Tag Archives: Postcards

National Postcard Week 2020

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I created this postcard to celebrate National Postcard Week 2020. How are you going to celebrate this week?

National Postcard Week started yesterday and continues through Saturday. Never heard of this “holiday”? Don’t worry. I’ll tell you all about it.

I created this postcard too.

According to Wikipedia,

National Postcard Week is an annual event to promote the use of postcards, held in the first full week of May since 1984.[1][2] Started in the US, it is also celebrated by deltiologists in other countries.[3] Special commemorative postcards have been printed for Postcard week by various organizations, especially postcard clubs,[4][5] since as early as 1985.[6]

A 2018 article about National Postcard Week on the Modern Postcard blog offers information about the history of postcards. Postcards in the United States got their start in the 1800s.

…on February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. During that same year, John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America.

I created these cool postcards as well and sent them out in time for Valentine’s Day.

Author Jessica Biondo goes on to say that over time postcards

became colorful, collectible and more complex, and they were even used as prizes and travel souvenirs!

I didn’t create these postcards. I bought them at the supermarket. They have proven quite popular for trading.

Postcard styles changed and developed over time. Here are the three eras of postcards as laid out by Biondo:

The Early Modern Era of postcards was 1916-1930, known as the white border period. American printing technology had advanced, creating higher quality postcards with white borders around the featured picture.

The Linen Card Era of postcards was 1930-1945, enabling publishers to print postcards on linen paper stock with brilliant colors…

The Photochrom Era of postcards is 1939-present, remaining as the most popular era of postcards today when it comes to quality print reproduction.

I designed this postcard featuring a photo I took of the New Mexico state insect, the tarantual hawk wasp.

I couldn’t find much about National Postcard Week 2020 online. A seller on eBay has a couple of National Postcard Week 2020 postcards for sell, and there is a National Postcard Week swap on Swap-bot. Maybe the COVID-19 global pandemic is overshadowing postcards this year.

I did find out a little more history of National Postcard Week from the aformentioned swap on Swap-bot.

National Postcard Week was the brain child of: John H. McClintock; DeeDee Parker; Roy Cox and Richard Novick and others. It began in 1984 as a way to promote our hobby.

Cool! It’s nice to be able to link some fellow deltiologists to the origins of the celebration.

I won these lovely ParcelTonguePaperCo postcards in a giveaway.

Wait! What’s a deltiologist? I’m glad you asked.

According to Wikipedia,

Deltiology (from Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος, deltos, “writing tablet, letter”; and -λογία, -logia) is the study and collection of postcards. Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio, coined a word in 1945 that became the accepted description of the study of picture postcards.[1][2]

So if deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, a deltiologist is a person who studies and collects postcards. I don’t actually study or collect postcards, so I guess I’m not actually a deltiologist. I am a postcard enthusiast, but I don’t have a formal collection, and I don’t study the cards I receive or send. I enjoy the social aspects of postcards. I like sending and receiving mail. I like brightening people’s day with postcards, and I like having my day brightened too, but nothing about postcards is serious or academic to me.

I first heard about National Postcard Week last year on Instagram. I swapped postcards with a couple of people who had created special cards for National Postcard Week. I was impressed by folks who went to so much trouble to celebrate the week.

I receive this postcard last year during National Postcard week. It came from @mailboxmayhem in sunny central Texas.

I decided last year that I wanted to create my own postcards for the 2020 National Postcard Week. In February I started the process. I went to Vistaprint and figured out how to upload my photos to my account. Once I picked out the right template for my card, I added my photos and appropriate text. It was all really easy.

I ordered 100 copies of my postcard. I ended up sending out about 65 of them. The rest I gave to people I suspected would otherwise not send out postcards during the special week. It was fun to send my cards out into the world one way or another.

I encourage you to send out postcards this week too. They don’t have to be specially designed cards that you paid to have printed. Just use any postcards you have or can buy. (I sometimes buy touristy postcards at larger supermarkets and even Wal-Mart.) Heck, you can even make your own postcards from food packages you have around the house.

I made these postcards from a Boca burger box.

(If you want to make your own postcards, keep the postcard requirements from the United States Postal Service in mind. According to Mailing.com, to qualify for the postcard rate of 35 cents,

a mail piece must be rectangular and meet these dimensions:

At least 3-1/2” high X 5” long X 0.007” thick

No more than 4-1/4” high X 6” long X 0.016” thick

Meet those requirements, and you’re got yourself a postcard!)

Whatever postcard you end up with, write “National Postcard Week 2020” on it somewhere, and you’re good to go.

Is it strange to be celebrating postcards in a time of global pandemic? I think not. Sharing postcards makes total sense in these difficult times. Now more than ever I think people want tangible proof of their connections with others. They want to hold on to something that says, “I love you”; they want to be able to sleep with some small token of affection under their pillows.

I had this postcard made to promote my blog.

Happy National Postcard Week from the Rubber Tramp Artist.

