Monthly Archives: March 2018

Not a Baby Boomer

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I have a policy of keeping my mouth shut in public. I don’t give unsolicited advice. I don’t offer my opinion unless it’s asked for. I don’t volunteer the answers to questions asked of any and every one in the general vicinity. I’ve found I’m better off keeping my advice and opinions and answers to myself.

Black Record VinylI was in a thrift store the other day, a thrift store in a small town filled with retired snowbirds. The music playing was from the era before rock-n-roll. A lady commented on how much she liked the music, and a man wondered aloud why no one played Pat Boone anymore. They had some discussion (instigated by the man) about who played Tammy in the eponymous movies. (Answer according to the man in the thrift shop: Debbie Reynolds, followed by Sandra Dee.) The man then asked the woman if she knew who was singing the song playing at that moment. She didn’t. (I didn’t either.)

The man began giving the woman clues, as if he were the MC on a quiz show and she the contestant. She was very young when she sang the song we were hearing. (No response from the woman.) She was in several Rogers and Hammerstein movies, the man said. (No response from the woman.) She was the mom on the Partridge Family.

Oh! Oh! I knew the answer!

Did I adhere to my own policy and keep my mouth shut? Did I stay quiet and let someone else answer the question? Did I bask silently in my knowledge? No, no, and no. I piped right in with Shirley Jones! When the man with the question didn’t hear me, I piped up even louder, Shirley Jones!

He turned to me and said I was right. Now everyone shopping in the thrift store knew how smart I am! I was so proud of myself, until I realized now the man wanted to chat.

She had been in a lot of Rogers and Hammerstein movies, he told me. (I suppose he didn’t realize I’d already heard that informational tidbit.) Of course, he said, she was really young then.

Well, she wasn’t exactly old when she was in the Partridge Family, I told him. I started feeling a little frantic when I realized he wanted to chat. I decidedly did not want to chat with a stranger in the thrift store.

He wasn’t a bad looking man. He looked to be in his mid-50s, but maybe he was in his early 60s and well preserved. He had neatly combed hair, and his beard was trimmed. He was dressed more formally than most of the old guys I see in small desert towns, and if the large cross hanging from his neck was more than a fashion statement, he must have been a Christian. All of those features might have been appealing to a woman of a certain age and religious affiliation trolling the thrift store for a gentleman companion, but I was not such a woman.

He chuckled and agreed Shirley Jones had not been old when she appeared on television as the Partridge matriarch. Then he said of course a baby boomer would know Shirley Jones played the mother on the Partridge Family.

Excuse me? Me, a baby boomer? I don’t think so!

At this point in the conversation, I knew I did not want this man’s attention. I was born in the early 1970s. I am a proud member of Generation X. My parents were baby boomers, not me. If he thought I was a baby boomer, he was seeing me as he wanted me to be, not as who I actually am.

When I failed to give the guy the attention he desired, he wandered away. I’m lucky it was so easy to be rid of him. I don’t want some baby boomer man attaching himself to me, so I really do need to keep quiet. How was he to know I didn’t want to chat or flirt? How was he to know I only wanted credit for having the correct answer?

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-record-vinyl-167092/.

10 Ways to Save Money on the Road

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Living on the road is certainly less expensive than paying rent or maintaining a sticks-n-bricks, but living on the road still costs money. Lots of rubber tramps and nomads survive on a fixed income and would like to see their money go farther. Today I offer you ten tips for saving money while living on the road.

Obey the speed limit and don’t waste your money paying a speeding ticket.

#1 Obey the law and avoid costly fines. I don’t like authority figures telling me what to do either, but getting a ticket is expensive. Don’t exceed the speed limit. Feed the parking meter. Don’t park in a spot reserved for folks with disabilities unless you can display the proper paperwork. Don’t park in any spot your rig isn’t supposed to be in. Don’t drive in the carpool lane (aka High Occupancy Vehicle or HOV lane) if you’re the only person in your vehicle.

#2 Improve your gas mileage. Keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure. Don’t overload your rig with unnecessary weight. Change your air filter regularly. Driving the speed limit (or slower!) will help you in this regard too. (See Car Bibles for more tips on improving gas mileage.)

#3 Use gas price apps to find the lowest cost per gallon in the area you’re in. I’m not a big fan of driving across town to save 20 cents, but maybe you can plan your route to save on fuel. A 2014 article from CNN Tech suggests GasBuddy, Gas Guru, Waze, Dash, and MapQuest Gas Prices.

