we’re excited to share a guest post from mericos rhodes, the son of glassybaby founder lee rhodes and one-half of the Glassroots Tour team. after recently completing a trip around the US spreading glassybaby one-of-a-kindness, we’re excited to share his reflections on the journey.
last week, a friend and i drove up to ski at crystal mountain, one peak east of Mt. Rainier. while the winter sun rose, we snaked along the same roads that Izzy and i took on the first day of the tour, winding out of seattle through faceless suburbia, open farm valleys, and finally cascade foothills. we drove slowly through enumclaw, and i pointed out el camino (spanish for “the way,” coincidentally), the cantina where Izzy and i ate our fist meal of the tour. i noticed that the first gas station where we stopped offered gallons for a buck-fifty less than in september.
“huh, cool,” my friend said, with the mild enthusiasm that those places seemed to warrant. but i kept staring at them until they shrank out of the rearview mirror, because they were enchanted for me. it was more than the spell of nostalgia. el camino and the humble gas station were neither simple objects of memory, nor landmarks of our journey. they are places that summon up, as vividly as if from yesterday, the pure excitement and freedom that rode with us in Bill the Pony on day one. that day we bought a year-long pass to get into national parks, expecting (in vain) to visit at least a few more over the course of the tour, we set up our tent and drove up a freezing ridge to revel at rainier’s semi-celestial bulk, and we brought out a collage of glassybaby at our campsite’s picnic table at dinner. the northwest, then middle america, the east coast, the south, the southwest, and finally california all stretched before our imagination in rainbow colors like those campsite glassybaby.
even though i lived here my whole life, i had never been to most of america outside of the west coast and western massachusetts. on top of that, when we left Seattle, Izzy and i had only planned the pop-up shops and meetings through september. we had only vague expectations about portland, bend, and detroit, and basically no expectations for october and november stops like savannah and houston. that first day only foretold vague sales goals, friends to see, and postcard-style pictures i’d seen of upcoming stops, all tinted with the golden veneer of excitement. i knew we were lucky to be on this trip, after being told so 300 times and agreeing.
now that the waves in my mind, stirred by our vast wanderings, have settled still, my mind can reflect upon the trip. the most general image that comes to mind is the long, curving line of our route, changing colors and thickness with the emotions and episodes that it traversed. just as our “clockwise loop” of a route was actually more of a shivering blind-man’s scribbled trapezoid, so too was our journey of luck and excitement actually a humanly-complex and difficult four months of real life, made more chaotic and beautifully, constantly novel because of our travels. there was no drudgery (except for several nine-hour drive-days on unbending interstates), but it was no vacation.
Izzy and i felt the freedom of shooting over mountain passes in the west, and the frustration of traffic in narrow new york streets. we reveled in the beauty of new england in autumn and droned through the vast, bland squalor of west texas on a cloudy day. we savored delicious coffee in new orleans and choked down metallic tap-water in jacksonville. we boated in the atlantic and surfed in the pacific (and saw dolphins in both!). we stumbled upon an incredible pizza place in vegas and got lost in the bland roadways of tallahassee. i lost all my toiletries, and bought a flannel that i wore for about a month straight, in detroit. houston monsooned on us, jackson hole frosted in early september, and nebraska sunburned us through our windshield.
old friends and family welcomed us. Air Bnb hosts accommodated us. a cat almost adopted us. Izzy and i fought and made up, developed a bit of a private language, and taught each other about ourselves with a lot of laughter, a few tears, and long, comfortable, silent hours.
alright — clearly my mind hasn’t processed the tour quite enough to untangle the vibrant jumble of impressions. somewhere along the way, a woman asked me with a wry expression what i had learned about myself on the tour. i told her that i didn’t really know yet. “that sounds right,” she said, “you’ll probably still be unpacking from this trip for years.”
and by that time, i’ll have brand new suitcases of adventures.
but Izzy and i have drawn a few lessons about america, traveling it, and selling beautiful products that do good. here are five of those lessons:
we learned that you can never see everything, but if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see things you didn’t expect. we still have a bucket list of national parks to visit, but we got to cross out georgia’s beautiful barrier islands before we even added it to the list.
we learned that great opportunities to learn about a place, connect with people, and accordingly to sell products and ideas, often take place in people’s homes, with a small group of friends.
we observed how differently people dress, talk, eat, drink and act in the amazing variety of countries in our nation. the quality, novelty, and soul of each region’s people and their creations charmed us in a way that almost no large, national brand has ever done. wherever we live, we want to support little, local endeavors, and get to know the humans that create and work with them. that way we can continue to practice connecting with people face to face. (despite all of the differences, people loved glassybaby all over. anywhere you go in america, and perhaps the world, you can find people who have the good heart to love beautiful color and light, handmade art, or causes that promote hope and healing.)
we learned the true length of four months on the road. a family friend plays in a band that tours for 6-8 weeks at a time, maximum. he told me he couldn’t imagine going for four months. “You’ll be ready for anything you try to do,” he told me, “now that you’ve gone through that.” i hope so. in any case, four months was long enough — someday i will miss the tour and its adventures, but today i feel relief that we finished and can take a little rest to replenish our life forces. such a long trip imbues an exotic species of weariness in one’s humanity.
we learned to appreciate the importance of constants amid the flux. Bill the Pony was a sort of haven for us. it was always there to return to, and changed little beneath our messing, cleaning, and decorating. more importantly, we had each other. four months in such close quarters was a challenging test on our relationship, of course. not all of our long moments of silence were friendly lulls in conversation. but we kept each other going, and now we know each other better than anyone. we maintained a deep connection during a trip broadly saturated with brief connections. frustration and boredom are easier, and wonder and humor are amplified, when shared with someone to whom you can say anything.
this emphasis on human connection was one of the best parts about the tour. another, related emphasis and motive was to expand glassybaby’s message and impact of giving. we felt heartened to witness firsthand the work of organizations that we donated to. we discovered and supported the life-changing dedication of people doing good. and the fact that we gave back opened doors for us all over the nation. in Santa Fe, they let us set up with one week’s notice at an artists’ market where every other stall was run by a single local craftsman, only because we donated 10% from that sale to their local homeless shelter. raising money in that sort of situation automatically made us more than tourists, and opened up that opportunity for us to display glassybaby and meet hardworking creative people.
so Izzy and i say thank you to everyone at glassybaby for upholding a business model that focuses so much on human connection, and thank you to everyone who followed us, met us, and helped us during the voyage. we are proud and wonderfully lucky to have experienced the people and places of the country as ambassadors of beauty and kindness. i hope that we make it back to each place where we stopped, so we can magically relive, as i did while driving past el camino, the glorious emotions that they inspired.