Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Starter, New Stove, New Sites in Truth or Consequences

Getting towed out of my parking spot behind Sun Gallery

When I wrote a week ago, I was holed up behind my art gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in Brownie, my 20-foot 1984 Lazy Daze mini-motorhome.  I needed a new starter and was scheduled to get that done on Tuesday, when my mechanic (Austin at Rio Grande Automotive in Williamsburg, NM) was available to do the work.  

I called Coach-Net, my roadside assistance provider, on Monday morning, and my tow arrived Tuesday morning as planned.  The work wasn't complete that day, though, so I had to camp out in Sun Gallery overnight.  That went fine, except I really should have read the directions for the inflatable bed first.  Somehow I managed to have it set somewhere between "inflate" and "deflate," which translated to my butt being flat on the floor at 2:30 a.m.  Next time, I'll know.

Finally back in nature!

Wednesday, I finally got out of town and was thrilled to be on Bureau of Reclamation land just south of Williamsburg.  Free camping right on the Rio Grande.  If you want locations like this, make sure you check out the Free Campsites website.  

Yesterday, I had another RV repair scheduled.  I haven't had a working oven in either of my last two mini-motorhomes, and I really like to bake.  The stove in Brownie couldn't be repaired, and, due to the cost of a new stove, I had to think really hard about how much was the ability to bake actually worth to me.  My RV mechanic (Chip Baker in Elephant Butte, NM) recommended that I check out RV salvage yards in Arizona while I was there recently.  I did so, and found out that a used stove was going to cost about $325 to $400, which sounded like too much for a used stove, to me.  

 My new Dometic stove from the scratch-and-dent RV appliance guy on eBay

Off to eBay, where I was successful in finding a scratch-and-dent seller of RV appliances.  I watched his sales for a couple of weeks before ordering one of his stoves, to make sure he always got positive reviews from buyers, which he did.  I got a brand-new stainless steel Dometic three-burner stove for about $280 and paid $50 to Chip to install it, so I came out ahead of going the RV salvage route.  The oven door has a couple of small scrapes, but nothing more than I probably would've had within six months or a year, anyway.  And the stove works beautifully!  The flames on the burners are bigger than my old stove had, and the oven is going to be a lot of fun.  I can visualize myself baking cookies in Quartzsite for my van dwelling friends during the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January.  

 Free camping on the Rio Grande

Yesterday was a slow day at the gallery (one $8 sale over the course of two days!), so I closed up early and went to explore another Bureau of Reclamation site.  This one isn't in the Free Campsites website.  It's at 3rd and Turtleback, on the other side of the Rio Grande, and there's room for only one small RV and maybe another car.  Beautiful site.

 My wrist tattoo, which I got just about seven years ago, on the day my divorce was final

So, it's been a little over a month now since I moved out of my large Class A motorhome and started living full-time in Brownie, with no RV park space anymore.  I have saved myself $200 in rent and perhaps $50 in utilities, and I am having the time of my life.  The freedom to choose where I want to stay each night is exactly what I needed.  I know this life wouldn't be for everyone, but it is exactly right for  me.  And Sonja.

Sonja Shop Cat supervising from a stack of seats


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Camping Behind the Shop


I've been out having a life, but not blogging about it, for going on about a year now.  I came back from my Thailand trip with a bad case of thyroid disease, and never did have the energy to write it up with all the gorgeous pictures.  I replaced my 1985 Toyota Dolphin with a 1984 20-foot Lazy Daze mini-motorhome, "Brownie".  I've been on an epic RV trip up the Great River Road with my partner Steve, and I flew to visit my daughter in Seattle where I frugally camped rather than pay high hotel prices.  Boy, I've got some stories!  But they'll have to wait.  I'm going to tell you about today.

