Lessons Learned Under the Rainbow
Our journey home was full of surprises...never a dull moment to say the least.Good Energy came all the way from Indiana to spend a week with me before we left for the gatherings. Somewhere in the blackhole that is Kansas, his radiator started tripping. The water in the reserve tank was bubbling super hard, as if it were boiling. It was way past closing time, so his only option was to press on to Colorado. The next day, he consulted several reliable mechanics, all telling him he needed to replace the thermostat. So off to Pep Boys we go, spending a whopping $7 on a new thermostat that my good friend Randvar would soon replace as trade for the drum he recieved from Good Energy.
Thermostat replaced, the next day we go driving, and the water from the radiator is blowing steam up onto he hood and windshield! Wrench Randvar comes back over for another look and is vexed. He's a fair wrench, he says, but this is beyond his skill level...so we take the ol Jeep to an expert. (Mind you, we're both stressing big time. We're supposed to be leaving for NM in just 2 days.) One overnight stay in the car hospital and a bill for $777, and the Jeep is road ready and we sigh a deep sigh of relief.
Tuesday night, on the eve of our journey, Good Energy and I finish our last minute chores and wrap up the packing when our travel companions Treya and Aubrey come over to get a few hours sleep before the trip. None of us really got much sleep, aside from 15 year old Aubrey- so the next morning, bright and early, we pack up the two vehicles (his Jeep and Treya's Maxda) and head out on the road.
The drive in was pretty amazing. Lots of changes in scenery between Southern Colorado and the Santa Fe National Forest. We almost thought we were headed in the wrong direction because there was no sign of the gatherings anywhere along the highway. No hitch-hiking hippies, no buses, nada. We thought for sure we'd start seeing rock formations along the side of the road once we began approaching Cuba. Nope. And as we inched our way through the entrance to the forest, still nothing. And at the very last moment, we came to the parking lot at the junction of 69 and 70. Welcome Home. Bien Venidos. Still, it was not the grand, wonderful, loving welcome I'd been anticipating. I've long heard stories of overwhelming heartfelt love and hugs aplenty and what I saw was weary, tired, hungry family sitting on duffles and rucks, waiting for a shuttle for the 9 mile drive to the original Welcome Home site.
Hopeful still, the four of us gathered what we could (about half of our things) and climbed aboard a pickup truck shuttle. (Probably one of the coolest things about our first few moments home was that our shuttle driver and his wife were locals. They just wanted to come out for a day and see what they could do to help.) Once aboard, we drove 9 miles to Welcome Home, got directions for what we thought was a good drop off point for Montana Mud, and dropped our stuff and Treya off so we could head back down for more. The drive back down to the parking lot took a lot longer than we'd thought because the roads were one-way only. We made it back down to the cars and were daunted by the amount of stuff we still had...mostly buckets of donations for the kitchens, etc. So my love, Good Energy, decides we're gonna just drive the Jeep up. So we unload the Jeep, stuff Aubrey in, pile all of the stuff on top of Aubrey in the back and me in the front and make our way up. There's no parking anywhere near the spot where we dropped Treya off so we parked where we could and hiked two miles down with what gear we could carry; leaving a few non-essentials in the jeep, locked up.
Down at the drop off point, which we later learn was the disabled camping area, we drop the rest of our gear. Treya and Aubrey decide to stay with the stuff while Good Energy and I go scouting for Montana Mud. (Because Big Bear Benny is supposed to be there.) It starts raining. I got directions for Montana Mud, but I had no idea just how far away it was. We're not even 10 minutes into our search when we get stopped from an old timer needing help to carry supplies down to The Magic Bowl. I take 3 pallets of eggs in my arms and Good Energy gets loaded down with two great big bags of flour. We're supposed to be following this ol cat down to the kitchen but he takes off like a bat out of hell and we have no idea where we're going. It's pouring down rain, we're soaked, and the flour bags start ripping from the water. I get the eggs down to the kitchen safely, but my love is a mess with flour all down the front and back, and gobs of dough forming in his beard before it's all said and done. By the time we were able to make it back up to the Four Corners to begin looking for Benny, we were flat-ass exhausted. G.E. threw his hands up and said "I'm done. Let's go back our stuff, find the first flat place, and set up camp."
