Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Letter to the Gypsies.

By Zach Watson

Editor's note: This corresponds with Alex's Thank You Blog below.

Those were our days, the days on the bus. I think back, now that it has been two months for me without bus, and I think about how incredible it all really was, how those stories will never be matched. Is there a way to ever top it? I think the answer is no, not in the way we did it. No mattter how much we struggled with it, we invented it. It was our moment. And the best part was sharing it.

The bus really started with just A&A and I on those streets of Quito, yes, but it didn't become the bus until the others rode it. I remember sitting with Alex and Alaena in the Centro Del Mundo Hostel at the infamous rum night and saying to the other travelers who sat around drinking, almost as an announcement, that we were buying a bus. In that moment, with the confused stares from the audience, I knew that what we were doing was different. It snowballed then after that, especially after we actually bought it. And we were never alone, even when the bus was broken last summer.

The bus inspired something in Matthias and Mike. They believed in it. They waited for us to figure it all out for a month while they could have been traveling, hooking up with chicks, and drinking beer. I know after they read this, they will say that they wouldn't have done it any other way (and that they still got to hook up with chicks and drink beer.) And I know they wouldn't have. They were just as much a part of it by that point as we were. But it meant a lot to me and A&A to have their never-ending support. Because in those days we really needed it, and we at least knew that two people were just as stupid as we were. Thank you guys for waiting, I told you it would be worth it. haha. Thank you guys for believing in the bus the way you did, unconditionally.

And while we waited. A&A were the real heroes. Trekking back and forth from Quito to Santo Domingo, test driving the bus around Ecuador, getting matriculas and number plates. Alaena with non-stop phone calls to Ivan and late night karaoke parties. You guys were the best. Really I think there might be something wrong with you.

Who does what you did? No one. No one goes to borders and bribes the guards so they can have more time to get a number plate for their broken bus. No one goes illegally across another border to find a cabezota for their broken bus in the backseat of some strange Ecuadorian's car. You guys were the operational nerve center of the bus, the bleeding heart. As much as Alex isn't a bleeding heart in any sense of the idiom, his heart bled for that bus. That made me smile to write. Thank you both for changing my life.

I feel like I am making a speech at a wedding...anyway...

Tom, thank you for supporting us when we needed beers those days in Quito and for your always appreciated words of wisdom. Oh yeah, sorry for bumming cigarettes off you. Thank God I quit. Please, Tom, write me a fucking email. I know you are in the normal world now, but even in the normal world people return emails within 3 months.

Marta,thank you for making me a happy man on three different occasions in South America. I know you dreamed of the Gypsy Train while your nose was buried deep in quantum mechanics, and I know that every second you could have been there, you were with me and even when you weren't you were. Plus, I don't know how to be alone.

Monkey, where the hell are you? Thanks for being a good dog and for pleasing Matthias sexually when he needed it.

T and B you rode bus. you love bus. you were bus. bus was you. I miss you.

Ben and Jake it's too bad you couldn't have bought the bus in Ushuaia that would have been a fairy tale ending to know that the bus would have kept going. Good Luck anyway. Jake I added your picture.

To the gypsies I haven't mentioned, Andrew, Lucas, Tor, Tabitha, CC Boom Boom, Nick, Kate, Karen, Kerry, Hilla, Charlie, Cesar, Mike O’Sullivan, Huburtus, Kate Weatherbee, Bacci, Roa, Hannah, Heather, Bianca, Carla, Chelsea, Johnny, THANK YOU!! Without the gypsy donations, we wouldn't have been able to move.

Also thank you Mom and Darrell and Dad and the Ginger and Brittany Watson for cutting my hair before I left. And Thank You to the other parents of the Gypsy Train who without you giving life to us and providing us with such great nurture we couldn't have realized the Great American Dream.

I don't want to forget to thank you, all of those farmers who let us sleep on their farms, those people who warned us when we needed to be warned, the mechanics, those helpful strangers in passing, and the farmer who gave us the fresh milk that time. Just to let you know, I chilled it later and ate cookies with it. Thank you.

If I have forgotten anyone...Alex and I did this together, so if I hadn't mentioned someone, it is because he had in his. And if he hadn't, then blame him.

