Note: This is the first set of photos in what I hope to make a long-term project about the R.A.G.E. Bus and the people behind it. Though I centered this introductory story around my longtime friend, each member of the crew brings a unique perspective and personality to the table. I hope to reveal more about them and their well-reasoned intentions as I expand this story and hopefully catch them at other destinations.
My friend Jamie chained herself to the railing of the Texas Senate Gallery back in July to protest the state's harsh anti-abortion bill. Security forces frantically raced to cut her away as state lawmakers passed the controversial House Bill 2. An impressive act of protest for this deeply red state, images of her surrounded by befuddled and frustrated DPS troopers appeared in USA Today, cable news shows and scores of blogs for and against the actions she and her friends took that day. It was quite a step from the quiet East Texas girl I met about a decade ago.
Politics aside, it seems to me that anyone should be able to appreciate her passion and creativity. I caught up with Jamie in an eclectic former transit bus parked by a children's splash pad in Tyler.
The 1966 Flxible bus resembles a flower child daydream come true and is occupied by Jamie and two of her fellow protesters from that night: Natalie and Caitlin. The Austin residents have christened the repurposed ride the R.A.G.E. (Radical Adventures for a Greener Earth) Bus. Armed with solar powered amenities, a composting toilet, seemingly hand-made everything and a kitchen built around a sink found on the side of a road – it is quite the sight.
The trio has just embarked on a cross-country trek after various delays led to a handful of false starts.
"We tried to plan … the universe just laughed at us," Natalie said.
But after the group appeared in court to settle charges against them stemming from the Senate protest, they took off immediately.
"We were like, ‘We are not going to believe that we can actually leave this city until we go,’ " Caitlin said. "So we just had to go, it didn't matter what time it was."
The group has only a loose schedule for the road trip, but an agenda full of protests, education and sightseeing. They are eager to teach others about numerous issues, and things they have learned about greener living.
As far as the actual work of driving across the country, Natalie and Jamie take turns at the wheel, switching off periodically.
"We both like to drive, so someone is always willing to take the wheel," Jamie said.
Jamie cites her desire to use the trip raise awareness about the environment and our way of life.
"I'm really kind of disgusted and disappointed by the impact we've had on the Earth," she said. "So, I really want to make an effort to minimize [the extraction of natural resources] and reject all those social norms, and stop living a materialistic life, and start fulfilling myself with things that really do make us happy like community and love."
It had been a while since I got to sit and chat with Jamie before we reconnected earlier in summer. She has always been a wonderful person, but I have never seen her so full of joy and confidence. She is a licensed medic, and I used to quite earnestly tell her she was a superhero for her work. I was sad that she never seemed to believe me.
After spending some time with her again, I recognize Jamie might finally be embracing her cape.
R.A.G.E. Blog: http://ragebusproject.wordpress.com
R.A.G.E. on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ragebusproject
Check out the entire set on Flickr, or here: