Sunday, June 29

R&R in Bozeman, MT.

The wonderful thing about children is that they view the world with an unabashed innocence. It's cute between the hours of 7am and 8pm. It's not so cute between the hours of 10pm and 4am. It was during this time slot that our darling little Maisy decided to throw a party in our third resting spot of the trip: Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Having never traveled the North Route myself - Tracy had passed through this way back in the day for a glass workshop in Red Deer, Alberta - I hadn't heard of this park sporting a presidential moniker.

Apparently, Teddy spent some significant time in North Dakota trying his hand at the ranching business before settling down in Washington. The time spent must have been worthwhile since he's famously quoted (in North Dakota anyway) as saying "I never would have become president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."

Another Teddyism:

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."

I like this one. It has a ring of Kurt Vonnegut to it. And perhaps he's right. At the end of the day, Maisy never asked to live in a 13ft trailer for two months. I kept trying to remind myself this as we all grumbled through a sleep deprived evening and following morning. You can see the delight in our eyes as a Bison joined us for breakfast:

Along with the Bison we were able to enjoy some time with a staple of the Great Plains:

The Prairie Dog. What a joke: I'd rather own a standard poodle. At least they can catch a ball. While neither the Bison nor the Prairie Dog are featured in our menagerie, we often try to convince people that our Musk Ox and Meerkat are close enough for their needs. After all, how different can a silhouette of a meerkat and a prairie dog be?

While our first national park of the trip was great, despite the baby-insomnia and hordes of gnats, we had to move on to stay on schedule.

As we were already passing through Miles City, MT., we knew that the Range Rider's Museum was a required stop.

Grandpa Bill had been raving about the eclectic collection at this place for years and it would have been a crime not to drop in. Boy were we glad we did.

Not shown is the equally impressive gun collection. I'm not kidding either , they had rifles from nearly every decade since their invention. And just in case you're worried that the ladies were left out...

Over two hundred hats! Apparently, ladies like hats. But the most interesting collection had to be:

After a brief and uneventful stay-over in Billings, MT (Wendy's was voted the "Best place to get Coffee" in 2003) we made it to our old stomping grounds in Bozeman, MT.

Arriving early in the day for once, we immediately dropped our trailer off at the local KOA and headed up to a favorite swimming hole: Hyalite Reservoir.

The view and weather convinced us to use one of our two "wild card" days and spend an extra day in Bozeman. So today we recharge, soak in some hot springs, and prepare ourselves for the descent south through Idaho, starting tomorrow.

Friday, June 27

Running Out of Gas and Into Trouble At Fort Abraham Lincoln...

The morning started out fine enough. After our great stay at the overpriced Willow River State Park we barreled into North Dakota. For all you keeping track, this was Justin Bull's final state to conquer. I can now cockily report that I have set foot in all fifty states. Perhaps not nearly as impressive as our friend Adam's quest to run a marathon in every state but hey, I thought, "I'm not a masochist."
Ironically, I ended up running a mini-marathon for anyhow.

That tiny dot up ahead is me.

Let it be known that our user manual clearly states that the gas tank retains 2.3 gallons of reserve gas once the fuel warning light goes on. Subuaru, you are on notice.

Despite the bad judgment on fueling stops, we were pleased to discover that Barnesville, ND lived up to it's promise of "Welcoming You".

While we did miss the Potato Days by a few months, the local watering hole was a lovely sight to be seen. On my long walk back from securing a tank of gas the friendly gents at Rick's Towing offered me not only a ride but a cold brew to boot! I opted out of the beer seeing as how we had miles of travel left to do that day.

Having burned an hour over that little fiasco, we began to hunt for an alternative camping spot since our first choice was now out of reach. After numerous fruitless searches we ended up defeated and cranky and crashed at the beautiful "Wagon Wheel Inn" in Valley City, North Dakota. Here's our sadly unused Scamp on day two of the great adventure.

Note the mosquito breeding grounds in the tire pile to the left.

The next morning we started out bright and early, determined to hit Theodore Roosevelt National Park by mid-afternoon but the alluring signs for Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park pulled us into a long pit stop where we, no joke, received a tour of the Slant Indian Village from none other than a man named Dakota.

Apparently the women did all the construction in this tribe. Dakota liked to point that out again and again as he tried to get a chuckle out of the men over the irony of it all. Ahh, interpretive tour guides.

Maisy was impressed enough to attempt her own interpretive tour of the visitor center. Here she is explaining how this place is considered a State Park even though there are no hiking trails.

Fleeing our lunch break we hit I-94 again in time to capture some beautiful thunderclouds.

Which cleared up in time for our final destination of the night and tomorrow's story: Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the night Maisy decided that sleep was optional.

Wednesday, June 25

The journey continues

A couple of days and several hundred miles since our last blog entry has given our happy caravan plenty of time for activity! We spent the final days in Aurora visiting SPLASH COUNTRY!, a water park hosted by the Fox Valley Park District. Needless to say, our eager duckling took right to the water.
Our pasty white skin was a dead-giveaway that we were not frequent visitors to this amusingly quaint distraction.

