25,000 Cups of Free Tea – Flagstaff, AZ

The recipient of the 25,000th cuppa free tea, Ward, and his gifts.

The recipient of the 25,000th cuppa free tea, Ward, and his gifts.

Another milestone is upon us! On Friday evening we served our 25,000th cuppa free tea at the First Friday Artwalk in Flagstaff. As we set up for the evening, we only had 30 cups to go, and I was a little nervous.

Tea on the streets of Flagstaff.

Tea on the streets of Flagstaff.

We had had a little run-in with a local teashop owner, who wasn’t too stoked on the “competition” that the free tea bus brought to town (read about it soon here). He had contacted the city and the county in regards to our operation, so I thought we might have to be a little careful – we were indeed probably breaking some laws. Flagstaff has some of the strictest anti-homeless and anti-camping laws in the nation. Regardless, I read up on local health code (as I often do), and printed out some signs stating that “You are engaging with a private individual in their private home. Please note that any food (e.g. tea) is prepared in this home kitchen, and is not subject to regulation and inspection by any regulatory authority.”

Tea passing.

Tea passing.

As the Artwalk started to pickup, and we got closer and closer to our 25,000th cuppa, the bus filled with a bunch of college-aged folks. Earlier, I had seen some of them walk by and heard them say something that included the word “sketchy.” I made a fun comment like “Didn’t you ever hear: Don’t take candy from strangers in a van?” After a bit, they came back to see what it was about. They came aboard and the bus became packed (14 people inside and a crowd outside).

Ward opening his tea certificate.

Ward opening his tea certificate.

 

I secretly tallied each cup I served, and eventually gave a refill to a Belgian fellow named Ward, who was sitting on the floor. “With that cup of tea, you should also grab that envelope hanging up there.” He grabbed the envelope and opened it up. Inside was a certificate that said: “You have received a RANDOM CUPPA TEA. Which just so happens to be our 25,000TH CUPPA FREE TEA! This certificate entitles you to: one tea mug, one jar of tea, and one piece of non-integral tea bus memorabilia of your choice.” He was excited, and the more he and others thought about it, the more ecstatic he became. His excitement and the inspiration that this project was to him, showed me that he was the perfect person to receive such a thing. He spent hours on the bus, and finally picked the smallest teacup I had, a bag of Winter Spice tea, and a small handcrafted copper seal on a necklace as his piece of memorabilia (it, itself, was a beautiful gift from the Lopez Island tea goddess, Kyra – don’t worry, I’ll still think of you!).

Serving tea outside the Orpheum Theater.

Serving tea outside the Orpheum Theater.

Each time we reach a landmark like this, I insist that it’s about quality and not quantity, but I do have to say that even with this quantity, we have managed to maintain quality. It is the guests, the people who have sipped all 25,000 cups of tea, who are the heart of the tea bus. Thank you!

This don't make no cents.

This don’t make no cents.

I also just wanted to note amongst some of our other tea parties around Flagstaff (Herb Folk Gathering, at Wheeler Park, at the Sunshine Rescue Mission, and downtown), that we had an awesome experience with the owner of the White Flag Laundromat. After Herb Folk we had done a bunch of laundry here, but I had somehow managed to forget my three small beautiful rugs – one of which I had just purchased at an antique mall. It had been a couple weeks, but I called them as soon as I realized. They had kept them safe, and after I identified them over the phone, I went in to get them. Earlier in the day I had expressed that I wanted to pay the Laundromat back for saving the rugs. Ally had asked me what it was worth to me. I immediately said $50. Ally told me I should offer them that out of the Gift and Take. I was hesitant, as I seem to be a little protective of the Gift and Take. Yet, as we arrived, it felt like the right thing to do. John took one look at the money and said, “no way.” His mindset was that people should help each other. “Jesus doesn’t like money,” he said as he referenced the story of Jesus getting angry at people trying to make money in the temple. “I can’t take your money. Only the Lord can pay me back.” Yet, we continued to offer the money. “No, you keep it. It’s just enough to me that you acknowledge it and offer your gratitude.” When he had pulled the rugs out of the dryer and was folding them, someone even offered to buy them on the spot, but he said “no,’ believing that the owners would come back for them. I was blown away, and by the end we were hugging. I thank you sincerely, John!