We walk back to the drop off point to find all of our gear and the girls, under a tarp! Thank the Gods they were thinking, cause we sure weren't!
A short, very short walk into the woods behind the disabled camp provided us with a beautiful, somewhat secluded little site to set up. An hour and 3 tents later we had ourselves a beautiful little nest for a week. Too tired to even be hungry, we each ate a delicious orange and collapsed into our tents.
Days 2 and 3 kind of went in a blur. Most of day 2 was spent walking around in search of Montana Mud/Benny Bear. I saw a lot of people I knew from Texas, but as of Day 2, still no Benny.
Sometime during the afternoon of Day 2, Aubrey realizes she's left her bag of meds in the jeep and decides to hike up for them. When she arrives at the jeep, the bag is gone. No sign of it anywhere. When she gets back to camp, a mad search ensues to find this bag which also has the keys to Treya's Mazda. Campsite flipped way way and down the other and no bag, no meds, no keys. So Good Energy and the girls go back up to the jeep for another search. No bag, no meds, no keys. The doors were locked, but the soft top was on. Anyone walking by could have unzipped the back window of the jeep and taken whatever they wanted. On the way back down they met a girl who's guitar had been stolen as well.
Sometime late on day 2 or early day 3, I finally saw Benny! The girls and I were down at Lost & Found checking to see if someone had turned in the bag or at least the keys. No such luck! But I finally saw Benny! I spent quite a bit of time on the meadow by myself on Day 3 before making may way through Kid Village in search of Guitar Mikal. That didn't take long at all! I followed the sweet sound of guitar and harmonica and in just a few minutes I found myself on the edge of a little guitar circle. Mikal had his back to me so he couldn't see me standing there for awhile, but when the song stopped and he turned around I couldnt help myself! He gives the best hugs ever!!! I cried like a big baby! I sat awhile and listened to the boys play and sing and then made my way back to the trail, in search of who knows what. I took a trail that I'd been told would take me to the road, which would take me back to camp--I had no idea exactly how long of a trek I was in store for! Along they way, I met a Hari Krishna who, very much like Alice's Caterpillar, was just sitting on a big boulder in the middle of nowhere. I stopped and chatted with him a good long while before finishing my hike up the trail. I'm not kidding when I tell you, the walk from Mikal to my tent was undoubtedly the hardest work I've ever had to do. I kid not when I say 5 miles of rocky, uphill, exasperating work. When I made it back to the camp, no one was around. I crawled into the tent, and collapsed. I must have been asleep for a half an hour or so when Aubrey found me.
What a beautiful, crystal clear morning! The girls and I made our way down to the meadow. (Good Energy had a case of altitude sickness and by Day 4, he was pretty confined to either the campsite or Happy Hippie kitchen.)
Together, we sat and just enjoyed every blissful moment of near silence. Aubrey and I joined hands with other family just minutes before the Ohm started. What an incredible feeling it was to herald in the rain with a sound! All around us people were dancing and singing, laughing, and hugging, kissing! It was probably the most beautiful experience of my life. I looked everywhere again for Benny but he's an elusive creature! So again, we checked the Lost & Found for the bag or keys and made our way back up to The Happy Hippie kitchen.
The rest of our time home was mainly spent in or around Happy Hippie. Vince, Preacher, and Pete were just so wonderful. The first two days we were there, we ate oranges because we couldn't seem to find a spot in line at any of the other kitchens and still walk away with a bite to eat. Everywhere we went people were running out of food. So by day 3, our little caravan had pretty well decided we were sticking with our friends at Happy Hippie. Aubrey spent a full day with Pete digging a shitter. Treya and I both bonded with the crew by serving meals, and Good Energy had mountain man 101 lessons with the guys, learning how to build bricked in campfire ovens.