#4 If you boondock in remote areas for weeks at a time, don’t make daily trips into civilization. Go to your camping spot with supplies to last a week. Do a supply run (paired with fun town activities, if you like) at the end of the first week, and get enough of everything to last until you’re ready to move to your next destination. You’ll save money on fuel, and you won’t have as many chances to make impulse purchases.

#5 If you’re in the market for a rig think about gas mileage. A minivan will probably get better gas mileage than a conversion or cargo van. A Class B motorhome will probably get better gas mileage than a Class A. A small Class C will probably get better gas mileage than a large Class C. A Prius will probably get better gas mileage than anything else.

#6 Do regular maintenance. It will probably cost less to have something maintained than repaired, and a breakdown may require a costly tow. Even during a routine oil change, mechanics usually look around for obvious problems.

#7 Learn how to do your own routine maintenance and make basic repairs. Check and top off your fluids. Change your oil. Replace your brake pads. Change your air filter. You’ll learn more about the mechanics of your rig and you won’t have to pay someone else for the cost of labor.

#8 Compare insurance rates. Does one company offer lower prices than another? Just remember, sometimes lower cost means less protection.

Can you get a better rate by using a different address for your domicile?  I saved about $200 a year by using the address of one family member over another as my permanent residence.

Can you eliminate options to save a few bucks? I pay a little extra for roadside assistance through my insurance, but if I had AAA or God Sam Club coverage, I’d probably drop the roadside assistance option on my insurance policy.

#9 Invest in a large propane tank rather than the green one-pound tanks. I resisted this tip for a long time because those small green propane tanks are just so convenient. However, now I’m a believer in using the bigger tanks. They’re a better deal than the one-pound tanks even if you do the Blue Rhino exchange (available at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, supermarkets, hardware stores, and convenience stores). You save even more if you refill the tank at places like U-Haul, Tractor Supply, AmeriGas refill and refueling stations, and RV parks.

#10 Seek out free and inexpensive entertainment. You really can have a lot of fun for little money, especially in cities and town.

This is public art stands on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

Look at public art. I especially like murals, but sculpture can be fun too.

Public libraries often offer free admission to movies, concerts, and public speakers, and they sometimes have galleries where patrons can look at art for free. Most libraries also offer free internet access, and even if you don’t have a library card, you can sit around for hours reading books and magazines at no cost to you.

Many museums offer free admission on a designated day once a week or once a month. Plan your trip to an area to coincide with free admission to a museum you want to visit.

Parks are nice free places to hang out. Cook a meal at a picnic table. Walk around the park for exercise. Sit under a tree and read. Especially in the summer, parks often offer plays, concerts, and movies at no charge.

If you’re more of a boondocker and less of a city dweller, get out and enjoy the natural beauty where you are. It’s free to hear the birds sing. Go for a hike or a brisk walk. Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Heck, watch then both. It won’t cost you a dime.

Blaize Sun has been mostly on the road since 2009. She’s traveled the U.S. with very little money, so she’s had to figure out ways to make every penny count.

Please share your favorite money saving tips in the comments.

Blaize Sun took the photos in this post.

Frida Kahlo Devotionals

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This devotional is called “Frida of the Crown.” I made it from odds and ends given to me or purchased from thrift stores or the Art Resource Center. I didn’t go out and buy anything new (other than glue) for this project. If you love this devotional in a repurposed Altoids tin, it can be yours for only $25, and that includes shipping! (Beware: this piece contains a small amount of added glitter. )

Here’s a Frida Kahlo calendar, NOLAgirl said casually.

The name of this piece is “Frida and the Children.” It’s made from a metal box slightly smaller than an Altoids tin and a litle more square. It costs $25, including shipping.

We were at the Art Resource Center (ARC) in Tempe, AZ. The ARC is a really fantastic nonprofit organization that gets art supplies in the hands of educators. Folks donate any and everything usable by young artists—popsicle sticks, fabric, greeting cards, yogurt containers, busted costume jewelry, yarn, interesting paper—and ARC volunteers give it away to art teachers. Folks who aren’t educators can shop at the ARC too, but folks not involved in teaching young artists pay a small fee or make a donation in exchange for the materials they want to take home to their studios.

Here’s another of the Frida devotionals I made from an Altoids tin and other repurposed materials. You can display this one in your home for only $25, including shipping. This one is called “Frida of the Blues.”

It was our first visit to the ARC, although I’d wanted to go since we’d heard about it at the Practical Arts charity pie night more than a year before. (The ARC is staffed by volunteers, so it has no set hours and is only open when someone is available to unlock the doors.) NOLAgirl humored me while I opened every drawer and poked in every cubby in the place.

