TWO WEEKS

The first week here is a blur. It's always the same. It takes time to get into a rhythm and set up shop in a new place. Now two weeks in I am happy to report that things are going well and lots of work is getting done.

We get up early and have a cup of coffee then walk a couple blocks to Audubon Park, do a lap and feed the ducks. Then we're back at our desks ( or easel ) by 9am and we work until about 3 o' clock. At that point we meet to decide what to do with the rest of the day: keep working, do chores, go grocery shopping or go for a bike ride. That's most days.

For now I am happy with my momentum—4 paintings completed and 4 more in the works...

Completed:

In the works:

BREAD

There are certain things you can't get anywhere else but in the south. One very important thing is delicious unadulterated white bread. Damn it's good. Here, loaves of bread are baked fresh every day. They become po boys for hundreds (probably thousands ) of hungry bellies. They are the first thing served at dinner with butter. And they are sold in bags at every store. Tear off a hunk of delicious, soft, chewy bread as you walk by your loaf and the day gets that much better.

PHASE TWO

New Orleans.

We've finished Part One of our journey—traveling over 5,000 miles across the country to get here.
Home away from home.
Now comes the the unpacking and the settling in. Setting up our work zones and getting down to business. 
I will miss Mr. Salsa and being on the road, but it feels great to be back.
Time for a bourbon.

ALABAMA

And welcome to the heat.
Tonight we used our AC for the very first time. Damn it's muggy! We're in a state park called Chewacla just outside Montgomery, Alabama. A whole herd of deer rolled through our campsite as we were having coffee and all of us stared out the window. No good pictures to show, but it was a sight.

Tomorrow it's New Orleans...

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

As much fun as it is to roll into a place and not know anyone, there is nothing better than rolling into a town—a driveway—and seeing the faces of your friends who live all the way across the country. And that's exactly what we did in Asheville.

Bill and Margret were in the middle of a bathroom remodel, but that didn't stop them from opening their house to us and our menagerie. Soon we were having drinks and snacks ( including homemade pimento cheese ) on the porch. It was a little bit of home far, far away.

We spent some time touring downtown—stumbling in to a great gallery ( Blue Spiral Gallery ) and seeing some beautiful work by artist John Cleaveland.

It was only two nights, but it included barbecue, thunderstorms and great conversation.

AIRSTREAM ONLY

Tonight we camped in our very first 'airstream only' campsite at Virginia Highland near Roanoke, Virginia. Most of the sites are permanent residents with just a few available for guests. The site was on the top of a great little hill with a gorgeous array of airstreams all staring into the sunset. I really wanted to tour inside every single one—and even though that didn't happen— everyone came out for an evening walk and we traded tips and travel stories. And very early in the morning I got up to get some water and saw a deer staring into our back window.

progress for today...

progress for today...

SHENANDOAH RIVER

New Jersey > Delaware > Maryland > West Virginia > Virginia was yesterday's route—settling on a campsite on the Shenandoah River. Originally we were heading for a different campsite in the National Forest here, but after one crazy dirt road and a 'private property/no trespassing' sign at the supposed campsite we had no choice but to keep heading down this path. I think it was more like a steep gravelly driveway than a road, but you get the point. Then we accidentally ran into this place— Low Water Bridge Campground and no harm came to Mr. Salsa on the ride so it all worked out. Plus, they have bunnies here!

We did, however, need a bourbon after that road.

Wednesday May 10th progress

Wednesday May 10th progress

WILDWOOD NEON

This addition to our route was worth every single mile. I have dipped my toe into the Atlantic Ocean and I love the New Jersey shore! 

This place has it all. I am serious. Wildwood is like heaven for neon signs. But it doesn't stop there. This place has farms, roadside markets, turtle crossing, dolphins, WWII look-out towers, fishing shacks on piers, swans, horses, and lots of trees. It's like midwestern rural town mixed with an east coast fancy beach town—plus southern style roads. Add to that all the neon and I think I could live here. Yep. A nice old Colonial sitting way back on a big long field.

RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES

Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate and there's nothing you can do but adjust your plans. Luckily Cleveland has a lot to offer—and two of our favorite things are good for a rainy day: The Cleveland Museum of Art and a drive through Lake View Cemetery.

Lake View is the permanent home to many well known people and families. Steel magnates, presidents, and even Elliot Ness are all buried here. One of the most impressive tombs is the Garfield Monument—with its stone tower and Tiffany glass windows. The entire cemetery is a botanical garden so the drive is both architecturally beautiful and incredibly lush.
 

And because Cleveland became such a wealthy city during the Industrial Revolution it had plenty of money to spend on art. It has plenty of everything, but I am most fond of its collection of American painters that includes George Bellows, Charles Sheeler, William Harnett, Grant Wood, Jacob Lawrence, Fredric Edwin Church, John French Sloan and John Singer Sargent.

CLEVELAND

"oh-Hi-oh"

We left northern Michigan around 12:30. Down past Saginaw, Detroit and Flint. A very rainy drive the whole way. Arriving in Cleveland around 8pm.