Santa Fe March 2020

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We went to Santa Fe early in March.

Santa Fe Plaza was festooned with chiles.

This was before we realized how bad COVID-19 was going to get. We had a vague awareness that maybe we should stay at home, but our friends The Poet and the Activist from Las Vegas (Nevada, not the closer Las Vegas in New Mexico) were going to be in Albuquerque and asked if we would meet them in the middle. I had Monday off work, so we made plans to get together then.

The friends were on a pilgrimage of sorts. The Poet’s grandmother had been born in a small New Mexico town; The Poet wanted to see that place from which her ancestor had come. Of course The Activist was part of the excursion, as was a friend who’d come for the fun and to help with the driving.

The pilgrimage was also a vacation of sorts. On their way to New Mexico, they’d visited Arcosanti and stayed the night. They’d spend three nights in Albuquerque, taking a side trip to visit me and The Man in Santa Fe as well as the journey to the ancestral home.

We met at my favorite place to get lunch in Santa Fe, El Parasol at 1833 Cerrillos Road. There’s no place to sit and eat inside the restaurant, so I had suggested that we buy our lunch at the counter, then take it to a park or to the Santa Fe Plaza. However, The Poet had gotten permission for us to sit at the picnic table in front of the Baskin-Robbins next door. The Man and I each got our favorite, the vegetarian burrito with guacamole. I don’t know what the others ate, but the five of us sat at the outside table and had a leisurely lunch while chatting.

We spent most of our day sitting on benches in the Plaza.

Our next destination was the Santa Fe Plaza. We drove over in our truck and our friends drove over in their car. We met near the bandstand.

According to Wikipedia,

The Santa Fe Plaza is a National Historic Landmark in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico in the style of traditional Spanish-American colonial cities.

Santa Fe Plaza has been the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since c. 1610 when it was established by Don Pedro de Peralta…In 1822 the famed Santa Fe Trail, a trade route connecting New Mexico with Missouri, was opened with its western terminus at the Santa Fe Plaza…[3]

The Plaza is Santa Fe’s historic, cultural and geographic center. In the early days, it was found at the end of El Camino Real (the Spanish Royal Road from Mexico City), the Santa Fe Trail, and the Old Pecos Trail.

The problem with hanging out in the Plaza is that parking is a real pain. We were lucky to get a parking spot only a few blocks away. However, it was just a four-hour spot, so it was a good thing we planned to hit the road in a few hours anyway. The other problem was that I hadn’t brought enough change for the meter. I had forgotten how expensive parking can be in the tourist area of a big city. We had to ask for change at businesses three times over our four hour parking period. Groan.

We saw this mysterious portal as we walked from our parking spot to the Plaza.

We spent most of our visit sitting on benches and chatting. At one point I remembered that the Five & Dime General Store across the Plaza from where we were sitting sold souvenirs. The Poet is also a snail mail enthusiasts, so I told her that if we wanted to get postcards later, the Five & Dime would be the place to go. In fact, we did end up walking over to the store to pick out postcards. I regret not taking a photo of their great wall of postcards. Trust me, that place a huge selection of postcards representing not just Santa Fe, but the entire state of New Mexico.

These are the Santa Fe postcards I picked out to send to friends.

At one point I left my friends briefly to take some photos of the Spitz Clock. I got several nice photos while I was on that side of the Plaza.

Later in the afternoon, my friends were ready to visit The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. According to Wikipedia, it is

a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714–1717). An older church on the same site, built in 1626, was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled once the new construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral was kept from the old church.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

If you want to learn more about the history of the The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, see the Parish History page of the Cathedral Basilica’s website. The page also includes a list of the archbishops of Santa Fe.

If you, like me, have wondered about the difference between a cathedral and a basilica and how one building could be both, here is some information on the topic from Busted Halo, a website with the mission to help people understand the Catholic Faith.

A cathedral is the home church for the bishop or archbishop of a Catholic diocese…

A basilica is simply an important church building designated by the pope because it carries special spiritual, historical, and/or architectural significance. Basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building, and once a church is named a basilica, it cannot lose its basilica status.

A basilica may or may not also be the cathedral of the diocese.

I enjoy the adobe buildings in Santa Fe because they’re so different from buildings in most place. The Tourism Santa Fe website says of Santa Fe Architecture,

Santa Fe has a distinctive architectural style all its own. No other city in the country has so many low-slung, earth-colored buildings made of adobe bricks, which consist of a mixture of sun-dried earth and straw…

Santa Fe’s historic adobe architecture evolved from early Native American dwellings that impressed the Spanish when they first arrived in the region in the 16th century…

As the Spanish settlers established communities in the region, they sought to improve the Pueblo construction methods using adobe. After all, the essential materials—mud, earth and straw—were plentiful and readily available…they designed wood molds to shape uniform adobe bricks.

Soon it was time to start heading home. We had a long drive ahead of us. It was nice to spend a day in the state capital, visiting our friends from far away.