I'm trying to resume aspects of my life that fell by the wayside when fatigue set in so badly a year or so ago.  I have been able to maintain most aspects of my nomadic life.  Most months, I open my art gallery in Truth or Consequences for about four days during and surrounding our Second Saturday Art Hop, a citywide event (on both streets!).  When I don't have Sun Gallery open, I'm out looking for inventory, painting, or traveling. But I haven't had the energy for "extra" commitments, such as blogging.  I'm hoping that is over.

Sunset at Texas Canyon, a rest stop along I-10 in Cochise County, Arizona, where I spent a night on the way back to TorC

I just got back from a visit to our primitive campground in Why, Arizona, and now I'm keeping the gallery open for six weekends in a row to capitalize on the holiday shopping and high tourism season.  I drove in from Deming, my last stop on the way back to TorC, on Tuesday morning, had a coffee party in Brownie with a couple of dear friends, and then went into the gallery to work for a while.  

In the afternoon when I was ready to leave, Brownie didn't start!  I called Steve, and we ruled out the battery, because the headlights and various other lights work.  After a little research, we realized it has to be the ignition switch or starter or possibly the alternator.  So, Brownie needs a tow to my mechanic.  

Because I'm working all weekend at the gallery, I decided to put off the tow until Tuesday, the day my mechanic has time to deal with my rig.  So, in the meantime, I'm camped in downtown TorC.  

I was upset by being stuck here for a little while, because I'd envisioned camping at this bend in the Rio Grande that's a free Bureau of Reclamation site:

Instead, my view is this (which improves during weekday hours when the honey bucket trucks are out working):

So it goes.  I was kind of upset for a little while, but I got over it pretty quickly once I'd walked over to the Pelican Spa for a soak in the hot springs and then eaten a big bowl of green chili at Latitude 33.  Downtown living ain't bad, I remembered.  My gallery is actually just a few doors down from the apartment where Sonja, Steve and I once spent a winter, so this is all really familiar.  The cat is fearless about hanging out in the parking lot back here, so I have to watch her carefully.

I'm prepared for the possibility that Brownie might have to be at the mechanic's shop overnight.  If necessary, I can stay in the gallery.  More dear friends are coming to my rescue, lending me an inflatable bed and a dorm size fridge.  I already have small kitchen appliances to make it possible to make coffee and do a little cooking.  It's so funny--I remember the adjustments I had to make when I learned how to "do without" electricity and city water, and now I have to make adjustments in my life to go back to living with these things.   
I've kept the gallery open.  It's not profitable, but it almost pays for itself and it's a heck of a lot of fun.  During my recent time in Arizona, I made a couple of paintings, and this one has already sold:

You Are the Star, acrylic, 20 x 20 in.
And now for the gratuitous cat picture, so I can be draw this entry to a close:

Sonja Begonia, age 10, with 25,000+ miles of RVing on her

Monday, August 29, 2016

Spring and Summer Trips, and Life in Between: NYC and the Southwest

Four Months Since My Last Blog Post

It didn't seem like an eventful spring and summer while it was happening, because there was this long chunk of time when it was always hot and I was always in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, trying to stay cool in my Class A motorhome.  But looking back since I last blogged in April, there have been some great trips and a lot accomplished. 

TRIP #1:  New York City!

 As seen from the (free!) Staten Island Ferry

I went to New York City in April.  This was kind of on a whim.  I am always monitoring air fares to favorite destinations, so when a $225 round-trip ticket came up, I grabbed it.  When I first made my reservations, I intended to spend the entire two weeks in a modestly priced hotel.  But then friends thought up a plan for me to take care of their cat while they traveled, so that saved me six nights' lodging.  Wonderful!  

 I spent a lot of time sketching in museums...


 ...and parks.

This was my best ever trip to New York.  I have always gone with family or friends.  This time I was completely free to make a schedule that suited me, and I learned a lot.  For one thing, while it's wonderful that there are some nights you can get into museums free, my evening energy level didn't allow me to really enjoy the museums late into the evening when they were really crowded.  I did better ponying up the $18 or $25 admission and enjoying museums at a leisurely pace during the day.  Also, I really enjoyed just parks, over coffee, that kind of thing. Not always on my way somewhere.  I sketched a lot.   

