Our trip out west on the train was extended by about 5 days, so we arrived back in Alpine, TX just as an abnormally bad ice storm was easing up. There were downed branches and trees everywhere, power was out many places, and ice still covered many areas. Upon inspection, Edna seemed okay from the freeze. I hadn’t expected to stay away so long, and there was no freeze in the weather forecast when I left, so I hadn’t made any precautions. Oops.
When things began to thaw, I realized that the p-trap on my sink drain had burst, and my water filter housing had exploded one of its lids off and destroyed the threads. Luckily I had met a plumber named Tony a little over a month prior at Artwalk Alpine who lived only 4 blocks from where Edna was parked. He happily let me dig through his brass/copper recycling to pull out a chromed brass p-trap. Thanks, Tony!
After fixing up my plumbing issues, and getting some resources together, Edna and I headed back south to Terlingua to spend more time working on the straw bale house we had been working on in December. It was long hard work, but it was rewarding in the fact that I was learning new skills, and able to be creative with all the recycled material we were using. I give thanks to Frank (the lead carpenter and straw bale guru), as well as David and Kay (whose house it was), for wanting and liking so much salvage material being used.
On the weekends, I served tea at the Farmers’ Market, and other places around the ghost town. In the three weeks I was there, I worked everyday without rest either building or serving tea. It was exhausting.
One Sunday I was sitting in Edna in the Laundromat parking lot wait for my clothes to dry. I heard a diesel truck pull into the lot. Always curious about diesel vehicles, I turned my head to see a Chevy Blazer pull up next to me. Wow! I used to have a diesel Blazer, I thought. Wow, mine was a military issue, too. And, wait, they didn’t come with wing windows (but I put them in mine)…. Wait a sec, that is my old truck! And sure enough, there was the tire rack I made on the front, the roof rack I installed, and the remnants of the San Juan County Sheriff decal on the side (it used to be a cop car in my hometown). This was the first WVO conversion I had done, and I sold it in Washington State 5 years prior.
I jumped out and said to the driver, “That’s my old truck!” “No, it’s not,” he replied, unable to fathom that I just might be the previous owner. I told him the story, and he was amazed. His wife had bought it from me, and I remembered that she told me it was the perfect vehicle for where she lived in the desert. I guess I had forgotten where that desert was! She came down to the Laundromat and we chatted for a while. After that we kept running into each other, and she came to the farmers’ market for tea, and brought me a little departing present. It was sweet and endearing.
Later that evening, I pulled into the ghost town and just had the urge to pull right up to The Porch, where there were tons of folks playing music, drinking beer, and having a blast. The parking lot was packed, but for some reason a whole slew of parking spaces were open just in front of The Porch. My friend Sharron held the spot for me, and my bus pulled right in. I opened my doors, brewed up some tea, and had the most wonderful experience with many locals and many tourists. After being driven out of the ghost town parking lot a month and a half earlier, I knew that the tea bus was now an accepted thing (even the woman who kicked me out before came aboard for a split second)… It was a blast, with music, tea, jokes, and stories. Plus I was already high from running into my old truck.
Our time in Terlingua created many friends, some of whom I will know for a long time. I’d like to send a shout out to all the folks who I became close with. You all know who you are. You all nurtured, fed, taught, and laughed with me. You shared resources, stories, and time. As I was preparing to leave in my final days there, I can’t tell you how many people said things like, “Well, you always have a home here in Terlingua,” or “You’ll be welcomed back with open arms.” Even folks I just met were saying this to me. I think that Terlingua folks are good at making it home for many. I know for sure that this place is my home in this corner of the country. Thank you, Terlingua.
Now, we sit in a park five miles south of Marathon, TX centrifuging some vegetable oil. We’re off towards Austin, where we are potentially participating in the first annual Texas Tea Festival. Keep your eyes out for us in Austin! We’ll mostly be taking some time to do some winter projects like writing, reading, bus projects, and more, but we’ll make it out a bit and serve up some tea too!
LISTEN: If you didn’t catch the 4-minute Marfa Public Radio piece about the tea bus, here it is.
See you out there on the road!