Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Southwest Turista in Louisiana and Mississippi

I am continuing to avoid I-10 as I travel east to visit my sister in Sarasota, one of these days.  She points out that I am only nine hours away, and I tell her it might be more like nine days.  I am at the beach.  

If you read my previous post, you know I had a few difficulties getting through Texas.  I didn't mention then that it was also really cold, and that I was worried about a whiny sound that Brownie makes.  But enough whining.  The fact is, things have been better ever since I got to the Gulf Coast.  In one day, I was able to go from wearing long janes under jeans to wearing shorts.  The humid air (sometimes 98 percent!) made breathing easier, and my recovery from a virus leaped ahead.  I stopped coughing so much and I had a little more energy.  The humidity also makes my arthritis and peripheral neuropathy way worse, but I'm making sure I eat lots of chile or chili or whatever every day, and that helps.

So...after it turned out that the Bolivar Peninsula was uninviting, I drove east, some of it on I-10, to L'Auberge Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I have fond memories of L'Auberge from my first trip there in 2011.  It was a bright spot in a sea of difficulties.  Things have changed at L'Auberge since then. The beautiful RV park and fun outdoor lazy river pool are gone, a new Golden Nugget Casino in their place.  I didn't mind, though.  I've learned so much since my first RV trip across the country.  Now I'm perfectly comfortable staying at a casino parking lot, with no power or water hookups.  I have solar and I drive a lot, so my house batteries stay charged, and I have a nice little 100W plug-in inverter that allows me to blog and watch movies.  

Anyhow, I was so glad to be in a nice warm spot, I stayed two nights.  I enjoyed good food and I spent enough in the casino to constitute my rent.  

Boudin King

I stayed on I-10 for a little ways after leaving Lake Charles.  On the recommendation of my friend Chantel, I stopped for lunch at Boudin King in Jennings, Louisiana.  Oh.  My.  God.  It is well worth taking a few minutes to drive through this town.  I ate a fabulous meal (1/2 lb spicy boudin and a bowl of red beans and rice, which also had some great sausage in it) and had enough left over for another smaller meal later on that day.  The people were very nice, too.  The owner gave me a couple of samples before I chose the spiciest variety. 

You can also go to the Gator Chateau in Jennings, where they will offer you the chance to hold a baby alligator.  I touched it, but I did not hold it.  Steve accuses me of doing anything for a photo op, but there are limits.  

Tabasco tour, museum, store and cafe

My next goal was to do some sightseeing off of I-10, in smaller towns.  I headed down US Highway 90 for New Iberia and spent a quiet night parked near the garden supplies at Walmart.   The next day, I drove a few miles to Avery Island, the home of McIlhenny Co., which has been making its Tabasco pepper sauce since shortly after the Civil War.  I never realized until I took the factory tour that Tabasco was invented in order to enliven poor Southern diets after the War, nor did I know that the sauce is made of only three very high-quality ingredients, two of which come from Avery Island--the tabasco peppers and local salt.  The vinegar was imported from France originally--I'm not sure if it still is.  Anyway, I had a great time there, and I highly recommend a stop if you are at all interested in good food and how it's made.  They still have their own cooperage, and there is a rich culture amongst the workers whose families have worked for the company for five generations.  The gift shop had samples of many sauces, jellies, and even peppery ice cream!  I also enjoyed a late lunch at the company cafe, where I tried all of the sauces again on top of a gloriously messy pulled pork sandwich served in a bowl so you don't miss anything.  

 Sunset over the artificial lake at Cypress Bayou Casino

My plan (oh, Lord, when will I ever learn?) was to drive on a few more hours after the factory tour, but it was very windy.  I stopped at just about the next town, Charenton, at a little casino called Cypress Bayou.  It was one of those casinos that does not operate 24 hours a day and doesn't have a lot of restaurants or anything else to do, so I just relaxed and watched a movie.  I've been renting Redbox movies along the road.  There is always somewhere to return them, if not on time, maybe by the second day.  Still lots cheaper than the movie theater.

