water for tea at Panther meadow on Mt. Shasta, CA

Collecting water for tea at Panther meadow on Mt. Shasta, CA

Parked out behind Young's Market in Taylorsville, CA

Parked out behind Young’s Market in Taylorsville, CA

I had ran into a woman in Nevada City who camps on Mt. Shasta every summer, so I asked her if she knew my friend Dave, who also camps out up there too. She ended up being good friends with him and shared with me directions on how to find him up on the mountain. So when I arrived Mt. Shasta (after a salad with my buddy, Rudi), I headed up to the mountain to surprise Dave. And that, I did! It was fun to connect with him after many years (we met when I was serving tea at Islands’ Village Faire on San Juan Island, and had tea again in Squaw Meadow on Shasta a couple years back).

Old school friend, Rudi Bega. Love this guy!

Old school friend, Rudi Bega. Love this guy!

I came down the mountain the next day in time for serving tea at the farmers’ market with water I had collected with Dave that morning from Panther Meadow (where the water bubbles right out of the ground – the source of all creation according to natives). The market was filled with interested folks, and we had an amazing interaction. We talked about many things. A local man got in the spirit of gifting with a bunch of superfoods from his local company that he gave to the tea bus.

From Shasta, I headed up to Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture (BBCRC), where I was dying to go for personal reasons (trains!). I showed a film that my buddy and I did about 8 years back about riding freight trains. In the morn I made tea for people. I didn’t want to leave. So epic, but I’m not going to bore you with train-geek, non-tea-related blabber.

Medicine box at BBCRC.

Medicine box at BBCRC.

Hello Ashland! All I did this time around was fill up on some biodiesel and head north to Medford where EcoTeas new warehouse/office is. It was wonderful to connect with Melissa from Ecoteas, who hooked me up with tons of tea. From the start, I’ve always tried to collect teas that can’t be sold due to damaged packaging, being beyond expiration, etc. Ecoteas has a great shelf that they let me grab anything I wanted from. It is nice to know that people support what you do and want to help in big ways. Thanks, Melissa and all of EcoTeas!

Now, the moment I had been planning for – the Free Herbalism Project in Eugene on August 9th. Click on it to see the wonders of being part of an herbal community, as well as the story of my accidental serving of my 20,000th cuppa free tea.

Collecting waste vegetable oil from the back of a restaurant.

Collecting waste vegetable oil from the back of a restaurant.

After some needed down time in Eugene, I headed on over to Coos Bay to lend a hand to my good friends Ric and Joan, who had helped me out so much in the past. Ric had taught me to weld stainless, run a mill, run a lathe, and more, so that I could build some tanks for my vegetable oil conversion. This time around, along with Ally (master organizer), we were helping him clear out huge piles of junk (and some good stuff). Free pile, garage sales, craigslist… anything to get rid of it to make space for them. I was also able to get some WVO from a local restaurant to keep Edna rolling down the road.

Jam session in front of Edna at music campout.

Jam session in front of Edna at music campout.

During our stay, Ally, Edna and I also were fortunate to meet up with my father and stepmother at a music campout just outside Coos Bay. I grew up traveling with my family to such events, listening to live western swing, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, fiddle tunes, and such. Most of these campouts are just for people to camp and jam, and this was no different. Except this time, instead of partying like I did when I was a kid, I went to see my pops and all the familiar folks I grew up around, and to dance to the music… I realized that these are the elders of my community. Because so many of these folks have been traveling during the summers to all sorts of bluegrass festivals and campouts, they’ve all seen or had their share of travel rigs – and boy was it fun to share Edna with them. They were stoked! And we made tea everyday for people…

Scallywagon (Whiskey and Fraser) play music during the Bayside Park Farm Carnival.

Scallywagon (Whiskey and Fraser) play music during the Bayside Park Farm Carnival.

The long run of adventures this summer has led me now to Arcata, CA, where my buddy Joe (remember him – I work-traded to use his shop and use lots of his salvaged materials) hired me to help him work on his new house (fence-building, pulling carpet, painting, and we’ll see what else). This is good work for a good friend, and is helping refill my pocketbook for more tea-traveling. It is also great to be here to see more of my little nephew, and take part in some fun local events (Arts Alive, Arts Arcata, Bayside Park Farm Carnival, etc.).

The first 6 months of the North American Tea Tour has kept Edna and I pretty well on the west coast, but not without some great new adventures in some places we’ve never been. It’s honestly been hard to try to get the momentum to leave the coast when summer holds so many opportunities here. We’ll be heading north soon to wrap some things up in Portland, and hopefully be off and away from the coast this fall/winter.

Look out America!

Freight trains run on the street where we were staying.

Freight trains run on the street where we were staying.

Fraser teaches another guest how to play.

Fraser teaches another guest how to play.

Jam session outside, writing session inside.

Jam session outside, writing session inside.

My papa. His cup says it all.

My papa. His cup says it all.

Edna at the BBCRC.

Edna at the BBCRC.

Baby and banjo on board at Camp Woolman.

Baby and banjo on board at Camp Woolman.

Even He Who came out for the kids at Woolman.

Even He Who came out for the kids at Woolman.

