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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!