Hello to all my diligent readers.
I feel like I've been away from here for too long and a lot has happened.
First off - the graphics has finally been put on The Bus and here is a little preview of it. Thanks to Craig King for producing the vinyl on the fly and coming down to North Park all the way from Vista (which is about an hour away) to help with installation. I'll give You a more detailed look at it all once it's all Really Done.
Here is a picture of The Bus parked under my darkroom in San Diego, which is where 95% of the equipment for The Photo Palace Bus came from. Loading up equipment that I have collected for this exact purpose was a really emotional experience for me personally - it was most gratifying and thrilling as well as very difficult because I had to weed out all but the very essential things to take on the road. Apparently I collected quite a bunch of stuff that would be enough to outfit at least two full-size darkroom buses with no living space. Ryan and I worked late into the night.
Let me say that the fact that this years National Rainbow Gathering is in Tennessee is really throwing a monkey wrench in our travels by sending our travel path through the hottest part of the country in the middle of the summer. I am not at all regretting that I am trying to make it there as my first Rainbow in 1997 was indeed the birthplace of the idea for The Photo Palace Bus, except I had no idea back then that it will turn into an educational 'palace' vs. just a rolling personal darkroom. Since '97 I have only missed one Gathering in '99 and to this day regret not going that year (though I did hear it was miserably rainy and muddy in PA '99, but still it would have been a great under-tarp Gathering).
Our route is going through AZ, NM, TX, OK, AK and TN and so far the temperatures in AZ and NM have been around 99-110°F (37-44.4°C) and we have been REALLY regretting not making Air Conditioning a priority #2 right after the actual darkroom part - film, paper and chemistry are overheating and so we bought an extra cooler for 8x10 and11x14 paper and are contemplating making another cool box for 16x20 paper and some chemistry. Thank god I brought some Kodak Anti-fog No.1 tablets as well as some pure Benzotriazole, plus a lot of Lith developer, which may take a lot longer to work with, but it's going to be totally worth it.
So... Day 1 (june16th) went off without a hitch - we blew through more than half of Arizona state during the night and then stopped to give Gilli her rest during the hottest part of the day. It saw scorching hot and Ryans cigarette lit up by itself as soon as he stepped out of The Bus into the sun (well, not really, but it sure felt like every object including us was in danger of self-combustion). I tried to sleep on the bench, but kept being awoken by drips of sweat running down the sensitive parts of the body. At night we started driving again and that began Day 2, which was a lot more trying.
Day 2, for me, started in the evening of day 1. After starting the drive I noticed something odd about Gilli and how she drove - she seemed to have a very tough time coming up to speed and keeping it. I'm not saying that ordinarily she's an antelope, but this was out of the ordinary... I kept driving until all of a sudden I lost all response to the gas pedal and Gilli crawled to a stop on the side of the highway and started shaking pretty bad with the oil gauge going all over the place and finally dropping to levels below acceptable. Gilli shut herself down and for the first time ever didn't want to start at the first push of the button..... This was very worrisome, but after a little bit she started up and kept going albeit at even a slower pace than before. During the course of the night she did that three times total and the last time was when I was pulling off to take some rest about 40mi into New Mexico. We barely made it to an open large lot and slept like babies to the sound of Jake breaks rolling by us on I-10. When we woke up we were pleasantly surprised by seeing this giant testimony
to American Pride towering above us.
Apparently we were at the Historic Native American Trading Post located just a few miles from the Continental Divide. It was pleasant to look around across an abandoned lot that was once a bustling place of commerce, but the sun had risen and was heating up the environment by what felt like 1° a minute. We took off eastward hoping that by some miracle the next truck stop we saw had a repair shop that could fix Gilli up. There was indeed a truck repair shop withing 40mi of us, but it took us over an hour getting there as Gilli-bus was not having a good time. I admit to having as little knowledge about diesel engines as I do about rocket science (I'm working on the first right now), so Ryan and I were preparing ourselves for the worst - what could it have been? Fuel or oil pump? Engine problems? Who knew.... Well, the first mechanic we came upon didn't know either, so we were sent another 60mi down the road to the Peterbilt Truck folks in Las Cruses, New Mexico. Apparently the spirits of car repair realm were being kind to us that day and we got off super easily! It was apparently a super-clogged first fuel filter. Gilli has two of them and the one that is apparent we did switch before the drive, but the other one was not even identified by the one mechanic that sis take a crawl with us under the bus when we were in CA. We got out of the repair shop for a meager $141.00, which included re-mounting one of our outer rear tires so that the one behind it is accessible for airing up (appears that it was mounted wrong the last time that the tires were changed by the previous owners). Unfortunately we also gained the knowledge that due to the bus having been sitting for the past 10 years without seeing much driving at all the diesel tank is now full of contaminants and needs to be flushed out - that's going to cost us $1K someday when we have the funds, until then we'll just have to keep switching out the two fuel filters more often than ordinary.