Here in Ohio we toured downtown, the Westside Market and the Flats. The Flats has always been one of our favorite places in Cleveland—all the bridges, the industrial brick buildings and Hart Crane Park. The bridge in park has been repainted and upgraded. I painted this bridge years ago because of its rust and peeling paint, but today it no longer looks like that. 

We have family here too, so we get to catch up, meet pets, hang out and drink wine.
 

ANIMALS AND THE LAKE

Northern Michigan is quite beautiful. Big open farms and rolling hills. Old red barns and cherry orchards. Bright, sunny days and dark, dramatic skies. 

Neither the cat nor the ducky have ever seen such land for roaming. Kitten is now a mini panther roaming the woods and Pepe has discovered the biggest bathtub ever. This is proof that life is always better at the grandparents' house.

PAINTING IN THE AIRSTREAM

I've been able to get a few hours of painting in each day since we've been here and am making good progress on a couple pieces I started before we left. My set up could use some tweaking, but I have a pretty good—albeit small—studio. There is more prep work and clean up than I am used to, but I have to keep things organized, tidy and well ventilated if I am going to painting in here. The pets are cooperating and not getting into my stuff while I am working. Pepe is content to rest his head next to me on the bench as I paint while kitten sits in the window looking out or sleeps under the table on Pepe's bed.

MORE MICHIGAN MORE SIGNS

Today was sunny and Pepe went for a swim in the lake. He's been enjoying following us around the property as we take down the deer fences for the season. It's cold here, but sunny, so we went in to Elk Lake to take pictures of some signs.

WEATHER & CARS

Today started out with sun, but quickly changed with some string winds blowing off the lake. The skies and clouds are beautiful and seem to change every ten minutes.

We stopped in to see the progress on a couple of Mike's old cars. These beauties have undergone a lot of work and in their final stages of restoration. Below is a 1953 Buick Woody and a 1947 Hudson.

Later in the afternoon I spent some time with my paints. Then dinner and a nice rainy night sleeping in the camper...

MICHIGAN

We packed up camp and headed into town to see the largest steam pump in the country—the Cornish Pump—but as usual, it was closed. Damnit!

We did find a great Italian shop and deli called Crispigna's as a great consolation. And we learned that there are a ton of Italians up here. Italian supper clubs are peppered through all the small towns.

Soon we were crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, arriving at my husband's parents' house just in time for sunset...

today's progress...

today's progress...

DULUTH > MICHIGAN

Our drive through Duluth didn't yield much in the way of neon, but it is a fantastic looking town. There's so much variety in the old architecture—yes, it's a lot of stone, but it's not all the same. And there was a great little Italian deli/restaurant called Ganucci's where we stopped and had lunch. They had locally made chocolates ( in case I didn't mention that ). Downtown had skyways between almost every building. I think it must get real cold here.

By the time we stopped for the night, we were into Michigan. We found a place that was open for the season called Rivers Bend in Iron Mountain and pulled in. The place was empty except for us. The guy who ran it was awesome and he sent us up the road for dinner at the ski jump's lodge. Stiff drinks and a steak salad. Two thumbs up.

Red is our completed route. Black is our planned route...

Red is our completed route. Black is our planned route...

MINNESOTA

We left camp late this morning. It rained all night and was really cold outside. Two pots of coffee were in order before we could go out to do our chores. 

We hit Fargo around 1pm and got a few good signs. This town is pretty big and pretty cute. Lots of brick buildings. Again, I wish we could stay longer to poke our heads around.

I'm not sure if I mentioned that up here, most ( like 99% ) of campsites don't open until May 1-15th, so we're driving and driving until we can find forest land. We pass some cute small towns that seem to have happening bars and it's tempting to pull in and camp in the lot.

But tonight we found a place called Hay Lake Campground just outside Duluth. We're the only ones here.

today's progress....

today's progress....

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota seems pretty desolate so far—granted I've been on only one road ( I-94 ) and we're barely past Bismarck. Maybe the light grey sky, the wind and the cold just add to the picture, but so far it seems pretty bare.

There are very few campsites between here and Fargo ( and most don't open until May ) so we decided on a place in a town called Menoken. It's fine enough and has hot showers with good water pressure, all the hook-ups and internet. Only two spaces are available to over-nighters ( most being reserved for the oil workers ) but we got one. It's self serve so you fill in your registration card, put your cash in an envelope and drop it into a slot. Something nice about that.

We arrived early enough that we had time to cook a real meal, take showers, do laundry, and emails. It's 31 degrees so we're all inside the airstream. No outside playtime for Pepe or us today. 

Full on chili, we'll call it a night and head out early for Fargo. There are signs waiting...

today's progress

today's progress

BOONDOCKING

A great day collecting sign pics from Livingston to Billings to Miles City in Montana. We stalled long enough in each place for the sun to poke its head out and give me some shadows. I wish we could spend more time in each town.

Aside from all the signs, I've fallen in love with the sky. Big sky country is no joke. And every ten minutes there's a new one I want to paint.

Tonight we're boondocking it at the edge of Yellowstone River just about to cross into North Dakota. Tomorrow another state, another town, a sign and another sky.
 

Today's route