Life in the Bus: An Interview With Catherine Bleish


Life in the Bus: An Interview With Catherine Bleish chatted with Catherine Bleish, who embarked on the Dash Across America Tour on the Bus. Bleish gave us an inside look at her family’s travels, where they used cryptocurrency as their only means of funding the trip. The tour was a great success and managed to show thousands of people the benefits of decentralization, unschooling, and our favorite cryptocurrency Bitcoin. 

Also read: Dash Across America Tour: Everyday Crypto Advocacy Hits the Road

Funded By Cryptocurrency Only The Bus Tours The U.S. (BC): What gave you guys the idea to start the Dash Across America: Bus Tour?

Catherine Bleish (CB): We had been on three other cross country bitcoin-only trips, and each one had seen major changes in the bitcoin economy. It had been over a year since our previous trip, and we had speaking opportunities at both Jackalope Freedom Festival and Rethinking Everything. We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to test the ecosystem and raise awareness about all things decentralized (cryptocurrencies, unschooling, tiny home living and more!)

Every single time we stopped, whether it was a gas station or a Whole Foods or a Home Depot, people were coming up to the bus asking questions about Bitcoin.

BC: How long did it take you guys to modify the Bus and who helped with the process?

Blush familyCB: We picked up the bus in April 2015 from the Halldorson Family in New Hampshire. It was called the ‘Unschool Bus’ at that time, and they had spent three years traveling the country with three teenagers.

The bus had sat over a winter with no one living in it, so when we picked it up, it had been slightly weatherized, and we decided to gut the entire thing to accommodate a family with two toddlers.

We drove home with the bus and arrived four days before we took over Brave New books in Austin Texas. We then spent the next year slowly getting all of the infrastructure, wiring, and water systems in place from inside of the bus.

We finally have the bus to the point when the walls need to be scraped and painted, the floor and needed to be pulled out, and the things we wanted in terms of better countertops to be installed.

Alma Sommer and Brian Stith came from Arizona to help us for two weeks on the project. There were also people from Adam Kokesh’s Freedom Ranch and Michael Fielding and his girlfriend came to help. Additionally, our best friends the Germanow Family helped, and our friend Robert from Brave new books helped the entire last week.

It was an exhausting process in hundred degree weather, but we did it.

BC: You guys caught up with Alma Sommer and the Undocumented Human Tour while traveling. Can you tell our readers about the experience with their family?

Blush familyCB: We were with their family during the remodel process in Austin, at Jackalope Freedom Festival in Arizona, Rethinking Everything in Alabama, and the 10-year anniversary of Brave New Books Austin Texas.

It was really nice to spend time with another like-minded family who was also living in a tiny mobile home. We were able to help each other with childcare, moral and emotional support, and get our hands dirty helping each other.

Honestly, the entire bus remodel wouldn’t have been possible without Alma. I was living in a place of very limited beliefs, we were feeling overloaded by this new bookstore we had taken over, and I had sort of given up finishing the project. She called me told me I was coming to Jackalope Freedom Festival and that they were going to come help fix the bus, so I no longer had that as an excuse. Sometimes you just need a friend to give you a hand and pull you out of a negative place.

BC: Can you tell our readers what states you visited and which state do you think was the most cryptocurrency friendly?

CB: Our tour started in Austin Texas we then drove through New Mexico to get to Arizona where we attended the Jackalope Freedom Festival.

West Texas and New Mexico are pretty Barren in terms of Bitcoin, but Arizona did have some choices especially in Phoenix. We really love Sedona, but we basically only spent Bitcoin at Whole Foods using the Gyft app.

Next, we went to visit San Diego. Our family loves living on Bitcoin in San Diego, and we feel they have the most thriving Bitcoin economy and community. Of course, this is just some of the states we visited on our recent tour, we still have a good chunk of the country to visit in our new bus.

Los Angeles surprisingly does not have a lot of places to eat on bitcoin. So we had our meet up in San Marcos a suburb outside of the town, this also allowed us more easy parking than driving into downtown Los Angeles like we did last time. In 2014 when we visited California on bitcoin there was only one restaurant in Los Angeles that accepted Bitcoin, and they were not customer friendly at all. After our meet up we drove back to San Diego for two more nights because San Diego was just that special to us when we felt so connected to the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency Community there.

bitcoinOn our last trip, Las Vegas was one of our favorite Bitcoin only stops. But this time was different. The Bitcoin Meetup host banned us from their Facebook page all because of our support for the cryptocurrency Dash. Our favorite Bitcoin restaurant The Crepe had shut down and was no longer taking Bitcoin, so we used the opportunity to really get a lot of computer work done, catch up on the podcast, and get the word out about our silenced Meetup. During the debacle with the Las Vegas Bitcoin Meetup organizer, the Austin Bitcoin Meetup informed us that we would no longer be welcome at their Meetup because of our support for Dash. So we decided to organize a decentralized technology Meetup that would take place at the bookstore during the same hours as the Austin Bitcoin Meetup. It ended up being a good thing, because no one was showing up at the Austin Bitcoin Meetup and when we got home for our first Decentralized Technology Meetup we had over 20 people attend! Las Vegas does have a hotel that accepts Bitcoin actually, but it is not dog-friendly, so we used Cheap to buy a hotel room with Bitcoin.