I took the photos in this post.

Update, COVID-19 Edition

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

I don’t feel like writing.

I don’t feel like doing much of anything.

Don’t worry. I’m not sick. As far as I know, I’m totally healthy. I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 and no risk factors other than going to town (The Hot Zone, The Man calls it) last Tuesday to pick up Jerico’s dog food and drop some postcards into the mail slot.

The Man is fine too, as is Jerico. We’re all in good health.

I quit my job a week ago. The hand washing facilities where I worked were inadequate. In the three months I worked there, I never once saw the woman I assisted wash her hands. Another frustrating problem was that she did not believe COVID-19 was a big deal. If they’d quit calling it a pandemic, people wouldn’t be so frantic, she said on more than one occasion. She certainly was not practicing social distancing, so I was exposed–directly or indirectly–to everyone who came over to visit her, everyone she hugged, everyone who touched something in her house. I was also expected to take her to a friend’s home to shower once a week, so I was exposed to her friend, her friend’s husband, the hired hand, and anyone else who happened to be there on a Friday afternoon.

This is from the frequently asked questions from my state’s unemployment website.

The state I work in won’t pay unemployment to anyone who quits a job due to “a medical concern.” In the eyes of the state, I was supposed to keep working until either I got sick or my client did. Hell, I might have been expected to continue to care for my client had she gotten sick even though I had no protective gear or even a place to wash my hands other than a sink that drained into a bucket that I had to dump outside when full.

While I received emails from my credit union, the gas station and supermarket to whose rewards clubs I belong, and every fast food restaurant and craft store with whom I’ve ever shared my email address explaining how each business was working to keep both customers and employees safe in the time of COVID-19 and telling me how to keep myself safe, the company I worked for didn’t so much as text me to remind me to wash my hands. I heard nothing from my employer. Nothing. Not a peep. The silence did not instill confidence in me. In fact, the silence underscored the reality that my employer did not give a damn about me.

At first I was excited about the prospect of not going to work.

I’ll get some writing done, I thought. I’ll work on my blog. I’ll let people know about the postcards I have for sale. I’ll get so much done!

Instead, I’ve been dragging my ass for a week.

The Man and I decided to stay home and take social distancing and flattening the curve seriously. The Man is talking about totally staying home for two months, maybe three. Is he overreacting or saving our lives? I guess we’ll never really know.

The Man and I have enough food for for a month, maybe six weeks, if we eat two conservative meals a day. We started out with about 15 pounds of dried pinto beans, along with a few more pounds of dried black beans, lentils, white beans and Lima beans. We’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast so we can save the eggs for baking. I’ve been working hard to vary our dinners so we don’t burn out on beans early on. There may come a day when we’re eating all pintos all the time, but I want to delay that day for as long as possible.

Jerico is set with food for now. Last Tuesday we picked up a 35 pound sack of food we’d had shipped from Chewy.com. That much food will last him at least a month, probably six weeks. He’ll be out of medication too, sometime in the next couple of months. We order that online too.

Unlike most people in the United States, we don’t get home delivery of mail. No one in this part of the state does. Folks either get a box at a post office or at a private company like the UPS Store. So while most of you can order online and have groceries or dog food or medicine or craft supplies delivered to your home, we don’t enjoy that convenience. Our mailbox is 20 miles away, in The Hot Zone.

The nearest outgoing mailbox is at least 12 miles from our home, and The Man really doesn’t want me driving there to mail letters and postcards. He fears the virus is going to be concentrated anywhere that people live. He fears I might breathe in the virus and bring it home. Again, is he over cautious or just cautious enough?

What did I decide to do after considering my prospects of neither incoming nor outgoing mail for a month or more? I decided to make postcards, of course. Something about cutting paper and gluing it down in new ways is comforting to me in times of stress. The actions give me a feeling of control, I suppose.

These are some of the 38 postcards I made. I took this photo too.

Two days and 38 postcards later, I ran out of the decoupage glue I like to use for all my collage work. I won’t be getting any more of it any time soon, so I guess my postcard creating is on hiatus.

This past Saturday, I tried to file my taxes online. It turned into a fiasco because I don’t know last year’s Adjusted Gross Income. I had to give up after a couple of hours of struggle until my sibling (whose mail is delivered to the front porch) receives some documentation and calls me with the information.

After I was unable to achieve my big goal for the day, I fell into despair. It was tool cold and windy to go for the walk The Man suggested. I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t feel like talking or watching a movie. After I cooked dinner and washed the dishes, the rest of my life stretched before me, long and boring.

The Man and I ended up watching some King of the Hill on Hulu. (Thank goodness for free trials from streaming services.) That cheered me up a little, but all I really wanted to do was play the matching game I put on my phone. I don’t have to think too hard about it, so it doesn’t tax my brain, but I have to pay close enough attention to it that unwanted thoughts are kept away. It’s an unproductive activity, but after hours of reading news sources and thinking about COVID-19 and people refusing to isolate and the lack of ventilators and all the horribleness that’s coming down the pike, my brain enjoys being blank.