Being in the studio audience was a blast!

I got to see lots of great entertainment--plays, musicals, ballet and more--mostly due to my friend Marcy's great knowledge of how to get reasonably priced tickets.  We had fun!  One of the most exciting times was when we were in the audience for Stephen Colbert.  We also played Scrabble on the roof of her building, ate good food, and just enjoyed spending time together.  

 Rooftop view of the Empire State Building, as lit on the evening of the New York Primary

After I got back from NYC, it was a busy time at Sun Gallery in May.  I was open for two weekends in a row, first for the town's annual Fiesta and then for Second Saturday Art Hop weekend, and I had my best month so far financially at the gallery.  We had a very fun chicken art show during May, with lots of participation by friends old and new, near and far.

Trip Number 2:  White Sands, Alamogordo, Roswell, etc.

In early May, my son Sly and his dog Jimi came to visit me, driving from Seattle to Truth or Consequences.  It was a great time.  We spent some of Sly's visit in TorC and some on the road in Solveig, my little Toyota Dolphin motorhome.  We left my cat Sonja at home with Steve, and we dropped the dinette table down to make a bed for Sly and Jimi.  We traveled to parts of New Mexico I hadn't seen before, heading east out of Las Cruces, where we spent a night at the awesome Aguirre Springs BLM campground.  The next day, we visited White Sands National Monument and the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, both wonderful places to stop.  

Sly and Jimi on the boardwalk nature trail at White Sands

We hit White Sands early, because by about noon, it was quite hot, even in early May.  By contrast, we spent the night a few miles up the road at a Forest Service campground just outside Cloudcroft, where it was very cold (and around 10,000 feet elevation).  

We drove to Roswell, where we saw all of the hokey-but-maybe-believable alien stuff and bought a few souvenirs.  Somewhere along this trip, we also stopped at Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Site, and that was pretty cool.  Sly's visit went by really quickly.  He discovered the usefulness of in his travels, paying nothing for his overnights all the way down from Seattle and back up again. 

 Evidently my Dolphin qualifies

Trip #3:  Deming, the Gila, Mogollon Rim, Safford

Dropping Steve at the train, train hut in Deming, New Mexico

Late in May, Steve was headed to Texas to visit his sister and family.  I loaded up Solveig (cat, canvases, paints, food, etc.) and drove Steve to Deming, New Mexico, to catch the train.  Then I headed north up past Silver City to Highway 180, along the western side of the Gila National Forest, camping at a few free campsites along the way.  I headed up towards the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona, traveling west on Highway 260.  I'd discovered on a trip last fall that Payson, Arizona, has a lot of great charity thrift stores, some kind of upscale ones and some more affordable.  So it's a nice destination for me to do some buying for my gallery.  

 A roaring fire at my free campsite off FR300

About 7 miles west of Heber, Arizona, on Highway 260, there's a road heading south marked Black Canyon Lake.  It is Forest Road 300, and there are lots of other roads that shoot off from it into various directions throughout the Forest (Sitgreaves, I think).  Which translates to almost limitless boondocking opportunities. When I arrived, it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, yet I found an established campsite with fire ring, far from any neighbors. My site was almost on the very edge of the Mogollon Rim, and I could see for many miles.  Beautiful.  Also, there was plentiful free firewood, because there'd been some logging in the area.

One of several nice private soaking rooms at Essence of Tranquility

From FR300, I headed west to Payson and did my shopping, overnighting at Walmart.  Afterwards I realized it might have been more pleasant to stay at the local casino just out of town, but I'll save that option for another time.  I headed south to spend a few nights at Essence of Tranquility spa in Safford, Arizona.  You can camp there with a tent or a very small RV.  I managed to mangle a tree and my roof by not paying attention to how tight things are in their little camp area.  But once in place, it was all magic.  I stayed three nights for a grand total of $45 plus tax, and I soaked in private tubs whenever I wanted to.  I also used the communal kitchen area and the wifi.  It was a wonderful respite, one I hope to share with Steve sometime.  Midweek is best, and so are the shoulder seasons.  

