The First Smooth(ish) Day

Dateline: Sunday, 24 Aug, Denver

The last 24 or so hours have blurred behind a haze of constant driving, problem solving, and unexpected stops. Saturday proved to be a more grounded day, once we left Salt Lake City around 2 AM. There were some bumps along the way, but all went exceptionally well from my experience.

The buses rolled into SLC after about 17 hours on the road Friday night. Pricilla proved to have the most problems, lagging behind Julia for the whole trip. Julia met up with the truck at the gas station. They had the new truck and were working on hitching the trailer. Julia went to gas up, and Pricilla was heading straight to a diesel repair service once they rolled in.

Problems began for all vehicles. Skeets and Nick had problems switching the hitch onto the new truck. They had to buy tools at a nearby store to fix things. Then they realized that the wiring for the lights were set up in a way that didn’t reach the plug on the new truck. So they had to start solving that problem.

Jonathan began to swipe his credit card to fill up Juila with B99 at the pump (a cheap $3.99 per gallon due to being made from waste oil). He’d only get $99 worth at a time, so swiped his card about three times to fill up Julia. Then the pump’s card swipe crashed, showing a “cancel” notice. Skeets began to fill up his truck next on the other side of the pump. Jonathan continued to have credit card issues and then that pump’s swipe crashed. The three vehicles left the station not filled up with B99 and with wiring repairs still needed for the trailer.

Meanwhile, Pricilla went to three mechanic shops before they found a quick repair time. They’d stalled about three times along the drive (buses protect their engines by cutting off at 200 degrees), so needed to have an air intake vent fabricated. They made dinner and waited on us to solve our problems before eating. With the trailer lights out, Nick drove and Geoff led us to the mechanic shop. He missed the turn off so we drove around lost until finally finding the huge repair service compound. Highlights of being lost included two crazy three-point turns in Julia, compliments of a sleep-deprived Jonathan Youtt (the reincarnation of Neal Cassidy!).

We had a surreal, late dinner in the middle of the repair service’s parking lot. Amazing view of SLC: freeway, semis, containers, piles of random metal and debris. Mechanics came over and chatted us up, stars peeked out from behind the clouds. Julia occupants had their first real meal all day. They’d been eating bars and nuts, with a small salad earlier in the day.

After cleaning up, a 1 AM meeting was held. The truck/trailer would speed ahead to get to Denver on time to unload at the Green Frontier festival. One Carny had to volunteer, so I offered to go if I could sleep horizontally at the beginning of the trip. I developed a cough which had become congestion, so not having much sleep in the past two days had made it worse. The bus drivers seemed frazzled but were still wired and ready to keep driving. The buses would hit the Rockies passes together, with Julia waiting up for Pricilla if needed.

With the repairs done to the trailer lights, we all caravanned to a gas station that had B20. When we got there, I realized that this was the other station we’d visited last month on the way to Copper Mountain. They didn’t have biodiesel anymore! Mo got online (go Verizon modems) and began to search for another station in SLC that had bio. Nick, Geoff, and myself threw our day bags into the truck and left the buses behind for the long drive to Denver.

I half slept as Geoff and Nick took driving shifts and blared the radio. I have problems sleeping with music on, so my earplugs only allowed me to sort of sleep. Nick had driven Skeet’s truck for a long shift to SLC, so his shift ended short right after sunrise. I got up and drove for about three hours.

Right outside of Cheyenne, I noticed that the tank was going empty fast. I started to sweat over this, visualizing us on the road, with a “diesel needed” sign up for a hopeful trucker to stop and help out. Nick and Geoff woke up and Nick brushed it off, saying “there’ll be a gas station in the next few miles.” We pushed it, but he was right! We got six gallons to get us into Cheyenne to fill up with biodiesel, but stopped first at Little America to take showers.

Maya had mentioned Little America at last night’s meeting, so we followed the two dozen billboards to the complex, and ended up paying $10 each for a luxurious shower room each. I called the biodiesel station in Cheyenne to confirm their location and they had stopped selling bio in January. No other place in Cheyenne had bio. Stubbs Brothers had stopped selling it because higher soy prices had overpriced bio to the degree that no one would buy it. So we filled up with dino at Little America and hit the road for the last 100 miles to Denver.