 Laura Plantation--hurricanes, fire, nothing can take down this possibly haunted place

The next day, Thursday, Day 10 of this journey, I had in mind to go visit a real plantation.  I had seen the plantation homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson when I was about 10 or so, but that's a long time ago, and they told a rather sanitized version of how things were for "the servants."  I figured I could hear something more historically accurate these days, so I headed to Edgard, where there were once 600 plantations along the banks of the Mississippi River, each one of them a separate community, or as we would call it today, a blood-sucking corporation built on the backs of poor African Americans.  Whitney Plantation is a recently opened museum devoted to telling history through the eyes of the slaves, and I really wanted to go there, but they were pretty booked up.  So I followed another of Chantel's excellent suggestions and went to the Laura Plantation just down the road.  Laura was the name of a third-generation plantation owner who wrote a memoir about her childhood there.   

Creole Nativity scene at the Laura Plantation

These plantations are not like the ones I saw in Virginia when I was a kid.  The Laura Plantation was small, with very little separation between the house and the slave cabins.  It was a little hard to follow the docent's story because she was more interested in her own performance than facts, but I did get a little sense of what life might have been like.  

Afterwards, I bought a big praline in the gift shop, and my sugar high got me all the way to Pass Christian, Mississippi, the home of the world's greatest Walmart.  Well, the best one I've seen, and I've been to China.  It's on the beach!  Well, right across the highway from the beach.  Don't walk through the field, it's copperhead season.  But you can walk down the Walmart driveway and across the road and you are right in the sugary white sand.  

 At Palace Casino, my door leads to the beach

I could have stayed there at that Walmart for days on end.  I was tempted, but I've been watching the weather reports, and it looked like rain was on its way.  I figured, if it rains, I'd rather be someplace like Biloxi where there is beach plus other things to do inside.  So, here I am.  I have once again found the best free campsite possible, in a parking lot next to the Palace Casino parking garage.  I have been here since yesterday afternoon, and mostly it is used by locals who come down here to gaze at the beach or fish or catch crawfish.  Everybody loves Sonja when they see her in the RV doorway--I can't let her out because I've seen feral cats here, and apparently she doesn't like the beach, anyway.  

 Sunrise this morning at the Palace Casino parking lot

Palace Casino not only unofficially offers this free place to camp...they also have the most highly-rated casino buffet in town, so I had lunch there yesterday and ate my fill of Coastal and Southern food.  Yes, shrimp boil, boiled shrimp (not the same thing, duh), Creole shrimp, fried shrimp--oh, do I sound like Bubba Gump yet?  It was all delicious, every bite.  On top of that, Palace is the only 100 percent non-smoking casino in Biloxi. 

 This little Biloxi back bay peninsula is just outside my door

So, what's next?  I don't know.  Ever since I got through Texas, I've been able to slow down and take this trip one decision at a time.  I am getting to the part of the country where it's pretty essential to have campground reservations, especially since it's "the season."  I have reservations for Monday night near Pensacola, where I hope to get to spend a little time with my nephew Andy and my friend Kadi.  I couldn't get reservations at a coastal state park in Alabama, so until then, I believe I might just stay put.  I have waves 15 feet from my door, and I noticed some really appealing pastries at the casino's cafe yesterday.  

Really, why go anywhere?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Shunpiking Through Texas--El Paso to the Gulf

I was really sick when I left on this trip.  I'd been sick with a virus that started out with just a few sniffles and then turned into something that made me wonder, three times, whether I might die.  But, as you will see from this story, I sometimes freak out, and things aren't always as bad as I think.  Anyhow, my big smile was a ruse.  Look at my glassy eyes.  I still felt like crapola.

But I left, anyway.  For one thing, I'd gotten stuck staying behind my gallery for a few days when I was too sick to go anywhere else, and I was really tired of being there.  I'd holed up and slept.  Steve brought me soup and took me to soak in the hot springs.  I packed when I could.  Packing meant storing winter clothes in the studio space behind my gallery, and retrieving the shorts, sandals, tank tops, etc., that I'd stored there earlier.  