To confirm the repairs we took a quick test-drive and, after taking a wrong turn, found ourselves inside the local dump-truck station at the exit of which was a scale that weighs the trucks on their way out. Overjoyed with that coincidence I asked the window attendant about our gross weight and was glad to find out that we weigh in at 24.640lbs - that's way below our maximum recommended weight limit and that's great news.
After the repair shop we headed north (decided to skip the Gulf Coast due to time-constraints) to visit my good long-time friend Josh who lives in Belen, NM on a small farm. It was HOT and Gilli had to make it up and down a lot of hills... I was pushing her pretty hard because with the new-found agility Gilli was easily getting up to 60mph and she hadn't done that since we first got her. Unfortunately that eagerness to reach Josh and to get into an air conditioned room resulted in our first overheating experience... Gilli did behave exemplary - the thermostat kicked in at the right time as it was meant to do, the warning light came on and the engine shut down allowing us to once again crawl off the highway right by a memorial cross at the spot where someone named Larry apparently lost his life a while ago (in US people mar spots of accidents with make-shift crosses and New Mexico highways are long a windy so they are lined with these sad reminders of these tragic moments).
We had a spectacular view to watch the sunset from.
To the East there was just as open and beautiful view, but while trying to walk there I was quickly reminded of the thing that I noticed first after arriving in USA as a teenager - every road, no matter how far and desolate has at least one barbed wire fence running alongside it to remind the traveler that 'this land is NOT your land, this land is MY land, so please stay OFF it, or I will shoot You'. That reality made me a bit sad as I was used to land being public property in Soviet Russia. As a kid I enjoyed camping with my classmates and we were able to pick ANY random route through the forest on a map, go there on a train and we would not have to worry about encountering barb-wire fences unless it was around a military compound (and those we knew better than to try climbing)... Here's a shot of yet another wonderful stretch of land that nobody but the select few are able to access.
We arrived to my friends house late at night and after some catching up we fell asleep in a quiet field next to a horse, miniature horse, 6 dogs, a cat and a lot of chickens and a rooster who woke us up at about 5am. We spent today parked in this field while being treated to cold sodas and working.
Josh had a house guest at the time of our visit - another decade-old friend of mine Derek Goodwin. Both of them are very creative people and make art in their spare time. Anything from tattoos to paintings to sculptures. We visited a beautiful garden that houses a lot of their installations and I took a couple of pictures in front of an awesome butterfly sculpture that has a chopped up satellite dish for wings and an ex-military contraption for loading nuclear warheads into the rockets - I think it's a wonderful thing when artists transform things that used to bring fear into peoples life into something beautiful and inspirational. Looking forward to developing and printing that image soon.
One important thing that was accomplished was outfitting of the windows with images - about half of them are done and the rest may have to wait until there is actual printing done on the bus. For now I put 20x20 fiber base images from Guatemala 2006 on the left side and an assortment of 5 images done with various techniques on the right side. We still have 7 more windows to fill, plus one more on the right side that we are reserving for possible future advertisement by any companies or individuals that may want to sponsor The Photo Palace Bus on continuous basis in some capacity.
Well... I think this had been an extra-long post and the temperature outside has dropped significantly in the time that it took me to write that. We are off again to drive through the night. I promise to take it easier on Gilli and not let her get above 190°F, which is her ideal operating temperature. We should be able to make it to Texas panhandle by the end of the night.
Next stop - Oklahoma. There we are picking up a friend of ours who is one of the folks who made it to the very first Rainbow Gathering in 1972. Rick is a great guy and we are going to bring him Home (which is what we call The Gathering) this year. Can't believe he was thinking of not going this year - it's only 2 states away from his house, for Pete's sake! I'll cut him some slack though - as a senior citizen traveling 700mi alone is not too much fun, that's why we talked him into going with us.
Thank You for sticking with it and reading this post o the end! I will do my best to get on here more often in order to be able to deliver the news in smaller, more easily digestible chunks...
Hope everyone is having a good Summer. Remember, tomorrow is a BIG DAY - by that I mean the beginning of Summer Solstice - the last Summer Solstice before the change of the Mayan calendar in December. We will celebrate by greeting the sun on the road as it comes up and doing some sun salutations in its honor.