With Iowa still a major disaster area, we thought it best to head North for our trek West. While it adds a few days onto the overall schedule, Tracy and her good friend Google Maps created an itinerary that takes us to some pretty nifty spots. By the way, has anyone seen the crazy street level view mode in Google Maps? You can stalk your friend’s front door from the sidewalk rather than the older satellite mode. How do they do that?!

Since it was only an hour and half north of Chicago-land, we just had to drop by Madison Wisconsin, “The Berkley of the Mid-West”. Being former residents of the Berkley area, we approached the city with a cynic’s eye. One could quickly see where the comparisons derive from. Both have CO-Ops. Both have crazy people walking down the sidewalks and both have trendy coffee shops like Mother Fools in Madison.
Not only did we get served a pretty decent cup of organic java but Tracy also opted for the more exotic Kombucha tea, made locally and delivered via bicycle to the coffee house. It was an extremely pungent tea that was fermented and supposedly full of probiotics and all sorts of other healthy junk. We learned this from their cleverly placed bathroom advertisements, which worked like a charm on this family.

Here’s the Scamp parked in front of Star Liquor.
Note the Hamm’s at a discount price! Star Liquor featured one of “those guys”, you know the type: wife-beater, cigarette, and knee high socks. He offered us our first Scamp compliment stating that it was a “pretty neat little camperette.” Apparently it didn’t qualify as a camper to him since it lacked an awning.

Leaving Madison, we headed to the border of Wisconsin and our first campout of the trip. Willow River Falls State Park was a gamble at best. It’s only a few miles off I-94 and was a small blip on the map. Despite its sticker-shocking $34 admittance fee, the site was actually very nice.
It felt like non-stop activity since we arrived an hour before little Maisy’s bedtime but Tracy managed to whip together a tasty meal.
And the morning brought a herd of deer to our rear window!
Sadly, we took this photo as the group was wandering away. The deer looked more like a mule deer than the white tail variety our fawn badge and pendants are based on.

Willow River also had one more plus – a nearby U.S. Post Office! Having the regular and Etsy sites open while we’re on the road requires that we visit some random mailing centers and this was one of them. Many thanks to the friendly staff at Hudson P.O!

Tonight – some random fort in North Dakota!

Sunday, June 22

Happy Birthday, Maisy Rae!

Yesterday was spent celebrating Maisy's first birthday with the family in Illinois. She seemed to have quite an enjoyable time. The cake was a big hit at first...

Then the belly ache arrived.

Next stop: undisclosed location approximately six hours from here. Undisclosed because of lingering fears that grandparents may follow.

Friday, June 20

News Flash: Ohio Wins!

In the closely watched bid for the East coast "Best Rest Stop Food" title, Ohio triumphed by a painfully wide margin. The losing contenders, New York and Indiana were harshly criticized by the judges with their out-of-date offerings of Hardees & Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean (not to be confused with the pretty-decent Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf...)

Says Ohio:

"We knew we had it clinched with our plentiful offerings of Panera Breads and Starbucks at nearly ever stop. Our competition just doesn't get that Interstate 90 has moved beyond the late 80's/early 90's fare of starch and watered-down coffee."

New York and Indiana refused comment.

A sad attempt at seducing weary travelers...

After two meals of pizza, Maisy had this to report:

Turns out that traveling with a baby is fairly simple if you time your journey to their Circadian rhythms. After a departure from New York two days ago, we found ourselves arriving in the greater Chicago area with relativley few cranky periods along the way. It's a five day rest here as we celebrate Maisy's 1st birthday (tomorrow!) with the grandparents.

This stop also gives us the needed time to install electric brakes on our little Scamp and figure out a new route west since Iowa is underwater. Between this and the honeybee crisis I'm thinking of learning a bit more about stockpiling from the Mormons when we arrive in Utah. Speaking of self-reliance...

Our brief stay in Upstate New York gave Grandpa Bull time to do some "mods" on the Scamp trailer for us. The most important being a crib for little Maisy to sleep in.

We'll test the new jailhouse out tomorrow night as we brave the great wilds of Batavia, IL and camp in Grandpa and Gram-Cheryl's driveway.

Tuesday, June 17

The Brooklyn Renegade show: notorious for its heat. We signed up anyhow with hopes of sunny weather and a cool breeze that would make the McCarren Park Pool an oasis of crafty vendors. But hope —it turns out— is best left to little children and fairy tales.

It all started fine enough. We scored a great corner spot near the Tasty Treats truck and enjoyed a constant flow of traffic.

Our handsome display:

But by mid-morning a vicious blanket of heat descended on the pool. It was only relieved with occasional gust. The gust, while enjoyable, helped pinpoint major flaws in our Miniature Pendant pegboard setup.

While the pendants were a hit, the display was not. With each gust, these little critters would fly all over the tent forcing us to scramble away from customers and toward the floor in an attempt to collect as many as we could.

The gust, it turns out, was carrying along isolated thunderstorms. And with the thunder came lightening. There is something disquieting about standing in a pool of water, surrounded by metal framed tents as lighting bolts crash down about you. I pictured the headlines: Hundreds Fried After Crafter Event!

