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Early Spring Cleaning

January 13, 2019

(I’m trying out the new Editor in WordPress. We’ll see how it goes.)

One of the pitfalls of staying long-term at an RV park is that it’s easy to accumulate stuff both inside and outside. You have a nice site so you want to dress it up a bit. Add some steps and a huge outdoor carpet/rug. You acquire some furniture from a neighbor who has bought new. You buy one of those nice planter boxes that another neighbor is building out of wood pallets. Add an umbrella. And plants. Lots of plants… and before long, you have one of the nicest sites in the park.

But there is a lot of other “stuff” as well. Seasonal items to decorate the outdoor space for Christmas, Halloween, Fall. You live under trees, so you need a blower to clean the leaves off that big rug, and there are rakes to smooth out the gravel, and tarps to cover the outdoor cushions and fabric to cover all those plants in case of a freeze.

All that stuff has to go somewhere.

If you’re an artist, you compound the problem both indoors and in the outside storage compartments. There was a time, when we started travelling, that we carried a complete 10’x10′ art festival booth, with carpeted ProPanel walls, a tent, tables and chairs and framed paintings. To see how we did that in a 36 foot motorhome, see this article on my blog:

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After a year or so, when we discovered we were focused more on travelling than on doing shows and festivals, we sold the wall panels and jettisoned a lot of large wood picture frames. This radically changed our approach when we did do a show, but it did free up a lot of space. Moving from a motor coach to a fifth wheel a few years back changed our storage situation even more. I do miss those big pass-thru basement compartments. Today we have several folding tables, two tall aluminum director’s chairs, and tubs of artwork . The art has to be culled every few months because I continue to produce drawings, sketches and paintings. Physical issues slowed us down for a couple of years and we haven’t done festivals or markets. Combine that with slow gallery sales and inventory fills storage space quickly. While we have some small local shows on the calendar again, along with the First Saturday Arts Market in Houston in April, none of them are traditionally big volume shows for us. I am far too prolific.

All of this means that I have started spring cleaning a bit early. I have purged items and done some reorganizing in the large basement compartment. There are several large tubs under the back of the rig that hold a lot of unused stuff that can go away. That will happen as soon as I get another reasonably warm day. I continue to purge artwork that is stored indoors as well. Some rearranging is still in progress.

The good news is that while Nell still has vascular issues in her right leg, we are both otherwise healthy. Over the last two-plus months we have changed our eating habits and are making healthier choices. We’ve both lost a little over 20 pounds and gotten good doctor reports. All of that makes the cleaning and purging work a lot less strenuous.

The work continues, but there is a certain amount of peace of mind knowing that we are creating a neater environment and carrying a lot less baggage.

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Cloudcroft, New Mexico

October 24, 2018

While we sit here in Liberty Hill, some thirty miles northwest of Austin, Texas, watching it rain yet again, I thought I would post a painting of a place we recently visited.

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Scott Able Canyon, New Mexico

This is a spot in Scott Able Canyon outside of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  in late September, we were invited by family to spend several days with them at a rental cabin in Cloudcroft..  The weather was mostly cool and rainy, but we still managed to get out during nice hours and let them show us around.  Cloudcroft is a tiny tourist village sitting at a little over 8600 feet elevation in the Lincoln National Forest. Nestled in the forested hills around the town are many vacation cabins and lodges, both upscale and modest.  It is a beautiful place.

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One evening, we got a remarkable view of a herd of elk feeding on a hillside.  There were a couple of times when we saw elk and deer grazing in both fields and in yards, and on one occasion, we slowed while an elk slowly made its way off the road.

 

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And we drove up to the nearby Sunspot Solar Observatory where we caught a view of White Sands National Monument (the horizontal white streak below the blue sky under the clouds).  We lived in Ruidoso, New Mexico a number of years ago for a short time, and made the trip to White Sands. All you see in this photo is a white streak, but the huge dunes are a sight to see.

Now, about that painting… we packed a picnic lunch, took our camp chairs, and drove up to nearby Scott Able Canyon.  This is a favorite picnic spot for the family and they shared it with us.  Unfortunately, there was no water in the rocky creek, but that didn’t stop us from exploring a bit. The painting was done after Nell and I returned home and was a thank you gift for sharing one of their favorite spots with us. The little trickles of water in the painting are a bit of artist license.

To those of you who are still on the road, we wish you safe travels, and if you are wintering over somewhere, we wish you comfortable weather.

