Hundreds of people turned out for a series of weekend events as the Tea Party Express cruised across northern Nevada.
The caravan of tour buses, RVs, cargo trucks and SUVs kicked off a cross-country tour Friday in Sacramento, California, and plans on holding events in 33 cities en route to Washington, D.C. for what organizers hope will be a big rally on September 12.
The tour is being funded by Our Country Deserves Better, a conservative political action committee.
The tea party movement gained momentum this year; several parties were held across the country this summer to protest President Barack Obama and the Democrats' economic stimulus plans, among other things.
On July 4, nearly 2,000 advocates, toting signs and chanting slogans, rallied outside Congress. Activists said the TEA Party Day — an acronym for "Taxed Enough Already" — was in response to runaway government spending. But now, the focus is on health care reform, an issue that has brought about demand for bigger, more encompassing debate throughout the country and in Congress.
At an event Saturday in Winnemucca, Nevada, Carolyn Rowe came to the tea party in a T-shirt depicting Obama as the joker from "Batman." In place of the familiar "Hope" logo of Obama's campaign was the word "Joke."
She says she is concerned about the number of so-called "czars" in the Obama administration and she fears losing her choice of doctor if health care reform passes.
"I believe he's trouncing the Constitution and taking control of our country in a direction we don't want," says Rowe, from beneath a wide brimmed straw hat. "I think he has a hidden agenda, and I think he doesn't tell the truth and that in itself bothers me."
Husband-and-wife team Barbara and Pete Jones drove up from Reno, Nevada. Barbara's red T-shirt said "Impeach Everyone," but she said Obama is first on her list.
What is her main concern?
"Socialism," she says.
Husband Pete elaborates, "They're spending too much money. Were going into debt spending money on things we don't need, bailing out companies that should have failed."
The Joneses, who are in their 60s, have never been what they call "protesting people" before, but they think the tea party movement is picking up speed and they are happy to be spending their Saturday afternoon out the blazing midday sun of the Winners Casino parking lot. They even made a sign that reads, "Don't borrow, tax and spend our children's future."
"Were the sleeping giant that has been awaken," she says, "We're the silent majority that is no longer silent."
Mike Bryant nods in agreement with Barbara Jones. He attended Friday night's Tea Party In Sparks, Nevada, and drove up to Winnemucca for Saturday's event.
"I think a lot of people are just waking up and getting active. People are reading and educating themselves," he says, "I think too many of us that have been working, busy raising families and haven't been involved."
He has been to tea parties in the past and thinks the protesters have gotten a bum rap in the media.
"I think were not an unruly mob, I think most of us are just average citizens and were trying to make a difference, trying to make our feelings known."
Later Saturday the tour arrives at a park in Elko, Nevada, where Johnny Burwell minces no words. His sign (and just about everyone has a sign) reads, "I will not be a socialist." He holds it up between the tines of a pitchfork.
"They want to make us a socialist state." He says, "I got a good life I don't want em messing it up."
But the crowd of several hundred in Elko has some surprise attendees: Obama supporters. Four of them.
Nora Hatfield and her three pals voted for Obama and support the president now. They are parked near the back on folding chairs.
"I wanted to know why they don't support health care, why they don't support the issues that are important to this administration," Hatfield says. "The way you learn these things is by listening to what other people have to say."
After hearing the speakers from the Tea Party Express, she is unsatisfied.
"What I have heard today has all totally been negative." She says, "Nobody has given me a solution."
Sunday morning, the Tea Party Express rolled into Ely, Nevada, where about 100 partiers were waiting for the caravan. More T-shirts, more signs and more newly minted activists.
Next stop: Las Vegas.