For another thing, mid-February felt like time to go.  It was almost seven years to the day since I'd become a full-time RVer, leaving Oregon for who-knows-where.  And this time, I planned to travel some portions of my 2011 trip, but spend a lot less time on I-10 and do more sight-seeing along the way. I have never purchased any of the ShunPiker's Guides, but I embrace the idea of eschewing interstate freeways and living the slow life.

As so often happens, nothing went as planned.  I left Truth or Consequences on Tuesday, February 13, intending to spend the night at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs.  I figured a short drive of an hour or so was about right for a day when I left late and felt ill.  But the campground was full!  (Why?  It is just a wide spot in the desert, and I've never understood the attraction.)  

Well, I had always been curious about Sunland Racetrack and Casino, near El Paso, so I headed there.  I was surprised to find out that they have about eight RV water and electric hookup sites, and that's the only place RVs are allowed on their lot.  So, I paid my $15 to stay on a parking lot using utilities I didn't need.  I was happy to be off the freeway, after an extra hour's drive.

 Approaching the Guadalupe Mountains on U.S. Highway 180 east of El Paso, Texas

The next morning, I used my phone's maps app to find my way through El Paso and get on U.S. Highway 180, which took me east to the Guadalupe Mountains.  It was a much more beautiful drive than I-10, with mountains and other pretty things to see all the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Although I enjoyed a couple of paved trails intended for mobility impaired folks like myself, I did not stay at the National Park.  I had read online that their campground had a nice tent loop, but that the RV portion was just a parking lot.  I drove through to confirm this.  It was worse than any Walmart parking lot that I have ever seen.  I can't help wondering, WHAT were they thinking?  The National Park comprises millions of acres of wilderness.  Certainly they could've used a few of 'em to make a decent campground.  

Fortunately, Texas has wonderful rest stops and picnic areas, and state law allows you to stay up to 24 hours in any of them.  I found a rest area just beyond the National Park that was a very nice place to stay overnight.  

Photos I took in Carlsbad Caverns

The next day, I was quite excited about going to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  (Highway 180 goes from Texas to New Mexico to Texas again.)  I was so sure I would have a good time.  And I was so surprised to find out...well, let me put it this way.  If I ever mention "cavern" and "self-guided tour" in one sentence again, just shoot me.  I did not like being underground by myself!  I was not entirely alone, but it was a weekday and there weren't a lot of folks down there with me.  I had intended to take the shortest route through the caverns, but I missed the shortcut and took the longest.  I sometimes went 10 or 15 minutes without seeing anyone, and I spent most of that time walking, walking, walking and crying.  It was too much for me.  I couldn't wait to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of there!

I told a young ranger about losing my bearings and feeling confused and scared, and he said I had a genuine cavern experience.  I guess so.  Thank God I have the gimp pass and didn't have to pay for it!

So, then I left Carlsbad Caverns, and went through the towns of Carlsbad and Hobbs.  Did the Devil himself come up from the underworld and design these oilfield towns?  I was so glad I had enough energy left, even after getting stuck in a cavern for too long, to make my way back into Texas on Highway 180.  Things got prettier again, and I stayed overnight at a picnic area just over the state line.

The next day, I continued along Highway 180 as far as Anson, which is north of Abilene, and then started heading in a southeasterly diagonal through the state, mostly traveling on Texas Highway 36.  I had picked Cross Plains as a destination for the night, mostly because it worked with my phone map app for getting me around the outskirts of Abilene.  I was so surprised as I drove into Cross Plains to find that there was a free city park, Treadwell Park, on the outskirts of town.  I stayed there overnight.  It was shady and green and on a dry river.  

