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

WE LOST THE CAT

Left our camp and headed for Anaconda with what was meant to be a short pitstop in Phillipsburg, Montana. But we lost the cat. 

She puked in the truck so we put her in the airstream while we walked around the town. When we went back to the trailer she was nowhere to be found. So we started scouring the town. Luckily all the people here are really, really nice and soon the sheriff and even the mayor were helping us out.

I went into the trailer to wait out a bit of hail storm and out from the heater vent crawled a kitten.
What?! Call off the sheriff! We can leave town now.

A stop in Butte and on to Livingston we go....

Black line is the planned route vs Red line is today's progress

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Today was our first full day of driving across the country with the airstream. The truck is pulling great and only a few things flew out of the cupboards. We've set up camp just outside Butte, Montana. It's really cold and rainy. And our list of things we forgot is growing longer. But this is a work in progress...

My bike rides on a front hitch so it is our constant view out the front window for now. Out the passenger window is the ever changing landscape. I still can't comprehend how the colors of grass and the types of trees can change before my eyes. But this is one long road unfolding as a work in progress.

Small towns along I-90 have given up some gifts and only 24 hours into this quest I feel like we've struck gold ( or should I say silver? ) from these mining towns.

For now we make camp early so we can settle in. Only 24 hours in and I already have a lot to process. You can't rush these things. After all, it is just one big, long work in progress.

 

Our planned route (black) vs. our progress (red)

MR SALSA

After a long time of saving and searching, we finally found our airstream and his name is Mr. Salsa.

This is going to be our home for the next few months as we make our way across the country in search of signs, industry and rusty things. John will be gathering research for his next book and I will be gathering images for my next paintings.

We've been loading him up with supplies and soon we'll take this show on the road. Our route will take us east into Montana, then to Michigan, Ohio and out to New Jersey. From there we will head south to Virginia, North Carolina and end up back in New Orleans. Stay tuned!

Here's a few pics of christening Mr. Salsa with our neighbors and friends, a test drive out to the peninsula and his interior...

S is for Mr. Salsa!

HOMECOMING

When John left for deployment I wrote this list on my studio wall:

Breathe
Eat
Sleep
Go to the gym
Paint

During the beginning part of deployment this list is very important. You have to go down the checklist everyday. Then you get into the swing of things and the list becomes a natural part of your day. But you're also counting mile markers...

Your guy misses birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, openings, vacations and the everyday cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

Now, this isn't to say that you don't have any good times while he's away. I mean, what choice do you have? Life still must go on and you have to take care of yourself. Plus, you're proud of the work and you believe in good citizenship. And alone time is good!—though deployment can really test the truth in those words ;)

Then comes the call that he's out of the war zone. Big sigh of relief. Just a few more weeks and he'll be home. 

And finally! I get the call "do you want to have lunch tomorrow?" 

BACK TO THE STUDIO

After two+ weeks away from my studio my hands get a little itchy and I'm ready to come home and paint. Get back to Seattle and get back to the easel. In the works are a few pieces I'm test driving for September's show at SAM Gallery as well as a few pieces that will be dropped off soon....

Here's a few process pics of the current work since I returned—

MARDI GRAS 2017

This year Mardi Gras Day started at 7am as we rode bikes over to see friends off for their parade. Next up was more bike riding over to catch some of Zulu, see some Indians, Rex at 10am, followed by some truck parades and finally some food. It's an all-day event, but a shorter day than many others this time of year. 

At the end of the day you see all the tractors that were pulling floats all day filing out of town...