I don’t know what to do with this blog right now. Should I carry on as if nothing is amiss and our whole world isn’t crumbling? Should I go all COVID-19 all the time? To be honest with you, I don’t have it in me to go all COVID-19 all the time. But if no one cares anymore about a free camping spot in Colorado or stories from my past or photos of my first Little Free Food Pantry, I’m not going to bother. However, if my blog helps you feel a little more normal, I’m all for continuing with it.

Please, let me know what you think. If you’re reading these words, please, please leave a comment (as short or as long as you like) letting me know what you want to see here in the coming days. Your input will help me make some decisions.

In the meantime, please keep yourself safe. Stay home as much as possible. Work from home if you can. Stay away from people outside your immediate family. Wash your hands. Be kind. Above all, please be kind.

What to Do When the Weather Is Bad and You Don’t Want to Be Outside

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I’m an indoor kid, so even when the weather is nice, I spend a lot of time in my van. Other folks are the type who say they “live out of” their vans. Sure, they sleep in the vans and store their belongings in there, but during the daytime they’d rather be outside. Sometimes those folks are out hiking or rock climbing or kayaking or just sitting in the sunshine. Those outdoor kids are often perplexed when it’s too cold or wet or windy to leave their rigs. What should I do? they often ask in Facebook van groups when faced with inclement weather. Today I will share 15 ideas for what to do on those days when even the outdoor kids can’t stand to be outside.

#1 Clean your rig. If you’re like me, on any given day you rig could use some cleaning or at least reorganizing. Granted, you may not be able to haul everything outside and do a thorough deep cleaning, but you can put away everything that’s out of place, as well as make your bed. You can also wipe down the surfaces in the front, and perhaps use a whisk broom and small dustpan to sweep your floor.

Grayscale Photography of Woman in Laundry Shop

#2 Do your laundry. If you’re in civilization, a rainy/windy/cold day is perfect for washing, drying, and folding your clothes. Laundromats tend to be toasty (all those dryers!), so you can warm up while you wait. Since you’re trying to pass the time anyway, go ahead and wash your curtains, bedding and rugs too. Once everything is washed, dried, and folded, you can remake your bed, rehang your curtains, and put all your clothes away in the proper places.

#3 Shop for groceries. If you’re in town anyway, get your grocery shopping done. No one will care if you walk down each aisle slowly to maximize your time in this warm, dry place.

#4 Visit the public library. If it’s too cold to comfortably sit in your rig and

Selective Focus Photography of Bookshelf With Books

you don’t want to use fuel to run a heater, spend some time at the public library. The heater is already running there, and there’s plenty to do for free. Read books or magazines. Utilize WiFi (from your own computer or phone or via the library’s public access computers). The library might even be offering a free movie or informational talk while you’re there. Check the bulletin board or ask at the information desk.

#5 Visit a museum. If you can’t afford an expensive admission fee, look for a museum with free admission or a donation system where you decide what you can afford to pay to get in. You may also luck out and decide to go on that one day of the week or month when a pricey museum doesn’t collect a fee. Perhaps it’s a day to splurge so you can get out of the bad weather and into a place with beautiful art or informative exhibits about nature or history.

Group of People Walking Inside the Mall

#6 Go walking at a mall. If you’re one of those people who can’t sit still, and you’re in a town or city with a mall, you’ve got it made because you can go to the mall and walk, walk, walk. No one will care that you’re not spending money, and you can get some exercise without getting cold, wet, or windblown.

#7 Work out at the gym. If you have a gym membership, a bad-weather day is a great day for a workout followed by a long, hot shower. If you don’t have a gym membership at any of the places in the town you’re in, you may be able to get a day pass at a local indoor pool, community fitness center, or YMCA.

#8 Read. Whether you’re in town at a library or stuck in your rig on remote public land, a rainy day is good for reading. Although I live in a van and have limited space, I have at least a dozen books tucked away for my reading pleasure. You can find free books at Little Free Libraries across the United States. You can find inexpensive books at library book sales, garage sales, and thrift stores. If you’ve gone paperless, EBook Friendly offers a list of 12 sites from which you can download free ebooks for Kindle. Whether you have a Kindle of some other device, check out BookBub which offers free books in over twenty genres, available on all devices. If you’d rather listen, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#9 Listen to podcasts. If you like audiobooks, you may like podcasts. If you

Black headphones with mobile smartphone

like myths, legends, and folklore, try Jason Weiser’s Myths and Legends Podcast. If you like classic fiction told in modern language try Weiser’s Fictional. If you want to learn something, give Stuff You Should Know or Stuff You Missed in History Class a listen. If you like personal stories recounted with enthusiasm, listen to The Moth or Risk! There are hundreds (probably thousands) of podcasts available for free.