I have to say that our time with Happy Hippie was probably the single most rewarding experiences of my life. We bonded very closely with Pete, who will be joining us this fall for Thanksgiving in Colorado...and we spent a great deal of time listening to stories of misadventures around the fire. We looked on as meals were prepared and watched the worker bees interact together. We weathered a big storm together, each of us holding up poles hanging on to rope to keep the kitchen from blowing away.
The last night we were there, a man came down with his guitar and sweetly sang Redemption Song and a few other old ballads. Treya, Aubrey, and I serenaded the kitchen and all by the light of fire.
On the day of our departure, we were lucky that Treya's exhusband came to help get the girls home. We still had not found the keys to her car and the tow service wouldn't tow her car off the mountain because we couldn't get into the car to put it in neutral. Mazda wouldn't come from Albuquerque to reprogram the computer chip and re-key her car so the girls had to spend the night in Albuquerque. The next day they were able to find a tow service who would help and the car was re-chipped and keyed and is safely in CO.
We had some pretty tearful goodbyes with our Happy Hippie Pete on Day 7.
And I had one of the best little moments a few hours later after Good Energy and I had been on the road awhile. We stopped alongside Route 66 for fuel and cold medicine. When we got out of the jeep, an old NM Cowboy approached me and asked, "Did you two just come from that big hippie festival in the woods?" Prepared for the worst and exhausted, I responded with "Yes sir, we did." He surprised me with laughter, and said, "Well how did it go??" Having seen trials and tribulations from losing keys, to getting sick, falling in holes, getting hit with logs, crying myself to sleep, and witnessing a fight in the meadow-- all I could respond with was "It was wonderful"...and it was.
G.E. and I made our way back to Colorado for a full day of rest, relaxation, and recuperation (I caught a nasty cold) before loading back up and heading to Indiana together. We were lucky that my roommate watched his dog Mojo for us while we were in New Mexico, but we came back to a girl in heat...so that made the trip to Indiana pretty interesting. Poor girl was cooped up in the back with our gear. We were were well on our way home and everything was going great. We stopped just 20 miles outside of Topeka, KS to get gas and the jeep wouldn't start. We had to push it from the gas pump into a parking spot, which unfortunately was a disabled/handi spot. While GE was inside making phone calls, Mojo and I were outside sweating to death in the heat. (I think my dad said it was 107 in Texas that day...have no idea what the temp in KS was.) He'd arranged for the car to go to a little shop in Topeka and the tow truck was on its way. While outside, Mojo was getting pretty frustrated so I had her on a leash and we were letting her stretch her legs when a woman walked by and stuck her hand out to Mojo. Mojo freaked and ran up on the lady! I had her on a very short leash, so I was able to keep her from doing anything but the woman got mad and said "There's a lawsuit waiting to happen."- I took Mojo out to the field behind the station to keep her from running up to anyone else and give her more slack and Good Energy said the woman claimed Mojo bit her. So here we are stuck in the parking lot of this gas station, can't really go in and stay cool because we have the dog, a woman's out complaining to her big rig boyfriend that our dog attacked her, and we're just praying the tow truck shows up before a.) her boyfriend comes over to give us a few words or b.) the cops show up and ticket us for being in a handi parking spot.
Luckily the tow did show up and we made it safely to the auto shop. It was after hours however, so the owner of the shop couldn't really make heads or tails of exactly what was wrong. He made an educated guess, took us to a motel, and told us he'd have it fixed by checkout time the next day. Whew.
Checkout time day 2, no jeep. Apparently the part that's needed to fix the jeep is on backorder because Chrysler filed bankrupcy and it's not in production or production is slow so it won't be available until at least August 1st.
So Good Energy makes a phone call to his brother, checks us in for one more night and the next morning the jeep is on a car dolley, and we're headed to Indiana in his brother's truck. Thank the Gods for good family!!!!
Needless to say, it's been an interesting couple of weeks.