Ah, another season is upon us. I can feel the Fall in the air, and I think I’m ready for it.
Our summer has been interesting and fun. After arriving New England for the International Herb Symposium in June, Ally, Edna (the teabus), and I were excited to explore a little of the Northeast. Our path took us out Cape Cod, where Edna gazed across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. We were disappointed by parking restrictions, anti-camping laws, pay-parking, and what seemed to be upper-class snobbery. We were blessed at a roadside pizza joint with 55 gallons of waste vegetable oil, but other than that, the only other activity we enjoyed was thrifting.
We made our way up through New Hampshire, visiting with one of Ally’s oldest friends and her family, and landed at my family’s camp outside Sanford, Maine. In Sanford, we served tea at the local Farmers’ Market a couple times and got to know some local farmers. It was fun to share the tea bus in the town that my Great-Grandparents had lived, and where my Grandfather had grown up. We gathered water from a spring that my Great-Grandfather had used as well. It was great to get together with family to work on some projects at The Camp, and serve a little tea on the side.
Over the course of our summer in Maine, we used The Camp as a little home base and getaway. We ended up there three times, with one more couple-week stay coming up in October before we head south. It has been so nice to have a place to be, do projects, relax, swim, fish, and recuperate from work, travel, and tea.
The other place that we ended up spending a lot of time was Portland, ME. I reconnected with friends of old, Owen and Courtney, and their new kids, Oisin (pronounced Osheen), and Caimhoa (pronounced Kiva). We needed community to interact with, and they were our main source of this. We shared in food and space, spent time with the kids, worked on Edna’s transmission in their driveway, helped them with some projects, and had a great home-base.
Amongst our adventures, we set up to serve tea a couple times at Portland’s Eastern Promenade for their summer weekly free music on Thursdays. It was a great little introduction to the people of Portland. What a blast! On our second time there, a man from the City who organizes the event told us to leave the park or else he would call the Code Enforcement Officer to come down the next week, who, he said, would shut us down. We explained that we were just like everyone else out there on their blankets, sharing food and drink with their friends and family. He knew in his heart that we were right, and just asked us to move onto the street (and into reserved parking for food trucks). He biggest concern was that we were “competition” to the food trucks that were there. It’s a funny time when sharing is demonized because it has the potential to obstruct profit maximization.
We ended up serving three times at Portland’s monthly First Friday Artwalk. What a great time it is, with people filling the streets for blocks and blocks, walking, selling art, exploring, playing music, fire spinning, and more. At Monument Square, we set up the tea bus, inviting in people of all walks. Artwalks have always been a favorite of mine because it’s an accessible free event for all people, who, inevitably, are open to new experiences. We had everything from people in suits and dresses, to those living out of backpacks, to local business owners, artists, and more.
In July, we went out to the Great Northern Sound Society in Parsonsfield, ME to spend some time with our friends of Elephant Revival and do some filming of the recording process of their new album. Nearby, we visited Willowbrook – a 19th century town and museum.
Bus Projects (skip if uninterested):
Throughout our journeys in Maine, we undertook several bus projects (per usual). Edna’s transmission has been trying to hold in there for the past few years, so I babied it a little by installing a new solenoid pack, a shift kit (Transgo Tugger HD2), and a new ECM/EEC relay and relay pigtail.
I have also been having alternator issues, where the voltage would jump or bounce. After someone told me it was a diode going bad (and I believed them because it made sense to me), I’ve been replacing alternators left and right (luckily I bought one form Autozone with a lifetime warranty). However, I realized that it was actually some of the wiring that was causing it (specifically it was either the voltage sensing wire, or the wire that tells the alternator to be on). After replacing the alternator pigtail (wiring harness) and the voltage sensing wire, my alternator has been all good. Although, throughout the process, Autozone was testing all my alternators and they were coming out “bad” – strangely, their test doesn’t tell you why the alternator is bad (silly). I plan on replacing the rectifier with a police/ambulance one with welded instead of soldered diodes (much more heavy duty).