Treadwell Park in Cross Plains, Texas, where I nearly lost my mind, again

The next morning, I had another anxiety attack, this time over The Lost Wallet Incident.  The last time I remembered seeing my billfold was in Snyder, Texas, where I had bought gas and a cup of coffee.  They didn't have real half-and-half, so I doctored up the coffee myself inside my RV before leaving.  I remember setting down my wallet to open the door to take my coffee inside.  I could not find the wallet the next morning, and I thought it was back in Snyder, at the gas station.

I called Steve and started to make arrangements for him to wire me some money so I could give up this trip and go back home.  I was in a really sad state.  Still not really well from the virus, and still a bit shaken up from getting scared in a cavern, and now this.  

I decided to look in all of the places it couldn't possibly be, and that's when I found my billfold, under the passenger seat.  I must have placed it carelessly on top of my purse rather than in  my purse, and somehow it wound up under the seat, which must have taken a bit of doing.  But there it was.  

I called Steve and told him, "Never mind."  And I went on my way.

It was more driving diagonally through Texas on Highway 36 most of this fifth day of my trip, and I stayed at another free picnic area, this one near Milano.  This time, it rained, and rain came through my rooftop air conditioner, which needs to be cleaned out so it will send water off the sides and back.  It is probably full of years of leaves and muck.  It's one of those things I never remember until it's raining inside my RV.  I've gotta get someone up there!  Fortunately, I had bowls and towels and was able to deal with the situation.  

Seen near Comanche, Texas

The sixth day, I was so ready to be all the way down to the Gulf Coast.  So I programmed my maps app to get me through Houston, and I left early.  I was down on the Bolivar Peninsula by lunch time.  I had intended to spend the night or possibly several nights down there, on one of the free or low-cost beaches, but the entire peninsula was socked in.  So it didn't attract me like I'd thought it would.  After spending the afternoon driving the length of the peninsula and back again, I headed to Louisiana, where I will pick up the story next time.

 Gulf Coast at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula--see the fog?



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous Retrospective, as Told By an RTArt Camper

Getting there was the hardest part.  There was all the wrapping up of business and life in general in Truth or Consequences, and then the multiple instances of overheating (usually the RV, not me) in Palm Springs, which, in my reckoning, is always on the way to Quartzsite.

My December 26th sale was good--many large and small things left the gallery, and that was the goal.  Although I was leaving town soon and still had all of the remaining Christmas tchotchkes to put in storage, somehow it made sense to go pick up a couple of truckloads of furniture, musical instruments, and really interesting collectibles from a friend.  So Sun Gallery was packed when I left town, to go buy more brilliant stuff in Palm Springs, which has some of the West's best thrift shops.  

Brownie had overheated a time or two during our return trip from the Midwest this past summer, but it made sense.  She's an old girl, and we'd pushed her hard.  On this westbound I-10 trip towards California, the temperature gauge began rising a little occasionally, but all I had to do was slow down a bit and it was back to normal.

It wasn't until I was actually in the Coachella Valley, shopping the fabulous thrift stores for California pottery and other Midcentury Mod goodies, that the real overheating began.  

Brownie being towed, again!

The first time, I was close to an auto supply store, so I let the engine cool, bought some coolant, and then topped it off myself.  That "fix" only lasted until my next thrift store stop, after which I had to get Brownie towed to a Palm Desert gas station on a Sunday night, with no assurance that the mechanic would help me the next morning.  I stealth camped illegally in the parking lot, which was kind of exciting--not something I can usually achieve in a vehicle which is so obviously a lived-in RV.

The mechanic arrived on Monday morning and said he doesn't work on vehicles like mine because they won't fit in his garage.  But then he got intrigued by the problem, and he did what turned out to be only a temporary fix.  It got me back on the road, though, and I didn't break down again until I got to Ehrenberg, AZ, on my way back towards Quartzsite for the RTR.  I was chasing rainbows along eastbound I-10--really an incredible afternoon, until the breakdown.   