 "Petroglyph Tarot Card The World XXI" painted while I was at the spa

I had an adventure on the way to Safford that involved needing oil out in the middle of an Indian reservation, a problem solved by buying a guy named Rocky a case of beer.  However, I have no pictures, so I guess it didn't really happen.

 Overnighting at a New Mexico rest stop, where it is okay to stay for up to 24 hours and they have covered picnic tables

After my spa stay, I headed back down to pick up Steve in Deming.  I overnighted at an I-10 rest stop near the Continental Divide, and that was a pretty good place to relax.  Traffic noise, of course, but I have earplugs.  Some of the New Mexico rest stops have nice little ramadas with picnic tables.  I got comfortable and painted while I was there.  The next day, Steve's train was very late, so we ended up getting a motel room for the night where I could relax until it was time to go get him around midnight.

Then it was back to TorC, where I had the gallery open for the June Second Saturday Art Hop weekend.  It was a bust!  For the first time, I didn't make the rent (or any of the other expenses).  I didn't panic, though.  I turned on the eBay machine.  It was the perfect way to spend the hottest part of the summer.  We had high 90s to low 100s for many weeks.  It seemed like an eternity.  

"Too Hot for the Sun" was inspired by this summer's weather

For several months, I would spend some of the morning, before it got very hot, down at the gallery picking out and photographing inventory that looked good for selling online.  And then I'd spend the afternoon at home in the Beluga (my Class A), with the A/C blasting, listing stuff for sale.  It worked really well, and it's helping me pay off some of my past travels before I make the next big trip.

Steve is rockin' that alien shirt at the Mineral Museum in Socorro

During this summer, we've made some attempts to alleviate the boredom (not much happens in TorC in the summer!) by taking a few trips closer to home.  We went to Las Cruces to shop and stay overnight for my birthday in June, and to Socorro to have lunch and visit the Mineral Museum at New Mexico Tech for Steve's birthday in July.  

 Up early in the morning to bake a pear-chocolate clafoutis for a French country summer dinner party

We have also been enjoying dinner parties with an international flair with friends throughout the summer.  We bought amenities to enjoy the summer--an additional A/C unit, patio furniture, a nice grill. When it would finally get cool in the evening, I worked on dish gardens which sold like hot cakes at my gallery.

One of my little gardens, featuring found items and prayer flags I made

 These mosaic teardrop trailer bird houses have been very popular this spring and summer, too

I also did some painting and became a member of the Sierra County Arts Council.  We're working on some exciting events for the fall and winter.  And, of course, I was open at the gallery for the July and August Art Hop weekends, which fortunately went better than June.

 Trip #4: Pie Town, and the Mogollon Rim again

Sonja's enthusiasm for travel--you can see it in her eyes

When the hot spell was finally starting to break, Steve, the cat, and I got outta town.  We headed north on I-25 and west on Highway 60 past the Very Large Array, spending the night at the free campground in Pie Town, New Mexico.  There are no services there, but it's fine boondocking.  

 Free dry camping at the town park in Pie Town--there is also BLM land immediately behind the park if you need longer-term parking

Then we continued west to Arizona, picking up Highway 260 and heading for Payson so I could shop again.  We stopped for three days, though, at Christopher Creek Campground in the Tonto National Forest, about 20 miles east of Payson.  It's a  nice little campground, with two loops of campsites, one on either side of the creek.  It got rather full of loud campers on the weekend, so we headed into Payson to shop.  

