Wow, it’s been quite a while, my friends! After a few months on the West Coast without Edna Lu the teabus, Ally and I got back on a train to Arkansas, where we hunkered in for more writing and bus projects. It was so so so nice to be hosted by Gil once again on his amazing property surrounded by Hot Springs National Park. We had our own little cabin and place to be. In exchange we shared food, stories, and did some work around the property. Gil said, “Rent is pages written.” It means a lot to both Ally and I to have someone like Gil to support our creative endeavors. This time allowed me to dig a little deeper in The Tea Bus Factory Service Manual (I’m about 3/4th of the way done writing), and Ally to work on finishing her novel. We also got to serve some tea at the Gallery Walk downtown Hot Springs a couple times, as well as at a café called Red Light Roastery, alongside live music. One of the simplest and best pleasures of being in Hot Springs, AR are all the wonderful city-maintained free springs. The water is SO good!
Geeky Stuff (scroll past italics, if needed):
In Arkansas, Edna’s floor got refinished, I un-mounted both WVO tanks for cleaning, and ended up having to replace the seals for the access panels (with Viton), I replaced the front brake lines, re-plumbed the fresh water outlet (in order to have the water draw from the curb side of the tank), and started making a new capacitance humidity probe for testing WVO for water content. I also worked on her back door and storage area, which I rebuilt with a fold down workspace in order to be more accommodating for my tools and working on small projects. I took the bed out and refinished it as well. I also put a new air pump on the dirty WVO tank for forcing moist air out of the tank when centrifuging. One of the last things I did was install an old heat exchanger on my clean WVO system right where it exits the tank. And thank goodness I did – it boosted my pressure and temps dramatically (both issues I had been fighting for the past year).
Leaving Arkansas was sad, and it felt like it might be a long, hot, humid drive to CO. We were fortunate to leave in a cool spell, which kept us from being worn out. In Tulsa, OK, we spent time at the Woody Guthrie Center, did free yoga and showered on the splash pad on the Guthrie Green, attended a peace rally in response to Charlottesville, and had an all around swell time.
In Waldron, KS, a town of 30 people, we visited our friends Sage and Aera (We Dream Dawn), shared in food (like their amazing grass-fed beef), and swam in a lake in Oklahoma. Sage let us pump 30 gallons of WVO from a nicely settled drum at his place. All this while surrounded by beautiful sunsets and old school buses. We left with a tenor banjo as a gift from Sage to Ally, in response to her inspiration from the Woody Guthrie Center. Nearby we gathered some fine spring water.
We arrived Colorado almost two months after we were initially expecting. We immediately drove to Crestone to see Frank and Elena (and her kids). Frank is one of my mentors and teachers. I helped him build a straw bale house in Terlingua a couple winters ago. Recently, he bought 3 acres a couple blocks from downtown Crestone. We met up on his land for a wagon circle – his airstream and our bus – alongside a nice creek, under the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. What a magical place. Frank and Elena’s band, Paper Moonshiners, played while we were in town, as well as my old friend Laura Goldhamer. It was so nice to connect with old friends. We connected with one of the owners of the local grocery, café and music venue, named Benji. He started with a small teashop, and is all about cultivating community. Needless to say, he was extremely inviting, open, and was stoked to have the Free Tea Bus parked outside his place on a couple occasions, serving tea. Small towns like Crestone benefit so greatly from folks like Benji.
We also served tea at the Saturday Market right in downtown, where we met some great locals. I randomly met the brewmaster from Crestone Brewing Co. one day, who offered me 30 gallons of WVO without even asking. We were really enjoying being back in the land of the West where more people simply “get” the tea bus, where I began running into people I’ve served tea to before, where it was getting easier to simply be!
Down the road at Rainbow Park in Crested Butte, we arrived just in time for the eclipse. Because everyone else in the world had eclipse glasses, Ally and I became a hit with the head-mounted pinhole-camera style viewer I built from a beer box, along with our colander that projected dozens of eclipses. This sparked a fun run of interactions with strangers (even without serving tea – imagine that!), which led me across the street to a remodel, where I ended up getting hired.
The next week we camped in the mountains with friends Amanda and Colin from the PNW (home) and their VW Vanagon. Hiking, wild-harvesting, cooking on campfires, and more. One Friday we ventured into downtown Crested Butte and had an impromptu tea party on the street. It was bustling and fun, with college students from nearby Gunnison, locals, and tourists from around the country.
For three weeks I labored away on the remodel across from Rainbow Park. It was an ideal situation. I was mostly making window trim with salvaged wood and installing recycled siding – all on a house that was being retrofitted for energy efficiency (with a layer of rock wool on the exterior), and solar panels on the roofs… not to mention the already amazing passive solar kitchen and living room. My co-workers were great guys, and we cruised steadily along ahead of schedule. Edna was parked along the street right next to the jobsite. Across the street was a bathroom at the park. Ally was able to be in our home, ride my bike around town, and hang out at the creek nearby. We were invited to serve tea at the Farmers’ Market for a couple weekends, where we also met a wonderful woman, Roxana, who, along with her family, opened their home to us for showering, just a half block from the jobsite. It was so great getting to know all of them.
At the Farmers’ Market, I was able to share lots of free tea, right there amongst all the booths. Also, at Rainbow Park we had a tea party at a wedding/reception (“We didn’t crash the wedding… Your wedding crashed our tea party!”). It was an awesome experience, as many of the folks in attendance were excited to come aboard and have conversations. Good peeps!