Cheersing the 25,000 cups of free tea!

Cheersing the 25,000 cups of free tea!

Now, we sit at the Arizona-New Mexico border, sipping Earl Grey, and enjoying a nice desert morning. As for now, we are Albuquerque-bound. Look out, New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment!

Arriving New Mexico!

Arriving New Mexico!

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Herb Folk Gathering – Mormon Lake. AZ

Nighttime at the Herb Folk Gathering tea zone.

Nighttime at the Herb Folk Gathering tea zone.

 

Whoa! We’ve been fairly stationary in Orange County for months. This weekend blew me back into the family and tea bus explosion world. The Herb Folk Gathering is a yearly herbalism conference at Mormon Lake, AZ with plant walks, workshops, classes, an herbal marketplace, live music, and a masquerade ball. Bringing together a strong group of herbalists, practitioners, students, enthusiasts, friends, re-wilders, and more, this event is made for sharing knowledge and connecting people and plants. The community of people here embraced us, shared with us, and cultivated an amazing community in the few short days we were there.

The basic structure.

The basic structure.

The zone we set up was an experiment in construction. When I built my roof rack six years ago, I designed it with telescoping aluminum poles that could be used to hang a shade cloth (like a parachute) or a tarp. I’ve used the setup minimally, but mostly because I wasn’t fully happy with it. Brainstorming with my fellow nomad/structure-builder friend Abigail beforehand, helped me solidify a new structure plan. Upon arriving at Herb Folk. I telescoped out the three aluminum poles, added two more telescoping PVC poles out from each of those. This gave me three flexible ribs that extend outwards and curve down to rebar pounded into the ground. Reminiscent of the cheap PVC greenhouse designs, this structure was rigid and strong. Due to rain in the forecast, We attached a tarp over this, and my fun orange and white parachute atop it, mostly to hide the ugly tarp. The great thing about this setup, is that the ribs triple telescope back into themselves and store inside the roof rack!

Crafty guests.

Crafty guests.

Inside the structure, we laid out a tarp, upon which was rugs, cushions, a table, herb/tea books, tinctures of the day, a café table with chairs, and more. It rained once or twice most days we were there, and each time we had to tighten the zone down, trying to make sure our rugs, cushions, and books remained dry. As a comfortable zone, with hot beverages and offering a commercial-free zone, we became a little hub for the event. People immediately felt at home, with many folks spending large portions of their free time there.

I heard in previous years it had been hard for folks to even find hot water for their tea (the general store offers microwave-your-own), so the tea bus was welcomed just for the fact that we had hot water available 24 hours a day. And because this was an event full of herbal enthusiasts, much of the tea we served was just pouring hot water on participants’ own herbs.

Evenings were busy at the tea zone.

Evenings were busy at the tea zone.

Especially in the evenings, the tea zone became a hot spot for in depth, vulnerable, and philosophical discussions. I had so much fun participating in, and listening to the amazing conversations being had. I can’t stress how much I love this aspect of the tea bus. The zone created allows people to be vulnerable (partly because I am being vulnerable in inviting the world into my home/space). I give many thanks for so many who participated in this way! The zone also became a spot for people to nap, do different crafts, identify mushrooms, read, and more. What fun!

 

The tea zone.

The tea zone.

 

Tea wenches! Ally and Califa.

Tea wenches! Ally and Califa.

Joining me here at Herb Folk were two dear friends, Ally and Califa. They, along with some wonderful guests, helped out by washing dishes, serving tea, helping keep the area clean, and being darn good hosts. Ally has helped out with dozens of tea parties and events, and knows the system well. Her help here, as well as many, many other places, has been incredible and I want to send a special shout out of love to her. Califa has been creating specialty drinks in her “regular” life, so she shared some of her blended teas with the bus and the guests, as well as a couple tea cups hand-crafted by her father – what a delight!!! Having extra help made my job a lot easier (although I still worked my butt off, and only attended less than one class).

WANTED poster (by Mia and Carla).

WANTED poster (by Mia and Carla).