 Christopher Creek was low during our visit, but sometimes you can wade, swim and fish

What I thought was a bugling elk turned out to be only this attitudinal cow

We had intended to spend the night at the casino, but it was the annual Payson Rodeo two weekends ago when we were there.  So it was crowded and loud, and we headed back east on Highway 260, stopping overnight at my new favorite boondocking place, Forest Road 300 near Heber.  Even though we didn't get such a unique campsite this time, Steve loved this place as much as I did.  I think there will be a lot more boondocking in our future.  

 Steve enjoying a quiet evening boondocking in the National Forest, while I peek in windows and take people's pictures

 Horses that were grazing just outside the rig while I did my morning meditation

On the way home, we stopped one more night at a rest stop along Highway 60, just a few miles east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.  I didn't need ear plugs at this one, since it's a much quieter highway. We'd landed at this rest stop because a much-loved Forest Service campground in Lakeside, Arizona, has unfortunately been permanently closed since we last stayed there.  No explanation, but we're guessing that property just became too valuable for campground use, once the town grew up around it.   

Highway 60 rest stop about 8 miles east of AZ-NM border

 Art completed at that rest stop

We got back home last week, and I got a lot of things done around home and the gallery so I could get back out camping again one more time before I open the gallery in September.  I'm currently enjoying a solo trip (well, I had to bring the cat) out at Elephant Butte State Park, dry camping on an overlook above the Rio Grande.

Perched above the Rio Grande, north of the lake

Just after sunrise this morning

What's Next?

I'd thought of spending the summer other ways--heading north to the Midwest, possibly changing out RV's to have more power for long trips--and I'm glad that I stayed closer to home.  Steve and I will be making that trip to the Midwest together next year, getting an earlier start than we might have if we'd gone this year, so hopefully having less hot weather to deal with.  Also, we've got a trip to Thailand coming up this fall.  If I'd traveled all summer, I wouldn't have been able to say "yes" when the right air fare to Bangkok finally showed up, after looking for a long time.

I have furniture for the new apartment stacked up in back of my gallery.  It is helpful to be able to go shopping in my own store!

The biggest thing coming up in the near future is a move into senior housing in Truth or Consequences.  Steve has indicated a desire to have less work to do than is involved with living in RVs.  In our new apartment, we'll be able to call Maintenance when something goes wrong.  We're on a waiting list, and don't know when we'll move, but hope it will be before our trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, in October.

I also have some themed art shows coming up at Sun Gallery, but I'll keep that for the next blog post.  Ciao for now!               

Make that Cow for Now...


Monday, April 11, 2016

Boondocking and Apple Pie Along I-10 in Eastern Arizona


Since I wrote my last blog post in February, I've traveled between my homes in Why, Arizona, and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and I've made some better stops than I used to along I-10.  

I don't attempt the eight-hour drive in one day unless Steve and I are traveling together.  That much driving makes my body hurt, so I always split up the trip into two days.  Plus, breaking up the trip gives me lots of time to run errands or go junking in Tucson or wherever I want to along the way. 

In the past, I'd usually stop at a truckstop overnight.  I rarely want to spend the money on a paid campsite or RV park site if I'm just going to rest up for another day of driving.  But on my last trip, I tried two free spots that are really worth knowing about.

On my way west, I'd intended to stop at the TA truckstop in Willcox, which is not a bad place to overnight.  Since I have a small rig (22-ft Toyota Dolphin), I can park just about anywhere and stay a little ways away from the noisy trucks.  But I always have to use earplugs to get to sleep there.

 Level parking lots on several sides of this fun store, plus there is a Cochise County visitors center next-door with additional overnight RV parking

This time, just before exiting at Willcox, I noticed some RVs parked by a store of some kind that was several blocks further away from the freeway than the TA truckstop.  As I exited, I saw signs for Apple Annie's Country Store and followed them.  This upscale pie/jam/gift shop has a nice level parking lot and it's next-door to a local tourism information building which also has good overnight RV parking in its lot.  No charge.  I don't know how long it would be okay to stay there, but it was much quieter than the truckstop and very pleasant.  I got up the next morning and went into the store when they opened at 8 am and bought a fabulous $14 apple-rhubarb pie and managed to get 5/6ths of it home to Steve in Why later that day.