Those Pesky Long-Term People

September 30, 2018

 

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As of this writing, we are full time but parked long term.  We never use the term “permanent” anymore.  We live in our 2008 36 foot Montana Mountaineer fifth wheel trailer and we are stationary at a very well kept RV park near Georgetown, Texas.   I remember when we were traveling in our first RV, a 36 foot motorhome, and as we would plan the next stop or two, we read reviews of RV parks. If we were back on the road, I would still read reviews.  Websites are nice because they can show things like paved or gravel roads, gravel or concrete parking pads, trees, etc.  It didn’t take long to understand that a lot of the photos posted on websites were taken in the first six months to a year after the park opened.  Everything was neat and tidy, RV sites were spic and span and laundry rooms were beautiful.

When we arrived, many of the parks were still very well cared for. Some needed a wakeup. And some were not particularly inviting.  I don’t remember if we ever drove in and right back out of any until we were ready to settle in one spot. Then we sometimes didn’t get much past the entrance before turning around.  However, when we were travelling, typically, by the time we arrived, we were tired and just wanted to stop.  I think there were some places where we would have stayed longer, but we weren’t really comfortable and decided to make it a one-nighter and move on. In truth, I can only specifically remember two RV parks where we didn’t feel particularly safe.  And of those two, only one involved an owner who greeted us covered in scratch marks from his half-blind cat, assured us that the snakes over in the pond weren’t nearly as bad since they had introduced snapping turtles, and placed a pistol on the counter as I was checking in.  You can read the whole story here.

In general, we felt safe at almost every RV park we stayed at. I say all this because it relates to the use of RV park reviews.  As I would check the reviews, I would sometimes see the phrase, “a nice park, but many of the better sites are occupied by long term people”. (Insert an implied sneer at this point.)   Because we were new to the full time RV life, I tended to shy away from those parks, recognizing that part of my job was to make sure my wife was safe. Granted, we stayed in some parks where trailers were in pretty bad shape and there was obviously no management attempt to discourage junk collecting around them.  But not many.  Sadly, I had quickly forgotten that when we moved into the motorhome, while Nell was still working, we parked for about three months at a combination trailer park/rv park which was very clean.  This is what it looked like:

Long-term people… we are now those people. We have children and grandchildren living in three different cities. One family is in Ohio and the Ohio winter rules out us living there.  Two families are in Houston, which is just too big for us anymore.  Nell’s biological daughter and her family live in the Austin area, and that seemed right, as long as we could be away from the city.  We chose our location west of Georgetown after scouting the entire area in an arc around the north of Austin. This park began as a cabin and RV resort which sat on a high bank above the North San Gabriel River.  After the owner’s wife decided that keeping the first three cabins clean was more than she wanted, the rest of the park was devoted to RV sites.  The cabins are still here, are well kept, and are generally occupied almost every weekend. Unfortunately, the Texas weather has kept this fork of the San Gabriel almost dry most of the year, so weekend guests have to be satisfied with hiking the river and looking for arrowheads instead of kayaking and tubing. But still they come.

The park was built in two stages, I believe, and the first few rows of sites are slightly wider than a typical RV park. The second section was built with wider sites, almost all of them separated by a row of juniper trees in mulched beds. The owners welcomed long-term people because they provide a more stable income and require less maintenance.  They told us that while a large percentage of their guests were long-term, there was turnover.  We could identify several sites that we were interested in and be placed on a waiting list.

 

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We did so and a month later we were able to move into the site that had been our favorite.  Most of our neighbors live in fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes.  There is sufficient separation to be private, yet we are close enough to our neighbors to be acquainted.  We have a green belt behind us filled with trees.  Because our living area is at the rear of the fifth wheel, the view outside our windows is basically like being in the woods. Beyond the green belt is pasture land that is lower in elevation than where we are. Because that property is riverfront land that could possibly flood, it is unlikely that anyone will ever build on it. This is a neat, well-kept park, thirty minutes from our daughter and less than that to shopping. It is a pretty good place for long-term parking. At this time, it is my understanding that only the cabins are available for “transient” guests.