This devotional box is called “Frida in the Night.” The tin it’s made with is slightly smaller than an Altoids tin and square. Like all the other Frida Kahlo inspired pieces in this post, all materials used were given to me or acquired at thrift stores or the Art Resource Center. No new materials were purchased for this project. That’s a genuine double-terminated quartz crystal between the two skulls on the bottom right. This lovely little shadow box can be yours for only $25, including shipping.

I got really excited when she handed me the Frida Kahlo calendar. I immediately envisioned cutting out photos of Frida and gluing them into embellished Altoids tines. They’d be like little altars, little shrines. I started thinking of what I wanted to make as “devotionals,” even though Dictionary.com tells me that’s not really what the word means.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I created “Frida (heart) Diego.” It costs only $25, and that includes shipping!

I had a couple of Altoids-style tines, but I knew I’d need more. I put out a call to my friends and posted a request on my Facebook pages. Several people donated tins and a myriad of wonderful small objects (buttons, skulls, jewels) to use for embellishment. At the end of the RTArt Camp, I snagged a bunch of leftover scrapbooking paper that had been donated. The paper was so pretty, but it never would have occurred to me to go out and buy it. Free is such a great price!

This devotional is called “Frida’s Blue House,” and like the others, it costs $25, including shipping.

Although I got my hands on the calendar before Christmas, I didn’t start working on the Frida devotionals until February. Even when I’m unemployed, finding time to make art can be challenging. Writing takes up a huge portion of my life, as does maintaining relationships. I wish I could stay in the house for an entire month and do nothing but create.

This devotional is one of my favorites! I love that crown I put on Frida’s head! It’s called “Hello, It’s Frida,” and costs only $25, including shipping.

“Young Frida” was the first devotional I made. Frida may be a young woman in this one, but already death is watching over her. I love the yellow color scheme of this one and the heart with the strange protruding arms.

This piece is called “Young Frida.” It’s the first Frida Kahlo-inspired devotionals I made. It costs $25, including shipping.

I’m really proud of the tiny Día De Los Muertos skulls present in many of the devotionals. They’re beads I had from my days of making hemp bracelets. While I was house sitting for NOLAgirl over the winter holidays, I decorated the skulls with extra fine Sharpie markers. My hand is barely steady enough for such fine work, but I think they ended up looking quite good.

This one is called “Young Frida and the Butterflies.” My favorite part is the butterfly that has landed on the head of the Día De Los Muertos skull that was, incidentally, hand-decorated by me. This entire devotional was created by me out of an Altoids tin, an old calendar, and odds and ends from thrift stores and gifts. This one-of-a-kind art piece can grace your desk, shelf, or altar for only $25, including shipping.

Of course, my heritage is not Mexican as Frida’s was. Is it weird that a Cajun woman who wasn’t even born when the artist died is now trying to capture her essence in tiny little boxes? Maybe. But I came to this project hoping to honor Frida Kahlo. Frida drank, smoked, laughed, had sex (with men and women, biographers always seem to point out), and cursed at a time when women were expected to be demure and proper. Frida lived by her own rules, and I respect her greatly for living her life the way she wanted to live it. Learning about Frida Kahlo’s art and her life helped to free me to live my life and create my art.

This one is slightly smaller than an Altoids tin (although made of metal) and more square. It’s called “Diego, Frida, and the Big Man.” It’s for sale for $25, including shipping.

Thank you, Frida. I hope I’ve made you proud.

I call this final devotional “Frida the Surrealist.” It costs $25, including shipping.

 

RTArt Camp (Part 2)

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What we have here is one of the early steps of preparing wool for the felted shower scrubby.

If you haven’t read the first part of my report on the RTArt Camp, you can find it here.

On the first Friday of the RTR, the RTArt Camp hosted its first workshop. A woman showed interested folks how to felt wool on a bar of soap to create a shower scrubby. Eight or so people participated, and everyone seemed to have fun.

The following day saw probably the most popular activity of the art camp. An artist staying in a motorhome with her husband just past Coyote Sue’s rig taught people how to do acrylic pour painting on canvas. More than a dozen people participated that day, and the activity was so well-received, the artist taught the pouring technique again later in the week.

On Sunday, I led the first of two activities—finger painting! Ever since I’d agreed to help with the RTArt Camp, I’d wanted to offer finger painting. I thought it would be a good activity for people who didn’t consider themselves artistic. Also, I didn’t remember doing finger painting as a child, so I thought the RTArt Camp would be a good excuse to have the experience. I’d bought a three pack of eight ounce finger paints in primary colors so we could mix, as well as three rolls of freezer paper. I had high hopes, but turnout was rather small, maybe eight people. On the plus side, one big burly guy came over to finger pain particularly because he hadn’t done it since he was a child. We got him (as well as a male New Englander friend of mine) totally out of their comfort zones.