Happy camper.

Happy camper.

The kids at Woolman were super interactive.

The kids at Woolman were super interactive.

More happy campers.

More happy campers.

Edge of the world - Shelter Cove, CA

Edge of the world – Shelter Cove, CA

The source of life in Panther Meadow.

The source of life in Panther Meadow.

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Everyone gets tea!

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Free Herbalism Project – 20,000th Cuppa Free Tea – Eugene, OR

Serving free tea at Mountain Rose Herb's Free Herbalism event.

Serving free tea at Mountain Rose Herb’s Free Herbalism event. Photo: Thomas Dick

 

After realizing that not having a plan was too rough on me (see this blog post), I decided that it would be a good idea to make some plans in advance, but allow myself a little freedom and flexibility in between. So, in July I committed to bringing a free tea zone to an event put on by one of our sponsors, Mountain Rose Herbs, as part of their Free Herbalism Project. This was the very first in a series, and included a lecture by herbalists Rose Madrone and Rosemary Gladstar.

The setup, before the rain.

The setup, before the rain.

Mountain Rose Herbs had asked if I needed any volunteers for the event, and I declined, saying that I was bringing one friend, Laura. I think they thought I was crazy, but I had no idea why until the event was underway. My friends Greg and Rich also ended up showing up to lend a hand, and we all set up the half parachute, rugs, and a selection of fabrics, cushions and other supplies from a pile of goods that the Mountain Rose folks had been storing since their festival, Rootstalk, where we hosted a huge free tea tent in 2011.

Just as we had gotten everything set up, reports of heavy rain from the south began to come in. We watched videos of rain reports on smart phones and came up with different options for our outside tea zone should the reports become reality. Right as people started to show up it began to sprinkle, and then rain. At first we thought it might blow over, but as we served more tea, the rain didn’t let up. So we pulled the trigger and started to move all the rugs, cushions and tables inside to a corner of the main building where all of the speaking was to take place. However, we continued to serve tea outside, and eventually it let up.

About 350 people showed up for the event.

About 350 people showed up for the event.

Now, despite the rain, and probably due to the fact that it was an event for herbalists, we had a line 40, 50, 60 people long waiting for tea. Luckily, Greg and Rich had showed to lend Laura and I a hand. Even with this workforce, we could barely keep up. As the evening progressed, I had a wonderful realization – that we were just about to serve the Free Tea Party’s 20,000 cuppa free tea. I knew that I had 367 left before the event, but I for some reason didn’t think we would be serving that much tea. Well, I was dead wrong. In the end, we served about 550 cups of tea, to about 350 people.

I told Mason (MRH’s event coordinator) what was about to happen and he ran off to brainstorm with other MRH folks. They so kindly offered me some tea, a tote bag, and stickers to offer to the recipient of the 20,000 cuppa free tea. As we got closer, Thomas (MRH’s graphic designer extraordinaire), sat with his camera just off to the side. I signaled to him as a couple of young women came up for tea. As I served the second one, I told her briefly about the history of the tea bus, and how I had been keeping track of all the cups of tea that I had been serving over the years and that the cup I was handing her was the 20,000th cuppa free tea that I had served. I asked her to wait around until the end of the event and that I had something for her. She said, “You’re not going to make me sit up in front of everyone are you?” Little did she know…

Serving the 20,000th cuppa free tea. Photo: Thomas Dick

Serving the 20,000th cuppa free tea. Photo: Thomas Dick

 

As the event was wrapping up, Shawn and Julie, the owners of MRH, invited me on stage with them, Rosemary, and Rose to give a short background on the Free Tea Party and explain the importance of this evening for us. It was so much fun to speak in front of so many people and make them laugh. In the end, I called up the recipient of the 20,000th cuppa, but I think she may have been too shy and was nowhere to be seen. I found her later and bestowed her prizes upon her.

Rosemary and myself.

Rosemary and myself.

As we were packing up, Rosemary ended coming over to the tea bus and spending some time with guests and myself. I was honored to have her aboard. Although I didn’t get to hear her talk because I was so busy, it was a blessing have her aboard for much more personal interactions.

Rich is convinced that the Mountain Rose folks were inspired by the Free Tea Party to put on the Free Herbalism Project. It has similar ideals of bringing people together, providing a space for people to interact and share knowledge, and all of this with a foundation in herbs. Regardless, I take my hat off to Mountain Rose Herbs for putting on an event as such. I have continually been impressed with them as a company that lives their principles. I hope to collaborate more in the future!

Laura serves tea to Rosemary.

Laura serves tea to Rosemary and others.

Thanks to Rich, Laura, and Greg for your help with setup, serving tea, washing cups, making hot water, and tearing down. A big thank you to all the folks at MRH for the support and generosity. Thank you to Mason for organizing the event and providing the landing pad for all us nomads. Thanks to Rosemary and Rose for taking part and sharing knowledge. Love to you all!

You may also enjoy our entries on our 5,000th and 10,000th cuppas to see how we count, what the importance of counting is, and how we view the number of cups we’ve served.

Rich was a BIG help.

Rich was a BIG help.

Greg making tea for people.

Greg making tea for people.

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