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 with...you 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.           

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