There were two wonderful little girls, Mia and Carla, who came for tea every day multiple times (One Peace Tea, and one Fairytale Tea, please!). When they heard that many of our cups had walked away (as they often do), they took it upon themselves to make MISSING posters for the tea cups for us to hang up around the event. Plus, they went to a thrift store and bought us several more mugs. We ended up leaving with more mugs than we came with. What sweethearts!

A big thanks to Mountain Rose Herbs for giving us tickets to Herb Folk; to Wolf and Kiva for creating and hosting it, and for having us; to Ally and Califa for making it all run smoothly; to all the guests who lent a hand; and to all the wonderful folks who shared tea, tinctures, salves, deodorizing sprays, food, lip balm, a 5 gallon jug, and soooo much more – so much love to you all!!!

All in all, we served about 1,000 cups of tea over the course of the four days here. Whew!

From here, we don’t know where we’re going! How Fun!

Jim McDonald schools Ally on the truth about melancholy.

Jim McDonald schools Ally on the truth about melancholy.

Califa, Guisepi. Ally, and Abigail all dressed up for live music!

Califa, Guisepi. Ally, and Abigail all dressed up for live music!

Shoes off!

Shoes off!

Two masqueraders.

Two masqueraders.

Learning about mushrooms.

Learning about mushrooms.

Edna at Mormon Lake

Edna at Mormon Lake

He-Who Sips-a-Lot showed up for the Masquerade Ball with his Crow-bo

He-Who Sips-a-Lot showed up for the Masquerade Ball with his Crow-bo

Ally and a guest have an in depth conversation.

Ally and a guest have an in depth conversation.

 

 

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Autumn Update – Flagstaff, AZ

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Edna along our drive from Prescott to Jerome, AZ.

Howdy, folks! Another season is upon us, and the most exciting news I have to share is that WE LEFT THE WEST COAST! Right now we are in Flagstaff, AZ on our way to The Herb Folk Gathering – the Southwest’s premier herbalism conference – where we’ll spend the weekend making tea and learning. Leaving the west coast is kind of a big deal for us. Ever since I purchased Edna Lu (the Tea Bus), I’ve known that a big North American Tour was in store. One and a half years ago, we started a 2+ Year North American Tour, but have yet to leave the west coast (except for an accidental hour in Nevada, due to missing an exit on the freeway). In fact, in the first five years of having Edna, we only left the west coast once, and that was a quick trip to Colorado and back.

Opening up shop in Prescott, AZ.

Opening up shop in Prescott, AZ.

Now, as we branch out into the unknown of the rest of the country, we are excited, scared, and hopeful. The west coast has raised and nurtured the Tea Bus, providing the community, resources, and love that have been needed to make such a project blossom. Now, as the Tea Bus feels mostly complete in construction and function, the flower that she has become is ready to be shared as far and wide is it can be. As we leave these communities and resources, we ask you to share our project with your friends and families out in the parts of the country we are visiting. We want to be pollinators, a connecting string between places, and love to connect with the right people, with whom we can both give to and receive from.

Teaching high-schoolers about waste vegetable oil.

Teaching high-schoolers about waste vegetable oil.

The past 6 days, we’ve been in Arizona, stopping in places like Prescott, Jerome, Sedona, and Flagstaff. In Prescott, we fell in love with the town as soon as we drove in. With a beautiful central park/plaza, we couldn’t help but serve tea for a couple days right there in downtown. Exploring Prescott, I can’t help but think that we’ll be back there. I was also invited to give a presentation to the Junior class at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy on running waste vegetable oil, as well as the whole free tea bus project. They absolutely LOVED it. I spent an hour with them talking about petroleum, energy, etc.

Edna in Jerome, AZ.

Edna in Jerome, AZ.

Jerome was a surprise, and we fell in love with this little European-feeling mountain mining village. And the scenery! What amazing ecosystems and landscapes! We’re experiencing a real diversity of these things compared to Southern CA. We are truly in heaven. Why haven’t we known about all this before? The sun, the clouds, the rain, the thunderstorms. We’ve been pushing Edna’s limits for steep, windy, high altitude driving, but she’s doing ok…. Showering off the side of Edna in the misty mountains, and washing Edna in a downpour (a true hobo shower)… So much fun!

