Tea Bus Breakdown – Garberville, CA

Getting towed in Garberville

The first long distance ride I ever took without packing my bus full of ridesharers I broke down. A month earlier I had put five people, two bikes, and a bunch of gear in the bus for a trip from Berkeley to Arcata, when we broke down before even leaving town. Fortunately, I had posted an “Adventure Offered” on Craig’s List instead of a “Ride Offered.” The riders gladly accepted that we were going to be on the side of the road for a while, and actually made light of the situation and had a great time connecting, playing, and serving tea to people passing by.

It seemed to be the same sort of mechanical issue this time when I broke down in Garberville. There was air leaking into the fuel lines, causing my bus to not keep running once started or under load. Last time a friend biked all the way to the Ford dealer in Oakland to grab me a $1.83 seal to replace the one that biodiesel had corroded. This time there was no Ford dealer nearby, and I wasn’t even sure where the leak was coming from. After the nice folks at a realty office let me use their Jeep to try to jump my batteries (which were dead from trying to start and restart my bus so much), I went to NAPA, and the junkyard to no avail, I decided to turn to AAA.

Not the best day

When I realized AAA couldn’t tow me until the next day, my friend suggested over the phone, “Do what you do best. You’re not going anywhere. Serve tea.” I took his advice and met another couple who lived in their broke down van a block up the street. They were kind and shared dinner with me.

The tow truck driver told me that I was lucky that my Washington State AAA Plus RV covered me in California with its 100 mile tow limit, because in California the limit is something like one or two hours from when the tow truck leaves the shop until it returns. At the price rate of over $200/hour for this bigger truck, it would have cost me $600 to $700 if I had CA AAA Plus and over $1000 if I had no AAA. Thank God (or my mother, rather) that I was covered, and the whole trip cost me nothing, as it was only 75 miles.

Lessons Learned:
On 1993 and earlier vehicles, replace not only the fuel lines, but all the seals that come into contact with your fuel (and the one way valve mounted on your fuel filter housing on 7.3 IDI Ford/International engines).
When you are stuck somewhere, make light of the situation and serve free tea.
Spend the extra for AAA Plus. It’s well worth it.

Carefull with her underside now...

UPDATE: Problem ended up being an air leak in my stock fuel lift pump, probably caused by use of biodiesel. A $30 dollar part and 40 minute fix! Worth replacing anyways if you plan on running biodiesel or WVO. I figured out the problem by slowly adding clear fuel lines to my system moving backwards from the fuel filter housing.

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Anarchist Book Fair – San Francisco, CA

A crazy rideshare of anarchist, punk, and rainbow kids left my trip to the Bay Area for the Anarchist book fair a little out of balance. We left Arcata to a group of funny travelers and houseless folks singing “cause they’re leaving, on a short bus…” which made a funny start to a journey that became a little hectic. Other than the general ruckus atmosphere that these kids brought to the bus, a dispute broke out between two of the kids, which ended in one of them upset and getting off in Garberville.

When we got to the East Bay and I dropped everyone off, my bus was a disaster with trash strewn about, cheese and humus smushed into everything, and a stench I wished weren’t there. It seemed as if they treated my bus like a squat. Someone had tagged up the original Rules for Riding the School Bus, which still hang in the front of the bus, with words about blood and kissing your own ass goodbye. It was not a good scene.


I’ve seen almost all of them since the ride and kindly expressed my discontent with the ride. They were all very receptive and apologetic. I have had plenty of folks as such before in my bus, but without problem, but usually there’s a mix of other people on board as well, so perhaps it is once I put only these type of folks on the bus that it ends up this way. Maybe I need to make sure that I keep a good variety onboard to help balance out extreme personality traits.

It makes me feel like perhaps once my bus is more built into a (tea)house and nice space, perhaps people will treat it kinder. Many of these kids are also used to squats and buses and communal spaces that are not treated with the utmost respect. I have been on a lot of buses and in a lot of squats where this is the case.

Dish rack

This brings me to my first experience with the Anarchist Book Fair. I arrived at 6 am in order to get a good spot right out front and when the first outside info booths set up I was quick to boil a pot of some good morning oatstraw and orange tea. I quickly doled out most of my tea, handing out my own cups to people, and quietly took a seat near the entrance. A couple kind kids began to set up some informational boards, publications, and shirts next to me. We began to speak about anarchy and it soon became clear that they were communists. They believed that the anarchist state cannot exist, as we don’t have the mental state (yet) to manage ourselves and we need some sort of organization to help us be efficient and successful, and that organization is government. Anarchists, I believe, also think that it is a good idea to have organization in order for things to run smooth, but that organization can’t be government.