#10 Watch movies. If you don’t have a DVD collection at your disposal, you can rent a movie from a Red Box for under two bucks. If you have some disposable income and a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, you can watch hundreds of movies (and television shows) on your phone, tablet or laptop as long as you have internet access. If you’re in civilization, you can even sit in a warm theater to view the feature attraction, just like we did in the old days.

#11 Cuddle. If you’re traveling with your sweetheart, bad weather gives you a great excuse to lie in bed and cuddle. Snuggle up under the covers and tell each other your hopes, fears, and dreams. Cuddling might lead to kissing, and kissing might lead to…(You might want to close your curtains before you start your snuggle session.)

#12 Nap. If you’ve followed some other suggestions, the weather is still bad, and you’re bored or tired, why not take a nap? I love a little daytime sleep, especially if it means being warm under the covers and/or hearing rain tapping on my metal roof.

Round Black Analog Compass on Blue Labeled Box

#13 Plan your next outdoor adventure. Perhaps you don’t want to be outside right now, but maybe you will want to be outside as soon as possible. Use your downtime to plan what you’ll do the next time you can be outside. Grab your maps and your guidebooks and plan the route of the hike or bike ride you’ll go on when the weather clears.

#14 Write postcards.Have you been meaning to drop a line to your far-flung friends but can’t find the time? If you have to stay inside anyway, why not write out some postcards? Postcards are quicker to write and cheaper to send than letters, and if you send postcards of with pictures of local scenery, the recipients can get a feel for where you’ve been. If you’re not set on the idea of sending postcards from the place you’re visiting, you can often find inexpensive postcards in thrift stores, or you can make your own from old magazines and cardboard. If you need some postcard inspiration, give a listen to the Postcardist podcast.

#15 Sit in a coffee shop. Many of the activities you can do in your van can

Panda Printed Paper Coffee Cup on Table

also be done in a coffee shop. For the couple of bucks it takes to get a beverage, you can spend hours in a coffee shop reading, writing postcards, listening to podcasts (headphones, please!), or just people watching. If you’re suffering from cabin fever, a coffee shop is a good place to stay warm and dry while spending time outside your rig.

So there you go! Fifteen things to do when the weather’s too bad to spend time outside. What things do you do when the weather keeps you from exploring the great outdoors?

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-clean-housework-launderette-4414/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-bookshelf-with-books-1370296/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/crown-group-modern-motion-374894/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-headphones-with-mobile-smartphone-6320/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adventure-ball-shaped-blur-book-269818/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/panda-printed-paper-coffee-cup-on-table-885021/.

What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

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I stay busy.

Between writing and scheduling blog posts, staying in touch with friends, reading, and creating art, I barely have time to wash the dishes, exercise, or meditate. However, in Facebook groups for vandwellers and other internet resources for people who live nomadically, I regularly encounter people asking for advice on what to do now that they aren’t working full-time, permanent jobs. Some people have never had free time before, so they’ve not learned how to entertain themselves. Others are fine as long as they’re moving from place to place and seeing new things, but if an injury or lack of money means they have to sit on public land or in the same town for a week or two, they’re bored out of their minds.

For all the nomads who are trying for the first time to figure out what to do with themselves and for folks who want to try something(s) new, I offer ten activities to fill your time now that you own your life.

#1 Explore the public library. As may have been evident from my post 10 Ways to Save Money on the Road, I’m a big fan of public libraries. Even if you don’t have a library card, you can probably hang out away from inclement weather; use a computer to surf the web; read books and magazines; view art; and attend free movies, concerts, lectures, and classes.

Some public libraries will issue library cards to nonresidents. If you can score a library card, you may be able to enjoy books, music, and movies in the privacy of your own rig.

I encountered this Little Free Library in my travels.

#2 Read! I’m also a big fan of reading. If you can’t borrow books from a public library, get books from Little Free Libraries. Find inexpensive books at thrift stores and library book sales. If you’re staying in a campground, check for a library in the clubhouse or office.

If you rather look at photos and read short articles, acquire magazines instead of books. Magazines can often be had at thrift stores and library book sales for 10 cents or a quarter each–if they’re not outright free. Maybe you have a friend in another town with a magazine subscription who will put together a care package of back issues and send them to you via general delivery.

If you don’t like to read, but you do like to listen to stories, consider audiobooks. How cozy would it be to lie in your bed and have a talented voice actor read you a bedtime (or nap time) story? If you like the classics, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#3 Listen to podcasts. Similar to audiobooks, you can listen to podcasts while driving, cooking, folding laundry, or cleaning the rig. Some podcasts are educational; some are entertaining. You can learn all about finding free podcasts in a 2017 Wired article called “The Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts.”

If you’re wondering what podcasts I like, read my post about my favorites.

(Note: When listening to podcasts or audiobooks, use headphones or make sure your volume is low enough not to bother others. Folks who go into the wilderness to hear birdsong don’t necessarily want to hear what you consider entertainment.)

