On Monday we returned home from our trip north to Hopland, California where we participated in the two day SolFest festival at the Real Goods Institute.
Disappointingly, there weren’t as many people as last year and crowds were noticeably sparse, which caused us to wonder if the meager attendance was a result of the skyrocketing gas prices. We weren’t the only ones who noticed the lack of festival visitors. One vender commented on how thin the crowds were, another family was frustrated when it turned out that they couldn’t sell enough products to cover the cost of their booth space, and many other people were disenchanted with the whole atmosphere (or lack of it).
“Too many intellectual workshops,” was one comment, “and not enough practical solutions.”
As for the trip itself, we left on Friday around 8 o’clock AM and made good time on the lengthy drive north with the miles passing by rather quickly. Approximately five hours later we arrived on the outskirts of San Francisco. There, we found ourselves caged in a HUGE traffic jam that barely inched along at 5 mph in stretches, and at times, came to a complete stop. Yes, it was a four lane parking lot. Talk about going out of your mind!
We began to know our “neighbors”, tracking our progress by how many times we spotted the same person… etc. At one point, we inched out of the lanes and down an off ramp to fill up the rental mini van with fuel and came back onto the freeway to find the same people still in the same spot.
We’re not really big technology fans, but at that moment we really, really, really loved the CD player in the car. Our favorite songs from Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, REM, etc, etc, kept at bay those dark sinister thoughts that somehow weasel into the minds of even the gentlest person when stuck in a traffic jam after a long trip.
The traffic jam of exhaust-puffin’ cars lasted past Santa Rosa and slightly further. What really blows our mind is to find out that it took us ~ 5 hours from LA to San Francisco ( ~ 400 miles) but 3 hours to drive from San Francisco to Hopland ( 100 miles). The next time some San Fran person makes a comment about LA congestion …. we really got something to say! Hah!
And it wasn’t just our bad luck (which seems to be haunting our steps these days). Other people at SolFest said that the traffic has been getting really bad in that area.
Anyhow, after a long 9 hour drive we arrived that evening at the Solar Living Institute and Sol Fest grounds to be informed that the booth we paid for was no longer in the space we had purchased and which was printed in the program guide as being in that spot. They had taken it upon themselves to give it to someone else and moved us to somewhere else.
Needless to say, that was quite stressful and annoying but eventually we were able to convince them to let us put up our exhibit nearby to where we had originally planned to be. At least people looking for us on the program guide might find us there.
It wasn’t an ideal spot because we were stuck amongst the “family fun and games” and right in front of the family stage so many people passed our display as though it did not exist. Few people actually stopped to glance and even fewer came up to talk. I think it was because they considered the area to be an entertainment destination and didn’t expect anything of vital information. So we were pretty bummed about that.
But back to Friday night — After securing the replacement spot, dumping all our exhibit stuff there and then helping with serving a homemade meal to the Sol Fest volunteers, we piled back into the car and traveled down the road to Fetzer Vineyard for a pre-Sol Fest party and dinner which was graciously hosted by the Mother Earth News Magazine team for the vendors and presenters of SolFest 2005.
The Fetzer compound was a lovely and peaceful collection of old fashion houses, vineyards and gardens set in a tranquil valley. I wasn’t able to snap any photographs because it was dusk and night was coming on fast. The buffet table itself deserved several photographs on its own. It was a real eye pleaser showcasing a tasteful design of flowers and food. Heirloom tomatoes with cheese, mesclun tossed salad, tender baby veggies, olives, cheese and crackers and toasty french bread filled the many platters. And, of course, there were all the different wines you could ever care to sample along with organic beer.
For dessert, a divine chocolate cake with raspberry and white chocolate sauces!
The tables were set on the lawn in the warm summer night under beautiful oak trees surrounded by a white picket fence and staffed by courteous waiters.
While enjoying the meal, we chatted with the Mother Earth News staff and Bryan Welch, editor of MEN. It certainly was a nice and quiet way to end the hectic day.
aturday was a long and hot first day at SolFest and we were joined by a So. Cal friend and PTF “supporter” who was in the area. That evening, we had previous arrangements to pitch our tents for the night at a nearby farm a mile or so down the road from Real Goods and which was owned by local family who raises an ancient ( and once almost extinct ) breed of sheep often known as Jacob’s Sheep. The husband and wife couple running the farm, Jonathan and Deborah, sheer the sheep and send the fleeces (and sometimes the sheep themselves) to a group of Navajo women in Arizona who spin the wool the old fashion way using a Navajo spindle. The spun wool is then naturally dyed and hand woven into lovely traditional blankets.