Conversation and a good cuppa tea

Half jokingly I said, “Hey, what are you communists doing at an anarchist book fair?” They explained that they didn’t feel like their ideas were much different than that of anarchists, and to me the similarities struck me more than the differences. They both believe in peace, cooperation for the benefit of all, and an ultimate goal of a non-hierarchical society, often envisioned as stateless. In fact, many marxists and anarchists share the term communism with a lowercase ‘c’ for this form of stateless society.  Another fellow in his late forties came up and asked the same question as I had, “What are you communists doing here?” I laughed and said I had asked them the same thing. I realized he wasn’t joking when he said, “Get the fuck out of here. You’re not wanted here,” and stormed off inside.

A couple minutes later the fellow came back with a posse of older men, such as himself. One came forward and yelled at the communists. “I run this fair, and you’re not welcome here. Get the fuck out of here.” “Whoa, look who’s being authoritarian,” one of the the communists replied. The crowd of cronies that surrounded the fair-runner scoffed, yelled back, and flexed their strength in numbers. The communists tried quasi-politely to reason with them, but the first crony dashed forward with a swift kick to a box full of their literature, sending it flying as he threw their sign board around and flipped the table their shirts were laid out on. Some people yelled with sheer joy, the communists were dumbfounded, and I  had to keep myself back from jumping in the middle of things, as it was only the first hour of the fair and I didn’t want to get blacklisted to an event I was trying to serve tea at for the whole weekend.

A traveler

A half hour later I was passing by the communists, who had now set up outside the main area , and I stopped to apologize for the actions of my fellow anarchists (yes, I do believe in anarchy in an ideal world, but I’m not going to go into this in depth here). As I was speaking to them as huge splash of water flooded over their table from a 5 gallon bucket – an unwelcoming present from a fellow who I recognized as someone who worked at one of the info booths, and a tea recipient that morning. Not only did all of their publications get wet, but so did some of my clothes and bag. Several of his peers jumped with joy and cheered from behind the fence as he ran off and back into the fair.

I followed him and caught up amidst the morning frenzy of booths, books, and people. “Excuse me, I served you tea to you earlier,” I said, in order to give him context as to who I was (not that that gives me any authority), “and I was just standing at the communists booth and you got me a little wet.” I showed him. “I was just curious as to why you would do something of the such to them.” He apologized and proceeded to kindly tell me that anarchists will not stand for any pro-state organization; they will not compromise. Plus, communists have a long history of not only oppressing anarchists, but killing them! Whoa. “They didn’t seem that extreme to me,” I said. “They’re just a bunch of bourgeois upper class kids who want to stay in power and tell everyone else what to do. They don’t think that people can think for themselves.” “They don’t seem that different from you, to me. You guys both have similar goals. I don’t think the world is ready for anarchy yet. We need to be able to be more selfless, and more knowing as to our place within society, our relation to others, and how our individual role effects the whole of society. Don’t you think their ideals come from the heart and would benefit everyone, just like yours. Not to mention, don’t you think that anarchy requires cooperation between people, and antagonism such as the water is just the opposite?”

Random sippers

Later, while sipping tea in the bus, a fellow came by and joined me. I recognized him right off the bat as one of the fellows who had expelled the communists. He listened intently as I told him of the Free Tea Party’s mission and goals. I told him that no matter the race, or culture, or class, or political affiliation, I served tea to anyone. He nodded and applauded my efforts. He seemed like such a peaceful man at that point as well as when I saw him the next day and he told me he liked my website. Yet, that first morning, he was filled with venom and ready to fight the communists. I was confused.

I discussed both the ride down and the communist incident with several tea sippers. It was a hard thing for me to process, as it seems to me that a utopian society, whether anarchist or communist in fashion, would include people working together in an effort to overcome differences and co-create, whereas the anarchists I had been associating with were both disrespecting other people and their belongings. One person pointed out to me that many of the “anarchists” out there have only accepted the half of anarchy which is the absence of rules or authority, and forgot the other half, which is responsibility. Without external rules to govern your actions, I learned, you must create internal rules to perform this same action. This fits well with my philosophy of doing more than you think you should, both in living situations and in life in general.

Bag o' tea

A traveling Canadian

I see this kid everywhere...