#4 Learn to do something new. If you’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank with an activity of your choice), but never had the time, your time has come. The Instructables website shares directions for almost any DIY project, craft, or van-home improvement project you can think of. You can learn a lot on YouTube too. I taught myself to macramé hemp jewelry, and The Man learned how to replace drum brakes by watching YouTube videos, so I suspect most folks could use YouTube to learn a new skill.

#5 Play a musical instrument. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a lapsed musician, use your spare time to play an instrument. The Man carries an acoustic guitar in his mini van so he can play whenever he gets the urge. Coyote Sue often practices her flute while boondocking on public land. If space is at a premium, go for something small like a ukulele, a piccolo, a kazoo, or a harmonica. If you’re lacking space and/or money to buy something, remember, your voice makes music too.

(Note: As with podcasts and audiobooks, please make sure your musical endeavors don’t disturb others. When camping or boondocking on public land, let the sounds of nature prevail.)

I whipped up these postcards from collage fodder Coyote Sue sent me.

#6 Write Letters. Don’t think you have to be a great writer to wrtite letters to your friends and family. Trust me, your people will be so excited to get what I call “real mail,” they’ll barely care about what you write. If you’re too shy to write to the adults, write to the children. Kids always seem super excited to get mail.

If you don’t think you have enough to say to justify writing a letter, send a postcard. In tourist towns, I usually find postcards costing between 20 and 50 cents each. At thrift stores, I’ve found postcards as cheap as a nickel each. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to the place on the postcard. People like pretty photos, even if you’ve never seen the landmark in question.

If you need a creative project, make your own postcards like I did.

#7 Keep a journal. If you don’t much like writing, make it more like a log book where you record where you stayed, what you did, weather, gas mileage, or any information you might want to remember later. If you rather draw than write, sketch the trees, the people you meet, the critters you see.

#8 Get artsy–or crafty. Find ways to get in touch with your creative side that don’t require lots of materials or tools that take up too much of your precious space. Paint watercolors the size of postcards. Make collages. Decorate the

This is how Coyote Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig. She gave me permission to use this photo.

interior of your rig. Sketch your campsite. Make jewelry. Make your own greeting cards or postcards. Sculpt with air-dry clay. Whittle.

#9 Take some photos. With today’s technology, you don’t need a fancy schmancy camera to take decent photographs. Most smartphone cameras let you use filters on your photos; adjust contrast, sharpness, and exposure; crop your image; and doodle right on the picture. With all these bells and whistles, you can take a decent photo and turn it into an awesome photo. Of course, if you don’t know the basics of composition, you’ll want to learn that too, courtesy of ePHOTOzine.

A good place to start learning to use your camera phone is an article by Photography Concentrate called “Smartphone Photography 101.” Once you have the basics down, take your photography skills to the next level by following the suggestions Rebecca Moses offers in her article “Finding Your Inner Photographer: Making the Most of Your Camera.”

#10 Get close to nature. If you’re on public land, put on your sturdy shoes and go for a hike or a little walk, if that’s what you’re up for. Sit still and listen to the birds sing. If you’re in a city, get closer to nature in a park or arboretum. Learn to identify the trees, flowers, and/or medicinal plants in the area you’re in. At night look up at the sky and find the constallations. Paying attention to the cycles of nature could keep a person occupied for days, weeks, months, or even years.

I got close to this nature while boondocking outside Natural Bridges National Monument.

I hope this post inspires you to try some new things and figure out what fun activities make you happy as they fill your free time. Feel free to share what you do to stay busy in the comments below.

I took all the photos in this post with the exception of the one of Coyote Sue’s rig decorating endeavors, which I used with her permission.

 

Postcards

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I love to send postcards to my friends. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Whenever my family traveled (infrequently), my goal was to find the least expensive postcards and send them to people I cared about.

As an adult, I still like to send postcards, especially when I want my friends to know I’m thinking about them but am too busy or tired to write a real letter. I like to find inexpensive postcards at thrift stores, so my friends often get mail featuring gorgeous color photos of places I’ve never visited.

I also like to make my own postcards. IMG_6710

The last time I was in Las Vegas, the Activist and the Poet offered me a thick stack of cards from events that had already happened. I took them, figuring I’d eventually use them in some art project.

IMG_6711Recently my artist pal Coyote Sue sent me a fat priority mail envelope stuffed with collage fodder (as she called it). I played with the magazine clippings for nearly an entire day, sorting through them and filing the images I planned to use in future collage projects. Many of the images were bigger than I typically use in collages, so I decided to make postcards too.

The first step was to cover the words printed on one side of the postcard. I used sticker labels I had on hand. (I don’t remember where I got the labels, but I always look for stickers at Goodwill Clearance Centers, where I pay for my purchases by the pound. Sometimes I also find stickers cheap at small-town thrift stores.) Although the stickers did not totally block out the printing on the postcards, once I wrote on the stickers, the printing was pretty well obscured.

