The headwaters of the Arkansas River are in Salida, Colorado. We were here in 2017 as part of our big trip across the country and it was my most favorite stops—perhaps because the temperature was just right and we were right on the river. Or it was our last stop before coming back to civilization. We were right on the river this time too but down river about 10 miles at the Rincon campground.
Downtown Salida hasn’t lost much of its charm since the pandemic. Less people but many of the businesses are still open and the people are beautiful Colorado people. We came into town just long enough to get some ice, Ray’s fishing license, and some ice cream.
Back at camp, Ray tests the waters right next to our spot. I took all these photos from my hammock. No, he’s not trying to shoot a fish, he’s lining up the guides on his rod before he rigs up his line. Here he is after a long day of fishing.
While the Fall Equinox is starting to show the change in colors in Southwest Colorado, where we were in Central Colorado were mainly evergreens and red rock.
I love the sound of the river but not the traffic. I would recommend hanging out here during the day but then finding someplace quiet to sleep. Right next to the highway in a valley makes a Moped sound like a Harley.
Between naps, I pulled out my Joan of Art watercolors. I’m thinking about how much our work as visual practitioners has changed during the pandemic. Beyond just going digital or finding ways to use analog tools in a digital world, I’m considering what the long-term effects are of the value we bring if we don’t start demonstrating and describing it to our clients. I’ll be offering a free session as Saturn stations direct on September 29. A nice reprieve from all of the exhausting the chaos we have been experiencing. I want to shine a little hope in the direction we are about to go.
We are suckers for tacos. Okay, I am. Ray likes burritos. We stopped at Ofelia’s in Del Norte because Ray’s niece Ophelia is named after her great, great grandma. We’ve always wondered what they served there and they did NOT disappoint!
Next stop on our trip with Flo: the Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Colorado in October.
Writing from 8,200 feet/2,500 meters is what I’m talking about.
Ray asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said I want to be nestled in the woods where it’s cool. We set off for the mountains on Friday morning and had four campgrounds in mind. Why? Because all of the campgrounds in our area—which also happen to be on the San Juan Skyway—were reserved except the first-come, first serve spots. We were about to embark on an adventure. First stop: Matterhorn just south of Telluride, full. Then we came across Sunshine campground, which was new to us and was a beautiful place, full. But they had a sign that said we might be able to stay at Lizard Head Pass—where we have stayed before—or Woods Lake. The sign said the turnoff to Woods Lake was 14 miles ahead. What the sign didn’t say was the actual campground was another 8 miles on an unpaved road with switchbacks after the turn off the highway. The gas station we passed along the way was $2.79 a gallon. In hindsight, we should have stopped. Once we turned onto Full Creek Road, we lost cell service and we didn’t know how far away the campground was and if there were even any campsites available.
After two loops around the campground, we finally got our site. We jacked Flo to what seemed to be level. Note to self: bring a level next time.
Nestled in the Aspen, I got settled in my hammock right after we arrived. The high-mountain air has a haze because of the fires in Grand Junction. But other than that, the weather is beautiful—under 80F/26C degrees, just how I like it.
We moseyed over to the campground where they allowed horses. It was a beautiful site. It appears to be set up as a hunt camp too. A couple of dogs followed us for a bit. Not that it’s really of importance except that the next morning the dogs decided to visit our camp and everyone else’s. After the lady in the campsite across from us made a ruckus, I went and got them and took them back to their site since I knew where they belonged.
My birthday was just as I had hoped for. We started the day with a hike around the west side of the lake where we enjoyed walking through the woods and admired the Aspen, Spruce and Balsam Fir.
Then it was back to camp for a little R&R in our hammocks. I got Ray set up in his and hopefully got him hooked.
Then after dinner, we took another hike on the east side of the lake and found the outlet. The lake featured Colorado Cutthroat Trout.
After an early morning rise, we made our way to Gawkie’s for our weekly breakfast ritual. Then napped the afternoon away. That time between nap and bedtime was spent researching more campsites in Colorado through the fall. We hope to be writing again next month from the road.
Each trip with Flo has been unique, but I don’t think anything compares to these circumstances: traveling alone, across two states, during COVID, to care for my mother. Before COVID, I knew exactly what I was capable of. Because of the level of ambiguity we live in, lately I have found myself questioning my abilities.