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Last Arcata Tuesday Tea Party

All dressed up

A record breaking evening it was! 8 gallons of tea, which by all estimations is 150 cups. All the regulars showed up, and many newcomers, led by eager tea-sipping friends and the barrage of craigslist ads placed in the free section every month since the beginning of November. People were so happy and so sad. Tuesday Tea has become such a norm here that many people have come to rely upon it as a place to connect with friends, new and old, as a place where ideas and troubles can be shared, and as a place to escape the constant hum of Humboldt’s evening-time social scene, which is driven in large part by alcohol and drugs.

Partly because of experiences in Arcata, the Free Tea Party has held in high regards the idea of hosting a substance free atmosphere. It is not just because I like to create an alternative atmosphere wherever I serve tea, but because I strongly believe in the late Ken Kesey’s words when he said that we can have that heightened experience of life without drugs. I believe that the action of sipping tea is the physical representation of several ideals: creating meaningful personal connections, building a healthy community, finding a certain sense of inner peace, and sharing valuable knowledge and ideas. And hopefully the sum of these parts can help create a better world. This is the path of FTP, and it is not tied to drug use.

Unfortunately this last Tuesday Tea Party ended up with more drugs and alcohol that I would have hoped. I wasn’t too concerned when a few people had slipped some whiskey in their tea, as it was the last scheduled tea party, which meant it was kind of a going away party for Edna and I. However, as the night progressed, and it got more and more hectic, people kept asking me to sip their tea, and I would. Not expecting whiskey, and not wanting whiskey made my taste buds shudder and made me a little upset that this many people were sipping whiskey.

However, the tipping point in some of my frustrations was the next day when I was informed that not only were several people on magic mushrooms, but a friend actually sold some to a random guy in front of my bus. I am absolutely blown away that people would bring obviously unwanted energy to a tea party – and a friend at that. It is not only the ideals and the path of FTP that were threatened, but also the fact that FTP operates on a ground up, grass-roots level where police can hassle us or shut us down for the smallest thing.

To bring drugs into the scene makes me feel like those people don’t want free tea parties, or appreciate free tea parties, especially since everyone knows I host substance free events. I can’t ever be too concerned with whether or not people come to a tea party on drugs or alcohol, as I don’t have any control over it, but what I can be concerned with is whether or not people are doing or selling drugs within the vicinity of a tea party. If people are doing these things, I will ask them to stop, or else they will be asked to leave. And I don’t want to exclude anyone, so please, come without drugs and alcohol.

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Food Not Bombs – Eureka, CA

Free food and tea

Food not Bombs is a world-wide group dedicated to providing free vegetarian food for anyone who is in need or want, while promoting the idea of peace. Each chapter is autonomous, as it is a non-hierarchical dis-organization. Usually, they serve food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

With such an obvious similarity to the Free Tea Party in regards to goals and actions, it is only logical that the two groups collaborate at some point in time. In fact, FNB has been a large inspiration and influence in the creation of the Free Tea Party. They’re food, and we’re tea. They’re free and so are we. They promote peace, as do we. They like to serve the people on the streets, we do the same. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It was a particularly rainy day, so we congregated under the gazebo in old town Eureka, eating stir-fry and soup, and sipping hot tea and fruit smoothies. An amazing group of late teens/early-twenty-somethings were making this happen. I felt a little old amongst this crowd, but this helped me appreciate the passion and idealism that many young folks had. It reminded me of me five years ago. They wanted to make a difference, and even though they (and I, for that matter) still have a lot to learn, they held their own when serving food, describing FNB to random inquirers, and maintaining a comfortable community atmosphere.

Sharing Tea

Old Town Eureka gazebo


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Arts Alive! – Eureka, CA

Arts Alive

Arts Alive is a once-a-month art walk in downtown Eureka, CA. They shut off a couple streets for pedestrian use only by setting up road blocks. Edna and I were fortunate to show up just prior to the street closing, so we got a parking spot right amidst the heart of the event.

It was great for Edna and I to make our way out of Arcata. At first the streets were nearly empty, and I was worried that nobody would show up to drink tea. A few people wandered by, wondering to themselves what was going on, and a couple people even commented, but nobody stopped to sip a cuppa tea. This is how many tea parties have started over the years. A single male in a school bus serving free tea can seem odd, or even sketchy to some. However, once another person joins the tea party, the number of participants seems to grow at an exponential rate. This is what happened at Arts Alive! Not only did the crowd grow from one to a dozen and a half in a matter of minutes, but a video camera was rolling, shooting the tea boiling, pouring of cups, and interviewing me for a College of the Redwoods media class. I ended up meeting neighbors of where I had been staying, people who have heard about the tea party and have wanted to join, random folk, and friends.