A Retrospective Gypsy

By Alex Mehlin

Travelling without The Gypsy Train is odd. I have become so accustom to the dizzyingly dynamic day- to-day events of the bus it is hard to adjust to a more passive travel experience. It seems that without the bus travelling is simplified down to restaurants, hostels and tours.

It’s a far more relaxing existence, but I’m not sure that the relaxation is for me. I miss the bus, at the same time I am enjoying the comforts and leisure being an average tourist allows. My new found free time has allowed me to think back on The Gypsy Train and how wonderful it was.

I would have to say there were a couple of things that made the Gypsy Train so hard to let go of; the nightly dining experience, the freedom to roam and the sociology of the bus.

The first thing that people would always mention when they joined the bus was the food. It took me till now to understand what they really meant. Going out to eat is one of the best parts of travelling. However, this day to day adventure into unknown eateries can take their toll. Many times you are surprised with amazing food but most of the time it is lacking something. Mike coined it best when he said, “it needs sex”. It seems funny to prefer a meal by headlamp to one under a roof and with service, but dinners on The Gypsy Train had SEX. The ingredients are simple and we managed to perfect it night after night; caring cooks, fresh ingredients, cocktails and warm conversation.

Travelling without the bus means using public transportation. This has been the hardest adjustment for me. It is the lack of control, there was something so special about looking at a map and deciding where we were and where we were heading. Being a passenger allows access to places the bus could never go, time to read, naps and is far less stressful. However, it comes with; cramped conditions, bad music, time tables and sketchy drivers.

The bus did something funny to people. Everyone lets loose when they travel its part of the beauty of it, but the Gypsy Train did something more. Looking at photos a transformation takes place in each person. The longer the person stayed on the bus the more they developed a Gypsy persona. When we walk into a bar I now feel a lack of presence without the Gypsy entourage, it’s just not as exciting to go out. Because of these alter egos, we developed roles and rules of the bus. Being back in the real world means living by the rules of normal society; this takes getting use to but once comfortably adapted it is refreshing.

For Alaena and me our lives now orbit tours and meeting up with friends. Much of the time I felt like the bus was waiting for us in a dindgy garage awaiting a joyfuly reunion.

Our most recent activity took us seven days into the Cordillera Real. As we passed over 5000 meter passes and dropped down into glaciated valleys, I slowly adjusted to life without the bus. Following a guide and taking public transport finaly broke me from the Gypsy Train. The break was not pretty and resulted in a childish temper tantrum. When I came out of my episode I was humbled and had a greater appreciation for the accumulation of effort and the help we needed to make the last year so extraordinary.

Thank you to everyone that helped to make our dream road trip a reality.

Our families, thank you for all your; financial help, emails, doing taxes and other various paper work, sending much need packages, constant love and for being our biggest fans. I would especially like to thank our parents...Pam Mehlin, Tim Bateman, Bill Watson, Tom Mehlin, Lori Taylor, Al Czeck, Kelly McNet and Michael Redecker.

Tio Tom, for believing in us when we were just getting off the ground and always having a beers ready and something positive to tell us when times got hard.

Matthias and Mike. I’m not sure who was on the bus longer, but thank you both for your daily contributions and sticking around when times got hard you guys kept us going.

Everyone who rode and loved the bus, without you The Gypsy Train would have died as an idea: Andrew, Lucas, Matthias, Tom, Tor, Monkey, Tabitha, CC Boom Boom, Nick, Marta, Kate, Mike, Teagan, Bernadette, Karren, Kerry, Hilla, Charlie, Cesar, Mike O’, Huburtus, Kate, Botchi, Ben, Jake, Roa, Hannah, Heather, Bianca, Carla, Chelsea, Jonny, Vicky, Zoe and Emily.

I would also like to thank a few people who helped us along the way; Ivan our trusty mechanic in Santo Domingo, The Grinn House, Edwin, every tire guy who miraculously appeared and all the mechanics who did not rip us off.

We would have never gotten the blog rolling without you the readers. Thank you for your interest in our adventure. It was inspiring to see how many people actually read what we had to say!

Most of all without the heart, dedication and fearless financial input, The Gypsy Train would have never come to fruition. So, thank you Alaena and Zach. You guys are amazing friends and I’m still buzzing off the year we lived on the whims of South America’s highways.