Jonathan, who was Native American himself, explained that the breed was almost completely wiped out by the Catholic Church many, many years ago through extensive slaughtering because of the breed’s Jewish origins and because they also have four horns; which, to the Catholic Church was the connotation of the devil.
We first met Jonathan and Deborah last year at Sol Fest and immediately struck up a friendship and connection, especially with Jonathan who once lived in Pasadena where his first son, Hawk, was born.
Jonathan & Deborah were very hospitable, showing us around the farm until just before dark and sharing lively stories of their life’s journey with us. We got to meet their animals — their rescued sheep dogs, their “guard dog” llama, the beautiful appaloosa horses, an elderly horse that was beating the odds after being near death due to an accident (thanks to Jonathan and Deborah’s TLC), and of course, the doe-eyed ewes and the braggart rams.
And we learned of the many wild animals (mountain lions, black bears, bobcats, raccoons, etc) whose paths often cross with those of Jonathan and Deborah.
We could have talked long into the night but we all needed to get an early start the next morning so we pitched our tents under an old grove of trees and a full moon on a pile of grape pumice. Jeff, our So. Cal friend that had joined up with us that morning spent the night there too and we chatted in the light of the full moon before turning in and falling asleep to the melodious sound of crickets and the rustle of bushes as wild animals came out for their nocturnal wanderings.
Pictures of the farm will be posted as soon as Jeff emails me the pics. We couldn’t find our digital camera at the time but later found that it was where it was supposed to be! Duh! So, it probably will be awhile before the photographs get posted since Jeff is traveling and most likely nowhere near a computer.
Sunday morning was spent at the sheep farm, looking at their large garden and sharing stories some more. Deborah kindly gave us a bag of wool to spin. And we gave them some of our leather checkbooks that we handcraft.
We would have loved to stay at that peaceful place among the sheep, but Jules was scheduled to give his presentation at SolFest’s Post Petroleum tent that morning. It was hard to cover anything in depth in a 45 min time frame, so Jules gave a brief overview of what was his inspiration for starting Path to Freedom, what we are accomplishing, and then displayed the results of the Peak Oil survey (charts will be posted on the web in the upcoming weeks).
Jules had made a homemade balance weight scale out of scrap metal as a prop and posted a sign on the scale which read “Tip the Scale, Change Your Life.” This he used while he spoke, showing the different choices one has to make in life — Tipping the scale. During the presentation Jules asked the poignant question: What keeps us from changing the world?
Fear of a new path.
Back at our booth, we connected with a few wonderful people which made sitting there at SolFest worth it.
Some of them were: a couple from New Zealand who knew about us and often visit our website (we jokingly dubbed them “one of our many faceless IPs”); a family from Humboldt County who built their own strawbale house and gave me helpful canning information; another couple from Boulder Colorado and Lake Tahoe; and a few others that were inspired by the booth. In addition, the couple/company that eco-screened our PTF t-shirts showed up and it was great to get a chance to meet them and for them to see the shirts being worn.
The majority of visitors to the booth were interested in one part of the urban homestead – biodiesel. That is all fine and dandy, but it was depressing when only a few seemed to grasp the entire concept of Path to Freedom. We did have one couple visit the booth who were completely amazed that we weren’t there to sell anything (books, memberships or ask for donations). They stared at us and asked incredulously, “Then why are you here?”
We told them that we were there to inform and educate; to share and offer inspiration to others by showing what we have done. They seemed a bit befuddled by that, as though they were pretty amazed to find someone not selling something. It sunk in finally and they gave us big smiles and told us: “Bless you.”
It was people like that who really picked up our spirits; otherwise, it would have been totally depressing experience as many people just walked straight ahead — almost as if they wore blinders. The infectious energy just wasn’t there. It appeared the many were more interested in hanging out, seeing and being seen, drinking, dancing, than in changing their lives or preserving the earth.
Sunday, we spent the night at a nearby campground on the banks of Lake Mendocino with what we dubbed: “the LA contingent” — friends and acquaintances from “LA LA Land”. Tina, Johan, George and Tony who we had all hooked up together for rideshares to SolFest. That evening we were too tired for our usual sing-alongs (like we had last year), but around the campfire there was some lively conversation.
Monday morning, before leaving, we all took a hike along the beautiful lake, admiring the scenery and studying animal tracks. Along the way, we stumbled upon a wild blackberry patch that had a few tasty treats left from hungry animals and humans. Then it was back in the car for the long, hot 9 hour drive back to Pasadena. It was a good decision to take a rental; for peace of mind at least, because on the way home, hwy 5 was a “graveyard” littered with over two dozen broken down cars on the side of the road.
We know all too well that feeling……