 

 

This has been a long, roundabout way of saying to you travelers, don’t assume that all long-term or stationary people are just trailer trash junking up the parks and preying on overnighters. Think of it this way: even if you are just getting started and you’re young and have lots of years of travel ahead of you, someday you will have to stop.  That’s when you make the choice of whether to move back into a sticks-and-bricks house or apartment – or continue to live the life you’ve enjoyed even though you can’t travel in that comfortable rig anymore.  There are a lot of people who have reached that point. Sure, there are a host of older people who are keeping expenses low because they have to, there are working people who move from project to project, there are all kinds of reasons why people are parked long-term at RV parks. We – and our neighbors – like to have clean, neat surroundings without a lot of outside junk. But keep in mind…. even people who live in sticks & bricks houses and apartments have things they keep outside, in that back shed, on a patio, or a garage.  As I’ve said before, our “back yard” is on the side where it can be seen, and RVs don’t have a lot of storage. We do our best to keep things neat and attractive.

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We have been where you are and we know what it’s like to try to find a nice site in a nice park for a week or a month. Look at us as more than just people taking up prime space.  We’re fellow travelers who have had to slow down. If you are on the move, enjoy your surroundings and enjoy your travels. There will be a spot like ours for you when you’re done. Of course, you may have to be on a waiting list to get it.

Sherwin, A Snail’s Tale

July 28, 2018

The first reader reaction is in and I couldn’t ask for a nicer review:

“I loved the moral of the story and believe that my grandkids will love this book also. I cant wait to read it to my 6 year old. She loves animals and has such a big heart for them. She is also super petite, so the lessons of being small and different is something to embrace, not hide from.”  ~R.H. in Texas

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A New Book!

July 12, 2018

It’s been a long time between posts, but as most of you know, we’ve been sitting still, taking cae of health issues and recuperating. But we haven’t been idle!

I have finished my children’s book Sherwin ~ A Snail’s Tale!

This little 6″ x 9″ softcover 26 page book is a must for anyone traveling with children and is an easy read. Add it to your library for those rainy weather days.

Sherwin is a snail who lives by a pond. A Snail’s Tale follows him on his first adventure away from home. This is a sweet story to read to children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and will be enjoyable for young readers as well.. Eighteen full color illustrations filled with whimsical forest scenes show Sherwin meeting other small animals who help him find his way.

Sherwin ~ A Snail’s Tale is now available for purchase directly from the publisher!
Copy & paste this link into your browser:
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Patio Touchups

November 8, 2017

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Being parked “permanently” means giving a little more attention to the outdoor space. Heart surgery got in the way of doing much around the place for the summer, so we decided to at least dress things up a bit before winter gets here.

The impetus for doing this the other day was a chance encounter with a neighbor we hadn’t met. I pass her site on my walks and always admire the collection of succulents and other plants she grows under her fifth wheel overhang. She was outside that day and I commented that I’d sure like a couple of cuttings. Before I knew it, she was picking out plants to send home with me. She said she grows them to give away.

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One of our acquisitions was this collection of succulents that Nell repotted into a low clay bowl that we had sitting empty. The big green things are pieces of Irish Spring soap. Our next door neighbor puts this in her planting beds and it’s supposed to keep rabbits and other mammals from feasting on our plants.

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To go with our new acquisitions, we picked up a little bit of sedum and some pansies at Loew’s.  As these grow, we’ll move them into bigger pots for larger spots of color.

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There are still a couple of things we want to do, but at the moment, it’s cold and rainy, so they will have to wait. The idea of investing in a gazebo-style garden tent is back in the conversation. The umbrella is a nice touch, but on windy days it waves around like a sail. We’ll see once winter is past.

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For now, we’ll settle for color. And on a dreary day like today, a little color goes a long way.

Painting in an RV

October 24, 2017

ralph painting

I know of a couple of artists who have converted an RV into a mobile studio, but they appear to be strictly for travel and/or short-term use. The problem with being an artist who actually lives in his RV with his spouse is that one can’t always be set up and ready to paint. I take up a lot of storage space with art supplies, paper, sketchbooks, etc. and now I’m adding stretched canvas to the collection. The only way I can get away with this is that I have a very understanding wife. We met and married as mature adults and she accepted the fact that I was an artist, with all that goes along with that. In fact, if you’ve followed us for a while, you know she has even been a participant in the artist life.

So I try to be considerate. I put the easel away when I’m not painting. The good news (for me, at least) is that I’ve been painting a lot lately.

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This is the first batch of 16×20 acrylic paintings on canvas done since my heart surgery. I’m enjoying it immensely and hope to get a couple of paintings into the gallery before long.