As an adult, I have worked very consciously to live with faith in myself, not in fear. This trip really knocked me off my game. I heard the term Pre-TSD today while listening to the audiobook, “From What Is to What If” by Rob Hopkins. The term he described aligned with how going into this felt to me. Now that I’m just a few hours away from home and lying in Flo watching movies, my decompression is well underway. And I wish I had to do it all over again. I would have done it with less fear and more grace.
Part of taking care of my mom is getting up before dawn to water her gardens. She’s a master gardener and has plants and new trees throughout the property. It’s cooler in the morning and I love seeing what she has planted and her vision of an environment she enjoys being in. She finds peace there. And watering her gardens for her gave me peace too. I wish I would have taken photos. They really are beautiful. But watering itself takes about 2 hours and I have the heat to contend with and the help of two little ones too.
My mom is quite a trooper. Her natural ability as a healer has served her well. She was motivated to get back to work on projects she loves. In the meantime, between exercising and all the other things that go into her care, we spent time with my 9-year old niece and 7-year old nephew. You may have seen our live Facebook videos. We had a great time mixing Neuland inks and writing like Architects.
Project #1 was getting Heidi’s book published. The process started weeks ago when she wrote the book and presented it via Google slides to her family. They all agreed that she should publish the book. I had Heidi fill out this worksheet so we could talk about it when I got there.
Heidi says the book was intended for kindergardeners and was inspired by her brother, Gunner. He runs really fast. It’s short, funny, and has great a moral to the story. She wants people to buy it and listen/read it with their kids and grandkids. It will provoke lively discussion and there are some ways to interact with the book too.
After reading her work, we created a board outlining all the major tasks using a Neuland TopChart and Estatics. We determined we would create a self-published limited edition print version AND both an audiobook and eBook. The audiobook and eBook are bundled and available on GumRoad for $5 here. It’s a great way to support her creative efforts and the production costs for Heidi’s next book. Thanks for checking it out!
Each night, my dad liked to watch Gunsmoke. So on my way home, I decided to drive through Dodge City, Kansas and check out the sculptures. While I know that the show wasn’t filmed there, it was fun to make a quick pit stop and take in some history.
So overall, the trip was a success. I got to spend time with my mom and the kids. And Flo was right there when it was time to go. Despite the 3 hours of rain we drove through, she was dry when we stopped in Alamosa, Colorado for the night.
With every adventure I have in Flo, I learn more about myself and those around me. You become acutely aware of your thoughts, surroundings and people when traveling. Now that I know what I am capable of, the next adventure back to my hometown will be easier—I hope.
And now it’s time to plan the next adventure with Flo. There is just something magical when lying in her, surrounded by the beautiful Birch, a good book or sketchbook, and my thoughts.
From Southwest Colorado to Northeast Kansas, one experiences the first few lines from the song, America the Beautiful.
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
The first night in Flo was in WaKeeney, Kansas—hot but luckily Kansas offered a breeze, albeit 90F/32C. Laying in her even as the sun was down felt like lying in an oven—basting as the sweat rolls down the body with no physical effort.
For those who know me well, I don’t do heat. I rarely leave the house if it’s over 80F/26C—my melting temperature. You may think I’m kidding, but I’ve skipped important conferences, camping trips, and invitations to travel due to this strong preference. Before leaving for Kansas, I haven’t left the house in the middle of the day for over a month.
When the rising sun peered through the open window and warmed up the inside of Flo, I swiftly made my way back onto the road.
Driving the backroads from I-70 through Perry, McLouth, And Oskaloosa, I drive by high school friends’ houses and wondered where they were and what they were up to today. Many of the roads now paved, were once gravel. I flew through the scene of where I wrecked my first car. And I shut off the GPS once things were familiar. I have traveled the road leading to my parents house thousands of times, but it has been over a decade since I’ve been back during the summer. The amount of green reminded me of the south—lush and overgrown.
My life in Colorado is simple: no pets, no kids, no lawn, one plant. The retired life my mother lives is simple too—made interesting by grandkids, gardening and her wild imagination for travel and memories of life on the road. We can talk endlessly about where we have been and where we want to go next.
Her surgery is today. She’s under now as I write this. With the new COVID rules complicating all protocols, we await her arrival back home.
Homecoming’s are momentous occasions with much excitement and anticipation. Also, travel can be highly stressful during a Pandemic.