I learned something very important about finger painting that day. It’s lots of fun to paint on the smooth, shiny side of the freezer paper; the flow is amazing. However, as soon as the paint dries, it peels right off that slick paper. I used it as an opportunity to talk about the Merry Pranksters and their belief that “art is not eternal.”

Here’s a mandala drawn during Coyote Sue’s class demonstrating an easy technique for drawing them. I’m not sure who drew this one. If you are the artist, please feel free to speak up in the comments.

Monday brought Coyote Sue teaching an easy technique for drawing mandalas. The class was well-attended, and people seemed to enjoy the process.

On Tuesday (or maybe it was Wednesday), the art camp had two classes going at once. One woman taught folks how to make beaded bracelets as a follow-up to her class on embroidering beads onto watercolor paper which happened before finger painting on Sunday. Another woman taught crochet. She was able to help beginners with the basics and give more advanced instruction to folks with experience. It was really cool to come back from town that day and see people sitting all around our tables.

Thursday was another popular day at the RTArt Camp. A monk (for real!) led a pencil drawing workshop where he demonstrated techniques for making life-like art. Probably a dozen people spent time drawing according to his instructions.

This positive voodoo doll was made by a mom on the road so she could send loving energy to her kid.

The crochet lady was at it again on Friday at a voodoo doll making workshop. She donated materials (fabric, fluff) and her expertise so people could make voodoo dolls. Several people said they were making replicas of political leaders, while one woman made a “positive” voodoo doll representing her daughter. She planned to use the doll to send her child love and Reiki healing from the road.

Saturday was my big day—collaging! Unfortunately the day turned out to be cloudy and windy. By 11am, the sun was peeking out, but the wind didn’t cease until after we got some rain. Thankfully, the wind had chased away the few participants before the rain began, and Coyote Sue and I had divvied up and packed away all the art supplies before anything got wet. The RTArt Camp was over.

Participating in the RTArt Camp took a lot out of me. Because none of us figured out how to put up an awning, we sat in the sun for at least five hours a day. Even wearing long sleeves and my hat, that was a lot of sun exposure for me. Our tables were next to the road, so we also had to contend with dust stirred up by the vehicles rolling by. Most folks were courteous and drove slowly, but too many people drove way too fast. I dubbed the second set of people “dust devils.”

While it was easier to meet people at the RTArt table because we already had something to talk about, there was more talking to strangers than I was comfortable with. Not only did I have to speak to people who were interested in what we were doing and wanted to participate, I also had to speak to people who treated us as a general information booth. I didn’t mind when people asked where the labyrinth was or where Nadia was camped; what I minded was when I politely said I didn’t know and people persisted in their questioning. I never had time to go looking for the labyrinth and Nadia never introduced herself and pointed out her rig, so I wasn’t able to offer the detailed information people wanted.

These are jars I decorated during downtime while staffing the RTArt table. I got the beads at the free pile, then sorted them according to color. The jars came from the free pile too; I decorated them with pretty scrapbooking paper and washi tape. Fun!

Several great things did come out of the RTArt Camp.

On the last day of the camp, Coyote Sue and I divvied up all the leftover art supplies, much of which was donated to us or came from the free pile. I ended up with a lot of really useful supplies other folks were done with.

The second good that came from the art camp was getting to spend time with other cool, art-centric folks. As always, I enjoyed spending time and sharing ideas with Coyote Sue, and I met three other super cool artist. I know I’m in good company when I like everyone sitting around the campfire with me, and that happened more than once at the RTArt Camp.

Probably the best thing that came out of the RTArt Camp was a nomadic intentional community for artsy rubber tramps. Different subgroups of the community camp together and make art together. Folks come and go as they please and take turn being the go-to person in the group. I haven’t camped with the group yet, but I hope our paths cross someday.

I made this lanyard from beads I got at the free pile. Do you like it? I’m willing to give it away to someone who needs it. I made it while staffing the table at the RTArt Camp.

I said in my report on the 2018 RTR that my Rubber Tramp Rendezvous days are probably over. If I stick to the decision not to go to future RTRs, that means my RTArt Camp days are over too. While I did enjoy some aspects of the art camp very much, it also took a lot out of me. I might do better camping with a small group of like-minded rubber tramps.

I took all of the photos in this post. Thanks to the artists who allowed me to share their work.

 

The RTArt Camp (Part 1)

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I helped Coyote Sue make this banner. I took this photo of it too!

