From left to right, Christen Minnick, Lau Trejo, and Mer Aldao, the women of Republic of Light, a holistic media collective. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

On today’s edition of the Afternoon Report, a spotlight of two very different kinds of rides…

Women of the world

On 20th and Mission, Mer Aldao, Lau Trejo, and Christen Minnick were enjoying a recently acquired vehicle—although “new” and “vehicle” may not be the most precise words. The three young women are traveling across the Americas living in a school bus retrofitted with bunk beds and a hot plate.

A “holistic media collective” called Republic of Light, the three women are working on a documentary series about traditional uses for native plants, among other things. On Friday afternoon in the bus, they were making lunch.

“We’re making this bus into an impact center, in which people can examine their connection to nature and their impact on the world,” said Minnick as she prepped veggie and hummus sandwiches. They had been on the road for over a year traveling with different nomadic groups, but their current bus was a new acquisition.

Hailing from Argentina, Mexico, and Michigan, the women had traveled through about as large a geographic breadth as their disparate origins. They spent the past year in countries between Peru, Mexico, and the Unites States. They traveled with a permaculture tour group and with a traveling music project. All along the way, they’ve been taking photographs and shooting video for their ongoing documentary.

They’re in San Francisco to document a conference called the Global Summit, taking place today and tomorrow at the Women’s Building.

The bus and home of the three documentarians of Republic of Light. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

“The best part [of living in a bus] is you get to move where you want to go, and you get to learn and share,” said Minnick, the Michiganite of the three. “It’s about learning to live with less.”

“It feels good to be an inspiration to people seeing this bus,” said Aldao, the Argentine. “It’s inspiring, especially people seeing a bunch of girls driving it.”

The army-green bus itself is part of their project.

“We want to paint this bus,” said Trejo, the Mexican. “We want to gather artists and muralists to do something beautiful.”

Aldao explained that they’re intensely interested in collaboration. She said friends of theirs, artisan carpenters, had designed the loft beds and by driving the bus around she hoped it would lead the curious to their carpenter friends’ work.

“We want this bus to be like a fractal that expands,” said Aldao.

The women of Republic of Light couldn’t talk too long. They had to eat lunch—but not before singing an indigenous song of prayer (which Aldao insisted I already knew in my soul)—before heading to the Global Summit to take photos photos. Never not nomadic, they also had to find a new parking space by 4 p.m. or risk getting ticketed.

Light years

Barry Kinney (left) and Ralph Hoffshildt in front of a recently purchased Model A Ford. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

Meanwhile on 19th Street, Ralph D. Hoffshildt was showing off a very different kind of ride. The longtime Mission resident had just purchased a 1930 Model A Ford. Parked on the sidewalk in front of his house, Hoffshildt’s black chrome car with lime green rims appeared to be in pristine condition.

“I just bought it, it’s was just shipped from a town outside of Chicago,” said Hoffshildt. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted one of these.”

Leaning over the open coach, Barry Kinney president of the San Francisco Model A Ford Club gave a glowing appraisal.

“It’s a real nice car,” said Kinney. “Model As are always at a premium, they’re open and sporty.”

Kinney explained Model As are “light years ahead” of Ford’s famous Model T, which preceded it. Unlike the Model T, the As have electric starters, steel rims, and more powerful redesigned engines. They’re also a rare find for car collectors because many Model As, with their open tops, suffered from being left out in the elements. Hoffshildt didn’t say how much he paid for his new ride, but Kinney said Model As can go for over $20,000.

This was Hoffshildt’s first vintage car, though he did drive a 1948 Plymouth during a 15 year tenure as a cabbie for the San Francisco Yellow Cab Company.

“Riding around in a big Plymouth was much better than these jerks with their Ubers,” said Hoffshidlt. “When I want a cab, I’ll call a real cabbie.”

With that, he unscrewed the gleaming quail hood ornament of his Model A and examined his new ride’s insides approvingly.

This has been your Afternoon Report—a new series we’re trying out in which we offer a quickie post-meridian rundown of some minor developments in the always-happening streets of the Mission District. Got ideas or suggestions? Let us know what you think by sending an email to

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top...

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1 Comment

  1. So unfortunate the techies have made living in San Francisco so unaffordable people are resorting to living in busses and forced to use pre-1940 automobiles. That said, making lemonade from lemons, maybe living on busses is a way to reclaim the word “bus” from Google. Google, Twitter, Airbnb, & Dropbox are doing everything it can to ruin this city, and I just won’t stand for it. #stoptheevictions

    Rebecca Stephens – Activist, Protector, Champion of Renters’ Rights, peace and love

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