Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Heading East

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Heading East

 I said goodbye to my hubby in Washington and started the trek east toward my next show in North Dakota, really the main event that I build this trip around. I have family there, went to high school there*, and it is so much fun to be able to drive over to this other world and do my thing. (*For the record I am originally from California, lived in ND for 6 yrs then ran back to CA as soon as I turned 18.) This was my 3rd time doing this show in Bismarck, and every time I get there my first words are, "damn it's a long drive!" It's far. Crossing Montana is just a big beautiful beast. I took way less photos while driving this time, it's dangerous and also I just wanted to soak in the sights. The pics rarely do it justice anyway. 

First campfire of the trip in MT.
Day 1 I set out to locate a campground I found on my first tour in 2010, just over the MT border. I remember it was a couple miles off the highway and cost only $7. I was so excited to find it right where I left it, and still only $7! It's a less secret spot now I guess, it filled up pretty quickly. But just as peaceful as I remembered. The whole state of WA had a ban on campfires, so this was my first chance to enjoy my favorite part of camping. 

Driving around country roads looking for a magical campground.

Day 2 I wanted to find some campgrounds I had trouble finding last year, in the middle of Montana on the road south toward Yellowstone. This year I had more daylight, but it was Saturday so they were all full. However I regret nothing. The detour was totally worth it, such a beautiful area! And now I know where the most glorious campground is located, next time I'll snag a reservation. 

Eastern MT starts to look like the ND I know so well.

Meanwhile, I had no backup plan for the night's lodging. Last year I managed to sleep in my van incognito, even though it was filled up with stuff. But it was so hot this time, I really didn't want to do that. There was also a BMW motorcycle rally happening in the area, so I figured I would have a hard time finding a hotel room. I decided to just drive as far as I could until dark, then figure it out. I ended up crossing most of the state that day, finding the last room in Miles City. It was cheezy and loud and had a shower and a/c... worked for me!

Letty & I looking twinsy.

I made it to my mom's house in Mandan, ND the next day. Such a funny feeling to drive up, after so many years of flying. Yep, just thought I'd stop by. Ha. Just like last year, Mom let me set up at her big annual yard sale. My little brother, who lives down the street, brought over my new niece for me to meet for the first time. My birthday twin Letty! Isn't she a doll??  

Grandma doesn't like her picture taken.
 It was fun to visit with everyone, but really I spent that week working hard to prepare for the big show. I brought lots of extra stock that needed to be printed and otherwise prepped for sale. A Capital A'fair is THE big handcraft festival in town, artists come from all over the mid west and it is very well attended by the locals. It happens at the state capitol grounds and is pretty huge. It's really too bad that it is so far away, because it's become one of my very best shows to do. This year was no different. I had my single best sales day to date, lots of repeat customers from last year. Just a killer show for me.
A Capital A'Fair, Bismarck ND.
 After the yard sale and craft show madness, Mom and I were both pretty spent. I stayed a couple more days to recuperate, then it was time to get back on the road. I wasn't feeling it, I'll admit. At this point of the trip, I'd been gone for about 3 weeks. I've decided that is probably the ideal length of a trip like this. I really was not looking forward to another 2 days driving back across Montana. Ha! But once I got on the road, with my music and my sweet comfy van... I forgot most of my woes. Onward! The next show awaits!!

All packed up after the show, capitol building beyond.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - R&R&B in Washington

Mermaid Tour 2015 - R&R&B in Washington

Leaving Sandy, OR I stopped in Gresham to get a good breakfast and do some laundry. At first I couldn't find a laundromat, but when I pulled into the restaurant, hey look! A laundry in the same little strip mall. Sweet. I think the place was called The Biscuit Cafe, but the biscuits were not great in my opinion. The omelet and potatoes were tasty. The guys working there were very nice, and seemed kind of intrigued when we chatted about where I was going. My waiter really was interested in getting his girlfriend on board with a travel adventure. Ah it did my heart good to inspire a youngster, if that's what happened there. 

Columbia River, east of Portland OR.

From there I headed east along the Columbia River Gorge, really a nice drive... until I had to turn north near the Dalles, on my way up through central Washington. Then I hit the vast and dead wasteland called the high desert. Not my favorite, but this was my second time through there and it was more interesting than I remembered. Lots of giant wind turbines, some rock formations, and bodies of water. Which amazes me... how a body of life giving water can be surrounded by mostly dead nothingness. Fascinating.

Hottest ugliest rest stop in WA, near Yakima.

Up near Ellensberg, where the beautiful lush forest comes back into view, I cut west a few miles and found some great camping near Cle Elum. There are a few campgrounds along the Cle Elum River, and I chose the least populated and (to me) the most beautiful. Looks like the river came right up to the camp spots at some point in the past, but now it's a huge grassy valley, you can see water far off in the distance. There was an especially aggressive squirrel there, who kept tying to steal my big bag of peanuts in the shell. That kid had guts! Otherwise a very relaxing couple of days

Leftover omelet tastes better outside.
Super obnoxious squirrel.

On Thursday it was time to go set up my booth at show #2 on the Tour, the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues festival. It's just a few hours north of Cle Elum. This is a great 3 day camping festival in the mountains of north central WA. Beautiful setting, great music, fun people. I just wish they would quit having fire issues. Last year they were in the middle of evacuations, smoke, and all kinds of fire craziness. This year we managed to miss the fires, but they came anyway just a few weeks after we left. I really feel for those folks! So sad.

Winthrop has the most gorgeous sunsets!

My husband rode his motorcycle from Eureka to join me on Saturday, so we had 2 nights at the blues fest camping out. It was a fun time and the music was great. But for me it was a little too hot to really party and dance much, upper 90s to 100. Oof, this mermaid cannot hang. I did do epic sales though. Even in the highest horrible heat, those ladies continued to dance and shop. Bless them all.  

Happy customers looking cute.

After the festival (and a nice breakfast in Winthrop, which is an adorable little historic town by the way), we headed back down to Cle Elum. The temps would be cooler there, and I knew exactly where to go for some peaceful camping. We did spend the first night in a hotel, cleaning ourselves and resting after a long hot weekend. It felt so good, that we stayed a second night. Ah sweet vacation! Then we camped out for two nights in the same campground I hit on my way up, on the Cle Elum River

My husband really needed this vacation. He's pretty much a workaholic and very rarely will take time off. I seriously had to work on him for a YEAR to get him to commit to this trip. A  year. So to see him really smile and relax and just do nothing... ahhh it felt so good! We had almost a full week together, and then it was time to part ways. He headed down to Eureka to go back to work, and I headed east to start my journey to North Dakota.

This picture says it all, R&R accomplished.