Next I found images to cover the other side of the postcards. I used my paper cutter (also given to me by the Activist IMG_6714and the Poet) to make (more or less) straight cuts to remove the excess paper around each image. (I could have done this more quickly, easily, and accurately had I marked the images with an outline of a postcard before cutting. I was too lazy to get up and fetch a writing instrument, so I ended up doing more, less accurate work. Learn from my mistake!)

After an image was cut to the proper size, I put glue on its back side. I used glue I had on hand, something I’d bought for some project I worked on a couple of years ago. (Whenever I use glue, I end up with it on my hands and lots of other places I don’t want it. I’m convinced people who attend fancy art schools learn the secret of clean glue use. Lord knows I’ve never figured out the secret.) Once the glue was on the back of an image, I stuck it on a postcard, rubbed it IMG_6715down flat, and made sure the edges and corners were firmly in place.

The last step consisted of letting the glue dry.

With minimal work, I ended up with a stack of postcards at practically no cost to me.

Whenever I’m at thrift stores (especially thrift stores offering excellent prices), I look for materials for art projects, including postcards. IMG_6716Magazines are the obvious choice (many of the clippings Coyote Sue sent were from issues of National Geographic published in the 60s), but small calendars are also good finds. I recently made postcards from the nature scenes in a small calendar of images from Yosimite National Park.

I particularly enjoy using materials that other people might look at and consider trash. Making my own postcards is a fun way to stay in touch with friends while keeping discarded items out of the landfill or recycling center.

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These are some of the postcards I made from collage fodder and cards from an event that happened in the spring.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Tourist Day in Las Vegas

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When The Poet and I were in communication about the things I wanted to see and do in Las Vegas, I sheepishly admitted I wanted to visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop where The History Channel program Pawn Stars is filmed.

I can’t remember when I first watched Pawn Stars. It was probably in some crappy motel room when my then-boyfriend and I were trying to distract ourselves (and each other) from our ridiculous, relentless fighting and our steadily deteriorating relationship. Then, a couple of years ago during a house sitting gig, I watched a Pawn Stars marathon, half-hour episode after half-hour episode all day and into the night. The marathon sealed the deal: I was a Pawn Stars fan.

I enjoy the show’s focus on items of historical significance. Unlike Hardcore Pawn , which I remember focusing on the antics of the wacked-out customers (and not-quite customers), Pawn Stars really does attempt to teach some history. Sure, some of the sellers featured on Pawn Stars are a little zany, but colorful characters do make for good entertainment. And while familial bickering is a subplot of every Pawn Stars episode, it always takes a backseat to trying to educate viewers via the items brought into the store.

When I realized I’d be in Vegas and the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is in Vegas, I decided I wanted to see it. I was a bit embarrassed to admit this desire to The Poet. First, it seemed like such a stereotypically tourist thing to do. What next? I imagined The Poet wondering. An Elvis impersonator extravaganza, topless showgirls, and all night at the blackjack tables? Also, I didn’t know which side of the TV wars The Poet was on. Some of my friends think all television is soul sucking and mind mushing, while others think a person who doesn’t watch TV is weird. What if The Poet judged me harshly?

I told her in the letter I sent outlining my Las Vegas interests that of course I didn’t expect her and The Activist (her husband) to accompany me on my visit to Gold and Silver. I told her I’d go alone, at some time when they needed a break from being hosts and tour guides. So I was a bit surprised when The Poet told me The Activist wanted to accompany me on the pawn shop visit, unless I needed special alone time there. I assured her I didn’t need to go alone, that I wasn’t on some kind of a pilgrimage. (I’m not that kind of fan.) I told her I’d be happy to have  The Activist along.

The day we went to the pawn shop started with a peace vigil.

Every week, members of the Las Vegas  peace community hold a vigil in front the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd.

…a group of people stand with signs about peace, about the cost of war, asking people to honk in a sign of solidarity if they’re in a vehicle. This particular vigil has been taking place for over ten years. It is very friendly and encouraging.

In warm months, we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Clark. In colder months we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Bridger.

It was a pretty low-key affair the day I attended. About seven of us held signs with various peace slogans on them. The youngest women in the group held the sign that read “Honk for Peace.” She got a lot of honks.

After an hour, the peace group split up and The Activist and I walked The Poet to a coffee shop called The Beat  on the corner of  6th and Fremont. In the back of the coffee shop is a large area with art displays and The Las Vegas Zine Library (LVZL). We poked around back there for about half an hour, then The Poet settled in to write while The Activist and I went on our excursion.

We walked down Fremont Street to get to Las Vegas Blvd. Fremont wasn’t very busy since it was a Wednesday morning. I did the tourist thing and took some photos.

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And since I was playing tourist, I took some photos of the wedding chapels we passed on the way.

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I mean, if getting married in a ceremony with the “KING” is good enough for Rock Star Jon Bon Jovi, it must be good enough for me. (The question is, is Mr. Bon Jovi still married to the lady he wed in the Graceland Chapel?)