I began to call ahead and tell our people that we were on time and on the way. Mike from Green Frontier woo-hoo’d when I told him. Things continued to run smoothly for us as I checked in with the buses and with Tom. Pricilla had a transmission fluid spill, but they were still trudging along about 200 miles behind us. Tom was on his flight and so I gave him instructions to find Green Frontier. Geoff drove the truck/trailer hard all the way out of Cheyenne.

Until the trailer busted a flat in Erie, CO, 22 miles from downtown Denver. Shit! The three of us began to trouble shoot. Geoff called his co-worker in Denver, Tracy, who got online and started looking into tire repair nearby. We unhitched the trailer and left Nick with it to drive to a nearby junkyard to see about repair. It ended up being a storage space, but a local number on a sign led us to a real junkyard by the high school.

This place looked like a Route 66 landmark, complete with junk car art and nicely groomed grass around well-placed junk cars. The folks there were super nice, and one employee got online and helped us troubleshoot the flat. They didn’t have what we needed but we found a Big O store down I-25 that could help us. Actually, one Big O had the tire we needed and another was closer. We drove back to the trailer, hitched it, and drove slowly about 5 miles south to exit off at 120th Avenue to the nearest Big O. We left the trailer there and then Geoff drove like a maniac to the other Big O about 5 miles away. Got the tire and had a crazy drive back with Geoff yelling at the other drivers the whole way.

The Big O guys installed the tire for free! They were super nice too and interested in our Roadshow. I continued to call ahead to Mike from Green Frontier and he was cool about our delay as well. The guy working on our tire told us he had heard a public service announcement on a local radio station telling all pot smokers to “not smoke pot anywhere in Denver during the DNC”. He thought that was the funniest thing to hear on the radio.

Back on I-25, I told Geoff he was “driving the truck like it didn’t have a trailer.” He continued to yell at drives the whole way down. Mike was ready for us and gave us directions. Tom was ready for us at our HQ lot and happy we were on time. We arrived to Green Frontier 20 minutes later than expected. Not bat at all. Storm clouds began to roll in as we unpacked the trailer. Tom showed up from the airport and jumped in to help set up. Tracy showed up with sandwiches so we had lunch around 3 PM. The buses were still moving along and would arrive Saturday evening.

Once the trailer got unloaded and repacked with stuff we didn’t need, Nick and I drove to the HQ lot and dropped off the vehicle. We began to walk back down to Champa and Speer streets, soaking in Denver and the DNC along the way. Fatigue began to hit and we showed up, after a quick beer, to find Tom wiped out too. So we covered everything and walked over to 16th Street to check things out.

Obama madness, somewhat like a political version of a Phish concert mixed with the Olympics, filled the sidewalks and streets. Tee shirts, buttons, schwag were for sell in booths and from walking hawkers. MSNBC had a Mardi Gras-like open studio set up and several corporations had interactive displays in parking lots. Chain stores lined The Mall, so we continued to look for a local place to get a snack. We found a pizza joint and chatted with the workers while we waited for the slices.

They told us about tent city, in a park near the river, where the radicals were supposed to be camping. Rage Against the Machine is having a concert at the Coliseum and you have to go to tent city to get tickets via a raffle. Word has it in Denver that shit is going to go down later in the week. “Don’t believe the hype,” was my reply. After eating slices, we walked up 16th Street. There’s a company that has free bike stations set up all across Denver, one of which is two bridges down from our HQ. We walked over to try to find tent city and just found sprinklers watering the grass.

Back at the buses, dinner was ready. I met up with Mo to try to organize the next day’s doings. I felt like shit and had no energy. Dinner was yummy and it felt good to finally be here after a mostly smooth day of work. We had a midnight meeting to organize Sunday and then I went to bed in my cubby. I have a 3 PM shift at the games today so have taken it easy. Heading to a health food store to buy medicine and then will have a free bike to the Yoga Festival. Got to shower in the condo today and got to meditate for the first time in weeks. Off to get some body work before the carny shift, in the middle of Obamaopolis.