We then went to Colorado one of our other favorite Bitcoin areas. At this point our kids were getting a little over-stimulated and my son had a major breakdown on top of a ski lift in Glenwood Springs, so we were late to our Meetup in Denver, but we still had a good dozen or so people who did a tour of the bus and about five people stayed and had dinner with us at a Bitcoin-Friendly restaurant. We were disappointed to see that there were fewer restaurants accepting Bitcoin in Denver than when we went through in 2014. Additionally, the Bitcoin Center in Denver lost its physical location. We really enjoyed the Bitcoin community in 2014 and we’re sad to see fewer Bitcoin accepting places when we returned in 2016. Although, the community was still thriving and welcoming.

We then went to Kansas City Missouri where there is basically a non-existent Bitcoin Community. Only 17 people are in their Facebook group. So we had two Meetups one with family and one with friends from high school. All of them got to tour the bus and learned about Bitcoin and Dash!

I must mention on our way through Utah and Kansas we had to use our Wagecan Bitcoin debit card because there were no bitcoin friendly places directly on our route.

Throughout the course of the San Diego Meetup we had about 20 people come spend Bitcoin it was great! Paul Puey is a good friend of our family and we really love his wallet airbitz, especially because of the directory functionality.

BC: How did you guys get involved with the Dash community and how did you submit a proposal to be sponsored by them?

dashCB: My husband got us into Dash first. He had learned about Darkcoin from some events at the bookstore; I believe from Cody Wilson. When I began to learn about it, I thought it would be neat to incorporate it into our tour, although there were no places to spend Dash on the tour we were able to pay some people who helped us with various projects, and get out some Dash for free. While we were looking for sponsors, my husband decided to write them a proposal and see if they would be interested in putting their logos on the bus, and they were!

BC: Can you tell us why you had difficulties at the Las Vegas Bitcoin meetup?

CB: I preemptively answered that above, but basically the Las Vegas Bitcoin Meetup organizer is anti-Dash. He failed to inform us that and blocked us from the Meetup the day before we arrived. At our last tour stop in 2014 when we were traveling on Bitcoin only, he was incredibly accommodating, and I sort of thought maybe he was just busy. But when he told me he was deliberately blocking us from the Meetup my heart broke, and initially I was in tears from the stress of it all. We decided the right thing to do would be to tell everybody why the Meetup wouldn’t be accepting us. I did try to organize and informal one both on their Meetup Facebook page I was blocked.

When I told him I would be going public with our conversation, he said “Good, I look forward to the opportunity to tell more people the Dash is a scam.” That didn’t make sense to me because he could have had an excellent opportunity to do it in person. I believe that he hasn’t researched the cryptocurrency based on his comments which are published in full on (username: catherinebleish) and on in a previous article written by Trevor.

BC: Your visit to San Diego you guys met up with some of the crew from Airbitz. Can you tell us about this experience?

Dash Across America TourCB: In San Diego, we had a meet up at a place called Tostadas. The restaurant is owned by the same person who runs City Tacos, which is the restaurant we visited in 2014. Throughout the course of the Meetup, we had about 20 people come spend Bitcoin, which was amazing! Paul Puey is a good friend of our family, and we really love his wallet airbitz, especially because of the directory functionality. We are encouraging him to add Dash of course! One interesting thing that took place at that restaurant is that the electricity went out on an entire city block, so people were trying to figure out how to spend Bitcoin. I went back inside to setup a Wi-Fi hotspot on my phone, and a Gentleman who wanted to spend Bitcoin was able to tap into that Wi-Fi and so was the restaurant. I later found out that with airbitz if you log in with your full password, you can send and receive Bitcoin while offline.

BC: Did the children enjoy the trip and do they have a grasp or an idea of what cryptocurrency is?

Blush familyCB: Our kids really enjoyed the trip, we have other unschool friends across the country, and it was a great opportunity for them to connect. I think our life had become pretty stagnant in Austin slaving away for Brave New Books, this trip allowed us to change our life philosophy into one of work hard, and play hard. The kids understand Bitcoin, especially our older daughter Stara. One funny example is when we went to purchase jewelry roadside in Utah, and we asked if they would accept Bitcoin. They said no, and my daughter said well Mom could we spend some of our Dash? I asked of course, and they said no, but we were able to use our Wagecan debit card on their card reader attached to their phone.