Like most little kids, in the 3rd grade I would draw pictures of mountains with trees, flowers and birds. Sporting my rainbow Mork suspenders (from the 1978 hit TV show Mork and Mindy) and blue Nike tennis shoes, I drew a little Jeep way in the background climbing a snow-capped mountain in the clouds. Little did I know that I was manifesting my future of living in the mountains of Colorado and driving a Jeep (sans suspenders).
As a visual practitioner, I continue to draw out my future in a map-like fashion and help others do the same. Over the past few weeks I have been doing the work. It’s emotional, taxing and quite unknown. My plan A to Z seems to be working albeit a bit shaky at times. I rest in knowing that’s the reality for many/all of us. Although I wish it weren’t the case.
It’s a 900-mile trip (one way) and will take me two days to get there pulling Flo. I have a campsite reserved with a few backups depending on how far I get and what I encounter.
Prepping for this trip back to my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas to take care of my mom is complicated by the pandemic. Had our leadership been more vigilant about containing the virus, my trip would be much safer by now. Instead I’m reading the COVID reports and I’m going to a place where there are 5x the number of cases. Unfortunately this little first aid kit won’t help much. I’m taking all the necessary precautions with masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. to minimise my exposure. And packing a lot of food, water and pulling Flo so I don’t have to rent a hotel.
So as I drive away from the crisp mountain air and through the plains of Western Kansas, the little girl inside me squirms with anticipation—Artemis in me reassures her safety.
And as always, being on the road with Flo is an adventure.
For the first 3 hours of the trip, it was just me and Flo. I didn’t know if I could hook her up and drive her over two mountain passes by myself, but I did!
Until we got to campsite #4. I knew as soon as I drove in, I was going in at the wrong angle. It took me over 20 minutes of trying to park her in just the right spot. I finally gave up, drove out and turned it around going in the right direction and backed right in. Phew!
I then took off to pick up Ray to attend a work function for his new job. Then we were back at camp just after dark.
Ray got a view of the picnic table, sorry Ray! One of my favorite parts of sleeping in Flo is waking up to the first light when I crack open the door. Until then, she is pretty much lightproof.
We called this our “inventory trip.” We wanted to see if we brought everything and what we needed to bring next time. Nope. No firewood, no pans. So it was off to Silverton to have breakfast and get a few things at the store. We didn’t buy a pan because everything I was planning to make after this meal would be in foil and the pie iron. But we did purchase some stakes for the pop up tent and we are so glad we did! It got windy!
And after having to move camp TWICE, with 360 degree views, we got the best spot on the lake!
I was inspired by my colleague, Joleyne Mayers-Jaekel who went camping the week prior with an easel and flipchart paper and wrote out her menu with Art markers on paper. I had the challenge of working both sides of the marker (it’s a twin nib) and “Wacky Western” a lettering style from my new book, “Lettering Journey.” I took photos of the final piece, but later had to crumple it up to help build the fire.
And it doesn’t take much anymore to pack up camp and be on our way. What seemed to be monumental before just takes under an hour to break camp and get everything sorted to get back on the road.
After nearly two years since we left Flo in Kansas and landed back in Durango, Flo has made her way back to Colorado. I know my mom has had fun with her—hanging with her Sisters on the Fly and traveling to music festivals throughout the Midwest.
Within hours of Flo arriving in Durango, we had her registered and tagged as an official resident of La Plata County. And this past weekend we took her back out on the road. A 400 mile round-trip adventure to Palisade, Colorado for the Lavender Festival. We pulled into camp after dark with no prep, but the muscle memory kicked in right away and we were unhooked and ready to sleep at the James M. Robb River State Park in no time. The campground itself was quiet. The nearby highway and 3am train, not so much. But the first night was cool and I fell asleep and woke up with a smile on my face.
The Lavender Festival was wonderful. I highly recommend it and we plan to go again. I learned so much! After attending the workshop, “Using herbs, hydrosols and essential oils” with Dr. Cindy Jones of Colorado Aromatics, I was full of questions to ask the owners of the lavender farms we visited. Dave and Freda of Two Bears Farm and More were wonderful hosts during our visit to their lavender farm and art gallery. Dave and Ray chatted about mutual friends and acquaintances as I learned how some lavender like Imperial Grand smells sweet and flowery while others have a more camphor or medicine scent. Palisade experienced a lot of snowfall and rain this year so the fields were plush with purple and green.
