Tuesday, August 23rd at 8:07 PM: A large, unwieldy bus with the look of a museum relic from the 1960’s comes ambling along 17th Street in downtown Denver, Colorado in search of a place to park. It pulls to the curve, lurching forward just beyond Southern Hospitality restaurant, its intended destination – a place known for it mouth watering ribs and acceptance of bitcoin as a payment option.
Catherine hops out of the bus and quickly runs alongside it, blasting out instructions to her husband John on how to carefully steer this behemoth of a bus into the open spot right in front of the restaurant. “Hey John,” she blurts out. “This spot will work just fine.” She then mutters under her breath: “WOW! How did we get so lucky.”
Known as the Bitcoin Bus, it’s the roving home for John Bush, Catherine Bleish, their two children, and two dogs for their tour across the U.S. The purpose is an ambitious one: to educate and inform the masses on what cryptocurrencies are and how to use them in their day-to-day life.
When you step onto the bus to take a look, you quickly realize that the accommodations are spartan, a far cry from what you would find in a high-end mobile home or luxury hotel like the Hyatt Regency. It was converted from an empty shell into a tiny home on wheels through a group of volunteers from Arizona, Houston and Central Texas who pitched in by gutting, painting and overhauling its the living space.
The aforementioned dogs named after the anarchist icons Murray Rothbard and Lysander Spooner greet you as you make your way up the steps. The “libertarian eclectic” decor, replete with a bed, stove, storage and a hot tub (kidding) offer the ideal setup for a migratory lifestyle. The bus also contains a rooftop air conditioner, stove, composting toilet, hand-powered laundry machine, and other household items secured with bitcoin via an Amazon digital gift card purchased through Gyft.
Emblazoned on the outside of the bus are signs from their sponsors: Bitcoin.com, Shapeshift, Arcade City, and CheapAir.com.
John says that the bus which he proudly notes gets a robust 9 miles to the gallon has no license plates, as they expired two years ago. Expectedly this has already attracted some undesired attention from law enforcement folks, particularly in the regulation-centric state of California.
“Yep, we had a cop spot us while we were parked in one California city. He called for backup which created a minor scene. Noticing that we didn’t have license tags, one of the cops decided to climb up on the front hood of our bus to try to locate the vehicle identification number. He got half-way up and then slid off, damn near breaking his neck, which made for a good laugh. They let us go though,” John says with a faint smile.
Travelling Crypto Style
Back in 2014, John and Catherine accepted a challenge of sorts from then Bitcoin Magazine editor Ruben Alexander – to make their then upcoming trip to Porcupine Freedom Festival in New Hampshire using bitcoin only. Since then their economic experiment has led to full-on cross-country trips using BTC that year and in 2015. They have logged over 14,000 miles and visited nearly 30 states with only a few hiccups along the way.
Now on this latest trip, they have decided to push the limits by making their way across all 50 U.S. states, using bitcoin and the rapidly emerging cryptocurrencies Ether and Dash.
The goal of their grand experiment is to show others the value of cryptocurrencies and decentralized living through their example.
Says Catherine: “This is our fourth bitcoin/crypto tour, so we have certainly seen the ecosystem evolve. We were surprised to discover that the number of restaurants accepting bitcoin had declined since we took the same tour route in 2014. We expected that number to grow and had several disappointments when restaurants we loved decided to no longer accept the currency.”
She also notes the ease of use of cryptocurrencies has improved over time,
“Use is much easier now that several visa and master cards are supported for bitcoin users. We will definitely apply for them all to compare the cards when we start another leg of this tour. There are also many more options on eGifter and Gyft than when we took our first trips and we also use Purse.io a lot.”
Catherine says that their craziest encounter was when a Las Vegas bitcoin community organizer attempted to silence their tour stop for supporting Dash. “This individual would not support the tour based on the belief that Dash is a scam. This runs counter to 2014 where the Las Vegas organizers were very supportive of the Bitcoin Bus, helped us plan a bitcoin-only tour stop.”
Diversions aside, Catherine and John appear to be fully onboard in terms of their goal of encouraging the masses to see bitcoin as family-friendly and simple for users,
“We hope to inspire others to move away from the centralized Federal Reserve banking system and into a new world of decentralized technology. We hope to show bitcoin users the ways to incorporate other digital currencies, peer to peer technology, and decentralized lifestyle choices into their routine.”