One of the most impactful projects was finishing the window mosquito netting. I had been unsuccessfully messing around with some snap on screens for the inside of the bus, but it was almost impossible to get them to lay flat and keep all the bugs out (the screen likes to stretch over time – especially if the window is open and it gets wind while driving). My solution: install C channel on both sides of each window on the outside so that the open side of each C channel face each other. I build custom screens out of materials from Ace and Home Depot – I know, I felt weird not making it all out of salvaged material, but the outside of the bus is important to keep looking nice. The screens fit nicely in the slots of the C channel, and stay put using screen springs, which also allows the screens to slide up and down in front of the open window. I used “pile” weather stripping both on the inside bottom of the screens as well as on the top of the window, which, when the screen is up and the window down, seal the only open gap. After lubing the C Channels, the screens slide like butter, and stay up when wanted. Soooooo nice!
I had been having some slight mold issues with my bed, especially once I started heading into moister climates. After some consulting with my friend and anarchitect Jonathan Odom, who works at Instructables.com, I decided on drilling holes through the bed platform (through both layers of plywood) in a geometric pattern, while leaving some 6” wide strips – all for structural support. Although I didn’t get to completely finish the project (needed a plunge router), I got the holes drilled, which was the most important things. It just so happened that the neighbor I was helping build a pole barn has a friend who manufactures a product called Mortairvent – a roll of light, but strong fabric with criss-crossed plastic, adhered in a way to keep air pockets and allow for ventilation. My mom had just a week earlier been telling me about a product for beds on boats with almost the same exact construction. What great serendipity. I cut a piece for between the bottom mattress and the platform, as well as a piece for between the two mattresses.
The product from the neighbor wasn’t quite up to spec to sell (not sure why – looks great to me), so he had been given it from the manufacturer (who is local here in Sanford, ME). Oh, and it just so happens to come in rolls that are 39” wide – the size of a twin bed. For anyone else looking to ventilate a bed, this product is cheaper than the marine version ($1.51/sq ft vs $3.69/sq ft), but only comes in 61.5 foot rolls (enough for 10 single beds).
Some other projects: added a seatbelt to the co-pilot chair, painted the backside of the stainless sink backsplash black so you can’t see it from the outside anymore, made a tire cover for my spare tire (from a firepit cover), made a bike cover (from an old rainfly), installed a new (used) rim on one of Edna’s wheels (old rim had worn out lug holes from tire installers not tightening nuts all the way), refinished the counter-top, resealed inside of roof after small leak in torrential downpour, painted back door (lower half has been primered for several years after welding shut a window), did an oil change, installed new solar batteries, installed a new gear for the Vehicle Speed Sensor on my transmission, fixed some curtains (added stainless rings for sliding on cable after biased tape for this job wore out), repainted the spare tire brackets, cleaned out the fresh water tank, installed a fuel return line filter/clear sight, replaced the drawer slides on my slide out WVO filter station, replumbed the WVO transfer pump, replaced a 3-way electronic valve for the send line of my WVO conversion, and probably 100 more things…
In August we took a trip up to Mid-Coast and Down East Maine. We stopped in Liberty to go to Liberty Tool, which is the most EPIC antique tool store in the world (in my mind, at least). If you’re into tools, go there! In Belfast, we accidentally arrived on the evening of their monthly artwalk, as well as the opening night of their Peace Festival. We served tea for an evening and part of the next day, slowly meeting people from the town, and making new friends.
The main reason for our trip up the coast of Maine, was to visit the Blue Hill Inn – which Ally is currently writing an essay to try and win. They are the second inn in Maine to offer their inn to someone who writes a 200 word essay and pays an entrance fee. We drove by the inn as we came into town, and set out to see town and meet people to see if this was the place for Ally to start her (long dreamed about) community café/hostel. We heard live music coming from a park, so we went down to serve some tea. However, the scene was straight out of a Grateful Dead parking lot – with lots of dirty, dready, stoned, drunk folks making trash and being loud. Whoa, I felt like I was back on the Arcata Plaza. I never expected to find this in this little coastal Maine town. The parking was poor, and everyone was super messed up, so we ended up not serving tea.