OMG GMO movie night at The Ecology Center.

OMG GMO movie night at The Ecology Center.

In the last months of summer, we’ve been spending lots of time working at The Ecology Center, and digging in in Orange County. We served up a bunch of (GMO-) free tea at a movie night at The Ecology Center, where we watched GMO OMG, a documentary on GMOs (highly recommended). We served tea in San Clemente for 4th of July, at Saddleback College, and the Santa Ana Downtown Farmers’ Market twice (read about all of these here). We also served tea twice at Yoga Bungalow, a local yoga studio that offers free yoga on Fridays from their student teachers. Evidently we drew a much larger crowd than normal (we could barely do yoga with that many people in the studio). A big thanks to Tam for inviting us to her studio, and to all the wonderful folks who brought donations of tea and things. Also, our collaboration with The Herb Bus, was fabulous (see here). Love!

Webasto muffler and lagging.

Webasto muffler and lagging.

BUILDING/MECHANICAL: As far as bus projects go, we did a few fun and important things. First of all, because there is no shower onsite at The Ecology Center, I was showering off the side of Edna (see the set up here). If I wanted hot water, I was having to idle the bus for half an hour or so, because my Webasto wasn’t working. After spending a bunch of time trying to figure out why this was (I thought it was an electrical problem with the circuit board), I found that it was because the fuel pump was so far from the fuel tank. After moving it closer, my problem was solved. The Webasto heats coolant (via a biodiesel blend) and circulates it. This coolant runs through a coil in my hot water heater, and heats it. It’s fabulous now! It heats enough water to shower in 20-60 minutes, depending on how long of a shower I need. This consumes 1/3 to 1 cup of fuel. I can get wet quickly (30 secs), soap up, then rinse (1 minute), and that only uses 1.8 gallons of water. Or I can shower for 6 minutes with full hot water (7.2 gallons). Of course, when I drive the bus, the water gets hotter, and my shower time is increased.

Along with getting the Webasto dialed, I also installed a nice little stainless muffler into the exhaust and put some fiberglass lagging over the exhaust pipe, so that it doesn’t heat too much of anything in close proximity. The Webasto definitely runs a bit quieter, and should help when I’m trying to be incognito for city dwelling.

I also installed a new digital temperature gauge above the drivers’ seat, which allows me to switch between reading the hot water heater’s temperature, and the injection pump return line. This allows me to see what temperature my injection pump is, so that I know when I can switch to WVO (I preheat the injection pump via an inline 12v fuel heater, which preheats (bio)diesel, or can be used to boost WVO temps). These 7.3 IDI injection pumps are a known weak point for running WVO, mostly because they can break due to “thermal shock.” Although there are a couple different theories as to why this happens, I installed the temp gauge to allow me to make sure I’m not injecting hot WVO into a cold IP.

Guisepi andf Edna at Teapot Rock, Sedona, AZ.

Guisepi andf Edna at Teapot Rock, Sedona, AZ.

In my ceiling, I’ve had a computer fan hooked up to nothing for several years. There was already a vent in the roof from the school bus days (it just vented the 2” gap between the ceiling and the roof). When I redid the ceiling with wood a few years back, I put a 12v computer fan that would eventually vent from the inside of the bus up and out through the roof vent. I recently purchased a 5 watt solar panel, which I mounted on the roof, ran the wires through the roof (sealed with one of these), and to a switch. The switch is and ON-OFF-ON, which allows the panel to be OFF, ON from my solar/house battery bank, or ON from its own solar panel. The main reason for having it on its own panel, is for hot climates like southern CA, where I can leave it on, and it’s just on when the sun is shining on the bus. This means that it exhausts the warmest air from the bus, and helps keep it cool inside. I’ve definitely felt a difference on hot days. Then the fan shuts off automatically as the sun goes down. The fan itself is really, really quiet, and you can barely hear it, even when it’s going full blast.

