"Community on Wheels" Comes to Napa

Eleven young people in a painted bus rolled into Napa over the weekend. Enroute to Guatemala, they're making local friends, looking for odd jobs to help pay their way and filming a documentary about the journey.

Have you seen the CoLaboratory?

That's the name two brothers from Calgary, Alberta have given a 1990 International school bus they bought in May and converted to run on vegetable oil.

In July, 26-year-old River Easton and his 21-year-old brother Taylor hit the road in Canada with a third companion, on their way to festivals across North and Central America.

By the time they rolled into Napa Saturday, there were 11 people aboard, hailing from as far away as Australia, Alaska and Missouri.

"It was an intention bus from the start," River Easton said. "When you create strong intentions, they manifest in a specific way."

The brothers' "original plan was to get a bus so we could travel between festivals," including Burning Man, the Human Be-In and Rainbow Gathering, "making a documentary about these gatherings," he said.

The idea quickly grew to become what he described as "a community on wheels filled with artists and musicians and filmmakers and other wacky people."

Who's on the bus?

The nine young men and two young women currently aboard the CoLaboratory — "CoLab" for short, Easton said — include Kathleen Manning of Juneau, who got on the bus for an arranged ride to Burning Man in Nevada a few weeks ago.

She had a return ticket to Alaska, but didn't use it, Manning said as she sipped maté outside the bus, which was parked on West Street outside Slack Collective Studios while another CoLaborator worked on its engine Tuesday.

"I've just been learning so many things on this bus. Everybody’s so resourceful," Manning said.

"I'm learning a lot about not being wasteful and not creating a lot of trash," and also quit smoking cigarettes, she added.

Waste reduction is an important part of the Easton brothers' CoLaboratory culture, according to Taylor Easton, who said the group seeks ultimately to become "waste-negative," disposing of more waste than its members create.

The CoLaborators, as they call themselves, performed that function for the Napa River Rock & Stroll on Saturday, when organizers gave them oranges and bananas left over from the finish line festival.

They're also seasoned dumpster-divers, gleaning past-date pastries and other edibles tossed out by restaurants and markets, and they seek to compost their food waste.

Just one rule

There's only one rule on the bus, according to CoLaborator Andre Gordillo, 26, who likened its close quarters to a submarine.

"No drugs, no alcohol," Gordillo said as he smoked a cigarette on the curb.

The CoLaboratory has its own Facebook page,Facebook.com/TheFriendshipTour, where the Eastons describe it as "a community on wheels looking to spread the message of love and happiness through out the world."

The CoLaborators would like to find some work in the Napa area to replenish their funds, according to a recent post: "We are hanging out in the Napa Valley looking for some work opportunities before heading down to Mexico. If anyone has some contacts for us, please send us a message with your number and we can give you a call."

The group is also planning to take part in Slack Collective's special open mic Friday, held in honor of Latino Heritage Month. The Collective has been providing the CoLaboratory with a parking spot on West Street.

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Scott Yeager September 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I am really looking forward to the comments on this story.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Quite a few over on the Facebook page, surprisingly quiet here so far. And to think I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. to ensure this would be posted in time for the newsletter! My two cents' worth is that they're nice people with good values and a lot to offer, but they might have some difficulty finding short-term jobs here.
Belle (Orchid Lady) September 26, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Good luck to them! I kinda like the "modern Hippy-esque" feel from them.
Paul Marotta September 26, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I've seen many groups of young people on a bus. But when I met the CoLaboratorians on Sunday night, their commitment to art and aesthetics made me say, "These guys and gals are the real deal." I told Louisa (your editor and my partner) to get down there and meet 'em. Jusone said they have "more instruments than hands" on the bus, so I've invited them to play a pop up performance of Terry Riley's "In C" with me and some of my friends at 7:30 Thursday night at Slack Collective.
Karen Garcia September 26, 2012 at 10:10 PM
When I chatted with them at the Farmers' Market on Saturday, I was impressed with their courtesy and curiosity. What a fabulous way to spend a few months (or even years) in one's formative years! Kudos to them. Hope they find some work.
Michael Jordan September 26, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Hippies living on a bus, no way, really? News?
Matthew Young September 27, 2012 at 03:27 AM
This seems like a huge non-story. Dirty hippies riding on a bus. So what?
vocal-de-local September 27, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Me too! Here's a song they can take with them on their journey! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl9bvuAV-Ao
vocal-de-local September 27, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Life's an adventure Matthew. We're only young once. Personally, I like being reminded once in awhile that there are still young people willing to take adventure risks. Chances are, their lives will become more mundane as they get older. They have a no drug/alcohol policy. It's harmless.
River Easton October 11, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Hey gang. River from The CoLaboratory. Some may think we are dirty and smelly but you try staying clean and fresh when you live on a bus with a dozen people and then we can talk. Ha ha. For everyone else that was interested in what we are up to, head over to our new IndieGoGo page where you can check out a video of our adventure and learn a little bit more about what we are up to. Here's the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/TheCoLaboratory?a=16451 Let us know what you think of the video and spread the word if you love it. Thanks you!
Belle (Orchid Lady) October 11, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Hey River, I saw this a while back (recently, not to far back) and I know you are traveling to South America, and thought wow this would be right up their alley! This place is carbon-negative, and is a luxury resort run by volunteers. It is a teaching environment, focusing on complete sustainability, giving back to the local community, living completely off the grid and much more. I thought I'd share in case your travels take you this way. Hope you enjoy! http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/01/permaculture-ecotourism-an-exploration-of-rancho-margot-in-el-castillo-costa-rica/
Ftima Torres March 29, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Hey este miercoles me toco verlos, en Jimenez, Chihuahua, Mexico! Se ve que son muy buenas personas ademas muy amables, nos acercamos a pedirles una foto y son muy amistosos :D felicidades muchachos sigan asi! espero que algun dia pueda verlos de nuevo


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