Another funny story about my daughter and Bitcoin, not from this trip, but to illustrate her understanding of cryptocurrency. The Bitcoin symbol is a B with a line through it the first time my daughter saw the dollar sign she called it an S shaped Bitcoin symbol. That’s because we began doing Bitcoin only cross-country tours when she was just two years old. Our lives are very Bitcoin Centric, and we have really worked hard to get off to U.S. dollar.

BC: Did you find any significant roadblocks when it came to using cryptocurrency on the trip?

CB: Nothing major, our first tour in 2014 had what I would call significant issues. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been doing it so long, or maybe it’s because the ecosystem has grown just that much, but we only had minor issues.

BC: How many new people did you introduce cryptocurrency to and did people ask you what the Bus was all about by observing you guys driving around?

bitcoinCB: I can’t put an exact number on it, but I would say thousands. Every single time we stopped, whether it was a gas station or a Whole Foods or a Home Depot, people were coming up to the bus asking questions about Bitcoin. I would say it was 50/50 if people had heard of Bitcoin at all, and the ones that had, about half of them thought Bitcoin was dead. That made me realize that we have some work to do with the general public, even those who have heard of Bitcoin thought that after the Mt Gox or other scandals they heard on the news that Bitcoin had died. We were living testament that Bitcoin was alive and well, and many of the people we met in parking lots were excited to go home and visit to learn more.

One example of how much of a buzz the Bus created was when we were in Ocean Beach California, I was laying inside the bus with my daughter who needed a rest after swimming all day and we could hear the conversations of everyone walking by. Keep in mind we were parked at the entrance to the dog beach, thousands of people walked by to go play with their dogs. There was not a single group of people that walk by without having a conversation about the Bus, Bitcoin and if they knew what it was or not. It was neat to be a fly on the wall and hear what people would say when we were not around.

Rethinking Everything was a special event for Bitcoin as well. John and I had given presentations about Bitcoin at three different Rethinking Everything events. But this is the first time it really seemed to click. The philosophy, the importance, and the accessibility. I gave a presentation on decentralized lifestyles and then afterward we had a three-and-a-half-hour-long breakout session, and literally, all we talked about was cryptocurrencies. I help people to download wallets, sent them their first Dash, and show them how to use the Airbitz Bitcoin directory, it was phenomenal.

BC: Overall do you and John think the tour was successful?

Dash across america tourCB: Of all of our Bitcoin only tours I believe this was the most successful. We did receive less media attention than our tours in the past, but I believe the personal interactions that took place at every single stop were world changing. Honestly, in the minivan, it was easier to work from my computer in my lap, and I was a media machine. This time, the bus traveled slower, and I had to do things like prep food while John drove, and entertain the kids because the driving stretches were that much longer. It was also impossible for me to make phone calls in the loud bus with all windows down. When we would ride in the minivan, no one knew we were on a bitcoin only tour unless we went up and approached them to talk about it. When you tour in the bus everybody knows what you’re doing, and comes to you with lots of questions. In fact, sometimes I would be talking for so long to someone in a parking lot John would be honking and waving at me to get moving. We even had a law enforcement officer come up to our bus when we were parked in New Mexico and ask for a tour of the inside. People were blown away. I feel so humbled by the opportunity. I think it was the most effective activism that I have ever participated in, and I have been an activist for over ten years.

I would venture to say that in the past our tours were for the Bitcoin community. We were testing the Bitcoin ecosystem and teaching Bitcoin Advocates how to spend their Bitcoin on a day-to-day basis. This time was different, this tour was for the general public. This tour was teaching people that Bitcoin is alive and well, how to get involved, and that we don’t have to be dependent on a centralized government for money.

We have been invited to bring the bus to Anarchapulco in Mexico next February, and we would like to hit the rest of the 48 states during 2017. We hope will partner with us again.

I want to also mention the podcast has gone really well. We have documented the four tours on Johns, and he has a very dedicated fan base that we run into on each stop of the tour. One listener even flagged us down when he heard someone in a Starbucks say a Bitcoin Bus just drove by. He ran out and caught us in a parking lot!

Thank you, Catherine and John, for spreading the word about Bitcoin.

What do you think about the Dash Across America Bus Tour? Let us know in the comments below.

Images via Catherine Bleish.

Tags in this story
AirBitz, Alma Sommer, Bus, Brave New Books, Catherine Bleish

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Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is the News Lead at News and a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open-source code, and decentralized applications. Since September 2015, Redman has written more than 6,000 articles for News about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

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