I’ve driven through Oly many-a-times, but never really stopped here. I’ve known many people who went to Evergreen, heard about this city from many on the road, and my dad even lived here briefly. From all I had heard, I knew the tea bus would be welcome here. I was glad to have no itinerary or deadlines, so that I could spend some time!
I arrived in time for the weekend of fun – Spring Art Walk. Thanks to my friend Vanessa (fellow Common Vision volunteer), I had a great landing spot when I rolled into town. I could park Freddie (the horse trailer) there, have the amenities of a home, and have a friend to spend time with in the garden, on the porch, and bantering between the house and bus. I awoke the first morning and caught up with V through the window while I was still laying in bed and she was on the porch. I pretty much instantly fell in love with the city.
I drove downtown Friday where their twice-yearly Art Walk was happening and set up across the street from the Make Olympia street market. I had contacted both the City and the head of Make Olympia to see if I could fit in somewhere with the festivities, but my response from both was basically the same: we can’t help you, but find parking on the street or in public lots and do your thing. After my experience with the Fremont Market recently, I was hopeful for working with permission from cities/events, but that quickly diminished again… Nevertheless, it turned out WONDERFUL! I literally could not boil water fast enough with two burners and two kettles.
I often feel like I write the same thing about tea parties: there were lots of great people, many old friends, surprises by friends, new friends, etc. It’s so great that these things keep happening, but I assure you, it is soooo unique ever time – although I seem to run into the One Man Band all the time (Arcata, Portland, Seattle, and now Olympia).
This night had several military men (one who just got back from Afghanistan the day prior). I could tell he was uncomfortable sitting in a school bus drinking free tea in a city like Olympia during their Art Walk (everything points to liberal), but we assured him that he was one of us – a human. He asked what we thought was happening in Afghanistan, and shared his point of view. It was super enlightening. But it did get a little heated at one point with one of his friends (super aggressive, wants to attack Syria, thinks that violence is the answer – not collaboration). I am glad that these discussions can happen on the bus and everyone walks away with another viewpoint.
I awoke the next morning excited about what the day was going to bring: The Procession of the Species Parade. I’d heard about it for years, and now finally I was going to get to see it and participate. After a quick stop at the water treatment plant to empty my grey water tank, and a stop at a flea market (where I picked up another tea kettle that fits in my woodstove), I cruised around Oly looking for a good parking spot for the parade. Many streets were closed, and parking was difficult, but at last I found a decent one.
I parked and decided to walk around to see if there was a better parking spot. As I walked down the sidewalk, a woman who was walking by looked me up and down. I had never been so blatantly checked out. As I stopped at a crosswalk she caught up to me and said something along the lines of: I write a fashion blog, and I was wondering if I could take your photo. Flattered, I agreed and when she was looking around for the right background, I suggested we walk down the block to my school bus. She was immensely interested, and took pictures of both the bus and myself. Here’s what came from this interaction: It’s My Darlin’.
Our parking spot turned out to be a great one. It was a huge crowd and so many people were stopping in for tea. People sat and stood on the roof for the parade, as we were right along the parade route. The parade was spectacular, but once again, I was serving enough tea to keep me from actually seeing much of the parade. I have become completely comfortable with the fact that I often miss out things in order to create my own thing that people can enjoy.
Late that night, when we were serving up a pot of Fairytale Tea, a man came by with a guitar and asked if he could play a song. The song ended up being the story of Tam Lin. I was only familiar with the name because Elephant Revival has a fiddle tune of the same name. The song was a long fairytale with wonderful lyrics and hidden meanings. It just so happened that a woman named Chandelle was in the bus filming the song. She ended up being super into the story of Tam Lin and had even traveled to the places mentioned in the story in order to learn more and find out how true it might be. She shed some light for the guitar player on many of the meanings of parts of the song. It was a great synchronistic moment on the tea bus. See the video below (thanks Chandelle):
Another late evening and early morning led my kind host Vanessa to say: F*ck man, when do you ever sleep? It was true in Olympia, and much of Seattle and Bellingham. I pretty much served tea all weekend straight and slept little.
I was surprised on Friday evening by a crew of Western Washington University students who I met in Bellingham a couple weeks prior. I had stayed at a house a few of them lived at, and we became as tight as you can in a few days, talking about life and philosophy, adventures and travel. In Olympia we spent some time on the bus during the tea festivities of Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday they insisted on bringing my out to breakfast. They wanted words, they wanted stories. So, we yakked over food, and said some ridiculously sweet goodbyes with lots of hugs. Even though I meet people so briefly most of the time, it is really nice to know that those interactions are deep, bright, and will be carried with all of us for a long time. Thank you Mike, Ashley, Jacob, Andrew, and Lauren…
Here’s a dance party to The Kinks’ Have a Cuppa Tea from Lauren:
Also while serving tea in Olympia I met a fellow tea man named Omar. He has a box truck for work that he used to sometimes set up for tea sessions, but I think he hadn’t done it for a while. It was actually the model of truck I was originally thinking of making into a tea house (Navy issue diesel chevy van with a box with slider windows). We connected instantly and bounced many ideas off each other. Immediately he was inspired to renew his tea serving ventures. The last day I was in Olympia we met up so we could rap about his tea truck. We looked it over and talked about layout, plans, and ideas. It was fun to have a blank canvas to look at. Now, after leaving Oly, I see on Facebook that Omar has been working on the tea-truck. I am stoked to have been a catalyst for inspiring him to build out the truck. Keep up with his tea house here on Facebook.
One thing that I noticed when I was in Olympia was that I was getting people signing up for my email list all over the country. Usually that happens when an article gets published or something, so I went on to Google Analytics to see where recent traffic had come from. I usually average between 15-100 unique hits per day, but over the course of the weekend, I had over 10,000 unique hits. Oly Moly! They were mostly referred traffic from Reddit.com, where someone had posted something about the tea bus. It was insane!
On Sunday morning I got a call from my dear friend Owen in Portland. He needed some help quick on his house due to an impending cancellation of his new homeowners insurance. I had planned on really spending some time in Olympia, as I had no place I had to be and no itinerary. But of course, part of having no itinerary is not only for allowing much fun to be had, but to help people who are in need – to go places for any reason when that reason feels right. That night I hooked up Freddie late and drove through the night to Portland to surprise Owen.
Thanks Vanessa for the home base, but mostly thanks for digging up some of your Lemon Balm to help kick start my soon-to-be-garden. Thanks Omar for being inspired – it actually inspires me back! Thanks to the Bellinghamsters. Thanks to all the wonderful guests! Oh, and a big thanks to Steve Roberts for the top on the artesian water – it makes for wonderful tea!