In the afternoon, we escaped the heat by attending a Reflexology workshop with Susan Smith. She shared two kinds of hydrosol that we used to prep our hands and feet to give one another treatments and two kinds of CBD salves: lavender and mint for us to use as we learned how to use our fingers to massage one another’s feet. She was so generous and kind. Between Ray’s moaning and me falling asleep in my chair, I would say it was a good investment of time and effort.
As we were picking lavender among the bees, our guide Brian asked where we were headed next and recommended that we take a different way home over Grand Mesa. We are so glad we did! After two days in the hot sun, it was a welcome relief to drive through the mountains that still had a lot of snow on the ground. We gathered as much information as we could so we would have a nice, cool place to stay when we return next season.
It took longer than expected to get home, but it was well worth the drive and it gave me time to research and dream of our next adventure together.
We did take in a little water from her inside door seam, but not much. And we have a tail light to fix. All in all, a great first trip in Colorado. Now that the summer sun is beating down harder than ever, I will be in search of higher altitudes and cooler temps. I’m hoping to get a few more weekends in the mountains with Flo this month. If not, I may just have to sleep in her, parked in the garage.
The big question we had when we left DC back in March was where we would ultimately land. Funny thing is we had so much planned between then and now: two, month-long artist residencies and one picked up along the way, lettering workshops to teach, family to visit and not to mention the 3-month adventure we had with Flo, that we hadn’t really thought about where we would land much. In fact, we got asked this question more often from others than we asked ourselves. I guess it was intuitive where we landed that we really didn’t have to think about it.
Southwest Colorado is where our hearts and lives belong. We’ve been here one month now spending time with our Colorado family and friends. Here are a few of the highlights.
The moment we landed we started housesitting in Durango. It was nice to be there and have a little room to settle in by the river during the holiday weekend. It was like we hadn’t really stopped traveling yet. With housesitting gigs lined up through spring. I guess you could say we are still nomads.
Hanging out at the Mancos Grange has been a nice extension of our experience at the Old Trading Post in Paonia. The people growing, preparing, and gathering in celebration of food and our friends from Feins, have a deep connection with each other and the land. It was heartwarming to have one of our homecoming dinners here and to meet a demographic of Mancos we hadn’t known even when we lived here before. They offer a community dinner every second Sunday. The food is so good. And to quote Michelle Mercer from our residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, “The food is so packed with nutrition, I feel like Popeye after just one meal.”
Like being asked to paint signs (among other local requests), it took about a minute from the time we landed to find a studio space to settle into. As the town was all a hustle for Labor Day weekend, we quietly snuck into our new shared space (with my good friend and photographer, Kyla) and carved out a spot on the wall for me to start working. Ray and I refinished a small table that will become the base for many of my upcoming online lettering classes and with the help of my good friend Miki and Kyla’s dad, we now have a gorgeous 4′ x 8′ birch plywood wall that will become the backdrop to my online class offerings. Having the space allowed me to lay out my full online lettering curriculum, and list the printed books and other products I want to create in 2018.
We heard of Rosa Sabido’s story when we were on the road, but when we arrived to town, the postcards and t-shirts announcing her plight made it more real. Attending a vigil recognizing her 100 days in captivity was a beautiful experience for the town, her family and by the look on her face and the sharing of her poem it was for her too. You can read more about Rosa here.
Between helping Peggy with Willowtail Springs and designing an Appreciative Inquiry summit for November, answering the call to paint poems and excerpts from residents for their upcoming Reveries show at the Durango Arts Center, and moving into the new studio, I’m still able to make all of my 1:1 lettering coaching calls and virtual lettering classes. Life can get crazy sometimes, but there is always time for letters!
So here we are all safe and sound staying with Gawkie in Ray’s childhood home until we start housesitting again. As we transition from summer to fall days are full with peeling roasted chilis, chopping and stacking firewood, spending time with nephews, and eating tortillas, sopapillas, beans and green chili. Okay, that last part is year-round. We are just so happy to have full bellies and warm hearts.
After traveling over 13,000 miles we are happy to report that the only car trouble that we had was a burned out taillight and a bad gas cap. We were never robbed, nothing got stolen, neither of us got hurt or had to go to the hospital. I think we may have caught a cold but that’s it.
We may post again sharing our favorite places we visited and additional stories we may have forgotten to tell. One thing is for sure. We may be home again, but we are different having made this journey. We discovered that America was already great, people were kind nearly every where we went, and there is much to see and enjoy in this great country of ours.
Thank you for following our journey, for sharing your favorite stops along our route, and for the warm homecoming when we arrived back in Southwest Colorado.
