PERKASIE — After more than five months on the road working on his 10,000 Flowers mural project, Tim Gibson is back home.
"I painted 474 new flowers in 25 towns, so now the grand total is 724 flowers," he said.
Started in 2018 with the mural behind the Perkasie Borough office building, the goal of the project is to work with people to paint a series of murals in towns across the country before returning to Perkasie for the 10,000th flower. Each one ties into the next in what will eventually in essence form one long mural with many sections.
In 2019, his first year on the road, Gibson put roughly 8,750 miles on the bus he decorated with flowers and made into his living quarters, doing murals from Maine to North Carolina.
Initially, he planned to start in Escort Station, Maine, the northernmost town in the United States except for Alaska, he said, but when he got to the area, he found the dirt logging road leading to it was gated shut and he would have needed a permit.
Heading back south, he came to Two Rivers Diner in Allagash, Maine, and ended up doing his first on the road painting on the back of the three-story house owned by the diner owner, Darlene.
In the small town, word got around quick, he said.
"You'd have neighbors stop by and relatives, people just curious about the project, so over the course of about four days, I had a dozen or so people stop by," Gibson said.
"I threw a paint brush in their hand, I had them paint a little bit," he said. "It was a perfect start to the tour. I loved it."
The smallest of the murals was one painted on an outdoor shower at Utopia Feni in Virginia Beach, he said. That had four flowers, he said.
The largest was in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
"That was one of the few ones where we had planned out ahead of time and so we had a little bit more time to kind of like get the word out and prep people for it," Gibson said. "The turn-out for that one was a little bit over 300 people, which was just so surreal."
Having it fall on his birthday made it his best birthday ever, he said.
"It was the one where I actually did need 300 people to come out and help," he said, "because if the turn-out wasn't good, I was gonna be there for like six weeks."
The wall in Winthrop was a little over 200 feet long and about 25 feet tall, he said.
"Just because the wall's so much bigger, you would think there's like a ton of flowers that go on it, but when the wall gets bigger, the flowers just get bigger, too," he said.
The group painted 65 flowers on that wall, he said.
About six weeks later, when he was again in the area, he painted one large flower on the roof of the building, he said.
"It's right next to the Boston Airport, so people fly over it all the time," Gibson said.
"I'm waiting for Google maps to update, so you can see it from there," he said. "That's gonna be a cool one."
The most murals he did in one week was four in Buffalo, N.Y., he said.
"That was an insane week," he said. "That was a week of just three hours of sleep every night surviving off coffee and Red Bull."
Initially the 2019 goal was to end in Key West, Florida, but with the loose schedule that had been prepared, he didn't really expect that to happen, Gibson said.
The end actually came in Asheville, N.C., after which Gibson headed back north, arriving home on Dec. 23.
The 2020 tour is still in the planning stages, but he expects to hit the road in early April, he said.
"I still want to make it a somewhat direct route so I'm not jumping all over the place, but I'd love to wrap up the southern states I didn't do yet," he said.
The plan is to spend about four months per year at home and eight months on the road, he said.
Gibson said he slept in the bus in Walmart parking lots most nights, particularly in the beginning. Later in the trip, he was frequently invited to spend the night in spare bedrooms or guest houses.
The best part of the trip was meeting so many incredible people, he said.
"It's kind of hard. It's like it's the best part and it's the worst part because you form relationships with these people so quickly and they feel like family by the end of the week, but then you gotta say good-bye to them, sometimes forever, but that's kind of the spirit of the tour a little bit. It's always moving on to the next one," Gibson said.
Before he started the project, he didn't know if it would work, he said.
"I knew people enjoyed the flowers, but I didn't wanna jinx myself too much by just assuming everybody was into it," he said.
What he found was that although he was turned down a lot and it took persistence, there was always also someone who said yes and allowed the mural to be done, he said.
"With this next tour, I want to lean more into the event side of it because I realized the best ones we did were the ones where it kind of snowballed out of our control in the best possible way and turned into kind of like a block party," Gibson said.
"It was more of just like a giant community hang-out," he said, "where people were meeting each other and talking and laughing and also painting flowers kind of on the side."
Information about 10,000 Flowers is available at tenthousandflowersproject.com.