The RTArt Camp was all Coyote Sue’s idea.

Coyote Sue’s first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was in 2017. It was a particularly cold and rainy January in Quartzsite, and Coyote Sue found herself spending a lot of time alone in her rig working on art projects. Wouldn’t it be fun to do art with my friends at the RTR? she thought. The RTArt Camp was born with that thought.

I told Coyote Sue I would help her with the RTArt Camp if I made it to the RTR. I knew I didn’t want sole responsibility for the art camp, and for months I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend the RTR. I think it was December before I committed to being there. If I hadn’t told Coyote Sue I’d be there, I probably would have decided not to go or at least left early.

Coyote Sue discussed the RTArt Camp with the main organizer of the RTR because she wanted the art camp to be part of the larger gathering. We could have gone off and had our own gathering nearby (or far away) but that was never our intention. The organizer knew we were coming and offered to set aside space for the art camp.

Coyote Sue was on the Cheap RV Living forums for months, telling CRVL regulars about the plans for the RTArt Camp. Apparently, about 20 people expressed interest in being involved with the RTArt Camp, but at least some of those folks were stationed in the main camp, while the RTArt Camp ended up away from the main meeting area. Unfortunately, as Coyote Sue said, we just never worked out a way to coordinate what we were doing with things going on three washes away.

I arrived at the RTR before Coyote Sue, on the day before the gathering officially began. I’d hoped Coyote Sue would arrive first or that she and I could find the organizers together and learn the location of the RTArt Camp. Instead, Coyote Sue’s Class C was having problems with overheating, and she was stuck waiting on repairs 20 miles away. Claiming the art camp’s space fell to me.

Coyote Sue contacted the main organizer via email and let him know I’d be arriving without her and he should show me the area set aside for the art camp. He responded by saying no space had been saved for the RTArt Camp. He said by the time he arrived at Scaddan Wash, early birds had already set up in the place where he’d planned to put us. (I have no idea if the early birds were asked to move or even told they were in a space intended for the art camp.) We would have to secure our own location.

The camping areas around the spot left open for the seminars, the main fire pit, the free pile, and the bulletin board were already packed when I drove through. I saw a few spaces where my van would have fit comfortably, but there was not enough space for my rig, Coyote Sue’s rig, The Man’s rig, and the rigs of other folks who might want to join the camp. Even if we parked two feet from each other, where would we put our tables?

I drove around in an increasing panic for a while until The Man talked to a fellow who gave us a tip. He suggested we go to the RTR Music road and veer immediately to the left. We took the stranger’s advice and found a roomy spot for our camp. Of course, the problem now was our distance from the center of the gathering and the presence of a rather large wash between us and the main camp.

I was so happy when Coyote Sue pulled in late that afternoon. After her Class C was repaired, she’d planned to do laundry, take a shower, fill her water tanks, and spend a night in an RV park in town. However, once she got to Quartzsite, she decided she’d rather hang out with me! I was glad to hear she was fine with our location. What a joy to have a friend and co-organizer who believes things work out the way they’re supposed to and there’s no reason to get upset or stress out.

The next morning, Coyote Sue and I carefully crossed the wash, her with her cane and me with my walking stick, to make an announcement at the morning seminar welcoming folks to Quartzsite and the RTR. Instead of letting us make our announcement before the seminar began, as is usually the case with announcements, Bob launched right into talking about trash, feces, and showers. We sat there with hundreds of other attendees through Bob’s talk as well as little speeches by three agents of the Bureau of Land Management, until suddenly, in the middle of everything, Bob gave us the floor and let us tell folks about the RTArt Camp.

The first day of the RTR, we had a meet and greet at the art camp for folks who wanted to teach a class or lead an activity. Maybe ten people showed up, but that was enough to schedule an activity every day of the RTR. Several of the people at the meeting were already parked nearby, and others decided to move their rigs so they too could camp near the art camp.

Isn’t my nametag lovely? I blinged it out in the RTArt Camp. I took this photo of it too.

Coyote Sue called the idea I had on the first day “open studio.” Basically, we spread out art supplies on our two tables and invited people to embellish their nametag (or create a nametag from scratch), make a postcard, or spruce up something from their rig. Over the ten days of the RTR, many people spent some time being creative at the RTArt Camp. I think we did a good job reaching out to and engaging folks who didn’t consider themselves artists or even particularly artistic.

A lot happened at the RTArt Camp, and I had a lot to say about it…so this post was running really long. I decided to turn it into a two-part saga, so click here to read the second part of my report on the RTArt Camp,