A few other small projects are: A nice curved railing for the curved shelf over my desk, made from salvaged brass and copper plumbing parts; a hose holder made from ABS plastic for my grey water drain hose; some little salvaged decorative corners for some of my upper cabinets; and fixing my falling-apart FREE TEA sandwich board sign. Oh, and a fun little project I completed recently, was mounting a lazy Susan up by the front flapper door, where my tool bucket sits. This allows my tool bucket to be accessed easily by rotating it (now I can more easily get to the tools on the back side). I love it!

Now, onwards! We head to The Herb Folk Gathering tonight to set up, and have not much of an idea as to what is next, other than being of service, traveling forth, cultivating community, and having fun! Yes!!!

Presenting to Juniors at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy.

Presenting to Juniors at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy.

Edna-eye view of the road leading into Sedona.

Edna-eye view of the road leading into Sedona.

New friends in Prescott.

New friends in Prescott.

 

 

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A Tale of Two Buses – San Juan Capistrano, CA

 

The Herbalista Free Clinic and Edna Lu the Tea Bus collaborate!

The Herbalista Free Clinic and Edna Lu the Tea Bus collaborate! (photo: Ann Nguyen)

A few years ago, after consistently having people come to the bus with health issues from digestive troubles to headaches to cuts, I decided I needed to take the health part of my mission up a notch. Because Edna Lu (the tea bus) is always in places like city streets, festivals, parks, etc. where there are no homes, she appeals to people who are in need of the care they might find at a home. Last summer I took it upon myself to take a Wilderness First Responder Course geared towards herbalists, activists and homesteaders. Working with the amazing folks from MASHH helped inspire and invigorate my desire to learn more first aid and how to incorporate herbs. But honestly, since then I have had very little need to use these skills (thankfully, I guess), and my enthusiasm has subsided a bit – that is, until this Thursday.

Lorna and myself in our wagon circle.

Lorna and myself in our wagon circle. (photo: Ann Nguyen)

A while back I was introduced online to a woman named Lorna, who travels in a VW Westfalia Vanagon, known as The Herb Bus, or the Herbalista Free Clinic. Finding out about another free herb-based, community-building bus made me want to meet her – and collaborate, if possible. Lorna’s project is based our of Atlanta, GA, where she services two “stations” on a regular basis that help underserved people, as well as a foot clinic. When she can, she rambles out into the country teaching classes, gathering herbs, making medicine, and offering her services.

When I heard that The Herb Bus was out west and making its way down the coast, I had to meet up. I contacted Lorna and set up a collaboration at The Ecology Center. We were to create a wagon circle with our vehicles, free tea, some basic herbal first aid and medicine, and of course, community…

Some of the participants.

Some of the participants. (photo: Lorna Mauney-Brodek)

The event took shape wonderfully, filling up to 30+ people under my half-parachute with chairs, rugs, iced hibiscus tea, and fresh baked goodies from Ally. We introduced our projects and Lorna went into teaching mode, talking about the how’s and what’s of her project and some great specifics of first aid and using herbs in healing. The end of the formal talk was a nice Q&A. Afterwards, I brewed up a pot of hot tea in Edna and invited everyone to stay for a while.

We passed books around for people to see.

We passed books around for people to see. (photo: Ann Nguyen)

When the hopping tea party slowed down, I made my way over to Lorna’s van where we talked shop. We jabbered about vans and buses, onboard systems, experiences, herbs, organization and more. Lorna took one look at my giant jumbled bag of over 100 tinctures (a recent donation), and my box of miscellaneous tinctures, and shook her head. “You’ve got to organize and label these,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to know where they are when you need them.” My technical/mechanical/organizational mind knew she was right. Now I’m tinkering around in my mind as to what the best way to organize and label them is.

 

Tea party!

Tea party! (photo: Lorna Mauney-Brodek) 

We talked late into the night, and knew that wasn’t enough time for us. I suspect we’ll see each other down the road and have ore time to collaborate and connect. She left early in the morning to help with a foot clinic in LA. Adios, Herbalist Free Clinic!