During our time near Rainbow Park, I stumbled out of the bathroom one morning to a double-sliding-door Sprinter van that I recognized. “Hey, I saw a video about you guys,” I said. It turns out that Emilie went to school with our dear friend, Lisa, who had sent me a video about her and her partner Joe. They had quit their jobs, downsized, and are traveling the country with their dog camping, riding mountain bikes, and adventuring. After spending 4 days with us, sharing meals, and pretty much in a generosity battle, they left telling us that this was the longest they had been in one place since they started their journey 8 months prior. It felt good to help them slow down. Join them at Permanent Roadtrip (Instagram, Facebook, website).
On our way out of Crested Butte, we stopped once again at a family owned natural spring at Cold Spring Ranch, which flowed with delicious water.
Back near Crestone at Joyful Journey Hot Springs we were invited to The Festival of the Muses: A Goddess Gathering. A festival designed for empowering the feminine, this was a perfect fit for Ally and I to both have things to share. While I was set up to serve tea, Ally opened up her relationship therapy, emotional health facilitation, and female cycle awareness to all attendees to sign up for, for free. So often we are fulfilling my passions, like serving tea, and fixing/building things, that it was awesome to come to a place where she could simply plug in and do the things she loves and is good at.
Leaving the mountains was an incredible drive, as the Autumn colors were beginning to show. We stopped at a river-side pull off where I got a chance to do some fishing and we refreshed from the festival.
After a brief stay in Lyons, we headed up to Loveland to set up the tea bus for the wedding of Tierro and Bridget (my ex-partner). At Sunrise Ranch (an eco-community, and site of Arise Festival), Ally and I spent a day and a half helping setup for the wedding, including creating a free tea zone at the ceremony site. I felt at home with the company of many of my western US peeps, like the Shook Twins and Nico, Elephant Revival folks, and more. It was a wonderfully beautiful wedding and party with delicious food and great live music. I think it was the first wedding I’ve served tea at. Lovely!
Most recently, we’ve settled in at McCauley Family Farm outside Longmont, CO. It’s a sweet little farm that specializes in pastured meat, eggs, and delicious ferments. We were drawn here by Gwen, a fellow bus dweller. Ages ago, I spent quite a bit of time on her family land in Sonoma County, CA, where I built-out some of Edna. Years later, I helped guide her through purchasing her own full-sized bus. Now, three years later, she drove it out to CO in order to go to graduate school at Naropa. While she built out much of her bus in California over the past few years, there have still been some projects to do. She asked me to come help her, which has been one of my main focuses.
My largest project on Gwen’s bus has been insulating, wiring, and woodworking a 6’ x 8’ x 2’ tall pop-up over her kitchen. I’ve been using salvaged cedar fence panels, and other salvaged wood for most of the project. ReSource, the salvaged building material store here in Boulder, is what these kinds of stores used to be: reasonably priced, great selection, and friendly folks. I also installed her wood stove, a propane heater, and am preparing to finish out her bathtub/shower. More photos to come.
Over a two-day period, I traveled to both WishGarden Herbs and Organic India in order to serve tea to these companies who have been so graciously donating to the Free Tea Bus for many years. At both companies, it was great to meet many of the employees and have them aboard for tea, to see the warehouses and facilities, and to have inspiring conversations. I was impressed by Organic India’s on site garden and meditation/yoga room. Sam, the CEO of WishGarden, invited me over to his place to stay the night. I had an excellent time getting to know him, his wife, and his kids. The kids pretty much wanted to move in to Edna.
For my birthday, we hosted a Free Tea Party in downtown Boulder at the Pearl St. Mall. It was a wonderful occasion, with a great parking spot facing out towards the mall and intersection. Many folks were in attendance – even my mom showed up to surprise me, all the way from Washington! Wow!
Now, as I begin to think about heading south for the winter, we are looking to see a few more folks around CO. Next week, we head to Colorado Springs, where we’ll be serving tea and giving a talk at Colorado College, where I went to school. In Denver we’ll host some tea parties as well. Come mid-November, Ally will head west on the train, like she often does for the winter. I will head south, as I search out a retreat space to finish writing The Tea Bus Factory Service Manual.
Do you have any suggestions for places in the SW to retreat for a couple months?
I hope to see you down the road for a cuppa tea!
THANKS: Gil, for being an amazing friend in Hot Springs, AR and taking us out in Tulsa; Adam, Brianna, and Jen at Red Light Roastery; Tim and Jennifer Monnot, for being fellow inspiring skoolie folks; Sage and Aera in Waldron, KS for excellent hosting and a respite in the middle of nowhere; Frank and Elena; Benji; Alma in Crestone; Greg from Crestone Brewing Co.; Amanda and Colin; Rob, Rob, Chris and the other builders from End of the Road Construction; Julie from Guerilla Composting; The Crested Butte Farmers’ Market; Cherisse, for being an old friend in a new place; Emilie and Joe for being community for us fellow van dwellers; Roxana and the family for showers and good community; Mackenzie from The Festival of the Muses; Bonnie and Dan; Oracle for the AirBNFree in Lyons and letting us borrow the solar golf cart; Emily Yates for sharing good stories and kale; All the folks at Sunrise Ranch; Bridget and Tierro for making an excuse for a community gathering, and for hosting us so much for food, showers, internet and a bed; The Shooks and Nico for hand delivering letters to Thomas, WV; Marcus and the family at McCauley Family Farm for welcoming us in to stay with non-calculated sharing; Gwen, for inviting, sharing, and being lovely community in our little wagon circle; Sam, Anna and all the employees at WishGarden; Satya and all the folks at Organic India; Ilya, for taking me on a tour of the Celestial Seasoning Factory; My mom, Beth, for surprising me for my birthday;