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This last week was Flow in the making. From the moment I returned back from Cupertino until the moment we opened the doors to our Open Studio, I was working in the Flow state building a bridge from my commercial work to my fine art.
Pulling from my sketchbook, recent learnings from Carol DuBosch and Amity Parks, and completely new concepts only found in a space like Elsewhere Studios, I was an art-making machine! Over 30 pieces produced in less than 2 weeks time and exhibited in the main studio felt so good.
Ray had a wonderful showing of the portraits he took of locals. Upon entering the room, guests were impacted by either the projection of larger-than-life images on the wall or this fantastic child-specimen, Max, surrounded by black and white images.
It may seem surprising given Ray’s introverted nature, but he really has a way with people and capturing their essence. We often talk about his unique approach. He’s not the paparazzi type so while sometimes he misses snapping the shutter, he doesn’t miss anything in his observations. He takes the time to get to know people before asking to take their picture. And according to one of his new friends, “He asked me in a way that I couldn’t say no.” This was just after the man’s girlfriend asked how he let him take his picture. She stated, “he doesn’t let anyone take his picture!”
If you know me or my work, you know that I practice Panarchy in my personal and professional life. I’ve added a few new elements to the model including Integrate and a Release loop. These were always there, just not illustrated. The gouache-loaded brush simply inspired them to appear. This is by far my favorite piece in the show.
The works will stay up in the main gallery until Tuesday. We have a school group coming through and more works to create before leaving Paonia and heading back to Southwest Colorado.
Heather and I began our journey knowing that we needed to do something other than going directly back to southern Colorado. We love Colorado but knew a transition of some kind was needed. That is how we ended up at Arts, Letters and Numbers, (ALN) in upstate New York. A one month stay making art, surrounded by amazing people, at an artist in residency seemed to be an excellent way to transition away from Washington, DC. It turned out to be the perfect beginning to an amazing journey.
So here we are almost six months later as we begin to transition from being on the road back to southwest Colorado. Our intentions are to continue living the same purposeful life we lived during our travels as we continue forward. Looking back on our experiences we decided an artist residency to end our travels made perfect sense. Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO has again given us the opportunity to make art in an amazing space surrounded by great people.
But much like ALN the best part of Elsewhere Studios is the sense of community shared in Paonia. When meeting locals in town one mention of Elsewhere and you become one of them. Everyone invites you to events happening around town and are willing to help out any way they can. Many of the residency alumni have relocated to Paonia to become part of the community. One of the funniest traditions in Paonia is the “gifting” of zucchini squash. Since everyone has a garden and the fertile land of the valley all but guarantees a bumper crop each year of zucchini they are in abundance. So in an effort to pass them on to neighbors zucchini are left on the front seats of any vehicle in town found with the door unlocked. We have been very diligent in keeping our doors locked.
We have been to concerts, rodeos, community dinners and barbecues and each time we go, we meet someone we have met previously. One of my favorite places to visit is the Old River Road Trading Post. This place is a combination fresh produce market, restaurant and community meeting place. As Heather mentioned in an earlier post these are the people behind the Farm to Table movement in Paonia. Every Sunday an amazing meal made from locally grown foods is prepared for a community lunch. Anyone and everyone is invited to enjoy the food and the company of neighbors and travelers. The meal is served buffet style with salad made from vegetables grown in gardens and farms throughout the valley. Amazing desserts made from fruit of the many orchards are usually the big hit of the day, peach cobbler and apple crisp being on the top of the list. The meal is always contribute what you can and draws a diverse mix of diners.
At first glance Paonia seems like a sleepy little town with a valley full of farms and orchards. But it is a town that is rich in arts and culture boasting free concerts in the park with world class musicians, galleries, a clay studio, and artists of many genres creating work throughout the valley. It is also a town reliant on the past and looking to the future.
At one time Paonia was a coal town with several large coal mines operating in the North Fork Valley. Today only one mine remains operational with fears and rumors of its closing. Mine closings have had a great economic impact on businesses in the valley. Along with jobs many natives to the area fear losing it heritage as well. The town is also home to one the largest educational organizations dedicated to renewable energy sources. Emphasizing solar energy methods the organization is dedicated to training individuals in renewable energy sources.
The memories created in Paonia will always be a part of our amazing journey. We look forward to our remaining time at Elsewhere Studios as the perfect way to transition from our travels.