Whoa! Whew! Wow! And, SO Very Thankful.
Wow. Not sure how to begin to catch up with all that we have done over the past two months, and all that has happened to the Eco Womb and to our family, good and not so good. We have literally had a roller coaster of a ride, many ups and many downs, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We have been in 11 different states in less than 8 weeks, have done 7 different events and countless other activities either for work or with the family, we have met so many beautiful conscious people along the way I have lost count, and we have broken down more times than I really wish to recall.
Since my last post in September, we have traveled from Ithaca, NY to our old stomping grounds of Burlington, VT, back to NY, took the kids to Niagara Falls, then onto Ohio. We were then invited to South Lyon, MI to get some veggie oil and ended up connecting with new friends that were instant community to us, and building an EcoHub in Southern Michigan! We went to Elkhart, IN to visit the RV Hall of Fame and Museum as a family, and then onto Southern IN, though IL and to St. Louis, MO to meet up with Lynnette Pate of the Fuel for the Body Bike Tour and Liana Gray of The Earth Diet. We had a string of events with them in St. Louis, including a Tour of EarthDance Farms, a protest in front of Monsanto Headquarters, and Ferguson Farmer's Market. We also attended the Healthy Planet Natural Living Expo, and a screening of American Meat with our family. We then traveled to Thayer, MO with the Fuel for the Body Bike Tour for the Go Green Festival, then onto Jonesboro, AR for an event at Panera Bread, an event at the Jonesboro Health Food Store, and onto Memphis, TN for an event at Cosmic Coconut and then at Whole Foods Market. Next, we traveled to Rend Lake, IL to celebrate our baby girl's 5th Birthday with friends. Our next stop was Carbondale, IL to meet with the team at Advanced Energy Solutions, Inc., and then to Effingham, IL to visit the My Garage VW Museum with our 74 VW bug. We went back to St. Louis, MO, then onto Lawrence, KS, Ellis, KS, and finally Colorado Springs, CO by Thanksgiving. Whoa! Whew! Wow! And, all of the craziness and amazing connections happened along the way, just as it was supposed to unfold. Yet, we have had one whopper of an adventure the past month and a half!
Once it started getting really cold up north, we realized we had to heat the veggie oil up so it would filter properly. We have had many a campfire with oil jugs surrounding the golden flames just so we could get fuel into our tank. Clint has also replaced more air filters and spent more time with his head in veg or in the engine then I remember from last winter. We have met friends that fueled us up, and restaurants that have topped us off and appreciate every ounce of support to get us where we are going. But, we have also had our share of problems. We had a fuel pump casing that melted (twice), a heat shield that was sparking the starter, a relay that went bad, an electrical issue with our headlights, a hole in our exhaust pipe, filter clogs, our stairs into the RV rusted and literally fell off, our tow bar for our VW bug snapped in half, we hit a deer one night (the moment I was opening the fridge to get some things to make dinner so everything went flying) and it ripped the front grill off of the Bus, and then to top it off, we lost our brakes. Nothing scarier than losing your brakes with your whole family in tow and everything you own and cherish on board. Luckily we were not yet on any mountain roads and were in the position to roll to a stop off an exit. We have spent hours in the dark and cold fixing problems, and I have seen my husband's feet stick out from under the rig and covered in grease and oil more times than I am actually seeing him.
We have also had major financial strain as we have adjusted our income this year from one of an outside pay source to being exclusively entrepreneurs. We had heard of the feast and famine that it would take, and we were prepared, but had no idea how famine it could get until we literally had to eat the same rice and beans for many nights in a row, good thing for spices to change it up a bit. For the first year of our Tour, we paid for all of our education on the road out of Clint's outside job. When he lost that job earlier this year, we budgeted for about half of what he was making based on income that was owed to us by a company that he had done work for on the side for the past year. They then decided not to pay him anything. And, with no new income to pay for a lawyer to fight it we basically got screwed. The saddest part is that there is awesome packaging out there on the shelves of natural food markets across the country for amazing gluten-free products that is his copyright, and that they are using illegally. Again, without money for a lawyer to fight copyright infringement, and without being paid by said company, it is something we just have to let be for right now. But, just letting it be also meant that we went from a steady stream of income to expected income to nothing, literally.
So, we picked ourselves up and worked on getting more income through Sponsorships, an Indiegogo Fundraising effort, and relaunching Letterbox Studios. We were so extremely blessed to get Dr. Bronner's on board this summer as a Sponsor, as well as BioBags and Advanced Energy Systems as product sponsors. We also raised money through our Indiegogo campaign and felt supported by the community of gracious souls who donated and promoted the fundraiser. We have been helped by so many that have offered a place to camp, free veggie oil, groceries, a hold on payment for camping until money came through, donated solar materials, a discount on new house batteries, five men working into the night to help figure out a problem and get us back on the road for one low rate, options to barter services or goods instead of exchanging money, phone calls and texts and messages from so many friends and family and friends that are family, that we know whatever life throws at us we can handle. It has been slow, and at times so slow it has gone backwards, but we are still so blessed.
It has been hard for sure, the finances and the breakdowns, and we are still struggling. But I am not writing this for any pity, I am writing it all out for the sheer realization of ALL that we have had to endure in such a short timeframe. My mind has been heavy with worry, stress, safety, and financial strain. Yet, we know we have so much more than so many others. We feel so very blessed that we have been safe every single time we broke down. Whether in a parking lot that we drifted to at night with no headlights, or the side of a road, or having to stay at a campground one more day so things could be fixed, we have ALWAYS had our home with us, a roof over our heads, propane to cook with, some food in the cabinet, lights to read by, a movie to watch on a computer to avoid the swirling chaos around us. Even with very little money, we are blessed. We have our family in tact and everyone's health and love. We have also been connected with amazing conscious community across the country, and have expanded our family thousandfold. We made it across the country to spend time with our village despite many obstacles that stood in our way. We have not been without. I write this to remind myself of how much we have. I write this to remind others of how much they have. I write this as a way to emphasize what we are grateful for even in the midst of chaos, and maybe because of the chaos. I write this as a way to recognize thanks every day, not just on a holiday.