At one point I actually saw two full rainbows, but that was when the engine was overheating, so no pics ☹

As luck would have it, when I saw that the engine was overheating and pulled off, I was in a little unused RV park across the street from a laundromat/convenience store.  They let me dry camp overnight where Brownie died for $3, and they recommended an excellent mechanic.  The next morning, I was able to limp Brownie about eight miles to the mechanic, back in Blythe, CA, after filling the radiator with water, as all of the coolant was gone again.  The solution to my problems was a new fan clutch.  Brownie has been running really well ever since. 

When there were no classes in session, RTArt Camp had Open Studio time each day, with lots of fun donated materials.  I made fun postcards.

So, that brings me up to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and, of more interest to me, the new RTArt Camp.  My friend Blaize and I had arranged to meet and set up camp a day before the RTR was scheduled to begin, but when she arrived several hours before me, there was no space for us anywhere near the main camp.  So, she chose a spot one road over from the main camp, near where the RTR Musicians were camping.  We were the quiet buffer of introverted artists that protected the main camp from the music, except for that one night when the karaoke got really out of hand.  ("OMG, take that microphone away from that guy!," we all screamed quietly to ourselves in our separate vans and RVs.)

Felted soap, one of the things we learned to make at camp!

The walk from Art Camp to main camp was tough.  I needed to use my cane anytime I ventured out of my campsite and sometimes within my campsite, too. But I made the walk over there and back almost every day, in order to make announcements about RTArt Camp's events at the morning meeting.  I figured the walking was good for me.  I found the best path, which was fairly flat and invaded several people's campsites, but I gave them cookies and they were nice to me.  (Having an oven at the RTR makes you a queen!)  I only fell once, and that was on flat ground right at the main camp morning meeting, where people had me back up on my feet in no time. 

Burning Van--burned at the main camp's fire on the last night of the RTR.  In Tom Sawyer fashion, I tricked two men into constructing this for me, so all I had to do was conceive it and paint it.

Next year, we will work with the organizers (Bob's helpers, NOT BOB!) to get a site for RTArt Camp that is more convenient for everyone, especially the people who want to participate in some fun classes.  Also, so we at Art Camp can get to the events at the main camp.

A drone photo of the roads going through the main RTR camp, published with permission of luckyweliveinavan

It was actually kind of nice to be remote from the main camp this year, because there were something like 3000-4000 people at this year's RTR.  It was incredible. There was even a New York Times article about the event that was published today, "The Real Burning Man" by Priscilla Green, NYT 1/31/18.  Check it out!  My name is in the article, with a link to my previous blog entry.

People were really jammed into the main camp area, but RTArt Camp, three washes away, was a nice quiet place to hang out and occasionally it became a real beehive of activity.  Our first event was to have a little Meet-and-Greet with anybody who wanted to teach an art class.  Out of that meeting came a full schedule of classes that filled up a few hours on each of the next eight days.  We had soap felting (who knew this was a thing?), poured acrylic painting, beading, crocheting, making Voodoo dolls (a Bob Wells joke!), collage, mandala drawing, realistic drawing, and even a finger painting class which grown men tried and enjoyed in spite of themselves.  We also constructed the Burning Van for the campfire on the last night of the RTR.  Too bad the reporters never showed up during the busy times!

My Voodoo doll, which I have since stuffed with a little catnip for Miss Sonja to play with

For me, the best part of RTArt Camp was meeting the people who chose to camp with us.  We had no idea when we arrived whether anyone else would participate on a regular basis, but we got a nice cadre of interesting, fun people.  We began by doing artwork together, and then we began having campfires and shared meals and running errands in town together.  I met such awesome people and hope that our plans to stay connected work out.

Acrylic pouring was VERY popular--dozens showed up and a repeat class was offered

A wonderful thing that came out of this initial year of RTArt Camp, in my estimation, is that some of the solo travelers who hung out together decided to form an intentional community of nomadic artists.  The plan is to determine as a group where and when they will travel together, and, of course, some folks will peel off from the group sometimes for personal trips or jobs or whatever.  But there will be a core group, and I can go visit with them sometimes!  

So long til next year, RTArt Camp!

