When I first talked to Sweet L, he told me that he and the crew (Mr. Carolina. Robbie, and the Fighting Couple), as well as Buttons and his mom and her guy were heading to a Rainbow Gathering in Nevada. Buttons (who was in this mid-30s) was riding with his mom (who was in her late 50s) and her guy (who was in his mid-40s) in a car that could seat one more person, but the other folks had no ride. I told Sweet L they could ride with me until I got to my stopping point.
I found the group the next morning, and we loaded up. Robbie got in the car with Buttons and his family, which meant I had Mr. Carolina riding shotgun, Sweet L and Mr. Fighting Couple in the middle seats, Ms. Fighting Couple and all the packs on my bed, and the Fighting Couple’s two dogs on the floor.
Fast-forward through me having so much fun I decided to go to the Rainbow Gathering too and offered my van as our means of transportation. Fast-forward through (literal) rainbows and hot springs, sign flying and gas jugging, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, and Robbie moving into the van in Flagstaff. Fast-forward through all of that, and we were in the small Nevada town closest to the area where the Rainbow Gathering was to be held.
Sweet L was doing most of the internet research to get us to the gathering. He wanted to be at the gathering because he had been told it would be a jumping off point for folks traveling to Guatemala for an intergalactic Rainbow Gathering peaking on 12-21-12. Buttons was talking about caravans driving through drug-runner tunnels stretching across the U.S./Mexico border and on to Guatemala. This Nevada Rainbow Gathering was supposed to be the place to meet the people making such transportation happen.
Sweet L had been in touch with one of the gathering’s focalizers, a man staying in a small, locally owned motel. The man invited us to come to his motel room, take showers, and hang out.
The man—George, I’ll call him—was probably between 55 and 65 years old and friendly enough. I was glad for the chance to take a shower and took him up on his offer right away. Robbie and Sweet L jumped at the chance to use his laptop, as they were trying to figure out how to get to Guatemala if the drug tunnel plan didn’t work out.
When I got out of the shower, I started picking up clues that George was a little strange and there were some problems with the Rainbow Gathering. First, although seven adults (and two dogs) were crammed into a small motel room, George had the television on with the volume turned up. The TV rendered communication quite difficult. It think it’s rude to have a TV on when folks are visiting, but it seemed strange to have it turned on when we were trying to talk to the guy about a Rainbow Gathering he was helping to organize.
From what Sweet L had said about what he’d read on the internet, I’d understood the Rainbow Gathering was about to begin and ten or so people were already on site. Upon talking to George, we realized the six of us had been counted among the people on site. And the site? It hadn’t been chosen yet! George wanted us to go out scouting for potential locations.
I’ve never been scouting for a Rainbow Gathering site, but I know certain things are desirable, like flat ground, trees, and a source of water. I knew nothing about the Nevada desert. I certainly had no idea where to find trees and water.
While we had food (and toilet paper) to contribute to a gathering, we were by no means prepared to provide for our own six selves (much less anyone who might join us) in the wilderness. We thought we’d be going into a gathering with an infrastructure in place. We’d had no idea we’d be expected to set up the infrastructure of a seed camp.
A few days after the gathering was scheduled to begin, Furthur would be playing in nearby Las Vegas. Those of us traveling in my van had already decided we’d leave the gathering and go to Vegas on the night of the Furthur show. We knew that even if we didn’t get into the show, we could have a lot of fun hanging out. After Furthur, we planned to go back for the duration of the gathering.
When one of us mentioned our plan to George, he said he was going to Vegas for Furthur too. He said he’d planned to pay a shuttle van to drive him to Vegas and back, but said he’d rather ride with us and give us the money. He then said he had a hotel room booked for the night of the show, and all of us could stay with him. I didn’t say it in front of George, but the last thing I wanted to do in Vegas was get stuck in some stranger’s hotel room.
Around 4:30, George got really weird. He said he was going to have to kick us out at five o’clock. He said he didn’t want us to wait until dark to find a place to make our camp. His attitude was strange for a couple of reasons. First, although it was fall, the time hadn’t changed yet, so at five o’clock there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. Second, he didn’t even know how great the kids were at finding places to sleep at night. Third, we were surrounded by public land where we could camp for free.
In the following days, we had much discussion about what we thought had really been going on with George. Why had he really kicked us out at five o’clock? Was he afraid we were going to try to take over his motel room and spend the night there? I thought he had a 5:30 appointment with either a drug dealer or a prostitute and wanted us out of there ahead of time.
As we were gathering our things in preparation for our exit, George pulled out his sleeping bag and said he wanted us to take it with us so it would already be in the van when we gave him the ride to Vegas. By this point I was getting paranoid and was more than half convinced that George had dealings with the FBI and there was a bug or a tracking device in his sleeping bag. I was cool though, and said we really didn’t have room for it in the van. Although the sleeping bag was rolled up quite small, I wasn’t really lying about there being no room for it. Where were we going to fit in a stranger’s (possibly bugged) sleeping bag in a van crowded with six people, all their possessions, jugs of water, two dogs, and only four seat belt? (Sweet L thought George wanted us to take his sleeping bad so we’d be obligated to come back for him later.)
We did find a place to camp well before dark. We also decided a few things. We decided we were not scouting for this sketchy Rainbow Gathering or helping with seed camp. In fact, we decided the Rainbow Gathering sounded as if it had too many problems, and we’d rather stay in Vegas. We also decided George would not be riding with us.
The job of calling George and breaking the news fell to me since I was the van owner. I felt awkward, but not as awkward as I’d have felt being stuck with an unwanted passenger. It was a good thing we hadn’t taken his sleeping bag.