In a world of high-end hotels, resorts, casinos, and retreat centers, there also exists RVing, teardrop adventures and tent camping.
When choosing a place to stay, you can do all the research you want, but there’s nothing like seeing where you will sleep at night in person. As a precaution, we reserved our time in the Redwoods back in February, but because we didn’t want to confine ourselves by planning every minute, we kept a lot of options open. That left us with a lot of state campgrounds because they tend to have better availability, especially on weekends. Our preference: privacy but not completely shaded, electric and water where possible, quiet, good showers and clean bathrooms. Is that too much to ask?
Looking back at when we left Kansas in April, we didn’t even know where we were going to sleep that night. We just started driving. We were more concerned about what it would be like to pull Flo and how we would deal with some of the things that were left unfinished. We ended up an an RV resort which was so early in the season that felt like an abandoned RV village. Since then we have had a few experiences of camping alongside of RVs at KOAs and last-minute stops because we needed to rest. While it is nice to have all of the amenities of an RV park, it’s still so very foreign to me to see a bunch of boxes parked 6 feet from one another in the hot sun. I can’t figure out where the fun is in that. Then, on the nights that it’s cold and rainy in the forest, I really want and need hot water to make tea or for a warm water bottle. Because without electricity, we can’t use our hot pot or small heater. And our only advantage over tent camping in the rain is that we aren’t sleeping on the ground and don’t feel the wind or get wet. We do sacrifice our canopy so we don’t have to listen to the sound of raindrops on Flo’s metal shell.
After 19 straight days of camping we finally got camper’s fatigue. Our backs hurt, we had been overexposed to cold and rain then immediately to deadly heat. Flo is insulated but she’s also metal so that means we are hot potatoes in the sun. So to escape we found a nice cool diner for breakfast instead of making breakfast at camp, visited a farmer’s market and winery in the shade, tasted a lot of beer and wine at the Homebrewers festival in Lakeport, CA, and caught a movie (Wonder Woman) which is the ultimate in escape from the sun: a dark, cold room where you can take a nap if you want to. When I ordered peanut butter M&Ms and the cashier asked if I wanted them frozen, I was in shock. Part of me wanted to jump over the counter and kiss her, the other half wanted to faint.
Leaving the mountains for the Hilton
Then it was time to continue to head south to Santa Clara, CA to teach my lettering workshop. All of the supplies have been delivered and everything was ready to go. After talking with friends and reading a lot on the internet about traffic near San Francisco, I was afraid to pull Flo in heavy traffic areas through Silicon Valley. We opted for Hwy 1. While it was wonderful to see the coast, it probably took 5 hours longer than necessary since it was Father’s Day and everyone was on the beach. The highlight was pulling off at Half Moon Bay for a snack of smoked salmon belly we picked up at the market. That had to be the single-most delicious thing I have eaten on this whole trip.
And the final destination that day: The Hilton. It will be our first nice hotel since starting this adventure and given everything we had been through the last two weeks, it was justified. I cranked the AC and took a shower and another and still didn’t feel fully out of the woods yet. And with a king-size bed, we finally got an incredible night’s sleep.
Arriving at Dana’s was an oasis. We beat the heat and were immediately greeted by Josie and Mysti, our new-found canine friends. I spent the day making final preparations for the class as Ray relaxed from the long drives we had been making and researched what he would see in San Jose while I was teaching.
Thanks to Dana and Kylah’s efforts to get the class filled and having an extra hand, Serafina joined us in getting the classroom set up.
I was in heaven. Although I didn’t get to make a lot of letters, I did get to spend time with some of the best visual practitioners in the business. At least half of the class was made up of seasoned professionals—who claimed they learned a lot which blows me away. Several of these people have been my graphic recording heroes and here they were with an abundance of Neuland swag in front of them, waiting for me to show them lettering tricks.
In a short time, I had made a new friend in Dana. She shared her future vision which makes me excited about out field. We as a collective have so much wisdom and talent to help the world. I believe if we channel that energy to the things we really need as a species, we can ultimately sustain and thrive.
It was hard to leave Dana’s house but it was time to move on. As soon as I packed up the leftover swag, I immediately started thinking about my next big event: LetterWorks 2017. I have been thinking and dreaming about this annual international conference since last year’s conference. Learning folded pen and Neuland Hand from Carol DuBosch not only improved my lettering, but changed the trajectory of my career and life. It set the stage for my journey in lettering and revisiting the conference will serve as a reminder and set the tone for the next chapter.
Crossing the Desert
The time and distance covered between the workshop and the conference is the most compressed we have experienced. So while the drive across the Nevada desert was long, it didn’t take long. We made it to Reno the day after the workshop where I began to look like a girl again with a pedicure and a facial. Finally! My skin was thanking me!
And because of the heat we stayed at casinos. I learned that I am really good at playing Keno. Not because I’m good with numbers, figuring out how to play took me about 45 minutes. I simply draw pictures on the Keno card and start betting. I won $18.75. I know, no biggie but at least I didn’t lose!
I dug my toes in the salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I swear I could taste salt for the rest of the day. You can watch my silly Periscope here.
Then finally miles matched up with time and we arrived in Ogden, UT for the LetterWorks conference. Here I will study with Carol DuBosch to learn “Bone,” a broad-edge hand and with Amity Parks to make art Fearlessly. I have always wanted to take a class from Amity as I love her approach and style in graphite. I need to try to find a way to take her graphite class. She was offering it, there were just too many good choices for the first half of the week.
Since last year was my first year at conference, I wanted to meet those who would be visiting the conference for the first time this year. So I volunteered to graphic record the Newbie meeting. And because Carol is in my Top 10 all-time favorite people list, when I was asked to be her class monitor, I quickly said yes. So while I couldn’t make it to the IFVP conference, I did find a tribe I can relate to.
After posting this chart on Instagram, I realized that it was the first of my graphic recordings that I have posted online in two years! All of my work has been proprietary so I couldn’t share it. Crazy! And drawing this up was not easy. First, I haven’t had a flat surface/wall to work on this for over a month and it was due the next day. Second, the content has changed so not sure how relevant it is. And lastly, the worst possible scenario: I realized that I am NOT a calligrapher but a hack with a marker. What business do I have writing letters in front of everyone?
What I did discover is that in just a few hours, I can pull together relevant information and inspiration and deliver a wonderful ice breaker. Upon arriving to the room, participants were asked to create an “avatar” of themselves on a large post-it note. Then I separated the room into 4 areas based on the time they had been practicing calligraphy. To my surprise, we had to create a 5th region for calligraphers with over 20 years of experience! And I asked them to stand next to me in hope that I could learn my osmosis.
I asked those new to the field to look to those with experience and tap into their wisdom. I also read a quote that I overheard while having lunch with Carol Palleson and Annie Cicale. Carol said, “Remember when we took Hermann Zapf’s class at RIT in 1986?” I just about fell out of my chair when I heard that. So I shared it with the group and reminded them of the wisdom we have in this conference. Then I asked the more experienced calligraphers to look to those new to the field and reminded them that this is the next generation and they need them to carry on their story. It was really sweet how this community comes together and shares a passion for letters.