Those selling in the last row enjoyed the history of the McCarren Park Pool as their booths were swallowed up by rising water.

The Sunday morning tent carcasses:

Luckily the whole event was surrounded by a healthy band of shoppers and familiar happy vendors, along with a few new ones. There were our personal favs from Mogo:

Sarah and all her pals from the Egg-a-go-go tent:

We bumped into Faythe and finally met her co-conspirator Courtney; both from Handmade Nation:

Plus we met the lovely face behind Design Sponge, Grace. Also the super-friendly Joi from Stereoette. And, after 4 years of working with them strictly online, we finally met Erin and Megan from Art Star. Here they are attempting to lure customers with an erotic application of suntan lotion:

And as a final bonus, we were reunited with some old faces from our RIT days. It was nice to see fellow Alum at the show.

Nate and his wife Jill run, a great design label. They also pointed out another excellent designer and fellow alum, Andy Pratt.

All-in-all, an exhaustive and excellent weekend of sales in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Now if only we could afford to live there...

Friday, June 13

"She's enthusiastic about packaging"

Just a quick post, as we're setting off for Brooklyn for the Renegade show today. The weather is beautiful. Let's hope that it lasts for the entire weekend!

I've been doing some finishing touches on everything. Have I mentioned that I have a penchant for packaging? I always get excited about those little details. I've had these business-card-sized cards hanging around for years. I bought them to make (you guessed it) business cards, but I made a different design so they've been carted all over the country with no use. I'm so happy they're finally getting some love. I gocco-ed some abstract images from photos that we've taken, and then used them as cards for the new miniature pendants. I'm so happy with the result:

The final pieces:

Hope to see you in Brooklyn this weekend, and have a happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, June 11

And somehow, we left...

After three grueling days of last-minute preparations, we finally departed and reached our first leg of the cross-country trip. Though modest — a six-hour drive to upstate NY — it was a smooth launch with many hours passed playing the "hypothetical game". Several mind-stretching dilemmas were presented such as:

- Out of all your friends, who would you ask to cook your last meal?
- Would you rather suffer from eternal hunger or eternal need to go to the bathroom?
- Given one-week and unlimited funding for a solo trip, where would you go?

I'm a bit worried that we've pulled out such games this early in the trip. Having used up all the obvious questions, who knows what bizarre situations we'll be posing as we drive through Nebraska.

The next few days will be spent at Grandpa and Grandma Bull's as we prep the trailer. Though the sign probably won't stick as we barrel down I-80 at 65mph, it sure looks nice. One can imagine a flock of kids running to their mothers for spending money as they spot us driving through neighborhoods, blasting a twinkley version of Bright Eyes over a loudspeaker...

Maisy will be staying with Grandpa and Grandma for a 3-day vacation as the parents backtrack for the weekend to NYC for the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair; I know... not very productive in our westward journey but we never claimed to be directionally competent.

Thursday, June 5

What are we forgetting

Yesterday was a lovely visit with Tomoko. It was rainy but the company made the afternoon cheery. We ate at a neighborhood cafe (local for her) that served up some delicious food, especially their desserts...

Maisy agrees. But we went with the Jamaica rather than the Black Forest! Sorry, Maisy. Maybe next time!

Today, gloomy weather again. But we're slowly getting ready for our departure this Tuesday. Lots of things to check off our list. Some items are not necessary... pasta machine? Yes. This may get pushed aside to make room for more important stuff though. But I had visions of making homemade pasta at some random KOA in the Great Plains. It would certainly pass the time nicely!

Tuesday, June 3

One week to go

Yesterday was great: productive and fun. First I met with Meighan of the blog my love for you is a stampede of horses. Super friendly and hospitable, she introduced me to a fantastic cafe in her neighborhood as well as her lovely doggie Shamus... I'm probably spelling that wrong. Sadly we'll be gone for most of the summer, but hopefully we can meet up again upon our return. In any case you should check out her blog which features some talented, inspiring artists. Tomorrow I'm meeting with Tomoko! Way to be social (as she pats herself on the back).

Yesterday also marked the finish of my last wholesale order for the summer! This is a huge weight off, and now I just have to clean the studio. It's a mess to say the least. Packing inventory to keep the business open on-the-road, as well as display for shows is no small feat. I think I'm almost there, though. Please tell me I'm almost there?

Monday, June 2

Working and walking

It's been very nice around the area lately--we've been lucky enough to take walks almost everyday. Even had a storm or two, which is something we love here in house of Happy Owl (though not conducive to walking). It's been so nice, and June is already here, that we've extended the sale over at our site until the end of tomorrow...

In addition, our Etsy site has been replenished with more $14 pendants:

And we've also added more miniature pendants to it as well:

Now, it is all about packaging. I have had these business-card-size-cards sitting around the studio for a few years now, with no purpose for them. Given the miniature size of the pendants above, I think I've found their reason for being...

More on those later. For now, I hope you've had a good weekend. And happy June!