Please consider supporting her project by visiting her website and seeing what she needs. www.herbalista.org

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A Week Around Orange Coun-Tea – OC, CA

 

The Tea zone at the Santa Ana Farmers' Market

The Tea zone at the Santa Ana Farmers’ Market

The past week has been filled with some fun tea parties, from Laguna Beach to San Clemente to Santa Ana. I’ve been trying to fulfill my promise to myself to serve tea more often (at least once/week) amongst all my duties and (good) distractions at The Ecology Center. It’s been good to get drawn so nicely into a place, and participate in the vision there, but I keep coming back to the need to fulfill my path and vision.

Sweeping the tea bus - a must before and after every tea party.

Sweeping the tea bus – a must before and after every tea party.

Thursday, July 3rd was Laguna Beach’s monthly First Thursday Art Walk, where shops and galleries open up for a crowd of folks wandering the streets. I love showing up and serving tea at art walks because people are open to new experiences at events like these. To top it off, Edna and I had the help of two of the best tea helpers around – Ally and our friend visiting from San Juan Island, Amanda. We found a great spot amongst the busy-ness of downtown Laguna Beach. The evening was a wonderful collection of folks, from known friends to new ones. A great live band was playing on the street, which convinced us to dance on the sidewalk. We were blessed with the voice of a fellow named Trice from Las Vegas, who sang a beautiful variety of songs – one of which so perfectly fit the tone of the conversation and tea party vibe, that we all requested a way to get a copy from him.

San Clemente 4th of July Tea Zone

San Clemente 4th of July Tea Zone

The next day was the 4th of July. We had meant to arrive early at T Street (a surf/beach spot that we could serve tea at and watch the San Clemente fireworks), but when we arrived in early afternoon, there was no way we could find parking amongst the madness. We tried the San Clemente Pier with the same results. Finally we found parking, but it wasn’t a space we could serve tea. I was totally dismayed by the hours of searching for parking, and the overall vibe of excessive alcohol consumption, trash, and debauchery. I almost called it quits and left.

In a last attempt to make do with the circumstance, I decided that we should just set up a rug, cushions, and more in a patch of grass along the main sidewalk to and from the beach. Along with the help of Ally and Amanda, and other wonderful local friends Jeff and Mari, we created a nice little tea zone.

New Tea Friends

New Tea Friends

The overall experience was a mixed bag of good and bad. It was really nice for me to see the simplicity of serving tea, even without the bus, as having a positive effect on tea-sippers. People were receptive, thankful, inspired, and happy. On another note, the level of disrespect and ridiculous behavior from many folks there for the fireworks was absolutely astonishing. There was a fight. There were many, many folks yelling, “’Murika, F*ck yeah!” as they guzzled beer – at least one of them throwing a beer can at the tea zone. One woman wore a shirt that kind of summed up the mindset: “Let’s get Red, White, and Wasted.” I couldn’t believe how many people actually showed up to be a part of this, and not to mention to bring their kids there. Yet, once again, despite the amount of energy it takes to serve tea at a place like this, the people who showed up for tea, and took the tea zone as a place of respite, made it all worth it.

Teaching an anthropology class at Saddleback College on the history of resource sharing.

Teaching an anthropology class at Saddleback College on the history of resource sharing.

On Monday July 7th, Edna and I were invited to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to serve some tea and give a lecture to an anthropology class. My lecture was a historical look at the evolution of resource sharing in human history from gifting and sharing, to reciprocal altruism, to debt, barter, money, and all the way to taking or benefitting from other people’s needs or misfortunes. We all sipped tea while talking. Spending a lot of time over the years talking about, reading about, and practicing a gift economy, and other alternative economies prepared me for formulating a lecture on the subject. For the couple weeks leading up to this lecture, I spent a bit of time researching and solidifying this course of history, how it relates to the world today, as well as to the tea bus. The lecture went super well and people were receptive, inspired, and eager to talk more about it. I feel like this opportunity has only solidified my desire to learn more and share that knowledge with others through teaching and potentially writing.

Ann and Paul from The Ecology Center visit the Santa Ana Farmers' Market.

Ann and Paul from The Ecology Center visit the Santa Ana Farmers’ Market.