As I walked into the Blue Hill Coop, I recognized my friend Eryn, who was a regular on the tea bus in Arcata, CA years ago. She had a baby on her hip, and it was a fantastic reunion. Seeing her, and meeting other folks at the Coop left us feeling like we wanted to explore more, and get to know the community. We were swooped up and directed to the CD release party of the local Loose Cannon Jug Band, where we danced and served tea in the parking lot.
At the suggestion of several folks, we ended up at Tinder Hearth Bakery for their open mic night. And what a wonderful community! Since Ally has been searching to create a community hub based around food and baking, this place was food for Ally’s soul (and mine too). We brewed up tea all evening, meeting people, and learning about the real locals. People were excited for our reasons of coming to the area and wished Ally the best of luck in winning the inn. We fell in love with this little community.
After a trip to Deer Isle, we cruised back through Tinder Hearth, and back south to Chewonki – a school and boys summer camp with gardens, boats, camping, lots of sustainability, and so much more experiential learning stuff. We got to spend an afternoon making tea in the middle of campus to a bunch of kids and staff, got fed two meals, went out around the bay in a motor boat, hung with birds in the aviary, and they even filled both our biodiesel tank and dirty WVO tank (80 gallons of fuel, total). It was great to see the awesomeness of this great model of education (I was so impressed that I put in a little word to them about future employment for myself). Thank you, Chewonki!
Back in Portland, we worked out a deal with Sarah, the owner of Homegrown Herb and Tea, to build her an apothecary in the back of her store. We spent five days building and helping her organize, and in exchange, she bought us new solar batteries and a tool I had been wanting (pocket screw jig). Our exchange started out as a calculated monetary transaction, but worked itself, through cooperation and communication, gradually into a relationship based on reciprocal altruism – where we helped each other simply because we wanted to see each other succeed. It was a great break after Ally and I had spent three weeks working a remodel that had been quite the opposite.
In September, we spent an epic four days serving free tea and pancakes along the Appalachian Trail near Sugarloaf ski mountain, followed by a weekend at the Common Ground Country Fair. We served tea in the volunteer parking in the evenings, and wandered and volunteered at the fair during the days. On the final day, we pulled up to the top of the parking lot and served tea almost all day to people coming in and out of the fair. The people, the exhibits, the concepts, the talks and workshops – all top notch. The kind of sustainable, organic, low-impact lifestyle that Common Ground Fair promotes is so awesome because it’s accessible, fun, and well-attended.
Currently, we are at my family’s camp on Square Pond, getting ready to head south for the winter. I’ve spent part of the past few weeks here working on bus projects, helping a neighbor build a pole barn, and getting some well-needed rest.
Current mission: Find the right place to spend the winter on the east coast/southern US. Help me find a place to hunker down so I can write the tea bus factory service manual! A little work-trade, a little paid work, good people, and easy access to resources are all pluses. We’re looking at possibly work-trading at Hostel in the Forest in Georgia, or heading to a friend’s place in Hot Spring, AR.
A huge thanks to Owen, Courtney, Oisin, and Caohmia for being our family and community; to my mom, Levi, uncle Brian, the twins, and all my cousins; Kristen, Nate and their whole family in NH; Ian and Betty the bus for solidarity and WVO; Mountain Rose Herbs and WishGarden Herbs for boxes of teas, tinctures, and more; Scott, Tom, Lesley, and all the folks at Chewonki; the whole Tinder Hearth community; Ruthie from Chai Wallahs of Maine for tea and a chicken; Bahia in Blue Hill for a home, water, and a shower; Eryn on Deer Isle for a quiet place to rest (and blueberries); the folks from 44 North; Case, Roger, and Eda in Freeport; Chase from Sugarloaf; Sarah from Homegrown Herb and Tea; the whole Alchemy family; Pastor John for helping us get a place to stay on Cape Cod; the parking lady in Augusta, ME; the parking lady in Provincetown, MA; Tyla and her family in MA; Scott on Square Pond; Barack the Baker; Dave and Pat at Common Ground; Mary Beth and Jordan from Two Toad Farm; Cousins Dick and Cathy; and so many more!