My maiden van adventure has been spotted with adversities, which I suppose is common when your working out something new. I’ve learned a few handy things: *Heat circulation in the “garage” area is necessary as to not freeze the pipes. *Using the handy restroom while the van is in motion is a risky idea. *Locking the van from the outside with someone moving around on the inside will set off the alarm. *Sprinter vans have TWO batteries, and the obvious one under the hood is NOT the one that starts the engine. *And finally, icy steps with arms full of cargo are NOT a good combo.
We would set off, leaving wintry Lambertville, NJ headed to an even more wintry Idaho, via storm filled freezing Iowa. It would be a family affair. Our children, 19 and 22, were headed out west and the plan was to travel in tandem together, dropping our son Liam at a NOLS course (90 days in the wilderness), and helping our daughter Aidan relocate to Teton Valley, Idaho. My husband Tom would join me in the van for the first leg to Iowa to be sure all the new van tricks were in working order. The kids and I would caravan to Idaho. I would go on my merry painting way from there. That was the plan.
My husband is the son of gypsy girl, creative and always on the move. Widowed far to young with 4 babies. His father left behind a huge swath of relatives in Iowa that Tom has not seen in 35 years, and the kids have never met – grandpa’s family. Aidan called the closest connection Tom had and they arranged a visit, which was nothing less than heartwarming and wonderful. Cousins from far and wide came out to welcome and meet the long gone offspring of the legendary boxer/badass/charmer, Pat Sullivan. The kids heard stories of their grandfather, “he had two strong assets – his looks and his muscles, and he wasn’t afraid to use either of them,” got a treasure chest of old photos, and were given his military funeral flag. It was meaningful, and it filled them with a sense of belonging to a place they had never been. Delayed by final work on the van, Tom and I arrived in Iowa two days later. Enough time to hug lots of relatives, travel treacherous white out roads, and freeze my pipes. We have an open invitation to return and I look forward to painting the rolling hills and rich farmland of Iowa when the grass is green, the apples are ripe, and the corn is sweet.
We bought a small electric heater to defrost the pipes, dropped my sweet husband off at the airport, and headed West in attempts to beat the impending blizzard. We escaped most of it, and settled for the night in a Walmart parking lot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My kids are pretty funny when they’re together and I looked forward to an evening of close quarter silliness, laughing at their road weary antics. Instead, Liam was cranky and unable to entertain himself, let alone us. Aidan was frustrated by his irritability and working hard to smooth it over, and I was feeling like the warm lovely zen nature of my super cool camper had been completely sucked dry. The heater did it’s job on the pipes but continually drained the battery, forcing me to get up every few hours – step over the sleeping kids and dog – turn the van on, recharge, go back to sleep – repeat. Morning came, we made great van coffee, filled the tank, checked the batteries, and headed north.
There were severe wind warnings all the way across Southern Wy. Gusts blew so hard the roadways were covered and the center line was hard to make out. We eventually reached Hoback Junction where the wind died down and the mountains shot up. Truly one of the prettiest landscapes I’ve ever driven through. I took a deep breath, turned up my stereo, and sung my day through the winding mountains all the way up to Jackson Hole – where the pass was closed due to an avalanche and we were forced to spend the night – repeating the same process as the prior evening. The icy morning brought good van coffee, battery check, tire pressure warnings, and the long trek south over Pine Creek Pass into beautiful Teton Valley, Idaho. Ahh….. deep sigh of relief, great night with family, quiet warm nights sleep in the van safely parked and plugged into power. No midnight battery checks, no ornery kids, no road worry.
Morning brought good van coffee and 6 more inches of snow. I was relaxed and happy. I turned the key. Nothing. Again. Nothing. What the hell? We pulled out the cables. Nothing. Called roadside assistance. Nothing. Called for a tow. Sorry Ma’am, the 3 roads in and out of the valley are closed. They stayed that way for days. When the weather cleared and the roads opened I felt free. Wahoo, up and running again! Yippee. Later that day I wiped out on the icy front steps and landed myself in the emergency room. The bruise that I lovingly refer to as my Teton Valley Tattoo starts at my spine and wraps it’s way around the backside of my hip. It’s at least 5 inches wide and somehow radiates grueling pain down my right hip and thigh. I’ve become reacquainted with my Physical Therapist from years ago and he says I should be able to drive out of the valley in a few weeks – assuming I don’t get snowed in again.
Am I painting? Not so much yet, but my van is full of supplies. Before my fall, I did spend one lovely afternoon with my old friend and neighbor Scott Christensen. We looked at hundreds of paintings and talked about lost edges and suggestive strokes. He listened to me prattle on about getting rejected from the OPA show, and reminded me of all the good reasons that I shouldn’t care. We painted for a little while and I let all of my worries of the road flow out into this little piece. Lots of lost edges and suggestive strokes – yet left unfinished.
Now on my fourth day of Prednizone, I can see the light at the end of this pain tunnel. I’m headed to the bay area to spend a few days with my sister. Then traveling to see a few fun artist friends as I head back to the east coast, stopping in LA, – Sedona, Arizona, Taos, New Mexico, Hot Spring National Park in Arkansas, and Lexington Kentucky – painting, reading, writing, and hopefully laughing about all of this along the way. As my family and friends have requested, and my body allows, I will surely keep this blog filled with short stories and paintings from the road. Maybe a few poems too. Thanks for wandering along this colorful path with me. Kelly