To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Big Surprise!

Hold onto your hat! 
I promised in the last blog that I had a "new exciting (and ongoing!) adventure" coming up.  Now it has "come up" and is definitely "ongoing," and I am finding it absorbing, sometimes scary, eye-opening, work-intensive, and very satisfying.  And that's why this blog is so long in coming.

I hereby introduce (TADA!) Mouse, my 22' new-to-me but middle-aged 1985 Toyota Mini-Motorhome! Here she is in my yard, undergoing some serious loving care ~ cleaning, mending, upgrading, repairing....everything you can imagine from re-upholstering the couch to replacing the propane stove, removing the CB radio, re-laying the floor, rescreening the inner door, redoing the curtains, repairing the outer door....actually, I looked up some synonyms for the word replace and I'll let you take your pick.
The new addition to my sketching adventure

alter, change, displace, fill in, mend, oust, patch, put back, reconstitute, recover, redress, reestablish, regain, reinstate, restore, retrieve, shift, sit in, stand in, substitute, succeed, supplant, supply, swap places, take out, take over....etc.   

You get the idea. 
I bought Mouse on the 1st of March from an ad on Craig's List for $3000, and now that I've put a buncha $$ into the engine, shocks, etc., and  another stack of bills into the upholstering, curtains, knobs, floor, door repair, stove, vent covers, and all the rest of the little things you need to furbish and refurbish a little travel home, she is starting to be in decent condition (I'm still not done, but she's usable ~ and my pockets are pretty flat!).

Why, you ask, did I take on this humongous project?  Because this is My New Traveling Sketching Studio.  My plan is to take Mouse out adventuring with my sketchbook for a week at a time (that's all Jesse-cat can comfortably handle all alone at home without a house-sitter) and make sketchbooks like these.  

Good new floor
Bad old floor
 I just returned last week from my Maiden Voyage in Mouse (she's seen many such voyages with previous owners, but it was a first for me), a 1084 mile trip to Idaho to visit my brother, who helped me figure out and replace the floor, then cover it with vinyl  lino and apply molding. Then he made me a new swing-away desk to work on (see below).  He's a genius. 

The floor replacement was necessary because Mouse received some water damage over previous years. Almost ALL old RVs have water damage, but her particleboard floor had gotten particularly wet, and wet particleboard swells, so the floor had bulges and waves high enough to either trip you or make you seasick. (Well, not quite, but hey....)  So we spent several days cutting, measuring, gluing, nailing (I learned how to use a nailgun), staining molding, etc., and now it is vastly improved. 

My brother has a print shop, and while I was there I had him print up a few copies of my latest sketch journals, the South African Sketching Safari  from last summer and my most recent sketching trip near Tucson, AZ, just last Christmas.  Saguaro Sketch Journal. I won't be selling these as print versions but they're available from my website as downloads if you're interested.

The desk swivels on a metal post.
The desk, swung out of the way.
But back to Mouse, I know that motorhome repair is not quite the subject you expected to see on this blog. I would not have imagined it myself until I got this wild idea and decided to act on it.  Dan'l spotted Mouse online and went with me to check her out. I figured I could fix her up, and amazingly enough, I have gotten her into a livable state.  By the way, I named her Mouse because I intend to be "mousing" around in her, exploring interesting places and things.

My plan for new chair at new desk
Anyway, on my trip to Idaho I went up through the mountains around Crater Lake and across Oregon's High Desert, mostly at 55-65mph, up and down 6% grades ~ that's pretty steep, but we could puff up them at 35mph ~ and we averaged 16.9 mpg during the trip. Wow!

However, I did have two blowouts and subsequent tows to the nearest tire shops. Luckily, both blowouts happened within 15 miles of a tire store, and I have determined that the tires probably popped because they're at least 15-20 years old.   But I was lucky that each blowout was one of two dual tires on each side, so I didn't even feel it (I sure HEARD it though!  BANG!).  

Mouse gets a ride to the tire store.
My insurance covered most of the tow expenses, but I was  lucky the tires didn't blow 100 miles from a tire store, which COULD easily have happened and would have made a serious dent in my joy supply. Central Oregon is wide and sparsely populated, and tire stores are few and far between.

 So.... Is Mousie serving her avowed purpose? Well, judge for yourself.  I camped overnight, both coming and going to Idaho, at Chickahominy Reservoir out in the desert near Burns, Oregon. It was only $4/night with my Golden Age Pass.  Here are some notes out of my journal, and a little sketch I made at my campsite while eating my dinner cooked in Mouse's little kitchen:  
  • "...As I sat, enjoying the desert breeze and watching the stripe-winged night-hawks dip and soar overhead, my eye caught a flicker of movement in the rocks directly in front of me. Out from behind a boulder popped a Long-tailed Weasel (hey, weasels really DO pop!) which skittered, snaky-long, between, around, under and over the rocks, hunting for whatever it is that weasels desire for dinner. One scarcely EVER sees a weasel, and I got to watch it hunting for three or four  minutes before a pair of red-winged blackbirds began diving and harassing it until it flicked off over the edge."

Chickahominy Reservoir in central Oregon
Just offhand, I would say my sketching venture got off to a good start. With all the things I saw (pelicans, killdeers, ducks and grebes, muskrats, chipmunks and ground squirrels night-hawks, cottontails, jackrabbits, (I heard sandhill cranes), and lovely desert wildflowers even in July, I could have stayed a week or more just sketching.  