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While we walked, The Activist told me he was glad to have a reason to go to Gold and Silver. He said he’d wanted to check it out since he’d moved to Vegas, but none of their other house guests had expressed any interest in visiting the place.

We approached Gold and Silver from the parking lot side. There weren’t many cars parked there, but there were several guys in orange vests monitoring the lot and the people in it. I wondered if they only allow people with items to sell or pawn to park in the lot.

During my preliminary research, I’d read there’s sometimes a line to get into the shop. I was glad to see that on this day there was no line outside and we wouldn’t have to wait to get in.

I’d also read online complaints from people who’d expected to see the actual stars of Pawn Stars–Rick, The Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee–and were disappointed when the guys weren’t in the shop. Give me a break! I’d never expect the stars of a big History Channel program to be standing around to chitchat with the riffraff. Maybe in the earliest days of the show, a visitor might run into one of those guys in the shop, but now? Forget it! Those guys are big shot famous people. They probably only come around for filming and probably stay in the office until the cameras are ready for them. I would have been astounded to see one of the show’s stars hanging around in public.

When The Activist and I approached the entrance, there were three other tourists (a family, perhaps, and by their accents European) blocking the sidewalk while taking photos of each other. Ugh! I don’t like to be the kind of tourist who gets in the way of other people, so I decided I was not going to be taking a lot of photos.

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This is my one tourist photo from Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the outdoor sign in front of the store.

The Activist and I went inside, and I was shocked by how small and…shabby the store looked. On TV, the shop seems spacious and glamorous, but in real life it looked something like a warehouse lit with fluorescent lights, the merchandise on display crammed too closely together.

The first thing The Activist noticed and pointed out to me was a display case full of the same model of Rolex watches. Why were they all the same?

As we made our way through the store, we saw a lot of collectible coins and currency, jewelry, art, items I guess would be referred to as “collectibles.” I didn’t see anything that even mildly piqued my interest, but I’m weird that way.

At the back of the store was a life size cardboard cutout of Rick folks could stand next to for a photo-op. No one was doing that.

One area of the store was filled with Pawn Stars souvenirs. One could buy the book Rick wrote. (Until the moment I saw the book in the store, I had no idea it existed.) One could buy dashboard bobble heads representing the guys on the show. One could buy Pawn Stars magnets and keychains and ink pens. (They almost got me with an ink pen, but I told myself sternly that I did not need one.) There were several Pawn Stars t-shirts to choose from displayed on the wall next to the cash register and its bored-looking cashier. There were even wristbands with the words “Chumlee Is My Homeboy” stamped on them. And then there were postcards.

I love postcards. I probably came to love them when I was in middle school. Whenever my family went on one of our infrequent trips, the first thing I wanted to do was buy postcards. Then I’d spend as much time as possible ignoring my family and writing out postcards to send to my friends back home. Now I look at thrift stores for postcards from places I’ve never been. I send them to friends when I don’t have enough to say for a whole letter.

I wanted to send postcards from Vegas, but I hadn’t seen them for sale anywhere I’d been. I thought if there were Pawn Stars postcards, maybe I’d buy some and give my friends a good laugh about what a tourist I’d been.

When I was a kid, I was thrilled when I’d sometimes find 10 for $1 postcard deals, but those days are long gone. Now 4 for $1 is a good deal for postcards, and 2 for $1 is about normal. (I did buy postcards with local historic scenes on them for $1.50 each when I was in Trinidad, CO, but that was partly because they were the only postcards in town and partly because the guy selling them was my friend’s friend on whom I had a tiny crush.) I know I probably wouldn’t get four Pawn Stars postcards for $1, but I figured 50 cents each would be ok.

I turned the rotating rack until I found the few remaining postcards. They were kind of boring, but they would do. Then I saw the price tag: $2 each!

Are you fucking kidding me?!?

Where do they get off charging two bucks for their postcards? Even when I bought postcards of my own photos from Vistaprint 100 at a time, I only paid 20 cents each. Certainly Pawn Stars gets a better deal than that.

At that point I was over the whole Gold and Silver experience. I’ll continue to watch the show (and try to figure out how the cameras make the store look so big and upscale), but I won’t be giving them any of my money…Greedy bastards…

On the way to lunch, we were stopped in traffic right in front of the driveway to the Bonanza Gift and Souvenir Shops.

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Hey! I called from the backseat. Can we stop here so I can get postcards? I’ll be real quick.

 My friends indulged me, and we pulled into the parking lot. I jumped out of the car and went in one of the many doors. Right inside was a rack of postcards. The price? 3 for 99 cents. The price was right for me.

Several of the attractions mentioned in this post are on the Jen Reviews list of 100 Best Things to Do in Las Vegas. Bonanza Gifts is #18.

If you’re going to Las Vegas and have a bigger souvenir budget than I did, check out this Tripedia article about the Top 7 Souvenirs to Buy in Las Vegas. Elvis jumpsuit, anyone?

I took all the photos in this post.