This new intentional community is important to me also because I'm no longer going to be spending as much time in Why, AZ, as I have the past seven years, ever since I met Steve.  He has sold his RV to one of our friends and has an apartment in TorC now.  We can certainly go back and visit with our many friends in Why, but we'd be staying in my much smaller Brownie rather than the fifth-wheel (which Steve somehow never named, although "Brownie" would've worked for that one, too).  

A chilly morning in Why

After Quartzsite, I went to Why for one last short stay in the fifth wheel with Steve, and then back to TorC, where I have been hooked up behind my gallery for several days.  I was kind of unexcited about returning here.  I wanted to go camp in a van down by the river with the other artists.  

Devotion.  Acrylic, 20 x 20 inches, possibly available for sale at Passion Pie Cafe as of 2/1/18

But life in Truth or Consequences is not boring, and I got back into the swing of things rather quickly.  There's a ring-tailed cat living in the ceiling of my gallery, and a whole series of events planned for him in the near future.  Steve is helping me get my Class A out of storage and onto my mechanic's nice big lot on the main highway through town, where it will get attention and get sold.  I've torn up the gallery so I can fit in those estate pieces that I took in just before I left for the RTR.  I delivered a painting to Passion Pie Cafe's annual Sacred Heart contest.  I paid my 2017 sales tax, and determined that I'll have to sell about 1000 items on eBay between now and April 15th in order to pay my Federal Income taxes.  However, I'm planning a trip to Florida instead.  That's what we people who are famous enough to be in the NYT do, I guess.  I'll let you know, once I meet the others.  Maybe they're in Florida, too. 

And Happy New Year from the cat.  



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

More Campgrounds in Truth or Consequences, NM

Brownie parked behind Sun Gallery

I have just completed my last weekend of holiday retail at my art and antiques gallery.  Normally, Sun Gallery is only open for one four-day weekend each month, in conjunction with our Second Saturday Art Hop.  I do a month's worth of business in four days, which works because of social media, loyal customers, and the great stuff I have to sell.  But during the holidays, from November Art Hop until a week before Christmas, I'm open every weekend.  It's exhausting!  I've been going to bed by 9 pm every night and sleeping sometimes 9 or 10 hours, yet still dragging again by the end of the day.  So I'm happy to be done with retail for a while.
I've decided to open Sun Gallery the day after Christmas and price all of my vintage holiday items (creches, angels, etc.) at 70 percent off.  I'm hoping I won't have to pack up as much Christmas this year.  Everything else in the gallery, including my paintings, will be 30 percent off that day, if you happen to be in Truth or Consequences.

It was a successful season.  I made enough to cover a few months' rent, which is good, because I am leaving town for Arizona sometime after the first of the New Year. 

A collage by Chantel a/k/a The Rubber Tramp Artist now installed on my refrigerator

I'm heading for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, where I will be heading up a new group within the RTR...RTArt Camp is a brainstorm that my friend Chantel and I thought up last year, and it is actually going to happen!  We were sitting at our Sun Sisters Camp doing a lot of crafting and artwork last year, and doing that with more people this year seemed like a fun idea.  So Bob Wells, the organizer of RTR, is giving RTArt Camp its own area so a bunch of artists can all camp and work together.  We'll start out with a Meet-and-Greet to set up a schedule of classes, open studio time, easy drop-in crafts, etc.  Each day Chantel or I will make an announcement at the main camp's Morning Meeting about what RTArt Camp has to offer that day.  

In anticipation, I'm gathering up free and surplus art materials.  If anyone who can help with this effort, I thank you in advance.  Just general materials--paper, colored pencils or anything else for drawing, acrylic paints, finger paints, probably just about any sort of paint--we'd use it.  A lot of the RTR attendees live on very limited incomes, so art supplies are a big treat.
A picture of me with a painting I sold recently

I'm looking forward to working with artists of all levels on this trip.  Some of the people who have stepped up to teach or paint alongside others are very successful artists.  We also will have activities for anybody who wants to come and do artwork.  Don't think you're an artist?  Come anyway.  Art adds value and wonder to lives, and I've been able to help people who don't see themselves as artists change their minds. 