Not a pretty sight ~ this tear is 5" long.
But everything good must end, and while returning home I experienced my second tire blowout. Now, in a car, this would have been scary. But Mouse has dual tires in the rear ~ two on each side ~ and when one blows the other one takes up the slack and you don't feel a thing.  
Sunset at Chickahominy Reservoir
So I pulled over and called a tow truck using the cellphone Dan'l had loaned me (yes, this Luddite actually used a cell phone, and I guess I'm going to have to get over my prejudice and get my own if I'm going to be out and about on sketching trips. I would have sat waiting a l.o.n.g time for help, twice, without that phone).  

I've learned a lot on this trip, and I am totally enthusiastic about my new wheely-home. Later on I plan to head for either the mountains near Crater Lake or over to the Pacific coast for a week of sketching and journaling. Or maybe just being lazy.  But I need to replace the front tires first. If a front tire blew, it possibly could run me off the road.  I don't need that!
Jesse on Mouse's couch.
P.S.  Jesse has adopted Mouse as his new vacation home (but only when she's in the driveway since he hates moving vehicles). Here he is inspecting his new couch upholstery.
I'd love it if he could come with me, but he's a scaredy-cat and freaks out when he sees scenery galloping past the windows.  Alas....

So, until next time ~ and I'll try to not bore you with RV stories when you're expecting sketch-journaling words.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Bravo!!! You are a girl after my own heart :) I wish you many happy adventures, Irene.

Maria said...

Oh, I am so envious, Irene! What you have just undertaken is so exciting and I have dreamed of doing this for many years. Hurrah for you, and now the sky's the limit on your travel sketching (unless Mouse can fly...)!

Irene Brady said...

Thank you! Yes, this is truly exciting, and I thank you for your good wishes, both of you.
I'm happy enough to stay on the ground with Mouse, though ~ there's certainly enough here to explore.

I just wish I'd done this YEARS ago!

Unknown said...

Excellent idea! You will have so much fun!

Ron Castagnera said...

Wow Renie, You are and awesome, and brave woman to have taken on this project. I admire you greatly ! Now when you get real brave you can bring Mouse down to Belize !! Love you !!

Unknown said...

Exciting! I enjoyed reading every leg of your journey.

Dorothy said...

How fun! I loved reading this, it brought back so many memories of when we had a camper similar to yours when our children were small. You are brave to venture out by yourself without a cell phone. Enjoy your new Mouse!!
Dorothy in PA

Joan said...

OH MY: This has been a Bucket List dream of mine since I started birding in 1997. I'm now 74 and still hoping it will happen.

Hooray for you for getting Mouse up and running except for the tires. And thank goodness it was the rear duals that blew! Those tires wouldn't last 5 yrs where I live in the Mojave high desert. Summer temps of 108+ are common. Tires suffer as do batteries.(Do carry a spare battery with you!)

I enjoyed reading this latest adventure and hope you'll keep us posted about your next outing. The Sky's the limit!

Yes! Do get a cell phone! A woman traveling alone needs one. Check out the pay as you go where you can use without signing a contract, or have you brother add you to his as another line and you can share the cost.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a great adventure...obviously Mouse (with all her travelling experience) was aware of where you can get new tires and waited until you were close enough before blowing!

Irene Brady said...

Yes, Cathy, it seems I'm in good hands with Mouse, given her years of experience. Glad you pointed that out! Joan, thanks for the advice on the phone. I've been researching it for awhile, and I like your idea of asking my brother to put me on his plan.

Ron, I'm going to have to get a bit braver to make it to Belize in Mouse. But that WOULD be the trip of a lifetime, wouldn't it! Or I could load her on a boat in Miami and float down, I reckon.....and then I'd have a place to live! hmmmm........!

Sue W said...

We have a travel trailer and I'm hoping to do the same as you when my husband retires. You're very brave and adventurous for your age. We blew a tire on our 7 yr. old trailer on our last trip. For the future, we now know that trailer tires only last 5-6 yrs. I don't know if it's the same for your RV, but I'm glad to hear you're changing the front tires, too. I will check in from time to time and see how your adventures are going. Have a great time!

Irene Brady said...

Hi Sue, funny thing about the age subject ~ the older I get the more "brave" I seem to get. I was a cautious young thing, but the years have taught me that things we imagine are generally far scarier than the real thing, so I just "go for it" now, and I'm having a blast.

Diane said...

Been missing your blog. Glad my RSS feed popped up with a new entry from you.
I do admire your adventurous spirit and bet after a couple of trips you will be kicking yourself for not doing this years ago.
I wonder if I would be as adventurous if I lived alone. Good luck and I can't wait for new chapters in The Life and Times of Irene Brady!

Irene Brady said...

I'm ALREADY kicking m'self for not doing this earlier! Thanks for your good luckings ~ apparently I can use all that are offered ;^}.

I've found that living alone tends to focus the mind ~ there are far fewer distractions ~ and it is easier to plan and execute things without having to dovetail with others' plans. That's not to say that adventures are impossible when living with someone else, just more complex to arrange.

Nancy Sparks said...

Congratulations- I have done the same Irene - my 24' Born Free named Abby (Abundance of Fun)is ready to go - just the coffee pot left to add and I too find the older I get, the caution is being thrown to the wind. Love your Mouse!

Irene said...

Thanks Nancy! We're obviously kin! Let 'er rip!

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