A Home Without Wheels / by Heidi Geist

I’m no dummy, well, I suppose there’s room for debate there, but if there’s one thing I’m confident about, it is that SHIT HAPPENS. We take precautions, we carry objects that make us feel a touch safer, more prepared. The thing is, we can’t know what exactly it is we are preparing for, which leaves a pretty big space to fill with dawg knows what. Then the question becomes less about what objects we have to work with, and more about how ready our minds are. I feel as though I’ve written a lot about all the misfortunes and vehicle drama that has unfolded on the 48 Beer Project tour, but perhaps it is time to better articulate the impact that all this has had on my silly artist’s mind.

Roller coaster ride-how many describe relationships, at work, at home. That’s also how I will describe the past 22 months. From the moment I made the decision to embrace this insanity, things alternated between falling into place, and falling into chaos. Some moments in the planning process made me want to curl up in the fetal position and never move. Some moments were nothing short of inspiring and gave me great motivation. I have already written much about everything leading up to the trip departure, so I will leave all those details for the book, but know there will be several chapters on that!

The idea for this project, in a nutshell, was that I would build out the bus to live in, travel in, and work from. This would be all I’d need until, after returning to New England, finishing up the project and planning my next move. I gave up all my things—everything I owned, with the exception of a few clothes and books—sold my car, and invested my being into that bus/tiny house/art studio. I knew there would be some superficially tragic events on the road, with the bus. A year is a long time to drive house on wheels, through multiple climates and seasons, 30,000 miles. What I didn’t expect, was to burn up what little sponsorship funding I had in the first 5 months, with bad brakes, tire replacement, alternator replacement, and three new serpentine belts, etc. Three tows in one month.

That added a major challenge, because managing the project was a full time job in itself, without taking on extra side work. And with the addition of my copilot, my then 15 year old daughter, and then our little furry companion, the financial burden became the new inspiration for my chronic insomnia. But this started in the beginning of a very long journey! Money aside, the weather in the south was certainly unexpected…with temps hovering in the twenties much of the winter, and no heat on the bus, the three of us often wore multiple layers of clothes, and huddled in the bed together to keep somewhat warm. On the frigid days, we couldn’t even get the butane to light to heat water for breakfast or tea. Imagine trying to work in a studio that you can see your breath in?!

When the bus took her final breath, upon entering Arizona, my brain produced a forcefield to protect me from the inevitable grief and anxiety that would follow. My options were not just limited, they didn't exist. I had to move forward, and it was clear I wasn’t going to do it with the bus. I, to this day, have yet to process that emotion.

Thanks to crowd-funding, and a handful of stellar fans and friends, I was able to purchase the CR-V, and continue the tour. The miles I put on the Honda…looping up and down the west, and the northern midwestern US, well…it is miraculous that she still plugs along. It wasn’t the same though. Not driving the bus changed everything. The dynamic of the project shifted entirely and though it was still amazing, and even at times better, it was a bit of a let down. I think I actually lost some followers when I lost Fearless.

More unexpected events unfolded early in the summer that caused my gameplan to change drastically. I found myself having to pack up what little I could fit in the car, including Churro, my little protector, and drive back to Maine two months early. Again, this impacted the whole dynamic of the project, and with every little event like this, a I felt like a piece of the excitement broke off and drifted away into space. The online interaction with the project all but stopped, my audience suddenly seemed to dissipate. As I spent July and August stuffed in my ex-husband’s apartment, distracted, and studio-less, my own excitement broke away, crumbling little bits at a time, in a net of melancholy, anxiety, in a space that only encouraged a withdrawal from social interaction and desire to find that fetal position.

Feeling a very nagging pressure to have my own space again, since I had a LOT of work to do, and nowhere to do it, I quit any thoughts about reviving the bus, and instead lept into a lease on a house 25 times the size of the bus. Granted, there weren’t many rentals to choose from here int he great state of Maine, but it feels bizarre-the space.

Preparedness.

I knew I would have breakdowns. I did. I did not know to what extent that would impact the project. It changed everything.

I did not expect to exhaust all funds halfway through the project, not to lose my home.

Mental preparedness. I was not. You cannot be. I have ZERO regrets about this project, contrary to how I have carved out the above story. I loved it all…even wading in the intensity of anxiety and workload. I met the most beautiful people, strangers, brewery folks. I have stories for days, weeks, years. I am strong and learning, evolving and hopefully have inspired a few others. But damn, I’m in a weird place. In all honesty, with the abandonment of the bus, and near completion of the travel, I feel quite abandoned by the beer community. Maybe it’s just me… and my own perception of it all…my reaction to being back in a “real” house, disconnected from the road and constant socializing in taprooms and chitchat over gas being pumped. Odd. What seemed so epic and amazing now seems distant and small.

I kind of expected to come back, curl up for the winter to write the book and finish the project, and sob with a blanket and a cup of tea…both grief for the end of the journey and joy for the awesomeness that unfolded. But so far, I feel as though I am trapped in a dream, low hanging fog, undetectable color, isolated…in limbo. As a psychologist, I could say I’m (simply) depressed, but screw that. This is different. I feel like I’m waiting for my alarm clock to buzz and jolt me back into the mainstream waking life.

At any rate.. this is meant as an observation—an objective note on what’s happening now, and perhaps I just need to write this to make myself feel something more, and it isn’t for any audience, but I also think it is all very relevant to the story of the 48 Beer Project.

Ultimately, it is not over. There are plenty of project labels yet to finish, to be released, and two states to visit. I have to sort through a year and a half of voice recordings and photos to start piecing together ideas for the book/s, and artwork I have to show.

I guess for now, I will stumble through this dream and wait for that alarm.