Some members of SCCB at our first rehearsal

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I wanted to let you know that the Sierra County Community Band is an actuality.  We performed twice at Old-Fashioned Christmas, a Mainstreet event in downtown TorC that was held on Friday, December 8th.  

Pictures from our first performance--sorry, the drummer and tenor sax are hidden

First we played outdoors at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and then we played indoors at a community center where Santa photos and a craft fair were also happening.  At the Lee Belle Johnson Center, we were actually up on a stage with a seated audience.  A real concert!  It was very fun, and we were pretty darned good, considering the group of seven players had only rehearsed once, the previous evening.
Remembering how to do this...

I was very involved with the band for this first performance, because my co-founder Joshua Frankel was really busy.  He was able to play in the band, but I find the music, set up the FaceBook page to find players, etc.  I even had to arrange some music because we didn't have alto sax parts, plus we needed the tenor sax to play the bass part.  I hadn't done any arranging in about 35 years or so, and it was an intriguing challenge to find that old Freshman Music Theory knowledge that was squirreled away somewhere in my brain.

So I handled that stuff for this concert, and now Josh will take over to line up a spring concert.  This is a perfect arrangement, since I'm heading off to Arizona and then will meander the Gulf Coast on my way to Florida after that.  I will arrive back from my travels in time to play my flute in the next concert.  If you are in Sierra County and are interested in playing in the band, Josh is the guy to contact.  He works at Sea Properties.

It's been over two months now since I downsized again to living full-time in a small RV  (Brownie is a 1984 20-ft Lazy Daze Class C, built on a Chevy G30 van chassis).  I no longer have an RV park site, but I can park behind my gallery and hook up to electricity whenever I need to.  I get very tired of being behind the gallery, though.  I look out on a lot of yuck in my parking lot, and I can't see the sky like I can when I'm parked somewhere on the Rio Grande.
My campsite at Quail Run

Between weekends, when I wasn't working, I escaped to a few nice spots, including spending three days last week at Quail Run Campground in Elephant Butte Reservoir State Park.  That was a campground with water and electricity hookups that cost $14 per night.  It is one of my favorite campgrounds at Elephant Butte.  It is a little more spread out on a loop, while some of the other campgrounds have the trailers lined up like a parking lot. 

Photos from the bank of the Rio Grande

I also got away a week earlier to camp with Chantel on the Rio Grande on free Bureau of Reclamation land just south of Williamsburg.  We had some nice meals together, and we both re-organized our kitchens.
Large spaces with shelters at Paseo del Rio/Damsite Campground

And I spent one night at the old Paseo del Rio Campground that used to be part of Elephant Butte State Park, but is now run by Damsite, a private company.  The camp is free for day use, and lots of people walk their dogs or just hang out there.  At night, I was the only camper at $10 and I enjoyed the peace and quiet very much.  

My grand total for "rent" so far since moving into Brownie on October 11th is $94, plus whatever extra electricity I'm using when I park behind the gallery.  More importantly, I am enjoying the freedom to come and go and land where I like.  Or, as one of my friends put it, "You really like sleeping around, don't you, Sue?"  Yes, I really do.

The only big challenge I've faced was mastering the cold weather.  I had to get a Buddy heater because the little wall heater that was installed in Brownie is insufficient.  It heats a small area that's about the right size for a cat to enjoy, but not big enough to get to the human being that is sitting another foot or two away.  With my new heater, I can get my kitchen and dinette quite cozy, although when I'm hooked up to electricity I use dueling or perhaps cooperating space heaters to speed up the process.

 My other space heater


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Starting a Band and Working the Holidays in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

 A visit to a dollar store, and voila!  Brownie is decked for the holidays.

I've been pretty busy doing retail these last few weeks.  During the holidays, I open Sun Gallery four days a week, Thursday through Sunday.  