Another interesting note on the evolution of the tea party is that when someone shows up, they automatically assume that whoever is on the bus is part of the bus. When the first guest arrives, they see me and know that it is my bus and I am the serving tea. When the next guest or two show up, they assume that it is the original guest AND my own tea party. This is so even to the point where there will be eight people on the bus and somebody will assume that we are all traveling/living on the bus. It is funny, because everyone who is on the bus (including myself) is just as much a part of the tea party as the new person walking up, and even though you can tell someone this, they might just have this idea stuck in their head that and will ask everyone how we can all fit while sleeping as the bus is so small…

Felipe and Felix

Lots o' different folks

Tea and music

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Inauguration Day Bash 2009


This official Moveon.org Inauguration Bash on the tea bus rocked. We watched the inauguration and Bush’s farewell speech on the computer and listened to DJ Z-Trip’s Obama Mixes. All in all we served 5 gallons of tea, which we estimate to be roughly 100 cups. Regulars and newcomers all joined this Tuesday Tea Party.

Talking Politics

Josh and Guisepi

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Tuesday Tea

Guisepi, Salvation, Sunflower, and a Random

Every Tuesday for the past two months Edna and I have been serving tea on the Arcata Plaza. It has been great to have regular tea-sippers again. It was three years ago this month that I started serving tea on Hollywood Blvd. During those initial three months of tea parties, I had many regulars – shopkeepers, music students, homeless kids, artists. It feels great to again have these people that act as a golden thread, winding continuity and stability from each Tuesday to the next. So this post is for those people. You know who you are.

I have also been very appreciative to those who have donated goods, services, and money to the Free Tea Party. I have been blown away at the generosity of homeless people who give a dollar, or the tea and supplies from random people and our sponsors, or the ridesharer who gave well over one hundred dollars. It has struck me how beautiful people are in their compassion and desire to further the tea bus. So this post is also to you – all of you who have reciprocated the tea back to Edna and I, and to others on your journeys.

Thank You!

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Green Festival 2008

Beautiful People

A trip to San Francisco, CA to volunteer at and attend the Green Festival became laden with adventures. Everything from free pretzels to free bread to a free sequin studded jacket came our way. We served all over SF including at a dinner party, a Common Vision fundraiser, and the Goddess Alchemy Project CD release party. Author Daniel Pinchbeck joined us for a few hours one evening.

The tea party pictured above (Common Vision fundraiser) was perhaps one of the most beautiful tea parties yet. For the longest time I enjoyed serving tea randomly on the street, at parks, at the beach, as these were the kind of places where you get the most randomness to your tea sippers. I appreciated the connection made amongst strangers, especially amongst strangers who were very different, and so for years I never served at festivals or other events where like-minded people converged. However, along the way somewhere (I think it was Summer Meltdown 2007) I started to serve at events and the outcome was just as beautiful as before, just in a different way. What happened was that all these like-minded people began to connect. They began to take each other’s phone numbers, websites, and email addresses. They began discussing projects and ideas on a deeper level than before because they were already on the same level. They didn’t need to take the time to wade through differences in order to connect. It was amazing.

This is how this tea party was. A lot of people were on the same page. The real human connections that were made on the bus were incredible. Hugs were given to and from strangers. This was one of those tea parties that refreshes and re-energizes me to do more…

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Election Day 2008

What an amazing day! With the help of a new found friend Squirrel, we made some banners for the bus that said “Vote Today to change tomorrow.” For hours we drove around Arcata, CA honking, blowing a train whistle and heckling people to go and vote – no matter who it was for. Along the way we picked up potential voters and drove them to the polls. As the election results came in we had a tea party at the Arcata Plaza and celebrated with some tea.

Vote Today!


Vote Here

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Halloween 2008

Happy Halloween

Serving tea a couple places in Arcata, CA for Halloween brought all sorts of characters on board the bus. A white rabbit, the Cheshire cat, and even the Mad Hatter showed up. People were appreciative of the alternative atmosphere to the parties that were going on, especially with the red crushed velvet couches that I borrowed!

White Rabbit

The Mad Hatter

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