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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!!!