 Camping with friends Donna and Cassie

Last week, I broke away for three nights of camping at Elephant Butte State Park with some local TorC friends.  We stayed at South Monticello Campground, the furthest north of the campgrounds in this park and also my favorite for when I want to be hooked up to electricity and water.  I like how this campground is spread out on big loops with large sites, so RVs aren't lined up like they're in a parking lot.  We had a fun couple of days playing lots of Scrabble.
 Quail on the bank of the Rio Grande at the local Bureau of Reclamation land

I came back into town last Wednesday so I could get ready for my Very Busy Weekend (which included Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Scarf-o-Rama Sunday).  

I became a blue-haired old lady on Wednesday and then headed out to the Bureau of Reclamation land south of Williamsburg for one night of free camping. 

 I remember laughing at Grandma's blue hair, but now this.

Back in town again on Thanksgiving, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends and a potluck dinner of great leftovers the following night.  I spent four nights behind Sun Gallery to deal with the busy retail weekend.   

Now I'm still back behind the gallery because I'm working on some two cool new projects!

 Sonja helping me print out of the band music.  My Print-cess.

(1)  The Band!  

My friend Joshua Frankel, a local realtor and city councilman, and I have wanted to start a community band here in Truth or Consequences for a couple of years, and I finally really got the mojo to get it going.  We have started a Sierra County Community Band FaceBook page and we've found about 10 musicians who will play instrumental carols during our upcoming Old-Fashioned Christmas celebration in downtown TorC on December 8th.  

Now I'm at the stage of finding out how challenging it is to find affordable music.  Many band scores with parts for the individual instruments run over $50--for just one song.  Fortunately, some music stores and band directors have shared their simple Christmas carol arrangements online for free, and I've been busy printing stuff out so I can get the band folders together for our first rehearsal in a few nights.  We'll be okay for this first gig!  

And we'll figure out what to do for the next one.  Our hope is to seat a larger band for a spring concert, maybe looking to our local high school for ringers to fill out the sections.  And maybe they'll let us borrow some music, too. 

(2)  RTArt Camp!

Some of my blog readers know about the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, a yearly gathering in Quartzsite, Arizona, where vandwellers, RVers, and other nomads meet to see friends and share skills, just like the mountain men of yore, but with propane, cellphones, and other modern conveniences.  

I've known about the RTR for years and have met many of the regulars in my travels, but this past January was my first time attending.  I enjoyed meeting a lot of people, and I participated by giving a talk on selling on eBay while traveling, playing my flute at the talent show, etc.  Bob even made a video about me!  However, it was also cold and dreary much of the time, and I ended up spending many days just sitting and doing artwork.

Paintings I made at RTR 2017, displayed in the Windshield Gallery 
of my old Toyota Dolphin

The RTR is very big now.  There were hundreds of people in attendance this year; I heard an estimate of 750.  

A music camp broke off from the main camp and went down the road a ways, so their nightly drumming wouldn't keep the main camp awake.  After my introduction to the RTR this year, I decided to propose another interest-based encampment:  RTArt Camp.

I'm excited about the possibilities, which will firm up when we are in camp January 11-21, 2018. 

There's an online discussion about RTArtCamp, and about a dozen people have volunteered to be involved by teaching, donating supplies, bringing tables and canopies for our outdoor studio, or simply being around.  So far, it looks like we could have some drawing, painting, beading, wire wrapping, knitting, and creative writing sessions, plus just some general drop-in studio time.  I am also planning to have some simple craft projects on hand for anyone to come and play with, even those who don't call themselves artists yet.

In addition to these new projects, I'm still working on the old...some eBay during the holiday season, since I'm here working retail for a few more weeks, anyway.  Also, in the process of downsizing from the Beluga (my Class A) to Brownie (my 20-foot mini-motorhome), I dumped a lot of stuff in the studio and storage space behind my gallery sales floor.  Stuff that needs to be gone through and dealt know, throw out, give away, put away, etc.  

I am REALLY going to be ready for that sojourn to Arizona in January, and the other adventures of 2018.