Yesterday Ally, Edna, and I drove up to Santa Ana to serve tea at the Farmers’ Market. A new friend Kerri, who runs the market, asked us to come and make tea for the people. I’ve had differing reactions and perspectives from Market managers, but being invited to a market is refreshing. Kerri lined up a spot for us amongst an intersection of the market, which was a perfect place. The market is fairly new, so the first half was a little slow. As things picked up, more people came by for tea. Overall, I was actually a little surprised how few people stopped by for tea. But the people who did stop by, were excited, inspired, and we had some great conversations. There were also photos being taken for the next issue of Natural OC – a new eco-publication in Orange County – as well as for Nest Magazine. Keep your eyes on our In The News Page or on Facebook for links to these.

It has been pretty incredible for the tea bus to operate in a place like Orange County. Despite the reputation that this place has, so many people love the tea bus. Everywhere we go people know us, and are excited to interact. Thank you, Orange County!

The tea zone at the Santa Ana Farmers' Market

The tea zone at the Santa Ana Farmers’ Market

This way for FREE TEA!

This way for FREE TEA!

Showing Saddleback College students the tea bus.

Showing Saddleback College students the tea bus.

The fireworks in San Clemente

The fireworks in San Clemente

Tea on the grass

Tea on the grass

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Summer Update – San Juan Capistrano, CA

Solstice at San Onofre Surfing Beach in San Clemente, CA

Solstice at San Onofre Surfing Beach in San Clemente, CA

Another season is upon us. It seems like they just keep rolling through. I guess time does fly when you’re having fun…

The Ecology Center.

The Ecology Center.

Since our last update in Spring, Edna and I haven’t traveled too far or served an enormous amount of tea. Instead, we’ve focused on digging in deep with a new community of folks, working, and taking some time for self.

In early April we took the recommendation of several folks and made our way to an Earth Day celebration in San Juan Capistrano, CA at a place called The Ecology Center. Folks had been telling me I had to visit TEC for a while now, and I thought what a better time than a big celebration to bring tea to? Immediately I was impressed with the place – sustainability in action, permaculture design courses, eco-education for all ages, etc. After a fun day of making tea, I was invited back to a potluck with the permaculture design class. I made tea with all the folks working there and at the end, Evan, who runs TEC, asked if they could hire me for a project. I asked what project?  He said, I’m not sure, but I’m sure we can figure something out.

Woking on The Ecology Center's truck

Woking on The Ecology Center’s truck

I came back to The Ecology Center the following week to build a potting cabinet/work-table – and I’ve been here ever since! The projects kept coming, and I was stoked at finding this place. My work here is part paid in money, part paid in resources, and part volunteer. I’ve been building and fixing many things, teaching skills to folks of all ages, taking photographs and videos, organizing, and I even built a bicycle-powered blender.

I had been planning on heading to AZ, where I was hoping to find a good community of folks to be with, some work for money, a place where I could serve tea, and a place where I could just park and folks would come to me. I was told by a friend to not try and find this place, but let this place find me. And it sure did – only not in AZ.

Gathering mallow for tea at The Ecology Center.

Gathering mallow for tea at The Ecology Center.

The Ecology Center has been a little paradise for the tea bus. They love grey water re-use, so I can dump Edna’s greywater tank on their fruit trees. They have recycling cans, water to fill Edna, plenty of sun to charge Edna’s batteries, all kinds of food growing that I can harvest, WiFi, etc. They also have events throughout the week, some of which I can serve tea at. People know to find me here, and often come for some tea, or just a conversation. I have become a helper to many folks here, even helping people in my spare time with fixing everything from bikes to broken car windows to broken ignitions. TEC is also next door to Orange County’s only family-run organic farm, South Coast Farms, which operates a farms stand with tons of awesome produce.

Soka University's Garden Show

Soka University’s Garden Show

In late March, we took a little trip to Soka University of America’s campus for a Garden Show they were having. A few of the students there have developed an empty lot into an awesome garden, and they were throwing a party/music show and wanted the tea bus to be there. It was a hassle working with security to get the bus in, as they had health concerns. It was decided that we’d use disposable cups, or people could bring their own mugs. What a bummer! But in the end, security wasn’t there, and we served people in our cups and theirs. After the show, we rolled Edna up a walking path to in front of the dorms, where people were celebrating Earth Hour – an hour without electricity. We lit some of our vegetable oil-powered lanterns, and people gathered in Edna for some tea. We fit 23 people inside, with singing, music, and chatting. It was a wonderful moment for so many folks there, including myself. It is fun to get inspired with younger folks, folks who are just figuring things out in their lives.