 A tabletop for my friends at Passion Pie Cafe in Truth or Consequences, NM

 A sign I will hang once the permit is approved

I spent several weeks in Why, working on a new tabletop for Passion Pie Cafe and on a sign for my Sun Gallery in TorC and enjoying time with Steve.  On my way back east to New Mexico, I tried another overnight spot that was new to me, Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area, a BLM picnic area south of Bowie, Arizona.  You can't boondock in the picnic area itself, but you can pull off a nearby road and camp close enough to use the vault toilet at the picnic site, and you can camp for free there for up to 14 days.  

The view from my campsite at Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area

This area is beautiful--I heard and saw lots of birds, and there were cattle walking right by my rig and horses down the road a bit.  It took about 15 to 20 minutes to get from a gas station in Bowie to the BLM land, with the last two miles or so being dirt road.  It was well worth the detour off I-10, even for just an overnight stay.  This BLM area was so pleasant, I could see making it a destination and staying there several days to paint.

Some of my neigh-bors at Indian Bread Rocks

I got home from my trip to Why in time to attend an annual Open House at Spaceport America.  It was a beautiful drive out past Engel and one of Ted Turner's ranches to Spaceport.  I didn't understand much of what they were saying in the presentation because the acoustics in the hangar were awful, but I enjoyed seeing the facility and spending the afternoon with my friend Kat.  I'm guessing the $49 Spaceport Tour would be a lot more informative and interactive than the Open House was, but I haven't tried that yet.   


Visiting my Arizona winter camp, creating artwork and running my gallery has kept me pretty busy these past few months, but I also found some time to explore some primitive camping opportunities closer to Truth or Consequences...places I can easily get away to for just a few nights when I want to have some uninterrupted time to paint.   Both Elephant Butte State Park and Caballo State Park have primitive areas where there are no services and very few neighbors, for $8 per night.  I've been enjoying exploring the various roads into the isolated outer edges of these parks.

The Gallery goes well.  Both my artwork and my antique finds are selling, and I enjoy the interactions there with friends and the public.  

 Mosaic tile projects including an early 20th Century occasional table on wheels, a mirror, and a teardrop trailer shaped birdhouse
 Hi there!

Now that I've been in my storefront for a while, I've been able to resume doing mosaic artwork for the first time in a few years.  As an RVer, I really didn't have the space or weight allowance for tiles, grout, etc.  I'm also helped by a new compound tile nipper, which allows me to make plates into tile without hurting my arthritic hands.  I'm making birdhouses that are flying off the shelves, and it's fun.

I've also been experimenting with Day of the Dead type motifs, with mandala style backgrounds.  

 Reviewer James Durham writes about my gallery in The Ink, a Southern New Mexico arts magazine

Second Saturday Art Hop has been really fun each month at Sun Gallery.  In February, my friend Claudia made poison pen Valentine cookies which made everybody laugh.  

In March, we had a Peep Show--a marshmallow Peeps diorama contest that got enough entries to make it really a fun exhibit.  

Peeples Choice Winner:  Martye Allen

 Gallery Choice Winner:  Linda DeMarino

I'm looking forward to more fun events that include artists of every age and experience level.  In May, I'm going to keep the gallery open for two weeks in a row for our local Fiesta celebration and then for Second Saturday Art Hop.  During that time, we'll have a community art show at Sun Gallery on the theme "So Many Chickens, So Little Time."  

The next several weeks, I'll be in the East Village, trying to beat my friend Marcy at Scrabble and soaking up all that New York City has to offer.  Flying there, not RVing.  See if you can find me in the audience on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert on April 18th.  I'll be there.