I’ve been serving tea only once every couple weeks this Spring, but just made a vow to do it at least once per week this summer. I find that if I don’t serve tea, I feel a little disconnected from myself and my purpose.

Panhe Festival - Who could say no?

Panhe Festival – Who could say no?

When Edna and I have been serving tea, it’s been incredibly well received here in Orange County. We’ve been serving tea every full moon at Aliso Creek Beach for a full moon drum circle, which can be a little crazy, and definitely is busy (10 gallons of tea last full moon). We’ve also pulled up randomly on the streets of Laguna Beach and San Clemente. In March we served tea at the Panhe Festival, which was a fun Native American Earth Day celebration at San Mateo Campground – the site of a previous Native American village. In April we took a nice little trip down to Encinitas, where we were followed by a filmmaker in serving tea at their yearly street fair, as well as a Farmers’ Market (where the market manager went off on us for making tea for folks – “I’m 99% sure that the San Diego Department of Environmental Health would have a problem with what you’re doing”). In May, we boogied on up to Fullerton to a house concert with Andrew Dahl-Bredine, a fabulous singer/song-writer, and were hosted by the awesome Poareo Family. We then headed up to LA to be at a mini family gathering, where many of my family members who had no idea what I was up to got to experience the tea bus first-hand.

Adam and Jodi sing to Willow on Solstice.

Adam and Jodi sing to Willow on Solstice.

Our Summer Solstice was a great day at San Onofre Surfing Beach in San Clemente. We arrived when the beach opened at 6 am to try and skip the lines to get in, but they were already there! It was a day of lounging, serving some delicious Lemon-Tulsi-Stevia sun tea, and hot tea to order. Ally has just arrived back here to Orange County (to work at The Ecology Center), so she accompanied Edna and I in making tea and hosting guests. A long-time family friend from the music festivals of my childhood stopped by to say hi and do some boogie boarding, as well as some other local friends to eat some dinner together. We cooked up some gifted tuna (Thanks, Gregolio!) and had some ridiculous fish tacos as the sun set on the longest day of the year. The beautiful moments that we get to call life are in such abundance!

We’re looking forward to serving more tea around Orange County, as well as some small bus projects on our time off from other work. Thanks for hosting us, The Ecology Center!

A gift from Mountain Rose Herbs

A gift from Mountain Rose Herbs

A gift of 127 tinctures from Farm to Market.

A gift of 127 tinctures from Farm to Market.

We have received a couple of great donations in the past few months. First off, I would like to thank Mountain Rose Herbs for their continued support – this time with an enormous box of teas to get us through the summer. Also, Farm to Market, a local small grocery store that recently shut its doors for good, donated a grocery bag full of tinctures to the tea bus. Both of these donations were exceptionally generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

 

Movie night at The Ecology Center.

Movie night at The Ecology Center.

Tea break for employees of The Ecology Center.

Tea break at The Ecology Center.

Set up for tea and teaching the permaculture class.

Set up for tea and teaching the permaculture class.

Trick for sun tea: use a sprouting lid to strain.

Trick for sun tea: use a sprouting lid to strain.

Papap Joe's espresso bar. Kind of Ironic.

Papap Joe’s espresso bar. Kind of Ironic.

My family - aunt, cousin, grandma, grandpa, great-aunt, uncle.

My family – aunt, cousin, grandma, grandpa, great-aunt, uncle.

7th grade scavenger hunt for native useful plants.

7th grade scavenger hunt for native useful plants.

The Ecology Center from Edna's roof

The Ecology Center from Edna’s roof

Panhe Festival!

Panhe Festival!

Soka <3 Edna = Guisepi

Soka

Singing songs at Soka

Singing songs at Soka

Friends play music at Soka's Garden Party

Friends play music at Soka’s Garden Party

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Flyer for Edna being at Soka

 

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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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